Plein Air Painting in Staithes, Pt. 2

This summer I took a landscape painting workshop with Lori Putnam through Workshops in Yorkshire. In part two, I take the stairs to paint in gorgeous summer weather from the tippy top of the town and then head to flower-filled Runswick Bay.


For part 1, go here.


In June of this year, I had the pleasure of travelling to Staithes in North Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. For five full days we painted around this historic fishing village. Nashville painter Lori Putnam was our teacher presenting painting demonstrations and giving feedback while the students pushed themselves to try new techniques and subjects.


Stiathes Harbor at low tide. Beautiful at every time of day.

Yellow climbing roses set against the turquois trim of this home in Staithes. Pops of color against stonework are something that draw artists to these coastal villages.

Day 3


On Wednesday I was really anxious to get a full day of painting in. With perfect painting weather for the whole day, I followed Lori up through a maze of ancient steps that lead you past stacked houses to get a different view of Staithes.


A spectacular view from our perch.

To navigate the houses in Staithes, there is a system of worn, irregular steps that are so numerous they have names. I can imagine a time when the fishermen's wives bustled up and down these steps carrying baskets with children in tow. If you're willing to lug your equipment up the steep terrain and get a little thigh workout, climbing these steps gives a painter a chance to see the town from different directions and heights. I admit that on this day I started to rethink all the equipment I had brought and wish I had a lighter weight gear. I can image going back to Staithes someday with just a backpack.


Lori painting the iconic orange tiled roof tops of Staithes. I alternated painting my own composition and walking over to see how Lori approached her subject.

We climbed and climbed, leaving other students at various points as they found views that caught their eye. We reached the highest point, where surrounded by holiday cottages, we could choose a composition. I found a spot where a wildflower lined path led down between some houses. Attempting to apply what I'd learned from Lori, I made a number of value studies and notans and then got to work. People came and went from their holiday rentals and hikers and construction workers passed by, but up here I found myself really getting into the zone. I lost track of time painting my little scene until Symi brought me a sandwich for lunch.


Beyond this little blue cottage and to the left you can see Lori and some of the other students setting up. I stood on this wide space and painted the steep path that led down past wildflowers to more cottages.

Guided by my little value studies, I tried to capture the scene below.

After lunch, I set up my folding chair, and did some cloud studies on kraft paper of the view in the distance. The afternoon became quite windy, and the clouds moved quickly over the headland, so I had to work quickly to capture the ever-changing shapes of the clouds. It also meant chasing after paper towels and other light weight items that blew across the stone landing. I've noticed that where the sky meets the land is a subject I'm drawn to and I found studying this view relaxing and peaceful.

I love the clouds and blue sky against these reddish cliffs.

One of the quick cloud studies I completed after lunch.

After a full day of plein air painting, we slowly made our way down to earth to enjoy a special meal together in the Smugglers. Artist Haidee-Jo Summers joined us as she had been in town painting for the day. Symi suggested we all head down to the harbor wall to watch the sunset as it promised to be a spectacular one. By now we'd all spent at least three days together and so gathering together to laugh, chat, and marvel at the sky was a memorable experience. As I mentioned before, sunset was around 9:30 pm and there was still plenty of light as we headed to bed to prepare for our excursion on Thursday.


The setting sun turns the headlands rose gold.

Watching the sun set with my new friends.

Goofing around and snapping pictures after a long day of painting and learning, Lori embraces her husband Mark while the sun sinks below the horizon.

Day 4


On Thursday we packed our gear and headed to Runswick Bay just a few miles south of Staithes. Though it began as a fishing village the town today is the perfect embodimnet of the charming English village and a perfect getaway for those looking for a slower pace.


Runswickbay.com sums it up best on its homepage:


"Runswick Bay is a picture postcard North Yorkshire coastal village, boasting a mile of secluded bay and gorgeous beach. Situated nine miles north of Whitby, it nestles in between Sandsend and Staithes, and forms part of the Cleveland Way which runs along its beach. It is part of the Jurassic coast and famed for its fossils."



The nearby village of Runswick Bay. Many of the cottages are owned rather than rented and the pride the locals take in their homes shows.

Runswick Bay has also been popular with landscape painters over the years, and it's easy to see why. We gathered on a grassy area between the houses and the beach for Lori to set up and share her process. She chose a thatched cottage on the edge of the town and framed by the trees that climb up the cliff behind it.

Our group watching Lori demo. The popular public beach is in the distance.

Another view of the village. Lori chose the beautiful thatched home to the far right as her subject.

Lori nearing the end of her demo. If you struggle with value, she is the teacher for you.

Before beginning my own painting of the same scene. I walked with a few friends through the winding paths to admire the gorgeous gardens overflowing with flowers. Below you can see a glimpse of the beauty of Runswick Bay.

The gardens of the village were exploding with color in early June.

Roses in a front garden with numerous varieties, the owner must be an expert at cultivating roses.

Imagine taking your morning coffee on this little bench. Everywhere you turn you find a ready-made painting composition.

Perfect weather for a stroll through the narrow sidewalks that wind through Runswick Bay.

Runswick Bay was once a fishing village like Staithes, but now serves as a relaxing get away for both people in the region and tourists.

A view of the bay and Kettleness headland through a vintage phone box.

After my walk, I got down to choosing a subject to paint. I walked to the beach to consider painting a beach scene, but instead chose the same subject as Lori had. I created a small study of the view Lori had painted. Like the other pieces I painted, it was no masterpiece but rather an important learning exercise. Back in the states, I painted this larger version available for purchase:


Thatched Cottage at Runswick Bay," 9"x 12", oil on linen panel

Afterward I enjoyed coffee and a delicious scone from the Sandside Cafe. I would love to come back here and paint, possibly for more than one day. We headed back to Staithes in great spirits and then freshened up for dinner at The Cod and Lobster where I switched up my usual fish and chips for a delicious curry. The photos from this day continue to inspire me, and I've painted several other scenes such as this one which is also available for purchase here:


"Rose Cottage, Runswick Bay'" 9" x !2" oil on linen panel

Check back in a few days for the third and final installment of this blog series!