Recent Posts

Resolutions? Nope. Planning? Oh Yeah!

New starts have always appealed to me, so it’s no surprise that I look forward to New Year. I do like the revelry and fireworks but I also love spreading big sheets of paper out in my studio and having a brainstorming session. I relish setting objectives for the year – its like starting a new painting and seeing the endlessly exciting possibilities. So although I don’t want time to fly by, I am always ready to ring in the New Year and start planning for the 12 months ahead.

Artist Alison Nicholls in a new year planning session.
Thats me – enjoying a planning session!

Excessive planning?

When I started my career as a full-time artist in 2004, I read all kinds of marketing newsletters and soon I had created lists of daily tasks, weekly tasks, monthly tasks and annual tasks. For several years this worked well for me, but the more I learned, the bigger my marketing/exhibiting/admin ‘to-do’ list became. I grew tired of the structure, and found that my painting was suffering, so for the last couple of years I’ve gone in the other direction and mostly ignored my annual objectives and tasks lists. But that hasn’t worked for me either, as I’m the kind of person who needs some structure and organization to be productive. So in 2019 I’m going back to ‘my’ basics – a New Year planning session and a slimmed down list of objectives for the year.

Over the years I’ve discovered that this kind of planning helps me set achievable goals, advances my career and even offers me ways to evaluate my art, but I need to be aware that too much planning can lead to very little action!

I have a theory that excessive planning particularly plagues watermedia artists because our medium requires so much advance planning to be fresh and expressive (more on this coming up soon).

Does any of this sound familar?
Let me know!

Zebra Crossing

I know its a cliche, but Zebra Crossing was really the only name I could give this video. This small herd crossed the road in front of us as we returned to camp one morning. Its unusual to be on a real road like this during an Art Safari, but the light made this a […]


Its World Giraffe Day!

Lets celebrate World Giraffe Day by watching giraffes in South Africa. These 2 bulls are practicing their fighting techniques. When its serious, their huge, bony heads hit each other with a ferocious force which can knock a giraffe off its feet. Not the kind of behavior you’d expect from a giraffe, right? I’ve seen a […]


Art Tips by Alison

There are many Art Tips I can think of but this is perhaps the most important one, if you want to be a productive artist… Sorry about the psychedelic video towards the end. Although its quite appropriate I suppose! Alison


Quintessentially Quelea

Red-billed Quelea are the world’s most populous bird and when you watch this video I took in Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana, you might see why! In case you are wondering – no, I didn’t try to sketch this! Alison


Art Tips: ChARTing My Progress

Charting my progress is fun as well as helpful, when I’m floundering a little. I’ve just taken down an exhibition of my work, and I’m left feeling a little uninspired, a little unmotivated. There are too many ideas whizzing around in my head and I’m not getting started on any of them. So I decided […]


Looking Back…to move Forward

Looking back can show you how much has changed. So here are a few things that have changed about my art over the years. And a few really old paintings too! I used to paint or draw animals from photos, in a far more realistic style. When I painted from life (en plein air), I […]


What Happens to Failed Paintings?

Artists make mistakes. Its true. Shocking, I know! So what happens to my failed paintings? If you liked the penguins you just saw (which it seems many people did) then here’s a look at the next version, which I’ll be sending to Artists For Conservation to feature in their Silent Skies Mural, showing all 678 […]


Giraffes – Paintings in Stages by Alison Nicholls

Giraffes are unique in so many ways – which makes them perfect for painting. As you’ll see in this video, I started with simple washes of fluid acrylic on watercolor canvas. When they were dry I looked at the washes from every angle and suddenly the compositions jumped out at me – 2 bulls browsing […]


Birds & Beasts: See The Paintings

March 22 was the Opening Reception for Birds & Beasts: Near & Far – my current exhibition with artist Sean Murtha, at the Rye Arts Center, Rye NY. We had a good turnout and are holding more events associated with the exhibition, including Sketching Workshops from Live Animals on March 24 and an Artists Talk […]


Stages of a Leopard Painting by Alison Nicholls

I recently conducted a survey and asked what everyone would like to see more of regarding my art and travels. One request was for more works in progress, and for more about the inspiration behind my paintings, so here’s a brief video about my new leopard painting. It includes the initial inspiration, thumbnail ideas, composition […]


Travel Africa Features my African Art!

A few months ago I was interviewed by Travel Africa, answering some interesting questions about my trips to Africa and the way I sketch and paint. Today the online article has been released and you can read it here. If you can. please leave a comment as this may prompt them to feature me again […]


Birds & Beasts: Near & Far

Birds & Beasts: Near & Far – that is the title for my next exhibition, shared with artist Sean Murtha, at the Rye Arts Center, Rye NY, from March 22 – April 21. Giving an exhibition a title can be remarkably difficult. You want to get it right – to indicate what the exhibit is […]


Spotted Hyena Watercolor

In this spotted hyena watercolor, I made a conscious decision to add more habitat and landscape features, rather then just concentrating on the animals, as I often do. One morning, driving in Kruger National Park in South Africa, we came across this spotted hyena lying right next to the track, with its head resting on […]


Take Part in my Art Survey!

Here’s your chance to tell me what you think by taking part in my Art Survey! There are just a few short questions. It will take only a tiny amount of your time. And there’s even a question about sharing a mud-bath with a herd of elephants! Admit it – you’re intrigued… So, if you […]


Spotted Hyena – Night Scent

The whoop of the spotted hyena is one of the most recognizable calls of the African bush. My favorite memories of sitting around the campfire at night include many occasions spent listening to distant hyenas, then being startled by a response from very close by. I have also been only feet away, eating dinner by […]


January 2018 Art Challenge

I started 2018 with an Art Challenge and here is a preview of my challenge so far. As with any plan, once you get into it you realize things need a little tweaking. I started by thinking I’d paint a whole month of daily colors on 1 piece of canvas, but realized it would be […]


Oh No – Another Art Dead-End!

In many careers you start by studying, learning from others. Those who came before you have created a foundation of knowledge, gathered over the years, so there are many dead-ends you don’t need to visit or experiments you don’t need to repeat – because the answers have been found and are there for you to […]


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 are a unique way […]


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 […]


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 […]


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


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 […]


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 […]


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