Category Archives: Watercolors

Trotting, painted dogs, acrylic by Alison Nicholls

Three is a Crowd-Pleaser

Following on from my previous posts, Boraro – Painted Dogs and Three Painted Dogs is Not a Crowd, here is Three is a Crowd-Pleaser. I didn’t originally intend to write a series of 3 posts, but after a little research I found that we humans like thinking in patterns and 3 is the lowest number we consider a pattern (if something happens once we think it’s chance, if it happens twice it’s coincidence, but if it happens 3 times we think of it as a pattern). So maybe my series of 3 posts is not an accident afterall. As IQ Doodle School’s post explains, the Rule of Three is part of “how we think, make sense of, and cluster information”. Groups of 3 are common in our language (ready, steady, go), music (choruses often occur 3 times), plays (3-act structure), art (rule of thirds) and film-making (trilogies). 

Rule of Thirds

Rule of Thirds grid is useful in art & photography to create interesting compositions.

In art you’ll often come across the Rule of Thirds grid. The idea is to divide your canvas into 9 equal sections and use the lines and intersections to help create a more interesting composition. For example, in landscape paintings you will often see the horizon line one-third or two-thirds of the way up the canvas, rather than half-way. Or, if your painting doesn’t have a horizon line (mine often don’t) then you can use the red dot intersections as guides for where to place items of interest. If you look at my paintings, you’ll see that the animals who are the focus of attention are usually left or right of center and often high up or low down on the canvas (close to the red dot intersections on the grid). After a while this becomes second nature so you don’t even think of the grid when you compose a painting.  

Trotting, painted dogs, acrylic by Alison Nicholls

Trotting, painted dogs, acrylic by Alison Nicholls

In case you’re not convinced, here are 3 more interesting sets of 3’s: 
I often use only three colors in a painting. There are 3 paragraphs in this blog post. And African wild dogs have tri-colored coats!

Stay well
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Boraro, painted dogs by Alison Nicholls

Boraro – Painted Dogs

Boraro means ‘three’ in Setswana, the main language spoken in Botswana. My painting compositions often contain 3 animals because somehow it just works (more about this in my next post “Three is not a Crowd”).

Boraro, painted dogs by Alison Nicholls

Boraro, painted dogs by Alison Nicholls

A couple of days after I signed this painting, I decided it wasn’t finished. So I added an extra wash of quinacridone gold over the existing gold stripe at the top and, on a whim while I had the brush full of color in my hand, I added shadows beneath the dogs. Even as I painted, I realized the shadows could also be reflections, as if the dogs are standing on wet sand.
Which do you see – shadows or reflections? 

My newsletter readers always get to see my art first and this painting was sold as soon as I put it in my July email newsletter.  I am donating 25% of the purchase price to Painted Dog Research Trust in Zimbabwe.

Painted dogs greeting card by Alison Nicholls

Painted dogs greeting card by Alison Nicholls

Boraro – Painted Dogs – was inspired by the greeting card above. Since the start of the pandemic I’ve been painting greeting cards and sending them out to my newsletter readers and Art Safari guests. I  paint several greeting card backgrounds at one time, so each set tends to have its own distinct look. Some have traditional washes as backgrounds, some have zig zag lines, some have circular motifs and some, like this one, start with horizontal lines. After the backgrounds are dry I use watercolor and/or ink to add animals, or occasionally people or trees. The cards have been fun to create and have allowed me to experiment, so you can expect to see more greeting card-inspired paintings in the future!

To receive my newsletters and see all my new art before it appears online, just click here. If you add your mailing address you’ll also receive one of my original watercolor greeting cards.

If you’re already a newsletter reader – Thank You!  – but if you’re not sure whether I have your mailing address, you can click the Update Profile link at the end of any of my newsletters to find out. Or you can send me an email and just include your mailing address. 

Read the other 2 posts in this series:
Three Painted Dogs is not a Crowd
Three is a Crowd-Pleaser.

Stay well
Alison

Learn more about Painted Dog Research Trust in Zimbabwe.
Visit my website:
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica

Kambaku Art Safari

2021 Art Safari

We’re now taking bookings for my 2021 Art Safari.  There are 6 spaces available and we’ll be staying at the wonderful Kambaku Safari Lodge in Timbavati, South Africa. (Both my 2020 safaris are full but have been postponed until 2021.) The dates are August 26-30. To whet your appetite, here are a few photos from the 2019 Kambaku Art Safaris.  See full details here.

The 2021 Art Safari price is inclusive of all accommodation, art tuition, twice-daily drives, meals, laughter and wonderful wildlife!
See full details here.

