Featured Artist: Kareena Zerefos


Kareena Zerefos did our first Finders Keepers artwork Carnival Horses featured on our Spring/Summer 08 Flyer and on our website. Kareena shares some insight into her world with FK.

How long have you been creating art and how did you start?
As long as I can remember – it all started out like everyone does, sticking macaroni to paper plates and painting with my fingers! I suppose I always knew that I wanted to be an artist (of some description) when I grew up, but it wasn’t really until a few years back that my pipe dream began to come together. That’s when I started to draw a lot and started having people respond to my work.

How would you describe your style and how has it developed to what it is today ?
I would say a delicate, nostalgic and bittersweet illustrative style. It feels like its evolving and developing constantly as I come across new materials and mediums.

Initially I would work on whatever materials I had around – old bits of paper collected from reverse garbage, biro and pencil – and often let my graphic design background take control and I played with these things in photoshop or illustrator.

Where as now I work mostly with beautiful watercolour papers, gouache, pencil, letraset and ink…oh, and lots of tea. I have started experimenting with a few different things at the moment though, I’m particularly interested in working with wood and have been playing around with tints and stains. It’s much messier, but certainly fun!


What is your favourite subject matter and how do you come across your ideas?
Much of my work is based around a yearning and delight in moments of escape to the whimsical world of make believe. I love drawing all kinds of creatures, mostly animals, birds and children, which are often references to characters of this imaginary world. Children’s books, personal memories captured by old photographs and dreams have generally inspired this.

At the moment I’ve been looking a little more towards the darker side, a slightly dystopian world of nightmares and fears… still with references to childhood, but sort of from a more disheartening angle. I’m exploring the things that I was terrified of, and that sense of uncertainty that comes with youthful naivety.

What would you think has been the major factors that have shaped your life as an artist?
Growing up and living in Sydney I think is a pretty major factor that has shaped my life as an artist. It’s a really nurturing and inspiring place, I feel that there are a lot of amazing people creating and making things happen and that there is quite a unique atmosphere here because of that.


What other artists and areas of life inspire your work?
I love egon schiele’s figurative paintings and sketches, I saw his work in Vienna a few years ago which I feel was a catalyst for my art making, and kind of inspired my use of line and white space. Cecilia Carlstedt, Carson Ellis and Peter Callesen are other contemporary illustrators/artists that have also really inspired my work, mostly for their use of delicate line and detail.

How have you found the journey of establishing yourself as a professional artist?
It’s a lot harder work then what people tend to think. There are times when you’re super busy and feeling really on top of things (which is a really exciting) and then other days where you have trouble seeing a good reason to pick up a pencil and keep drawing!! In saying that, at the end of the day I do really feel like I’m living the dream.


What has been the biggest learning curve for you?
Figuring out how to live with a seriously inconsistent income!! I’m still going through the learning curve process with that one.

What is your creative process and what do you always have around you when you start an artwork?
My process typically starts with some kind of umbrella idea that I mull around in my mind for quite sometime, this usually comes from personal experiences or sometimes randomly in a dream or when I’m loitering around home having a cup of tea.

From there I need my little sketchbook (which is always in my bag) and a sharp pencil, and I sketch vague imagery or scrawl down words and thoughts that seem to be relevant at the time (but often are completely incomprehensible when I look back at them!). As part of this process I like to read snippets from books and pull out phrases that I find curious, watch my favourite films over and over again (the city of lost children a lot of the time!!), get lost in wikipedia and drag up memories from old family photographs.

The before I get started on an artwork, I collect images that I like and also lots of reference imagery, old photos, photocopies from children’s books or of really detailed botanical illustrations. I like to have a fairly good idea of the composition and expression before I get started, so I sketch some more and sometimes put together rough collages of photocopies of imagery to see how I can make things fit together.

Once that’s all done, I start drawing with a really fine sharp pencil and layer it up from there…


What is in stall for the future?
The end of the year is looking like its going to be pretty busy, I’m working on the new pieces on wood which I hope to show up at the nine lives gallery in fortitude valley gallery for ‘hand drawn’, will also be doing art sydney later in october and showing some more work up at retrospect gallery in byron over summer. There’s also a few commercial projects I’m working on, a cookbook and a couple of new album covers are in the pipeline which I’ll keep you posted on.



  • terry says:

    I love your deer …. beautiful ….

  • kristy says:

    I wish i could employ you for a whole year and have you draw all my random thoughts and dreams. Only your talent could bring them to life. One day Kareena…..One day 🙂

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