Tag Archives: elephant

Rock art in Savute Botswana

Learn from the Masters

If your goal is sketching wildlife and you want to learn from the masters, you could do far worse than look at rock art by the San (Khoi-San or bushmen). With a few simple lines they catch the essence of an animal, so you immediately know it. And through their lifestyle as hunter-gatherers they are unparalleled in their knowledge of the animals they depicted in their rock art.

Rock art in Savute Botswana

Rock art in Savute, Botswana

Over the years I’ve seen rock art in many locations in southern Africa including Matopos (Zimbabwe), the Tsodilo Hills (Botswana) and Twyfelfontein (Namibia). Most of the paintings are not in caves but are on the underside of overhanging rocks, while many of the petroglyphs (images chipped into the rock surface) are on fully exposed rocks.

How I start an elephant sketch by Alison Nicholls

How I start an elephant sketch by Alison Nicholls

Last year I was in Savute, Botswana, and revisited a rock art panel on one of the small hills in the area. I sketched the 3 main animals – an eland, elephant, and sable antelope. A few months later I was creating a video for my Art Safari guests, showing how I start my sketches of elephants. I remembered the elephant painting in Savute and realized the 2 main shapes I start my sketches with (a large block for the body and a smaller block for the head) are the same as the main shapes for the elephant in the Savute painting.
Maybe the rock art I’ve seen has influenced me more than I knew!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Twyfelfontein Namibia

Petroglyphs, Twyfelfontein, Namibia

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.

Ellies in Ink by Alison Nicholls

Sketching Strong Shadows

Mid-afternoon in Khwai, the hottest part of the day, and I’m sketching strong shadows. We’re sitting by the beautiful ribbon of water that winds gracefully through the grasses and off into the distance. A Nile crocodile lies on the bank with its mouth open, and elephants drink in the river. The light is harsh and the strong shadows made me decide to sketch with the marker tip of my pen, putting only the shadows down on the paper. It doesn’t work with every animal, but for the crocodile and the elephants it was perfect.

Crocodile in ink by Alison Nicholls

Ellies in Ink by Alison Nicholls

Next I tried some hippos, a goliath heron and an African buffalo.

Hippo, Heron and Buffalo by Alison Nicholls

I was really enjoying this, so of course the sun went down and daylight was vanquished by the shadows. But next time I think the light is too harsh for good sketching I’ll have a great way of handling it!
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

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 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

Elephants in Brown by Alison Nicholls

Endangered Species Day Donations

Today is Endangered Species Day.  This is not a day we should need on our calendars, but unfortunately it comes around every year, with more and more species falling into the ‘endangered’ bracket.

Restful Field Sketch © Alison Nicholls

Restful Field Sketch – 8×10″ original watercolor on paper, unframed, US$200. A donation of US$70 will be made to Cheetah Conservation Botswana from this sale.

 

We hear about the plight of charismatic species like lions, cheetahs and painted dogs, but habitat loss, the bushmeat trade, the pet trade and human-wildlife conflict are pushing a huge percentage of our Earth’s species towards ‘endangered’ status. It is downright depressing.

Lioness and Cubs Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2016

Lioness & Cubs Field Sketch – 11×14″ original watercolor on paper, unframed, US$300. A donation of US$105 will be made to African People & Wildlife in Tanzania from this sale.

So what can we do?
A lot.

Dog Pack Field Sketch © Alison Nicholls 2015

Painted Dogs in the Morning Field Sketch – 11×14″ original watercolor on paper, unframed, US$300. A donation of US$105 will be made to Painted Dog Research Trust in Zimbabwe from this sale.

Get involved, particularly in your own local area. Make sure your local politicians know how important the environment is to you. Stand against destructive development projects and stand up for sustainable long-term solutions. Protect invaluable wetlands, forests, plains and wild places, not just because they are beautiful and provide necessary habitat for numerous species, but because they provide us with recreation and employment opportunities, and because they are essential to our own well-being.

Elephants in Brown Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2016

Elephants in Brown Field Sketch – 11×14″ original watercolor on paper, unframed, US$300. A donation of US$105 will be made to African People & Wildlife in Tanzania from this sale.

It is not eliteist to stand up for our stunning planet and its inhabitants. It is absolutely necessary.