Remember to get in touch soon if you’d like to reserve your place.
See you soon and stay well.
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

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

Endangered Species Day 2020

Support People on Endangered Species Day

We need to support people and wildlife on Endangered Species Day. Everywhere people are suffering physically, financially and mentally from the pandemic and obviously this includes many Africans who work in tourism, wildlife research or conservation.

Endangered Species Day 2020

Endangered Species Day 2020

Much vital conservation work involves people rather than wildlife. Reducing human-wildlife conflict, conducting anti-poaching patrols, or helping rural people find sustainable income-generating opportunities are all conservation activities that help people but also ensure the continued existence of endangered species. Endangered Species Day is May 15, and I hope you will consider helping me support people and wildlife through art.
From May 15 – 22:

~ Every order of my art will include a special free gift, as a thank you from me.

~ Shipping will be free within the US, and half-price to all other destinations.

~ I’ll donate the following amounts to African conservation organizations: 50% from orders of Daily Sketches; 40% from original acrylics on canvas, 25% from limited edition prints; and 30% from original watercolor field sketches.

~ My donations will go to African People & Wildlife (Tanzania), Painted Dog Research Trust (Zimbabwe) and Cheetah Conservation Botswana.

Crash - Rhinos on Endangered Species Day

Crash – Rhinos on Endangered Species Day (photo features my painting, Thandi the rhino and Dr Will Fowlds of WFA).

Speaking of endangered species, last month I was able to donate US$2000 to Wilderness Foundation Africa in South Africa, from the sale of Crash – Rhino Poaching in South Africa. I’m delighted when my conservation-themed paintings help fund efforts to conserve species under threat, and South Africa’s rhinos definitely fall into that category. Read more about the painting and rhino poaching here.

Check out my art for Endangered Species Day!

Stay well.
Alison

Read more about:
Wilderness Foundation Africa
African People & Wildlife
Painted Dog Research Trust
Cheetah Conservation Botswana

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

Tea Stall sketch by Alison Nicholls

International Women’s Day

On this International Women’s Day, I would like to highlight Mama Helena Mbarnoti, an inspiring Maasai woman from the village of Loibor Siret in northern Tanzania (mama is a respectful term for a married woman in Tanzania).

Tea Stall sketch by Alison Nicholls

Mama Helena at her tea stall, painted in watercolor by Alison Nicholls

African People & Wildlife’s headquarters, the Noloholo Environmental Education Center, is built on land donated by the surrounding community, where Mama Helena lives. I met her each time I visited APW and over the years have seen her strong support of APW’s work with her community. She is now a member of a women’s bee-keeping group, supported by APW, and the delicious honey produced by wild bees is sold, bringing the women their own income.

On one visit to APW, Mama Helena invited me to sketch her in her tea stall at the weekly market (above) and on my latest visit I sketched her at a meeting of the women’s bee-keeping group (below). I send copies of my sketches to everyone who features in them and when I returned to Loibor Siret in June 2019 she showed me the copy of the tea stall sketch, which she keeps at home.

Womens Meeting sketch by Alison Nicholls

Women’s meeting (Mama Helena on left) in northern Tanzania, by Alison Nicholls

All around the world women are doing incredible things (Dr Laly Lichtenfeld, co-founder of APW is another obvious example) so lets celebrate that each and every day, not just on International Women’s Day.

Mama Helena Photo: African People & Wildlife/Laura Milton

Mama Helena Photo: African People & Wildlife/Laura Milton

More next time!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Read more about APW and Mama Helena

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

Buffalo in Delta field sketch Alison Nicholls 2012

Watercolors featured on Artsy Shark

My watercolors featured on Artsy Shark last week. If you’re an artist you may know this website, as the founder, Carolyn Edlund’s mission is to inspire every artist to build a better art business. I saw a call for featured artists and submitted my work. In addition to a spot on the website as the featured artist, I also received a nice pdf of the feature too.
Have a read and enjoy my recent watercolors from Africa!

Featured Artist Alison Nicholls

All my watercolors are for sale, priced between $250 and $350 depending on the size. Please take a look and let me know if you would like to own one. I donate 25% from the sale of each one to African conservation organizations.
More next time!
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

 

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.

Sunlit Elephant by Alison Nicholls

Pros and Cons of Joining My Mailing List

In these social media saturated days, what are the pros and cons of joining my Mailing List?
Here are the Pros:

1.Preview my new Paintings
Yes, before I even post them on social media or put them on my website, you get to see all my new paintings in my newsletter. Which means you can snap up your favorite piece before the big wide world even knows it exists!

2.Win a Watercolor
If you Join My Mailing List before December 1st 2019, your name will be entered into the draw to win Sunlit Elephant – an original 10×8″ watercolor, created from life in Africa and valued at $200. Using some ingenious method, a subscriber’s name (hopefully yours) will be selected at random. The winner will be emailed and she/he replies within a week, Sunlit Elephant will be shipped free to the winner, anywhere in the world (if the winner doesn’t reply within 1 week, another winner will be selected at random). All current subscribers are automatically entered into the draw.

