Category Archives: African Wildlife

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.

Zebra Crossing

I know its a cliche, but Zebra Crossing was really the only name I could give this video. This small herd crossed the road in front of us as we returned to camp one morning. Its unusual to be on a real road like this during an Art Safari, but the light made this a special encounter, as the zebras crossed one by one. You can see why the group name for a herd of zebra is a dazzle!

Happy July 4th if you are an American!
if you are not American, have a dazzling Wednesday!
Until next time…
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Giraffes fighting photo by Alison Nicholls

Its World Giraffe Day!

Lets celebrate World Giraffe Day by watching giraffes in South Africa. These 2 bulls are practicing their fighting techniques. When its serious, their huge, bony heads hit each other with a ferocious force which can knock a giraffe off its feet. Not the kind of behavior you’d expect from a giraffe, right?

I’ve seen a real fight only once, and it was very short, but violent. It was in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. The bull on the left quickly realized he was out-matched and made a run for it, but only after a few heavy blows meted out by his opponent.

Giraffes fighting photo by Alison Nicholls

On this World Giraffe Day, remember that although giraffes can fight each other, they can’t fight habitat loss or poaching. So consider a donation to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation to help this amazing species.

Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

 

Zebra by Alison Nicholls

Looking Back…to move Forward

Looking back can show you how much has changed. So here are a few things that have changed about my art over the years. And a few really old paintings too!

I used to paint or draw animals from photos, in a far more realistic style.

Zebra by Alison Nicholls

Zebra pastel from mid 90’s, by Alison Nicholls.

When I painted from life (en plein air), I painted landscapes with an occasional animal but now I paint animals with an occasional landscape feature.

Okavango Delta by Alison Nicholls

Okavango Delta by Alison Nicholls

Mabuasehube by Alison Nicholls

Mabuasehube by Alison Nicholls

For a long time I used to draw only in pencil, now I can’t imagine my art without color.

Gecko by Alison Nicholls

Gecko by Alison Nicholls

Yes, my art has certainly changed.
But if your art is not changing then you’re probably not improving.
(And if you prefer these older artworks, please don’t tell me!)

Keep on changing..
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

What Happens to Failed Paintings?

Artists make mistakes. Its true. Shocking, I know!
So what happens to my failed paintings?

If you liked the penguins you just saw (which it seems many people did) then here’s a look at the next version, which I’ll be sending to Artists For Conservation to feature in their Silent Skies Mural, showing all 678 species of endangered birds.

And now I’m off to work on my next piece for the Silent Skies Mural – some White-backed Vultures.
Thanks for watching!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Giraffe Bulls Browsing by Alison Nicholls

Giraffes – Paintings in Stages by Alison Nicholls

Giraffes are unique in so many ways – which makes them perfect for painting. As you’ll see in this video, I started with simple washes of fluid acrylic on watercolor canvas. When they were dry I looked at the washes from every angle and suddenly the compositions jumped out at me – 2 bulls browsing in the narrow gap between tall shrubs, and a cow and her calf gazing off into the distance.

A donation will be made from the sale of these paintings to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation. The original paintings are currently on view at the Rye Arts Center in Rye, New York, until April 21. You can also see them on my website here.

Read more about the Giraffe Conservation Foundation.
The Rye Arts Center is located at 51 Milton Road, Rye, NY 10580.

Take care
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Birds & Beasts: See The Paintings

March 22 was the Opening Reception for Birds & Beasts: Near & Far – my current exhibition with artist Sean Murtha, at the Rye Arts Center, Rye NY. We had a good turnout and are holding more events associated with the exhibition, including Sketching Workshops from Live Animals on March 24 and an Artists Talk on April 17 at 11am. If you live in the area, please come and see the exhibit. If not, you can see all my artworks in the exhibition here.

Alison Nicholls Alison NichollsReception1 Reception1

Enjoy the exhibition!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Leopard - Patience by Alison Nicholls

Stages of a Leopard Painting by Alison Nicholls

I recently conducted a survey and asked what everyone would like to see more of regarding my art and travels. One request was for more works in progress, and for more about the inspiration behind my paintings, so here’s a brief video about my new leopard painting. It includes the initial inspiration, thumbnail ideas, composition and stages of the painting. It is difficult to video my work as it progresses, because I paint flat on a table. This means I have to place my video on a very high shelf and try to remember not to block the view when I am painting. Not ideal, but I’m gradually improving my video techniques, so watch for more soon.
If you took part in my survey – Thank You! You can see all the results here.
If you haven’t completed the survey yet, you can do so here.
Enjoy!
Alison

travel africa

Travel Africa Features my African Art!

