Blog

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

Recent Posts

Moose watercolors by Alison Nicholls

Moose of Rocky Mountain National Park

The moose of Rocky Mountain National Park provided a wonderful spectacle during my recent visit.

Moose watercolors by Alison Nicholls

Watercolor silhouettes of moose, sketched from life in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, Sept 2021.

One evening we were leaving Sprague Lake, when a sudden commotion ahead of us turned out to be a mother moose and 2 calves rushing towards the water – so we also rushed back to the lake. They had run beside the boardwalk to the far end of the lake (probably giving a few visitors a fright in the process) and we found them in the water, caught in the last light of day.

Moose

Moose in Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colordao. Photos by Alison & Nigel Nicholls.

The 2nd occasion we saw moose was also at Sprague Lake. This time it was a female and calf, and a young male. Soon they were joined by a much larger male and the younger male retreated. They were right at the edge of the water so although the light was fading, I still had perfect silhouettes to sketch. Blue and purple seemed the most appropriate colors for the situation!

Moose watercolors by Alison Nicholls

Watercolor silhouettes of moose bull, created from life, in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, by Alison Nicholls, September 2021.

These were painted directly in watercolor, with no preliminary drawing. I’ve never sketched moose before and was constantly convinced I’d made their faces too long and their chins too pronounced, but gradually I got used to their strange anatomy. Although it was getting darker and my fingers were getting increasingly cold, I kept on sketching because I knew this was an amazing opportunity that I may not see again!

Next time – Rocky Mountain landscapes.
Take care
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Elk in Rocky Mountain National Park

What could be better than sketching elk in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, during the rutting season?  I decided to go straight for watercolor, with no drawing underneath. Painting this way definitely works best with animals who have recognizable silhouettes, and the elk were perfect. I started with the head or body, making sure this […]

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Leopard in Timbavati

The pandemic has been prevented me from traveling to Africa recently, but remembering this leopard in Timbavati can still make me smile!    Look at that beautiful shape and the amazing camouflage. Just wow! Alison www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

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Inspiration

Inspiration – it’s a funny thing. Normally I would argue that an artist should get into the studio and paint, in order to generate their own inspiration, but recently I’ve found myself avoiding the studio and feeling uninspired and unmotivated. What? Really? Yes! I don’t enjoy working from photos and haven’t been to Africa since […]

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Honey Badger meets African Civet

Honey badger meets African civet. What happens next? My copy of The Safari Companion by Richard Estes describes the African civet as “a remarkably unspecialized, basic sort of mammal” that “eats whatever is digestible”, is “poorly equipped to climb or dig efficiently”, and is “relatively slow-moving”. That all makes it sound very unthreatening, but as […]

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Every Camp comes with a Hornbill

It seems that every camp comes with a hornbill in African reserves. You only know you’ve truly settled in when you see one (or more likely several) of these big-beaked birds bouncing around. They come in different sizes and colors but the 2 you are likely to see in camps in southern Africa are the […]

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What do I Sing when I Paint?

I realized recently that I sing when I paint. But first, I talk to myself. It seems that I talk when drawing, and sing when painting. Of course!  I talk to myself when I’m figuring out my sketch, looking at the light and shapes and getting them down on paper. I use lots of phrases […]

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Black-backed Jackals

For me, black-backed jackals are synonymous with the Kalahari Desert. Their jaunty trot carries them here and there within their territories as they expertly hunt and scavenge, surviving in one of the toughest places on Earth. Then night falls, and their howls pierce the darkness – a beautiful sound, but sharp and cold as the […]

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World Wildlife Day – Good News Stories!

On this World Wildlife Day lets look back at some of the good news stories about wildlife from 2020. Yes, there really were some!! China gave pangolins their highest status of protection, and removed them from their list of approved traditional medicine ingredients. Yay! Colorado voters approved a measure to bring back gray wolves, after […]

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Hyenas and Vultures

If you spend enough time in the African bush, it’s inevitable that you will come across a carcass and, if you’re lucky, hyenas and vultures. Finding a carcass can provide amazing sketching opportunities, as long as you can sit upwind! Here’s a video I took in South Africa of a hyena and vultures feeding on […]

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Hippo Day!

Its World Hippo Day! And who wouldn’t want to celebrate hippos – those jolly, rotund, playful, animal caricatures?  I’ve seen an immature hippo playing in a tiny waterhole with a stick, ducking it under, rolling on it, retrieving it, even tossing it in the air, and obviously having great fun. But, as is usually the […]

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Epomophorus – Bat Painting

I recently completed this commissioned painting of Kenyan fruit-eating bats flying at night. They are circling a bunch of figs which is painted in the shape of Africa from the Gall-Peters map. As you might guess, I didn’t have sketches of bats to rely on for my painting, so I asked permission to use photos […]

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Watercolor Wash

I tidied a corner of my studio recently and found this piece of writing: “A watercolor wash is beautiful to look at and satisfying to produce. You take a large brush, submerge it in watery paint then drag the brush across the surface of the dry, dimpled paper until the paint thins and the band […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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”). A couple of days after I signed this painting, I decided it wasn’t finished. So I added an extra wash […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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. Much vital conservation work involves people rather than wildlife. Reducing human-wildlife conflict, conducting anti-poaching patrols, or helping rural people […]

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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. The safari route is around Lake Naivasha in Kenya, where WasteAid is working with local partners to improve […]

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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 […]

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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

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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 […]

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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 […]

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