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Paul Czainski and the Staithes Painted Illusion Trail

Paul Czainski is a world famous Trompe l’Oeil artist who was born in Yorkshire in 1954, studying at Jacob Kramer College of Art in Leeds. He went on to train at Goldsmiths College in London and made his mark working for some of the best interior designers. He has worked in many stately homes and palaces including Hampton Court and the Queens House at Greeewich.

But what is Trompe l’oeil?

It roughly translates as “trick of the eye” and is an ultra-realistic style of painting which has an almost 3D effect. It requires a high level of detail to use light and shading, along with graduation of colour to make a flat surface look as though it has an extra dimension and appears lifelike.

Paul, who when not working on site or at his studio in West Yorkshire has a cottage in Staithes was commissioned to produce a Tromp l’Oeil trail known as the Painted Illusion Trail for visitors to the Yorkshire seaside town of Staithes.

I had met Paul a couple of times on trips to Staithes. He had explained that the lovely village is where he can really relax and it inspires him to come up with more creative works and many more surreal works. I even bought one of his paintings called Lightfish about 10 years ago which sits proudly on the wall in our lounge.

The trail was launched in 2014 and includes 8 realistic “illusions” painted around the village. Plus a few extra secret illusions where visitors have to look a bit harder to find it! As a bit of a clue – they are near Paul & Chris’s cottage!

The 8 murals are found on the sides of buildings across the village, down small alleys and ginnels around Staithes.

The Illusions…

Dame Laura Knight

Laura Knight is a nod to the past, as she was one of the leaders of the famous “Staithes Group” of artists. She arrived in the village in the late 1800’s and along with a number of artists were inspired by the light in the village. Paul said his homage was to make up for her not having a blue plaque in the village.

Mermaid without a Comb

Local legend apparently has it that coastal erosion is caused by Mermaids who have been caught and held captive by fishermen, so eventually put a curse on the village and managed to escape back to the sea.

Young Gull

Hundreds of gulls live in and around the village, and you cannot escape the sound of the gulls from early morning until dark. Paul said as they are constantly on the move – he thought he would paint one so it kept still!

Zennor Mermaid

Apparently this mermaid was inspired by the carving of a chair back in Cornwall at Zennor Church. Supposedly the chair was where a mermaid sat when she visited the church in disguise to enchant the young men!


This fossil fido – is actually the skeleton of a prehistoric deer. With Staithes being on the Yorkshire Jurassic Coast it is a fitting nod to the past. Paul saw the fossil at the Oxford Museum of Natural History and knew it was destined for Staithes.

Fishing Floats

Paul explained that he often used ropes and string to tie an overall composition together. The floats are all items he and his wife Chris found on their honeymoon and are a nod to staithes fishing industry.

Noah’s Ark

This artwork is done to appeal to children and adults alike. Paul described this mural as using simple and primitive images to depict the story from the Old Testament. The detail of the animals boarding the ark two by two is wonderful.

Red Boat and Shell

Paul couldn’t find a red boat to use for a model for this so bought a blue and white one and painted it red. So many cottage owners in the seaside village have shells and boats on their shelves – this illusion sits on a shelf in the alcove to a roof section.

Happy illusion hunting!

If you need help finding the artworks – they are located as follows...

Laura Knight – Barber’s Yard

Mermaid without a comb – Gun Gutter

Young Gull – Boathouse Yard

Red Boat and Shell – Beckside

Zennor Mermaid – Barber’s Yard

Noah’s Ark – Cowbar

Fido – Brown’s Terrace

Fishing Floats - Cowbar


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