Category Archives: African Wildlife

Bald Eagle by Nigel Nicholls

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 our backyards, towns & cities, but around the world many, many, more are declining at a horrifying speed. 

Bald Eagle by Nigel Nicholls

A Bald Eagle sits on a dead tree in Yellowstone.   Photo by Nigel Nicholls.

As a species we can be destructive and cruel, but we are also creative, caring and extremely powerful. With the right help, we can bring species back from the brink of extinction. America’s Bald Eagle is a notable example.

Life finds a way. That is the well-known saying. But ‘finding a way’ is becoming increasingly difficult for many species as habitat is lost, water and air polluted. So, on this World Wildlife Day, lets make a decision to help wildlife find a way, because a world that is healthier for wildlife is a world that is healthier for us too.

Check out Nature Needs Half.

More next time!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

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

Buffalo in Delta field sketch Alison Nicholls 2012

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 featured artist, I also received a nice pdf of the feature too.
Have a read and enjoy my recent watercolors from Africa!

Featured Artist Alison Nicholls

All my watercolors are for sale, priced between $250 and $350 depending on the size. Please take a look and let me know if you would like to own one. I donate 25% from the sale of each one to African conservation organizations.
More next time!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Crash - Rhino Poaching in South Africa, painting by Alison Nicholls

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 the painting and donate a large percentage of the purchase price to WFA.
 
Crash - Rhino Poaching in South Africa, painting by Alison Nicholls

Crash, acrylic & ink on canvas, 20×30″

Crash – Rhino Poaching in South Africa
 
Crash is the collective noun for a group of rhinos, and sadly it also sums up the downward spiral of rhino numbers worldwide. In South Africa more than 1,000 rhinos were killed for their horns every year from 2013 to 2017, and a horrifying 1,215 dead rhinos were recorded in 2014 alone. The number of rhinos killed by poachers dropped to 769 in 2018, but the consensus is that poaching continues at high levels, while the drastically reduced rhino population has just made rhinos harder for poachers to find. Rhinos in some reserves are protected by military style anti-poaching units, because well-armed poachers are often organized by the international cartels who run drugs and guns. Corrupt wildlife & government officials, police officers, judges and reserve owners have played their part on the killing fields, while many brave rangers have died across Africa protecting rhinos.
 
African black rhinos (Diceros bicornis) and white rhinos (Ceratotherium simum) are both vulnerable to poaching, killed for their horns which are smuggled to Asia for use in traditional medicines. A growing Asian middle class with purchasing power has increased demand, and a Vietnamese Cabinet Minister who claimed rhino horn cured his cancer exacerbated the situation. Advertising in China and Vietnam has educated some consumers, explaining that rhinos are brutally killed to obtain their horns; that the horn is made of keratin, a protein found in hair and fingernails; and that the horn has no significant medicinal properties, however, some wealthy consumers now buy rhino horn purely as a social status symbol.
 
My painting, Crash, echoes the striking ancient rock art found across South Africa. It shows a black and a white rhino, and beneath them human figures stalking & shooting, hacking off a horn and selling it to a middleman. 2 rhino-head outlines are hidden on the left side of the painting, and the deep rock crevice is a reproduction of a graph showing rhino poaching statistics in South Africa between 2003 and 2018. There are small dots along the line, starting at bottom left, indicating annual figures. The baseline or horizontal axis is not shown, but lies just below the dot for 2004. Every 2 inches (5cms) in vertical height from the baseline represents 100 dead rhinos. The figures for individual years are as follows: 22 rhino deaths (2003), 10 (2004), 13 (2005), 24 (2006), 13 (2007), 52 (2008), 84 (2009), 333 (2010), 448 (2011), 668 (2012), 1004 (2013), 1215 (2014), 1175 (2015), 1054 (2016), 1028 (2017), 769 (2018).
 
Crash - Rhino Poaching in South Africa, painting by Alison Nicholls
 
South Africa is currently home to approximately 39% of Africa’s remaining 5,500 black rhinos and 93% of Africa’s remaining 17,000-19,000 white rhinos. South Africa’s poaching crisis is particularly shocking, but rhinos are being killed for their horns in every African country in which they live. If the poaching continues unabated, future generations will see rhinos through the eyes of our ancestors, as paintings on cave walls, instead of watching them living wild in the African bush.
 