A few months ago I was interviewed by Travel Africa, answering some interesting questions about my trips to Africa and the way I sketch and paint. Today the online article has been released and you can read it here. If you can. please leave a comment as this may prompt them to feature me again in their print magazine too. Thank you and enjoy the article!
Alison

Meet the artist: Alison Nicholls

Birds & Beasts at the Rye Arts Center 2018

Birds & Beasts: Near & Far

Birds & Beasts: Near & Far – that is the title for my next exhibition, shared with artist Sean Murtha, at the Rye Arts Center, Rye NY, from March 22 – April 21.

Birds & Beasts at the Rye Arts Center 2018

Giving an exhibition a title can be remarkably difficult. You want to get it right – to indicate what the exhibit is about – but leave a little mystery that will make people want to attend. Its especially difficult to come up with a title when you are are sharing an exhibit with another artist. So (despite my husband’s objections to the word ‘Beasts’) I am pretty pleased with this title and feel it nicely represents my art of large African mammals (some of which are of course, beastly!) and Sean’s art consisting mostly of birds who dwell near or on Long Island Sound.

Drinking Impala by Alison Nicholls

Drinking Impala by Alison Nicholls

Of course, I wonder how much the title means to anyone else. After all, artists often squirm over titling each individual piece of artwork, only to find that viewers don’t really care what the title is. I hate to admit it, but I don’t have a clue about the titles of most of the art in my own home (those pieces not painted by me), so I wonder if all the angst is really worthwhile. Anyway…even if the title is irrelevant, I do hope you will come and join us for one of the many events associated with this exhibit – the Reception, the Artists Talk or the 2 Sketching Sessions with live animals provided by Animal Embassy, including (I am most excited about this) the wonderfully named Quilliam, the African crested porcupine!

Quilliam the African crested porcupine with Chris Evers of Animal Embassy

Quilliam the African crested porcupine with Chris Evers of Animal Embassy

Read more about the art of Sean Murtha
Read more about the Rye Arts Center
Read more about Animal Embassy

I hope to see you at the exhibition for a wild time!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Spotted Hyena watching Impala by Alison Nicholls

Spotted Hyena Watercolor

In this spotted hyena watercolor, I made a conscious decision to add more habitat and landscape features, rather then just concentrating on the animals, as I often do. One morning, driving in Kruger National Park in South Africa, we came across this spotted hyena lying right next to the track, with its head resting on its forelegs. It was too good an opportunity to miss so I started sketching.

Knowing that the hyena was likely to move its head, I started sketching from the back end. With the body and front legs sketched out, I had the opportunity to watch the hyena and choose whichever head and neck position I preferred. As I watched, a small group of impala appeared, browsing their way through the bush, probably heading towards the nearby river for a morning drink. The hyena turned its head to watch them and that was the pose I chose to sketch. A few moments later the impala spotted the hyena, barked in alarm and moved away. The hyena got up and casually walked right up to the car until its nose was just inches from me, at which point I did my window up! Then it walked around the car, stared in the windows on the other side and walked away.

Spotted Hyena watching Impala by Alison Nicholls

Spotted Hyena watching Impala, 11×14″, US$300 by Alison Nicholls

Before we drove on, even though the hyena and impala were gone, I added some more details of the bushes behind the hyena, and drew the simple shapes for the impala. Paint was added back at camp (without photo or video reference), as you can see from this short video of my spotted hyena watercolor.

You can learn these sketching and painting techniques from me on an Africa Geographic Art Safari in South Africa. There’s nothing quite like sketching from life in the African bush. But don’t take my word for it – come and see for yourself!
Alison
Purchase Spotted Hyena Watching Impala.

Spotted Hyena – Night Scent

The whoop of the spotted hyena is one of the most recognizable calls of the African bush. My favorite memories of sitting around the campfire at night include many occasions spent listening to distant hyenas, then being startled by a response from very close by. I have also been only feet away, eating dinner by the fire, when a huge clan of spotted hyenas ran down a track through the middle of Savute campsite at night. And on one occasion realized to my consternation that a particularly brazen hyena was sitting in the shadows behind my camp chair, waiting for us to go to bed so he could see if we had left any edible scraps in our campsite.
 
