Tag Archives: watercolor

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
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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

Creepers and Cheetahs Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

African Field Sketch #1 – Creepers and Cheetahs

Field Sketch #1: Creepers and Cheetahs was sketched on one of those rare occasions when I have time to sketch the animals and then add the background too. I was fortunate that the cheetahs had chosen such a beautiful place to rest, lying half way up a termite mound, with the lovely loops of the creepers (vines) behind. The black bird perched there is a fork-tailed drongo. The watercolor was added when I returned to camp, purely from memory, with no use of photos or video.

Creepers and Cheetahs Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Creepers and Cheetahs Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

The Original Field Sketch is watercolor & pencil on watercolor paper, 11×14″, priced at US$300. 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.

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. 

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

Over the next few weeks (Nov 1- 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.

Wherever and whenever you see them, I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed creating them!
Until tomorrow…
Take care
Alison
www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com

Alison Nicholls sketching a cheetah

Upstaged by a Cheetah!

On Sunday night I was sketching a live cheetah in Poughkeepsie, New York, at a benefit for the Cheetah Conservation Fund. The cheetah in question came from the Columbus Zoo in Ohio and is a hand-reared ‘ambassador’ cheetah, who is used to traveling (with her Labrador companion!) to events to help raise funds for the conservation of her wild counterparts.

Alison Nicholls sketching a cheetah

Alison Nicholls sketching an ambassador cheetah

Dr Laurie Marker, founder and Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund in Namibia, was the guest of honor. While Dr Marker was speaking about cheetah conservation in Namibia and around the world, the cheetah was doing all she could to upstage her, by purring unbelievably loudly. And while that was happening, I was sketching. Here I am, later in the evening, with Laurie and 1 of my sketches.

Artist Alison Nicholls with Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund

Artist Alison Nicholls and her sketch, with Laurie Marker of the Cheetah Conservation Fund

Cheetah watercolor sketch by Alison Nicholls

And here is the sketch.  Cheetah watercolor sketch by Alison Nicholls

Paola Bari had organized the event and on display were a number of artworks on ostrich eggs, including 1 by yours truly. It was a wonderful evening, although quite strange for me because less than a month ago I was sketching a pair of cheetah brothers in northern Botswana catching an impala!

Find out more about the Cheetah Conservation Fund.
See my Ostrich Egg Artwork.

Until next time…take care
Alison

www.ArtInspiredByAfrica.com

Leopard watercolor by Alison Nicholls

Leopard Watercolor by Alison Nicholls

It was my Dad’s Birthday recently and he asked me for a watercolor sketch. All the watercolor sketches you see on my website are ‘field sketches’, which means they are created in Africa, on site, without reference to photos or video. But what I was painting for my Dad was being done in the studio, so I decided to make his watercolor the basis for my next studio acrylic painting.

Initial pencil drawing for leopard watercolor by Alison Nicholls

Initial pencil drawing for leopard watercolor by Alison Nicholls

First I created a small pencil drawing (above).

Leopard watercolor by Alison Nicholls

Leopard watercolor by Alison Nicholls © 2015

Then I painted the 14×11″ watercolor (above). In my next post (Friday) I’ll explain how I use this watercolor as the basis for a 20×16″acrylic painting.

Happy Birthday Dad!

Until next time…
Alison

www.ArtInspiredbyAfrica.com
I make a donation to African conservation from every sale.

Tea by the Fire Field Sketch 11x14" © Alison Nicholls 2014

Sketching in the Dark in Tanzania by Alison Nicholls

Tea by the Fire Field Sketch 11x14" © Alison Nicholls 2014

Tea by the Fire Field Sketch 11×14″ © Alison Nicholls 2014

Tea by the Fire was possibly one of the most difficult sketches I’ve created, because I was sketching in near darkness. I had been invited into the home of a Maasai family to sketch, but when I got inside I couldn’t even see the chair I was offered, and I had no idea how many people were in the house, never mind whether they were men, women or children. I was doing pretty well with my KiMaasai greetings by this stage in my trip, so I was hoping to be able to say the correct greetings to the various members of the family according to their gender and age, but it is very difficult to greet people when you don’t know who they are or even where they are!

My eyes took a couple of minutes to adjust and then I could see 2 women and 2 children by the fire. There was a small opening high up on the wall which let the smoke out and a little light in. There were pots on the fire and soon we each had a lovely cup of hot milky tea. Gradually I was able to start putting pencil to paper and by the time I finished sketching, I could see the family and the contents of the house quite well. I wanted the sketch to show the darkness of the house and the tiny slivers of light from the window.

As I sketched, I was thinking about this amazing opportunity and how removed I felt from my normal life. I like to avoid the use of technology as much as possible during my travels in Africa. Its a kind of escape for me. But every now and again I would be reminded that technology reaches most places these days – a cellphone screen would briefly flood the house with a cold blinding light as one of the family members received an incoming call or text!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Watering the Cattle, field sketch 11x14" by Alison Nicholls

Watering the Cattle, Tanzania Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Watering the Cattle, field sketch 11x14" by Alison Nicholls

Watering the Cattle, watercolor field sketch 11×14″ by Alison Nicholls

“Cattle drank in lines at the trough then ambled away to graze; Maasai men leant against their sticks in the shade of the trees; donkeys, often fully loaded with water, stopped for a drink before heading home (often with no owner in sight); men flew past on bicycles down to the stream, filled their water containers then slowly pushed their bicycles back up the hill; children herded goats and sheep and stopped to stare (if they were brave they would come to see my sketch then talk and laugh as they left); whistles, shouts and cow bellows floated out across the karongo (stream).”   An excerpt from my Journal, June 11 2014, during my latest visit to the African People & Wildlife Fund in Tanzania.

See more of my African Field Sketches, all of which are available for sale with a donation to African conservation. I also have a number of Seasonal Offers available until the end of December.
Learn more about the African People & Wildlife Fund in Tanzania.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Art Inspired by Africa

Alison Nicholls with Charles Trout

Alison Nicholls at The Explorers Club with Charles Trout, Director of Programs at the African People & Wildlife Fund. Charles introduced Alison’s lecture: African Conservation through the Eyes of an Artist.

I recently gave a lecture, African Conservation through the Eyes of an Artist, at The Explorers Club in New York City. The lecture was very well attended and I was fortunate to be introduced by Charles Trout, Director of Programs for the African People & Wildlife Fund in Tanzania. Charles gave a wonderful introduction, speaking about my visits to APW and the effect my art has had on APW’s educational programs and work with the local community.
Explorers Club Alison Nicholls lectureExplorers Club Alison Nicholls lecture
Here are a few images of the pre-lecture reception. It was a lovely evening so we were able to make use of both the library and the outdoor terrace. The lecture was also live-streamed on the club’s website and I was delighted to receive comments from those who also watched it online. The recording of the lecture will soon be available online and I will include a link to that very soon.

Explorers Club Alison Nicholls lecture

Alison Nicholls with her parents, Margaret & Rob Cross, at The Explorers Club

The evening was made even more special by the fact that my parents, who live in the UK, were visiting and were able to attend. All in all it was a great experience and I hope that I can continue to use my art to raise awareness and funds for some of the great conservation organizations doing such valuable and inspiring work across Africa.
Explorers Club Alison Nicholls lecture
Until next time…
Alison

Learn more about The Explorers Club.
Learn more about the African People & Wildlife Fund.

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Sydney Opera House from Farm Cove, watercolor 11x14" by Alison Nicholls

Sydney Opera House from Farm Cove, watercolor 11×14″ by Alison Nicholls

Every now and again I need a complete break from painting my usual African subject matter, and my recent trip to Australia provided exactly that. So here is my watercolor of the Sydney Opera House, painted while I sat in glorious winter sunshine, looking out at Sydney Harbor from Farm Cove, with cockatoos flying overhead!

