Last year, for my birthday, I was surprised by my husband with a drawing of a Leopard Shark. Not only do I love these docile, super friendly ‘beasts’ -  they are a piece of art in itself with their spots - the black-and-white drawing was very emotive. The perfect spot - excuse the pun! - for this art was above our bed!

We were particularly impressed and intrigued that part of the purchase price went towards a charity of choice for mental health. My husband had chosen Lifeline. As you can find out on ELK's web site this particular drawing was inspired by a photograph taken by a close friend who suffered with mental health issues.

Turns out, the artist has a whole selection of (nature inspired) drawings that she prints on T-shirts, post cards and larger prints.

My Birthday Present - a Leopard Shark from ELK

We almost straight away ordered another one of her prints - a gorgeous drawing of an octopus. The initials ‘ELK’ in the corner part of her art.

But who is 'ELK Draws'? ELK is Eleanor Louise Killen - the face, mind and drawing hand behind ELK Draws and it is her initials which spell E-L-K 

Aside from being addicted to coffee and dark chocolate, eternally being late and having uncontrolled epilepsy (which she is happy to talk about if you have any questions!), she is the driver of the brand's eco-luxe ethos.

She is building a brand which creates beautiful products of the highest quality, yet products that are can be traced to the source and are as sustainable as possible. Whether it's the paper the prints are printed on, the postcards or the t-shirts, she traces every step of the product sourcing. From origin, production to packaging, only the most transparently sourced, ethically created make it to your hands, walls or next to your skin as a t-shirt.

ELK Draws artist Eleanor KillenShe is also passionate about authentic art creation and strives to create the majority of art pieces or designs by hand. Yes, some products can't avoid to have a digital element to them, but Eleanor strives to have pen or paint to paper involved in as much of the process as possible.

Eleanor grew up in country Victoria, just when fast-fashion was beginning, yet didn't take to it and preferred to purchase long known quality brands second hand as a teenager. This strong respect for quality and longevity has stuck and she now implements it in her own products. She expects a product to last and assumes you do too.

The team at Underwater Australasia was taken by Eleanor’s art and the ethos behind it. This is why Underwater Australasia teamed up with ELK Draws to create a functional piece of art and produced a range of water bottles. Each insulated stainless steel water bottle is a work of art and completely reflects Eleanor’s philosophy on ethics and sustainability. There are three prints and two different sizes available.

Unfortunately, I have not had the pleasure of meeting Eleanor in person, but I did have some questions I wanted to ask her.

You grew up in country Victoria. How did you end up in Exmouth, Western Australia?

When I was 16 my family and I moved to Brisbane and when I finished high school I moved to Canada for 18 months before returning to Melbourne to study - so a change of landscape is quite natural to me! Following university I gained a job in Karratha working with Indigenous rangers and Exmouth is a short 550km down the road from Karratha so I frequently ducked down to Exmouth from there. After two years I found myself making the drive every second weekend so decided it was time to make the move! 

Have you always been creative?

My earliest memories are of painting, sewing and building things. Interestingly though, I never liked drawing as I always thought I was atrocious at it. I did always have the conundrum of how to fit the creative subjects at school alongside the science, math and economics subjects as I'm also an absolute nerd who is incredibly indecisive and still cannot decide on a career. 

Underwater X ELK Draws Water Bottles for Mental Health - 3 designs, 2 sizes 

Are there people that have been an inspiration to you?

I love CJ Hendry, not only for her incredible art but also for how her mind works. Her exhibitions are so extravagant, her marketing is on point and her ideas are so left field of the traditional art world. My friend Jared Muscat who lives in California and also has epilepsy has been an inspiration to me the past few years since I was diagnosed with epilepsy in 2017. He is also a surfer and ocean lover and has proven to me that we don't need to let go of the things that make us thrive just because of a diagnosis.

How do you hope to be an inspiration to other people?

Through continuing to do what I love despite having epilepsy and also through running a business in an environmentally sustainable way.

Other than coffee and dark chocolate, what makes you happy

Surfing always makes me smile, no matter what the conditions, I love trying different boards of different length, shape and number of fins - it's also the best way to catch up with mates. Being underwater through freediving or spearfishing is always a mood lifter, immersing myself in the ocean seems to be the only thing that truly silences my mind.

Green Turtle Hatching

How can we encourage others to question where the products they use and buy come from and whether they can improve their social and environmental footprint?

I think through trying to purchase more from smaller businesses rather than larger companies we can better our social footprint. In terms of environmental footprint, steer clear of "fast-fashion" (Think those shops that are crammed full of clothing) and shop for quality rather than quantity. Yes, you may end up paying a little more but it will certainly last a lot longer, resulting in less landfill, less microplastics in the ocean and less resources being used to create more products through a higher demand for them. 

ELK Draws and Underwater Australasia will donate 50% of the profit from the water bottles to Lifeline - a very worthy cause. Are there other charities you would like to or are already supporting?

Naturally I like to support epilepsy organisations as its close to home and I also donate to Beyond Blue, The Fly Program and do what I can for Protect Ningaloo. 

The digital age has enabled many of us to share our photographs and art works, but also has made it harder to pursue copyright breaches. Have you got any experience with this - good or bad?

This is a difficult one, I have had some positive and negative experiences with people using my designs for tattoos. For the most part individuals don't realise that they are stealing artwork and if approached are more than happy to pay the small fee I charge ($60) for a tattoo ticket which provides a single use license and they go on to promote your artwork which they are now wearing on their bodies. But as with all things you sometimes get individuals who don't want to pay for use of your artwork or don't want to pay for the actual time it takes to complete an artwork. But that's okay, if you dwell on these things you'd never get anything done!  

Will there ever be a Lionfish??

Haha I haven't thought about a lionfish but I may need to add it to the list! They're amazing looking fish but they do scare me when they float out from a cave and I've got my head in underwater!

Life on this planet has become hard for many people and not just because of COVID, climate change and our beautiful oceans getting polluted and ravaged, with mental health becoming a daily challenge for more individuals than ever.

This project showcases the amazing drawings of Elk Draws on a stunningly produced series of water bottles that were created to help save the environment, contribute to mental health and to be individual pieces of useful art.

50% of the profits from the sale of these products will be donated to Lifeline who have been working hard to help people through these testing times.

Check out Eleanor's art and projects on Instagram @elk_draws or her website

ELK Draws Octopus design on the Underwater X ELK Draws Water Bottle for Mental Health