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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Artist Alison Nicholls in her studio

Working From Home

Working from home is something I do almost every day. As an artist I am used to being alone, creating and adhering (mostly) to my own schedule. When I look at my calendar and see an empty week ahead, with no interruptions, I’m usually very happy as it means I have a week of painting ahead. Of course I love to meet up with friends, and with other artists, but I do need my alone time to be creative.

Artist Alison Nicholls in her studio

Studio time

As the Covid 19 situation develops, more people will be working from home, and it can be quite an adjustment when you are used to the routine and social nature of working in an office. So here are my tips for working from home and maintaining your sanity!

Decide what time you need to get up, in order to start work at your normal time, then set your alarm clock. Don’t wake up at midday because you stayed up till 2am watching movies.

Shower and get dressed. Don’t work in your pajamas. Start work at your normal time.

Sit at a desk or table to work. Don’t work lying on the sofa, in bed, or in front of the TV.

Take breaks as you would at work. Take your normal lunch break. Finish work at your normal time.

Keep to your usual schedule for eating, sleeping, shopping, doing laundry, exercising. Don’t spend the morning doing laundry then realize you’ll be doing work till 1am to catch up.

If it helps, find a colleague to keep you accountable. Check in with each other when you start work and during your agreed break times.

If you don’t have a lot of space, be sure to tidy your work area at the end of the day, so you don’t feel like work is all around you when you are off the clock.

Given the ever-changing news situation it’s tempting to keep an eye on the news at all times. When you work from home it’s easy to eat breakfast in front of the TV then keep it on throughout the day, so you hear the breaking news as it happens. We all know this isn’t conducive to being productive, but its so easy to do. I can tell you from bitter experience that you won’t feel better at the end of the day if you do this. (You probably also won’t feel better informed, but that’s a whole other story!) Obviously you will want to keep yourself updated on developments but try to limit it to your break times.

If you are falling asleep while working (it happens), try a 10-minute power nap. I swear by these. Set an alarm for 10 minutes and put it out of reach so you have to get up to turn it off. Or, if you aren’t a power nap person, try a quick dance instead. Or play with the dog. But then remember to go back to work.


Powernaps are great

Get outside as much as you can when you’re not working. Get some spring sunshine. Being outdoors is the best cure for stress.

Of course I’m assuming that you do want to be productive while working from home. If you don’t, here is my advice: Wake up late. Keep the TV on all day. Work on your laptop while lying in bed. If you get tired, sleep whenever you want and for however long you want. Spend hours on the phone with your friends alarming each other with talk of the latest breaking news. Don’t leave the house. Don’t exercise. Stay up late. Eat fast food as often as possible. Repeat.

Just think, when all this is over, you might be really, really happy to go back to your workplace. But I’ll still be really, really happy in my studio!

International Women’s Day

On this International Women’s Day, I would like to highlight Mama Helena Mbarnoti, an inspiring Maasai woman from the village of Loibor Siret in northern Tanzania (mama is a respectful term for a married woman in Tanzania). African People & Wildlife’s headquarters, the Noloholo Environmental Education Center, is built on land donated by the surrounding […]


World Wildlife Day 2020

On this World Wildlife Day try imagining a world without wildlife. Why? Because the survival of millions of species (some as yet unknown to science) is in our hands. Quietly and unnoticed by many of us, wildlife is vanishing from the woods, skies, oceans, streams and rivers, plains, mountains and deserts. Some species thrive in […]


1 Second Everyday

I discovered 1SE (1 Second Everyday) a couple of years ago and it works exactly as it sounds – you select 1 second (of video or a photo) for every day and add it to your timeline, then you mash the seconds together to create a video. There’s also a Freestyle option, which doesn’t associate […]


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. I had completed […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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. […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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, […]


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 […]


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 […]


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 […]


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. […]


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 […]