In Foz do Arelho there is one Pastelaria with an ocean view, Doce Mar. It sits atop the cliffs on the northern side of the lagoon and looks out over the crashing waves as they attempt to break down the barrier of the dune. Ruth and I spent a month or so in Foz before we ever ventured in. Our first time there we met Sergio, the proprietor of Doce Mar and had our first encounter with Mark Benham.
Mark fundamentally changed our experience in Portugal. As a fellow artist we shared a special bond. Mark also provided an introduction to many other wonderful people, including his wonderfully exuberant partner, Jeannie. We spent an intentional moment in a cafe to ask him questions for this interview but there was so much we got to know about Mark through our time together.
Mark grew up in Hampshire, England he currently lives in Bath. ‘From the age of 18 I knew that I wanted to travel but I worked in various design jobs before leaving to travel the world in my 30’s.’
Since we are in the midst of our own world travels, we were eager to hear a few details about Mark’s.
Mark- ‘The plan was to spend a year travelling, ending up in Zanzabar but that leg of the trip wouldn’t happen for another 10 years. I began in Toronto, Canada and rode all the way across the country to Vancouver. From there I made my way to Seattle, then drove to San Fransisco and on to LA visiting design firms as I went along. My next stop was Fiji which was highly enjoyable. On through Australasia before flying to Thaliand where I took an 18 hour train ride from Bangkok to Panang. In Thailand I ran across several young Buddhist Monks on a 9 hour bus ride on my way to Phitsanulok. New Zealand had some freelance work for me. I have an interesting story about New Zealand.’
And you have to understand that any time Mark is speaking we are entranced by his fantastic British accent. So attempt your best British while reading through the rest.
Mark- ‘The New Zealand landscape is beautiful. I took some time to hike Mt. Aiken and Arthur's Pass. With my sketchbook and days worth of time the trails became mine - each day I would sketch the amazing things that I saw. On one particular day I got lost and it was beginning to get dark. The sun was going to be lost behind the horizon soon and I didn’t know how to get back. I tried to cut across a valley, but that made things worse because I ended up even more lost! After slipping into a river, which I figured would help me find my way down the mountain, and becoming more disorientated, I found the path I had come in on by pure chance! The thought of sleeping on that mountainside wasn't enticing - I still remember it well’
After spending a large part of his life working as a designer, Mark has ventured into the worlds of professional photography and drawing.
Mark- ‘I always loved to draw and when I went on my world tour I was given a sketch book which I promptly filled. Then I filled several more.’
The Caldas Community Arts Center in Portugal showed a selection of Mark’s drawings that we had the pleasure of viewing. In addition to the drawing Mark seemed to always be wandering with his camera. Everything was viewed from the perspective of his camera. Ruth and I were so excited when we had the chance to purchase a print of one of his photographs for our private collection.
Mark- ‘Photography is still new for me but I love it. I need to figure out how to have an income from the work. After so many years in the Design industry, with all of the marketing and selling it is nice to just create what is beautiful to me. That is where it get’s tough, trying to sell my work without selling out, without going back to the design for marketing mentality.’