Events. Sketches. Work.

The latest illustration project

Last September, the charity HCPT asked if I could do another illustration project with them. HCPT is a charity that means a lot to me, so I jumped at the chance of supporting them again. My last illustration project was the Story of Bernadette that we launched online during the pandemic. I had so much great feedback and many people said how much it meant to them at a time where they couldn’t travel to Lourdes.

The latest project was to illustrate all 18 of the Lourdes apparitions – a difficult task to do.

HCPT provided me with a script of the text that would be spoken over the animations, and I made a start. I worked on each of the 18 animations in numerical order and started by designing a rough layout. Some of them were very challenging and some were much more simple. I tried to think what the atmosphere would have been like in Lourdes all that time ago – the wonder, the mystery, the confusion, the fear, the gossip, and the growing spectacle of the crowds – it must have been an incredible place during that time.

Over the 3 weeks I worked on this project, I got to know the story of Lourdes a little more, and I feel I’m better connected to the place I visit each Easter with the HCPT group I volunteer with.

I’m finding that the illustration work is becoming increasingly important in the studio and it’s effecting the way I paint. The oil painting influences the illustration work, and the illustration work influences the oil painting – both are as important.

I treated each of the 18 apparition animations as a piece of art – each to be viewed in isolation, and each has a message. I wanted the viewer to feel the excitement of the scene, the fear, the isolation, the enormous crowds, the frustration, the faith, and the bravery.

In its really basic form – it’s a story of a small girl doing something extraordinary – something brave and showing incredible commitment, faith, love and courage. It’s a story well worth sharing.


An Empty Studio

An empty studio.

Now that things are getting back to normal, I thought it would be a good time to have a break from the studio and a well earned rest. I’m using the time to totally empty the studio, clean it and plan the next 2 years.

The pandemic has left me financially battered so I need to use the next couple of years to build up a quality body of work and earn enough money to fund the next set of major exhibitions.

I plan to work in the studio on the projects I’ve currently got on the go. It’s very unlikely that there will be a large exhibition in the next 2 years. There is a chance of a small exhibition, but I haven’t got anything planned at the moment.

Unfortunately, the Jurassic Coast art project is unlikely to continue. I’ve really enjoyed working on it but it’s financially impossible for me to continue. It’s a great disappointment not being able to finish the last section of coastline but I’m hopeful that I’ll return to it in the future.

The project Pilgrimage, a portrait of HCPT is continuing but on a slightly smaller scale. I’m going to continue building up a collection of portraits and landscapes that will eventually be part of a major touring exhibition. There’s no doubt, HCPT’s engagement during the pandemic has kept me going in the most difficult times in the studio. I’m really excited about this project.

I’m also working on a small project painting a collection of sunrise paintings. They’re all of the same beach in Devon from photographs taken by my friend, Fr Paul Cummings. This is turning into a really beautiful and moving little project.

Most of the larger paintings have gone into storage because I haven’t got room to paint them in the studio. Hopefully, I’ll be able to return to them one day.

I’ve got some big plans for the future and I’m really excited about what lies ahead. The isolation of the pandemic has improved my painting skills and I know that the next year will be a very productive one.



A new illustration project.

Where it all started.

Drawing has always been an important part of my life. From a very early age, I spent time sketching and drawing cartoons. It was a way of communicating when I found writing so difficult. I soon realised how much joy a cartoon can bring by drawing them for friends at school.

After completing my art degree, I spent lots of time in various teaching roles. Rapidly drawing cartoons was a real advantage when trying to get a message across. Sometimes a quick drawing can visually engage a class more than a written description. Anyone I’ve taught in the past will tell you how important cartoons were in my teaching and their learning. Throughout the time I’ve spent working with disabled children and adults, drawing cartoons has always been something I’ve used.

My ability to quickly draw a cartoon on a piece of paper has been a great way of communicating with people who find it very hard to communicate in a conventional way. Sharing a smile over a funny cartoon I’ve drawn has help me to bond, calm down, comfort and just have a good laugh with lots of the children we take to Lourdes.

Although the cartoons are an incredibly valuable way of communicating, I’ve always treated the ability to draw them as a bit of a laugh, and always separated it from my studio work.

Over the last year, all that changed.

Looking ahead.