Cheetah Trio Field Sketch © Alison Nicholls

Cheetah Trio Field Sketch – 11×14″ limited edition reproduction, printed on watercolor paper, unframed, 25 copies only, US$120 each. A donation of US$36 will be made to Cheetah Conservation Botswana from this sale.

And if donating to African conservation organizations is important to you, you can take a look at some of my work and know that for today, and throughout the weekend, I will be making large donations from any sale. I will also be offering free shipping within the continental US and half-price shipping elsewhere in the world.
Lets make Endangered Species Day unnecessary.
Thank you.
Alison

Alison Nicholls
alison@artinspiredbyafrica.com

Elephants Browsing in the Bush, watercolor Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2016

New Elephant Field Work by Alison Nicholls

Yesterday I got back from my latest trip to South Africa and Botswana, where I had a number of great elephant sightings. One memorable morning included a herd of 40 elephants who spent time carefully touching and smelling the bones of a dead elephant cow (more about that coming soon).

Elephants Browsing in the Bush, watercolor Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2016

Elephants Browsing in the Bush, watercolor field work by Alison Nicholls ©2016

This new sketch shows a more muted palette of colors than usual, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I decided to use more grays, usually mixed from 3 primary colors. This piece started with a Naples yellow wash, which can still be seen on the elephants, so I mixed the background gray from the same yellow plus alizarin crimson and ultramarine blue. (I never use black and white to make gray. In fact I never use black at all and just removed it from my field box. I use white occasionally, usually with cerulean blue to get a subtle sky blue.)

Using the gray to paint the negative shapes around the elephant made them really stand out, and I finished off the piece with same mixture but with more crimson added to create a lovely subtle brown. I used my rigger brush to pull some of this brown out in the foreground as sticks, and also used it to emphasize some of the features on the main elephant. 

I think another reason for my muted palette is the severe drought which has affected most of southern Africa, leaving bare, parched earth devoid of vegetation. Many grazers and browsers are struggling from lack of food, and their poor condition leads to fairly easy pickings for many predators. Elephants are able to strip trees of their bark, dig up tree roots and even eat unpalatable-looking sticks and thorns, but their search for food can be hugely destructive.

I hope this year’s rains will be slow, steady and long lasting, so the vegetation can recover. On my next visit I hope to be painting with more greens – which also look great with grays and yellows.

Until next time…enjoy the elephants.
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Sketching in Africa!

During my sketching trip to Botswana and South Africa I will be trying out some new painting surfaces, although I’ll still be using my trusty watercolor sketchbooks by Holbein. (Yes, the 14×11″ size sketchbook with the incredibly catchy and colorful name: Multi-Drawing Book 5F. I suppose the workhorse-like name and plain cover might help prevent me from spiraling dizzily out of control as I happily sketch my way through the African bush!)

Alison Nicholls art kit

Anyway…back to the new surfaces…one of which is Claybord (made by Ampersand). It is described as the ultimate multimedia panel, with an ultra smooth clay surface that is very absorbent. As you might guess from the name, you can scrape through a painted area to expose the bright white ultra-smooth clay surface. Now this goes against everything I have ever done (as a watercolorist you learn to retain the whites in your paintings rather than add them at the end) so I’m not sure scraping will feature heavily in my use of Claybord, but we’ll see. I am taking half a dozen 5×7” panels. If they were lightweight, I would take larger sizes, but they’re not, so the smaller panels will have to do for now. The surface is bright white and almost texture-free. It is good for detail but won’t hold washes. But pencil and pen will look wonderful on it so maybe I’ll try those. My usual extremely pale sketches are very difficult to photograph in the bush, which is why I hardly ever show you the progression of my sketches. So I’ve been thinking that a softer pencil might be the answer. Maybe Claybord can be part of the answer too.

The pieces of square handmade paper are my next experiment. Although they look like watercolor paper, they act a little too much like blotting paper when a wash is added, soaking up the color and showing all the brushmarks, so once again I think simple lines might be the answer. I’ve had these pieces of paper so long I can’t remember anything about them, except that I got them at New York Central Art Supply, a fantastic art store in New York City, which, sadly, will soon be closing. Like Doctor Who’s tardis, it is tiny from the outside but seems to miraculously hold everything I ever need. It is such a shame it will soon be gone.

