Mick Bensley was born in Sheringham, on the north coast of Norfolk. “I spent my formative years on the beach and developed a profound understanding of the sea’s many moods, adverse weather conditions and the desire to capture it in paint.”
This love of the sea is the focus of his exhibition at the Grange Art Gallery of maritime paintings, including some of rescues here on the south coast; the Rottingdean area; and nine porcelain plates of a fictitious village entitled “Journey through the Village”.
Mick studied at Norwich School of Art, and worked in London for fifteen years as a graphic designer and illustrator. But, in the late sixties he read a book which fired his imagination. Cyril Jolly’s book about the lifeboat legend, Henry Blogg of Cromer.
Motivated by its’ descriptions of feats against overwhelming odds and the selfless courage of the men who crewed the lifeboats, Mick produced his first watercolours of maritime rescues. “You can’t fail to be awed and inspired by these men,” he says. “Their selflessness and their courage was, and still is, exceptional. And in the early days, they were doing this in open boats powered only by sails and their own brute strength at the oars.”
Throughout the seventies, he continued to paint maritime watercolours and oils and 1980 returned to Norfolk to paint professionally.
His work involves a great deal of meticulous research, reading RNLI report and records dating from 1824. “From that I research the lifeboat, wind force, wind direction and start with a thumbnail sketch.” This thumbnail sketch forms the basis of a finished painting.
Today, Mick lives and works overlooking the sea at Rottingdean. “I’ve always liked painting the sea in all it moods and the more I read, the more I thought that the stories of these lifeboatmen and their heroic rescues were great subjects.”