US$2000 from the sale of this painting will be donated to Wilderness Foundation Africa to support the dedicated people working to protect Africa’s amazing rhinos.
 
***
 
On the 2015 Africa Geographic Art Safari at Kariega Game Reserve, we saw Thandi, a white rhino and her young calf. Our guide told us the harrowing story of Thandi and how she survived being poached, left in agony with a large portion of her face destroyed after the poachers hacked off her horn. No-one knew if she could survive but she was treated with all kinds of new techniques by the vet on the scene – Dr Will Fowlds. Thandi’s recovery has been astonishing and hopeful, especially as she is now helping to bring life to a new generation of rhinos.
Thandi & calf, Kariega Game Reserve

Thandi & calf, Kariega Game Reserve

I hope Crash will help bring more awareness of the rhino poaching crisis and also raise some much-needed funds for the protection of rhinos.
Alison
 
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
Paws Trails Explorer article about Alison Nicholls

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 gathered the courage to start; which materials work well and which were disastrous; how my work changed when I connected with conservation organizations; and how my art now benefits those same groups.

Paws Trails Explorer article about Alison Nicholls

To read the Paws Trails Explorers article, click the image above and go to page 92 or you can find it online here at http://www.pawstrails.com/  (Dec 2019 / Jan 2020 Issue #20). The photography in the magazine is quite stunning and I’m delighted to have my art featured in the Wild Arts Showcase section. You might want to consider joining the Paws Trails Explorers mailing list so you receive future issues.

Enjoy!
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/

Elephant and Impala by Alison Nicholls

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.

Elephant and Impala by Alison Nicholls

Elephant and Impala, 8×10″, $200 by Alison Nicholls

The watercolor I added later that day, from memory and imagination. I used just 3 colors – my favorite combo at the moment – Naples Yellow, Cerulean Blue and Quinacridone Magenta. I kept the warmest colors on the elephant bull, to draw him closer, and allowed the distant vegetation to fade into the background.

25% ($50) from the purchase price will be donated to African People & Wildlife in Tanzania. So, let me know if you’d like it, before I decide to frame it and hang it on my own wall.
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
Learn more about African People & Wildlife in Tanzania.

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.

Kambaku 2019 Art Safari

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 had amazing wildlife sightings, beautiful accommodations, great food and wonderful spaces for daytime workshops.

2020 Art Safaris
We’ll be returning to Kambaku for 1 of my 2020 Art Safaris and we have only 2 places remaining, so if you’d like to join us please let me know. We also have only 2 places available on the 2nd 2020 Art Safari, which will take place at Pungwe Safari Camp in Manyaleti Reserve, also part of the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa.

2020 Art Safari Details

We welcome only 6 guests on each safari and they may have any (or no) experience of sketching. We also welcome non-sketching friends and partners.
So if your idea of fun is spending time in the bush with wildlife, art and like-minded travel companions, sign up for 2020!
Alison

Kambaku Art Safari with Alison Nicholls

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 we had amazing wildlife sightings, beautiful accommodations, great food and wonderful spaces for daytime workshops.

2020 Art Safaris
We’ll be returning to Kambaku for 1 of my 2020 Art Safaris and we have only 2 places remaining, so if you’d like to join us please let me know. We also have only 2 places available on the 2nd 2020 Art Safari, which will take place at Pungwe Safari Camp in Manyaleti Reserve, also part of the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa.

2020 Art Safari Details

We welcome only 6 guests on each safari and they may have any (or no) experience of sketching. We also welcome non-sketching friends and partners.
Enjoy the video and watch out for another video next week!
Alison

Elephant and Impala by Alison Nicholls

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 my paper, so trying to work like this in ink can lead to a lot of frustration and can be an easy way of getting through lots of paper when things don’t work out. At the beginning of my trip, in my 1st sketchbook, I was being too tentative (and was sketching a leopard, which I find one of the most difficult species) so I ended up tearing 2 pages out of my book and burning them. But as time went on, sketching with pen became a fun challenge, and I found myself wondering how how much I could say with a minimum of lines.