Last Christmas, I designed an advent calendar for HCPT, a charity that’s really close to my heart. It was a great buzz working through the night to hit the printing deadline and I really enjoyed drawing all the cartoons. It was a great way of me giving a little bit of my time and spreading a little bit of joy. I wasn’t prepared for the response I had when the advent calendar got delivered to all the children who couldn’t travel to Lourdes in 2020. I was totally overwhelmed by the amount of joy the advent calendar gave. It made me realise that the cartoons were more than just a bit of a laugh.

This brings me onto the latest project I’ve been working on. It’s an animation telling the story of Bernadette, the little girl who saw the Virgin Mary in Lourdes. It tells the story of why millions of people travel to Lourdes each year. It’s a very big story to tell, a story that means so much to me.

                  Above are images taken from the animation.

The cartoons have definitely become as serious as the rest of my studio work. 

I really enjoyed working on the story of Bernadette, it’s something I’m incredibly proud of. I found it a deeply moving and rewarding experience, and I’m sure illustration has become a major part of my studio work. After all, there’s no difference between the emotional response you get from looking at an oil painting and looking at a cartoon, they’re just different ways of visual communication. To view the animation please visit the HCPT youtube channel.

So, I’m glad that I’m still able to do what I did at school, and draw cartoons to spread a little bit of joy.

The Studio

2020 – Update on future exhibitions due to the COVID pandemic.

There is no doubt that 2020 will be remembered as a very difficult year.

 I’ve worked really hard over the last six years and I’ve been lucky to have very successful exhibitions. It’s always humbling when people buy my work and after each private view there is a huge sense of relief that I’ve made enough to fund the studio for the following year.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have an exhibition in 2019 because of the uncertainty of Brexit and I needed time to catch up on studio work. This meant that I was caught out financially when the COVID Virus hit this year.

 This, I’m afraid has forced me to make some very difficult decisions regarding my painting career. Jenny and I have thought long and hard about the best way forward and we came to the conclusion that it’s very important for me to remain painting in the studio for as long as I can. The only way to do this is to substantially reduce my outgoings.

So, I’ve made the decision to retreat back into the studio and work for as long as I can. There will not be any exhibitions until 2022 at the earliest. Like many businesses in this difficult environment, the phrase “it will be cheaper for me to close down than stay open” will become a very well used one. I’ll work in the studio full time until I have to go part time and find another job.

 The art world is really struggling at the moment and it’s going to take years for it to financially and emotionally recover. I’m sure it’s the same for many, but it’s a matter of riding the storm as well as you can waiting for a glimpse of normality to return.

 I’ll use this increased studio time as productively as I can.


 Throughout the first lockdown I was drawn to the portraits that I’m working on for the charity HCPT. This year has really highlighted the importance of this body of work to me. I’m passionate about this charity and it’s been a major part of my life for many years, so I’ll continue to work on them and give the paintings the time they deserve.


I love working on landscapes, so I’ll continue to work on my Jurassic Coast paintings. I know there are people who have been patiently waiting to buy a landscape from me but I’m afraid there won’t be an opportunity for that until 2021 at the earliest.

 I’d like to thank everybody who has supported me over the years and it’s always been great seeing you at the various exhibitions. Meeting the public will be something that I’ll greatly miss.   

I know this new chapter of my career will bring its own rewards, and I’m sure it will be a very productive time in the studio. It’s an opportunity to stop and think what’s important, and how I want my work to develop. It will be good to really concentrate in the studio, just me and the paintings.

I’d like to thank everybody for the support, and I’ll keep posting regular studio updates on social media. I’m already thinking about the exhibition in 2022 and it’s going to be the most exciting one I’ve put together so far.


JURASSIC COAST EXHIBITION Year Two Symondsbury Tithe Barn

Jurassic Coast Art Exhibition A Great Success

The second Jurassic Coast exhibition is now over and many of the paintings are hanging in their new homes.

This exhibition at Symondsbury Tithe Barn was my biggest and most ambitious to date, and the most rewarding one I’ve ever had. It took two days to build the exhibition in the beautiful medieval barn, and what a building it was to showcase the West Dorset paintings of the Jurassic Coast! The colours of its stone walls complemented perfectly the cliffs and sea on the canvases.


It’s not often I spend every day at one of my exhibitions, but I’m definitely glad I did this time around. It was great seeing the kids darting about trying to spot beaches they’d been to, and listening to the adults fondly remembering when they spent time on this wonderful coastline. People continually placed themselves into the landscapes, giving a deeply personal connection with the painting. This is something I am immensely proud of. Seeing strangers moved by one of my paintings is a very humbling experience. Landscapes are very powerful places and they affect us every day. This is even more apparent with the stunning scenery of the Jurassic Coast, and its landscapes have been the backdrops to many great memories of mine, and I’m sure many others. That’s why I live and work here.

