My Story

All the drawings, tutorials, videos, and guides I make is because I can’t not make them.

I’m incredibly fortunate to be able to do what I love for a living, and to be able to share my drawings, ideas, and experiences with so many people.

My work is influenced by dark jungles, secret beaches, flora, things with wings, and creatures that glow in the dark.

All my drawings are made in an expressive, mixed media way. Using mostly ballpoint pens.

In 2009 I graduated with a BFA in Character Animation from CalArts.

My art business is made possible by selling limited editions, originals, commissions, licensing, and teaching artists to do the same with my guides.

Every year I prioritize going on 2-3 epic international trips. Sometimes spending up to half the year traveling.

During these trips I photograph reference photos for my wildlife drawings. Later using them when I’m home drawing.

So far, my favorite adventures have been:

  • Seeing wild tigers in India
  • Hanging out with a herd of elephants in Sri Lanka
  • Scuba diving in Honduras
  • Bird watching in Costa Rica
  • Running from monkeys in Indonesia
  • Carrying a surfboard through a crocodile infested jungle in Mexico
  • Exploring ancient temples in Cambodia

When I’m not traveling, I’m often sketching animals at the San Diego Zoo in the mornings.

  • Every Saturday sending out my newsletter called the Sketchbook Dispatches.
  • Making no-fluff, direct to the point guides for artists and illustrators.
  • Producing weekly drawing videos on YouTube.
  • Creating a 3-minute traditional animation using only ballpoint pen.
  • Posting my daily sketches on my Instagram.
art licensing

For most my life I wanted to work in an animation studio. I went to the best animation school.

However, living in Los Angeles during college made me realize the environment wasn’t ideal. The traffic, lack of trees, and work-centric attitudes pushed me away back to my hometown of San Diego.

I felt like I was giving up on my dreams of becoming an animation professional (which later changed…).

But then one day when I was checking out a book shop and saw a shelf full of Dr. Seuss books. I thought to myself, “Hey, I live in the same city Dr. Seuss lived in!”.

That’s when I realized, as an illustrator you could live anywhere in the world and still have a flourishing career.

At that moment I became focused on becoming an illustrator.

With just 21 illustrations in my portfolio and a bit of research I started introducing myself to potential illustration clients via email.

Literally, sending dozens of personalized introduction emails to potential clients every day.

It was a lot of work, but within a few months I was able to make a living just from my illustrations and art licensing from those projects.

Strangely, I even worked on a lot of animation projects in Los Angeles from my home studio in San Diego.

Chris Wilson

The path I took to selling my art online was a bit unconventional.

Around the same time I was working on illustrating for clients I began emailing online art publications who featured art like mine.

Luckily, within a few weeks I was had a small snippets about my art published online in Juxtapoz and Beautiful Decay magazines. The following week, I had over 10,000 people visit my art website.

I thought I was going to sell everything in my shop. But nothing happened, I didn’t sell anything from my shop.

All was not lost, because a few hundred people signed up for my email list via the form on my site. So every week I started sending out photos of my sketchbook and talking about my influences and creative process.

After I felt people had become familiar with me, I invited everyone on my email list to collect a limited edition print and an original drawing. I made over $1500 in 24 hours and over $3000 by the end of the week.

I would later understand this is called launching.

Every season, I release a new limited edition print, original drawings, or a window of time to book me for private commissions.

Chris Wilson Wildlife Artist

Through my weekly newsletter, the Sketchbook Dispatches, I was getting regular questions from other artists.

So in 2015 I started creating guides.

Since then, I’ve helped over 3,000+ learn everything from navigating their art businesses to filling their sketchbooks.

Here’s a list of places you can find me online:

The best place to stay in touch with me is through my newsletter, the Sketchbook Dispatches.