Sketching a Future for Endangered Species

The idea for Sketch for Survival started over a couple of drinks in the pub back in 2016! A sketch on the back of a beer mat slowly developed into an international touring exhibition. We’ve gone on to donate more than £350,000 GBP from the sale of Sketch for Survival artwork to nominated frontline projects.

An African elephant is poached for its ivory at a rate of one every 26 minutes, on average. This was the shocking statistic back in 2016 at the heart of Sketch for Survival.

The plan was to ask professional artists and celebrities to spend just 26 minutes on a sketch of an endangered species for an exhibition and auction of artwork to help raise awareness about global species extinction while also helping to raise funds for conservation. We were not asking for time-consuming, complex studio pieces but affordable sketches which people could buy to support the cause.

Our team (of two) launched into action, writing letters and emails. It all went very quiet…

You can imagine the excitement levels at Explorer HQ when suddenly a Stephen Fry sketch and a Dame Judi watercolour arrived, followed by artwork  from all corners of the globe. In 2017, our collection comprised 161 artworks. In 2018 we received over 400! Today we have a number of different collections, including a competition.


Sketch Collection

A central theme of Sketch for Survival is that time is running out; we must take urgent action. To amplify this message our Sketch for Survival collection includes 26-minute sketches.

In contrast to detailed studio artworks, the raw beauty of a sketch provides an important visual cue –  reminding us that we have limited time to get the job done.

Our sketch collection varies from year to year and features artwork kindly donated by both professional artists and celebrity supporters. These have included Karen Laurence Rowe, Lin Barrie, Jonathan Truss, Alison Nicholls, David Rankin, Hazel Sloan, Levison Wood, Nick Park, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Joanna Lumley and Stephen Fry.

Invitational Collection & Special Collections

From street art,cartoons, watercolours and oils, our Sketch for Survival invitational collection is kindly donated by artists from all around the world. These pieces range from sketches to studio artworks.

As time went on we noticed that we were receiving fewer sketches and a lot more valuable studio-style art. To acknowledge this we introduced a new, small collection in 2023, On the Brink, which is sold on a 50/50 basis with the artist.

All the artworks in our collections depict threatened wildlife and at-risk wild spaces. Every year we welcome new, exciting artists to the collection.

Many artists in our Invitational Collection have supported Sketch for Survival from the very beginning. We are indebted to them for their support.


Competition Collection – The 100

Our competition to win a place in the Sketch for Survival Exhibition and Auction has gone from strength to strength since we introduced it in 2019. It  allows us to showcase the work of many up and coming artists, and gives them an opportunity, if selected, to be exhibited in prestigious venues such as the gallery@oxo on London’s South Bank.

Every year the competition grows, and we receive entries and messages of support from all over the world and from all walks of life which is incredibly uplifting. Just 100 wildlife artworks are selected from all those submitted. In 2020 we also introduced a Wild Space category. All proceeds from this initiative go to our Project Fund.

Selected runners up are profiled on our website and offered for sale in aid of our projects through our online and pop-up galleries.

Artwork shown: Emma Swift – Winner of Sketch for Survival Wildlife 100 Artist of the Year 2020

Competition Collection – Junior

We have a special ‘Junior’ category within the Sketch for Survival competition.

Every year we are staggered by the amount of entries we receive from children. Our youngest contributor to date was just 2 years old. We’ve received entries from all over the world – the UK and Europe, China, Malaysia, India, Australia and Zimbabwe to name a few.

From polar bears and red pandas (which are always popular) to axolotls, we are amazed by the enthusiasm, knowledge and talent of the children.

In 2022 we are delighted to welcome internationally-acclaimmed illustrator Axel Scheffler (The Gruffalo) to the selection panel.