Tag Archives: South Africa

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

Elephant bull, photo by Nigel Nicholls

Oh No – I’m In An Elephant Sandwich!

On safari, its not generally a good sign when someone starts videoing your vehicle, because the chances are you are about to star in a viral YouTube video about a dangerous or scary incident. So when the people in a car in front of us turned around to video us and an elephant, I was not very happy!

Elephant Sandwich - the 1st Bull.

Elephant Sandwich – the 1st Bull. Photo by Nigel Nicholls ©2015

We were in Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa and instances of elephants using cars as scratching posts have been fairly common. In the notes on the park map it even says that if you come across a bull elephant walking down a road towards you ‘do not pull over & allow the elephant to pass’ as this may encourage the elephant to take an interest in your car.

One morning we came around a blind corner on a dirt road and found a big bull elephant munching calmly on a bush. After a couple of minutes he started walking down the road, away from us, so we gave him a good head start and slowly followed, as we were going in that direction. This continued for several minutes until a car appeared behind us. They seemed keen to see the elephant, so we let them pass us. They were sensible, not getting too close to the elephant, who was still ambling down the road.

Elephant Sandwich - the 1st Bull. Photo by Nigel Nicholls ©2015

Elephant Sandwich – the 1st Bull. Photo by Nigel Nicholls ©2015

After a few more minutes of our slow procession, my husband looked in the rear view mirror and saw a 2nd bull elephant behind us on the road, coming in our direction. So now there were 4 of us in the procession – in front was the 1st bull, next was the car that passed us, after that was our vehicle, and in the rear was the 2nd bull elephant. Unfortunately, the elephant behind us was moving faster than the 1 in front, so we were slowly being sandwiched together!  This continued for a few minutes and as the road contained many blind corners, we kept wondering if we were going to come around and find ourselves between the legs of the 1st elephant, if he decided to stop for another snack. Luckily for us, he didn’t.

The people in the car in front wondered why we were catching them up, until they saw the bull behind us. This was when they started videoing our vehicle, and I started imagining becoming famous online, for all the wrong reasons!

After a few nervous minutes, the elephant behind us disappeared off the road. Then we came to a junction and the 1st elephant took the other turn. With our elephant sandwich now broken apart, we decided to stop and have an early lunch!

Until next time…
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Browsing Giraffe Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2015

African Wildlife Sketch #5 – Browsing Giraffe

When I sketch giraffes I realize just how strangely they are put together. Whereas circles form the basis of most of my animal sketches, with giraffes there seem to be more triangles involved. Their necks look ridiculously thin from some angles, their knees and feet are huge when seen up close, they have an amazingly long tongue and big males often have faces covered in lumps. Somehow, despite all this, they manage to be one of the most elegant animals in the African bush!   

Browsing Giraffe Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2015

Browsing Giraffe Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2015

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 was sold yesterday, but Limited Edition Giclées are also available, priced at US$120 each. Only 10 copies are available, printed using archival inks on watercolor paper, 11×14″, 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 zebra in mopane scrub.
Until then…
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Art Safaris with Alison Nicholls

2015 Art Safari with Alison Nicholls Fully Booked

I’m pleased to report that the 2015 Art Safari I am leading for Africa Geographic in South Africa, is fully booked!

Art Safari © Alison Nicholls 2011

Sketching after lunch on the Africa Geographic Art Safari with Alison Nicholls.

Details for the 2016 Art Safari in South Africa will be available soon. You can also contact me, or Christian Boix at Africa Geographic, to arrange your own custom Art Safari, in a destination of your choice, for your own sketch group.

Art Safaris with Alison Nicholls

Sketching elephants on Art Safari with Alison Nicholls

I hope to see you on Art Safari in Africa soon!
Until then…
Alison

Read more about Art Safaris, including guest testimonials
Christian Boix: Africa Geographic.
Email: christian@africageographic.com Telephone: +27 (0)21 762 4974.

Alison Nicholls gives tuition during the 2013 Africa Geographic Art Safari in South Africa

Alison Nicholls gives tuition during the 2013 Africa Geographic Art Safari in South Africa

Recently Southern African Tourism Update asked me to comment upon Art Safaris in Africa and my views on the advantages of such trips. You can read the article below, but I think the photo above sums it up perfectly. What could be better than coming home with your own completely unique sketchbook from your travels?!

