Blog

Join me as I blog about art, Africa, conservation, field sketching, studio painting, wildlife, art safaris and life as an artist. And a few other topics as they grab me!

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Sketching lions in South Africa 2015

I’m Not An Expert Artist, Can I Still Do An Art Safari?

If I’m not an expert artist, can I still do an Art Safari?

This is a common question, because most of us have an underlying fear of not being good enough. But it’s a very easy question to answer. The answer is “Yes, an Art Safari is for you!”

Art Safaris with Alison Nicholls

Art Safaris are a unique way to experience the African bush and over the last 7 years I have had the pleasure of meeting and teaching guests with a wide range of skills – complete beginners who want to try a different kind of safari; artists who sketch regularly but have never been on safari or sketched animals; a jeweler who wanted to try sketching for a change; those who studied art but haven’t picked up a pencil for years; photographers and non-sketching partners who were intrigued and decided to try sketching for themselves; and occasionally one of our professional safari guides has also been tempted to follow along!

Alison Nicholls Africa Geographic Art Safari 2016

Join me at The Bush House, September 15-20, 2018.

What makes it easy for anyone to join in and learn is that we are all working at our own pace, with our own choice of materials. There is no competition on an Art Safari, just a friendly, fun, learning environment. You can do this safari with just pencil and paper, so there’s no need to be a painter or watercolorist. I start by showing you how to look at animals and see simple shapes. Yes, even the strangest animals like giraffes or white rhinos can be sketched using simple shapes! Its amazing how quickly you can improve when you spend 4 full days sketching from life. Its the best way to learn and gives you a real sense of accomplishment too.

Sketching lions in South Africa 2015

If you’re not already convinced, here are some comments from Art Safari guests.

High Praise for Alison Nicholls’ and Africa Geographic’s Art Safari! I guarantee there is something to gain in this experience for everyone. Viewing and sketching the animals live gives you a greater understanding of their movements and their enviroment.  
Angie M from Canada

For myself the time with you and our Art Safari was the highlight of 2017. 
Susanne B from Switzerland

My art safari experience with Alison was beyond my wildest dreams.  I learned so much about drawing the animals I saw.  We went out on two game drives a day and it was such an intimate experience.  Alison gave each of us individual attention and tips on our sketches.  It was so helpful and encouraging.  I cannot describe how wonderful it was to experience really looking at the animal when you are trying to sketch them.  We came back to the lodge to do some watercolor and more intimate instruction, as well as watch Alison work on some of her marvelous work she had done in the bush.  It was a trip of a lifetime filled with fun, learning and lot’s of laughter.  Thank you, Alison for a wonderful experience. 
Debra S from USA


Join me at The Bush House, September 15-20, 2018.

If you still have questions, let me know.
Come and join us!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

2018 Art Challenge

Happy 2018! Want to join me in my 2018 Art Challenge? I like to think of each passing day as a transparent wash of color. As the day ends, that day’s wash is added to a canvas, painted on top of all the washes from previous days. Some days are light, airy pastels; some are […]

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Safari Night at the Explorers Club

Last night I was fortunate to be sharing the stage at The Explorers Club during Safari Night, which was organized by Ann Passer and Alan Feldstein. There was wonderful music, singing and dancing from Cameroon and Tanzania, excellent food from various African countries, and speakers on topics covering the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia; clips […]

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Thanksgiving – Words of Wisdom from the Wild!

Happy Thanksgiving!   How to Survive Thanksgiving – Words of Wisdom from the Wild Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! See you next time. Alison www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

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My Watercolor Palette – Limited but Changing

You might have heard me banging on about how I use a limited palette of colors and how this gives many of my paintings a tranquil feel. But a limited palette shouldn’t mean a stagnant palette, so for my latest sketching trip to Africa, I changed some of the solid half-pan colors in my Windsor […]

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Elephant Watercolors at Shimuwini

Shimuwini is a lovely Bushveld Camp in Kruger National Park, on the edge of the Letaba River. The view is river, rocks and riverbank for 180 degrees, so every time you look somewhere you see an animal or bird you hadn’t noticed before. Egyptian geese noisily make their own part of the riverbank known to […]

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Video: Watercolors from the African Bush

My September visit to South Africa and Botswana was full of sketching opportunities. Check out a couple of them here!   Want to learn some of my sketching techniques? Then consider joining me on an African Art Safari Until next time, take care. Alison www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

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So what is an Art Safari anyway?

Art Safari /a:t , sə’fa:ri/ noun Definition: A trip of a lifetime…filled with fun, learning and lots of laughter¹; truly an amazing experience²; one of the best ‘Africa’ experiences I have ever had³.   A means of filling your sketchbook with memories of Africa’s iconic wildlife; to really look at an animal and see things […]

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Art Eclipse!

Art, Science and Kids – what could possibly go wrong? Yes, there is nothing like combining cardboard, binoculars, colanders and art on the driveway on a hot day in August. Can you tell I am desperately trying to reproduce a segment from Blue Peter? (I’m showing my age and UK background with this reference.) Just […]

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Is it a Field Sketch?

