Alison Nicholls Studies the African Wildlife Through Her Paintings

Painter Alison Nicholls admits that Africa inspires her art in ways unmatched by any other place. Having lived a number of years in Botswana and Zimbabwe, her watercolor paintings and sketches capture the very essence of the African landscape.

Her work also includes conservation sketching expeditions, which allows her to visit African conservation organizations, sketch on-site and learn in detail about conservation issues. Her resulting sketches and paintings are then used to raise awareness and funds for the organizations’ fieldwork. “It can be a real challenge to depict complex issues like the human-wildlife conflict in a painting,” Nicholls writes on her personal website, “but it has given my art layers of meaning, as well as layers of color.”

According to Nicholls, while her studio paintings consist of multiple layers, her sketches require confidence and speed. “I usually work in pencil or pen first, then add watercolor,” she explains her creative process. “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.”

She adds that field sketching is a life drawing class in the purest sense of the phrase. In addition to being great fun, it also allows her to meet fascinating people, has given her a great understanding of wildlife anatomy and behavior, and improved her artistic skills. The best part? Her work also helps African conservation organizations, as Nicholls says she makes sure to make a donation from the sale of every original painting, original field sketch, and limited edition reproduction.