He was 72 and is survived by his wife, son and daughter. Born in Brahmakulam near the temple town of Guruvayur in 1940, he secured diplomas in design and painting from the Government school of Arts and Crafts, Chennai.
After his studies, he worked as designer with Madras Design Demonstration centre, a government unit for Research and improvement of handicrafts and functioned as Art Director for many Tamil films in Chennai before returning to Kerala during the seventies.
He worked as Art Instructor at Kalapeetam here and started 'ChitraKoodam', the first private Art Gallery in Kerala in 1973.
Karunakaran held several solo exhibitions in galleries across the country and worked as Art director for various Malayalam films, including 'Aswathamavu', 'Ore Thooval Pakshikal'.
His illustrations have appeared in various publications in Malayalam.