Author Archives: Alison

Trotting, painted dogs, acrylic by Alison Nicholls

Three is a Crowd-Pleaser

Following on from my previous posts, Boraro – Painted Dogs and Three Painted Dogs is Not a Crowd, here is Three is a Crowd-Pleaser. I didn’t originally intend to write a series of 3 posts, but after a little research I found that we humans like thinking in patterns and 3 is the lowest number we consider a pattern (if something happens once we think it’s chance, if it happens twice it’s coincidence, but if it happens 3 times we think of it as a pattern). So maybe my series of 3 posts is not an accident afterall. As IQ Doodle School’s post explains, the Rule of Three is part of “how we think, make sense of, and cluster information”. Groups of 3 are common in our language (ready, steady, go), music (choruses often occur 3 times), plays (3-act structure), art (rule of thirds) and film-making (trilogies). 

Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds grid is useful in art & photography to create interesting compositions.

In art you’ll often come across the Rule of Thirds grid. The idea is to divide your canvas into 9 equal sections and use the lines and intersections to help create a more interesting composition. For example, in landscape paintings you will often see the horizon line one-third or two-thirds of the way up the canvas, rather than half-way. Or, if your painting doesn’t have a horizon line (mine often don’t) then you can use the red dot intersections as guides for where to place items of interest. If you look at my paintings, you’ll see that the animals who are the focus of attention are usually left or right of center and often high up or low down on the canvas (close to the red dot intersections on the grid). After a while this becomes second nature so you don’t even think of the grid when you compose a painting.  

Trotting, painted dogs, acrylic by Alison Nicholls

Trotting, painted dogs, acrylic by Alison Nicholls

In case you’re not convinced, here are 3 more interesting sets of 3’s: 
I often use only three colors in a painting. There are 3 paragraphs in this blog post. And African wild dogs have tri-colored coats!

Stay well
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Painted Dogs by Nigel Nicholls

Three Painted Dogs is not a Crowd

I’ve often seen painted dogs in threes, particularly in the Kalahari. 3 seems an ideal number to include in a painting. It shows multiple animals living together as a pack, without including so many animals that it becomes distracting. My previous post about Boraro – Painted Dogs (which means 3 in Setswana) is a perfect example.

Boraro, painted dogs by Alison Nicholls

Boraro, painted dogs by Alison Nicholls

Sometimes when I’ve seen threes, it may have been groups of young females or males who’ve left their natal packs looking for partners with which to form new packs. However, it could also signify a pack in trouble, with few remaining adult dogs, struggling to survive. Fewer hunters means fewer meals and fewer calories. If they have pups they may be unable to spare an adult dog to leave as a ‘babysitter’, allowing other predators to kill their pups. This is critical because raising pups is key to the future growth and success of the pack.

Painted Dogs by Nigel Nicholls

3 painted dogs in Chobe, Botswana, photo by Nigel Nicholls

Consistently small pack sizes in an area usually indicate trouble – places where dogs are frequently killed by snares, prone to disease, run over on roads or persecuted by people. So in these cases three painted dogs is not a crowd, in fact 3 is not nearly as big a crowd as they need.

Painted Dogs by Nigel Nicholls

3 painted dogs in Botswana, photo by Nigel Nicholls.

Read the last post in this series:  Three is a Crowd-Pleaser.

Stay well and be grateful for your pack!

Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Boraro, painted dogs by Alison Nicholls

Boraro – Painted Dogs

Boraro means ‘three’ in Setswana, the main language spoken in Botswana. My painting compositions often contain 3 animals because somehow it just works (more about this in my next post “Three is not a Crowd”).

Boraro, painted dogs by Alison Nicholls

Boraro, painted dogs by Alison Nicholls

A couple of days after I signed this painting, I decided it wasn’t finished. So I added an extra wash of quinacridone gold over the existing gold stripe at the top and, on a whim while I had the brush full of color in my hand, I added shadows beneath the dogs. Even as I painted, I realized the shadows could also be reflections, as if the dogs are standing on wet sand.
Which do you see – shadows or reflections? 

My newsletter readers always get to see my art first and this painting was sold as soon as I put it in my July email newsletter.  I am donating 25% of the purchase price to Painted Dog Research Trust in Zimbabwe.

Painted dogs greeting card by Alison Nicholls

Painted dogs greeting card by Alison Nicholls

Boraro – Painted Dogs – was inspired by the greeting card above. Since the start of the pandemic I’ve been painting greeting cards and sending them out to my newsletter readers and Art Safari guests. I  paint several greeting card backgrounds at one time, so each set tends to have its own distinct look. Some have traditional washes as backgrounds, some have zig zag lines, some have circular motifs and some, like this one, start with horizontal lines. After the backgrounds are dry I use watercolor and/or ink to add animals, or occasionally people or trees. The cards have been fun to create and have allowed me to experiment, so you can expect to see more greeting card-inspired paintings in the future!

