Self-taught artist Mike Bennett opens Williamston art studio

Published 6:10 pm Wednesday, October 11, 2017

When it comes to art, Mike Bennett is a renaissance man. The self-taught artist’s skills range from pastels to intricately detailed landscapes in oil. At 59 years old, he’s been painting since high school but continues to learn about his craft — just this week, Bennett took a watercolor workshop with former Washington resident and acclaimed watercolorist Franz Van Baars.

“I prefer drawing charcoal and pen and ink drawings, but I do a lot of painting in oils, portraits and landscapes,” Bennett said.

He got his artistic start in the summer of 1975, when board of education members in his native Martin County were on the lookout for scholarships, according to Bennett. His artwork was noticed and Bennett became the recipient of a scholarship to North Carolina School of the Arts in Winston-Salem, he said. After summer and fall there, he branched out, including spending time in the mountains helping famed painter Ben Long paint frescoes in churches.

“I learned a lot from that, was given drawing assignments, and picked up a lot from helping him,” Bennett said.

He spent time on the Outer Banks painting seascapes and marsh scenes; murals for churches; and commissioned portraits. He’s currently been commissioned by the Town of Oak City to do a 12-foot-by-36-foot mural that will be dedicated Nov. 11.

These days, Bennett has settled in one place, however, with his new studio: the Mike Bennett Art Studio on Main Street in Williamston. It’s a place where he plans to paint for himself, but also teach classes to share all that he’s been taught by the various artists under whom he’s studied over the years, he said.

“I do a lot of portrait commission, but here in the studio I want to paint what I like to paint, like landscapes,” Bennett said.

Add to that a piano and drum set, and Bennett also hopes to soon be hosting weekend jazz sessions for local musicians and for music lovers to drop by and listen.

It’s a new adventure for the artist who, two months ago, was invited on the spot to hang some of his pieces in Arts of the Pamlico’s Turnage Theatre in Washington. He’s since submitted more work for AOP’s annual Fine Arts Show.

Bennett’s focus now is on getting his website and studio classes up and running — a different sort of endeavor for him.

“All this is new to me,” Bennett said. “I’ve pretty much just painted.”

The Mike Bennett Art Studio is located at 132 Main St. in Williamston. Bennett can be reached at and his website,, will soon be up and running online.