Elephant sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2015

Elephant watercolor sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2015

Speaking of simple lines, I’m also going to be doing more sketches directly in watercolor, like this one from the 2015 Africa Geographic Art Safari. I used a rigger brush for these, and was painting while it was raining, which is why this looks such a mess. (Bookings are now open for my 2017 Art Safari on the edge of Kruger National Park in South Africa.)

So watch out for my latest exploits and sketches from Africa – coming soon!
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Bull Drinking © Alison Nicholls 2015

African Wildlife Sketch #12 – Bull Elephant Drinking (Sold) by Alison Nicholls

From behind, an elephant can appear to be just a very large, fairly indistinct, object because most of the details – trunk, ears, tusks etc – are at the front end of the elephant. To indicate that this is a sketch of a bull elephant, I needed to include just a glimpse of the trunk, tusk and ears, but this was a difficult angle to sketch, because the elephant constantly lowered and raised his trunk to drink. As I began the sketch I was hoping he was planning to drink for at least a couple of minutes, so I could finish the sketch. Luckily for me, he obliged. I used the bold color scheme to emphasize the bulk of the bull elephant by first painting around him, then adding touches of color on the elephant to highlight the important details of his tail, spine, trunk and tusk. I think the combination was very successful!    

Bull Drinking © Alison Nicholls 2015

Bull Drinking field sketch (Sold) by Alison Nicholls

All my field sketches, are created in Africa directly from life, or sketched back at camp purely from my memory of sightings. They are completely finished in Africa and I use no photos or video reference at any time in their creation. It is always tempting to add finishing touches back in the studio, but I avoid this to ensure that my field sketches really are field sketches. 

This Original Field Sketch is Sold, but Limited Edition Giclées are also available, priced at US$120 each. Only 10 copies are available, printed using archival inks on watercolor paper, 14×11″, all signed and numbered by me.

A donation will be made to African conservation from every sale.

Until Nov 22, I will be sharing 1 of my new African field sketches every day. The new sketches are shown to my newsletter readers a full day before they are shown here. Click here to Join my Mailing List and see the sketches as soon as they are released, or see them here 1 day later.

Wherever and whenever you see them, I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed creating them.
Tomorrow’s sketch is of a 2 cheetahs preparing for a hunt..
Until then…
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

African Field Sketches by Alison Nicholls ©2015

Want To See My New African Field Sketches?

All my new field sketches have now been scanned and I am ready to show them to you! 

I will be releasing them on my blog and on social media, one every day, for 3 weeks, starting on November 2nd.
Why November 2nd?
Because before I put them online here, I will be showing them to my newsletter readers – starting on November 1st. So they get to see them a day in advance.

If you also want to see them on the day they are released, use this link to Join My Mailing List. Or, you can wait to see them here. But some of them may be sold by the time they are posted here…

African Field Sketches by Alison Nicholls ©2015

African Field Sketches by Alison Nicholls ©2015

Shown above is a montage of a few of the new pieces you will soon see in detail. All my field sketches, are created in Africa directly from life, or sketched back at camp purely from my memory of sightings. They are completely finished in Africa and I use no photos or video reference at any time in their creation. It is always tempting to add finishing touches back in the studio, but I avoid this to ensure that my field sketches really are field sketches. 

Remember, if you want to see them on the day they are released, you can Join My Mailing List. Or, you can wait to see them here, a day later. Wherever and whenever you see them, I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed creating them!

Until November 1st…(or 2nd)!
Take care
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Alison Nicholls sketching in Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Artist + Elephant = Magic!

As an artist who sketches African wildlife in the field, it can be difficult to get this kind of photo. If I’m on my own, I never manage to get these kinds of photos. So its wonderful to have a husband who takes these kinds of photos for me – often without my knowledge!

Alison Nicholls sketching in Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

Alison Nicholls sketching in Mana Pools, Zimbabwe. Photo by Nigel Nicholls.

I can never have too many photos of me sketching elephants. Thank you, Nigel!

Until next time…
Take care
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Elephant Delta, acrylic on canvas 7x5" by Alison Nicholls

Elephants – A Perfect Way To End The Week!