To receive my newsletters and see all my new art before it appears online, just click here. If you add your mailing address you’ll also receive one of my original watercolor greeting cards.

If you’re already a newsletter reader – Thank You!  – but if you’re not sure whether I have your mailing address, you can click the Update Profile link at the end of any of my newsletters to find out. Or you can send me an email and just include your mailing address. 

Read the other 2 posts in this series:
Three Painted Dogs is not a Crowd
Three is a Crowd-Pleaser.

Stay well
Alison

Learn more about Painted Dog Research Trust in Zimbabwe.
Visit my website:
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica

Kambaku Art Safari

2021 Art Safari

We’re now taking bookings for my 2021 Art Safari.  There are 6 spaces available and we’ll be staying at the wonderful Kambaku Safari Lodge in Timbavati, South Africa. (Both my 2020 safaris are full but have been postponed until 2021.) The dates are August 26-30. To whet your appetite, here are a few photos from the 2019 Kambaku Art Safaris.  See full details here.

The 2021 Art Safari price is inclusive of all accommodation, art tuition, twice-daily drives, meals, laughter and wonderful wildlife!
See full details here.

Remember to get in touch soon if you’d like to reserve your place.
See you soon and stay well.
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Chase Nicholls

Chase Nicholls

Chase Nicholls

Chase Nicholls

On Tuesday we discovered that our beautiful German Shepherd, Chase, had an inoperable tumor on his spleen which had ruptured and spread to his liver. Within an hour of being diagnosed we had to put our lovely boy to sleep. Some of you reading this will have known him. He could be cuddly and loving and funny and sometimes scary. Here are a few memories of our beautiful, complicated boy. He was nearly 10.

Chase Nicholls

Soon after he joined us – look at those skinny hips.

We got him as a 1 year old rescue. After about a week of behaving perfectly he started to settle in and we realized we had a tough character on our hands. He was handsome, long-limbed and very strong but his back end was just bones with no muscle. If you gave him any attention he demanded more, grabbing at you when you tried to leave him calmly on his mat; he chased sunlight and shadows round the house, whining and obviously upset; he wound himself into a snapping, barking, unhappy frenzy when he saw children, strollers, bikes or other dogs; he didn’t use his nose – he just used his eyes and his huge ears; he didn’t know how to walk on a leash; but he was house trained and he was very polite around food.

Chase and Ali Nicholls

He had a great profile for shadow photos!

Years of training followed. My walks with him were often a battle of wills and, too often, a battle of strength. He walked nicely for a while to put me at ease, then he would completely lose control when we saw someone running, kids playing, squirrels, rabbits, cats, dogs or if he heard a truck with a deep, throaty engine noise. We tried different leashes but he could pull me for a few strides while wearing any of them. To add insult to injury he would try to bite me whenever I tried to regain control of him. We fenced our yard and carried on training, introducing him slowly to other dogs, to lakes and woods and all kinds of other things. Slowly he gained muscle (there were days when I wasn’t sure this was a good thing).

Chase Nicholls

As many of his ‘issues’ were resolved, we saw his loving, playful nature appear.  When he got up to have a drink of water during the evening, my husband Nigel would sometimes go and sit on his mat. Chase would see him there and run over, lying down and snuggling up as close as he could. If we danced to music in the kitchen while making dinner, he would join in, twisting and turning, always wanting to be touched and involved. He didn’t like his ‘pack’ to be separated. He loved going in the car. He believed that if he barked and jumped enough, one day the squirrels in our yard would fall out of the trees (one did once, but he wasn’t looking). He destroyed things that could harm us, like those dangerous expanding hose pipes! He did little leaps of joy when he knew he was getting dinner.  He loved to have his meals outdoors. He loved the snow and while we shoveled the driveway, he would dig in the snow piles, putting much of it back on the driveway for us.

Chase Nicholls

Loved the snow!

He had his share of injuries. He caught the tip of one ear on a thorn bush while we were out on a walk and I saw him shaking his head a lot. We were a mile from home so I stopped at a house to ask for tissues, to see if I could stop the blood dripping down into his ear. A man answered the door and immediately stepped back in shock, but did bring me some tissues. Afterwards I realized his head-shaking had covered my face, hands and clothes with blood!

Chase Nicholls

Not sure about his socks…

He got haematomas in both ears, one after the other, so they both had to be bandaged down to his head and we were afraid they wouldn’t stand upright again, but they did, although not quite straight. He chewed ferociously on bones and toys for years as a stress reliever, then his canines started breaking (the vet said his enamel was weak from chewing on the bars of a crate when he was a pup, before we had him). So he needed root canals on 3 of his broken teeth. Then, because he hates noisy delivery trucks, he tore both his dew claws while running along the fence line and they both had to be removed.

Chase Nicholls

Despite vast improvements in discipline, and many miles walked on our treadmill, he retained 1 trigger – mail vans or any large, noisy truck of any kind. His ferocity towards them increased over the years, as if he needed to keep 1 vice intact as the others receded.