Morning Storm, Charmouth Beach.
Morning Storm, Charmouth Beach.

I’m now starting to focus on the last section of the coastline, spanning from Weymouth to Swanage. I haven’t explored this section except for a few days out to Lulworth, so I can’t wait to see it. Just imagine how I’ll feel when Old Harry Rocks comes into view for the first time! I must admit, it feels like I’m embarking on a new adventure to unknown distant lands.

Sunset over Lyme Regis, Oil on Canvas, 80 x 40 cm

Preparing for my largest exhibition yet

It’s always an exciting time when a painting is finished, so it’s great to get the first of the west Dorset paintings finally done. Currently, I’ve got everything for the October exhibition hanging in my studio waiting for the final touches to get ready for the show.

This painting of Lyme bay, has been a favourite of mine in the studio for some time now. It hung on the the wall surrounded by rough seas and dramatic cliffs and seemed to glow with warmth. I’ve always had a weakness for sunsets, they remind me of summer holidays and late evening kayaking trips.

On the day I took the photograph, the weather wasn’t great and I’d spent most of the afternoon walking from Charmouth over the steep coastline towards Seatown with some friends. I was out to take photographs and nothing on that particular day took my fancy. I know I shouldn’t, but I’m always a little disappointed if I come back from a trip empty handed.  So, we retreated to the pub at Seatown and I drowned my photographic sorrows with a pint.

On the way back the camera was now firmly pack away in my bag as I’d given up on the days dull weather. Then, as we approached the final decent into Charmouth, the sun suddenly decided to stage one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve seen on this coastline. It’s often the surprising moments when out on the Jurassic Coast that give us the most pleasure.

The Dorset coastline when lit from a setting or rising sun is always stunning and I encourage you to make the effort to view this amazing light show.

Sunrise on Chesil Beach, Oil on Canvas, 80 x20cm
Sunrise on Chesil Beach, Oil on Canvas, 80 x20cm

With now only a couple of months to go until the exhibition, the preparations are well under way. This is the largest exhibition I’ve ever staged and I’m very excited, but understandably, a little nervous. The West Dorset coastline hasn’t disappointed and it’s constantly inspired.

Getting to know this epic coastline intimately is something everybody should try a do. You’d be amazed at the rewards you’d get from your own Jurassic Coast adventure.

Colin and Patti the dog

Jurassic Coast Art Project Resumes for 2018

It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a blog and I’ve got plenty of progress to report. The second year of the Jurassic coast art project is progressing very well with many of the major paintings well under way in the studio.

A kayak is often one of the best ways to see the Jurassic Coast in all its glory.
A kayak is often one of the best ways to see the Jurassic Coast in all its glory.

I spent the early part of the year exploring the west Dorset coastline, sometimes walking, running or kayaking. Some of the areas were familiar but most of the coastline was new ground for me. I can distinctly remember, early in the year, walking to the top of Thorncombe Beacon in the fog and thinking that my photographing trip was a waste of time, when suddenly the fog started to burn off and revealed a coastal landscape that staggered me. This location is one of my favourites so far, and the photographs from that day are already being worked into two paintings that, I feel will be starts of the show. The Dorset coastline so far has proven to be visually staggering, a coastline that has a much different feel to Devon’s Triassic cliffs.

The view from Thorncombe Beacon in West Dorset
The view from Thorncombe Beacon in West Dorset from my walk with Martyn

One of my top days out was with Martyn Allen, a Jurassic coast volunteer ambassador. We walked around West Bay and along the cliffs to Burton Bradstock. It was one of the first warm days of early spring and it made us feel like we were on holiday. We talked about geology and some of the local history, then ended our sunny jaunt along the coast path with a pint in the pub and a pasty. My ideal day out.

One of my new Portland paintings at work in the studio
One of my new Portland paintings at work in the studio

I spend a lot of time driving from my home in Devon, over the border to Dorset, and it always staggers me how much the landscapes changes. Dorset feels much older, not the geology, as we know the Triassic section of coast is much older that Dorset’s, but the human interaction, the hill forts, the settlements. The landscape seems a little bit wilder than the well-farmed, hedgerow-lined fields of Devon. I also feel that there’s a light that draws shadows across the Dorset landscape which you don’t see in Devon. I’m definitely enjoying my time photographing and painting here.