Sunlit Elephant by Alison Nicholls

Win this Watercolor: Sunlit Elephant, 10×8″ watercolor and pen by Alison Nicholls.

3.Art-filled monthly newsletters
In my colorful newsletters you’ll see paintings, photos, news about conservation organizations, information about my upcoming exhibits and lectures. Usually you’ll get just 1 lovely, colorful, email each month but around the holidays you might get a couple more. For example, on Black Friday you’ll receive my Colorful Friday email. And at New Year you’ll get my animal-themed, hopeful, New Year message. I certainly won’t bombard you with emails and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

4.Contests and Surveys
You can take part in my occasional contests and surveys, helping me make my newsletters even better in the future.

5.Insightful Content
Your newsletters will contain my insightful witticisms, bad puns and photos of my dog!

Here are the Cons:

1.Insightful Content
Your newsletters will contain my insightful witticisms, bad puns and photos of my dog!

So, having (hopefully) decided that the Pros outweigh the Cons, here’s where you can Join My Mailing List!

Good Luck in the draw for Sunlit Elephant!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Kambaku Art Safari

2019 Art Safari Video II

In August I led two Art Safaris in South Africa for Africa Geographic. Here is my short video of the second Art Safari.

Both safaris were held at Kambaku Safari Lodge, in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, part of the Great Kruger National Park. Kambaku was a great place to hold an Art Safari as we had amazing wildlife sightings, beautiful accommodations, great food and wonderful spaces for daytime workshops.

2020 Art Safaris
We’ll be returning to Kambaku for 1 of my 2020 Art Safaris and we have only 2 places remaining, so if you’d like to join us please let me know. We also have only 2 places available on the 2nd 2020 Art Safari, which will take place at Pungwe Safari Camp in Manyaleti Reserve, also part of the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa.

2020 Art Safari Details

We welcome only 6 guests on each safari and they may have any (or no) experience of sketching. We also welcome non-sketching friends and partners.
So if your idea of fun is spending time in the bush with wildlife, art and like-minded travel companions, sign up for 2020!
Alison

Kambaku Art Safari with Alison Nicholls

Art Safari Video

In August I led two Art Safaris in South Africa for Africa Geographic. Here is my short video of the first Art Safari.
 

Both safaris were held at Kambaku Safari Lodge, in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, part of the Great Kruger National Park. Kambaku was a great place to hold an Art Safari as we had amazing wildlife sightings, beautiful accommodations, great food and wonderful spaces for daytime workshops.

2020 Art Safaris
We’ll be returning to Kambaku for 1 of my 2020 Art Safaris and we have only 2 places remaining, so if you’d like to join us please let me know. We also have only 2 places available on the 2nd 2020 Art Safari, which will take place at Pungwe Safari Camp in Manyaleti Reserve, also part of the Greater Kruger National Park in South Africa.

2020 Art Safari Details

We welcome only 6 guests on each safari and they may have any (or no) experience of sketching. We also welcome non-sketching friends and partners.
Enjoy the video and watch out for another video next week!
Alison

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

Elephants at Water IV

Sketch For Survival 2019

Its Sketch for Survival time!

And you can bid on my donated painting, sketched in watercolor from life at The Bush House in South Africa.  Here’s I am, slightly speeded up, painting the watercolor.

In case you’re wondering, I don’t have eyes as sharp as an eagle – the camera angle just makes the elephants and zebras look much further away than they really were! 

Bids on this painting start at $75 and all the money raised goes to Sketch For Survival’s 2019 conservation beneficiaries – Ape Alliance, Giraffe Conservation Foundation, Painted Dog Conservation and the Mariamma Charitable Trust.

Elephants at Water IV

Elephants at a waterhole, painted from life in South Africa

What is Sketch for Survival? It’s an annual exhibition and sale of wildlife art in aid of conservation. The art, donated by leading wildlife artists, illustrators, cartoonists, celebrities, explorers and photographers, comprises sketches, studio art, illustrations and cartoons depicting endangered wildlife. The exhibit will be shown in the UK in Bristol, Harrogate & Norwich before appearing at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Thursday 14 November. Special guests will include Ian Redmond OBE from Ape Alliance, renowned for his work with both Great Apes and Elephants, Dr Julian Fennessy from Giraffe Conservation Foundation, and representatives from Painted Dog Conservation in Zimbabwe. The online auction will finish on Sunday 17th November, 2019.

So go on, place a bid on my painting now and see all the other artwork too. And if you’re in the UK, visit one of the venues and see the artwork in person.
Take care,
Alison

Read more about Sketch for Survival and Explorers Against Extinction.

 

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.

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