The first time I sketched giraffes, I realized how strange they are, with protruding triangular chest bones and huge boney knees. When you see a giraffe close up, you see just weird their proportions are. And when you see a giraffe skull, you realize just how dangerous a giraffe fight can be – with 2 males using their heads as battering rams, trying to knock the opponent off their feet.
Giraffe acrylic on canvas 10×8″ by Alison Nicholls
So it is ironic that the giraffe is considered one of the most elegant of African animals. Until you see them gracefully arch their necks to browse from the top of a thorny bush; run in that slow-motion manner, covering astonishing amounts of ground in one stride; or just stand still with neck held in a beautiful curve. Then it is completely clear why the giraffe is considered so graceful.
As an artist, when I create a wash of simple, elegant color, I almost inevitably think of adding a giraffe to the scene. Which is how this painting came to be. I put it aside for a few days, wondering whether to add another giraffe to the piece. But I decided 1 simple, elegant giraffe was all that was required.
Towards Evening, watercolor on paper by Alison Nicholls
A Shady Spot, watercolor on paper 12×12″ by Alison Nicholls
Sun Spots, fluid acrylic on canvas 29×29″ by Alison Nicholls
I don’t work from an easel, I paint with my work flat on a desk. What this means is that I can’t get too far away from my work without moving it off the desk and standing it up. As a result, I found that I was often working close-up, which made my use of color weaker, and increased my use of detail. When my works were framed I felt I had to walk up close to really see them, when actually I wanted to be able to stand across the room and see them. I needed to be bolder. So over time I strengthened my colors and gradually background landscapes disappeared, as I removed everything that I felt was unnecessary in my compositions. Then I switched from watercolor on paper to fluid acrylic on watercolor canvas. Which is how I am painting now. I love the vivid colors, the lightweight canvas, the fact that I don’t have to stretch paper anymore before using it and the fact that I can frame without mats and glass. It took a long time but I think I found my medium!
Tomorrow I’ll show how my subject matter has progressed since I switched to fluid acrylic.