Around the Corner

Sometimes, ideas fall into place so fast that it’s hard to keep up with them. I had 18 Douglas compositions sketched out (16 which I used), the name/theme of the exhibition was clear and I’d settled on painting in monochromatic colours and in a square format.

Detail from ‘Point of Entry’

Every painting is made up of choices. I’d like to go through some of these with you here. I’ve talked about simplification in the previous post – about paring the subject down to what I want the painting to be about. Here, it’s about what’s around the corner, when the times we are living in seem dark and quite threatening, but I see something hopeful in this title.

These paintings have been growing against a backdrop of Covid/Brexit and the US presidential elections, not to mention the climate crisis.

Learning about Spectral Black caught me by surprise. Imagine a black made up of all three primary colours, in this case Alizarin Crimson, Ultramarine Blue and a shot of Lemon Yellow. This became my foundation palette for this exhibition – a darkness made up of colour!

Mixing Spectral Black

There have been many examples of colour in the dark throughout the last year that choosing to work with shades of spectral black has felt a way to acknowledge the kindness and courage that show up clearly in times of crisis.

Let’s look at how this all took shape. I started with a thumbnail sketch using a soft pencil to clarify the composition, shapes and focal points. Using the pencil sketches for reference, rather than the photographs, I then drew the shapes onto acid-free 300gsm smooth paper.

Pencil outline for the painting ‘At Hand’

To get some perspective on my own work , I found that putting my thumbnail sketches high up allowed me to get a distant view.

Left to right: ‘Point of Entry’, Turn a Corner’ and ‘Ready and Waiting’

Stepping back reminds me to simplify, so the essence of what the exhibition is about is clearer. For me, a lot of this has involved breaking a few habits. You know how I love detail – how I include it as an archive – an acknowledgement of the skill of the person that created it – whether a drain pipe or a roof tile. I found it an ongoing exercise to keep simplifying and not reverting to type!

‘Turn a Corner’ – getting the composition in place before adding final flower details.

This time, I held back on the architectural details and included only details of flowers in bloom – expressing life that goes on, but acknowledging the losses with fallen petals.

Most of the paintings have several corners, some up close and others distant.

Flower details added right at the end
‘At Hand’

Painting in monochrome changes the whole atmosphere – it feels like the village is being observed at night and seems timeless. The empty streets reflect lockdown.

Detail from ‘At Hand’ – flowers in bloom and fallen petals

This is my small contribution towards expressing ‘these times’ and it has encompassed Douglas, a beautiful South Lanarkshire village that I hope one day you might visit.

I will share more about of this body of work in my next post but in the meantime, if you would like to see the first 12 paintings, these are now up on my website .

As always, thanks for reading.

Ronnie

Shapes, Shadow, Light

The Scrib Tree made quite an impression on our first visit: beautiful interior, locally-sourced food and outstanding artwork on the walls by Carol Taylor, who has her studio next door.

It’s located in the ancient village of Douglas with records dating from the 13th century and set within 33,000 acres of the Douglas Estate.

You can imagine how delighted I was to be offered the opportunity to hold an exhibition there this Spring 2021, with the town as my subject. The offer came late last summer when lockdown in Scotland had temporarily eased. I went straight there to spend time walking through the town and start the thinking process.

Douglas is intriguing. I became absorbed by the narrow streets, the variety of the buildings, the unexpected views and the intricate street plan. There were thin spaces between buildings and edges which concealed fragments of church towers and roads that disappeared over the brow of a hill.

I knew I wanted to push myself and present an exhibition of my experience of Douglas which would reflect the times we are living in.

I began to crop my photos to find interesting compositions and then began a thumbnail sketching spree. I stuck a row of sketches up on the wall and chose the ones with the strongest composition of shapes, shadows and light to work on.

Keeping in mind what I’d learnt on the Composed Landscape course at Paintbox, I simplified the subject by using a thick soft pencil – trying hard not to get distracted by details – something that’s quite a stretch for me!

The name of the body of work was there waiting for me as I walked around the town: ‘Around the Corner’.

With all the depressing events globally and nationally, I wanted to express things as they are now but with hope for something brighter, something different, something imminent. There has been such heavy news this last year, on top of already heavy news. I can’t ignore it and yet I always hope for the best.