Rocks at Portland Bill. Oil on canvas
Rocks at Portland Bill. Oil on canvas

The studio at the moment is looking very busy with paintings in progress hanging on the walls from floor to ceiling. Whenever I have friends around the studio, they always start naming the locations and inventively, start talking about walks and holidays they’ve had. It’s good to know that the paintings evoke an emotion in the viewer and people can gain so much joy from them.

Sometimes it’s hard work in the studio with very long days and a vast amount of work waiting to get finished, but I still wake up in the morning eager to paint. It’s a job that sometimes can exhaust you, but it’s a job that will always reward you. As the paintings progress in the studio and start to come to life, I’m getting more and more excited about the October exhibition (read more here). So, put the date in your diary and I’ll see you in October looking a little bit exhausted and very excited.

In the meantime, I am exhibiting some paintings – both landscapes and portraits – at Lyme Regis Museum until the end of August. Pop in and check them out if you’re in Lyme over the summer!


Jurassic Coast artist Colin Bentley is working on a three-year art project in collaboration with the Jurassic Coast Trust. Following the success of Colin’s first Jurassic Coast art exhibition in Sidmouth, Colin is turning to Dorset for 2018’s exhibition.

Jurassic Coast Artist Turns to Dorset

The exhibition in Sidmouth is now over, and the studio has been cleared, painted and it’s ready for the next year’s work.

Setting up for the exhibition at Kennaway House now seems a long time ago and the success of the show has temporarily hidden that “what if nobody buys my work” feeling, that I suspect all artists secretly have. After all, the work has to be sold in order for me to finance the next set of paintings. I’m always slightly embarrassed talking about the commercial side of my job, but that’s a part of an artwork’s life.

It was great to talk to the new owners of the paintings at the exhibition and they all had something in common. Each person had bought the artwork because it had a personal connection to them, a memory of playing with the kids on the beach or walking the dog. I’ve always felt that art should be bought because you love it. It should evoke an emotion when it’s viewed and hopefully give the viewer joy.

jurassic coast artist - sidmouth


Many people asked me in the exhibition what’s my favourite painting. This was something that I hadn’t thought too much about and my answer actually surprised me. The painting I chose wasn’t one of the large dramatic works or one of the paintings that I was most proud of. It was a tiny little sketch, quite quickly painted, showing the cliffs and the sea at Beer in Devon.

This painting reminded me of the night I kayaked across the bay and met friends on the beach for a BBQ. That night we spent most of our time eating and drinking, but within our increasingly slurred conversation the phrase “we are very lucky to live here” kept cropping up. That little painting brought it all back and reminds me, why I live on this beautiful coast and am proud to be a Jurassic Coast artist.

The Jurassic Coast is an important part of my life, and I’m sure many of us would say the same. Knowing that all the people who now own my paintings bought them because of their connection with this coastline make me immensely proud to be a Jurassic Coast artist.

I can’t wait to start the Dorset section of the Jurassic Coast and I’m looking forward to spending time walking its coastline. So, if you see a man taking photographs of his small dog and a very big smile on his face, it’s probably me thinking “I’m very lucky to live here”.


Colin with his dog Patti on the Isle of PortlandJurassic Coast artist Colin Bentley is working on a three-year art project in collaboration with the Jurassic Coast Trust. Following the success of Colin’s first Jurassic Coast art exhibition in Sidmouth, Colin is turning to Dorset for 2018’s exhibition.

Waves crashing against Salcombe Hill, Sidmouth. Oil on Canvas. 60 x 40 cm

“Challenging, frustrating & difficult”

“People often ask me if I find painting relaxing, and when I answer ‘no’ it seems to be quite unexpected”.

I’ve always found painting and drawing one of the most challenging, frustrating and difficult things I do. It’s very rare that a painting comes together without the usual intense decision-making, hard work and the inevitable frustration. The next question they usually ask is, “why do you do it, if you don’t find it relaxing?”

Hern Point Rock, Ladram Bay. Oil on Canvas. 60 x 40 cm
Hern Point Rock, Ladram Bay. Oil on Canvas. 60 x 40 cm

I see my role as an artist as more of a vocation than just a job. The constant striving to create something better than the last is exhausting, but that desire to push myself sometimes leaves me quite astonished at the outcome. I feel this latest exhibition at Kennaway House contains some of the best work I’ve ever done, and it’s certainly the hardest I’ve pushed myself towards an exhibition.

