Category Archives: Field Sketches

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

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

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.

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

Alison Nicholls' watercolor field kit

My Watercolor Palette – Limited but Changing

You might have heard me banging on about how I use a limited palette of colors and how this gives many of my paintings a tranquil feel. But a limited palette shouldn’t mean a stagnant palette, so for my latest sketching trip to Africa, I changed some of the solid half-pan colors in my Windsor & Newton field watercolor set.

I’ve noticed over the years that some of these half-pan colors can be difficult to tell apart when I’m painting outdoors, because they appear very dark in their solid form. When mixed with a little water, of course there is no problem, but I often need to get straight to the correct color when time is of the essence. So I made myself a little color chart before I left home. Here it is.

Alison Nicholls watercolor chart

It fits nicely inside the lid of my field box set and is covered in wide cellotape back and front.

Alison Nicholls' watercolor field kit

Alison Nicholls’ watercolor field kit

For all you artists out there who are interested in these things…here’s the list of colors I took with me this year (exactly as shown in the photo). Those in red were new this year.

Cadmium Red   Cerulean Blue    
Alizarin Crimson Lemon Yellow Cobalt Blue Davy’s Gray Titanium White
Magenta Cadmium Yellow Windsor Blue Leaf Green Burnt Sienna
Ultramarine Violet Naples Yellow Ultramarine Blue Oxide Chrome Burnt Umber
Venetian Red Yellow Ochre Indigo Hookers Green Sepia

I immediately loved the Indigo, Sepia, and Davy’s Gray – which I mixed with almost everything – notice the large hole I created in the half-pan! I had to remember which of these I was using though, because Davy’s Gray is a very subtle hue, requiring several brush-loads to make its presence known, whereas the Indigo and Sepia required just the slightest touch of water to shout their presence to the world!

So it appears that the number of colors in my field box set is increasing…but the number of colors used in each painting is still limited to 2 or 3.

Until next time…keep painting.
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

Cheetah Trio by Alison Nicholls

Is it a Field Sketch?

“Sketch – a simply or hastily executed drawing or painting, especially a preliminary one, giving the essential features without the details” (from Dictionary.com)

On each visit to Africa I fill several sketchbooks with pencil and watercolor art. I have always referred to these artworks as ‘field sketches’ but as my work evolved I began to wonder if ‘sketch’ is still the appropriate term.

Lets go back a bit. For 10 years I have marketed my art through my website and social media sites because I want people to see, enjoy, learn from, and buy my work. Sketching in the field from life, without any photo or video reference, is vital to my artistic process; great fun; expands my knowledge of animal anatomy and behavior; and makes me a better artist. From a marketing perspective it also separates me from artists who work only in the studio from photos, and I try to make this crystal clear to everyone who sees my work. In a face to face conversation I can explain all this quite easily, but when you see my work briefly on the internet, I need to get this point across as quickly as I can, so terminology becomes very important, hence my use of the easily understood term ‘field sketches’.

Cheetah Trio Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Cheetah Trio “Field Sketch” by Alison Nicholls

Over the years, as my skills improved, I began to experiment with my field sketches. First, I started thinking more about composition while I sketched. The underlying pencil sketch for Cheetah Trio was created while I watched wild cheetahs in Botswana. But the cheetahs were lying further apart than they are shown in my sketch. I moved them closer together to create a better composition. I used both my ability to sketch from life, and my compositional skills to create the field sketch you see. Maybe you think I should sketch exactly what I see, but I would suggest that every piece of art has been composed to some extent by the artist. Even a field sketch artist has chosen which pose to sketch – if they sketched exactly what they saw, you would come across more sketches of animals relieving themselves! Secondly, as you see in Cheetah Trio, I began adding watercolor to my pencil sketches. As animals don’t remain still for lengthy periods of time, I usually have to do this back at camp – adding color from memory and imagination in varying proportions.

So according to the definition of a ‘sketch’, my works in pencil definitely qualify – they are executed hastily and contain only essential details. I add watercolor in a more leisurely manner, so does the painted piece still qualify as a field ‘sketch’? Or as field work? Or as a watercolor painting?

I’m sure I’m being overly pedantic, but terminology matters, particularly on the internet, and yet I’m guessing every artist has their own very specific ideas of what these terms mean. (As an aside, one of my pet peeves is seeing artworks described as ‘sketches’ when they are small, detailed pencil drawings, which obviously have taken many hours to complete from photographic reference.)

