Our history

Art Safari is the brainchild of Mary-Anne Bartlett, an artist who was working and travelling in Malawi in 1999 when she first had the idea:-

“I had just finished a month’s stint as an artist-in-residence on a field research project in Nyika in Malawi in September 1999.  As I took my dusty rucsac down from the roof of the vehicle and offered my artist’s skills to the safari company that owned it, I came up with two words:- Art Safari.  I knew at that moment what I needed to do for the rest of my life.  Spending my years like a swallow between continents, I wanted to share with other artists the magic of painting in the most exciting wildlife spots I knew.  It’s was only through painting that I felt I stopped long enough to engage with what I was looking at.  I wanted to share that artistic connectivity to environment with others.  Slowly but surely, the dreams came true.”

Mary-Anne then led the first Art Safari weekend in 1999 in Liwonde National Park in Malawi before taking the idea back to the UK to mull over. “The exhilaration of sitting with my feet on the ground, drawing, observing, listening and learning from the world around me was an experience I wanted to share.  When you are drawing, you are part of the environment; you’re a living part of it.”

Art Safari began as a travel company in 2002 with two phrases in mind, the first from Goethe: “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.  Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it”; the second was the name of a grocery store in Phalombe, Malawi the “Slow but Sure” grocery shop (there are now three of these stores today).

The first Art Safari holiday was a life-changing journey for those lucky first guests in 2003 to Malawi and Zambia. “The big surprise for me was the intimacy of each group, the friendships, the trust in each other and how creativity flows even more when you’re together.”

“Sketching is spellbinding.  It is fabulous to share it with others.”

Art Safari Director in Kenya with Massai guides

In the years that followed, Mary-Anne added Kenya and Namibia to Art Safari’s destinations, and when Antarctica joined the tour list it was clear that the world was Art Safari’s oyster!  Since then Art Safari has made it possible for hundreds of adventurous artists, of many different nationalities, to travel and paint with Art Safari in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, Australia and the Polar Regions, always taking home sketches and precious memories.

“Art Safari groups feel like family”

Art Safari has grown into a worldwide network of guests, artists and travel specialists, hotel and lodge staff, museum guides, restaurateurs, wildlife leaders and national park wardens, all of whom break into huge smiles of welcome when they see a new batch of Art Safari artists coming.  Spanning seven continents since 2003, Art Safari has a small team of travel professionals at their sunny HQ in Woodbridge, Suffolk, UK as well as the tutor team.

Each tour is different, each tutor has a different style, each itinerary has a new flavour.  The world is an amazing place and we are lucky enough to explore it with our sketchbooks.  Slow but sure.

Art Safari welcomes artists of all standards – and non-painting partners who just want to enjoy the peace of it all!

Slow but Sure, Phalombe, Art Safari