Elephant and Impala by Alison Nicholls

A large bull elephant makes impala wait for a drink as he stands at the waterhole, painted in watercolor by Alison Nicholls

In these two pieces, you can see how simple my pen sketches were. The elephant is sketched in a just a few lines, with no shading, and the impala are really only identifiable by their horns. I know that the addition of color will make all the difference so I don’t need to overdo the sketching. Similarly, on the piece below, I’m only concerned with sketching the simple shapes of the jackals and the stunted trunk of the bush one of them lies under. I know that watercolor will be better for the coloring on the jackals’ coats and for the leaves of the bush, so I don’t sketch those with the pen.

Black-backed Jackals by Alison Nicholls

I didn’t expect these jackals to hang around for long but it turned out they were waiting patiently for lions to leave a kill.

Knowing which materials will be best for which purpose is key. I can keep my pen sketch simple because I know where I will use watercolor to complete the sketch.
See you next time.
Alison

www.ArtInspiredByAfrica.com

Elephants at Water IV

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 and zebras look much further away than they really were! 

Bids on this painting start at $75 and all the money raised goes to Sketch For Survival’s 2019 conservation beneficiaries – Ape Alliance, Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Painted Dog Conservation and the Mariamma Charitable Trust.

Elephants at Water IV

Elephants at a waterhole, painted from life in South Africa

What is Sketch for Survival? It’s an annual exhibition and sale of wildlife art in aid of conservation. The art, donated by leading wildlife artists, illustrators, cartoonists, celebrities, explorers and photographers, comprises sketches, studio art, illustrations and cartoons depicting endangered wildlife. The exhibit will be shown in the UK in Bristol, Harrogate & Norwich before appearing at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Thursday 14 November. Special guests will include Ian Redmond OBE from Ape Alliance, renowned for his work with both Great Apes and Elephants, Dr Julian Fennessy from Giraffe Conservation Foundation, and representatives from Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe. The online auction will finish on Sunday 17th November, 2019.

So go on, place a bid on my painting now and see all the other artwork too. And if you’re in the UK, visit one of the venues and see the artwork in person.
Take care,
Alison

Read more about Sketch for Survival and Explorers Against Extinction.

 

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

 

Alison Nicholls art materials for Tanzania

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. You can read about my previous visits to APW here.
More soon!
Alison

Rock art in Savute Botswana

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 unparalleled in their knowledge of the animals they depicted in their rock art.

Rock art in Savute Botswana

Rock art in Savute, Botswana

Over the years I’ve seen rock art in many locations in southern Africa including Matopos (Zimbabwe), the Tsodilo Hills (Botswana) and Twyfelfontein (Namibia). Most of the paintings are not in caves but are on the underside of overhanging rocks, while many of the petroglyphs (images chipped into the rock surface) are on fully exposed rocks.

How I start an elephant sketch by Alison Nicholls

How I start an elephant sketch by Alison Nicholls

Last year I was in Savute, Botswana, and revisited a rock art panel on one of the small hills in the area. I sketched the 3 main animals – an eland, elephant, and sable antelope. A few months later I was creating a video for my Art Safari guests, showing how I start my sketches of elephants. I remembered the elephant painting in Savute and realized the 2 main shapes I start my sketches with (a large block for the body and a smaller block for the head) are the same as the main shapes for the elephant in the Savute painting.
Maybe the rock art I’ve seen has influenced me more than I knew!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Twyfelfontein Namibia

Petroglyphs, Twyfelfontein, Namibia

Murals at APW

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.

Alison Nicholls in Loibor Siret

Drawing out the initial mural design                                                African People & Wildlife

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 Steppe. Part of my visit involved art-related activities and on this occasion I was drawing out the design for a mural at the Loibor Siret primary school, so that the students could paint it. We were designing as we went along but it worked out well.

Mural design at APW

Mural design                                           photo: Deirdre Leowinata / AfricanPeople&Wildlife

Some of the paint literally slipped off the wall as we painted it on, so we have nothing red in the finished mural. And the brushes lost so many hairs that the lions took on a far more realistic look than I could have possibly hoped for!

Murals at APW

photo: Deirdre Leowinata / AfricanPeople&Wildlife

But many enthusiastic and capable hands made the whole experience great, and sometimes the trials are what the best memories are made of. I’m going back in June and this time the designs are being drawn up by the students, winners will be decided in advance, and with a bit of luck, 3 schools will end up with colorful murals designed and painted by members of the school community. However, this time I’m bringing brushes with me, and we’ll buy a different kind of paint. Live and learn!

Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Alison Nicholls

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…

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Alison Nicholls

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie – sketched from life in pen and watercolor, Savute Botswana 2018

The dogs made excellent sketching subjects, once I figured out whose legs and ears were whose. Painted dogs or African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) are very social and like to lie together in a pile, in very close contact, so identifying which dogs to include in my sketch is the first thing I do.

Savute Wild Dogs by Nigel Nicholls

Painted dogs sleeping in a pile, photo by Nigel Nicholls.

Note the annoying piece of grass in the foreground – the bane of every wildlife photographer’s life. If I had a sketchbook for every time I’ve heard my husband ask why there’s grass in the way, I’d never run out of paper again!

Painted Dog Pile by Nigel Nicholls

Painted Dog Pile by Nigel Nicholls

Here’s the scene I sketched. Its so weird when I get back from our trips, see my husband’s photos and recognize my sketches. You’ll notice that the piece of grass is even more annoying from this angle…which brings me to another advantage of sketching – the artist decides what goes into the sketch and what stays out, so there are no annoying pieces of grass in my art.

Now I have to go find my own sleeping dog and take him out for a walk!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone, USA

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 what is under threat, rather than a celebration.  Here are just a few of the endless examples of “days” we shouldn’t need: World Rhino Day; Endangered Species Day; Lion Day; Vulture Awareness Day; World Wildlife Day; Cheetah Day.

Kalahari, Botswana

Kalahari, Botswana, photo by Alison Nicholls

So I’ve been giving some thought to an alternative reality and some of the “days” we could hope to eliminate or celebrate at some point in the future.

Lake Kyle, Zimbabwe

Lake Kyle, Zimbabwe, photo by Alison Nicholls

Instead of Earth Hour (where we shut down all our electrical appliances and devices for an hour) wouldn’t it be great if we lived in a world where once a year we had “Power Hour”, when we’d try running all our appliances and devices at once, just for a laugh, knowing that we couldn’t overload our clean, green, renewable energy grid.

Mount Machapuchare, Nepal

Mount Machapuchare, Nepal, photo by Nigel Nicholls

Instead of Car Free Day, we might one day live in a world where “Pollution Day” is on the calendar – not as a celebration but a remembrance of the past and less-enlightened times.

In this world we wouldn’t need any of the wildlife “days” because none of these species would be under threat from habitat loss, poaching, or human-wildlife conflict.

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone, USA

Lamar Valley, Yellowstone, USA, photo by Alison Nicholls

And this could go well beyond environmental issues. Wouldn’t it be great to live in a world where “Remembering ALS (MND)” or “Remembering Breast Cancer” was held, because no-one suffered from these diseases anymore.

Do you have any ideas of current “days” you’d like to abandon, or future “days” you’d really like to celebrate?
Alison
PS. Yes, for all these reasons I didn’t write this post on Earth Day, although I couldn’t help myself – I had to celebrate the Earth with some photos from my travels over the years!
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.

baobab

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 it morphed into a marketing term – used to describe places where you could see these animals and other iconic wildlife species.

Real fan palm or mokolane palm.

Real fan palm or mokolane palm.

Then, because we all seem to like lists, along came the Little Five – the antlion, the leopard tortoise, the elephant shrew, the rhinoceros beetle and the buffalo weaver (obviously a play on the Big Five, but yes, they are all real species of insect, bird or mammal). Soon the Ugly Five appeared too – the warthog, wildebeest, vulture, marabou stork and hyena. I object strongly to this list as I love sketching all these animals and birds. In more recent years, the Big Seven has made an appearance – its the Big Five plus cheetah and painted dog (African wild dog).

Baobab

Baobab

On one trip we started discussing the Impossible Five. I think most people would include pangolin (I’ve never seen one), aardwolf (I’ve seen 2) and aardvark (also never seen one) on their impossible list. After that it comes down to your personal experience and where you are in Africa. Porcupine, brown hyena and painted dog are often included but I’d have to add bushpig, serval and caracal to the options.

nyala tree

Nyala tree

And then we get to the trees. As far as I’m aware, there’s no official Big Five tree list, and the trees you include would again depend on where you are in Africa. My list would be baobab; camelthorn acacia; nyala; real fan palm; and leadwood.

sausage-tree

Sausage tree campsite, Moremi Game Reserve, Botswana – don’t camp under a sausage tree when the fruits are falling – they are very heavy!

