Category Archives: Blog Posts

Chase Nicholls

Chase Nicholls

Chase Nicholls

Chase Nicholls

On Tuesday we discovered that our beautiful German Shepherd, Chase, had an inoperable tumor on his spleen which had ruptured and spread to his liver. Within an hour of being diagnosed we had to put our lovely boy to sleep. Some of you reading this will have known him. He could be cuddly and loving and funny and sometimes scary. Here are a few memories of our beautiful, complicated boy. He was nearly 10.

Chase Nicholls

Soon after he joined us – look at those skinny hips.

We got him as a 1 year old rescue. After about a week of behaving perfectly he started to settle in and we realized we had a tough character on our hands. He was handsome, long-limbed and very strong but his back end was just bones with no muscle. If you gave him any attention he demanded more, grabbing at you when you tried to leave him calmly on his mat; he chased sunlight and shadows round the house, whining and obviously upset; he wound himself into a snapping, barking, unhappy frenzy when he saw children, strollers, bikes or other dogs; he didn’t use his nose – he just used his eyes and his huge ears; he didn’t know how to walk on a leash; but he was house trained and he was very polite around food.

Chase and Ali Nicholls

He had a great profile for shadow photos!

Years of training followed. My walks with him were often a battle of wills and, too often, a battle of strength. He walked nicely for a while to put me at ease, then he would completely lose control when we saw someone running, kids playing, squirrels, rabbits, cats, dogs or if he heard a truck with a deep, throaty engine noise. We tried different leashes but he could pull me for a few strides while wearing any of them. To add insult to injury he would try to bite me whenever I tried to regain control of him. We fenced our yard and carried on training, introducing him slowly to other dogs, to lakes and woods and all kinds of other things. Slowly he gained muscle (there were days when I wasn’t sure this was a good thing).

Chase Nicholls

As many of his ‘issues’ were resolved, we saw his loving, playful nature appear.  When he got up to have a drink of water during the evening, my husband Nigel would sometimes go and sit on his mat. Chase would see him there and run over, lying down and snuggling up as close as he could. If we danced to music in the kitchen while making dinner, he would join in, twisting and turning, always wanting to be touched and involved. He didn’t like his ‘pack’ to be separated. He loved going in the car. He believed that if he barked and jumped enough, one day the squirrels in our yard would fall out of the trees (one did once, but he wasn’t looking). He destroyed things that could harm us, like those dangerous expanding hose pipes! He did little leaps of joy when he knew he was getting dinner.  He loved to have his meals outdoors. He loved the snow and while we shoveled the driveway, he would dig in the snow piles, putting much of it back on the driveway for us.

Chase Nicholls

Loved the snow!

He had his share of injuries. He caught the tip of one ear on a thorn bush while we were out on a walk and I saw him shaking his head a lot. We were a mile from home so I stopped at a house to ask for tissues, to see if I could stop the blood dripping down into his ear. A man answered the door and immediately stepped back in shock, but did bring me some tissues. Afterwards I realized his head-shaking had covered my face, hands and clothes with blood!

Chase Nicholls

Not sure about his socks…

He got haematomas in both ears, one after the other, so they both had to be bandaged down to his head and we were afraid they wouldn’t stand upright again, but they did, although not quite straight. He chewed ferociously on bones and toys for years as a stress reliever, then his canines started breaking (the vet said his enamel was weak from chewing on the bars of a crate when he was a pup, before we had him). So he needed root canals on 3 of his broken teeth. Then, because he hates noisy delivery trucks, he tore both his dew claws while running along the fence line and they both had to be removed.

Chase Nicholls

Despite vast improvements in discipline, and many miles walked on our treadmill, he retained 1 trigger – mail vans or any large, noisy truck of any kind. His ferocity towards them increased over the years, as if he needed to keep 1 vice intact as the others receded.

Chase Nicholls

One memorable day, a mail van drove up a hill towards us. Chase’s amazing hearing had informed him of its presence some time before it turned onto the street, so he was already barking and had grown about a foot in height. I stepped into a driveway and of course the van stopped close to us. I had to move out of the driveway because at that moment the homeowner arrived home in her car. As I stepped onto the grass Chase lunged for the mail van, I slipped, and the next thing I knew I was being pulled across the grass on my stomach towards the van. Luckily the mail woman was still inside and I could clearly see her widening eyes and open mouth as I hurtled towards her while mouthing the words ‘sorry’. Another neighbor chose this precise moment to exit her front door to pick up the mail and stood, rooted to the spot, as Chase reached the front of the mail van, barking crazily and trying to bite bits off it. I picked myself up, smiled weakly at them all, and dragged my barking hound away as they gaped after me. Another day of Chase: 1  Ali: 0.