“Sketch – a simply or hastily executed drawing or painting, especially a preliminary one, giving the essential features without the details” (from Dictionary.com) On each visit to Africa I fill several sketchbooks with pencil and watercolor art. I have always referred to these artworks as ‘field sketches’ but as my work evolved I began to […]

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Generic Giraffe & Other Pitfalls

After sketching in the African bush for a number of years, I know the shapes of many of the commonly seen species. Right now, from memory, I can create a quick drawing of a giraffe, elephant, lion, leopard, painted dog, cheetah, kudu, impala, spotted hyena, buffalo, gemsbok, zebra, wildebeest, white rhino, baboon or aardvark (OK, […]

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Normality is a Paved Road

Normality is a paved road: It’s comfortable to walk, but no flowers grow on it. Vincent Van Gogh Like most great quotes, you can apply this to so many aspects of life. I, of course, will apply it to art and artists! The paved road is a flat, monotonous, man-made surface, running from one destination […]

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Gigantic Giraffes!

Today is World Giraffe Day. So, in honor of these towering tree-nibblers, here are a variety of giraffes in art. We all know what a giraffe looks like, right? Well I challenge you to sketch the giraffe above. Now, tell me, aren’t giraffes put together in a strange way? Its amazing that they can stand […]

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Fascinating Vultures!

Yes, I really do believe that vultures are fascinating! I imagine you either agree with me, or you are pulling some kind of disgusted face. So let me explain. I’m a fan of vultures and love to sketch them (I haven’t created many studio paintings of them, but am hoping to remedy this over the […]

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An Artist’s Fear

Many artists find blank canvas or white paper intimidating, because they want the very first mark they make to be perfect. I understand this, but for me, its the final stages that are more intimidating – the last few brush-strokes which can make or break a painting. When I think I’ve nearly finished,  I put […]

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Endangered Species Day Donations

Today is Endangered Species Day.  This is not a day we should need on our calendars, but unfortunately it comes around every year, with more and more species falling into the ‘endangered’ bracket.   We hear about the plight of charismatic species like lions, cheetahs and painted dogs, but habitat loss, the bushmeat trade, the […]

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What Does Endangered Look Like?

Endangered looks like this… And this… and this… Endangered is losing 99% of your population in just over 100 years… And no longer being found in 25 of the 39 African countries you once roamed… The Painted Dog (also known as the African wild dog) is endangered. Approximately 500,000 of these never-domesticated wild canids existed […]

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New Elephant Field Work by Alison Nicholls

Yesterday I got back from my latest trip to South Africa and Botswana, where I had a number of great elephant sightings. One memorable morning included a herd of 40 elephants who spent time carefully touching and smelling the bones of a dead elephant cow (more about that coming soon). This new sketch shows a […]

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Sketching in Africa!

During my sketching trip to Botswana and South Africa I will be trying out some new painting surfaces, although I’ll still be using my trusty watercolor sketchbooks by Holbein. (Yes, the 14×11″ size sketchbook with the incredibly catchy and colorful name: Multi-Drawing Book 5F. I suppose the workhorse-like name and plain cover might help prevent me from spiraling dizzily out of control […]

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Do You Know These Hamerkop Facts?

First, the obvious – Hamerkop means ‘hammer-head’ in Africaans. Don’t think I need to explain why! Second – the Hamerkop is only a medium sized bird, but it builds huge nests, often 6-8 feet across, made of thousands of sticks usually wedged between the branches of a large tree. Third – the Hamerkop nest has […]

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A Different Kind of Desert

The deserts I usually frequent in Africa do contain a lot of thorny, spikey plants, and Namibia in particular does have some outlandishly beautiful flora, but recently I visited Arizona and was struck by the cacti. Not literally of course – I just thought I’d share some images! There was a mini heat-wave going on while I was there (117F […]

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2 New Spaces on 2016 Art Safari!

Someone’s change of plans could start your Artistic Flight of Fantasy… That’s right – we now have 2 spaces available on the 2nd sold out 2016 Art Safari in South Africa. The dates are September 14-18 and the venue is the Klaserie Game Reserve in South Africa on the edge of Kruger National Park. Its prime […]

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An Exhibition In Images: Children Sketching Animals!

Part III of an exhibition in images features Children Sketching Animals. Chris Evers from Animal Embassy brought scorpions, an African bullfrog, a monk parakeet, an emerald tree boa and a rabbit. 25 local children arrived to sketch and sculpt with tuition from artists Alison Nicholls, Karryl, David Rankin, Susan Fox and Sean Murtha. All in a […]

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An Exhibition in Images: Opening Reception

Part II of an exhibition in images features the Opening Reception. The exhibition is Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut, which features field work and studio work from 7 Signature members of the Society of Animal Artists. Each artist works in a different region of the world: Alison Nicholls (Africa); David Rankin (India); […]

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An Exhibition in Images: Setup

This is the story of an exhibition…in images. The exhibition is Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut, which features field work and studio work from 7 Signature members of the Society of Animal Artists. Each artist works in a different region of the world: Alison Nicholls (Africa); David Rankin (India); Karryl (Rocky […]

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