Chase Nicholls

One memorable day, a mail van drove up a hill towards us. Chase’s amazing hearing had informed him of its presence some time before it turned onto the street, so he was already barking and had grown about a foot in height. I stepped into a driveway and of course the van stopped close to us. I had to move out of the driveway because at that moment the homeowner arrived home in her car. As I stepped onto the grass Chase lunged for the mail van, I slipped, and the next thing I knew I was being pulled across the grass on my stomach towards the van. Luckily the mail woman was still inside and I could clearly see her widening eyes and open mouth as I hurtled towards her while mouthing the words ‘sorry’. Another neighbor chose this precise moment to exit her front door to pick up the mail and stood, rooted to the spot, as Chase reached the front of the mail van, barking crazily and trying to bite bits off it. I picked myself up, smiled weakly at them all, and dragged my barking hound away as they gaped after me. Another day of Chase: 1  Ali: 0.

Chase Nicholls

Chase and Nig

But this big bad dog was also highly suspicious of plastic bags and cardboard boxes and would refuse to walk past them. If anything fell over in the house he ran a mile. If a piece of paper fell off a table, he would leave the room. He was nervous of thunder, but only when he was indoors, if he was outdoors he just ignored it. When we were gardening, he thought it was the greatest game to steal an empty plastic flower pot and prance away with it as if it was the best thing he’d ever found. During the day he would come in the house and bounce up to us, ‘asking’ us to come play soccer with him outside.

Chase & Rocket

Lazing around with his mate Rocket

Chase, Gordon, Tiberius

With Gordon & Tiberius

One of the things that made me most happy was that he did learn to make friends with other dogs. Rocket was a crazy doodle who didn’t mind if Chase liked to pin him to the ground in play. Visiting Gordon, Maddison and Tiberius was always the highlight of his day and he used to smile all the way there! Ajax, Paddy & Archie popped over every now and then and although they mostly ignored each other, he loved the company. All these dogs were equally mystified when the appearance of a delivery truck turned their friend into a crazed barking monster.

Chase Nicholls

Chase’s illness took him so fast we feel we didn’t get time to really say goodbye, that he isn’t really gone, that maybe he’s just going to walk back in anytime. We’ll miss his dark shape lying in a shady hole he dug under a bush. We’ll miss his constant presence at our garden gate, and his ears in the rear view mirror of the car. We’ll miss almost everything about him. He was a complicated boy but gave us a life rich with experiences, love and laughter. I’m glad we were able to keep him in a safe home for 9 years. Miss you, Chase!

Chase and me

Chase and me.

May 2020 in Art video by Alison Nicholls

May 2020 in Art

Every month I make a short video featuring paintings, sketches, studio shots & snippets from my life. May was still a lockdown month but the pandemic was overshadowed by the callous killing of George Floyd, and when I looked at the dates, I found there were long stretches where I hadn’t recorded anything. Here’s May 2020.

Stay well.
Listen. 
Change.
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Endangered Species Day 2020

Support People on Endangered Species Day

We need to support people and wildlife on Endangered Species Day. Everywhere people are suffering physically, financially and mentally from the pandemic and obviously this includes many Africans who work in tourism, wildlife research or conservation.

Endangered Species Day 2020

Endangered Species Day 2020

Much vital conservation work involves people rather than wildlife. Reducing human-wildlife conflict, conducting anti-poaching patrols, or helping rural people find sustainable income-generating opportunities are all conservation activities that help people but also ensure the continued existence of endangered species. Endangered Species Day is May 15, and I hope you will consider helping me support people and wildlife through art.
From May 15 – 22:

~ Every order of my art will include a special free gift, as a thank you from me.

~ Shipping will be free within the US, and half-price to all other destinations.

~ I’ll donate the following amounts to African conservation organizations: 50% from orders of Daily Sketches; 40% from original acrylics on canvas, 25% from limited edition prints; and 30% from original watercolor field sketches.

~ My donations will go to African People & Wildlife (Tanzania), Painted Dog Research Trust (Zimbabwe) and Cheetah Conservation Botswana.

Crash - Rhinos on Endangered Species Day

Crash – Rhinos on Endangered Species Day (photo features my painting, Thandi the rhino and Dr Will Fowlds of WFA).

Speaking of endangered species, last month I was able to donate US$2000 to Wilderness Foundation Africa in South Africa, from the sale of Crash – Rhino Poaching in South Africa. I’m delighted when my conservation-themed paintings help fund efforts to conserve species under threat, and South Africa’s rhinos definitely fall into that category. Read more about the painting and rhino poaching here.

Check out my art for Endangered Species Day!

Stay well.
Alison

Read more about:
Wilderness Foundation Africa
African People & Wildlife
Painted Dog Research Trust
Cheetah Conservation Botswana

WasteAid Virtual Safari

WasteAid Virtual Safari

WasteAid has created a Virtual Safari into the Kenyan wilderness!
It’s an immersive experience with science, culture, art, cookery and lots of wildlife to help lift spirits, and to raise money for waste collectors in low-income countries.

