John Koch was born in Toledo, Ohio, and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan. His first medium was charcoal drawing, and he supported himself as a young art student in Paris by drawing portraits. After five years in Paris, he moved to New York City, where he remained for the rest of his life. In 1939 he joined the Kraushaar Galleries, where he enjoyed many solo exhibitions. During World War II, he was a member of the United Service Organizations, drawing portrait sketches in veterans’ hospitals.