Category Archives: Watercolors

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.

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

Elephants-at-Water-ANicholls

Even in front of Nature, one must Compose

“Even in front of nature, one must compose” is attributed to Edgar Degas.

Giraffe Bulls Browsing by Alison Nicholls

There are some who will argue that nature is perfect and it’s arrogant to compose, to rearrange things, in your art. But we all do this, all the time. You are composing when you move left or right to get that perfect photo of a landscape. And artists are certainly doing this all the time in their paintings. Even those who paint wildlife in minute detail using photographic reference are likely to be moving things around and combining several photos to compose their painting.

My style of art doesn’t rely heavily on photos or often include a landscape element, so composition choices in the studio are wide open for me. This can be both daunting and liberating, which is why I spend an inordinate amount of time deciding on the composition for my paintings. How many animals? What are they doing? Are they close to the viewer or far away? These are some of the numerous questions I ask myself when composing a painting in the studio.

Elephants-at-Water-ANicholls

I used to think I wasn’t composing when I was field sketching in Africa, but I realized I was wrong. For example, if I see a herd of 20 elephants, I’m not going to just start sketching the closest one, then move on to the next until I’ve sketched every animal in turn. If I tried that I’d be hopelessly confused because the animals would change places and keep moving – my sketch would never be completed and would most likely be a mess. Instead, I usually I pick an animal in the herd who I will base my sketch around. Once I finish that animal, I look for another, in a different pose, which will complement it. Then I pick a 3rd and a 4th. I may not have an idea of how the finished piece will look, but I’m definitely composing as I sketch.

So I’m not about to argue with Degas on this point – “even in front of nature, one must compose”!

Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Zebra-Painting-Demo by Alison Nicholls

Zebra Painting Demo!

Zebra Painting Demo is my latest video. I started a larger zebra painting which didn’t quite go to plan (it happens to us all), so I started again. But this time I painted on a smaller, pre-stretched watercolor canvas. Although the painting looks quite complex, when you watch the video you’ll see that it was painted in just 2 stages. 1st came the wash and once that was dry, the stripes, all in the same color palette. Enjoy the video but don’t miss the quiz question below!

Do you know what the longest land mammal migration is?

You might be thinking it’s the wildebeest migration in Tanzania and Kenya, but it’s actually the zebra migration in northern Botswana. Between 1968 and 2004 this migration was halted by the existence of miles of fences separating Botswana’s beef cattle from wild African buffalo (an attempt to prevent outbreaks of foot and mouth disease). Once the fences were removed in 2004, the migration started all over again. The average lifespan of a wild zebra is usually between 15-25 years, so none of the zebras alive in 2004 were alive in 1967, before the fences went up. That means none of them had ever been on this migration route. Nevertheless, when the annual rains began, zebra started trekking from the Chobe River down to Nxai Pan and others moved from the Okavango down into the vast expanses of the Makgadikgadi salt pans. It just proves that if we let them, animals will find their own way!

Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

NYC Portrait Party 2019

Portrait Party – Sketching Strangers in 10 Minutes!

Last Saturday I did eleven 10-minute sketches of complete strangers at a Portrait Party in Manhattan. I signed up because I knew it would be good for my sketching skills and take me out of my comfort zone. As the day approached I was excited but also concerned by my lack of experience sketching faces. I had tried 3 or 4 practice sessions but those made me realize that 10 minutes is not long to capture a likeness.

10 minute watercolor and pen sketch from life by Alison Nicholls, painted at 2019 New York City Portrait Party with NYC Urban Sketchers

Shawne, one of my 10 minute watercolor & pen sketches

The Portrait Party is organized by some members of NYC Urban Sketchers who go out twice a week to sketch in New York City. Fellow sketch-artist Hazel Jarvis and I arrived at the portrait party to find loads of artists and a little organized chaos. Here’s how it worked. Artists were divided into teams. The 12 members of my Yellow team sat in a circle and one by one we took turns to pose for 10 minutes as everyone else sketched. When the 10 minute timer went off, you got your next piece of paper ready and then you all started sketching the next person in the circle. After 3 or 4 sketches we would have a short break, but basically it felt like we sketched virtually continuously for about 3 hours.