 

Spotted Hyena - Night Scent by Alison Nicholls

Several of my recent African field sketches include spotted hyenas, but these were sketched during the day, so I wanted to try painting a nocturne (night scene) of a spotted hyena foraging. My first thought was how I would cope without all the vibrant colors I usually use? Well, it turned out to be easy, because I mixed all the greys and browns in the painting from combinations of 3 lovely colors – Naples yellow, Anthraquinone blue and Quinacridone burnt orange. Its amazing what you can do with only 3 colors, used in different proportions, and many of my studio paintings make use of such a limited palette.
 
The hyena in this painting is using its amazing sense of smell to test the air and locate food. You can see her strong neck which is necessary to anchor the huge muscles which give the hyena such a powerful bite. Their fictional reputation may be as cowardly scavengers but this is not at all accurate. Spotted hyenas are successful predators in their own right, are essential to the health of their environment, are a fascinating species, and are one of my favorites to watch and sketch.
 
Spotted Hyena – Night Scent is an original framed acrylic on canvas, 20×16″, priced at US$1800. Please whoop if you’d like further details!
You can see this painting, and others, on my website – www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com.
 
Alison Nicholls
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
Sketching lions in South Africa 2015

I’m Not An Expert Artist, Can I Still Do An Art Safari?

If I’m not an expert artist, can I still do an Art Safari?

This is a common question, because most of us have an underlying fear of not being good enough. But it’s a very easy question to answer. The answer is “Yes, an Art Safari is for you!”

Art Safaris with Alison Nicholls

Art Safaris are a unique way to experience the African bush and over the last 7 years I have had the pleasure of meeting and teaching guests with a wide range of skills – complete beginners who want to try a different kind of safari; artists who sketch regularly but have never been on safari or sketched animals; a jeweler who wanted to try sketching for a change; those who studied art but haven’t picked up a pencil for years; photographers and non-sketching partners who were intrigued and decided to try sketching for themselves; and occasionally one of our professional safari guides has also been tempted to follow along!

Alison Nicholls Africa Geographic Art Safari 2016

Join me at The Bush House, September 15-20, 2018.

What makes it easy for anyone to join in and learn is that we are all working at our own pace, with our own choice of materials. There is no competition on an Art Safari, just a friendly, fun, learning environment. You can do this safari with just pencil and paper, so there’s no need to be a painter or watercolorist. I start by showing you how to look at animals and see simple shapes. Yes, even the strangest animals like giraffes or white rhinos can be sketched using simple shapes! Its amazing how quickly you can improve when you spend 4 full days sketching from life. Its the best way to learn and gives you a real sense of accomplishment too.

Sketching lions in South Africa 2015

If you’re not already convinced, here are some comments from Art Safari guests.

High Praise for Alison Nicholls’ and Africa Geographic’s Art Safari! I guarantee there is something to gain in this experience for everyone. Viewing and sketching the animals live gives you a greater understanding of their movements and their enviroment.  
Angie M from Canada

For myself the time with you and our Art Safari was the highlight of 2017. 
Susanne B from Switzerland

My art safari experience with Alison was beyond my wildest dreams.  I learned so much about drawing the animals I saw.  We went out on two game drives a day and it was such an intimate experience.  Alison gave each of us individual attention and tips on our sketches.  It was so helpful and encouraging.  I cannot describe how wonderful it was to experience really looking at the animal when you are trying to sketch them.  We came back to the lodge to do some watercolor and more intimate instruction, as well as watch Alison work on some of her marvelous work she had done in the bush.  It was a trip of a lifetime filled with fun, learning and lot’s of laughter.  Thank you, Alison for a wonderful experience. 
Debra S from USA


Join me at The Bush House, September 15-20, 2018.

If you still have questions, let me know.
Come and join us!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Safari Night at the Explorers Club

Alison Nicholls-Safari Night at the Explorers Club

Alison Nicholls speaking about how Africa inspired her art, at The Explorers Club, New York City.

Last night I was fortunate to be sharing the stage at The Explorers Club during Safari Night, which was organized by Ann Passer and Alan Feldstein. There was wonderful music, singing and dancing from Cameroon and Tanzania, excellent food from various African countries, and speakers on topics covering the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia; clips from Born to Explore including a visit with the Hadzabe in Tanzania; the evolution of safari companies; panotriptychs of extraordinary conservationists; an update from Zimbabwe; discussion of neurosurgery in Tanzania and an introduction to remarkable Rwanda.

Richard Wiese showing clips from Born to Explore.

