Andrew Nicholl's patron, Sir James Emerson Tennent (1804-1869), went to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) as Colonial Secretary in 1845. He arranged that Nicholl should accompany him and take up the the post of Teacher of Landscape Painting, Scientific Drawings and Design at the Colombo Academy. When not engaged with teaching, Nicholl travelled extensively with his parton, going as far as the ancient capital of Kandy (Crookshank & Glin, op. cit., p. 168). During these trips he made topographical sketches, which were used to illustrate Tennent's descriptive book about the island, published in 1860.