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The North Shields Artist on his Coastal-Inspired Art, Attention from Sam Fender and his Pride in the Region

Mark at the harbour dressed in RNLI uniform holding one of his paints of the harbour Crest Photography
February 2023
Reading time 3 Minutes

Artist and lifeboat hero Mark Taylor is sharing Tyneside's fishing heritage nationally - and his coastal-inspired paintings have attracted attention from Sam Fender and Duran Duran's Andy Taylor

Mark divides his time between painting the North East coastline and answering calls with his RNLI crew, but having recently displayed his work at a major London exhibition, he's keen to continue making a splash in the art world.
Mark Painting Crest Photography

Mark trained in fine art and was course leader at Tyne Metropolitan College and manager at Newcastle College before becoming a full-time, professional artist 11 years ago, continuing his father’s legacy. Dallas Keith Taylor was an artist and had shops in Eldon Square and the Metrocentre, and he also saved 65 lives at sea as a lifeboatman. ‘I’d always been around art,’ says Mark. ‘When my father became ill and had a large waiting list for his work, I was able to fulfil his commissions and found myself being able to paint like him. I decided I would continue after he passed away so I became an artist full time.’

Working as a coxswain with Tynemouth RNLI Lifeboat crew, the North East coast inspires much of Mark’s artwork. He was awarded a medal for bravery for his part in saving the lives of a father and son found clinging to the base of a rock at South Shields. ‘I live on a boat and I have my studio above the Low Lights Tavern, so the fishing industry heavily inspires me. Working for the RNLI, I understand how dangerous the sea is. Fishermen and -women go out and bring back catch for their livelihoods and it’s an honour to be able to go out when they need my help. My paintings are inspired by the sea, the fishing industry, harbour life and local people. If I’m not out on my boat taking pictures of the scenery, I’m in the studio painting.’

Mark’s oil on canvas, sepia-toned painting of North Shields White Fish Market, Circa 1905, was recently chosen from around 1,000 global submissions to be displayed in The Royal Society of Marine Artists’ annual exhibition at London’s Mall Galleries. He responded to a call out from the Society inviting submissions, not just from members but from ‘wild cards’. ‘I wanted to take local art and have it nationally recognised to prove North Shields is an amazing place and show why we should be proud of our history and heritage,’ he reflects. ‘A lot of the places here that were once fish merchants are now bars and restaurants and I think it’s important to remember the people who made the industry what it is.

‘I wanted to take local art and have it nationally recognised
to prove North Shields is an amazing place and show
why we should be proud of our history and heritage’

Mark Painting Jill Harper-Hill
Painting of Cullercoats | Mark holding a painting of coast with ships and people working Cullercoats | Jay Davison

‘I’d perfected my technique, absorbed myself in art and inspired others as a lecturer. I did ask myself: am I good enough to be a part of this national exhibition? I sent off my painting and I was asked to bring it down to London. I was ecstatic; I couldn’t believe they were actually considering my work – and then I got the email to say I’d been selected from more than 1,000 pieces. These new connections, I’m sure, will inspire new work. I think this will accelerate what I’ve wanted to do for a long time which is to put myself in a larger arena for people to see my work. Being accepted as part of this exhibition has given me much more confidence, and the feedback from my social media posts makes me feel very proud that people enjoy my work.’

The painting that displayed in this exhibition, like much of Mark’s work, is in the style of how his father painted, but Mark has also adapted his own style over the years. ‘There’s a lot more detail – when my dad used to paint he would simplify things,’ he adds. ‘I worked on perfecting [my dad’s] technique with a palette knife on canvas. A lot of people come from the yacht club to ask for paintings of their yachts in full sail or maybe passing a local landmark (Bamburgh Castle for instance) but I’ve also painted Newcastle and regional landscapes.’

Mark has support from local celebrities too. Former Duran Duran star Andy Taylor is a fan of Mark’s work, and he commissioned Mark to paint Cullercoats Bay to mark his 60th birthday. ‘Andy is a Cullercoats born and bred man and he knew the area’s links with the lifeboat,’ Mark says. ‘His family worked on fishing boats called cobles – a wooden planked boat with a nice shape to it. He asked for a painting with a couple of cobles in the foreground being pulled backwards to the beach with the Cullercoats lifeboat station in the background. He also asked for the Cresent Club to be included, which is where his family used to drink. He loved the painting because it captured his heritage. That’s why I love creating these pieces. People say they can tell I’m a sailor because I get all the ropes in the right places. Having that knowledge, going into painting like this, has really helped.’

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Painting of an elderly person across the eyes The Drifter

Low Lights Tavern, below Mark’s studio, is where local musician Sam Fender used to work. ‘I’ve known him since he was around 16. He saw a painting of mine called The Drifter which is just of a fisherman’s eyes. I had a picture of the whole face but I thought the eyes say it all and I painted them on a large canvas. There was a technique of fishing called drift trawling and these fishermen stayed out longer and in worse conditions and fished for many more days than any other kind of fishermen back in the day. That type of fishing has gone from the Quay now but because of this, they looked more weather-beaten and their faces told a real story. Sam loved that and it’s now above his fireplace in his house.’

It’s important to Mark to keep using his work to reflect the ever-changing Quay. ‘I also paint contemporary paintings, because I’m sure in years to come it will have changed again,’ he adds. ‘I’m documenting it so people can look back and understand what the Quay was like for us too.’

Browse Mark’s work at The Studio, Low Lights Tavern, North Shields or online at


Old Tyne Bridge in the Snow signed limited-edition print, £80

Above the Quay original framed acrylic painting, £750

North Shields Sunrise No.1 signed limited-edition print, £80

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