Sketch for Survival

A global art initiative in aid of conservation.

Be a part of Sketch for Survival by entering our art competition which is open to everyone. Just 100 artworks are selected from all submissions to be exhibited in London & Edinburgh, as well as competing for our Artist awards.

How does it work?

Sketch for Survival helps to raise vital awareness about species extinction and biodiversity loss while also raising funds for projects around the world.

Just 100 finalists are selected from all competition entries received and ‘win’ a place on our prestigious Sketch for Survival fundraising exhibition tour.

Entries come from all over the world – China, Ukraine, South Korea, Russia, Iran, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Malaysia, Australia & NZ, Canada, the US, Brazil, Iceland, Dubai, Qatar, Turkey, Tanzania, South Africa and most countries in Europe. In 2022 we had more than 90 nationalities participate. The donated artworks are sold via online auction, with all proceeds going to our Project Fund. Over $100,000 USD was raised for nominated conservation projects in 2021.

The submission phase runs from 1 February to 30 June annually. The selection phase is July-August. Exhibitions run September-November.


Competition Guidelines in Brief:

Anyone aged 17 and over can enter (children aged 16 and under can enter our Sketch For Survival Junior Competition);

There are two categories: Endangered Wildlife and At-risk Wild Spaces (please see full guidelines below regarding what you can enter);

The closing date is 30 June;

Our expert selection panel is led by Internationally renowned artist Gary Hodges;

There are 3 stages to the competition:

Stage 1 Enter Online: submissions open 1 February and close 30 June

Anyone can enter – it is free to enter. Please ensure your artwork meets the criteria or it will be discounted.

Stage 2Longlist Announced: if your piece has been selected by the panel for the Longlist then you will be asked to ship the original artwork to Explorer HQ in Norfolk, UK. The longlist is chosen by our panel using the submission form and artwork image provided when you first entered the competition. The Longlist will be announced on our website on Thursday 13 July. Only those artists on the longlist will be asked to ship their artwork to the UK so the judges can take a closer look at them.

All longlisted pieces are guaranteed a spot in either our Exhibition collection or the Highly Commended collection.

Stage 3Collections Announced: the panel review all the artworks in the longlist and make their final decisions. This stage is done in person at Explorer HQ over several days in August. The Exhibition collection and the Highly Commended collection will be announced on our website on Thursday 7 September.

  • The Exhibition collection comprises 100 finalists, as chosen by the panel – these will be exhibited at London’s gallery@oxo on the South Bank & Edinburgh’s Dundas Street Gallery before being sold in our online fundraising auction.
  • The Highly Commended collection includes all other longlisted artworks  – the runners-up will have their artwork offered for sale in aid of our projects in both our pop up shops and our online gallery (the online gallery goes live after the conclusion of our exhibition tour).


The 100 finalists in our Exhibition Collection are eligible for our annual awards which include the Leisure Painter’s People’s Choice Award, an award voted for by the public; The Artist Award, chosen by the editorial team of The Artist magazine and the Sketch For Survival 100 Artist of the Year award, selected by our panel – the shortlist for the artist of the year will be announced 14 September. Results in all categories will be announced at our Private View event in London in November.

All participants will receive a digital Supporter Logo.

Please note: no artworks can be returned. Please do not send us your artwork unless we have requested it. Thank you.


Full Submission Guidelines

Anyone aged 17 and older. If you are 16 or younger please see Sketch for Survival Junior here.

You can live anywhere in the world.

The competition is open to professional, amateur, hobby and student artists. It is free to enter.

Please read these submission guidelines carefully – these will answer most questions.

Submissions open 1 February and close 30 June. Click the ENTER link on this page from 1 February.  Follow the instructions on the submission form and complete all the fields.

You will be asked to attach a good quality image of your completed artwork to the submission form (please ensure its a JPEG file up to 5MB in size – NO PDFS permitted). The first stage of selection is done electronically studying your image online so please make sure it is in focus and labelled correctly with your name! Please note: this image is used for electronic viewing only, not for printing. Therefore the resolution does not have to be large, just in focus and good colour representation. A photo taken on your mobile phone should be fine.

