Australian artist Karen M. Andersen works from her home studio on the Fraser Coast in southeast Queensland. Her childhood was also spent growing up here, in a seemingly eternal summer, exploring the beach and the bush, watching storms come and go in the evening sky with her father (a nature lover at heart). University studies in biology – together with days spent at the beach and on Fraser Island with her partner and children – have seen Karen develop a deep affection for the Queensland coast, especially for the sea and the Great Barrier Reef, rich in its cacophony of creatures with their unique forms, vibrant colours, and rhythmic movements. It is these collective experiences which form the inspiration behind Karen’s artwork.

Karen has a self-described unrelenting obsession with colour which weaves its way through her abstract paintings. Flamboyant, vivid hues and sorbet tones play harmoniously against each other, laid down in broad sweeping planes of luminous colour contrasted by expressive mark-making. The resulting works are alive with character, rich in emotion, and imbued with meaning.

 A love for experimentation and an incessant need to always be creating ensures that Karen’s work is constantly changing and evolving. Most times she prefers to paint abstractly in acrylic paint on canvas, wood or paper, while other times she is drawn to create mixed media works in pastel, ink, pencil and paint on paper. Detailed, realistic graphite pencil or ink drawings of animals are also part of Karen's artistic repertoire and act as a means to give voice to her perfectionist tendencies. Whatever the materials used, Karen's artworks always come from a place of passion for the work's subject matter and from a pure love of the artistic process.


"I come from a family of makers, so it is perhaps only natural that I developed a passion for creating from an early age. Making art and colouring-in were my favourite things to do as a child and I dreamed of being an artist when I grew up. High school introduced me formally to art – Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Gaugain, Vincent Van Gogh, and Andre Derain – but it was seeing the work of iconic Australian artist Ken Done for the first time, at the age of 12, at the World Expo in Brisbane (Queensland) in 1988, that entranced me with its colours and awoke in me a deep affection for art. It was this encounter that would act as the catalyst for my pursuit of a career as a fine artist at the age of 40.

Although choosing to pursue the 'safer option' of a career in science after high school, rather than in art, I continued to draw and paint and take art classes where I could. Plagued by anxiety and severe depression throughout my teens and adult life, art-making was always a means by which I could escape the darkness and feel safe, free, and at peace. Nothing made me feel as settled as art did, but mental illness, self-doubt, and the responsibilities of life saw that I put art to the back of my mind for too many years.

 In late 2015, with my 40th birthday looming and faced with the realization that my life was potentially half over, I began to ponder some quite existential questions; why am I here, what is my purpose in life, what do I want to do with the rest of my life, what is it that makes me truly happy? I kept coming back to one answer…art.

 Early in 2016, I learned that Ken Done - my most favourite artist, one whose work continued to inspire me endlessly since first seeing it all those years ago - was to hold an exhibition of his abstract reef paintings at the Rockhampton Art Gallery in October that year, only a few hours drive away from me. I felt compelled to go, especially as I had never seen his reef-inspired works in person before and as they were such a huge influence on my own art, so I moved mountains to make it happen.

Attending the exhibition, meeting Ken Done, hearing him speak about his work and experiences as an artist, and taking an art class under his tutelage...it was life-changing for me. Through those experiences, I found a happiness, a self-belief, and a dogged determination that I never knew I had and I began to chase my dream of becoming the professional artist I had always wanted to be. After all, if Ken Done could start his career as an artist at age 40, then there was no reason for me to not try too.  

I started painting and drawing as soon as I returned home from the exhibition and I haven't stopped since. Now I live to create art every day and I am very excited to see where my journey along this artistic path will lead me in the future."

       Karen M. Andersen.