This small 5×7″ acrylic has a Friday evening feel to it… so I thought it would be a perfect way to end the week.

Elephant Delta by Alison Nicholls, acrylic on canvas 5x7"

Elephant Delta by Alison Nicholls, acrylic on canvas 5×7″

It would also make a perfect gift, so contact me if you’d like to know the perfectly reasonable price tag!
Have a great weekend.
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

5pm acrylic on canvas 11x14 by Alison Nicholls

5pm acrylic on canvas 11×14 by Alison Nicholls

Many of my paintings make use of effects of light, but I rarely include the source (sun or moon) in my work. So 5pm, above, is a little different. I will definitely be adding the shimmering sun into more of my work as it allows me to leave the animal subjects a little less defined, something I always enjoy. Interestingly, the best way to paint a really bright sun is to leave it white and surround it with pale lemon yellow. I’m using Fredrix watercolor canvas, which is bright white, so the sun is just the natural color of the canvas.

The title of the piece comes from the time of day and the fact that in the dry season the sun retains its heat until the last possible moment.

Until next time
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Ivory by Alison Nicholls

Ivory by Alison Nicholls

Writing about painted images can be as difficult as writing about music. How do you convey one art form in another? As a reviewer I can see that this could be difficult, but as the artist who created the painting, it should be easier. Especially when you start your paintings by writing about them, as I often do. On occasions when an image has not already popped into my head, I start by noting what I want to accomplish with the painting, the mood I am aiming for, maybe even some color ideas, or the conservation message behind the art. For me, words and images are inextricably linked.

Here are some of the notes I wrote before starting Ivory, shown above:
A different view of an elephant. Still needs to show bulk, detail of skin. An interesting composition, with space an important element. Hold your breath as an elephant quietly but impressively saunters by. Limit detail to head and top of trunk. Fade detail towards bottom of trunk. Yellow ochre and blues?

Once the painting is complete, some of those initial notes may still be relevant, but generally the painting will have taken on a life of its own and gone well beyond the (always hand-written) notes. So once again I write about the painting, this time creating a label, to be displayed alongside the art in an exhibit:

Ivory
Original Acrylic on Board,  26×18”
In areas where elephants are relaxed around people & vehicles they will often walk very close. Then you really get to see the size and strength of the animal. It makes me hold my breath for a second. Unfortunately, this relaxed behavior is normally only found when elephants live in protected areas like national parks. In the Maasai Steppe elephants are far more likely to be wary of people due to poaching and incidents of human-wildlife conflict.

*****

So my question to you is, do you want to read about a painting as well as see it?
Does the text enhance or destroy the experience?

Let me know!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Nicholls Wildlife Art

I’m roaring ahead with plans for extra conservation donations for World Lion Day!
And I’m trumpeting my plans for World Elephant Day on August 12!

So here is my plan..
from August 8 until the end of August 12, if you purchase any painting, field sketch or limited edition reproduction of a Lion (or Lioness) or Elephant, I will donate 40% of the sale price to African Conservation organizations.

The donation will go to either the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW) in Tanzania or the Painted Dog Research Trust in Zimbabwe, depending on the artwork and where my inspiration for the piece came from.

Just to give you some ideas, here are a few pieces you might like…

Young Male Lion, original field sketch 11x14"

Young Male Lion, Original and limited edition available

 

From the Rocks by Alison Nicholls

From the Rocks. Original and limited edition available.

Hide of an Elephant. by Alison Nicholls

Hide of an Elephant. Original and limited edition available.

Remember, 40% will be donated to African Conservation!

You can use these links to see Original Paintings, Field Sketches, and Limited Edition Reproductions.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Trunk calls accepted!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Ruaha Elephant by Nigel Nicholls © 2011

Ruaha Elephant by Nigel Nicholls © 2011

How tall is an elephant?

Well that depends.

This elephant bull realized he couldn’t reach what he wanted to eat, so he carefully looked around for a spot where the rocks were flat enough for him to stand on. Then he managed to grab a trunkful.

So how tall was this elephant when he was standing on the rock?