Artists progressing to the second stage of selection will be announced online and emailed by Thursday 13 July – if you are successful we will  request for the original artwork to be sent to us in the UK in the mail.

The final stage of selection is completed in August with the selection panel viewing and discussing the artworks and submission forms in person.  100 finalists will be selected, and the remainder will be included in the Highly Commended collection.

You will help us to raise awareness about threats facing wildlife and wild spaces while also helping to raise funds for conservation through the sale of artwork.

All participants are able to download an Artist Supporter logo – the link to this is provided by email at the end of September (to the registered email address).

There are tangible benefits for the 100 Finalists:

Your artwork will be:

exhibited at London’s prestigious gallery@oxo alongside artwork by well-known, award-winning artists;

exhibited at Edinburgh’s Dundas Street Gallery;

seen by a wide audience;

sold via online auction in aid of our Project Fund.

The winner of the Sketch for Survival 100 Artist of the Year 2023 will be invited to contribute a piece to the 2024 collection, to be sold on a 50/50 basis. 


Every year the standard of artwork goes up and deliberations take longer.

The panel is tasked with selecting:

100 Finalists – these artworks win the ultimate prize of being exhibited in Edinburgh & London and then sold via our online auction. Finalists are eligible for our annual awards and a digital Finalists logo to display as they wish.

Highly Commended  – these are the artworks only narrowly missing out on a place in the 100.  These artworks will join us on tour/at events and be displayed in our pop-up store, including gallery@oxo (if they have not been sold at a previous pop up). The artworks will be available to purchase in aid of our projects. Artists receive a digital Highly Commended logo to display as they wish.

According to the IUCN Red List, more than 42,100 species are threatened with extinction (at time of publishing in Dec 2022).

Sketch for Survival raises much needed funds for frontline conservation but it also raises crucial awareness about a whole range of issues including the Illegal Wildlife Trade, habitat loss and Climate Change. Our exhibition is an opportunity to highlight, through art, threats to biodiversity. This is why all the species and wild spaces included in our collections have a conservation story to tell.

There are two categories within the competition – please read carefully:

  • Wildlife

To qualify,  the main focus of your artwork should be a species categorised on the IUCN Red List – the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global conservation status of animal, fungi and plant species – as:

Vulnerable (VU)

Endangered (EN)

Critically Endangered (CR)

or Extinct in the Wild (EW)

These global categorisations mean the species faces a high risk of extinction. To check conservation status please visit www.IUCNredlist.org and use the species search.

If previously listed in one of the categories above and since downgraded, such as the Humpback Whale, please provide context.

If the risk to your chosen species is at a local or regional level (as opposed to global) then please give further information, e.g, species is included on a national Red List such as the RSPB Red List of Birds, or Red List for Britain’s Mammals.

The submission form will ask you to provide the specific name of the species and its status. Please complete this!

Please note: we do make some exceptions to the rule above, for example, when a species has not been assessed for many years by IUCN and there is clear evidence of decline by another offical conservation group/body. We kindly request that you use your submission form to give context to your choice where it says ‘other’.

  • Wild Spaces 

Your image should depict an at risk landscape/seascape (from anywhere in the world), or a species of plant (see below).

For example, an ancient woodland, rainforest, a coral reef, mountain range, coastline, wetland – any wild space threatened by environmental factors such as a global warming/erosion or by human activity such as logging/pollution. Please tell us why you have chosen the wild space and the threat it faces (in the Conservation Status section of the submission form).

We also welcome artwork featuring a specific species of threatened plant/flower/tree/coral. To qualify,  they must be categorised as Vulnerable (VU), Endangered (EN), Critically Endangered (CR) or Extinct in the Wild (EW) on the IUCN Red List (visit www.IUCNredlist.org and use their species search to check the status of your chosen subject).


