Category Archives: Daily Sketches

Yellow-billed Hornbill by Alison Nicholls

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.

Yellow-billed Hornbill by Alison Nicholls

Yellow-billed Hornbill III, ink and watercolor on 6×6″ cradled board. Available on Etsy, $180

They come in different sizes and colors but the 2 you are likely to see in camps in southern Africa are the yellow-billed and red-billed hornbills. They can be difficult to tell apart. OK I’m kidding – these 2 species, unlike many others, have been given sensible, descriptive names!

They both have the same long eyelashes, the same habit of quizzically angling their heads, and the same ability to pick up the tiniest seeds with their over-sized beaks. They also add a lovely soundtrack, a background conversation almost, to hot afternoons in camp.

One final note – they’d both be absolutely terrifying if they were the size of an ostrich!
This artwork is available on Etsy, priced at $180 with free shipping in the US.
More next time.
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Sketching in my Car

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 like ‘Right, let’s see, what’s next?’.

Sketching in my Car

My setup for painting watercolors in my car. If the weather is good, I sit outside instead.

It seems that I sing (or hum, as there are rarely words) when I’m painting, especially when working on detail. I’ve been sketching in my own neighborhood recently and it’s been cold, so I’ve been working from my car. So what I sing is likely to be whatever I last heard on the radio. If that last song was something particularly appalling, I might have to leave the radio on, until I hear something better. Interestingly, I don’t sing-along when the radio is on – I only sing when the radio is off. If I can’t get a song out of my head and want a new one, I often go to something by my all-time favorite band – The Waterboys. 

Of course sometimes I leave the radio on (not the engine, just the radio) but it automatically turns off after an hour (you get to know these features of your vehicle when you sit in it to sketch). I turn it back on. Another hour goes by and it turns off again. I’m usually nearly finished by then, but it takes me a little while to pack up. Then I drive home. Or, as happened a couple of weeks ago, I try to drive home and find the car battery is totally dead. This shouldn’t happen from 2 hours of radio use, but it did. So at that point my singing turned into talking again – but with a much more aggravated tone! 

Keep on singing, humming or whatever it is that you don’t realize you are doing.
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Black-backed jackal by Alison Nicholls

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 starlight above. 

Black-backed jackal by Alison Nicholls

Black-backed Jackal III, ink and watercolor on acrylic, 5×5″ cradled board

The other image of black-backed jackals that sticks in my head is when jackals converge on an area where lions are feeding on a kill. If there are too many lions and it’s dangerous to try stealing, they wait patiently, curled up under different bushes nearby, until the lion pride moves on. Then they all dash in (along with the sharp-eyed vultures which have also congregated) to grab their share of the meat. They eat nervously, frequently scanning the area in case the lions return. Then, when they’re done, off they trot.
Jauntily, of course!

Black-backed jackal by Alison Nicholls

Young Jackal, ink and watercolor on acrylic, 5×5″ cradled board

Both these artworks can be purchased from my Etsy store, and I’ll donate 25% of the price to Cheetah Conservation Botswana.
Until next time, stay jaunty!

Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

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 case, there is another side to this story, and it involves an intimidating, potentially-dangerous river monster. 

Hippo Plunge

Hippo Plunge, ink and watercolor by Alison Nicholls, 9×12″, $80

During the day, the hippos of the Okavango Delta in Botswana, tend to be in the lagoons, and if you’re in a mokoro (dug-out canoe) your skilled poler avoids them by crossing these areas of deep water quickly, and at the narrowest points. On a typical mokoro-ride as a tourist, you spend most of your time in the maze of narrow, shallow trails (made by hippos as they leave the water at night to graze on land). These channels can be only a foot wide and just inches deep, or they can be 6 feet wide with water a couple of meters deep. They are often edged with grasses and reeds several feet above your head, and in the narrowest channels they push in on you from all sides. The water is clear as can be, filtered by all the vegetation, and the drifting lily pads are beautiful. The sounds can be mesmerizing – rippling water, the swish of reeds, and plops as frogs drop into the water beside you.  Then comes a loud bellow or grunt from a hippo, a mocking laugh of a sound, and suddenly you remember the the gaping mouth and the unexpected speed and agility of these huge beasts. For a while you imagine what you would do if one appeared beside you right now. Your heart beats quite a bit faster!

