Martin Henley’s formative artwork has been very much influenced by his upbringing in the old city of Winchester, where he grew up by the River Itchen and went to art school. There he studied illustration and printmaking; immersing himself sketching in the chalk hills of the Hampshire countryside and elsewhere with ‘off the beaten track’ sketchbook studies and paintings. At the West of England College of Art in Bristol and later at the Central School of Art and Morley College he further experimented with lithography and etching.
In London, his sketches of live theatre performances were published in The Times and, whilst part time teaching, he worked as a freelance illustrator for educational publishing titles (e.g. Lutterworth’s ‘The Rolls Royce Men’, and ‘We Live In Guyana’ for The Caribbean University Press) and also for wine advertising campaigns. He later had a studio off Fleet Street specialising in editorial cartooning, caricaturing, and travel and events graphics. Martin has also designed and illustrated cartoon strips for children in the RNLI’s Storm Force News of real life sea rescues, and artwork for The Tradescant Trust, The Painshill Park Trust and Greater London Arts Association.
His sketchbooks have been a growing resource for inspiration and reflection, teeming with keen observational details of moments in time, underpinned by strong drawing and ever-explorative craft and painting skills. Etching and Fine Art painting (of wild landscapes in Britain and of the life figure) are his current main preoccupations. His searching paintings explore the dramatic atmospheric effects of weathering in landscapes and shorelines studied outdoors (in all weathers) in the west country, Wales, the north and abroad. Typical subjects are of fast disappearing isolated farm and industrial buildings, animals, traction engines and of fishing boats.
His drawings and figure sketches in oils and watercolours (illustrative in style) strive to reflect both the vigour, the personality and restraint of the pose. Fresh combinations of translucent and opaque naturalistic colours and contrasting surface textural renderings, whether the subject be stones, trees or skin, are conscientiously applied to describe detail, depth and form.
Martin has, throughout his career, combined creative and professional work with teaching. In early employment he specialised in educational illustration and was a senior designer for The Schools Council at Leeds University Institute of Education, and has worked as a graphic designer and with theatre-in-education at London’s innovative Cockpit Arts Workshop.
He has taught in schools in Bermondsey and Brent, and has been a head of art/programme manager at Richmond Upon Thames College and a principal A level Art Examiner with the WJEC exam board. More recently, Martin has been teaching part time at Brunel University Arts Centre.
Martin has had work in the V&A theatre collection, has exhibited in Leeds University, in Tokyo and on tour in South America and Japan for the British Council, and in London galleries. Martin lives in south-west London near the Thames and Bushy Park.