Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 13, 2021

Illustrator Saturday – Karen Bunting

Karen Bunting is an illustrator based in Bristol, UK.  Karen works digitally, sometimes incorporating handmade textures using ink. She loves to add details to her artwork! Karen is former art teacher of ten years currently working on her first children’s picture book.

When she is not drawing, Karen loves to be out in nature either hiking or running. She also likes to rummage around in vintage shops looking for little gems. Karen lives with her partner and two cheeky cats, but she has also lived in Tokyo and Seville. 

She taught Fine Art and Textiles for 10 years, to pupils aged 11-19, which she absolutely loved! After much soul searching she decided to create surface pattern designs full-time for a variety of surfaces. She likes bringing a bit of joy, colour and decorative detail to a variety of surfaces.

Her designs are all hand drawn and she loves the patterns in nature and the countryside that surround her when she walks outdoors and while in her garden. This gives her plenty of images to collect for future artwork. She has always been inspired by objects from bric-a-brac markets, classic vintage and contemporary children’s books, old botanical encyclopedias, vintage fabrics and wallpapers.

Here is Karen discussing her process:

I start with a sketch and make sure that the composition feels right. (This illustration was for my first book for Kate Staves, a self-published author.

I add blocks of colour to the line sketch. I always take time to get the colour palette balanced before adding details, texture and shade.

I then start to add detail and texture, usually using the pencil tool on my iPad. Sometimes I move the images around on the page as I work, nothing is set in stone.

I knew that the background needed texture and depth. I used ink and salt on paper to create the uneven surface. This was then scanned and imported into photoshop and added to the background of the illustration.

Finished Illustration.


How long have you been illustrating?

I have been illustrating professionally for about one year.

What and when was the first piece of art you created for money?

My first commission was this year for a self-published author. I learnt a lot about the process of creating a book from cover to cover.

Did you grow up in the UK?

Yes, I grew up in the UK. I live in Bristol now, it’s a great city.

How did you end up living in Tokyo and Seville?

I took a month long course, in Seville, teaching English as a foreign language. I then stayed in the city for a year to teach. Later, I moved to Tokyo for 6 months and taught there. I loved both cities, it was a great experience.

Do you think you will continue to live in the UK?

I do love to travel and would love to live abroad again.

Where did you go to college?

I studied at Staffordshire University, UK.

What did you study?

I studied BA (Hons) Surface Pattern.

How did you decide to become an art teacher?

After I taught English abroad, I decided to take a Postgraduate Certificate in Education. Teaching Fine Art and Textiles to children and young adults aged between 11-18 years old. I absolutely loved teaching and there was a large department, we had weekend workshops with visiting artists to the school and an art gallery.

What made you decide to leave teaching and start a career in surface design?

I had taught for 10 years and needed a change. I had always dreamt of illustrating for a living and thought that I should take a chance, follow my dream and make a go of it. I worked as a Teaching Assistant while I took some online illustration courses and drew every day.

Did you do any freelance art while teaching?

No, I didn’t seem to have the energy when I was teaching.

How did you market yourself and acquire design work when you first left teaching?

I used Instagram as my platform to show my work and to connect with other illustrators. I find that there is a lot of support out there. I also created enough work to make a website to show my portfolio, preparing myself to find an agent to represent me.

When and how did you decide to expand into children’s illustration?

I read a lot when I was younger and have always wanted to be a children’s illustrator. Since I can remember I have dreamt of illustrating children’s books. I am just starting out, so I am really excited for the future.

Have you ever taken any illustrating courses?

When I decided to take illustrating seriously and stop teaching, I took a series of “Make Art that Sells” courses and one of them was “Illustrating Children’s Books”. The course teachers were Lilla Rogers and Zoë Tucker, it was an amazing course!

Do you sell your artwork online?

Not at the moment but I used to sell prints on Etsy.

Was Dreams in a Jar the first picture book you illustrated?

Yes, it was.

Was it written by a self-published author?

Yes, it was the authors first published book. So, it was a new and exciting experience for both of us.

How did you connect with the author, Kate Staves?

Kate spotted my work on Instagram and contacted me about working on her first picture book. Kate was lovely to work, very positive and clear on what she wanted for her first book.

When and how did you connect with your agent Nicole at Tugeau2?

Nicole had a posted-on Instagram asking illustrators to contact her for advice and guidance on creating a strong portfolio. I contacted her and she advised me on ways to improve my portfolio. Nicole then asked if I’d like to be represented by her at Tugeau2. I was so very excited! Nicole is an amazing agent and very supportive.

Do you still work still work on your portfolio?

Yes, when I am not busy with commissions I work on ideas and pieces to add to my portfolio. I just love drawing!

What do you feel helped develop your style?

Drawing every day and taking online courses. Listening to feedback and trying to have fun by not over thinking things. I find this last bit a challenge.

Do you have any desire to write and illustrate a picture book?

Yes! It is a dream of mine to one day write and illustrate a picture book.

Have you ever tried to illustrate a wordless picture book?

No, but I would love the challenge.

Have you illustrated anything for children’s magazines?

I had the Honour of creating two double page spreads for Highlights High Five Magazine. The first was for a short story, published in August and the second is to be published in December. I was so excited when Nicole at Tugeau2 contacted me about theses jobs! Thank you!

Do you have studio in your house?

Yes, I do. It is bright and has a lot of plants. I am lucky.

Is working with a self-published author to illustrate their book something you would still consider?

I would consider working with another self-published author. I would make sure that the story my style make a good match. I love the process of bringing a story and its characters to life.

I know you will have many successes in your future, but what do you think is your biggest success so far?

Most definitely being represented by Nicole Tugeau. It is a great feeling, it gives me confidence knowing that Nicole believes in me.

What is your favorite medium to use?

Digital art. I love experimenting with this medium.

Has that changed over time?

I used to use scanned collage pieces which I worked into it using Procreate. I love adding detail, texture and layering.

What type of Graphic Drawing Tablet do you use when illustrating?

My iPad

Do you try to spend a specific amount of time working on your craft?

I work on improving my work every day.

Do you take pictures or research a project before you start?

I really like using Pinterest as research before I start sketching. It’s an important part of the process for me. Sometimes I even use it for colour palettes for my illustrations.

Do you think the Internet has opened doors for you?

Absolutely, it is how I got my first commission and gained representation.

Do you have any career dreams that you want to fulfill?

Being able to say that I am a full-time illustrator and wake up every day to draw! How amazing would that be….?

What are you working on now?

I am just waiting for a script for a book about mindfulness. I’m really looking forward to my working on my first book with a publisher.

Do you have any material type tips you can share with us? Example: Paint or paper that you love – the best place to buy – a new product that you’ve tried – A how to tip, etc.

I think Procreate is a great way to experiment digitally and it is relatively affordable. I am still learning and adding new brush effects to my toolbox.

Any words of wisdom for new illustrators?

Draw as much as you can! Try and enjoy the process and have fun. You will always be your own worst critic so learn to keep bouncing back, believe in yourself.

Karen, thank you for taking the time to answer the interview questions and showing us your process. Please let me know about your future books and successes so I can share them with everyone.

You can visit Karen using the following links:


Talk tomorrow,



  1. Such beautiful work!


  2. Wonderful variety. I am especially taken by the sunbathing girls. They are perfectly adorable. Thanks for the post.


  3. I love your illustrations! The colors, emotions and composition are wonderful. Thanks for sharing with us! Best wishes!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: