South Shields Local History Group

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Graber, Sheila (Artist)

Sheila was born in 1940 and spent her formative years at Lavington Road, South Shields.

Her dad was George Graber a Merchant Navy Captain and later Pilot Master.  He encouraged Sheila to make things and passed on his love of the River Tyne.

George Graber

Sheila’s mam was Doris Graber (nee Fitzgerald).  She imparted her love of nature to Sheila.

Doris Graber

Sheila also had an older brother called Peter who was a great tennis player and even played at Wimbledon!

Sheila and Peter Graber

Sheila went to Mortimer Road Infant & Junior School and then the Girls’ High School at Westoe.

For her first homework she had to paint “Something we pass on the way to school”

Her mam’s suggestion was Colley’s Farm.

Colleys Farm 1951

Sheila moved to Pollard Street on the Lawe Top about 1954 and became a “Skytender”.

Then in about 1957 they moved to Vespasian Avenue still on the Lawe Top.

Vespasian to The Piers

In 1960 the family moved into the Pilot’s Office in Green’s Place overlooking the River Tyne.

Pilots House Fish Quay 1962 Woodcut Print

It was from here that many of Sheila’s subjects were first painted:

The River Tyne, Low Lights, Pilot Jetty, Velva Liquids oil tanks, the Ferry Landing, Harton Staithes at Mill Dam, Groyne, Piers and Marsden Bay.

Tyne Ferry landing 1975 Oil Blue Cranes

South Shields provided a host of other locations for inspirations for her painting including: Harton Cemetery, Westoe Village, the Market and St Hildas.

Harton Cemetery 2021 Watercolour

Sheila left school and went to the Sunderland College of Art then Teacher Training and thus began her lifelong encouragement of art to other people.

From the 1970s Sheila started to take an interest in animation and from the 1980s this became her full-time career.

Sheila animating

In 1985 Sheila was invited to animate the Cut-outs for the Paddington Bear specials.


In 2005 she moved to Ireland and in true Geordie tradition named her house “Sand Dancer”.  She returned to “God’s Country” in 2015.

Sheila made My River Tyne in 1986, it was a history of the river from its source near Scotland to the Piers.

Tyne Cargo was made in 2004 and covered the history of the Tyne from dug out canoes through to container ships.

Sheila has made over 100 films, the North East Film Archive produced a DVD of her work called my Animated Life.

Animated Life 2020

Her book My Tyneside which came out in 2012 documented her life from 1951 through to 2004.

My Tyneside book 2012

Sheila’s follow up book Sheila from Shields was designed to complement her exhibition at  Shields Museum in 2020, it contained many memories from former students.

Sheila book 2021

In August 2020 Sheila held an exhibition of her paintings at the Customs House. 

Musem Show 2020

Much of the artwork was for sale to help raise funds for the Customs House and two other charities.

Sheila at the market selling her paintings for charity

“Everyone is an Artist in their Own Way”


Sheila Graber Animation | Facebook

Sheila Graber – YouTube

Sheila Graber

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