'Village under the Cliffs' was painted in Houston's Edinburgh studio from sketches made near the village of Staithes. The artist visited Staithes, which is situated to the north of Whitby on the Yorkshire coast, in the winter of 1961. Although the style of the painting verges on abstraction, the subject can still be seen. Houston has used structured horizontal and vertical brushstrokes to describe the houses in the village. The white marks in the sky represent seagulls. The intense colours and vigorous brushstrokes are typical of Houston's style of the period.