Chase Nicholls

Chase and Nig

But this big bad dog was also highly suspicious of plastic bags and cardboard boxes and would refuse to walk past them. If anything fell over in the house he ran a mile. If a piece of paper fell off a table, he would leave the room. He was nervous of thunder, but only when he was indoors, if he was outdoors he just ignored it. When we were gardening, he thought it was the greatest game to steal an empty plastic flower pot and prance away with it as if it was the best thing he’d ever found. During the day he would come in the house and bounce up to us, ‘asking’ us to come play soccer with him outside.

Chase & Rocket

Lazing around with his mate Rocket

Chase, Gordon, Tiberius

With Gordon & Tiberius

One of the things that made me most happy was that he did learn to make friends with other dogs. Rocket was a crazy doodle who didn’t mind if Chase liked to pin him to the ground in play. Visiting Gordon, Maddison and Tiberius was always the highlight of his day and he used to smile all the way there! Ajax, Paddy & Archie popped over every now and then and although they mostly ignored each other, he loved the company. All these dogs were equally mystified when the appearance of a delivery truck turned their friend into a crazed barking monster.

Chase Nicholls

Chase’s illness took him so fast we feel we didn’t get time to really say goodbye, that he isn’t really gone, that maybe he’s just going to walk back in anytime. We’ll miss his dark shape lying in a shady hole he dug under a bush. We’ll miss his constant presence at our garden gate, and his ears in the rear view mirror of the car. We’ll miss almost everything about him. He was a complicated boy but gave us a life rich with experiences, love and laughter. I’m glad we were able to keep him in a safe home for 9 years. Miss you, Chase!

Chase and me

Chase and me.

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.

Endangered Species Day 2020

Support People on Endangered Species Day

We need to support people and wildlife on Endangered Species Day. Everywhere people are suffering physically, financially and mentally from the pandemic and obviously this includes many Africans who work in tourism, wildlife research or conservation.

Endangered Species Day 2020

Endangered Species Day 2020

Much vital conservation work involves people rather than wildlife. Reducing human-wildlife conflict, conducting anti-poaching patrols, or helping rural people find sustainable income-generating opportunities are all conservation activities that help people but also ensure the continued existence of endangered species. Endangered Species Day is May 15, and I hope you will consider helping me support people and wildlife through art.
From May 15 – 22:

~ Every order of my art will include a special free gift, as a thank you from me.

~ Shipping will be free within the US, and half-price to all other destinations.

~ I’ll donate the following amounts to African conservation organizations: 50% from orders of Daily Sketches; 40% from original acrylics on canvas, 25% from limited edition prints; and 30% from original watercolor field sketches.

~ My donations will go to African People & Wildlife (Tanzania), Painted Dog Research Trust (Zimbabwe) and Cheetah Conservation Botswana.

Crash - Rhinos on Endangered Species Day

Crash – Rhinos on Endangered Species Day (photo features my painting, Thandi the rhino and Dr Will Fowlds of WFA).

Speaking of endangered species, last month I was able to donate US$2000 to Wilderness Foundation Africa in South Africa, from the sale of Crash – Rhino Poaching in South Africa. I’m delighted when my conservation-themed paintings help fund efforts to conserve species under threat, and South Africa’s rhinos definitely fall into that category. Read more about the painting and rhino poaching here.

Check out my art for Endangered Species Day!

Stay well.

Read more about:
Wilderness Foundation Africa
African People & Wildlife
Painted Dog Research Trust
Cheetah Conservation Botswana

WasteAid Virtual Safari

WasteAid Virtual Safari

WasteAid has created a Virtual Safari into the Kenyan wilderness!
It’s an immersive experience with science, culture, art, cookery and lots of wildlife to help lift spirits, and to raise money for waste collectors in low-income countries.

