Making his mark in Maryport

Welcome Back Fund - funded by ERDF

From Allerdale’s coastal beauty, to some of the most famous celebrity faces, Barrie J Baker, of B Baker Art, is showcasing both through his colourful art at the Tidal Reach Gallery in Maryport.

What artist could fail to be inspired by the shoreline of Allerdale? From its dramatic skies and tides, to the calmness of its sunsets, this is a beautiful place to be.

And what better place to capture it on canvas than Maryport, the historic harbour town at the heart of this coastline? It’s where artist Barrie J Baker returned after living and working in London, and it’s now where he has the Tidal Reach Gallery and his studio.

Carlisle-born Barrie didn’t train as an artist – it was a hobby which turned into a passion when a pal in London said ‘you should be selling these’ after seeing some of his bold designs. He got a pitch for a stall on Bayswater Road, and he still has the painting he created which shows the view through the railings where he sat and sold his work.

When he decided to come back north to his native Cumbria he chose the coast rather than the city, making his home in Maryport.

“I’ve always had an affinity with the sea,” he says. “When I came back, I didn’t want to do a ‘normal’ job, I just wanted to do what I was doing. I got a stall on Keswick Market, and I was selling through the gallery too.”

When the then owners of the gallery announced that they were planning to close, Barrie stepped in. “I didn’t want to see it shut,” he says. “My business was expanding so I took it on.

“It’s been brilliant, and excellent to have such a big place to work, and having the shop front is great. We get a lot of visitors in Maryport and I think it’s a place that’s really on the up. I’m looking forward to what’s coming next here.”

As you wander around Tidal Reach Gallery, which is perched just over the brow of the hill in Senhouse Street, just in sight of the sea, you realise there are two key parts to Barrie’s work. There are the seascapes which show the drama of this coastline, and also his huge portraits which feature instantly recognisable faces.

He does paint other subjects too, like people who catch his eye, or very personal bespoke commissions, but the sea and those faces are the things which give this shop the immediate ‘wow factor’ when you walk through the door. The colours of the original works and the prints on sale just pop, brightening even the greyest West Cumbria day. “I’m torn between the two,” says Barrie, when he’s asked whether it’s the natural world or the portraits which he enjoys painting the most. “I loved drawing and painting people as a kid, but the landscapes are something I am inspired by.

“You walk out of the gallery and down to the sea. The light is coming through, you get a picture, and then you set about it, though I like to put my own edge on the painting. I love to sit on the harbour – you could be anywhere in the world when you smell the seaweed and the sand.

“The portraits started with legends and people I have admired – Bowie and Bob Marley and just two of those. I love costumes, so movie stars like Tom Hardy feature too. It’s how they are acting and how they are dressed.

“I’ve also been inspired by African dance and carnivals. I travelled in Ghana which was an awesome place to be as I love history as well. It just gets you so fired up. “Rather than just trying to look like a photograph, I try to feel like suddenly you are there. A feeling that ‘wow – that’s the real thing’.”

Barrie’s art can be seen and purchased at the Tidal Reach Gallery, Senhouse Street, Maryport, and also at Keswick Market on Saturdays.

B Baker Art