Portraitist Felicity Priest is tucked beside the stage of the Wanganui Collegiate School auditorium amidst her easels, brushes and paints.

For her it is like a tiny heaven where she not only gets to study her subject, she creates her art to the some of opera's greatest arias. For onstage each day for two weeks, New Zealand Opera students are working with their coaches.

International coaches Cesar Ulloa and Della Jones are the subjects of Felicity's portraits.

Read more: New Zealand Opera School opens at Collegiate School in Whanganui
NZ Opera School director Jonathan Alver has boundless energy
Annual NZ Opera School service a 'praise of music' at Wanganui Collegiate


She is also trying to find time to capture young scholarship student Natasha Wilson.

Felicity arms herself with pencils, sketch book and camera and goes out and about, ensuring she misses nothing.

Her performance portraits started in earnest when young countertenor Stephen Diaz sat for her five years ago at her then home in Whanganui.

It was at the request of opera school founder and chairman Donald Trott.

"I worked and he sang - my little house was filled with his beautiful voice.

The link between sound and vision has been an integral force for her since her student days in Britain when she wrote her arts school thesis on it.

"Opera is a very complex art form, and this is my way, as a visual artist, of exploring it," she said.

Felicity now lives in Wellington but still loves Whanganui.

And feels her love of music and art means she will work for years. "I'm sure I'll never retire."