Tag Archives: watercolor

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
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Leopard Field Sketch, 11x14" by Alison Nicholls © 2013

Leopard Field Sketch, 11×14″ by Alison Nicholls © 2013

During my last trip to Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana I saw numerous leopards. The only problem was that I wasn’t feeling great, having had a terrible cold for about a week, so sketching was not going incredibly well. But here is a sketch I managed to do in between sniffs!

I find leopards one of the more difficult cats to sketch. They don’t have the bulky muzzle of the lion or the more delicate, angular head of the cheetah, both of which allow you to instantly identify the cat from a sketch. Often, with a leopard, adding the spots makes all the difference (as you would expect). The trouble is that often I only have time to sketch the outline of the cat before it moves off, which means no time to add spots. So when I see a sleeping leopard I’m very happy. My photographer husband was less happy because this leopard had a single thin branch crossing her face and ruining his photos. That’s where artistic license comes in very handy – you’ll notice there is no branch in my sketch!

Until next time…
Alison

Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation
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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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Young Male Lion Seeks Good Home by Alison Nicholls

Young Male Lion seeks good home. Prefers to sleep in a quiet spot on a well-lit wall out of direct sunlight. No food required (has just eaten, see large belly). Purchase of Young Male Lion will support African conservation so that more lions may sleep peacefully when they’ve eaten too much!

Available as an Original Watercolor Field Sketch or as a Limited Edition Reproduction.
Free Shipping within the US until the end of 2013!

Until next time…
Alison

 

Alison Nicholls

Art Inspired by Africa

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

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Sue-Grand-Teton

Once a month I will be showcasing the talents of colleagues in the art world and I am very happy to introduce you to Sue deLearie Adair, a good friend and fellow New York State resident. Sue mostly concentrates on little and local members of the animal world, portrayed in amazing greys or splashes of color, or a bit of both. She uses a variety of media and in this post she gives us an interesting guide as to how she chooses the best medium for her next piece. Regardless of which she chooses, you can see that her detailed knowledge and enjoyment of her subject shines through!        

*****************
Which Medium Should I Use?
For me it is always easy to decide what subject to draw or paint—I like the little things in nature—frogs and toads, chipmunks and butterflies, and especially birds! I have been an avid birder for almost thirty years and have traveled across North America and abroad in search of birds. A dozen years ago I finally started putting my love of birds on paper in the form of drawings and paintings. But, while subject matter is easy, each time I come up with a composition I still have to decide what medium/media to use to create it. I produce graphite pencil drawings, mixed media drawings and paintings and etchings, so, what to use?
Black-and-White
Graphite Pencil is my favorite medium so if a composition would work as a black-and-white drawing that is usually what I use! Subjects that are black-and-white themselves almost always end up as graphite pencil drawings. For example, the pair of Razorbills you see below in “Renewing Their Bond”. They are black-and-white birds standing on mostly gray rocks. When I decided to eliminate the blue background (ocean) to go with a more graphic composition, graphite pencil was a natural for this piece—no color needed!
 Renewing Their Bond web
“Renewing Their Bond”, graphite pencil, 10”x10”, 2012
Subjects with a large amount of contrast, texture and/or patterns also work well as graphite pencil drawings, regardless of the colors involved. In “Scrap Pile Sparrow” a White-crowned Sparrow is portrayed. This species is a medley of browns and grays with a black-and-white striped crown and by pushing the contrast in the body feathers and adding a graduated background the bird looks great in black-and-white!
 Scrap Pile Sparrow web
“Scrap Pile Sparrow”, graphite pencil, 6”x4”, 2013
Color—A little bit of Color
In 2009 and again in 2013 I took week-long solar plate etching workshops and planned my pieces to include a small amount of color. So for these pieces I looked for subjects that were predominately one color, which became the etching ink color, and added the other colors afterwards with watercolor and colored pencil. I printed brown bunnies, reddish-brown chipmunks, and black birds such as “Junco”, a Dark-eyed Junco.
 Junco AP 1 web
                       “Junco”, Etching with Watercolor and Colored Pencil, 4”x4”, 2009
I liked the effect of having just a bit of color and started to experiment with mixed media drawings using graphite and colored pencils together. Some of these drawings have just a bit of color; others look pretty much fully colored such as “High Plains Plover” which depicts a Mountain Plover in its native grassland habitat. I used wheat colored etching paper for the piece and a variety of subtly toned colored pencils. I then used graphite pencil on top of the colored pencil to add definition and detail.
 High Plains Plover web
“High Plains Plover”, Colored and Graphite Pencils, 7.5”x10”, 2012
Color—Lots of Color!
If I like a composition and subject that is fairly low contrast but has interesting colors, then full color it must be! For me this means a mixed media painting. I start with a watercolor background and under-painting and use colored and graphite pencils to add detail. I started using graphite pencil in my paintings to shade, soften, sharpen and add really fine details a couple of years ago because of a pencil sharpener “crisis”. The sharpeners I had been using for years were discontinued (each lasted only about 6 months but made a really nice point on colored pencils without breaking them too often). It took several purchases and many months to find a good replacement, but some of the reject sharpeners handled graphite pencils well enough, so I tried adding them to my paintings—and I liked it! The more I can do with my trusty graphite pencils, the happier I am!
“Mango Shower” is a simple composition of a Green-breasted Mango hummingbird bathing in a rain shower. I liked the subdued tone of the scene and the beautiful colors of the birds tail so it became a mixed media painting. Using watercolor in these paintings also allows me to create interesting background effects, sometimes by using granulated watercolors and in this case by dropping water onto the wet, green wash. Not only would this look have been difficult to do using entirely dry media, but the effect would be rather dull. I created a black-and-white version of the painting in Photoshop to let you see the difference.
 Mango Shower pair
“Mango Shower”, 4.75”x6.75”, Watercolor, Colored and Graphite Pencils, 2013
My last piece, “Blue-wings at the Swamp”, is a composition that I could have created using just graphite pencils. The birds have plenty of contrast and interesting patterns in their plumage and the values range from black to white. But how could I resist that bright spring green!? I decided this would just be more beautiful in color and created this painting. Using watercolor had an added bonus—most of the water is done with a watercolor wash. Creating that even tone in pencil would have been extremely time consuming!
 Blue-wings at the Swamp web
“Blue-wings at the Swamp”, 7.5”x10.5”, Watercolor, Colored and Graphite Pencils, 2012
So choosing my medium all comes down to two things: 1) what I think will look best in the finished piece and 2) maximizing the amount of graphite pencil I can use to get the job done without spending forever on the background! Oh, and 3) who wants to see a butterfly or warbler in black-and-white anyway?
Thanks for reading!
Sue
Lots of Pattern and Contrast—Still Better in Color!
 Magnolia Warbler web
“Magnolia Warbler”, 5”x4.5”, Watercolor, Colored and Graphite Pencils, 2013
Thank you Sue!

Until next time…
Alison
Art Inspired by Africa and Conservation

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