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!

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Shepherd's Tree and Giraffe

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 Tree and Giraffe

Shepherd’s Tree and Giraffe, 24×16″ acrylic on canvas by Alison Nicholls. Sold.

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 a sketch I made in South Africa, and the tree shape I created in the studio, after studying my Shepherd tree sketches from Botswana.

The painting has a limited palette of only 3 colors – Naples yellow, cerulean blue & quinacridone magenta. Naples yellow is one of my favorite paint colors and I’ve added it to my field sketch kit too as it’s perfect for dry season grasses and the coats of many animals. These 3 colors make a wonderful range of grays, browns and pinks and even greens.

Shepherd’s trees have tiny leaves which spiral around the spiky branches but the overall effect is that the branches themselves often look green. I knew I needed to paint them boldly and left them until the end because I was afraid of ruining the painting at this late stage. To try and prevent that potential disaster I practiced painting the leaves on a separate piece of canvas, then dived in and painted them in bold strokes.

I’m delighted with this painting and would love to hear your opinion too. My newsletter subscribers always see my new work* before I post it on my website or on social media, and this painting sold when it featured in my October newsletter. So if you want first view of my new work, you can subscribe here. I’m donating 25% of the purchase price to African People & Wildlife to help in their ground breaking work in Tanzania.

See you next time!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

* except my 10-minute daily sketches, which are posted to my Etsy storeInstagram and Facebook.

Learn more about African People & Wildlife.

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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What are your Big Five African trees?

What are your Big Five African trees? If you haven’t been on safari in Africa, you may not know what I am talking about. It all started with the “Big Five” – a term coined by hunters, describing the most dangerous animals to hunt – the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. Over the years […]

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Artist At Work!

I need a line of T-shirts made with the phrase Artist at Work, because we artists are always at work. When I’m walking down the street I’m seeing the contrasting values between the sunny side of the street and the shady side. At the grocery store I’m looking at the piles of fruit as a […]

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Sketching Strong Shadows

Mid-afternoon in Khwai, the hottest part of the day, and I’m sketching strong shadows. We’re sitting by the beautiful ribbon of water that winds gracefully through the grasses and off into the distance. A Nile crocodile lies on the bank with its mouth open, and elephants drink in the river. The light is harsh and […]

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10-Minute Wildlife Sketches

It was only a matter of time before I started doing 10-minute wildlife sketches. It all started with the Portrait Party, where I really enjoyed doing 10-minute portraits of people. Every week day in February I did a 10-minute portrait at the start of the day. Then March arrived and I decided to switch to […]

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Sketching Villages from a Moving Car!

Recently I discovered that sketching villages from a moving car might be more difficult than sketching wildlife! These rural scenes were sketched as we drove down from Kasane to the Tuli Block in Botswana. Although we are driving quite slowly through villages, it’s still a challenge to sketch and you need to develop a photographic […]

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Even in front of Nature, one must Compose

“Even in front of nature, one must compose” is attributed to Edgar Degas. There are some who will argue that nature is perfect and it’s arrogant to compose, to rearrange things, in your art. But we all do this, all the time. You are composing when you move left or right to get that perfect […]

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Zebra Painting Demo!

Zebra Painting Demo is my latest video. I started a larger zebra painting which didn’t quite go to plan (it happens to us all), so I started again. But this time I painted on a smaller, pre-stretched watercolor canvas. Although the painting looks quite complex, when you watch the video you’ll see that it was […]

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Portrait Party – Sketching Strangers in 10 Minutes!

Last Saturday I did eleven 10-minute sketches of complete strangers at a Portrait Party in Manhattan. I signed up because I knew it would be good for my sketching skills and take me out of my comfort zone. As the day approached I was excited but also concerned by my lack of experience sketching faces. […]

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Watermedia – Mud and Magic

One artist’s mud is another artist’s magic in watermedia – that’s the conclusion I’ve come to recently as I spent time mixing interesting greys. Here’s a good example. I used Raw Sienna, Cobalt Blue and Cadmium Red Medium Hue to create the dark purple-grey-blue you see below. Wait a few minutes and the hues start […]

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