It is a beautiful building both inside and out. My husband works for Arup, the engineering company who worked with architect Jorn Utzon to create this iconic structure, so he particularly enjoyed the tour we took inside the opera house. I know there are many ideas about the inspiration for the shape of the opera house and perhaps the best known is that of ‘sails’, mirroring the many yachts found in the harbor. But when I took these photos below, from out on the water, you know what they reminded me of?

Sydney Opera House photos by A Nicholls

Sydney Opera House photos by A Nicholls

The Eyes of a Crocodile!

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

My body of African conservation-themed art is steadily growing, and you can see and hear about it by joining me at The Explorers Club for my upcoming lecture. I’ll be showing a newly completed piece based on the Living Walls being used by the African People & Wildlife Fund in Tanzania, along with art featuring human-elephant conflict, East African pastoralists, and African wild dogs in Zimbabwe. I will talk about how I take a conservation or research issue and turn it into a completed painting, then how I use the paintings to raise awareness of the issues and money for conservation organizations.

So come and be part of the Conservation Conversation!

The Explorers Club
September 29. Reception 6pm. Lecture 7pm.
Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling 212 628 8383.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Painting in my Sleep

Some essential supplies required for painting in your sleep.

Whenever I am really struggling to get to sleep at night, there is one thing that usually manages to send me off to the land of nod – thinking about painting. That might sound weird. After all, as an artist, shouldn’t painting be the thing that keeps me up at night? Shouldn’t new ideas be straining to get out? Shouldn’t I feel the need to leap from my bed and get those ideas down on canvas while they are still fresh in my mind? As it turns out, this is not how I work. If I leapt from bed to paint, those ideas would probably be gone faster than a bar of Lindt chocolate left in our fridge.

I find the half-awake, half-asleep hours the best for painting ideas. I can think of a specific animal, lets say a giraffe, and a color scheme, lets say pink, then I see how they could come together. Its difficult to actually describe how this works because I’m only half-awake, but quite frequently I have one of those aha moments (actually more like a…h…a… because I’m half asleep). Recently I came up with a great idea for my next giraffe painting this way.

I’ll give you a heads-up when the painting is finished, although you may instantly recognize it. Afterall, just how many pink giraffes do you see on a daily basis?

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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Sleeping Elephant by Cross Culture Images © 2014

Sleeping Elephant by Cross Culture Images © 2014

I grew up in a military family so I’m used to change and regular moves between countries and continents. Some people hate the idea of this, but it’s perfectly normal if that is the way you grew up, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. So I guess it wasn’t a big surprise to my family when I announced that my husband Nigel and I were leaving the UK to move to Africa. It also wasn’t a surprise to us when my parents planned to visit us there. Several times in fact! So far we have traveled together in Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Namibia, creating some more interesting and often amusing travel memories to add to the family album.

Are you wondering why there is a photo of a sleeping elephant above and an injured zebra below? Read on…

Injured Zebra by Cross Culture Images © 2014

Injured Zebra by Cross Culture Images © 2014

When, after about 9 years, Nigel and I decided to leave Africa, I remember someone in the UK commenting that my parents must be happy we were heading back to the ‘developed’ world. I remember saying ‘ no, they actually wish we were staying longer, because there are so many places they still want to see in Africa!’. But not to fear. Our departure from the African continent hasn’t hindered their travels there too much! Since we left they’ve visited 4 times on their own, most recently returning from Zambia (somewhere I’m ashamed to admit I have not yet visited). These are a few photographs from their recent visit. Their photograph titles are shown below the images but I think these images could be called Glad to Rest (snoozing bull elephant), Glad to be Alive (injured zebra) and Glad to be a Giraffe!

Giraffe Dance by Cross Culture Images © 2014

Giraffe Dance by Cross Culture Images © 2014

My parents are Margaret & Rob Cross, who live in the UK.
You can see more of their photographs from around the world (including various African countries, Nepal, France, and the UK) on their website: CrossCulture Images.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Family Diabetes Day at the Bronx Zoo with The Children's Hospital at Montefiore

Family Diabetes Day at the Bronx Zoo with The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore

I was delighted to join the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore for their Family Diabetes Day at the Bronx Zoo last week.
The weather was not particularly kind, with thunderstorms threatening, so we sketched indoors. Even so, it was great fun and the children had created a large pile of great sketches by the time the morning ended.

Thank you to Dr Rubina Heptulla for the invitation, to Jeniece Trast for all her help and to the friendly families and children who attended. I look forward to meeting more enthusiastic young artists next year!

IMAG0449

Learn more about the great work of The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Women receiving Micro Grants from APW in Tanzania   photo by African People & Wildlife Fund/Deirdre Leowinata

Women receiving Micro Grants from APW in Tanzania (photo by African People & Wildlife Fund/Deirdre Leowinata)

I live in Westchester County, near New York City. It is classic commuter belt territory, where there are many families with children. So when I meet someone new, the question “do you have children?” often comes up. When I answer “no, just a dog” the conversation usually comes to an end. People are too polite to ask why I have no children, perhaps thinking it wasn’t possible for me to have any, so I often say “I chose not to have children”, just so they don’t feel uncomfortable.

In rural Tanzania (and most rural parts of Africa) a related but slightly different question comes up: “how many children do you have?”. My answer is also slightly different. I just say “none” and smile broadly because I know that the next question will be “why not?”, accompanied by a horrified expression. When I say I chose not to have children I get exactly the same response again, “why not”, still accompanied by a horrified expression. Then I have to explain how different my life is and, frequently, the women I am speaking to will offer to give me a child. I’m never quite sure how serious they are but I’ve noticed that they always offer me a young girl, never a boy, because boys are considered more valuable (that is whole other blog post in its own right). We all laugh but I know that they now have serious questions about my sanity!

Anna Flam, an intern at the African People & Wildlife Fund was with me during one of these conversations, and she has written a great post for APW about this issue and about an inspirational Maasai woman, Joyce, APW’s Conservation Enterprise Development Officer. You can read the full post here and see why I describe Joyce as inspirational:

Noloholo Environmental Micro Grants – Empowering Women for Big Cat Conservation

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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I know a magical place…

Where the dry thirstland of the Kalahari Desert…

Okavango Delta photo by Alison Nicholls

photo by Alison Nicholls

Meets the spreading waters of the Okavango River…

Here lies the Okavango Delta – the World’s 1000th World Heritage Site!

photo by Nigel Nicholls

photo by Nigel Nicholls

There are 1000 reasons to visit…

Here are a few of mine…

Okavango Delta, Botswana, photo by Nigel Nicholls

Walking among the wildlife. Photo by Nigel Nicholls

Okavango Delta, Botswana, photo by Nigel Nicholls

A birder’s paradise! Photo by Nigel Nicholls

Okavango Delta, Botswana,photo by Nigel Nicholls

Amazing sunsets. Photo by Nigel Nicholls

Okavango Delta, Botswana,photo by Nigel Nicholls

Floating flowers… Photo by Nigel Nicholls

Okavango Delta, Botswana,photo by Nigel Nicholls

Mokoro trips. Photo by Nigel Nicholls

Okavango Delta, Botswana,photo by Nigel Nicholls

Did I say amazing sunsets?! Photo by Nigel Nicholls

Okavango Delta, Botswana, photo by Nigel Nicholls

Herds in the dust. Photo by Nigel Nicholls

Alison Nicholls sketching in Botswana.  Photo by Nigel Nicholls

Great sketching! Photo by Nigel Nicholls

You can find the full article about the listing of the Okavango Delta on the IUCN website here:

But don’t just visit the website, visit the Okavango!

