Category Archives: Ink

May 2020 in Art video by Alison Nicholls

May 2020 in Art

Every month I make a short video featuring paintings, sketches, studio shots & snippets from my life. May was still a lockdown month but the pandemic was overshadowed by the callous killing of George Floyd, and when I looked at the dates, I found there were long stretches where I hadn’t recorded anything. Here’s May 2020.

Stay well.
Listen. 
Change.
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

March 2020 in Art

March 2020 in Art

Here’s my March 2020 Art video. March was the month the Covid-19 pandemic became a reality for those of us in the US. I tried to continue as normal but this month definitely felt disjointed and I felt distracted. Take a look.

Stay healthy, stay positive, stay put!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Streaming from my studio

Streaming from my Studio Every Wednesday

Yes, I’m streaming from my studio live every Wednesday at 2pm EST (7pm UK time).
If you’d like a look behind the scenes; a view of what’s on my easel; a glimpse of my German Shepherd; a peek at my art materials; or a sneak preview of my next painting, join me live on my personal Facebook page.

Streaming from my studio

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

Alison Nicholls Sketching

1 Second Everyday

I discovered 1SE (1 Second Everyday) a couple of years ago and it works exactly as it sounds – you select 1 second (of video or a photo) for every day and add it to your timeline, then you mash the seconds together to create a video. There’s also a Freestyle option, which doesn’t associate each entry with a date. We all know that video gets far more attention online than photos, so even if I have a selection of photos of artwork I can combine them to create a video. It’s really helpful in marketing my art and Art Safaris. I just got the Pro version ($30 annually) which allows you to remove the ISE branding and date stamp, add music etc (should have done this long ago!).

Here’s my January in Art video…

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

Vines and Giraffes acrylic by Alison Nicholls

Vines and Giraffes

I changed Vines and Giraffes significantly when I was half-way through the painting. It’s not unusual for me to make changes when the background washes dry because I start seeing new things in a painting, but I rarely change anything as late in the process as I did in Vines and Giraffes.

Vines and Giraffes acrylic by Alison Nicholls

Vines and Giraffes acrylic by Alison Nicholls

I had completed the background and the twisted vines were well underway when I caught a glimpse of them from the side. Immediately I knew this was a better composition when it was turned 90 degrees, and luckily for me, vines grow in all directions, so I turned the painting around. I had to rethink the giraffes, but they fitted into the new composition nicely and I’m pleased with the contrast between the hard lines of the vines and the soft washes surrounding them.

I drew on the canvas with archival pens to create detail on the vines, to highlight the edge of some of the washes and to create impressions of the giraffe coat markings. I’m a bit of a purist when it comes to watermedia (even though I’m using fluid acrylic on watercolor canvas) so had to give myself ‘permission’ to draw on the canvas! It’s not realistic detail I’m after, it’s abstract markings in various colors, which give the painting a level of interest when seen close-up.

I’d be interested to hear what you think of the mix of washes and pen.
More soon!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

2020 Portrait Party

The 2020 Portrait Party was organized by NYC Urban Sketchers, who bring dozens of artists together at the High School of Art & Design in New York City. We sit in circles and create 10-minute sketches of each other on 9×12″ cold press watercolor paper. My group had 12 people so we all did 11 sketches – using a variety of media like markers, watercolor and charcoal.

Alison Nicholls at 2020 Portrait Party

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

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

2020 Portrait Party

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

And here are a few of the portraits I created.

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

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

Crash – Rhino Poaching in South Africa

Crash features the rhino poaching crisis in South Africa and the painting even includes a line indicating the poaching statistics for the last few years. It has been on my drawing board for many months, but after hearing a talk by Dr Will Fowlds, Project Co-ordinator for Wilderness Foundation Africa (WFA), I decided to complete the painting and donate a large percentage of the purchase price to WFA.
 
Crash - Rhino Poaching in South Africa, painting by Alison Nicholls

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

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

Thandi & calf, Kariega Game Reserve

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

Paws Trails Explorers

I and my art inspired by Africa have been featured in the beautiful Paws Trails Explorers digital magazine. The article is in the Wild Arts Showcase and focuses on my watercolor and ink work created from life in the African bush. I talk about why sketching from life is so important to me; how I gathered the courage to start; which materials work well and which were disastrous; how my work changed when I connected with conservation organizations; and how my art now benefits those same groups.

Paws Trails Explorer article about Alison Nicholls

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

Enjoy!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

 

Lion in ink by Alison Nicholls

Lion in Ink

Lion in ink was completed after the lioness (see previous post) and although 1 is vertical and 1 is horizontal, I think they make a great pair.Lion in ink by Alison Nicholls

Lion in ink took me 20 minutes to create, and is 1 of my daily sketches on yupo paper, based on a photo taken by my husband, Nigel. You can see this is a young male because his mane has started growing in. Males have to leave their natal pride and often struggle as they improve their hunting skills and avoid territorial pride males. Eventually, if he is smart, healthy, and lucky, he may be a pride male himself.

