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Honey Badger & Civet

Honey Badger meets African Civet

Honey badger meets African civet. What happens next?
My copy of The Safari Companion by Richard Estes describes the African civet as “a remarkably unspecialized, basic sort of mammal” that “eats whatever is digestible”, is “poorly equipped to climb or dig efficiently”, and is “relatively slow-moving”. That all makes it sound very unthreatening, but as you’ll see in the video, it has a crest of hair along it’s back that is 4 inches long and can be raised to make it look quite intimidating. Civets are related to genets (and less closely to mongooses) but this is a group of animals which have changed very little in the last 40 -50 million years. You know what they say – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – so although it may be basic, I guess the civet is doing just fine.

Honey badgers are better known and have a reputation for being fearless and having no natural enemies. It (and the civet) are happy to snack on puff adders – which says almost everything you need to know! Honey badgers love honey and risk numerous stings to gorge themselves on honey and bee larvae. They have very loose skin, which protects them from too many stings, but this also means if a honey badger is picked up by the scruff of it’s neck, it will be able to turn around and bite it’s attacker (as many an inexperienced lion has discovered).

So, to this video, where honey badger meets African civet!
One evening I, my husband, and 4 friends, were sitting around the fire in Botswana. We were on a mobile safari, with Phillimon from Walking Stick Safaris and had planned to spend 9 nights camping in Moremi, Khwai and Savute. Phillimon and his great team took care of everything, so we felt like we were traveling in the lap of luxury, even though we were in tents. We’d eaten dinner and had moved to sit around the fire and had been visited by a honey badger there, but soon we heard a call from the ‘kitchen’ and this was what we saw. I think we all would have bet money on the civet giving in to the honey badgers. But what did happen?

Well, it turns out they both seemed quite intimidated by each other!

Later that night a honey badger raided camp again – climbing into the back of one of the 4x4s, then up and over the 4-foot high wire cage enclosing the cargo area, to see if there were any scraps available. One afternoon in this same campsite a group of 7 or 8 bull elephants appeared, browsing their way through and then out on to the grassy plain, heading for the next tree-island. And on our final night we decided to call an early end to the evening’s fire-watching as calls from lions got closer and closer until we thought they might be in ‘our’ trees.

In short it was a lovely spot with a wealth of wildlife and beautiful views. Ahhhhh…..

More soon.

Check out The Safari Companion: A guide to watching African mammals by Richard D Estes.
Our mobile safari was booked by Africa Geographic and our safari team were guided by Phillimon from Walking Stick Safaris. 

Bald Eagle by Nigel Nicholls

World Wildlife Day 2020

On this World Wildlife Day try imagining a world without wildlife. Why? Because the survival of millions of species (some as yet unknown to science) is in our hands. Quietly and unnoticed by many of us, wildlife is vanishing from the woods, skies, oceans, streams and rivers, plains, mountains and deserts. Some species thrive in our backyards, towns & cities, but around the world many, many, more are declining at a horrifying speed. 

Bald Eagle by Nigel Nicholls

A Bald Eagle sits on a dead tree in Yellowstone.   Photo by Nigel Nicholls.

As a species we can be destructive and cruel, but we are also creative, caring and extremely powerful. With the right help, we can bring species back from the brink of extinction. America’s Bald Eagle is a notable example.

Life finds a way. That is the well-known saying. But ‘finding a way’ is becoming increasingly difficult for many species as habitat is lost, water and air polluted. So, on this World Wildlife Day, lets make a decision to help wildlife find a way, because a world that is healthier for wildlife is a world that is healthier for us too.

Check out Nature Needs Half.

More next time!

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!

Alison Nicholls at work in Botswana.

Artist At Work!

I need a line of T-shirts made with the phrase Artist at Work, because we artists are always at work. When I’m walking down the street I’m seeing the contrasting values between the sunny side of the street and the shady side. At the grocery store I’m looking at the piles of fruit as a bountiful composition. When I’m dozing off to sleep I’m thinking about my current painting, or dreaming up the next one. On the train I’m admiring the skies. When I’m walking my dog, my mind is often in Botswana, thinking about my next composition (until a mail van comes into view when I am firmly dragged back to reality by a terrible knashing of the canines courtesy of my German Shepherd). And this is my life here in the US, so imagine what its like when I’m actually in Africa, trying to get 36 hours of sketching into every day!

Walking my German Shepherd, Chase.

Walking my German Shepherd, Chase.

I keep a list on my phone called Next Time in Africa, and I note all the new art ideas I want to try out while I’m there. And what’s on the list at the moment? Many, many things including videos I want to take (so I can create an online sketching course); tree bark rubbings; and using ink on pre-painted paper.

Alison Nicholls at work in Botswana.

Here I am at work in Botswana.

I should add 1 more thing – get some Artist at Work T-shirts printed!
See you next time.

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!

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

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 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 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 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, 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.


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…

Read more about Art Safaris, including guest testimonials
Christian Boix: Africa Geographic.
Email: 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…

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
A donation is made towards conservation in Africa from every sale.
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Nicholls Wildlife Art