I spoke about the size of Africa and how living there inspired various features of my art – space, color and subject matter. I also digressed slightly into why no-one who goes to Africa should do a “walking with lions” experience. (Basically because you can only walk safely with young lions, as soon as they get older they are more dangerous. So what happens to them once they get too large to safely walk with tourists? They can’t be released as they are used to people and can’t hunt. The most likely end is a sad one – they are sold to canned hunting operations and shot. Their bones may even end up being sold to meet the increasing international demand for lion bone.)

I did end on a more amusing note though:
When I was planning to move to Zimbabwe from London, I was asked a question by many Londoners. Years later, when I was planning to move to New York from Botswana, I was asked the very same question by many Batswana (citizens of Botswana). The question was: “Isn’t it dangerous there?”

Everything is relative…
Take care
Alison

www.artinspiredbyafrica.com

Elephants on the Move by Alison Nicholls

Elephant Watercolors at Shimuwini

Shimuwini is a lovely Bushveld Camp in Kruger National Park, on the edge of the Letaba River.

Elephant in Kruger National Park

Elephant in Kruger National Park

The view is river, rocks and riverbank for 180 degrees, so every time you look somewhere you see an animal or bird you hadn’t noticed before. Egyptian geese noisily make their own part of the riverbank known to potential rivals; hippos saunter out of the water and graze along the banks; elephants appear from nowhere, dwarfed by the expansive view; waterbuck stand in the shallows; impala delicately pick their way up and down the bank; crocodiles lie quietly on sandy spits of land, jaws agape; saddle-billed storks strut in the rippled water; a brown-hooded kingfisher catches insects in the grass; a hamerkop flies lazily past contrasting with the frenzied hovering of the pied kingfishers.

Waterbuck in Kruger NP

Waterbuck in Kruger NP

There is too much to watch and too much to sketch. The view as a whole is too big for me to sketch on the size of paper I have available, and I find it nearly impossible to focus on one small area, so choosing a sketch subject is extremely difficult. Even the rocks are interesting – some jagged and dark gray, others smooth and pale. The river itself has several channels – all containing their own daily dramas as every species lives its life. I really do need a week here next time, along with some much larger paper! But, in the time I had – a measly 3 days – I sketched a couple of herds of elephants. 

Shimuwini

View from Shimuwini Bushveld Camp, Kruger National Park

Elephants on the Move (below) was sketched late one afternoon as a small herd left the river after drinking, heading uphill into the bush. You can see the soft pastel afternoon colors and how the elephants blend in perfectly with their environment, despite their size. This painting has a calm feeling – all the elephants are moving slowly in the same direction.

Elephants on the Move by Alison Nicholls

Elephants on the Move, watercolor 11×14″, US$300, by Alison Nicholls

This contrasts with the 2nd piece – Elephants at Noon (below) where the colors are much harsher. Another small herd had come to drink, but in this painting you can see that I’ve emphasized the jagged rocks, along with the harsher colors.

Elephants at Noon watercolor by Alison Nicholls

Elephants at Noon, watercolor 11×14″, $300, by Alison Nicholls

Self-driving and sketching in Kruger is great, especially when you have a husband who likes to do the driving, but when you stay at Shimuwini you don’t even need to go out for drives to see wildlife. If you are thinking of a self-drive visit to Kruger, I’d highly recommend the small Bushveld Camps. As the SanParks (South African National Parks) website says, Bushveld Camps “provide accommodation in smaller, more remote restcamps…do not have shops or restaurants….access is restricted to overnight visitors with reserved accommodation…open verandas often serve as kitchen/dining room.” Some of them have dirt roads that are only accessible to guests at the camp, so you can drive quiet roads and see the bush as it is supposed to be seen – alone!

Why not join me on an Art Safari in the Klaserie (a private reserve which is part of the Greater Kruger National Park), then spend some time staying at a Bushveld Camp in Kruger? Is this your kind of safari? Let me know!

Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Drinking Impala by Alison Nicholls

Video: Watercolors from the African Bush

My September visit to South Africa and Botswana was full of sketching opportunities. Check out a couple of them here!

 

Want to learn some of my sketching techniques? Then consider joining me on an African Art Safari

Until next time, take care.
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

So what is an Art Safari anyway?

Art Safari
/a:t , sə’fa:ri/
noun

2017 Art Safari at Africa on Foot

photo by Angela Matthews

Definition:

  1. A trip of a lifetime…filled with fun, learning and lots of laughter¹; truly an amazing experience²; one of the best ‘Africa’ experiences I have ever had³.  
  2. A means of filling your sketchbook with memories of Africa’s iconic wildlife; to really look at an animal and see things that you don’t see from photos⁴, with thorough, humorous, knowledgeable, and patient² instruction from Alison Nicholls. I can’t believe in such a few short days how quickly I improved my sketching⁵.
  3. A way to share a unique adventure with fellow enthusiastic artists/travelers⁵, although you don’t have to be an artist to fully enjoy yourself.
  4. And…if the 2017 Art Safari was anything to go by…an Art Safari is a way to see honey badgers in camp every night!