WasteAid Virtual Safari

The safari route is around Lake Naivasha in Kenya, where WasteAid is working with local partners to improve waste collection and recycling. The entire 75-kilometre route is equivalent to 100,000 steps or 1,000 minutes exercise. Along the way you visit a number of ‘stations’ where you can complete unique challenges. You share your journey as you go, and can win prizes along the route, including 2 of my wildlife limited-edition prints!

The Virtual Safari offers a change of scenery and a fun and educational experience, while helping protect people and wildlife in poorer parts of the world.

The virtual safari opens opened on Earth Day (22 April) and stays open until World Environment Day (5 June).

Ahead by Alison Nicholls

Ahead, 8×10″ limited edition print, 1 of the prizes for the WasteAid virtual safari.

Zoë Lenkiewicz, Head of Programs and Engagement at WasteAid, says:

We wanted to create something for people to escape into and enjoy, while raising money for our urgent appeal Waste Collectors Rock!  The communities around Lake Naivasha, especially those working with waste, are in poverty and vulnerable to disease – yet at the same time they are surrounded by all this incredible wildlife. We thought it would be fun to support waste collectors in places like this, by sharing the beauty and wonder of the environment they work so hard to protect.”

WasteAid shares waste management and recycling skills in the world’s poorest places and you can help them by visiting Kenya on their virtual safari!

Safari njema!
(Travel well).

Painting with 1 brush

Painting with 1 Brush

Painting with 1 brush is a great way to learn that every brush, no matter it’s size or shape, can create a variety of unique strokes if you experiment. For a long time I didn’t make much use of my 2 inch-wide flat wash brush, but recently I completed this painting, Elephants Love Oranges, almost entirely with this brush. The width of the brush ensures that I can’t be too detailed, and even rounded shapes like the elephant are made up of lovely, angular brush strokes. It’s great for background washes, excellent for painting thorny vegetation, and wonderful for filling the negative spaces between the branches. After adding a little colored ink on the branches and thorns I decided I was done!

Painting with 1 brush

Detail of Elephants Love Oranges, 20×16″ acrylic on canvas by Alison Nicholls

We’re often advised to experiment with color, but experimenting with brushes is equally important. You might even find a brush-stroke that helps define your own unique painting style.
Stay well and keep creating!

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!

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

Art in Crazy Times - Alison Nicholls

Art in Crazy Times

Being an artist takes on new meaning in crazy times like these. Initially I felt that continuing to create art was self-indulgent and perhaps even a little frivolous, given the severity of the pandemic. But deep down I know art is far from frivolous. In times of difficulty art can be calming, powerful, beautiful and thought-provoking.

Zebras In Mopane, acrylic by Alison Nicholls

Zebras In Mopane, acrylic by Alison Nicholls

Artists who know the benefits of creativity (and are used to working alone in their studios) are reaching out in this distressing time to help people in their communities who are struggling with social isolation and social distancing. Artists and arts centers are offering free classes online; museums and galleries have virtual tours; and you can join many artists in their studios via live social media events. Creativity at a time like this can be a great healing force. Making something you can use, look at, listen to, watch, read, eat, wear, or even something you just throw away tomorrow, really doesn’t matter. What matters is taking time to make something. Calm your busy mind and be creative. 

Join me every Wednesday on Facebook Live at 2PM EST (7PM UK time) to see me working in my studio. If you can’t watch live, you can see the videos afterwards on Facebook or YouTube. 

Art in Crazy Times - Alison Nicholls

There are precious few silver linings to be found in the midst of a pandemic, but there’s one change I hope to see after this is all behind us – a worldwide effort to permanently end the illegal wildlife trade, which has emptied our world of literally hundreds of millions of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, invertebrates and fish.

It is believed that Covid-19 jumped the species barrier (probably from bat to pangolin to human) as a result of an insanitary wildlife market in China (see links at the end of this newsletter for more details). Assigning blame is futile, but preventing this from happening again is vital. So when life returns to normal, which it will in time, please don’t forget why this pandemic began and remember to support legislation in your own country and around the world which aims to permanently outlaw the illegal trade in wildlife or wildlife parts.

Elephant and Impala by Alison Nicholls

Elephant and Impala field watercolor by Alison Nicholls

I live 25 miles north of New York City, so we have serious social distancing measures in place here. Nigel and I are only going out to walk the dog or get food. If Covid-19 has not yet reached your community, please take it seriously and follow all official guidance.

