A Portrait of the Jurassic Coast

Colin Bentley in the studioColin Bentley is an East Devon-based fine artist working on a three-year art project in collaboration with the Jurassic Coast Trust. In the latest of his regular blogs, Colin writes of the inspiration, frustration and perspiration that goes into creating his artwork.

Colin’s first Jurassic Coast art exhibition is at Kennaway House, Sidmouth, from 21 to 27 October. Entry is free.

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

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?”

Waves Crashing
Waves crashing against Salcombe Hill, Sidmouth.
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.

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

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.

Anthony Cline sketch
Anthony Cline – study for oil painting. Pencil on paper. 22 x 17 cm.

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 coastline and its geology has re-ignited my passion for painting people. It has been 25 years since I’ve exhibited a portrait, so it’s very exciting and nerve-racking for me.

It’s been a great year exploring the Triassic section of the World Heritage Site and even though I live in this area, I’ve been amazed at how much I’ve learnt. It just proves how much there is to explore on our doorsteps, and I can thoroughly recommend getting to know the Jurassic Coast more; it constantly surprises, astounds and inspires.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *