Sandra Kendell is a celebrated children’s book author and illustrator, whose work celebrates and encourages an intimate connection with the nature of your backyard and beyond. Sandra’s books are an accessible entry point to discovering interesting facts about Australia’s unique flora and fauna.
Inspired by the lush tropical landscapes and diverse wildlife she encountered after relocating to Darwin in 2002, Sandra started to create stories for children. She has published seven picture books, three of which have been named 'Notable' by The Children's Book Council of Australia, however her most valued accolades are the comments she receives from young readers.
“It’s fantastic when children come up to me at a book reading or workshop to tell me that they love my books. Even better are the teenagers who tell me that my books were their favourites growing up. I have even had children tell me that my books inspired them to be writers and illustrators, or to work with native animals and help protect our environment – which is so rewarding.”
Sandra works with oils, water-colour and mixed media, blending words and images, and inspiration from her backyard and regular camping trips across the Northern Territory.
“I live in Darwin, a place rich in life both human and animal. The natural environment here is omnipresent and often intrusive - and I love it! I am fortunate enough to have a backyard studio, which is full of paint and mess and tiny brushes. All I need to do is look out the window for a kaleidoscope of creatures to marvel over and draw inspiration from.”
For Sandra, Australiana means the beauty of our landscapes, native flora and fauna, and the melding of diverse cultures. “I love to create stories and images that celebrate Australian native animals and ecology and that encourage interactions with the natural world.”
In addition to children’s stories, Sandra has illustrated colouring-in compendiums and greeting cards, and completed numerous private and government commissions – all while maintaining a fine arts practice and exhibiting regularly in Darwin.
What technique or skill are you most proud of?
“Being able to ‘see’ a book in almost its entirety when I have an idea, then go on to work out the detail of it. I am also proud of how I incorporate science and nature in my stories and illustrations.”
What challenges you?
The knowledge that our government is not funding enough environmental research or action concerns me greatly. I’m also working on my work/life balance, my imposter syndrome, trying to grow vegetables in Darwin without the bugs or bush chooks destroying them!
Another (lovely) challenge is that there being too many books and too many amazing camping spots and not enough time.
What is the strangest gift you’ve ever received?
Love, it’s always strange and confusing but wonderful as well.
How has your art / creative practice changed over time?
I have transitioned into writing and illustrating while still trying to maintain a fine arts practice. Motherhood and other responsibilities encouraged me to be adaptable and to diversify my practice but to also focus on what is really important to me. Strangely enough this has led me to a place where I feel satisfied with my work.
What is your dream project?
“My dream would be to have unlimited time and space (and headspace!) to work up an exhibition without a deadline.”
What material do you love and why?
Paint, especially oil paint so rich and smooth.
What is your favourite thing about where you live?
The abundance of urban wildlife and the proximity of wild places also the diversity and multiculturalism of Darwin.
What tool / item couldn’t you do without?
My studio! It’s my safe space.
What piece of advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Don’t worry so much about what other people think, don’t take yourself too seriously, it’s OK to say no, daydreaming is not wasting time, you will be fine, enjoy your youth.
You can view Sandra's book Green Tree Frogs here