I am sending you all the very best wishes. Think how great it will be to hug and kiss your friends and family when this is all behind us!

Stay healthy, stay positive, stay put.

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!

Tea Stall sketch by Alison Nicholls

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).

Tea Stall sketch by Alison Nicholls

Mama Helena at her tea stall, painted in watercolor by Alison Nicholls

African People & Wildlife’s headquarters, the Noloholo Environmental Education Center, is built on land donated by the surrounding community, where Mama Helena lives. I met her each time I visited APW and over the years have seen her strong support of APW’s work with her community. She is now a member of a women’s bee-keeping group, supported by APW, and the delicious honey produced by wild bees is sold, bringing the women their own income.

On one visit to APW, Mama Helena invited me to sketch her in her tea stall at the weekly market (above) and on my latest visit I sketched her at a meeting of the women’s bee-keeping group (below). I send copies of my sketches to everyone who features in them and when I returned to Loibor Siret in June 2019 she showed me the copy of the tea stall sketch, which she keeps at home.

Womens Meeting sketch by Alison Nicholls

Women’s meeting (Mama Helena on left) in northern Tanzania, by Alison Nicholls

All around the world women are doing incredible things (Dr Laly Lichtenfeld, co-founder of APW is another obvious example) so lets celebrate that each and every day, not just on International Women’s Day.

Mama Helena Photo: African People & Wildlife/Laura Milton

Mama Helena Photo: African People & Wildlife/Laura Milton

More next time!

Read more about APW and Mama Helena

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.

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!

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!

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  (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.



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!).
My Etsy Store:
Follow Nigel on Instagram:

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.
Learn more about African People & Wildlife in Tanzania.

Sunlit Elephant by Alison Nicholls

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 snap up your favorite piece before the big wide world even knows it exists!

2.Win a Watercolor
If you Join My Mailing List before December 1st 2019, your name will be entered into the draw to win Sunlit Elephant – an original 10×8″ watercolor, created from life in Africa and valued at $200. Using some ingenious method, a subscriber’s name (hopefully yours) will be selected at random. The winner will be emailed and she/he replies within a week, Sunlit Elephant will be shipped free to the winner, anywhere in the world (if the winner doesn’t reply within 1 week, another winner will be selected at random). All current subscribers are automatically entered into the draw.

Sunlit Elephant by Alison Nicholls

Win this Watercolor: Sunlit Elephant, 10×8″ watercolor and pen by Alison Nicholls.

3.Art-filled monthly newsletters
In my colorful newsletters you’ll see paintings, photos, news about conservation organizations, information about my upcoming exhibits and lectures. Usually you’ll get just 1 lovely, colorful, email each month but around the holidays you might get a couple more. For example, on Black Friday you’ll receive my Colorful Friday email. And at New Year you’ll get my animal-themed, hopeful, New Year message. I certainly won’t bombard you with emails and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

4.Contests and Surveys
You can take part in my occasional contests and surveys, helping me make my newsletters even better in the future.

5.Insightful Content
Your newsletters will contain my insightful witticisms, bad puns and photos of my dog!

Here are the Cons:

1.Insightful Content
Your newsletters will contain my insightful witticisms, bad puns and photos of my dog!

So, having (hopefully) decided that the Pros outweigh the Cons, here’s where you can Join My Mailing List!

Good Luck in the draw for Sunlit Elephant!

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!

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

Learn more about African People & Wildlife.

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.

Soccer Game in Botswana

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 my paint was drying very fast, which made it quite challenging, but it was fun. Unfortunately, the Limpopo-Lipadi team (in green) lost to the police team (in red). Or maybe that was just as well!

I photographed the sketch and gave it to Limpopo-Lipadi to hang in the office. As a result, the photo of the finished piece isn’t great, but you get the idea. There’s something about live sketching like this that inspires me so much. Of course I can always see vast improvements I could make in the sketch, but when I look at it I remember the heat, the dust, the shouting and laughter. Magic!

Learn more about Limpopo-Lipadi game reserve and their wonderful Motse volunteering and community program.

Alison Nicholls
Art Inspired by Africa

Sketch of rural women in Tanzania, by Alison Nicholls

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.

