Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

Alison Nicholls and Chase

What Are My Wildest Dreams?

What are my wildest dreams?
That is one of the questions I am answering as part of Blogging 201. Admittedly the full question is ‘what would my blog look like in my wildest dreams’? But if I’d started with that, you probably wouldn’t have bothered reading this.

Alison Nicholls and Chase

Alison Nicholls and Chase consider a blogging question, with differing levels of enthusiasm.

Blogging 201 has just started. It’s written by the WordPress.com team and they send an email a day for the next month, containing information, inspiration and advice about blogging; tackling a different issue every day. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the emails. And so is my dog.

So what would my blog look like in my wildest dreams? Lets see…

  • Whenever I posted an image of a new painting or sketch, it would sell by the end of the day.
  • My Art Safaris would be full within a month of posting details.
  • A publisher would offer me a book contract to create a series of books based on my visits to conservation organizations in Africa.
  • A production company would ask me to make a TV series in Africa featuring my art and conservation.
  • I would have several hundred comments and at least 100 shares on every blog post.

I could go on, but maybe I’m just being greedy!

It might seem like a wildly optimistic list but wait…you can help!
Start me on the road to hundreds of comments and shares by commenting and sharing now. Unless you are an art collector, publisher or producer – in which case please drop me an email!

Enjoy the weekend.
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Alison Nicholls' new book: An Artist Visits the African People & Wildlife Fund

Have You Created a Monster?

Thank you to everyone who has helped make my book such a success! I have received so many orders that I will need to print more copies.

Alison Nicholls' new book: An Artist Visits the African People & Wildlife Fund

Alison Nicholls’ new book: An Artist Visits the African People & Wildlife Fund

I could never have guessed that the response would be so positive and of course I am thrilled. But you may have unleashed a monster – I am now planning my 2nd book, this time based on African wildlife! More about that soon…

Art Inspired by Africa: An Artist Visits the African People & Wildlife Fund

If you have placed an order, your book will be in the mail as soon as I’ve signed it. Thank you again for your support!

If you not yet placed an order but would like a signed copy… please remember that after April 30, the book will be available on Amazon.com, for a higher price. At the moment a signed copy is available from me for only US$35.

If you live in the USA, you can place an order here. Shipping within the US is US$6.

If you live outside the USA, please drop me an email and I can send you a shipping quote (shipping to the UK or New Zealand is $15).

A donation is made to the African People & Wildlife Fund from every sale.

Thank you!
Asanteni Sana!  (Kiswahili)
Ashe Naleng!  (KiMaasai)

Learn more about the African People & Wildlife Fund.
See more of my African Field Sketches.

Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Art Safaris with Alison Nicholls

2015 Art Safari with Alison Nicholls Fully Booked

I’m pleased to report that the 2015 Art Safari I am leading for Africa Geographic in South Africa, is fully booked!

Art Safari © Alison Nicholls 2011

Sketching after lunch on the Africa Geographic Art Safari with Alison Nicholls.

Details for the 2016 Art Safari in South Africa will be available soon. You can also contact me, or Christian Boix at Africa Geographic, to arrange your own custom Art Safari, in a destination of your choice, for your own sketch group.

Art Safaris with Alison Nicholls

Sketching elephants on Art Safari with Alison Nicholls

I hope to see you on Art Safari in Africa soon!
Until then…
Alison

Read more about Art Safaris, including guest testimonials
Christian Boix: Africa Geographic.
Email: christian@africageographic.com Telephone: +27 (0)21 762 4974.

Lion Field Sketch Video by Artist Alison Nicholls

It is difficult to video myself sketching because I use very pale pencil lines which don’t show up well on video, and often I’m sitting in a vehicle with very little space. As a result this video doesn’t show the creation of the pencil sketch, from Kruger National Park, South Africa, while I watching a mating pair of lions. Instead, the video shows how I added watercolor to the sketch the following day, back at camp. Even then, because I paint on a flat surface, not using an easel, camera angles are quite a challenge and I ended up painting this between the legs of the tripod holding the video camera! Although I added the watercolor the next day, I want this to be a legitimate field sketch so I never use photo or video reference when completing the field sketch. Instead I chose colors based on my memories of the scene or to depict a mood. You can hear the birds and tree squirrels in the background of my video. They kept me company while I painted!

The original of Powernap was the prize in a contest I recently held for my newsletter subscribers but limited edition reproductions are available. Please visit my Field Sketches website page for details.

Free Shipping within the lower 48 states of the United States until the end of 2013!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
A donation is made towards conservation in Africa from every sale.
Visit my Website
Join my Mailing List
Find me on Facebook
Nicholls Wildlife Art