**It is important to remember that the artworks are sold in aid of our projects so please think about your topic and your composition –  it is worth taking time to consider what someone would like to have on their wall/in their home.**


All submissions to Sketch for Survival must be original and unframed.

We accept artworks in the following two size categories (landscape or portrait orientation accepted):

A4: Minimum size and visible area – 21 cm by 29.7 cm. Maximum paper size 23cm by 31.7cm.

Your paper size can be anywhere in the range from 21cm – 23cm (short side) by 29.7 cm – 31.7cm (long side).

Please note this additional area will not be visible once mounted/framed in our reusable exhibition frames so please make sure anything important including your signature is within the visible area.




A3:Minimum size and visible area – 29.7cm by 42cm. Maximum paper size 31.7cm by 44cm.

Your paper size can be anywhere in the range from  29.7cm – 31.7cm (short side) by 42cm – 44 cm (long side). Please note this additional area will not be visible once mounted/framed in our reusable exhibition frames so please make sure anything important including your signature is within the visible area.

Artworks cannot be any smaller or any larger than the dimensions given above. They will not fit in our exhibition frames and will be dicounted from selection.

**If you are cutting down your artwork,  please ensure you leave a 5-10 mm margin all the way around over and above the minimum sizes given.**

For unusual mediums/materials/two dimensional shapes such as circles, artwork will be accepted so long as pieces are in the size range A4 to A3 and are ready to hang (e.g. box canvas). Ready to hang means it must have hanging fixtures (hooks and wires/string) and is ready for the wall. If we receive your piece and find that it is not ready to hang then regretfully, we will be unable to select it for the exhibition and it will be sold in our shop/online store.

All artworks must be original.

**If you are using a specific source e.g, an image, please be aware of copyright issues and reference the source. We recommend you seek permission to use the source material.**

All mediums, techniques and styles are welcome. As well as paper and canvas, we accept artwork on any flat base – we have had metal, stone, wooden panels and elephant dung paper in the past. Sorry, no sculptures. Digital art is accepted.

Some artists submit sketches, while others submit more complex (studio style) artworks. All are accepted and will be judged side by side on their artistic merits including originality, accuracy, composition, skill and impact.

Why do you have size restrictions?

  1. We use reusable exhibition frames to display the 100 finalist’s artwork – this cuts down on plastic and packaging and helps our exhibition display look consistent.
  2. Having two set sizes gives us a level playing field and allows us to more fairly evaluate the merits of one artwork against another during the selection phase – this would be more difficult to do if we were comparing a huge artwork with a tiny one. Having a range of sizes would also increase the challenges we already face when hanging the exhibition at different venues.
  3. Our initiative is all about raising awareness about species extinction and habitat loss while raising funds for projects – we champion affordable art – feedback from regular supporters and buyers tells us that A4 and A3 artworks are very desirable as they fit into homes more easily than huge artworks and are more likely to be purchased spontaneously to support a cause.
  4. Large artworks take considerable time and money for the artist to produce and transport and in turn create a larger carbon footprint for the exhibition tour and auction – since these artworks are donations to a charitable cause we felt the A4 to A3 size range was most appropriate.

One work per category per artist.

We are accepting submissions until Friday 30th June.

To enter, please complete our online submission form.

Please do not send your artwork to us – the first stage of selection is done online.

Those artists progressing to stage two of selection – the longlist –  will be contacted and given full instructions on where to send their artworks in July.

We welcome the support of schools and colleges – anyone 17 years and over can enter Sketch for Survival.

Artists aged 16 and under should enter our Sketch For Survival Junior Competition.


After the submission deadline, all entries are reviewed for eligibility, using the submission form.

The artwork images are then assessed by a panel of leading artists led by Gary Hodges, the UK’s best selling and most collectable wildlife pencil artist. He has been a judge for the David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year Awards since 2008 and has won numerous awards in his own right.

Gary is joined by Sara White and Robert Ferguson, founding trustees of Explorers Against Extinction along with guest judges which vary from year to year.