Loibor Siret Womens Meeting

Loibor Siret Women’s Meeting

African People & Wildlife (APW) works in conjunction with many rural communities in Tanzania, and together their initiatives are helping women become financially independent, giving them a voice in the decision-making of their families and their communities. Bee-keeping is one such initiative and has the added advantage of protecting habitat because Tanzania has a strong Bee-Keeping Act which ensures that land cannot be farmed or cleared around beehives.

Sketch of rural women in Tanzania, by Alison Nicholls

Women’s Meeting, ink and watercolor sketch from life by Alison Nicholls

Learning about the bee-keeping initiative, which involves more than 1200 women, and being able to sketch after a meeting of the Loibor Siret women’s bee-keeping group, is a thrill. There can be few things better for a sketch artist than sitting in a rural village, surrounded by the sights & sounds of everyday life, while sketching a group of women chatting under a shady tree. This was my 4th visit to APW and it is wonderful to be recognized and greeted enthusiastically by women I have sketched on my previous visits.

Mama Helena sketch by Alison Nicholls

Mama Helena Beading, ink sketch from life by Alison Nicholls

Mama Helena, shown beading in the sketch above, invited me to sketch at her homestead afterwards, and sent one of her grandchildren to fetch a sketch I did of her last time I was in Tanzania, 5 years ago!

Alison Nicholls Sketching

Alison Nicholls sketching in Tanzania

Sketching with an audience is something I am completely used to and it’s fun to see the children’s faces as the sketch progresses and they recognize the person I am sketching.

Alison Nicholls Sketching

Not all my sketches go to plan!

I’m making copies of my sketches to be sent back to Tanzania, but I hope my next visit to APW will be in the very near future.

Learn more about African People & Wildlife.

Art in Tanzania with Alison Nicholls

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 world, including many parts of the the US & Europe, but on this occasion I am thinking of children in classes I taught while visiting African People & Wildlife (APW) in Tanzania.

One class was for students in the APW Summercamp and one for students at Loibor Siret Elementary School (this class also included teachers from other schools who wanted to see the classes in action). I have animal drawing cards which show a photo of an animal (wildlife & livestock) then the simple shapes and lines you can use to create a drawing of the animal. We aim to do 4 in an hour-long class, so the children concentrate on drawing the shape of the whole animal, not the detail on their faces or coats. As you can see, the opportunity to draw is really appreciated by the children and the teachers too!

The children you see in this video are members of their respective schools’ Wildlife Clubs (set up with help from APW). The highest achieving and most involved children in the Wildlife Clubs can earn a much sought-after place at APW’s Environmental Summer Camp – a week-long camp of learning activities at the Noloholo Environmental Center. Children who attend Summer Camp become eligible for selection for an APW Noloholo Environmental Scholarship, giving that child a full scholarship to secondary/high school at a good boarding school in the town of Arusha.

The cost for each scholarship is US$1200 per year. If you are able to offer a child this invaluable gift of education, please Donate via the APW website and choose this option:

(Please note: No child is selected for a scholarship unless funds are available for their entire secondary/high school education, so there will never be a case of a child receiving a partial education. However, although it is desirable to donate annually, you can choose to make a 1-time donation of this amount too.)
Thank You!

Learn more about African People & Wildlife.

Murals in Tanzania

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 and as a result it took each set of students only 1 day to finish their murals.

The name of the school and village (Loibor Siret, Kangala or Narakauo) is shown at the top of each wall, and the school’s Wildlife Club name is at the bottom. The Wildlife Clubs were set up with help from APW, and Noloholo is APW’s Environmental Center and headquarters. So Noloholo Simba Klabu means Noloholo Lion Club in Swahili. The other schools have twiga (giraffe) and faru (rhinoceros) as their symbols. I am making more stencils out of canvas (featuring different animals for other Wildlife Clubs) so more murals can be created by the students with help from APW.

I have visited APW 4 times, and every time I am struck by their continued success in “finding the balance for communities & wildlife”. There will be much more about my recent visit coming soon!

Learn more about African People & Wildlife.
Read about my previous visits to APW.

Thanks for watching!

Music on this video is royalty free, titled Acoustic Breeze, from

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!

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!

Twyfelfontein Namibia

Petroglyphs, Twyfelfontein, Namibia