NYC Portrait Party 2019

Nearly 100 artists in 1 room – what could possibly go wrong?

NYC Portrait Party 2019

The Yellow team

NYC Portrait Party 2019

Anna, me and Jessica hard at work.

When we had sketched everyone in our team, the art was laid out in a grid. Looking horizontally showed you all the sketches by the same artist. Looking vertically showed you all the sketches of the same person.

NYC Portrait Party 2019

Setting up the Yellow team sketch grid.

NYC Portrait Party 2019

Yellow team sketches in the grid.

At the end, the floor was covered with big colorful grids of sketches of every conceivable style. It was amazing to walk around and look at them all. Some artists used watercolor, others used marker pens, charcoal or ink. It was very inspiring and there was a real buzz in the air.

10 minute watercolor and pen sketch from life by Alison Nicholls, painted at 2019 New York City Portrait Party with NYC Urban Sketchers

Janette, one of my10 minute watercolor & pen sketches

And how did my sketches turn out? I was pleasantly surprised by many of them. Here are a few. The great thing about having only 10 minutes is that you can’t get too stressed by each one – you just don’t have time.

10 minute watercolor and pen sketch from life by Alison Nicholls, painted at 2019 New York City Portrait Party with NYC Urban Sketchers

Tim, one of my 10 minute watercolor & pen sketches

I learned that sketching older people is easier – lines and creases are an artist’s friend. I also learned that a simple color palette gave me more time, because mixing colors just up took too many valuable seconds.

10 minute watercolor and pen sketch from life by Alison Nicholls, painted at 2019 New York City Portrait Party with NYC Urban Sketchers

Anna, one of my 10 minute watercolor & pen sketches

But mostly I learned that I loved sketching people!
I enjoyed it so much and felt it was so good for my sketching skills that I am planning to do a 10-minute portrait sketch every day now. It might cost me a fortune in paper but the experience is invaluable.
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Separated color on palette

Watermedia – Mud and Magic

One artist’s mud is another artist’s magic in watermedia – that’s the conclusion I’ve come to recently as I spent time mixing interesting greys. Here’s a good example. I used Raw Sienna, Cobalt Blue and Cadmium Red Medium Hue to create the dark purple-grey-blue you see below.

Mixed color on palette

Mixed watermedia color on palette

Wait a few minutes and the hues start to separate out – now the color on my palette has turned a distinct pink.

Separated color on palette

Separated color on palette

So whats going to happen when I use it, wet in wet, on my watercolor canvas? Here’s the result when its dry – you can see hints of all 3 of the original colors and there’s a lovely, subtle granulating effect too. Is this what you expected when you saw the original color on my palette? I’m guessing not!

Zebra wash when dry

Zebra watermedia wash when dry

Using mixes like these takes a little confidence because the end effect will be so different to the color you see on your palette. Its the magic of watermedia!

Alison
www.artinspiredbyafrica.com
Read more of my blog.

 

Lion Painting Demo

My lion painting demo shows how I used fluid acrylic and colored inks on canvas to create the painting, Preoccupied Pair. I started this painting in December and added the finishing touches a few days ago. Miraculously, I remembered to video nearly all the painting sessions so I could create this lion painting demo from start to finish!

Preoccupied Pair is based on my watercolor field sketch from Botswana (below). The watercolor shows a mating pair of lions walking through grasses. You’ll notice the 2 pieces are quite different, because I rarely recreate a field sketch as a studio painting. In the studio painting I felt the lions needed to be larger and closer to each other, and I wanted to eliminate most of the background vegetation and the termite mound.

Mating Lions watercolor by Alison Nicholls
Mating Lions, field watercolor 11×14″

They are 2 very different pieces of art, but each reflects my intentions and the different ways I work in the field and in the studio. Both pieces are for sale with a 25% donation to African conservation organizations.

