By the time artist Alison Nicholls got through her first night of camping in the African bush, she was hooked on the natural wonders the expansive continent had to offer. \u201cOnce I got out into the bush I just fell in love,\u201d the Port Chester, N.Y., resident said before a recent presentation at the Wilton Library sponsored by Wilton Go Green. \u201cI didn\u2019t want to go to sleep. I was keen on hearing and seeing everything going on, day and night.\u201d She is an information technology specialist by trade, but that first trip to Africa led her to pursue another craft. She began to use her skill as a sketch artist and painter to create works that would help support wildlife conservation projects. \u201cI would say that the reason I concentrate purely on Africa is because I know the wildlife and several of the countries very well,\u201d she said. \u201cThat\u2019s very important for my work because I don\u2019t use a photographer. I have to really know the place to feel I can talk about it knowledgeably and paint it correctly.\u201d The artist visits the continent at least once a year and has completed conservation projects in Zimbabwe and Tanzania. Her first project was jump-started in Zimbabwe when she had a flag expedition proposal accepted by a group called Artists for Conservation. \u201cI applied to carry the flag and had to put together a proposal to paint an endangered species, or habitat. I knew straight away my proposal was going to involve African wild dogs, which are very difficult to find.\u201d The African wild dog, Ms. Nicholls noted in her lecture at the library in January, is a highly endangered animal that bears little resemblance to the domesticated dog. Though she had the help of a wild dog conservation team that had attached radio transmitters to many wild dogs in the area, she had to create paintings after seeing wild dogs only six times in six weeks during the trip. \u201cI knew before the trip they are very difficult to find. They are very nomadic except when they have pups. I knew if I was going to make the flag expedition a success, I had to partner with a conservation project. Even then, we were still tracking the dogs for hours and hours. I realized then how much different a conservation project was than a safari.\u201d In recent years, Ms. Nicholls and African wildlife researchers had been interested in understanding why so many wild dogs were leaving the relative safety of the protected Serengeti National Park for unprotected areas. One of her works, On the Edge, was based on a thesis by Dr. Esther van der Meer that examines that problem. Her painting, which shows four wild dogs, is a visual metaphor for the many reasons these dogs choose to enter the buffer zone, where many are killed in human encounters. \u201cBoth the national park and the buffer zone contain similar densities of the dogs\u2019 main prey species \u2014 impala and kudu \u2014 but the buffer zone contains more dense vegetation,\u201d Ms. Nicholls notes on her website. \u201cThis results in higher hunting success and shorter chases, leading to better-fed dogs and larger litters of pups. Lions and hyenas, which may steal kills, or even kill dogs and their pups, are also less likely to be encountered in the buffer zone.\u201d Artist\u2019s process In order to properly portray animals she was able see so infrequently, she began using a style of visual notetaking. Rather than taking pictures of the animals with a camera and basing her paintings on the negatives, she quickly sketches while she\u2019s in the field, making both written and symbolic notes along the way. \u201cAll of my paintings come from sketching in the field. That\u2019s my life drawing class,\u201d she said. \u201cEven though my paintings contain very vibrant color and not realistic color \u2014 because I use color to create a mood \u2014 I still want the people and the animals to be anatomically correct.\u201d Ms. Nicholls said during the lecture she hopes each of her paintings carries a strong message about conserving fragile wildlife in Africa. She organizes traveling exhibitions around her work to promote those ideas, and donates a portion of any proceeds directly to the conservation funds she has worked with in the past. She said while monetary donations to African wildlife conservancies are always helpful, the continent has to solve a fundamental problem before its wildlife will ever be truly safe. \u201cUnless the standard of living improves in Africa, the chance for preserving land is decreasing,\u201d she said. \u201cOften you can\u2019t blame people for what we call poaching because they\u2019re trying to make a living. They\u2019re trying to feed their families.\u201d To further explore that, she partnered with another conservation project in Tanzania that included many more images of people than she had produced before. Information: alisonnichollsart.wordpress.com.