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

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

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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 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. […]

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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. 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 […]

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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. The […]

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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 […]

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Shepherd’s Tree and Giraffe

Trees, rocks and landscape features will be making more of an appearance in my upcoming paintings and here’s a great example – Shepherd’s Tree & Giraffe. Shepherd’s trees are not tall but can be very sculptural, and they’re frequently browsed by giraffes, which of course also have elegant lines. I took the giraffe silhouette from […]

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2019 Art Safari Video II

In August I led two Art Safaris in South Africa for Africa Geographic. Here is my short video of the second Art Safari. Both safaris were held at Kambaku Safari Lodge, in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, part of the Great Kruger National Park. Kambaku was a great place to hold an Art Safari as we […]

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Art Safari Video

In August I led two Art Safaris in South Africa for Africa Geographic. Here is my short video of the first Art Safari.   Both safaris were held at Kambaku Safari Lodge, in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, part of the Great Kruger National Park. Kambaku was a great place to hold an Art Safari as […]

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New Botswana Watercolors!

Here are my new Botswana watercolors. In the past I’ve usually sketched in pencil (then added watercolor), giving a myself a little room for error as I could erase any incorrect lines. However, these pieces were all sketched from life in pen. I’m a real believer in simplicity, making as few lines as possible on […]

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Sketch For Survival 2019

Its Sketch for Survival time! And you can bid on my donated painting, sketched in watercolor from life at The Bush House in South Africa.  Here’s I am, slightly speeded up, painting the watercolor. In case you’re wondering, I don’t have eyes as sharp as an eagle – the camera angle just makes the elephants […]

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The Soccer Game

Soccer (or football) is huge in Africa. Almost every person has a favorite team, often from Europe. So when we heard there was a soccer tournament going on at Limpopo-Lipadi while we were there, we wanted to go along and support the team. I decided to sketch the game too. It was extremely hot and […]

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Women in Tanzania

Rural women in Tanzania usually have a fairly low status in society and are often completely dependent on their husband, even though women do much of the work in rural households. African People & Wildlife (APW) works in conjunction with many rural communities in Tanzania, and together their initiatives are helping women become financially independent, […]

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Art in Tanzania

I see natural artistic talent every time I teach a children’s art class but it is particularly striking to see when you know the children have no art lessons at school, no access to art materials at home, and little exposure to art online or in print. Unfortunately, this can describe children anywhere in the […]

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Mural Magic in Tanzania

A major reason for my return to African People & Wildlife (APW) in Tanzania was to help with murals in 3 rural schools. The students created the designs using their own drawings and some images I supplied, then I made stencils to help transfer the outlines onto the walls quickly. The stencils proved very helpful […]

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Field Sketches & Daily Sketches – What is the Difference?

So what exactly is the difference between my Field Sketches & Daily Sketches? My Field Sketches are created from life, in Africa. I usually start by sketching in pencil or ink then add watercolor, but sometimes I sketch directly in watercolor. They are either 8×10″ or 11×14″ on watercolor paper and sell for US$200-$300, with […]

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Packing for Tanzania

I’ll be off to Tanzania again in a couple of weeks, visiting African People & Wildlife to help with some murals in rural schools and do some art classes for teachers and students. Somehow, I hope to do some of my own sketching too, so here’s my latest video showing what I’m taking with me. […]

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Learn from the Masters

If your goal is sketching wildlife and you want to learn from the masters, you could do far worse than look at rock art by the San (Khoi-San or bushmen). With a few simple lines they catch the essence of an animal, so you immediately know it. And through their lifestyle as hunter-gatherers they are […]

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Murals in Tanzania

Painting on a wall while standing on a wobbly plank balanced between 2 wobbly supports, is something many artists will have done I’m guessing. I was visiting African People & Wildlife, near Tarangire National Park, learning about the organization and their successful work with communities to allow people and wildlife to co-exist on the Maasai […]

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Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

We were looking forward to a quick cuppa, a nice mid-morning tea-break, but when we reached the big baobab in Savute, Botswana, we found that our spot was already taken. Let sleeping dogs lie… The dogs made excellent sketching subjects, once I figured out whose legs and ears were whose. Painted dogs or African wild […]

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Earth Day is all Wrong

Earth Day is all wrong. We seem to have everything backwards. Once a year we celebrate Earth Day; World Environment Day; World Oceans Day; National Tree Day; or World Wetlands Day. Sure, we should celebrate them because they are absolutely essential to our continued existence on this planet, but these “days” are a reminder of […]

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10-Minute Daily Sketches on Etsy

A 10-minute daily sketch is a great way to start the day, keep my sketching skills up to speed, and experiment with line and color. Every piece is unique. They are available at my Etsy Store priced at only US$60 each and 50% of the proceeds are donated to African conservation organizations. I begin each […]

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