Graduate profiles

“You’ll never make a living being an artist!”

Graduate Colin Bentley studied at Margaret Street in the 90’s and reflects on his time studying at the school and on what he has achieved since getting that all important degree.


Artist – Colin Bentley on the Dorset Coast with his dog Patti. 

“You’ll never make a living being an artist!”

This is a phrase that cropped up constantly when I left university. My time at Birmingham School of Art in the mid 1990’s wasn’t easy. I struggled academically and managed to just keep my head above the water, but my passion for art and the long hours saved the day. I can honestly say my time at Margaret Street changed my life.

After completing my degree and gaining a 2:2, I was suddenly thrust into the difficult world of job hunting and following advice I decided that the world needed managers and teachers and not many artists. So, I spent almost 20 years in teaching (a job that I thoroughly enjoyed) and various management roles. People often asked what I studied at university and I’d tell them, an art degree but I’d quickly add, you’ll never make a living being an artist to some how, justify why I haven’t used this training.

Down to my last £300 and ready to sell my car, I waited on the steps outside the gallery…”

The artist inside me had spent years trying to get out and by the time I hit 40, I decided to give up teaching and have one final fling at being an artist. At least, if it failed, I could say I had a go. So, I painted on evenings and weekends and got together an exhibition of over 50 paintings of the Southwest Coast, as landscapes have always been a passion of mine. I booked 3 gallery rooms in a large art centre and hoped for the best. Down to my last £300 and ready to sell my car, I waited on the steps outside the gallery before the private view, fully expecting it to fail. Surprisingly, I almost sold out and I found myself thrust into the Southwest art world.

Over the week of the exhibition, everybody asked me why have you left this so long, “You should have done it years ago!” they’d say. So yes, you can make a living being an artist. After only 3 years working full time in painting, I started a major art project with the Jurassic Coast Trust World Heritage Site of which I’m currently in the second year.

Waves Crashing against Salcombe Hill, Sidmouth

Waves Crashing against Salcombe Hill  – Sidmouth – Oil on Linen 2017.

The Jurassic Coast Trust, says

“Colin is working with us on a multi year art project, inspiring thousands of people with his stunning images of our World Heritage Site, and donating a portion of the artwork sales to our charity to help us look after the coastline. 

 Colin has spent lots of time walking the coast alongside our expert volunteers, and their geological expertise has combined with his artistry to produce some absolutely beautiful pieces. 

 We’re all very excited for our next exhibition with Colin, taking place later this year near Bridport, and capturing iconic Dorset landscapes like Golden Cap, West Bay and Lyme Regis.” 

 Guy Kerr, – JCT

Horse Rock, Number 1 – Charcoal on Paper 2016.

I now realise that the world has plenty of managers and teachers, but not too many artists. I feel totally privileged to do what I do for a living and spend every working day doing what I dreamt about at university. So, if you are in the final year and wondering if the world needs an artist, the answer is yes, but don’t leave it as long as I did.


Orcombe Point  – Exmouth – Oil on Canvas 2017


Snow on Bellever Tor Number 2 – Dartmoor – Study, Oil on Linen 2016.

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