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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.

I asked Karen five fast questions about herself as follows:

What are you currently reading? “Conversations with Friends” by Sally Rooney. “Like everyone else” she says.

What do you collect? Picture books. Her favourite illustrators being Freya Blackwood and Stephen Michael King.

Favourite food/cuisine? Vegetarian nut roast cooked to perfection.

Favourite season? The cross-over seasons of autumn when the colours turn and there is something special in the air; and spring as the sap rises and the energy of spring is bursting in the buds of the trees and flowers.

Most soul nourishing activity? A BBQ with family, food, friends, dogs and a good fire.

Karen’s studio will be open for one weekend only at the next Peninsula Studio Trail Open Studio Weekend in November. Take a look at her profile on the PST website and you can check back for dates and address details.

Karen will be exhibiting her work at the PST 2022 Annual Exhibition from 22 September through to 3rdOctober at The Studio, Wilsons Road Mornington. See the details on the PST Website.

You can also find Karen at the following Markets leading up to Christmas. See the dates and details on the particular market website. Heide market. ( ), Dromana community market ( and

To contact Karen about her work, please go to:

Instagram: @karenerasmusillustration

Facebook: @karenerasmusillustration

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