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

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

Lioness in ink by Alison Nicholls

Lioness in Ink

After 10 minutes, when I hadn’t finished this Lioness in ink, I decided to just keep going for another 10 minutes because I thought she was worth finishing.

Lioness in ink by Alison Nicholls

Lioness in ink by Alison Nicholls

When I look at this lioness, I’m amazed that I was able to confidently draw her directly in ink without screwing the whole thing up! Reminding myself that its just a drawing on a piece of paper (yupo actually) helps a lot. But its evidence of how far I think I’ve come in the last couple of years and particularly since I started my daily sketches.

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

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

Elephant and Impala by Alison Nicholls

Elephant and Impala

I’m quite proud of Elephant and Impala (though I say so myself!). Its a typical waterhole scene where the big bull elephant makes everyone else wait until he’s finished before they can drink. I sketched this in pen, concentrating on the elephant bull and adding feint markings for the landscape features and impala rams.

Elephant and Impala by Alison Nicholls

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

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

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

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

Elephant and Impala by Alison Nicholls

New Botswana Watercolors!

Here are my new Botswana watercolors.
In the past I’ve usually sketched in pencil (then added watercolor), giving a myself a little room for error as I could erase any incorrect lines. However, these pieces were all sketched from life in pen. I’m a real believer in simplicity, making as few lines as possible on my paper, so trying to work like this in ink can lead to a lot of frustration and can be an easy way of getting through lots of paper when things don’t work out. At the beginning of my trip, in my 1st sketchbook, I was being too tentative (and was sketching a leopard, which I find one of the most difficult species) so I ended up tearing 2 pages out of my book and burning them. But as time went on, sketching with pen became a fun challenge, and I found myself wondering how how much I could say with a minimum of lines.

Elephant and Impala by Alison Nicholls

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

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

Black-backed Jackals by Alison Nicholls

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

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

www.ArtInspiredByAfrica.com

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
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

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.
Alison

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

Elephants in Brown, field sketch by Alison Nicholls

Field Sketches & Daily Sketches – What is the Difference?

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

Elephants in Brown, field sketch by Alison Nicholls

Elephants in Brown, field sketch by Alison Nicholls

My Field Sketches are created from life, in Africa. I usually start by sketching in pencil or ink then add watercolor, but sometimes I sketch directly in watercolor. They are either 8×10″ or 11×14″ on watercolor paper and sell for US$200-$300, with 25% of the purchase price donated to various African conservation organizations.

Daily sketch by Alison Nicholls

Turqouise Elephant, daily sketch by Alison Nicholls

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

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

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

 

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Alison Nicholls

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

We were looking forward to a quick cuppa, a nice mid-morning tea-break, but when we reached the big baobab in Savute, Botswana, we found that our spot was already taken. Let sleeping dogs lie…

Let Sleeping Dogs Lie by Alison Nicholls

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

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

Savute Wild Dogs by Nigel Nicholls

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

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

Painted Dog Pile by Nigel Nicholls

Painted Dog Pile by Nigel Nicholls

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

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

Wild Elephants sketch by Alison Nicholls

10-Minute Daily Sketches on Etsy

A 10-minute daily sketch is a great way to start the day, keep my sketching skills up to speed, and experiment with line and color. Every piece is unique. They are available at my Etsy Store priced at only US$60 each and 50% of the proceeds are donated to African conservation organizations. I begin each one with an ink drawing then add watercolor or fluid acrylic if time allows.

Wild Elephants sketch by Alison Nicholls

Wild Elephants sketch by Alison Nicholls

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

Leopard Lines sketch by Alison Nicholls

Leopard Lines sketch by Alison Nicholls

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

Kudu Bull sketch by Alison Nicholls

Kudu Bull sketch by Alison Nicholls

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

Painted Purple (painted dogs) by Alison Nicholls

Painted Purple (painted dogs) by Alison Nicholls

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

Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

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

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

Rural village scenes sketched in pen in Botswana by Alison Nicholls

Sketching Villages from a Moving Car!

Recently I discovered that sketching villages from a moving car might be more difficult than sketching wildlife!

Rural village scenes sketched in pen in Botswana by Alison Nicholls

These rural scenes were sketched as we drove down from Kasane to the Tuli Block in Botswana. Although we are driving quite slowly through villages, it’s still a challenge to sketch and you need to develop a photographic memory by looking, memorizing, then sketching. However, I soon found my stride because these rural scenes are etched in my brain, from my years of living in Botswana. I wanted to capture the typical sights of a village – people sitting by the road; herds of cows in the shade of a tree; donkeys and goats; village bars and small houses with satellite dishes. Pen was the perfect medium and I particularly love this pinky-gray ZIG Memory System writer. And sketching made the long drive go by much faster!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com