Mick Bensley - Sussex-based Marine & Landscape Artist

Born in Sheringham, on the North Norfolk coast and growing up by the North Sea, I developed a profound understanding of its many moods and adverse weather conditions. The desire to capture it in paint began. In the late sixties after reading Cyril Jolly’s book ‘Henry Blogg of Cromer’, I produced my first watercolour paintings of maritime rescues. The descriptions of the rescues, impossible feats against overwhelming odds and the selfless courage of the men who crew our lifeboats that inspired and motivated me to paint this subject.

I was a student at Norwich School of Art, after which I worked in London for 15 years as a designer and illustrator. Throughout the seventies I continued to paint maritime watercolours and oils and in 1980 returned to Norfolk to paint professionally. I have since gained a reputation as a marine artist of skill and accuracy, with paintings in private collections around the world.

Four highly successful exhibitions of paintings and books depicting the rescues of Henry Blogg and the crews of Cromer lifeboats, the rescues of the Sheringham lifeboats, the rescues of the Wells and Blakeney lifeboats and the rescues of the Caister lifeboats were held at Picturecraft of Holt, Norfolk in 2001, 2003, 2006 and 2008. These were the results of almost 12 years work.

A great deal of meticulous research is involved in collecting sufficient material to produce a book and it takes some two and a half years to complete a quantity of working drawings, sketches and paintings. Research usually begins through reading RNLI reports or being fortunate enough to find someone who was involved in the incident. Whilst reading a description of a rescue I find myself undertaking a thumbnail sketch and, more often than not, this usually forms the basis of a finished painting. From the thumbnails sketch a much more detailed working drawing is made concentrating of the run of the sea and the action of the crew and their boat.

A working drawing provides enough information, where possible, to engage in conversation with someone involved in the rescue and the opportunity to gain a greater awareness of the event before finally committing the subject to a finished painting.

I now live and work overlooking the sea in Rottingdean on the Sussex Coast. I divide my time between painting (in oils, watercolour and pastels) and teaching watercolour technique and methods.