Just tall enough!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Alison-Nicholls in Tanzania

Alison Nicholls sketching in Tanzania

I recently joined the Creative Advisory Board of Pencils For Africa (PFA) and have just been interviewed by Chelsea, an 8th grader who is one of the Assistant Editors of the Pencils for Africa website. Here is her first question for me:

What was your early inspiration to become an artist?

And my answer:

When I was growing up I had no intention of being an artist. I enjoyed art but did not study it at school beyond the age of 13. Being an ‘army brat’ and having traveled widely at a young age, I was interested in international relations and history and these are the subjects I studied for my degree in the United Kingdom. It was when I moved to Zimbabwe in 1994 with my husband, that my interest in art was rekindled by the people, places & wildlife I saw around me. We moved to neighboring Botswana in 1996 and by the time we left Africa in 2002, I was well on the road to painting full-time.

Further on in the interview I explain why I use vibrant colors, how I would describe Botswana in one word and what has been my most interesting experience in Africa (a clue: it involves an elephant calf and a rope!).

Read the rest of the interview here.

Learn more about Pencils For Africa.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Elephant!, acrylic 20x30" by Alison Nicholls

Elephant!, acrylic 20×30″ by Alison Nicholls

Elephant!

Acrylic 20×30” by Alison Nicholls

Elephants provoke strong opinions. Tourists want to see them on safari and usually encounter calm, relaxed elephants in protected national parks, viewing them from the relative safety of a vehicle. However, rural-dwelling Africans are more likely to encounter elephants on foot, outside protected areas, in places and situations where elephants are more wary of, or aggressive towards, people. Children who have to pass elephant herds on their walk to school, or families whose crops are trampled and eaten by hungry elephants may feel fear and distrust rather than admiration and wonder when they see elephants.

Elephant! resulted from a conversation I had with Maasai men in Tanzania, while I visited the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW) for my 2nd Conservation Sketching Expedition. The men looked through my sketchbook, seeing sketches of people, cattle and homesteads, but their first question to me was ‘are you afraid of elephants?’. The question made me think more about their encounters with elephants and resulted in this painting, which illustrates two contrasting views. The large head on the left of center is an elephant cow, painted in a relaxed pose, with her long, gently curved trunk leading to smaller images of the herd and a safari vehicle containing tourists. The washes of color used on this side of the painting have soft edges and there is a circular flow, down the elephant’s trunk, around the herd and towards the vehicle. In contrast the large elephant head on the right is an agitated bull. His ears are raised and his trunk curled, while his upturned tusks point towards 2 more bulls in similar poses, and a man attempting to keep the elephants away from his maize crop and home. On this side of the painting there are stronger reds and hard-edged washes, while the smaller elephants are angular and facing opposite directions.

Many of Africa’s elephants live or spend time outside protected reserves, alongside a growing human population, and as competition increases between people and wildlife over access to natural resources, human-wildlife conflict increases too. It is African people who will ultimately decide the fate of Africa’s wildlife and determine whether to accept the hazards of living beside Earth’s largest land mammal, so finding solutions that allow people & wildlife to share natural resources amicably is a high priority. Part of APW’s mission statement is to “support the collective management of natural resources for the mutual benefit of people and wildlife” and with the majority of their staff being residents of the local area, they are well placed to assist the community with plans to alleviate poverty, conserve biodiversity and reduce human-wildlife conflict – outcomes which will benefit both people and elephants.

The original acrylic painting of Elephant! is available for sale, priced at US$3200. If it is sold privately I will donate 30% of the sale price to APW. If it sells during an exhibition where the venue collects a commission (usually between 10-40%), APW will still receive a minimum of 10%. Limited edition giclées are also available with a 20% donation to APW from the sale of each piece.

Learn more about the African People & Wildlife Fund.

See my Field Sketches from Tanzania.

Until next time…

Alison

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

Elephants Avoid Busy Nights at the Local Bar - an Update on Wildlife Corridors in Northern Botswana

I recently posted about Wildlife Corridors being set up in and around Kasane, a town in northern Botswana. The corridors give animals like elephants and buffalo places to cross the road in order to reach the Chobe river, and have been set up by Elephants Without Borders. Tempe Adams, a PhD candidate, has been using camera traps to monitor the use of the corridors by wildlife and found some amazing results.

