It’s no surprise that Pauline Morse became an artist and illustrator of all things natural. She’s the woman responsible for the images on some of the country’s best-known stamps, including the 40 cent kiwi and the 45 cent rock wren stamps of the late 1990s.
Everything in her background conspired to lead her in the direction of a career combining art and the outdoors. She loved drawing as a child and gardening was always a family thing. After completing a degree in botany and zoology at Wellington’s Victoria University, Pauline took a job with the Wildlife Service.
“I was trawling round the country, out in the field and getting to places I’d never otherwise have got to.”
Then, on a Pacific island holiday in the late 1970s, Pauline fell into conversation with the director of the Fiji Museum and a new door opened. “He was writing a book on the birds of Fiji and couldn’t find anyone to illustrate it. My mouth fell open and I said I’d do it.”
Despite having no experience of drawing birds, apart from “a few sketches here and there”, Pauline held tight to a strong belief: do what you love.
“A colleague told me my first birds were rubbish,” she recalls – a comment that spurred her on to seek excellence. She taught herself to draw anatomically correct birds by close observation of specimens in the museum. Three years later a field guide to Fijian birds, full of her meticulous watercolours, was published and Pauline’s illustrating career took flight.
Story: Diana Dekker
Photographs: Paul McCredie