¹ Debra S         ² Celia C           ³ Alistair G
⁴ Bobby B        ⁵ Barbara W    ⁷ Penelope B

2017 Art Safari at Africa on Foot

photo by Angela Matthews

Example Sentences
My Art Safari experience with Alison was beyond my wildest dreams. Debra S

The Art Safari with Alison Nicholls was a quality experience in every respect…I would definitely recommend ‘following the dream’!  Judy H

I would not hesitate to recommend Alison or this Africa Geographic Art Safari to my closest family and friends. Butch M

Word Origin
Circa 2011, from Africa Geographic Travel.

Hope you enjoyed my attempt to ‘define’ an Art Safari!

Why not join me on an Art Safari in 2018 and see if I got it right?

Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

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

Gigantic Giraffes!

Today is World Giraffe Day.
So, in honor of these towering tree-nibblers, here are a variety of giraffes in art.

Browsing Giraffe Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2015

Browsing Giraffe Field Sketch, 11×14″ by Alison Nicholls ©2015. Limited edition available.

2 giraffes, painted in blue, look out over the bush, by Alison Nicholls

Giraffes, 6×4″ watercolor. Original Sold.

Stages of a giraffe sketch by Alison Nicholls

How to sketch a giraffe. Photo by Nigel Nicholls.

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 up, let alone walk or run anywhere. Or drink.
As with so many large mammals, their numbers have been dropping far too fast in recent decades due to habitat loss & the bushmeat trade among other things.
So, I’m donating 25% from the sale of my remaining Browsing Giraffe limited editions (see above) to the Giraffe Conservation Foundation (GCF). One of the limited editions has been donated to Longnecks for Longnecks a fundraiser for GCF in Orlando, Florida on Thursday. So join them for an evening out in support of gentle giants!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
White-backed vultures acrylic painting by Alison Nicholls, 8x8"

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 next few years). Their amazing eyesight allows them to spot a carcass from vast distances and they follow other vultures if they start to descend. If they land in trees, maybe they’ve seen a predator near the carcass and need to be cautious. If they swoop to the ground with feet splayed like grappling hooks and land close to the carcass, there are likely to be no predators present. They have an immediately recognizable silhouette, even though there is great variety among vulture species.

White-backed vultures acrylic painting by Alison Nicholls, 8x8"

White-backed Vultures, 8×8″ acrylic by Alison Nicholls ©2017

You might think vultures are common across Africa, but this is no longer the case. Some species, like White-backed Vultures (Gyps africanus) are listed on the IUCN Red List as Critically Endangered. Their numbers are declining due to electrocution and collisions with power lines; habitat loss; trade in vulture parts; loss of large ungulate populations which are their main food source; and inadvertent or intentional poisoning. (Poison is sometimes applied to livestock or wildlife carcasses by people in rural areas as a means of killing predators, but this can result in the death of dozens of vultures at a time, as well as the death of any other mammal, bird, reptile or insect which feeds on the carcass.)
One morning in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park, we set out for a drive and found the carcass of a young wildebeest. It was completely untouched and had obviously died of natural causes during the night. White-backed vultures, a couple of Rüppell’s vultures and some maribou storks had found the carcass and were collecting around it. Later that same day we passed the spot again and found a completely clean, intact skeleton. I wish I had taken a photo, but I’m afraid I didn’t.

White-backed Vultures drawing by Alison Nicholls ©2017

Studio drawing for White-backed Vultures by Alison Nicholls ©2017

Vultures have an amazing ability to digest rotting flesh without getting sick. Imagine the great wildebeest migration without any vultures to clean up the remains of the many animals who die along the way. There are occasions when dozens of animals die crossing the Mara river – crushed by the weight of animals around them. Crocodiles and other predators would eat their fill, but they alone can’t handle the number of carcasses. Bodies would pile up on the banks and in the river, poisoning the water as it travels out of the national park towards Lake Victoria and the Nile, where thousands of people live along the shores.
So next time you pull a face at the idea of vultures, remember that they, like every other living creature, perform an amazing and necessary function.
A little respect for the fascinating vulture, please!
Take care
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com