“It’s amazing,” she says. “There’s a bar at each of the corridors they have to pass by. I was looking at the results and I could suddenly see there’s this big drop in wildlife coming through on Friday and Saturday nights. I thought what’s going on? It’s so obvious … animals are adapting to our habits — and our drinking habits,” adds Adams.

We know elephants are smart but sometimes we have to reminded of just how smart they are!

You can read the whole article here on CNN’s Inside Africa page.

Learn more about Elephants Without Borders.

Until next time…

Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Elephants near Kasane, Botswana (photo by Alison Nicholls)

Elephants near Kasane, Botswana (photo by Alison Nicholls)

In some parts of Africa towns happen to sit on or beside routes used by wildlife, and the town of Kasane in northern Botswana is an example I know well. Kasane sits on the banks of the Chobe river and many species, including elephants, not only drink from the river but also cross it on a regular basis. This might be a novel sight for tourists, but it can be a nuisance and a danger to local people, leading to human-wildlife conflict.

Elephants Without Borders have set up ‘urban corridors’ and have found that animals are using them on a regular basis, thereby reducing the potential for conflict with people.

You can see photos of elephants using the corridors and  read more about this innovative idea here on the National Geographic website.

Elephants outside Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe (photo by Alison Nicholls)

Elephants outside Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe (photo by Alison Nicholls)

Learn more about Elephants Without Borders

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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What Do Elephants Do All Day? Interactive Map of GPS Collared Elephants in Kenya.

We know so much about elephants from years of research in so many countries. One of the many things we know is just how smart they are. But the advent of new technology, like GPS tracking collars, allows research to be seen in a new light. Take this very interesting interactive map showing the movements of 5 bull elephants in Laikipia County, central Kenya. The map was created by Wildermaps for Space for Giants. Click on the map to see the movements of the bull elephants over a 24 hour period and you’ll notice that they spend the daylight hours in the relative safety of protected areas then at night they move out into the ‘unsafe’ zones occupied by subsistence pastoralists. At dawn they return to the safe areas again.

We may view this as very smart behavior. I’m sure that many of the subsistence pastoralists who have to deal with their night-time incursions into their fields are less enthusiastic about ‘smart’ elephants (incidentally, this is the subject of my next painting, which will be revealed here fairly soon). But there is no doubt that seeing this data as an interactive map helps illustrate the behavior and will hopefully help in the creation of policy and actions on the ground which can help people and elephants share the land, thereby ensuring the survival of Africa’s giants.

Learn more about Space for Giants.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa.
A donation is made towards conservation in Africa from every sale.
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A Beautiful African Elephant Photo and Why I Won't be Painting It - by Artist Alison Nicholls

Elephant, Botswana photo by Nigel Nicholls

My husband Nigel was going through his photos from our recent Africa trip. I saw this one he took in Botswana and immediately voted it one of his best shots! Maybe because this photo follows many of the same principles I use in my paintings. It has the same calm, tranquil atmosphere showing an undisturbed animal with a peaceful expression. It has the same limited palette of color I often use too. And I just love the detail of the intricate shadows. In short – its beautiful.

So will I be painting this? Absolutely not!

Because it is wonderful just as it is, as a photograph.

You see I remember when this was taken, as a herd of 50 or so elephants moved quickly through a dry dusty riverbed on their way to water. Elephants of both sexes and all ages passed both sides of our vehicle. They were moving fairly fast and coming straight at us, which gives limited sketching time, so I took some video footage (for a video I am making about my work). My favorite part of the video is not that the elephants are so close but that you can hear them walking. I’ll post the video footage on Friday so you can see what I mean.

Will I paint from the video footage? Absolutely not!

Because it is wonderful just as it is, as a video.

Instead my painting will come from my visual memories of that scene and from the small and very brief sketches I was able to do. Those will be my inspiration. I won’t capture the minute detail of shadows falling across an elephant’s forehead but I will hopefully capture what it meant, to me, to be surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of a moving herd of elephants.

Will I paint that? Absolutely!

Lets hope it is as wonderful as the photo and video!

Until next time…

Alison

Wildlife and Conservation Artist

A donation is made towards conservation in Africa from every sale.

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