So…does any of this matter?
When you search for ‘field sketches’ online, what do you expect to find?
I can’t wait to hear what you think!

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
Elephants in Brown by Alison Nicholls

Endangered Species Day Donations

Today is Endangered Species Day.  This is not a day we should need on our calendars, but unfortunately it comes around every year, with more and more species falling into the ‘endangered’ bracket.

Restful Field Sketch © Alison Nicholls

Restful Field Sketch – 8×10″ original watercolor on paper, unframed, US$200. A donation of US$70 will be made to Cheetah Conservation Botswana from this sale.

 

We hear about the plight of charismatic species like lions, cheetahs and painted dogs, but habitat loss, the bushmeat trade, the pet trade and human-wildlife conflict are pushing a huge percentage of our Earth’s species towards ‘endangered’ status. It is downright depressing.

Lioness and Cubs Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2016

Lioness & Cubs Field Sketch – 11×14″ original watercolor on paper, unframed, US$300. A donation of US$105 will be made to African People & Wildlife in Tanzania from this sale.

So what can we do?
A lot.

Dog Pack Field Sketch © Alison Nicholls 2015

Painted Dogs in the Morning Field Sketch – 11×14″ original watercolor on paper, unframed, US$300. A donation of US$105 will be made to Painted Dog Research Trust in Zimbabwe from this sale.

Get involved, particularly in your own local area. Make sure your local politicians know how important the environment is to you. Stand against destructive development projects and stand up for sustainable long-term solutions. Protect invaluable wetlands, forests, plains and wild places, not just because they are beautiful and provide necessary habitat for numerous species, but because they provide us with recreation and employment opportunities, and because they are essential to our own well-being.

Elephants in Brown Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2016

Elephants in Brown Field Sketch – 11×14″ original watercolor on paper, unframed, US$300. A donation of US$105 will be made to African People & Wildlife in Tanzania from this sale.

It is not eliteist to stand up for our stunning planet and its inhabitants. It is absolutely necessary.

Cheetah Trio Field Sketch © Alison Nicholls

Cheetah Trio Field Sketch – 11×14″ limited edition reproduction, printed on watercolor paper, unframed, 25 copies only, US$120 each. A donation of US$36 will be made to Cheetah Conservation Botswana from this sale.

And if donating to African conservation organizations is important to you, you can take a look at some of my work and know that for today, and throughout the weekend, I will be making large donations from any sale. I will also be offering free shipping within the continental US and half-price shipping elsewhere in the world.
Lets make Endangered Species Day unnecessary.
Thank you.
Alison

Alison Nicholls
alison@artinspiredbyafrica.com

Elephants Browsing in the Bush, watercolor Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2016

New Elephant Field Work by Alison Nicholls

Yesterday I got back from my latest trip to South Africa and Botswana, where I had a number of great elephant sightings. One memorable morning included a herd of 40 elephants who spent time carefully touching and smelling the bones of a dead elephant cow (more about that coming soon).

Elephants Browsing in the Bush, watercolor Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2016

Elephants Browsing in the Bush, watercolor field work by Alison Nicholls ©2016

This new sketch shows a more muted palette of colors than usual, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I decided to use more grays, usually mixed from 3 primary colors. This piece started with a Naples yellow wash, which can still be seen on the elephants, so I mixed the background gray from the same yellow plus alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue. (I never use black and white to make gray. In fact I never use black at all and just removed it from my field box. I use white occasionally, usually with cerulean blue to get a subtle sky blue.)

Using the gray to paint the negative shapes around the elephant made them really stand out, and I finished off the piece with same mixture but with more crimson added to create a lovely subtle brown. I used my rigger brush to pull some of this brown out in the foreground as sticks, and also used it to emphasize some of the features on the main elephant. 

I think another reason for my muted palette is the severe drought which has affected most of southern Africa, leaving bare, parched earth devoid of vegetation. Many grazers and browsers are struggling from lack of food, and their poor condition leads to fairly easy pickings for many predators. Elephants are able to strip trees of their bark, dig up tree roots and even eat unpalatable-looking sticks and thorns, but their search for food can be hugely destructive.

I hope this year’s rains will be slow, steady and long lasting, so the vegetation can recover. On my next visit I hope to be painting with more greens – which also look great with grays and yellows.