The panel assess many different elements including artistic skill, originality and creativity, accuracy, overall composition and impact.

Your submission form is also considered.

You may find the Sketch for Survival archive at the bottom of the page a useful tool before deciding what to submit. The archive will give you some indication of the standard.

The 100 Sketch For Survival Finalists will have their artworks auctioned in our online auction concluding on Sunday 12th November.

The Highly Commended Collection will be available for sale at pop-up stores and events including gallery@oxo,  and afterwards in our online gallery.

Sketch for Survival 100 Artist of the Year 

Artists will be shortlisted for the award with the panel deciding the winner. All shortlisted artists will be invited as our guests to our autumn Awards/Private View evening in London where the winner will be revealed.

The Leisure Painter’s Sketch for Survival People’s Choice Award

This award is chosen by the public, through an online vote. It goes to the artwork in the collection with the most votes. It is sponsored by Leisure Painter Magazine and the winning artist will have a piece published about them in the magazine and receive a complimentary one year digital subscription.

The Artist Award 

The winner is chosen by the editorial team of The Artist Magazine and is awarded to the artist who in their opinion best captures the spirit of the Sketch for Survival initiative in a two dimensional drawing or painting of any medium. The winning artist will be featured in The Artist and receive a complimentary one year digital subscription to the magazine.

The Artist’s Choice Award

New for 2023 …we will be asking the artists in our exhibition collection to nominate their favourite artwork.

We do not cover the cost of postage for those artists going through to Stage 2.

All artworks making it through to stage two of selection will be included in either the Exhibition Collection (100 places)  or The Highly Commended Collection – all pieces will be sold by us with the funds raised supporting our projects.

No artwork will be returned.

Sketch For Survival 2022: Terms and Conditions:

  1. The competition is open to artists worldwide, except for employees of the Real World Conservation Trust (RWCT), their immediate families, agents, or anyone else associated with administration of this competition.
  2. Closing date for receipt of entries is midnight GMT on 30 June.
  3. To enter, complete the online submission form by the closing date. Do not post/mail your artwork to us.
  4. Artists selected by the judges will be contacted by 13th July with details of how to send/mail their artworks to us for the second round of judging. Failure to forward the original artwork to us will result in elimination from the competition.
  5. The 100 Finalists and Highly Commended Collection will be announced on Thursday 7th September.
  6. The shortlists for the Awards will be announced on Thursday 14th September. All shortlisted artists will receive a ticket to our Awards night in London in November.
  7. The winning artists will be announced at our Awards night in November.
  8. The RWCT has the right to publish all entries on its website explorersagainstextinction.co.uk and selected ones on its Social Media channels or for press/promotion of the campaign and RWCT.
  9. RWCT has the right to publish an image of selected artworks in merchandise such as calendar or cards to sell and raise funds for the charity in association with the Sketch for Survival campaign. Artworks will not be reproduced elsewhere without the consent of the artist who retains all rights.
  10. The RWCT will offer for sale or auction the artwork of the 100 Finalists and the Highly Commended Collection, through its gallery, online gallery and online auction. All receipts for the art will go to the Explorers Against Extinction Project Fund, supporting frontline conservation worldwide.
  11. Entries limited to one per artist per category (Total 2 submissions).
  12. Email addresses will be only be used by RWCT for updates on the competition in their newsletter which can be opted out of. They will not be disclosed to any other parties.
  13. The judge’s decision is final, and no correspondence will be entered into.
  14. The winner agrees to participate in any reasonable publicity required by the RWCT.

Promoter:    The Real World Conservation Trust. UK Charity 1177505. Registered Address: Happisburgh, Norwich, Norfolk, NR12 0QQ

Sketch for Survival Artist Award

Sponsored by

Sketch for Survival Peoples Choice Award

Sponsored by

Red Panda by Tatiana Sereda; Elephants by Jan Hargood; Orca by Rachel Brooks; Wild Space by Ruth Bowey; Wild Dog by Randall William Bennett. All artworks on this page were SFS 2022 Finalists.