Do you have a preference for 1 piece or the other?
Alison

See my watercolor field sketches.
See my studio acrylics.

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

What Happens to Failed Paintings?

Artists make mistakes. Its true. Shocking, I know!
So what happens to my failed paintings?

If you liked the penguins you just saw (which it seems many people did) then here’s a look at the next version, which I’ll be sending to Artists For Conservation to feature in their Silent Skies Mural, showing all 678 species of endangered birds.

And now I’m off to work on my next piece for the Silent Skies Mural – some White-backed Vultures.
Thanks for watching!
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.

Alison-Nicholls-Art-Survey

Take Part in my Art Survey!

Here’s your chance to tell me what you think by taking part in my
Art Survey!

Alison-Nicholls-Art-Survey

There are just a few short questions. It will take only a tiny amount of your time. And there’s even a question about sharing a mud-bath with a herd of elephants!

Admit it – you’re intrigued…
So, if you follow my art here or elsewhere, take part in my Art Survey

I’ll look forward to seeing your answers!
Until next time…
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

January 2018 Art Challenge

I started 2018 with an Art Challenge and here is a preview of my challenge so far.

Art Challenge 2018

As with any plan, once you get into it you realize things need a little tweaking. I started by thinking I’d paint a whole month of daily colors on 1 piece of canvas, but realized it would be tough to overlay 28-31 color washes without complete chaos being the result. So I started a kind of wheel effect, rolling the washes across and down the page.

I wondered when was the best time to choose the color for the day – at the end of the day (when I’m tired) or the next morning (looking back on the day before). I still haven’t really decided which works best yet.

It seemed like such a simple challenge. Who would have thought that painting one color a day on a piece of canvas would give rise to so many questions?!

Paint on!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

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

2018 palette by Alison Nicholls

2018 Art Challenge

Happy 2018!
Want to join me in my 2018 Art Challenge?

I like to think of each passing day as a transparent wash of color. As the day ends, that day’s wash is added to a canvas, painted on top of all the washes from previous days. Some days are light, airy pastels; some are vibrant primaries; some are darker tones; but when you look at the week, or the month, or the year, the canvas tells an exquisite story.

2018 palette by Alison Nicholls

2018 palette by Alison Nicholls

So this year I will be mixing 1 wash of color every day, to reflect how I felt that day. I’ll paint it on a piece of canvas and add a new wash every day. Each week I’ll start a new canvas. (Tip, this will be far easier in fluid acrylic than in watercolor, because you can add multiple washes of color without fear of ‘picking up’ the washes below.) I may even try a monthly canvas, just to see how far I can push this.
Let me know if you will be joining me!

Paint on!
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

Art Eclipse!

Art, Science and Kids – what could possibly go wrong?

Art Eclipse with Alison Nicholls

Yes, there is nothing like combining cardboard, binoculars, colanders and art on the driveway on a hot day in August. Can you tell I am desperately trying to reproduce a segment from Blue Peter? (I’m showing my age and UK background with this reference.)

Art Eclipse with Alison Nicholls

Just aim the binos at the sun (without looking at the sun) and the image will project onto the ground. The cardboard around the binos provides some shadow to make the eclipse more visible when its projected. Its very difficult to keep the image steady, as my neighbor, Mike, discovered. He thought he’d come over to see the eclipse but we really needed him to stand absolutely stationary for an hour projecting the image on the floor!

Art Eclipse with Alison Nicholls

Of course I completely forgot to take a photo of the projected eclipse image, although you can just (only just) see it at the top of Charlie’s paper on the image above. 2 other sets of neighbors popped by and one rushed back with some Xrays – which you can use to look at the sun and see the image very clearly. It was a fun neighborhood event.

Eclipse Art by Alison Nicholls

My own eclipse art turned into a little abstract. Never having painted an eclipse before, I was quite pleased with myself!

Until next time…keep on painting.
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