WasteAid Virtual Safari

The safari route is around Lake Naivasha in Kenya, where WasteAid is working with local partners to improve waste collection and recycling. The entire 75-kilometre route is equivalent to 100,000 steps or 1,000 minutes exercise. Along the way you visit a number of ‘stations’ where you can complete unique challenges. You share your journey as you go, and can win prizes along the route, including 2 of my wildlife limited-edition prints!

The Virtual Safari offers a change of scenery and a fun and educational experience, while helping protect people and wildlife in poorer parts of the world.

The virtual safari opens opened on Earth Day (22 April) and stays open until World Environment Day (5 June).

Ahead by Alison Nicholls

Ahead, 8×10″ limited edition print, 1 of the prizes for the WasteAid virtual safari.

Zoë Lenkiewicz, Head of Programs and Engagement at WasteAid, says:

We wanted to create something for people to escape into and enjoy, while raising money for our urgent appeal Waste Collectors Rock!  The communities around Lake Naivasha, especially those working with waste, are in poverty and vulnerable to disease – yet at the same time they are surrounded by all this incredible wildlife. We thought it would be fun to support waste collectors in places like this, by sharing the beauty and wonder of the environment they work so hard to protect.”

WasteAid shares waste management and recycling skills in the world’s poorest places and you can help them by visiting Kenya on their virtual safari!

Safari njema!
(Travel well).
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Painting with 1 brush

Painting with 1 Brush

Painting with 1 brush is a great way to learn that every brush, no matter it’s size or shape, can create a variety of unique strokes if you experiment. For a long time I didn’t make much use of my 2 inch-wide flat wash brush, but recently I completed this painting, Elephants Love Oranges, almost entirely with this brush. The width of the brush ensures that I can’t be too detailed, and even rounded shapes like the elephant are made up of lovely, angular brush strokes. It’s great for background washes, excellent for painting thorny vegetation, and wonderful for filling the negative spaces between the branches. After adding a little colored ink on the branches and thorns I decided I was done!

Painting with 1 brush

Detail of Elephants Love Oranges, 20×16″ acrylic on canvas by Alison Nicholls

We’re often advised to experiment with color, but experimenting with brushes is equally important. You might even find a brush-stroke that helps define your own unique painting style.
Stay well and keep creating!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

March 2020 in Art

March 2020 in Art

Here’s my March 2020 Art video. March was the month the Covid-19 pandemic became a reality for those of us in the US. I tried to continue as normal but this month definitely felt disjointed and I felt distracted. Take a look.

Stay healthy, stay positive, stay put!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Streaming from my studio

Streaming from my Studio Every Wednesday

Yes, I’m streaming from my studio live every Wednesday at 2pm EST (7pm UK time).
If you’d like a look behind the scenes; a view of what’s on my easel; a glimpse of my German Shepherd; a peek at my art materials; or a sneak preview of my next painting, join me live on my personal Facebook page.

Streaming from my studio

I’ll be here, come rain or shine, every Wednesday at 2pm EST (7pm UK time).
If you missed the earlier sessions, here they are:
March 25, 2020
April 1, 2020

Art in Crazy Times - Alison Nicholls

Art in Crazy Times

Being an artist takes on new meaning in crazy times like these. Initially I felt that continuing to create art was self-indulgent and perhaps even a little frivolous, given the severity of the pandemic. But deep down I know art is far from frivolous. In times of difficulty art can be calming, powerful, beautiful and thought-provoking.

Zebras In Mopane, acrylic by Alison Nicholls

Zebras In Mopane, acrylic by Alison Nicholls

Artists who know the benefits of creativity (and are used to working alone in their studios) are reaching out in this distressing time to help people in their communities who are struggling with social isolation and social distancing. Artists and arts centers are offering free classes online; museums and galleries have virtual tours; and you can join many artists in their studios via live social media events. Creativity at a time like this can be a great healing force. Making something you can use, look at, listen to, watch, read, eat, wear, or even something you just throw away tomorrow, really doesn’t matter. What matters is taking time to make something. Calm your busy mind and be creative. 

Join me every Wednesday on Facebook Live at 2PM EST (7PM UK time) to see me working in my studio. If you can’t watch live, you can see the videos afterwards on Facebook or YouTube. 

Art in Crazy Times - Alison Nicholls

There are precious few silver linings to be found in the midst of a pandemic, but there’s one change I hope to see after this is all behind us – a worldwide effort to permanently end the illegal wildlife trade, which has emptied our world of literally hundreds of millions of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, invertebrates and fish.

It is believed that Covid-19 jumped the species barrier (probably from bat to pangolin to human) as a result of an insanitary wildlife market in China (see links at the end of this newsletter for more details). Assigning blame is futile, but preventing this from happening again is vital. So when life returns to normal, which it will in time, please don’t forget why this pandemic began and remember to support legislation in your own country and around the world which aims to permanently outlaw the illegal trade in wildlife or wildlife parts.

