I love Staithes, the people, the houses huddled together against the elements, the cobles that bob around in the harbour and Beck, their swollen bellies present a comforting appeal that must be reassuring when out at sea, a bit womb like. They are a challenge to draw and paint but one that I never tire of and am pleased that the locals have pronounced my portrayals sea worthy.
As a child I loved visiting Staithes with my family. It was my father's favourite fishing village as he had very happy memories of holidaying there as a child. He was born in Bradford and every year his father, a teacher, would take a group of school boys to holiday away from the smoke and grime of the city to experience the delight of a seaside holiday and breathe the fresh sea air.
My grandfather would stay with the boys in the huts at the top of Staithes whilst my father, his sister and mother would stay in York House a cottage which is still there today. He grew to love the place and he passed on that love to me through his stories of the village and its history. Days of smuggling, the dialect that at that time could still to be heard, the fishing bonnets, the cobles all with their Viking connections. And, of course, Captain Cook.
My father built dingies as a hobby, had been in the sea cadets as a boy and was an excellent swimmer, (Olympic Standard) and he loved the sea. He taught me to swim and sail and I grew to love the sea as much as he did.
He was also a talented artist, very good at drawing and after one of our visits to Staithes he showed me a book of paintings by some artists known as The Staithes School of Artists, or The Northern Impressionists. I was hooked! Many of those artists are still my heroes today, Dame Laura Knight, Joseph R. Bagshawe, Isa Jobling, Robert Jobling and Frank Henry Mason...who actually came from Hartlepool. Reading about these artists convinced me of two very important things; that a woman and someone from Hartlepool could still aspire to be an artist!
I have painted Staithes all my life and when on a visit there a few years ago, I saw that a new gallery was opening. I was determined that my paintings would be on show.
As soon as I returned home I sent off a letter to the new owners with a CD of some of my work. Imagine my delight when a day or two later I got a call from Al (the owner of Staithes Gallery) who amazingly had been going to call me the very day that my letter had fallen on the floor. She had bought one of my paintings in York and wanted me to exhibit in the gallery! I have been exhibiting there ever since and my love and association with the place has grown.
I am extremely lucky to have some good friends in Staithes who have taken me and my family under their wing so that every visit is like returning to my spiritual home.