A Plein Air Painting Workshop with Lori Putnam in Staithes, England, Part 3

This summer I had the privilege of traveling to the UK to paint with Nashville oil painter, Lori Putnam in the historic fishing village and former artist colony of Staithes on the North Yorkshire coast.


This blog post is a continuation of my series on my trip to Staithes in June 2022. The workshop was organized by Workshops in Yorkshire and taught by award-winning artist Lori Putnam. For Part 1, go here. For Part 2, go here.


Day 5


Friday morning was the last day of the workshop and my final full day in Staithes. I was so excited for this day because we planned to hike up the steep road that led to Cowbar, a high point overlooking Staithes Beck, and, from which, we could see arguably the most iconic view of Staithes painted by so many landscape painters.


The High Street in Staithes on the sunny last morning of our workshop.

Cowbar or Cowbar Nab is the headland that shelters Staithes to the North. We crossed the bridge over Staithes Beck which lies behind our accomodations for the week and up the steep road, Cowbar Lane, and then up some steps to the viewing point on the cliff. From there you can walk further along, picking up Cowbar Lane as it skirts the coast. Most students chose to set up on the viewing point with Lori, while others including me walked on to take in the magnificent view out to sea from Cowbar Lane.

Staithes Beck at high tide. The steep road in the background leads up to Cowbar where we will spend the day painting.

My painting is available here.


Some workshop participants can be seen at work at the viewing point on Cowbar.

Here are few images of Staithes from Cowbar at different times of day below. I think you can see why it's such an appealing view!

Staithes Beck from Cowbar with the sea in the distance. This iconic view has been painted by some of the greatest landscape painters.

Another view later in the day. The green and turquoise water begs to be captured in paint.


Another view from our perch - the stacked roofs with the headland behind.

The weather was gorgeous, sunny, and breezy. The wind coming off the water was intense, so after chasing some of my gear around, I strapped my tripod to the old metal railing that prevents people from falling off the edge. There was a meditative quality that I loved about this view. The challenge as a painter was to choose the composition of the clouds and shadows at the beginning and stick with the plan as the clouds were constantly moving and creating changing light and shadow effects to the cliffs. Making a plan and sticking to it is something Lori emphasized over the week, but it's harder in practice than in theory when painting plein air. Nature does not hold still for anyone!


I chose a view looking out to the North Sea from Cowbar Lane. The wind off the water was so strong that I had to secure my tripod to the railing with bungee cords.

I worked on the small piece above throughout the morning with Lori stopping by from time to time to check in with those of us painting in this place.


A mesmerizing scene. I loved standing before this view painting it.

Available here.


I worked on the small piece above throughout the morning with Lori stopping by from time to time to check in with those of us painting in this place. After standing for such a long time I took a break to walk further up to road to get some exercise. I was also curious to see what I might find and get more reference photos for later. Below you can see a few images from my walk.


Pastures dotted with trees in the distance seen along the coastal path.

A fenced in meadow with a few wild flowers beginning to bloom.

A stone post no longer in use, it stands like a modernist sculpture in a field of long grass.

Another view of one of the headlands I'd only just been painting.

A red bottomed boat leans against the garden wall of one of the local cottages on Cowbar.

After lunch I used my kraft sketchbook to play around with some color studies of the view of the beck. Painting the little houses below felt a little like working on a Rubik's cube, and I had difficulty seeing the whole amid all the details, but I was glad I spent the time just looking and trying.


In the late afternoon we headed back down to our rooms to rest and have one on one critiques with Lori. She set out all the studies she had completed during the workshop around the common area in the Smugglers' Inn for us to get a closer look. Then each of us took turns talking to Lori about our work and getting some feedback from her. Getting work critiqued by a professional artist is an opportunity I believe no one should pass up.


That evening we had a special going away dinner prepared by Lori's husband, Mark, with dessert prepared by Symi's partner, Joe. It was a wonderful meal shared with new friends with whom we'd shared a new adventure. Sadly, it was time to pack and rest before we all departed Staithes.


Below a few of Lori's beautiful studies. Notice how they feel colorful and yet the colors are so harmonious. Light and shadow is also simplified to create a pleasing composition that reads as realistic without including every possible detail.


Lori Putnam's study of Runswick Bay, 11'x14".

Lori's study of High Street, Staithes, 11"x14".

Day 6, Heading Home


Saturday morning was our check-out day for all the accommodations. Some participants were headed to other destinations for some vacation time while others, like me, were headed home. Needing to take a taxi to the Manchester Airport, I scheduled my ride for early afternoon, so that I could enjoy a little more of the town. Along with another workshop participant with the same itinerary, we walked the town perusing shops, visiting the Staithes Museum, looking around The Staithes Gallery, and enjoying coffee and a scone at the local tearoom.


Below are some of the images of that lovely last morning in Staithes.


Vintage objects from Staithes' history arranged outside of the Staithes Museum.

"The Bird Cage," by Dame Laura Knight. This beautiful piece housed at the Staithes Museum.

Dotty's Tearoom, Staithes. Every corner is filled with charming vintage items that give it a warm, cozy feel.

Sipping a latte with a friend at Betty's, a delightful way to kill an hour.

A pretty aquamarine door to a cottage in Staithes.

The beautiful work of David Curtis, master plein air painter, covers a wall in the Staithes Gallery.

One of many pieces by Haidee-Jo Summers at Staithes Gallery.

Our suitcases lined up outside the bright blue door of the Smugglers.

Visiting Staithes, England, to paint was one of my dreams as an artist and I'm so glad I had the opportunity. I'm also so glad that I got to take a workshop with Lori Putnam. Symi Jackson and Joe Hawkins of Workshops in Yorkshire did a great job hosting and they're knowledge of the area was invaluable on a first trip.


I think about returning with the knowledge I have now, and all the things I would do and paint. If your serious about landscape painting, Staithes is a great destination.