Elephant and Impala by Alison Nicholls

Elephant and Impala field watercolor by Alison Nicholls

I live 25 miles north of New York City, so we have serious social distancing measures in place here. Nigel and I are only going out to walk the dog or get food. If Covid-19 has not yet reached your community, please take it seriously and follow all official guidance.

I am sending you all the very best wishes. Think how great it will be to hug and kiss your friends and family when this is all behind us!

Stay healthy, stay positive, stay put.
Alison

Artist Alison Nicholls in her studio

Working From Home

Working from home is something I do almost every day. As an artist I am used to being alone, creating and adhering (mostly) to my own schedule. When I look at my calendar and see an empty week ahead, with no interruptions, I’m usually very happy as it means I have a week of painting ahead. Of course I love to meet up with friends, and with other artists, but I do need my alone time to be creative.

Artist Alison Nicholls in her studio

Studio time

As the Covid 19 situation develops, more people will be working from home, and it can be quite an adjustment when you are used to the routine and social nature of working in an office. So here are my tips for working from home and maintaining your sanity!

Decide what time you need to get up, in order to start work at your normal time, then set your alarm clock. Don’t wake up at midday because you stayed up till 2am watching movies.

Shower and get dressed. Don’t work in your pajamas. Start work at your normal time.

Sit at a desk or table to work. Don’t work lying on the sofa, in bed, or in front of the TV.

Take breaks as you would at work. Take your normal lunch break. Finish work at your normal time.

Keep to your usual schedule for eating, sleeping, shopping, doing laundry, exercising. Don’t spend the morning doing laundry then realize you’ll be doing work till 1am to catch up.

If it helps, find a colleague to keep you accountable. Check in with each other when you start work and during your agreed break times.

If you don’t have a lot of space, be sure to tidy your work area at the end of the day, so you don’t feel like work is all around you when you are off the clock.

Given the ever-changing news situation it’s tempting to keep an eye on the news at all times. When you work from home it’s easy to eat breakfast in front of the TV then keep it on throughout the day, so you hear the breaking news as it happens. We all know this isn’t conducive to being productive, but its so easy to do. I can tell you from bitter experience that you won’t feel better at the end of the day if you do this. (You probably also won’t feel better informed, but that’s a whole other story!) Obviously you will want to keep yourself updated on developments but try to limit it to your break times.

If you are falling asleep while working (it happens), try a 10-minute power nap. I swear by these. Set an alarm for 10 minutes and put it out of reach so you have to get up to turn it off. Or, if you aren’t a power nap person, try a quick dance instead. Or play with the dog. But then remember to go back to work.

Chase-and-Rocket

Powernaps are great

Get outside as much as you can when you’re not working. Get some spring sunshine. Being outdoors is the best cure for stress.

Of course I’m assuming that you do want to be productive while working from home. If you don’t, here is my advice: Wake up late. Keep the TV on all day. Work on your laptop while lying in bed. If you get tired, sleep whenever you want and for however long you want. Spend hours on the phone with your friends alarming each other with talk of the latest breaking news. Don’t leave the house. Don’t exercise. Stay up late. Eat fast food as often as possible. Repeat.

Just think, when all this is over, you might be really, really happy to go back to your workplace. But I’ll still be really, really happy in my studio!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica

Tea Stall sketch by Alison Nicholls

International Women’s Day

On this International Women’s Day, I would like to highlight Mama Helena Mbarnoti, an inspiring Maasai woman from the village of Loibor Siret in northern Tanzania (mama is a respectful term for a married woman in Tanzania).

Tea Stall sketch by Alison Nicholls

Mama Helena at her tea stall, painted in watercolor by Alison Nicholls

African People & Wildlife’s headquarters, the Noloholo Environmental Education Center, is built on land donated by the surrounding community, where Mama Helena lives. I met her each time I visited APW and over the years have seen her strong support of APW’s work with her community. She is now a member of a women’s bee-keeping group, supported by APW, and the delicious honey produced by wild bees is sold, bringing the women their own income.

On one visit to APW, Mama Helena invited me to sketch her in her tea stall at the weekly market (above) and on my latest visit I sketched her at a meeting of the women’s bee-keeping group (below). I send copies of my sketches to everyone who features in them and when I returned to Loibor Siret in June 2019 she showed me the copy of the tea stall sketch, which she keeps at home.

Womens Meeting sketch by Alison Nicholls

Women’s meeting (Mama Helena on left) in northern Tanzania, by Alison Nicholls

All around the world women are doing incredible things (Dr Laly Lichtenfeld, co-founder of APW is another obvious example) so lets celebrate that each and every day, not just on International Women’s Day.