Read the article here.

Read more about my Africa Geographic Art Safaris.

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

Penguins Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Penguins Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Penguins really need little description. On land they are amusing. In water they are astonishing.

Here are some African (Jackass) Penguins I sketched at Boulders Beach in South Africa. There are no underwater sketches to show how astonishing they are!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Lion Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2013

Lion Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2013

Here is a very simple field sketch I created in Kruger National Park, South Africa, last September. This male lion was mating and as a result was following every move of the lioness he was with. But he had an injured front paw and seemed torn between mating and resting his leg. He looked exhausted, but every time the lioness got up and moved, he followed. I have a feeling that when they finished mating, he was planning on a very long sleep to rest his injured paw!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Goodbye and Thank You Madiba!  nehandaradio.com newsone.com

As you get older you experience the death of too many people. Famous and not so famous people. But, by anybody’s standards, the passing of Nelson Mandela, Madiba as he was often known, was a very sad day indeed. We all knew it had to come. We were waiting. But still it was a shock. South Africa, Africa and the World lost a great man. Let us hope that his memory and his example live on.

(Images, from top, from Wikipedia, nehandaradio.com and newsone.com)

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation

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From The Rocks by Alison Nicholls

From The Rocks 30×20″ acrylic by Alison Nicholls

If you go on safari to Africa and visit well-known game reserves or national parks, there is a very, very good chance you will see lions. In fact you may even see plentiful lions. This was the case on the last Art Safari I lead for Africa Geographic magazine in Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa. I believe we saw 30 different individuals in 4 days. I came away with an inordinate number of lion sketches. By the end of the safari we were actively searching for zebra because we hadn’t sketched those!

It is wonderful to see so many lions but it also gives many visitors the false impression that lions are numerous and there is no need to worry about their conservation. (Incidentally, there are many other aspects of a typical safari that can give visitors a very, very skewed idea of what real life in Africa is like, but that is for another blog post!)

Lion numbers (like those of many other African species) have declined precipitously across most of their range, particularly outside protected areas, even though many of these unprotected areas are vitally important for hunting, breeding and dispersal.

A century ago there were approximately 200,000 lions in Africa. Today there are less than 30,000.

There are now only 7 countries in Africa which have a population of more than 1000 lions.

Many of the lions I sketch are snoozing but we can’t fall asleep on our watch. We need to ensure that people and wildlife can successfully share the land they need in order to thrive. Its a huge task but there are some wonderful organizations working in the field towards this end. I have spent time with one of them – the African People & Wildlife Fund in northern Tanzania. Their Living Walls program protects livestock (from predators), habitat (from deforestation) and lions (from conflict with people). If you are looking for a worthwhile organization to donate to, you might want to check out their website!

Read more about the African People & Wildlife Fund.

From The Rocks (above) is available for sale as an original or as a limited edition reproduction. A percentage from each sale will be donated to the African People & Wildlife Fund. Please visit my Original Paintings website page for details.
Until next time…

Alison

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

Lion Field Sketch Video by Artist Alison Nicholls

It is difficult to video myself sketching because I use very pale pencil lines which don’t show up well on video, and often I’m sitting in a vehicle with very little space. As a result this video doesn’t show the creation of the pencil sketch, from Kruger National Park, South Africa, while I watching a mating pair of lions. Instead, the video shows how I added watercolor to the sketch the following day, back at camp. Even then, because I paint on a flat surface, not using an easel, camera angles are quite a challenge and I ended up painting this between the legs of the tripod holding the video camera! Although I added the watercolor the next day, I want this to be a legitimate field sketch so I never use photo or video reference when completing the field sketch. Instead I chose colors based on my memories of the scene or to depict a mood. You can hear the birds and tree squirrels in the background of my video. They kept me company while I painted!

The original of Powernap was the prize in a contest I recently held for my newsletter subscribers but limited edition reproductions are available. Please visit my Field Sketches website page for details.

Free Shipping within the lower 48 states of the United States until the end of 2013!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
A donation is made towards conservation in Africa from every sale.
Visit my Website
Join my Mailing List
Find me on Facebook
Nicholls Wildlife Art