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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Generic Giraffe & Other Pitfalls

Field-sketches-by-Alison-Nicholls

Field-sketches-by-Alison-Nicholls

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, I’m kidding, I’ve never seen, let alone sketched, an aardvark).
 
This knowledge helps me immensely when I’m sketching in the bush and catch a brief glimpse of activity that I want to capture in my sketchbook. If I see a young elephant chasing guinea-fowl or lion cubs pouncing on each other, a particular turn of the head or twist of the body might attract my attention so I quickly sketch it, but then, using my knowledge of the anatomy of the animal, I can add further details to complete the sketch.
 
But recently, I questioned whether this knowledge also leads me to sketch a generic giraffe, a standard spotted hyena, a basic buffalo or a common cheetah. Am I now doing what I always tell students to avoid – drawing what I think I know instead of what I see?
 
If I do fall into this trap (it happens to us all at times) then at least I’m aware of it, so this year in Africa I will be tutoring myself as well as my students. We’ll just have to see who follows instruction better!
 
Do you have any bad art habits you are prepared to share?
Go on, make me feel better.
Alison
 
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

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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Wildlife Art in the Flinn Gallery

Soon my paintings, including Zebra in Mopane, will be hanging in the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut. We have some great events scheduled around this exciting exhibition, so come and see the wildlife of Africa, Mongolia, Alaska, India, the Rocky Mountains, Central America and the Long Island Sound from the unique perspectives of a diverse […]

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Start the Weekend with Chittering Dogs!

Start the weekend with chittering painted dogs! Join me to hear Dr Greg Rasmussen of the Painted Dog Research Trust talk about the unique, endangered and beautiful Painted Dog (African wild dog). Dr Rasmussen will talk about the years he has spent with painted dogs and the challenges facing them, particularly in Zimbabwe. I recently […]

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Spot my New Cheetah Painting!

I’d like to show you my new cheetah painting, Strides, but I can’t – not yet! It will be revealed in late March when it hangs in the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, CT, as part of the exhibition Wildlife Art: Field to Studio. In the meantime, enjoy the preview! Flinn Gallery Greenwich Library, 101 West Putnam […]

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Painted Dog Playtime by Alison Nicholls

Playtime is based on my recent sketches and memories of painted dogs in Botswana playing around a tall clump of buffalo grass. So where is the grass, I hear you asking? Well the composition did originally contain the grass, but I removed it because I felt that the obvious playful energy of the 2 dogs was […]

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Painted Dogs AND Wolves – 1 Night Only!

Dr Greg Rasmussen of the Painted Dog Research Trust in Zimbabwe will be speaking at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY, about the challenges faced by painted dogs (African wild dogs) and how research can help conserve the species. After the lecture you will be able to see more charismatic canids in the shape […]

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Part 2: Fashionable Color Palettes – Artistic Smart Move or Sellout? An Artist’s Opinion.

Color is a very, very important part of my art and my color choices are carefully considered. I often use color to indicate a time of day – reds and oranges for the heat of midday; blues and purples for dusk. I also use combinations of colors to suggest a mood – limiting my palette of […]

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Fashionable Color Palettes – Artistic Smart Move or Sellout?

A while ago a good friend of mine pointed out that most of my paintings in a certain color palette were sold. At the end of each year I look at my sales and try to determine trends, including general color schemes, but I have never made a point of checking out the current season’s ‘fashionable’ colors and using them […]

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2016 Art Safaris Fully Booked!

There have been no flurries of snow here but there have been a flurry of bookings for the Art Safaris I teach for Africa Geographic! We advertised 1 safari in September 2016, then added a 2nd, also in September. And as of today, they are both fully booked! Its a great start to 2016, although I apologize to those of you […]

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Festive Fun!

Festive Fun! From my Home to Yours…   whether you have snow or not, have a fun-filled Festive Season! (I will try to console my dog with some stuffed toys until colder, more seasonal weather arrives!) Take care Alison 

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Oh No – I’m In An Elephant Sandwich!

On safari, its not generally a good sign when someone starts videoing your vehicle, because the chances are you are about to star in a viral YouTube video about a dangerous or scary incident. So when the people in a car in front of us turned around to video us and an elephant, I was not very happy! We were in Pilanesberg […]

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