Mama Helena Photo: African People & Wildlife/Laura Milton

Mama Helena Photo: African People & Wildlife/Laura Milton

More next time!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Read more about APW and Mama Helena

Bald Eagle by Nigel Nicholls

World Wildlife Day 2020

On this World Wildlife Day try imagining a world without wildlife. Why? Because the survival of millions of species (some as yet unknown to science) is in our hands. Quietly and unnoticed by many of us, wildlife is vanishing from the woods, skies, oceans, streams and rivers, plains, mountains and deserts. Some species thrive in our backyards, towns & cities, but around the world many, many, more are declining at a horrifying speed. 

Bald Eagle by Nigel Nicholls

A Bald Eagle sits on a dead tree in Yellowstone.   Photo by Nigel Nicholls.

As a species we can be destructive and cruel, but we are also creative, caring and extremely powerful. With the right help, we can bring species back from the brink of extinction. America’s Bald Eagle is a notable example.

Life finds a way. That is the well-known saying. But ‘finding a way’ is becoming increasingly difficult for many species as habitat is lost, water and air polluted. So, on this World Wildlife Day, lets make a decision to help wildlife find a way, because a world that is healthier for wildlife is a world that is healthier for us too.

Check out Nature Needs Half.

More next time!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Alison Nicholls Sketching

1 Second Everyday

I discovered 1SE (1 Second Everyday) a couple of years ago and it works exactly as it sounds – you select 1 second (of video or a photo) for every day and add it to your timeline, then you mash the seconds together to create a video. There’s also a Freestyle option, which doesn’t associate each entry with a date. We all know that video gets far more attention online than photos, so even if I have a selection of photos of artwork I can combine them to create a video. It’s really helpful in marketing my art and Art Safaris. I just got the Pro version ($30 annually) which allows you to remove the ISE branding and date stamp, add music etc (should have done this long ago!).

Here’s my January in Art video…

It’s also great for personal videos and it’s amazing how much 1 second of video can do to remind you of an event or day in your life. So check it out. You might just become a convert like me!
More soon.
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Vines and Giraffes acrylic by Alison Nicholls

Vines and Giraffes

I changed Vines and Giraffes significantly when I was half-way through the painting. It’s not unusual for me to make changes when the background washes dry because I start seeing new things in a painting, but I rarely change anything as late in the process as I did in Vines and Giraffes.

Vines and Giraffes acrylic by Alison Nicholls

Vines and Giraffes acrylic by Alison Nicholls

I had completed the background and the twisted vines were well underway when I caught a glimpse of them from the side. Immediately I knew this was a better composition when it was turned 90 degrees, and luckily for me, vines grow in all directions, so I turned the painting around. I had to rethink the giraffes, but they fitted into the new composition nicely and I’m pleased with the contrast between the hard lines of the vines and the soft washes surrounding them.

I drew on the canvas with archival pens to create detail on the vines, to highlight the edge of some of the washes and to create impressions of the giraffe coat markings. I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to watermedia (even though I’m using fluid acrylic on watercolor canvas) so had to give myself ‘permission’ to draw on the canvas! It’s not realistic detail I’m after, it’s abstract markings in various colors, which give the painting a level of interest when seen close-up.

I’d be interested to hear what you think of the mix of washes and pen.
More soon!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Buffalo in Delta field sketch Alison Nicholls 2012

Watercolors featured on Artsy Shark

My watercolors featured on Artsy Shark last week. If you’re an artist you may know this website, as the founder, Carolyn Edlund’s mission is to inspire every artist to build a better art business. I saw a call for featured artists and submitted my work. In addition to a spot on the website as the featured artist, I also received a nice pdf of the feature too.
Have a read and enjoy my recent watercolors from Africa!

Featured Artist Alison Nicholls

All my watercolors are for sale, priced between $250 and $350 depending on the size. Please take a look and let me know if you would like to own one. I donate 25% from the sale of each one to African conservation organizations.
More next time!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

2020 Portrait Party

The 2020 Portrait Party was organized by NYC Urban Sketchers, who bring dozens of artists together at the High School of Art & Design in New York City. We sit in circles and create 10-minute sketches of each other on 9×12″ cold press watercolor paper. My group had 12 people so we all did 11 sketches – using a variety of media like markers, watercolor and charcoal.

Alison Nicholls at 2020 Portrait Party

Here I am sketching one of the other artists in my group. When you pose or when you sketch, you remain in your chair in the same position in the group. This way we all sketch each other from different angles.

And here I am posing for the group. Initially you’re very aware that everyone is looking at you, but after a while your mind wanders and it becomes quite pleasant!

2020 Portrait Party

At the end, every group creates their own grid of portraits. When you look vertically down the grid, you see all the sketches of 1 person. When you look horizontally across the grid, you see all the portraits by the same person. Very clever, right!

And here are a few of the portraits I created.

