Award-winning artist and book illustrator Sandra Morris has a studio that's quite Beatrix Potterish.
Bird skulls, plant bits, a dried arrangement that looks more like research than decoration, pencils, paints and paintbrushes and a window that looks out on to her Aramoho back yard.
She has lived in Whanganui since January, although it's really a base for business conducted all over the country.
Renowned as a botanical artist, Sandra will take a number of courses for Community Education in Whanganui, as well as everything else she does.
"I'm still putting out books, I'm teaching, I run an illustration agency and I'm busy at the [River Traders] markets.
"It's a lot of work," she says. "I needed to get out of Auckland to really devote my time to it."
She is looking forward to teaching her craft in Whanganui.
"I have a workshop coming up [May 18] on using watercolours with autumn leaves. Just learning a few tricks, really, and blending colours." She showed me an example — it looked like a matte-finish photo of an autumn leaf.
"I've got a workshop coming up on children's book illustration."
Sandra will teach character development, give exercises on how to make a face consistent from any angle, how to change expressions — all the devices available.
"People, when they start off with book illustration, think they have to draw realistically, and if they can't, they think, 'I'm a failure!' But if you look at children's book illustrations, they're quite simplified."
Sandra studied Plant and Wildlife Illustration at the University of Newcastle and learned to love field sketching.
"When I came back from Australia I thought, where's the most exciting place round New Zealand I could get to, and I hit on the subantarctic islands of Enderby and Auckland." It was a 12-day trip on a motor sailing boat with a print-making friend and plenty of other people. She did the same trip a few years later with her brother, who is a photographer.
A trip to the Solomon Islands has also given her lots of ideas for at least one book, but to document all she has done in the name of her art would be another book in itself.
Some of her beautifully illustrated books have been instrumental in connecting children and adults with nature, and answering a lot of questions about the outdoors. How to measure the height of a tree without leaving the ground, for example, or how to create and maintain a nature journal.
Sandra grew up in Hamilton and had a very "nature-nerdy brother" who was instrumental in her future. Their upbringing was rural and they often visited Tauranga where their grandparents had a property with trees and poultry, situated next to a larger property filled with big trees and lots of birds' nests.
There was no shortage of farms to roam over and her father used to draw her beautiful pictures.
"My brother was also a very good artist and he was kind of a role model for me."
When he joined the Wildlife Service and accompanied Sandra on tramps in the bush, she learned a lot about New Zealand's flora and fauna.
"That's where all this came from: I wanted to let kids know about wildlife and conservation."
WATERCOLOURS Watercolour and autumn leaves with Sandra Morris 1 Session Saturday 9am-5pm, May 18. ILLUSTRATION Children's Book Illustration with Sandra Morris. 2 Sessions Saturday & Sunday, 9am-5pm, June 22 & 23. For more information about Community Education Wanganui, contact Mel Shaw. Phone 06 345 4717 Email firstname.lastname@example.org