In 2016, just a few weeks before her death at the age of 90, Andrea Bailey paid a visit to The Deep in Hull with her sketchpad and, on the spot, drew an elegant blue fish.
It was probably one of the final creations of an artist who spent much of her adult life living on the North York Moors and whose lively mind saw artistic potential in everything around her.
Andrea Bailey’s life and work is being celebrated with a major retrospective opening next month at the North York Moors National Park Centre’s Inspired by… gallery at Danby.
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Although she’s very much associated with the North York Moors, Andrea was born in Scotland, and moved south after marriage. Her daughter Liz, a respected ceramicist who lives in Kirkbymoorside, explains: “My grandfather from West Yorkshire took over my grandfather from Scotland’s railway company. His son met my mum, and they married in Lythe church, near Sandsend, in 1949. The family lived in Sandsend until 1971, when my father bought Grange Farm at Spaunton – it’s my brother Jim’s farm now.”
Andrea was something of a late bloomer, making a few false starts on her artistic career.
“She was in the Wrens near Glasgow at the end of the war, and then she went and spent some time doing life drawing at a studio in Paris,” says Liz. “Then she came back and studied illustration at Chelsea College of Art. She remembered drawing Quentin Crisp while she was there – he was a life model, of course, and quite a character, apparently.”
Having a family, though, drew a temporary halt to Andrea’s creative side: Liz is the eldest of four with a 30-year age gap between eldest and youngest. Sue, next in line, works as a secretary in London, while Bridget is an acclaimed milliner and textile designer, also living
in London. Farmer Jim, the youngest of the siblings, is also chair of the North York Moors National Park.
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“It’s hard to understand now, but back then, when you married and had children, whatever you were doing stopped,” says Liz.
“But although there’s a big gap with no physical record, I remember as a child her drawing pictures to illustrate stories she told us, drawing birthday cards – she always just drew.”
Jim Bailey also has fond memories of Andrea’s creative brilliance. “Mum was very practical, very hands-on with nature,” he says. “We were as thick as thieves when it came to going to do something outside, whether it was collecting leaf mould, or going to see the seals at Ravenscar. She never lost that enthusiasm. She used to say, if you take nature by the hand and go with her, she’ll look after you; but go against her, and she’s a proper beast. We forget to be connected to nature, and as a result, we get into all sorts of trouble.
“I make my living from nature, and I’m chair of the National Park – I find it inspiring, there’s so much to do to keep people connected to nature, but it’s necessary, it’s a very primitive need. Mum believed that you need to open your mind and look at what you see, not what you expect to see – she was so creative and spontaneous.”
Andrea Bailey Retrospective: A Life Through Art is at the Inspired by… gallery at the North York Moors National Park Centre, September 5 to October 16. Free entry.