I noticed a vast improvement in (most!) of the sketches I did this year compared to those I did in 2018. I’ll definitely plan to attend in future years and would like to thank NYC Urban Sketchers for organizing this great event!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Crash - Rhino Poaching in South Africa, painting by Alison Nicholls

Crash – Rhino Poaching in South Africa

Crash features the rhino poaching crisis in South Africa and the painting even includes a line indicating the poaching statistics for the last few years. It has been on my drawing board for many months, but after hearing a talk by Dr Will Fowlds, Project Co-ordinator for Wilderness Foundation Africa (WFA), I decided to complete the painting and donate a large percentage of the purchase price to WFA.
 
Crash - Rhino Poaching in South Africa, painting by Alison Nicholls

Crash, acrylic & ink on canvas, 20×30″

Crash – Rhino Poaching in South Africa
 
Crash is the collective noun for a group of rhinos, and sadly it also sums up the downward spiral of rhino numbers worldwide. In South Africa more than 1,000 rhinos were killed for their horns every year from 2013 to 2017, and a horrifying 1,215 dead rhinos were recorded in 2014 alone. The number of rhinos killed by poachers dropped to 769 in 2018, but the consensus is that poaching continues at high levels, while the drastically reduced rhino population has just made rhinos harder for poachers to find. Rhinos in some reserves are protected by military style anti-poaching units, because well-armed poachers are often organized by the international cartels who run drugs and guns. Corrupt wildlife & government officials, police officers, judges and reserve owners have played their part on the killing fields, while many brave rangers have died across Africa protecting rhinos.
 
African black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) and white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) are both vulnerable to poaching, killed for their horns which are smuggled to Asia for use in traditional medicines. A growing Asian middle class with purchasing power has increased demand, and a Vietnamese Cabinet Minister who claimed rhino horn cured his cancer exacerbated the situation. Advertising in China and Vietnam has educated some consumers, explaining that rhinos are brutally killed to obtain their horns; that the horn is made of keratin, a protein found in hair and fingernails; and that the horn has no significant medicinal properties, however, some wealthy consumers now buy rhino horn purely as a social status symbol.
 
My painting, Crash, echoes the striking ancient rock art found across South Africa. It shows a black and a white rhino, and beneath them human figures stalking & shooting, hacking off a horn and selling it to a middleman. 2 rhino-head outlines are hidden on the left side of the painting, and the deep rock crevice is a reproduction of a graph showing rhino poaching statistics in South Africa between 2003 and 2018. There are small dots along the line, starting at bottom left, indicating annual figures. The baseline or horizontal axis is not shown, but lies just below the dot for 2004. Every 2 inches (5cms) in vertical height from the baseline represents 100 dead rhinos. The figures for individual years are as follows: 22 rhino deaths (2003), 10 (2004), 13 (2005), 24 (2006), 13 (2007), 52 (2008), 84 (2009), 333 (2010), 448 (2011), 668 (2012), 1004 (2013), 1215 (2014), 1175 (2015), 1054 (2016), 1028 (2017), 769 (2018).
 
Crash - Rhino Poaching in South Africa, painting by Alison Nicholls
 
South Africa is currently home to approximately 39% of Africa’s remaining 5,500 black rhinos and 93% of Africa’s remaining 17,000-19,000 white rhinos. South Africa’s poaching crisis is particularly shocking, but rhinos are being killed for their horns in every African country in which they live. If the poaching continues unabated, future generations will see rhinos through the eyes of our ancestors, as paintings on cave walls, instead of watching them living wild in the African bush.
 
US$2000 from the sale of this painting will be donated to Wilderness Foundation Africa to support the dedicated people working to protect Africa’s amazing rhinos.
 
***
 
On the 2015 Africa Geographic Art Safari at Kariega Game Reserve, we saw Thandi, a white rhino and her young calf. Our guide told us the harrowing story of Thandi and how she survived being poached, left in agony with a large portion of her face destroyed after the poachers hacked off her horn. No-one knew if she could survive but she was treated with all kinds of new techniques by the vet on the scene – Dr Will Fowlds. Thandi’s recovery has been astonishing and hopeful, especially as she is now helping to bring life to a new generation of rhinos.
Thandi & calf, Kariega Game Reserve

Thandi & calf, Kariega Game Reserve

I hope Crash will help bring more awareness of the rhino poaching crisis and also raise some much-needed funds for the protection of rhinos.
Alison
 
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
Paws Trails Explorer article about Alison Nicholls

Paws Trails Explorers

I and my art inspired by Africa have been featured in the beautiful Paws Trails Explorers digital magazine. The article is in the Wild Arts Showcase and focuses on my watercolor and ink work created from life in the African bush. I talk about why sketching from life is so important to me; how I gathered the courage to start; which materials work well and which were disastrous; how my work changed when I connected with conservation organizations; and how my art now benefits those same groups.

Paws Trails Explorer article about Alison Nicholls

To read the Paws Trails Explorers article, click the image above and go to page 92 or you can find it online here at http://www.pawstrails.com/  (Dec 2019 / Jan 2020 Issue #20). The photography in the magazine is quite stunning and I’m delighted to have my art featured in the Wild Arts Showcase section. You might want to consider joining the Paws Trails Explorers mailing list so you receive future issues.