One day I remember that we returned to camp close to dusk, and had to to cross one last lagoon. The beautiful open stretch of water that we gazed at daily from camp suddenly took on a more menacing air. The dark waters merged with the darkening sky. Splashes and explosive grunts were the only clue to the pod of hippos close by. Our poler held us back in the grasses on the edge of the lagoon, watching and listening for a good time to cross, and I wondered if the amazing mokoro trip we had experienced had been worth this anxious last few minutes. Then we took off, smoothly poling through the waters, straight across the middle – where I closed my eyes, envisaging the approaching tidal wave of a plunging hippo. But we made it to dry land, and a lovely can of dry hunters too.

Although I’ve spent many hours on mekoro and in self-paddled canoes (definitely a more treacherous situation given my inability to travel in a straight line for long), luckily I haven’t met a really disgruntled hippo. However, the stories I’ve heard remind me that although messing around in boats might be fine, messing with hippos is something you definitely don’t want to try. 

Enjoy World Hippo Day!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Kambaku Art Safari

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 the 2019 Kambaku Art Safaris.  See full details here.

The 2021 Art Safari price is inclusive of all accommodation, art tuition, twice-daily drives, meals, laughter and wonderful wildlife!
See full details here.

Remember to get in touch soon if you’d like to reserve your place.
See you soon and stay well.
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

May 2020 in Art video by Alison Nicholls

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 2020.

Stay well.
Listen. 
Change.
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

March 2020 in Art

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

Streaming from my studio

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 personal Facebook page.

Streaming from my studio

I’ll be here, come rain or shine, every Wednesday at 2pm EST (7pm UK time).
If you missed the earlier sessions, here they are:
March 25, 2020
April 1, 2020

Alison Nicholls Sketching

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 each entry with a date. We all know that video gets far more attention online than photos, so even if I have a selection of photos of artwork I can combine them to create a video. It’s really helpful in marketing my art and Art Safaris. I just got the Pro version ($30 annually) which allows you to remove the ISE branding and date stamp, add music etc (should have done this long ago!).

Here’s my January in Art video…

It’s also great for personal videos and it’s amazing how much 1 second of video can do to remind you of an event or day in your life. So check it out. You might just become a convert like me!
More soon.
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

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 sketches – using a variety of media like markers, watercolor and charcoal.

Alison Nicholls at 2020 Portrait Party

Here I am sketching one of the other artists in my group. When you pose or when you sketch, you remain in your chair in the same position in the group. This way we all sketch each other from different angles.

And here I am posing for the group. Initially you’re very aware that everyone is looking at you, but after a while your mind wanders and it becomes quite pleasant!

2020 Portrait Party

At the end, every group creates their own grid of portraits. When you look vertically down the grid, you see all the sketches of 1 person. When you look horizontally across the grid, you see all the portraits by the same person. Very clever, right!

And here are a few of the portraits I created.

I noticed a vast improvement in (most!) of the sketches I did this year compared to those I did in 2018. I’ll definitely plan to attend in future years and would like to thank NYC Urban Sketchers for organizing this great event!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Lion in ink by Alison Nicholls

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 by Alison Nicholls

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. You can see this is a young male because his mane has started growing in. Males have to leave their natal pride and often struggle as they improve their hunting skills and avoid territorial pride males. Eventually, if he is smart, healthy, and lucky, he may be a pride male himself.

My daily sketches are for sale at my Etsy store, with 50% of the purchase price donated to various African conservation organizations. 10-minute sketches are $60, and 20-minute sketches are $80, with free shipping in the US (and very reasonable shipping elsewhere in the world!).
Enjoy!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
My Etsy Store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AlisonNichollsArt
Follow Nigel on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nigel.nicholls_photography/

Lioness in ink by Alison Nicholls

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.