Until next time…enjoy the elephants.
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Sketching in Africa!

During my sketching trip to Botswana and South Africa I will be trying out some new painting surfaces, although I’ll still be using my trusty watercolor sketchbooks by Holbein. (Yes, the 14×11″ size sketchbook with the incredibly catchy and colorful name: Multi-Drawing Book 5F. I suppose the workhorse-like name and plain cover might help prevent me from spiraling dizzily out of control as I happily sketch my way through the African bush!)

Alison Nicholls art kit

Anyway…back to the new surfaces…one of which is Claybord (made by Ampersand). It is described as the ultimate multimedia panel, with an ultra smooth clay surface that is very absorbent. As you might guess from the name, you can scrape through a painted area to expose the bright white ultra-smooth clay surface. Now this goes against everything I have ever done (as a watercolorist you learn to retain the whites in your paintings rather than add them at the end) so I’m not sure scraping will feature heavily in my use of Claybord, but we’ll see. I am taking half a dozen 5×7” panels. If they were lightweight, I would take larger sizes, but they’re not, so the smaller panels will have to do for now. The surface is bright white and almost texture-free. It is good for detail but won’t hold washes. But pencil and pen will look wonderful on it so maybe I’ll try those. My usual extremely pale sketches are very difficult to photograph in the bush, which is why I hardly ever show you the progression of my sketches. So I’ve been thinking that a softer pencil might be the answer. Maybe Claybord can be part of the answer too.

The pieces of square handmade paper are my next experiment. Although they look like watercolor paper, they act a little too much like blotting paper when a wash is added, soaking up the color and showing all the brushmarks, so once again I think simple lines might be the answer. I’ve had these pieces of paper so long I can’t remember anything about them, except that I got them at New York Central Art Supply, a fantastic art store in New York City, which, sadly, will soon be closing. Like Doctor Who’s tardis, it is tiny from the outside but seems to miraculously hold everything I ever need. It is such a shame it will soon be gone.

Elephant sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2015

Elephant watercolor sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2015

Speaking of simple lines, I’m also going to be doing more sketches directly in watercolor, like this one from the 2015 Africa Geographic Art Safari. I used a rigger brush for these, and was painting while it was raining, which is why this looks such a mess. (Bookings are now open for my 2017 Art Safari on the edge of Kruger National Park in South Africa.)

So watch out for my latest exploits and sketches from Africa – coming soon!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Art Safaris with Alison Nicholls

2 New Spaces on 2016 Art Safari!

Someone’s change of plans could start your Artistic Flight of Fantasy…

That’s right – we now have 2 spaces available on the 2nd sold out 2016 Art Safari in South Africa. The dates are September 14-18 and the venue is the Klaserie Game Reserve in South Africa on the edge of Kruger National Park. Its prime time for game viewing and a perfect time of year for sketching. If you’re interested in joining me, don’t delay – we don’t expect these spaces to be available for long.

Africa-On-Foot-Safari

Dreaming of an African Art Safari…?

AFrica-On-Foot-Lodges

A perfect setting for art tutorials…

Africa-On-Foot-Safari

Want to discuss art, wildlife and Africa around the campfire…?

Elephant by Nigel Nicholls © 2012

Sketch elephants with me…(photo by Nigel Nicholls ©2013)

Elephant Drinking Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Elephant Drinking Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Check out the Art Safari details and get in touch with me or with Africa Geographic as soon as possible.

I look forward to hearing from you!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
A donation is made to African conservation from every sale.

 

Artists Susan Fox, Karryl and Alison Nicholls with an emerald tree boa

An Exhibition In Images: Children Sketching Animals!

Part III of an exhibition in images features Children Sketching Animals. Chris Evers from Animal Embassy brought scorpions, an African bullfrog, a monk parakeet, an emerald tree boa and a rabbit. 25 local children arrived to sketch and sculpt with tuition from artists Alison Nicholls, Karryl, David Rankin, Susan Fox and Sean Murtha. All in a gallery packed with the artists’ wildlife art from Mongolia, Africa, India, Central and North America.

What could possibly go wrong?!