See my African Field Sketches, including some from the Okavango Delta.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Alison Nicholls sketching in Tanzania

Alison Nicholls sketching in Tanzania. Photo: African People & Wildlife Fund/Deirdre Leowinata

The Africa Geographic website is host to numerous fascinating blogs featuring photographs, articles, travel news, opinions and wildlife sightings from all over Africa. But there were no blogs associated with art, so I approached them with the idea of a new blog series called Art of Africa. I’ll be posting regularly to Art of Africa but don’t worry, I will continue to post unique content here as well.

Why don’t you check out my 1st Art of Africa post and leave me a comment – it will be much appreciated!

Art of Africa – Sketching Among the Maasai.

Take care and have a wonderful weekend!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Mother's Milk Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls © 2014

Mother’s Milk Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls © 2014

This sketch captures everything I enjoy about field sketching. People. Animals. Color and pattern. Speed. Simplicity.

You might be thinking that it doesn’t look all that simple, as it contains a woman, her child, a cow and a calf, plus the brightly colored, patterned shuka. But in reality, the sketch was very simple. The heads of the woman and her child are just simple shapes and I didn’t include the pattern on the shuka, just lines to show the main folds. The cow required more detail, just to get the perspective right and perhaps most importantly, to show that the woman’s head is leaning against the cow’s flank, highlighting the connection between them. Although the shuka covers the calabash the milk is being collected in, you can still tell what is happening here. I did many pencil sketches in quick succession on this morning, then added watercolor later that day (I don’t use photos or video to do this and I always finish my field sketches in the field, so that I can honestly say they were completed on site).

I am, as ever, grateful to the friendly people of Loibor Siret in Tanzania who allowed me the wonderful opportunity to sketch in their home. I am packing up copies of all the sketches I did that day to send to them. I am also grateful for the opportunity to stay with the African People & Wildlife Fund who are doing great work with communities on the Maasai Steppe of northern Tanzania.

Learn more about the valuable work of the African People & Wildlife Fund on the Maasai Steppe in Tanzania.

See more of my African Field Sketches.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Shimmer and Shukas Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Shimmer and Shukas Field Sketch by Alison Nicholls

Shimmer & Shukas was painted during a day-long Maasai ceremony in Loibor Siret, northern Tanzania. The women were dazzling in their vibrant shukas, covered with beaded necklaces, headbands, earrings, arm & ankle bracelets. As usual, I started my sketch with a very light pencil drawing and then, a couple of hours later, while the ceremony continued around me, I added the watercolor.

The ceremony itself was for a group of moran (warriors), who were embarking on the long process of becoming elders. The men had just finished drinking calabashes of milk and a slight halt was called in the proceedings while the cows headed out to pasture. I had asked permission to sketch and saw this group of women nearby, so I began. Their beaded jewelry is mostly white, with areas of blue & yellow, while small metal disks on thin chains hang from almost every piece – hence the “shimmer” in the title of the sketch. Painting white beads and shiny metal disks on white paper can be a challenge, so I didn’t paint them, instead I painted around them, using the colors of the dark skin and bright shukas to define the jewelry.

So why was I sketching in a Maasai engang (homestead) in Tanzania? Because I was revisiting the African People & Wildlife Fund (APW), an organization I have been supporting for several years now. APW has created numerous positive benefits for communities on the Maasai Steppe. Local children have the opportunity to attend an environmental summercamp and receive a scholarship for high school education. Human-wildlife conflict has been reduced by the innovative Living Walls program. Women’s groups can apply for grants to start a small business. The community has asked APW for, and received, data and environmental education, allowing them to make good long-term decisions about their land and water use. APW’s impact has been possible due to the creation of a permanent base in the area and their close links with local communities, who provide the vast majority of their staff.

Perhaps the most wonderful thing for me, was to be remembered by some of these friendly and welcoming people from my previous visits. They encouraged me to sketch and were always interested in seeing my work. I will be sending copies of my sketches back to APW so they can be given to all the people who were in them. Next week I’ll show you video of my work at the Loibor Siret school, but in the meantime I’d like to thank Dr Laly Lichtenfeld and Charles Trout for inviting me to return to Noloholo, and all the APW staff, particularly Joyce Ndakaru, for their help and support. Asanteni sana!

