COMPELLED TO PAINT “This was in the 1990s when one year the tide came in and up over the breakwaters. The water came right up the village and into the streets. I brought my camera and took some photos then went away, bought a board and panel, three or four oil colours, a palette knife and painted this dark and stormy picture of Staithes,” he says. His parents were impressed by the painting, but Rob didn’t think much of it. Without his knowledge, he says, they took it to a gallery in nearby Castleton. After failing art, he continued to draw a little, but it was only when Rob clapped eyes on Staithes that he, like so many before him, felt compelled to paint again. He was by this point working in a very cushy job in architecture. To use the vernacular of certain websites, after his parents took his painting of Staithes to the gallery in Castleton, what happened next will stun you. “They offered me a solo show.” So, in his spare time from his interior architecture job, often painting through the night and using frames his brother had made, he created enough paintings for a solo show. It sold out, the paintings going to the tune of £5,000. Here’s the really weird bit, Rob just went back to work - and not as a painter, but
in his architecture firm. “I trained for six years to become an architect and I just didn’t see painting as a career. It was just something I liked to do,” he says. By now Rob was working down south and making a good living. The Castleton Gallery had requested more paintings and he obliged, providing enough work for two more shows, but Rob had little real interest in what was happening with this ‘hobby’. Then the stars aligned and Rob had his Mark Twain epiphany. His parents had been putting some of his old paintings in the famous Staithes institution, The Cod and Lobster pub (an absolute must stop when you visit Staithes, as I’m starting to suspect you will). Once a month they would hang a painting and Rob later discovered that the paintings would always divide the village. One particular couple who always loved the paintings were David and Alison Milnes, who would visit Staithes regularly. They loved the paintings on first sight on a Friday and when it came to Sunday, the paintings would be sold. David and Alison started asking about the artist, discovered Rob’s parents and were soon requesting paintings of Rob’s to hang in their art gallery. They started requesting more and more - the paintings were selling.
PLACE TO GO The Cod and Lobster is a long-established favourite in the village and last defence from the ravages of the North Sea, the pub has felt the wrath of the waves on at least three occasions. The last in the great storm of 1953 when the front was washed away and the fishermen looked on in sorrow as the precious bottles of brew bobbed about on the foam.