Children sketching animals at the Flinn Gallery

An emerald tree boa fascinates a young visitor…

Chris Evers from Animal Embassy

Chris Evers from Animal Embassy explains the rules…

 

David Rankin demonstrates how to sketch a scorpian

David Rankin demonstrates how to sketch a scorpion…

Sean Murtha watches over children and a monk parakeet

Sean Murtha helps children sketching a monk parakeet…

Monk parakeet poses perfectly

The monk parakeet poses perfectly…

Susan Fox explains how to sketch a bullfrog

Susan Fox explains how to sketch a bullfrog…

Alison Nicholls helps children sketch a tree boa

Alison Nicholls helps children sketch a tree boa…

Karryl helps children sculpt a rabbit

Karryl helps children sculpt a rabbit…

Sketching and sculpting in the gallery

Sketching and sculpting in the gallery…

Emerald tree boa with art by Carel Brest van Kempen

At the end we get to have a little fun…emerald tree boa with art by Carel Brest van Kempen…

Artists Susan Fox, Karryl and Alison Nicholls with an emerald tree boa

Susan Fox, Karryl & Alison Nicholls hold the beautiful emerald tree boa…

It turned out that nothing went wrong at all. The sketching and sculpting session was a great hit and (as far as we know) the snake, scorpions, frog, rabbit and bird all exited the gallery with Chris from Animal Embassy!

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio is at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut, and features field work and studio work from 7 Signature members of the Society of Animal Artists. Each artist works in a different region of the world: Alison Nicholls (Africa); David Rankin (India); Karryl (Rocky Mountains); Carel Brest van Kempen (Central America); Kelly Singleton (Alaska); Sean Murtha (Long Island Sound) and Susan Fox (Mongolia). The exhibit is on display until May 4, 2016. Wildlife Art: Field to Studio is curated by Lillian Lum, Claudia Schipper & Alice Sherwood.

Please come and join me for a guided tour of the exhibition!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
A donation is made to African conservation from every sale.

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn gallery, Greenwich, CT, with artist Alison Nicholls

An Exhibition in Images: Opening Reception

Part II of an exhibition in images features the Opening Reception. The exhibition is Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut, which features field work and studio work from 7 Signature members of the Society of Animal Artists. Each artist works in a different region of the world: Alison Nicholls (Africa); David Rankin (India); Karryl (Rocky Mountains); Carel Brest van Kempen (Central America); Kelly Singleton (Alaska); Sean Murtha (Long Island Sound) and Susan Fox (Mongolia). The exhibit is on display until May 4, 2016.

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn gallery, Greenwich, CT, with artist Alison Nicholls

The fun begins… (l to r) Susan Fox, David Rankin, Karryl, Sean Murtha, Alison Nicholls

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn gallery, Greenwich, CT, with artist Alison Nicholls

Pre-opening photo shoot…

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn gallery, Greenwich, CT

Guests start to arrive…

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn gallery, Greenwich, CT, with artist Alison Nicholls

Alison Nicholls with Ambassador & Mrs Ntwaagae of Botswana…

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn gallery, Greenwich, CT

More guests arrive…

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn gallery, Greenwich, CT, with artist Alison Nicholls

Another pre-opening shot, in front of work by Carel Brest van Kempen…

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn gallery, Greenwich, CT, with artist Alison Nicholls

A few words by one of the curators, Lillian Lum…

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn gallery, Greenwich, CT

The guests listen to the brief presentation…

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn gallery, Greenwich, CT

Stripes are in… (artwork by David Rankin)

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn gallery, Greenwich, CT

Seeing the exhibit…

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn gallery, Greenwich, CT

Sculptor Karryl explain her work to a young visitor…

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn gallery, Greenwich, CT

Pinnacle, sculpture by Karryl, presides over the reception…

Over 260 visitors attended the opening reception and the evening was a resounding success. But this was just the start of a busy weekend of events. Next time I will show you images from the Children Sketching Animals!

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio is curated by Lillian Lum, Claudia Schipper & Alice Sherwood. It is on display until May 4 at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Please come and join me for a guided tour of the exhibition!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
A donation is made to African conservation from every sale.

Wildlife art exhibition setup at the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, CT.

An Exhibition in Images: Setup

This is the story of an exhibition…in images. The exhibition is Wildlife Art: Field to Studio at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut, which features field work and studio work from 7 Signature members of the Society of Animal Artists. Each artist works in a different region of the world: Alison Nicholls (Africa); David Rankin (India); Karryl (Rocky Mountains); Carel Brest van Kempen (Central America); Kelly Singleton (Alaska); Sean Murtha (Long Island Sound) and Susan Fox (Mongolia). The exhibit is on display until May 4, 2016, and on April 24 at 2pm there will be an Artists Talk by Sean Murtha and Alison Nicholls. Come and join us to see the exhibition for yourself!