My list tends to change quite a bit though! Other trees that creep in and out of the list include sycamore fig; mopane; marula; sausage tree; and jackalberry. And of course I don’t have good photos of all my favorite trees, so many of them are not illustrated in this post.

baobab

Baobab

So what are your Big Five Trees?
Let me know!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Baobab (Adansonia digitata)
Camelthorn acacia (Acacia erioloba)
Nyala (Xanthocercis zambesiaca)
Real fan palm (Hyphaene petersiana)
Leadwood (Combretum imberbe)
Sycamore fig (Ficus sycomorus)
Mopane (Colophospermum mopane)
Marula (Sclerocarya birrea)
Sausage tree (Kigelia africana)
Jackalberry (Diospyros mespiliformis).

Ellies in Ink by Alison Nicholls

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 the strong shadows made me decide to sketch with the marker tip of my pen, putting only the shadows down on the paper. It doesn’t work with every animal, but for the crocodile and the elephants it was perfect.

Crocodile in ink by Alison Nicholls

Ellies in Ink by Alison Nicholls

Next I tried some hippos, a goliath heron and an African buffalo.

Hippo, Heron and Buffalo by Alison Nicholls

I was really enjoying this, so of course the sun went down and daylight was vanquished by the shadows. But next time I think the light is too harsh for good sketching I’ll have a great way of handling it!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

10-Minute Wildlife Sketches

It was only a matter of time before I started doing 10-minute wildlife sketches.

Turquoise elephant by Alison Nicholls

10-minute sketch by Alison Nicholls

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 wildlife, starting with ink then adding watercolor, working on yupo paper. I’m using my husband’s amazing photographs, amassed over the years in Africa, so you can be sure I’ll never run out of options. Its really weird for me to be drawing directly from a photograph, but the fact that I have only 10 minutes keeps my mind focused!

More 10-minute wildlife sketches coming soon.
And yes, they are for sale!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Zebra-Painting-Demo by Alison Nicholls

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 painted in just 2 stages. 1st came the wash and once that was dry, the stripes, all in the same color palette. Enjoy the video but don’t miss the quiz question below!

Do you know what the longest land mammal migration is?

You might be thinking it’s the wildebeest migration in Tanzania and Kenya, but it’s actually the zebra migration in northern Botswana. Between 1968 and 2004 this migration was halted by the existence of miles of fences separating Botswana’s beef cattle from wild African buffalo (an attempt to prevent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease). Once the fences were removed in 2004, the migration started all over again. The average lifespan of a wild zebra is usually between 15-25 years, so none of the zebras alive in 2004 were alive in 1967, before the fences went up. That means none of them had ever been on this migration route. Nevertheless, when the annual rains began, zebra started trekking from the Chobe River down to Nxai Pan and others moved from the Okavango down into the vast expanses of the Makgadikgadi salt pans. It just proves that if we let them, animals will find their own way!

Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Lion Painting Demo

My lion painting demo shows how I used fluid acrylic and colored inks on canvas to create the painting, Preoccupied Pair. I started this painting in December and added the finishing touches a few days ago. Miraculously, I remembered to video nearly all the painting sessions so I could create this lion painting demo from start to finish!

Preoccupied Pair is based on my watercolor field sketch from Botswana (below). The watercolor shows a mating pair of lions walking through grasses. You’ll notice the 2 pieces are quite different, because I rarely recreate a field sketch as a studio painting. In the studio painting I felt the lions needed to be larger and closer to each other, and I wanted to eliminate most of the background vegetation and the termite mound.

Mating Lions watercolor by Alison Nicholls
Mating Lions, field watercolor 11×14″

They are 2 very different pieces of art, but each reflects my intentions and the different ways I work in the field and in the studio. Both pieces are for sale with a 25% donation to African conservation organizations.

Do you have a preference for 1 piece or the other?
Alison

See my watercolor field sketches.
See my studio acrylics.