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Africa Geographic Travel
Artists on a game drive vehicle, Art safari in Africa
Sketching on the go while out on a safari game drive

Artist Alison Nicholls answers some frequently asked questions regarding the Africa Geographic Travel art safaris that she runs in the Kruger National Park and Madikwe in South Africa.

• What will I learn on my art safari?

You will learn how to sketch wildlife quickly and confidently. Before we set off on our first game drive, I will show how to look at animals, seeing them as a series of simple shapes which makes sketching them easier. I’ll explain why it is better to create several sketches of the same animal in different poses than try to complete one detailed drawing.

I’ll answer any questions you might have and we will set off on our drive. I’ll be seated in the middle row of seats so I can give tips and advice as you sketch.

Providing tips while sketching rhino
• I think I’ll need more practice before we set off

It is natural to feel this way. It can be intimidating to sketch wild, moving animals, so it is important to get over the fear of starting as soon as possible and concentrate on filling the pages of your sketchbook. Remember, everyone else feels the same way too.

Sketch of elephants
Elephant studies by Alison Nicholls
• Can I take photos too?

Of course, you can take as many photos as you wish. If this is your first time on safari in Africa, you may want to schedule your art safari towards the end of your visit. This way you will be more familiar with the wildlife, will have taken a lot of photos already, and will be ready to start sketching.

Guest in a safari vehicle
A discussion in the vehicle about sketching tips
• My drawings are usually very detailed. Can you help me loosen up?

Definitely. One of the best things about sketching wild animals from life is that they won’t stand still for hours to let you capture a lot of detail, so you will usually have to work quickly.

I will teach you techniques to loosen up in both sketching and painting, and you’ll have time to practice them on drives and back at the lodge.

Guest in Madikwe watching elephants at a waterhole
Watching elephants at The Bush House in Madikwe Game Reserve
• I would like to try my hand at watercolour. Will we have time to do this?

Yes. We usually sketch in pencil or pen to start with, just because dry materials are easier when we’re in the vehicle. But if we find some animals who might be stationary for a while, I can show you how to do some simple gestural sketches in watercolour.

Also, during our daytime workshops back at the lodge there will be plenty of time to add watercolour to your sketches and learn new techniques.

Watercolour sketch of a wildebeest
‘Wildebeest in Shade’, watercolour sketch by Alison Nicholls
• Does it matter if I haven’t done any life drawing before?

No, it doesn’t matter. Our art safaris are meant for everyone. We always have a mix of skill levels on the safaris. Whatever your level of experience is, you will always find the safari a fun and friendly learning environment.

Basic line drawing of a cheetah
Example of simple shapes used to create the outline of a cheetah
• What else will I learn from being on an art safari?

So many things! You will learn how to capture movement; how to use an animal’s coat pattern to your advantage in your art; how to sketch using negative shapes; and how to use colour to create atmosphere.

You will also learn about animal behaviour and we can stop to look at tracks and vegetation so you can add a little habitat detail to your sketches too.

Watercolour painting of elephants
A small watercolour sketch created using negative shapes, by Alison Nicholls

But most importantly, you will learn that an art safari is the best way to improve your sketching while enjoying the beauty of the African bush with like-minded travel companions.

Artists on safari
Receiving feedback back at the lodge

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Alison Nicholls is an artist Inspired by Africa. She teaches guests to sketch wildlife during Africa Geographic Art Safaris and is a member of Artists For Conservation, the Society of Animal Artists and the Explorers Club. Alison donates a percentage to African conservation organisations from the sale of every painting, field sketch and limited edition reproduction.

Africa Geographic Travel
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