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The Friday Files - by The Callen Collective

Currently meeting the artists on the Mornington Peninsula.

This week I introduce you to Karen Erasmus.

Picture books, storytelling, watercolour painting, family and cultures of the world are the inspiration behind Karen Erasmus’ gentle, graceful illustrations that fill the pages of many books you or your children will likely be familiar with.

I caught up with Karen to discuss her work, life, background and process and could literally, have chatted all day. Karen is such an interesting person and very easy to talk with. My chat with Karen continues my recent blog theme where I speak with artists and creatives on the Mornington Peninsula. See my previous posts here.

Karen grew up in England, where most of her family still live. She and her husband met here in Australia and have lived in both Africa and the UK, finally settling here in Australia to raise their girls. They have two dogs and are currently in the throes of renovating their home.

Previously a school teacher, Karen returned to college to study illustration when her children were very young, and has been illustrating now for 13 years, loving every minute. Karen’s first publication (as illustrator) was published by Hachett Childrens Books in 2011 and since then she has illustrated about 20 books, some with the same authors. She has the perfect style and aesthetic for communicating story, character, emotion and expression. Her current work includes a 3 book series about greyhound dogs.

Not one to stand on previous successes, Karen produces her own illustrations as reproduction prints and also has a range of doll sewing kits that include multicultural characters. These are designed for kids to complete with the assistance or guidance of an adult. Talking to Karen about these, she told me that that special connection formed between adult (parent or grandparent) and child when making things together is very important to her. It’s one she had with her own mother growing up and she designed and produced these kits as a way to forge those connection for others.

Karen’s work is prepared digitally, using various digital drawing programs like Procreate and Adobe Illustrator to draft, detail and colour her illustrations. These can be very complex with numerous layers and overlays. Preparing the work in digital format is also great from a client perspective as changes can more easily be made if required. But in saying that, like all professional artists, designers and illustrators, we can’t accommodate too many changes please, once the final layouts and budgets are agreed on.

On weekends, especially from July/August through to Easter, you will find Karen at her stall at local markets, selling her prints and sewing kits, making local connections, meeting people, showing her work and absorbing the energy, ideas and inspiration from the people and activity around her.