Lioness in ink by Alison Nicholls

Lioness in ink by Alison Nicholls

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 that its just a drawing on a piece of paper (yupo actually) helps a lot. But its evidence of how far I think I’ve come in the last couple of years and particularly since I started my daily sketches.

The subject matter for my daily sketches are photos by my husband, Nigel. They are all for sale at my Etsy store, with 50% of the purchase price donated to various African conservation organizations. The 10-minute sketches are $60 and the 20-minute sketches are $80, with free shipping in the US (and very reasonable shipping elsewhere in the world!).
Enjoy!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
My Etsy Store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AlisonNichollsArt
Follow Nigel on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nigel.nicholls_photography/

Elephants in Brown, field sketch by Alison Nicholls

Field Sketches & Daily Sketches – What is the Difference?

So what exactly is the difference between my Field Sketches & Daily Sketches?

Elephants in Brown, field sketch by Alison Nicholls

Elephants in Brown, field sketch by Alison Nicholls

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 25% of the purchase price donated to various African conservation organizations.

Daily sketch by Alison Nicholls

Turqouise Elephant, daily sketch by Alison Nicholls

My Daily Sketches are created in the studio, in 10-minutes, from photos by my talented husband, Nigel. They are pen sketches, sometimes with watercolor added and sometimes drawn on a colorful acrylic background. They are 8×10″ on yupo paper – a bright white, synthetic surface – and sell for US$60, with 50% of the purchase price donated to various African conservation organizations.

Working from photos is obviously easier than working from life, so I set a time limit on my Daily Sketches, to keep the work fresh and give myself a challenge. 10 minutes goes by very fast, but its a great way to start each day and excellent practice for when I’m sketching in the field.

In June I’ll be in Tanzania for 2 weeks, so my daily sketches will be field sketches!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

 

Wild Elephants sketch by Alison Nicholls

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 one with an ink drawing then add watercolor or fluid acrylic if time allows.

Wild Elephants sketch by Alison Nicholls

Wild Elephants sketch by Alison Nicholls

These daily sketches began when I attended a Portrait Party organized by New York City Urban Sketchers. There were nearly 100 artists, divided into groups of 12 and we sketched each person in our group, one at a time,  for 10 minutes. I enjoyed this experience so much that I continued doing a 10-minute portrait sketch every day after that.

Leopard Lines sketch by Alison Nicholls

Leopard Lines sketch by Alison Nicholls

Soon I decided to revert to my usual African subject matter as I realized this would be a great way to keep my sketching skills up to speed for when I return to Africa and sketch animals from life.  As my daily sketches started accumulating I decided to sell them on  my Etsy Store, with 50% of the proceeds donated to the African conservation organizations I support. These include African People & Wildlife (Tanzania), Painted Dog Research Trust (Zimbabwe), Cheetah Conservation Fund (Namibia) and others.

Kudu Bull sketch by Alison Nicholls

Kudu Bull sketch by Alison Nicholls

My daily sketches are based on the amazing photos taken over the years by my husband, Nigel. Working directly from photos is not normally something I do, but when I set a 10-minute deadline I have to concentrate on the basics and eliminate unnecessary detail, just like I do when I’m sketching from life in Africa.

Painted Purple (painted dogs) by Alison Nicholls

Painted Purple (painted dogs) by Alison Nicholls

Every sketch is unique, priced at only $60 and 50% of the proceeds are donated to African conservation organizations. I’ll be posting new pieces to my Etsy Store every few days so please join me for my 10-minute daily sketch journey!

Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

See my husband, Nigel’s photos on Instagram.
Visit African People & Wildlife website.
Visit Cheetah Conservation Center website.
Visit Painted Dog Research Trust website.
Visit NYC Urban Sketchers Facebook Group.