In the last couple of months I’ve been spending increasing time in the studio working towards the show. Although this time has seen some very long days, it’s been very rewarding. It’s always great to see the paintings finally completed.

I’ve also been working with the students from Sidmouth College and some of the young visitors to Ladram Bay Holiday Park and Lyme Regis Museum.

As I’ve said before, the enthusiasm and determination that young people put into their artwork is always an inspiration. Recently another artist asked me who inspires me the most, and I replied, “Sophie, a girl from Ladram Bay”. It didn’t go down well in this artistic name-dropping session that I found myself trapped in, but I would be very pleased if I could put the same determination into my artwork that Sophie did.

Colin and Jurassic Coast Ambassador Chris Woodward at Sidmouth College
Colin and Jurassic Coast Ambassador Chris Woodward at Sidmouth College

My original brief of working closely with the Trust’s volunteer Ambassadors to gain an understanding of the Jurassic Coast’s geology has certainly paid off. I was showing a friend the new paintings and he said, “there’s something different about your work, it’s the rocks; they look more solid or real somehow”. The geology has crept into the artwork without me noticing!


One of the most exciting aspects of this fast approaching exhibition is the inclusion of portraiture. As I’m working my way along the Jurassic Coast, I’m painting the portraits of each of the Ambassadors. This connection with people who are passionate about this.



Anthony Cline | Study for oil painting Pencil on paper 22 x 17 cm
Anthony Cline | Study for oil painting Pencil on paper 22 x 17 cm

Stairway to Heaven painting of coast

Changing Seasons

The seasons are rapidly changing on the Jurassic Coast. This has always been a favourite time of year for me, and as an artist, it’s always a great time to photograph and sketch outdoors. The new growth gives the landscape vibrant colours and a fresh look that’s difficult to find at any other time of year.

I’m spending a large amount of time exploring the Triassic section of the World Heritage Site and even though I know this stretch well, and live here, I still manage to find places that leave me speechless. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I’m at work when I’m walking and photographing the coast. I’m very lucky to have a job that takes me to some of the most beautiful locations on the coastline.


Pine Trees Budleigh Salterton Looking West. Oil on Linen. 30 x 40cm.

I’ve recently arranged walks with Jurassic Coast Ambassador John Ayres and Dr Roger Trend from Sidmouth museum. Each walk was full of enthusiasm about the geology of Sidmouth and Budleigh Salterton. Roger and John each talked about how long it’s taken the coastline to be formed and the timescales were enormous, something that I found hard to comprehend. The Jurassic Coast is not only vast in scale but it’s also enormous in terms of time. I’m starting to realise this is quite an epic coastline!

Scale is something that keeps cropping up in my notes when working on the project. The 180 million years of geology on this coastline is astonishing and also, the vastness of its landscapes. As an artist it’s important to get this vast scale across in the artwork and it’s difficult to achieve without painting on a very grand scale. The largest painting in this first exhibition is 15 foot by 5 foot, the biggest I’ve ever worked on. The paintings are so big that I have to tape my paintbrush to a long garden cane, as that’s the only way I can stand far enough back to see the entire painting as I’m working!

Painting on this scale is something that I’ve always found difficult, but it’s possibly the most rewarding of any studio work. Not only do I have the practical problems of using vast amounts of paint and difficult drying times, but the paintings are so big it feels that I can barely control them. After all, they are much bigger than me! You need to treat artwork on this scale with increased respect, because if you make a mistake it’s going to be a very big one.

Pleisiosaur model
Macaroni plesiosaur from session at Ladram Bay Holiday Park

In other news, I attended the Jurassic Coast Trust’s boat cruise with City Cruises Poole in May, capturing some fabulous images of Old Harry Rocks and the surrounding cretaceous geology, which I hope to expand upon in the studio when the time is right. I also recreated Mary Anning’s famous plesiosaur fossil in macaroni with young guests at Ladram Bay Holiday Park over half-term. The kids were so enthusiastic and I was quite pleased with the final product.

Cardboard model of Kennaway House
Cardboard model of Kennaway House

Back at the studio, it’s getting very busy and almost full to capacity, and it is the major paintings for the Kennaway House exhibition in October that I’ve dedicated most of my time to. I’ve even made a little cardboard model of the venue so I know which painting will go where. I’m starting to understand the Jurassic Coast more each week, and it’s not only the geology that’s influencing the artwork but the people I meet whilst out working. As this project continues I’m starting to feel deeply rooted in this epic World Heritage Site.