Wildlife art exhibition setup at the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, CT.

The exhibition setup…

Wildlife art exhibition setup at the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, CT.

I set up the field box for sculptor, Karryl.

Wildlife art exhibition setup at the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, CT.

The exhibition begins to take shape…

Wildlife art exhibition setup at the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, CT.

Curators hang Sean Murtha’s work…

Wildlife art exhibition setup at the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, CT.

Artists Kelly Singleton & Alison Nicholls…

Wildlife art exhibition setup at the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, CT.

Pinnacle by Karryl…

Wildlife art exhibition setup at the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, CT.

Nearing completion…

Wildlife art exhibition setup at the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, CT.

The impressive exhibition title wall…

Wildlife art exhibition setup at the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, CT.

Ready for the opening reception…

Next time I will show you images from the Opening Reception!

Wildlife Art: Field to Studio is curated by Lillian Lum, Claudia Schipper & Alice Sherwood. It is on display until May 4 at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut. On April 24 at 2pm I will be giving an Artists Talk, along with Sean Murtha. I will also be at the Gallery to meet visitors on the following days and times:
Tuesday April 19, 11am – 2pm.
Thursday April 21, 5pm – 7pm.
Saturday April 23, 12pm – 2pm.
Monday April 25, 2pm – 4pm.
Wednesday April 27, 11am – 1pm.
Thursday April 28, 5pm – 7pm.

Please come and join me for a guided tour of the exhibition!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
A donation is made to African conservation from every sale.

Zebras In Mopane, acrylic by Alison Nicholls

Wildlife Art in the Flinn Gallery

Soon my paintings, including Zebra in Mopane, will be hanging in the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut. We have some great events scheduled around this exciting exhibition, so come and see the wildlife of Africa, Mongolia, Alaska, India, the Rocky Mountains, Central America and the Long Island Sound from the unique perspectives of a diverse group of artists.

Zebras In Mopane, acrylic by Alison Nicholls

Zebras In Mopane, acrylic by Alison Nicholls


Here are the details you need to know!

Thur March 31, Flinn Gallery
Opening Reception: 6-8pm.
Sat April 2, Flinn Gallery
Children Sketching Animals: 11am-12pm. Sold Out.
Artists Talk: Susan Fox (Mongolia), David Rankin (India) & Karryl (Rockies), 2-3pm.

Mon April 4,
Explorers Club
Artists Talk: Alison Nicholls, Susan Fox, David Rankin, Sean Murtha & Karryl, 6pm.
The Explorers Club, 46 East 70th Street, New York City. Registration Required.

Sun April 24
, Flinn Gallery
Artists Talk: Alison Nicholls & Sean Murtha, 2-3pm.

The exhibition runs from March 24 – May 4, 2016. The Flinn Gallery is located at 101 West Putnam Ave, Greenwich, CT 06830. Wildlife Art: Field to Studio is curated by Lillian Lum, Alice Sherwood & Claudia Schipper.

Come and join me at one of our exciting exhibit events!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredByAfrica.com

Strides by Alison Nicholls

Spot my New Cheetah Painting!

I’d like to show you my new cheetah painting, Strides, but I can’t – not yet!
It will be revealed in late March when it hangs in the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, CT, as part of the exhibition Wildlife Art: Field to Studio.

Strides-sneak-peak-ANicholls

See the full painting in March in the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, CT.

In the meantime, enjoy the preview!

Flinn Gallery
Greenwich Library, 101 West Putnam Ave, Greenwich, CT 06830
5 of the participating artists – Alison Nicholls, Sean Murtha, Susan Fox, David Rankin & Karryl – will be present for the opening weekend and the following events:
Opening Reception: March 31, 6-8pm
Children Sketching Wildlife: April 2, 11am-12noon (registration required, details tba)
Artists’ Talk: April 2, 2-3pm.

The Explorers Club Lecture, New York City.
April 4, 6pm. Registration is required.