Enjoy!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

 

Lion in ink by Alison Nicholls

Lion in Ink

Lion in ink was completed after the lioness (see previous post) and although 1 is vertical and 1 is horizontal, I think they make a great pair.Lion in ink by Alison Nicholls

Lion in ink took me 20 minutes to create, and is 1 of my daily sketches on yupo paper, based on a photo taken by my husband, Nigel. You can see this is a young male because his mane has started growing in. Males have to leave their natal pride and often struggle as they improve their hunting skills and avoid territorial pride males. Eventually, if he is smart, healthy, and lucky, he may be a pride male himself.

My daily sketches are for sale at my Etsy store, with 50% of the purchase price donated to various African conservation organizations. 10-minute sketches are $60, and 20-minute sketches are $80, with free shipping in the US (and very reasonable shipping elsewhere in the world!).
Enjoy!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
My Etsy Store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AlisonNichollsArt
Follow Nigel on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nigel.nicholls_photography/

Lioness in ink by Alison Nicholls

Lioness in Ink

After 10 minutes, when I hadn’t finished this Lioness in ink, I decided to just keep going for another 10 minutes because I thought she was worth finishing.

Lioness in ink by Alison Nicholls

Lioness in ink by Alison Nicholls

When I look at this lioness, I’m amazed that I was able to confidently draw her directly in ink without screwing the whole thing up! Reminding myself that its just a drawing on a piece of paper (yupo actually) helps a lot. But its evidence of how far I think I’ve come in the last couple of years and particularly since I started my daily sketches.

The subject matter for my daily sketches are photos by my husband, Nigel. They are all for sale at my Etsy store, with 50% of the purchase price donated to various African conservation organizations. The 10-minute sketches are $60 and the 20-minute sketches are $80, with free shipping in the US (and very reasonable shipping elsewhere in the world!).
Enjoy!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
My Etsy Store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AlisonNichollsArt
Follow Nigel on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nigel.nicholls_photography/

Elephant and Impala by Alison Nicholls

Elephant and Impala

I’m quite proud of Elephant and Impala (though I say so myself!). Its a typical waterhole scene where the big bull elephant makes everyone else wait until he’s finished before they can drink. I sketched this in pen, concentrating on the elephant bull and adding feint markings for the landscape features and impala rams.

Elephant and Impala by Alison Nicholls

Elephant and Impala, 8×10″, $200 by Alison Nicholls

The watercolor I added later that day, from memory and imagination. I used just 3 colors – my favorite combo at the moment – Naples Yellow, Cerulean Blue and Quinacridone Magenta. I kept the warmest colors on the elephant bull, to draw him closer, and allowed the distant vegetation to fade into the background.

25% ($50) from the purchase price will be donated to African People & Wildlife in Tanzania. So, let me know if you’d like it, before I decide to frame it and hang it on my own wall.
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
Learn more about African People & Wildlife in Tanzania.

Sunlit Elephant by Alison Nicholls

Pros and Cons of Joining My Mailing List

In these social media saturated days, what are the pros and cons of joining my Mailing List?
Here are the Pros:

1.Preview my new Paintings
Yes, before I even post them on social media or put them on my website, you get to see all my new paintings in my newsletter. Which means you can snap up your favorite piece before the big wide world even knows it exists!

2.Win a Watercolor
If you Join My Mailing List before December 1st 2019, your name will be entered into the draw to win Sunlit Elephant – an original 10×8″ watercolor, created from life in Africa and valued at $200. Using some ingenious method, a subscriber’s name (hopefully yours) will be selected at random. The winner will be emailed and she/he replies within a week, Sunlit Elephant will be shipped free to the winner, anywhere in the world (if the winner doesn’t reply within 1 week, another winner will be selected at random). All current subscribers are automatically entered into the draw.

Sunlit Elephant by Alison Nicholls

Win this Watercolor: Sunlit Elephant, 10×8″ watercolor and pen by Alison Nicholls.

3.Art-filled monthly newsletters
In my colorful newsletters you’ll see paintings, photos, news about conservation organizations, information about my upcoming exhibits and lectures. Usually you’ll get just 1 lovely, colorful, email each month but around the holidays you might get a couple more. For example, on Black Friday you’ll receive my Colorful Friday email. And at New Year you’ll get my animal-themed, hopeful, New Year message. I certainly won’t bombard you with emails and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

4.Contests and Surveys
You can take part in my occasional contests and surveys, helping me make my newsletters even better in the future.

5.Insightful Content
Your newsletters will contain my insightful witticisms, bad puns and photos of my dog!

Here are the Cons:

1.Insightful Content
Your newsletters will contain my insightful witticisms, bad puns and photos of my dog!

So, having (hopefully) decided that the Pros outweigh the Cons, here’s where you can Join My Mailing List!

Good Luck in the draw for Sunlit Elephant!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com