The Treasure Map of Life by Karina Griffiths

The Treasure Map of Life by Karina Griffiths

Karina is among 29 artists featured in DRAW Portraits in Colored Pencil - the best selling bible of step by step CP portraits, edited by Ann Kullberg. We are delighted to share her story about inspiration and art below.

My mum used to say “charity begins at home.” My old art teacher used to say “inspiration begins within.” What does all of this have to do with my art? Life’s little messages - the treasure map of motivation and inspiration. Follow the clues and find your buried gold. My art has become a documentation of my relationship with things around me and each work has a story.

My son wanted an "Angel". We love Angels. You know, the Biblical fluffy winged type? Inspired by a professional photo of a beautiful little girl, I searched for a few good duck photos and started to create her, but the real inspiration came from within. I had a vision of a connection with an Angel of wonder and her desire to be young and immortal, but endowed with the wisdom and purpose that only an Angel could possess. The whole process required some creativity and some thought; earthly but still divine, innocent but enlightened. A worthless blank sheet of paper became a messenger for a messenger. She won ‘Best Drawing’ at the Chelsea Art Show - it’s so rewarding to see something as unbelievable to some as an Angel be given wings!

"Illegal Artist" is also a combination of external and internal inspiration. Melbourne has a wonderful sub culture of art- graffiti art. You can go down particular laneways in the city and be drenched in walls sprayed with vibrant colours and images wildly creative. Never have any of my drawings received the controversial feedback that this drawing did. I was accused of ‘glorifying the destruction of private property’ and ‘disrespecting true artists’. That was the day that I knew that my relationship with art was from an artist’s point of view, and not societies. The drawing went straight on to win the ‘Avant-garde’ section of its very first show- and sold! The avant-garde (from French, "advance guard" or "vanguard", literally "fore-guard") are people or works that are experimental, radical, or unorthodox, with respect to art, culture, and society. And so, I must have become radical, and it was a shock to me that something as abundant and generic as graffiti could cause such acrimonious debate.

Inspired by my own life, the graffiti artist provided the perfect vehicle for expression. When someone energetically drains you, spiritually we cut cords by drawing the figure ‘8’, over and over. He is spraying it over and over. I couldn’t juggle everything, I wasn’t focused at the time, I had dropped the ball. There was the ‘good voice and the bad voice’ in my head, depicted by the good and bad Angels that you can see in the graffiti. There is a sense of looking over my shoulder. The man in the drawing conveys this, his hood pulled over his head- anonymously, illegally spraying an abandoned warehouse. But the real focus is the relief he feels to just express himself with colour and line. I titled the work ‘Illegal Artist’ to endorse the union of art and graffiti, but to also ensure expectations of society were acknowledged. Sadly, just because it is illegal does not mean it cannot be art. The hooded man was saved by his art that day. I am saved every day.

Finally, another work that received tremendous feedback was "The Brave". My little one again inspired me, he wanted a Firefighter- what little boy doesn’t love everything about Firefighters! In Australia, we are ravaged by fires in summer, and we all fear Mother Nature and her blazing fury. I decided to contact the local MFB station and ask for a model, and Leading Firefighter Russell Fox warmly obliged. With support from so many others, my vision became a reality. After two hours and 200 plus shots, we both agreed we had the money shot. 103 hours later, the drawing was finished. Not only did the artwork move many, but I accompanied the drawing with a powerful artist’s statement, demonstrating that images and words can combine to deliver a message of appreciation, hope and gratitude. The work and the words touched people far and wide. But the most unforgettable memory for me is not the artwork itself, but the look of awe on my little one’s face as his ‘hero’ Russell took him on a thank you tour of the station and trucks.

Art is a language. For some of us, it’s how we banter with the world. It’s how we document our imagination and give extraordinary power to the ordinary. It’s our medicine and our addiction. There is no cure but to get it all out. I wish you better luck getting this song out of your head, for it sums it all up perfectly… In the famous words of Madonna “Express yourself, Respect yourself, hey, hey." 

Karina is a coloured pencil artist from Australia.  She has enjoyed enormous support from the wider community, winning many local and international awards, and writing for publications.  Karina also conducts workshops.  She is currently working on some exciting initiatives and is President of the Australian Society of Coloured Pencil Artists.

See more from Karina at



Comments (2)

I want to learn colored pencil

nancy casterline - Jan 19, 2017

Beautiful art and an inspiring story Karina . You are always so willing to share and this is also one of the reasons you are always in my top ten fav Color Pencil artists.

Charlotte Hastings - Jan 19, 2017

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