Each month, AFC recognizes an artist for their strong commitment to conservation through art. This month, AFC salutes Alison Nicholls.
Alison Nicholls works with, and supports several African conservation organizations: African People & Wildlife (APW), based near Tarangire National Park in Tanzania; Cheetah Conservation Botswana; and the Painted Dog Research Trust, based in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. She is chair of the Motse Committee (founded by shareholders of Limpopo-Lipadi Reserve in Botswana) which funds projects to positively impact the lives of adults and children living near the reserve, and she is a member of the International Advisory Council for APW. Originally from England, but now based in the US, she lived in Botswana and Zimbabwe from 1994 – 2002, which was the starting point for her artistic career. Alison returns to Africa frequently to sketch in the field, work with conservation organizations and lead Art Safaris for Africa Geographic.
As Alison describes: "Even before I began to paint, I was intrigued by the natural world and interested in conservation issues, but as a professional artist I now have a means of raising funds for conservation on a much more personal level through my art. In 2007 I was awarded AFC's 5th Flag Expedition, which I titled “Painting the Painted Dogs - Artistic Study of an Endangered Hunter”. I spent 6 weeks with Painted Dog Conservation near Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, traveling with PDC staff searching for elusive African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus), known as painted dogs in Zimbabwe. I also spent a great deal of time learning about community involvement and educational aspects of PDC’s work. On my return home, I created a traveling exhibition & lecture series, with the aim of raising awareness of the dogs' plight and funds for their conservation. The exhibition visited 5 venues in 3 US states and I have given numerous lectures about the dogs and PDC's work to support their continued survival. I wanted to repeat the experience of the AFC Flag Expedition, so I conducted a similar Conservation Sketching Expedition with APW, based on the Maasai Steppe in Tanzania. I visited APW in 2011, 2013 and 2014, for 2 weeks on each occasion, sketching on site and learning in detail about the organization's work ‘finding the balance’ for people and wildlife in Tanzania. I used the resulting sketches and paintings to raise awareness and funds for APW’s field work, and was also inspired to create a body of conservation and environmental-themed paintings. It can be a real challenge to depict issues like human-wildlife conflict in a painting, but it has given my art layers of meaning, as well as layers of color. I support African conservation organizations by making a donation from the sale of every original painting and limited edition reproduction."
Her years in Africa allowed her to travel widely, camping in remote areas, observing and sketching the wildlife. She generally works in pencil or pen first then adds watercolor. "I don’t have an easel or a chair because I usually stand when sketching people, or need to be in a vehicle when sketching wildlife." Her studio paintings consist of multiple layers of transparent color which she uses to both obscure and reveal the subject of each piece.
In addition to being a Signature member of Artists For Conservation, she is also a Signature member of the Society of Animal Artists, and a member of the Explorers Club. Her art has been widely exhibited, including at the Flinn Gallery, Greenwich, Connecticut; and the Botswana Mission to the United Nations, New York City. Her Art Safaris allow her to share her sketching experience with guests from all over the world and she frequently lectures about art, Africa, wildlife and conservation.