Learn more about the valuable work of the African People & Wildlife Fund on the Maasai Steppe in Tanzania.

See more of my African Field Sketches.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Nicholls Wildlife Art

What kind of injury could a Painted Dog possibly be safe from?
Here is a clue. Yes, this is my German Shepherd, who is obviously not safe from this injury!

Chase by Alison Nicholls

Chase by Alison Nicholls

Chase, my German Shepherd, partially broke and bent his dew claw so it was at an angle no dew claw is supposed to be. He is seen here sporting his very snazzy rain-gear (made from pooh bags and duct tape) to stop the bandage getting wet.

And why is a Painted Dog safe from this injury? Because Painted Dogs (also known as African wild dogs) don’t have a dew-claw.

German Shepherd with Dew Claw and Painted Dog without Dew Claw.

German Shepherd with Dew Claw and Painted Dog without Dew Claw.

So now you know! Just one of the many things that makes Painted Dogs unique!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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Artist Alison Nicholls sketching in the Roosevelt Room.

Artist Alison Nicholls sketching in the Roosevelt Room.

Yes, my intrepid sketching colleague, Hazel Jarvis, and I have been back for another sketching session at the Explorers Club in New York City! Here is my sketch of the Roosevelt Room, which is currently featured on the Explorers Club Facebook Page.

Roosevelt Room, Explorers Club, sketch by Alison Nicholls © 2014

Roosevelt Room, Explorers Club, sketch by Alison Nicholls © 2014

And guess what? We’re going back next week.
Luckily the building has several floors with many more rooms so we will be occupied for some time to come!

Learn more about the Explorers Club

The Explorers Club Monday lecture series is open to the public and you can hear from explorers, scientists and all sorts of interesting speakers. I will be speaking there on the evening of September 29, 2014, about my conservation-themed art.
More details will follow soon.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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The Explorers Club Trophy Room, sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2014

The Explorers Club Trophy Room, sketch by Alison Nicholls ©2014

I’ve been a member of the Explorers Club for a few years now but this was the first time I had sketched at the headquarters – the Lowell Thomas Building in New York City. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before – its a beautiful old building full of amazing paintings, sculptures and, of course, it is a treasure trove of items relating to exploration. My friend and fellow sketch artist Hazel Jarvis accompanied me and we set up in the Trophy Room. I settled down to sketch the imposing fireplace, over which hangs a painting of Arctic Explorer Peter Freuchen, painted by fellow Explorers Club member Robert Brackman. During one of his expeditions Freuchen had to use a hammer to knock off the severely frostbitten toes on his left foot, just to make it out alive. His leg was later amputated but he continued with his Arctic explorations. Explorers Club members are made of tough stuff!

Alison Nicholls sketching at the Explorers Club

Alison Nicholls sketching at the Explorers Club

 

Hazel and I sketched for about 2 hours, barely noticing the muted sounds of New York City outside. Time flew by, we stopped for a quick break, then carried on. It wasn’t until I finished adding the watercolor to my sketch that the irony of the subject matter really struck me – even when I’m sketching indoors in New York City I manage to include African wildlife in my work – 2 sable antelope and a pair of African elephant tusks. Some of the drums you can see next to the fireplace are African too.

I guess that for me there is no escape from Africa!

Shown below is a page from Hazel’s sketchbook. We have very different styles but her work is great and its always so interesting to see another artist’s interpretation of the same place. We are already planning a return visit.

 

Explorers Club Sketches by Hazel Jarvis ©2014

Explorers Club Sketches by Hazel Jarvis ©2014

Learn more about the Explorers Club

The Explorers Club Monday lecture series is open to the public and you can hear from explorers, scientists and all sorts of other interesting speakers. I will be speaking there on the evening of September 29, 2014, about my conservation-themed art. More details will follow soon.

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
Visit my Website
Join my Mailing List
Find me on Facebook
Nicholls Wildlife Art