When I was a kid I used to hole up in my room to draw—dreaming of being an artist. One of the books I worked from was titled something like How to Draw Wildlife. The drawing I remember making most vividly was a charging lion.
But I was just copying from a book. Learning anatomy and how to depict movement convincingly by building lines and shapes on top of one another.
I can’t imagine the opportunity to sketch African wildlife in their habitat.
That’s what Alison Nicholls does.
Once a year, Alison leaves her home in New York and heads to South Africa to lead her Art Safaris for Africa Geographic. (They found her from her online posts back in 2010!)
I know from experience that it's difficult enough to fill a workshop in your hometown or even a neighboring state. Alison’s Art Safaris are thousands of miles away and sell out months in advance.
In the latest episode of the Art Biz Podcast, I asked Alison how she attracts students so far ahead of time. You'll also find out how she got to be a guest on this podcast, which is a great marketing lesson. Definitely stick with it to the end.
Music by Wildermiss.
- How Alison ended up in Zimbabwe and Botswana. (2:50)
- Alison's start at sketching African wildlife in the bush. (4:30)
- Alison's attempts working from photos and American wildlife. (6:30)
- Alison's online posts that led to Art Safaris. (9:15)
- Why Alison gives equal weight to her field sketches and studio work. (10:45)
- The moment Alison decided to focus solely on African wildlife. (12:30)
- Why being close to New York City offers more opportunities than she can handle. (13:40)
- The cost of an Art Safari and what's included. (14:45)
- The daily schedule of an Art Safari. (15:47)
- A list of wildlife that is spotted on an Art Safari and why each session is limited to 6 people. (17:33)
- The profitability of Art Safaris and why they're worth it for her to do. (20:00)
- The blog posts Alison writes to help publicize the Art Safaris on Africa Geographic. (23:00)
- How she uses an interest list to promote the safaris and drive early registration. (25:20)
- The supportive environment she facilitates in order to accommodate her students' various levels of experience. (27:07)
- Why seeing a video of an Art Safari is critical to selling the sessions. (27:50)
- The process of video editing and the tools and social platforms she uses. (29:00)
- How constant promotion is essential to filling the workshops. (31:10)
- Her monthly newsletter to her list of 700 people, and why she emails everyone on her list rather than the segments she created. (32:20)
- What's changed for her work in the past 9 years since doing the Art Safaris and being involved in wildlife conservation activities. (34:20)
- Alison's donation of a percentage of all sales to African wildlife conservation. (36:25)
- The fun, surprising, and instructional lesson on how Alison became a podcast guest. (36:55)
Painted Dog Conservation
Artists for Conservation grant
African People and Wildlife
My interview with Miriam Schulman
About My GuestAlison Nicholls is an artist inspired by Africa. She lived in the southern African countries of Botswana and Zimbabwe for several years, and returns to Africa regularly to sketch in the bush, work with conservation organizations and lead Art Safaris for Africa Geographic.
She is a Signature member of Artists For Conservation and the Society of Animal Artists, a member of the Explorers Club, and an artist member of the Salmagundi Club. Her watercolor field sketches and studio paintings have been widely exhibited and she frequently lectures about her art, Africa, wildlife and conservation. She makes a donation to conservation organizations from every sale of her art, and is a member of the International Advisory Council for African People & Wildlife, who work in Tanzania. She is English by birth but lives in Port Chester, New York.
Music by Wildermiss.
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