Alison Nicholls's blog

Monday, 9 December, 2019
I start each daily sketch intending to finish in 10 minutes, but after 10 minutes working on Lioness, I decided to just keep going because I thought she was worth finishing. When I look at her, I’m amazed I was able to confidently draw her, directly in ink, without messing the whole thing up. Reminding myself that its just a drawing on a piece of paper (yupo actually) helps a lot. But she is evidence of how far I think I’ve come in the last couple of years, particularly since I started my daily sketches. Lion was completed the next day, also in 20 minutes. You can see he is a...
Wednesday, 13 November, 2019
In these social media saturated days, what are the pros and cons of joining my Mailing List?Here are the Pros:1.Preview my new PaintingsYes, before I even post them on social media or put them on my website, you get to see all my new paintings in my newsletter. Which means you can snap up your favorite piece before the big wide world even knows it exists! 2.Win a WatercolorIf you Join My Mailing List before December 1st 2019, your name will be entered into the draw to win Sunlit Elephant – an original 10×8″ watercolor, created from life in Africa and valued at $200....
Thursday, 30 May, 2019
So what exactly is the difference between my Field Sketches & Daily Sketches?Elephants in Brown, field sketch by Alison NichollsMy Field Sketches are created from life, in Africa. I usually start by sketching in pencil or ink then add watercolor, but sometimes I sketch directly in watercolor. They are either 8×10″ or 11×14″ on watercolor paper and sell for US$200-$300, with 25% of the purchase price donated to various African conservation organizations.Turqouise Elephant, daily sketch by Alison NichollsMy Daily Sketches are created in the studio, in 10-minutes,...
Wednesday, 15 May, 2019
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.How I start an elephant sketch.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...
Thursday, 9 May, 2019
Painting on a wall while standing on a wobbly plank balanced between 2 wobbly supports, is something many artists will have done I’m guessing.Drawing out the initial mural design                                                African People & WildlifeI was visiting African People & Wildlife, near Tarangire National Park, learning about the...
Wednesday, 1 May, 2019
Let Sleeping Dogs LieWe were looking forward to a quick cuppa, a nice mid-morning tea-break, but when we reached the big baobab in Savute, Botswana, we found that our spot was already taken. Let sleeping dogs lie…Let Sleeping Dogs Lie – sketched from life in pen and watercolor, Savute Botswana 2018The dogs made excellent sketching subjects, once I figured out whose legs and ears were whose. Painted dogs or African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus) are very social and like to lie together in a pile, in very close contact, so identifying which dogs to include in my sketch is the first...
Friday, 26 April, 2019
Earth Day is all WrongEarth Day is all wrong. We seem to have everything backwards. Once a year we celebrate Earth Day; World Environment Day; World Oceans Day; National Tree Day; or World Wetlands Day. Sure, we should celebrate the Earth, oceans, trees and wetlands, because they are absolutely essential to our continued existence, but these “days” are a reminder of what is under threat, rather than a celebration.  Here are just a few of the endless examples of “days” we shouldn’t need: World Rhino Day; Endangered Species Day; Lion Day; Vulture Awareness Day...
Thursday, 18 April, 2019
My Daily 10-Minute Sketches are for sale on Etsy, only $60 each, with 50% of the proceeds donated to African conservation organizations.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. I begin each one with an ink drawing then sometimes add watercolor or acrylic too. I'm working on yupo, a bright white, completely smooth, synthetic 'paper'. If you've tried it, you'll know that it is wonderful for ink drawings, but with watercolor it can be a little like painting on glass. As a result, not...
Sunday, 3 March, 2019
Recently I discovered that sketching villages from a moving car might be even more difficult than sketching wildlife.These rural scenes were sketched as we drove down from Kasane to the Tuli Block in Botswana. Although we are driving quite slowly through villages, it’s still a challenge to sketch and you need to develop a photographic memory by looking, memorizing, then sketching. However, I soon found my stride because these rural scenes are etched in my brain, from my years of living in Botswana. I wanted to capture the typical sights of a village – people sitting by the road;...
Thursday, 21 February, 2019
“Even in front of nature, one must compose” is attributed to Edgar Degas.Some will argue that nature is perfect and it’s arrogant to compose, to rearrange things, in your art. But we all do this, all the time, even those who are not artists. You are composing when you move left or right to get that perfect photo of a landscape. And artists are certainly doing this all the time in their paintings. Even artists who paint wildlife in intricate detail using photographic reference are likely to be moving things around and combining several photos to compose their painting.My...