Playtime, painted dogs, by Alison Nicholls

Painted Dog Playtime by Alison Nicholls

Playtime is based on my recent sketches and memories of painted dogs in Botswana playing around a tall clump of buffalo grass. So where is the grass, I hear you asking? Well the composition did originally contain the grass, but I removed it because I felt that the obvious playful energy of the 2 dogs was the real essence of the painting. You can see from their raised tails, raised ears and general body language that they are ready to run and chase each other, they are just waiting to see who will make the first move.

Playtime, painted dogs, by Alison Nicholls

Playtime, painted dogs, acrylic 24×30″ by Alison Nicholls

The playful nature of painted dogs (African wild dogs) is just one of the reasons they are so wonderful to watch. They exude a real joy in being part of a pack, having close companions, and in celebrating their successful hunts. My choice of colors – magenta and cyan – reflect the joyful, energetic nature of the piece and the layered washes of color create distance between the 2 dogs (so I was able to remove the grass from the composition!).

Playtime was very loosely based on some of my recent field sketches, including this piece, created in Zimbabwe when I spent time with Dr Greg Rasmussen of the Painted Dog Research Trust in Mana Pools.

Playtime Field Sketch, watercolor by Alison Nicholls

Playtime Field Sketch, watercolor by Alison Nicholls

Playtime and several more of my new paintings & sketches will be on display in Wildlife Art: Field to Studio, an exhibition at the Flinn Gallery in Greenwich, Connecticut. The exhibit features work by 7 artists, several of whom are personal friends of mine, and all of whom are Signature members of the Society of Animal Artists. We work in a wide variety of media –  watercolor, acrylic, oil, digital media & sculpture; in a variety of styles – contemporary, whimsical & realistic; and we undertake our field work in different parts of the world – Africa, Mongolia, Alaska, the Rocky Mountains, India, Central America & the Long Island Sound. It promises to be an exciting exhibition and at least 5 of the artists will be present for the opening reception and weekend programs for children and adults. My fellow artists and exhibitors are Susan Fox, Sean Murtha, David Rankin, Karryl, Kelly Singleton and Carel Brest van Kempen. The exhibition was curated by Lillian Lum, Alice Sherwood and Claudia Schipper.

Please join me for the Opening Reception or one of the programs associated with the exhibition.

Flinn Gallery Events
Opening Reception: March 31, 6-8pm
Children Sketching Wildlife: April 2 (details tba)
Artists Talks: April 2, 2-3pm.

The Explorers Club Lecture, New York City.
April 4, 6pm. Registration is required.

Until next time…!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredByAfrica.com

A painted dog (African wild dog) and an Arctic wolf.

Painted Dogs AND Wolves – 1 Night Only!

Dr Greg Rasmussen of the Painted Dog Research Trust in Zimbabwe will be speaking at the Wolf Conservation Center in South Salem, NY, about the challenges faced by painted dogs (African wild dogs) and how research can help conserve the species. After the lecture you will be able to see more charismatic canids in the shape of the resident gray wolves at WCC.

A painted dog (African wild dog) and an Arctic wolf.

A painted dog (African wild dog) and an Arctic wolf.

I recently spent some time with Dr Rasmussen in Mana Pools and I can promise you this evening will be a fascinating one. You will also have a chance to win a framed copy of one of my recent painted dog field sketches, valued at $140, which I am donating for the evening.

Painted Dog Pack At Rest Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Painted Dog Pack At Rest Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

So join me for this fun, informative and inspiring evening!
Alison

Saturday February 20, 2016 from 6-8pm.
Wolf Conservation Center, South Salem.
Registration is required as seating is limited. Price $20 per person.
50% of proceeds will be donated to PDRT and 50% to WCC.

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Cheetah field sketch by Alison Nicholls

Running to Catch Up on World Cheetah Day!

On this World Cheetah Day, I’m sprinting to get this out in time… and sharing a quick field sketch of 2 hunting cheetahs from my recent trip to Botswana. The sketch was created in pencil then the watercolor was added once I returned to camp (without reference to photos or video). In the spirit of sketching the fastest land mammal, it was all done very fast!

Below you’ll find links to some great cheetah conservation organizations. Hurry up and check them out!

Cheetah field sketch by Alison Nicholls

Cheetah field sketch by Alison Nicholls

Cheetah Conservation Fund
Cheetah Botswana
Cheetah Zimbabwe
They all deserve your support to help conserve cheetahs and the habitat they need to thrive!

Until next time…
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com