I love all the phrases associated with ‘Around the Corner’, for instance ‘at hand’, ‘in the air’ or ‘looming’. This became the key focus of each study.

I settled on a square format, all the time working to simplify the view to focus on the corners and the atmosphere of anticipation.

I already had my palette in mind, but I will talk about that in my next post. In the meantime I will leave you with a couple more of the studies to give you an idea of this old Scottish village.

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie πŸ™‚

a landscape composed

Sketched from Cockenzie sea shore

Sometime last October I embarked on a course run by Paintbox tutor Owen Normand. I’ve been exploring ways to express the landscape where I live in the hope of being able to capture at least a fragment of how it feels to live here in old orchard country.

The course lasted ten weeks, was based outdoors and I could fill ten blog posts on what we covered. However, for now, I want to touch on how it was to become the unexpected foundation of a new exhibition going up next month. The work is quite a change for me and I hope you will keep me company as I tell you about how it all evolved.

Charcoal studies of a group of trees by the shore

You know how much I love detail and how it’s an integral part of Drawing the Street. However, I want to develop my work and push into unfamiliar territory so it was a revelation to learn about many new artists to me including the work of Felix Vallotton and his approach to painting. It was his painting ‘Moonlight’ that captivated me and drew me to this course.

Owen’s invitation to the course stated:

β€˜The composed landscape course is all about mood over accurate representation.’

We began with sketching outside and apart from sketching a few trees, I lapsed back to drawing buildings as part of my landscapes.

‘Try to edit, simplify and arrange the elements of your scene to create paintings that are memorable and have a lasting emotional impact on the viewer.’

One corner had caught my imagination as I saw a small triangle of light set between dark shadows beside the corner of a high wall. After several different studies, it was this subject that I chose to prepare a monochrome paint study.

Owen kept reminding us – What was our painting about?

‘Focus on making compositions with the intention of communicating emotion or mood and trust that an imaginative design can trump painting technique.’

Referring to charcoals sketches for monochrome study

For me it was simple: it was that slice of light between the shadows that was drawing me in and wanting me to explore what was beyond the wall.

Monochrome study of that edge and slice of light

It’s one thing knowing what you have to do, but another thing altogether getting your paintbrush to oblige! However, those words ‘trust that an imaginative design can trump painting technique’ have been a lifesaver!

I didn’t realise at the time but this teaching has provided a solid foundation in getting my new body of work together for an exhibition in the Scrib Tree Dougas, from 1st march 2021.

I wanted to do something different, something to reflect the times we are in and my feelings about it all now. The pandemic has touched us all and I have to reflect our situation in some other way than my previous work.

I will be sharing how this body of work unfolds in my next few posts and hope you will join me here.

I will leave you with a flavour of the next post…my first thumbnail sketch of Douglas and the name of the exhibition…

‘Around the Corner’

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

The Months Tick by

Sometimes titles for blog posts just pop into my head. This was one of them. It was something that Dad would say – that things ‘ticked by’.

Here we are in a new year, and already into the last week of January 2021. Looking at these terracotta panels created back around 1865 – the months and the years have indeed ticked by.

Having taken so long to bring this body of work to completion, it does make me think about how each moment that passes is never repeated quite the same. Something in context has always changed.

Here the woman is holding the infant New Year in her arms as he learns to stand on his own feet, ready to run headlong into the year. It’s a fleeting moment especially when you see how he fast he grows into February later in this post.

Looking at these images on top of the Wedgwood Institute, the months and the zodiac signs are neatly paired up in alcoves. Back when I was planning my work out, I gave some thought to drawing each alcove in turn, but decided the repetition was too much for me!

Then I thought I could draw a single alcove template and scan the months and zodiac signs on to the template. However, that involved a lot of learning on Photoshop and at that point I glazed over and decided against the idea!

A mock up of the template of February/Pisces

The other thing that I couldn’t resolve was that the start of the months and zodiacs overlapped and that if I drew them together, there would always be someone looking at them saying I’m born in February but I’m not a Pisces!

It was a useful process though as it helped me decide to draw them all individually and here we are on with February.

When I signed them, I thought I had finished… so I put them away for what turned out to be a year. However, when I next saw them I immediately wanted to add more depth by setting them in a frame of rich red earth colours to hold them in place.

So January ticks by into February, the young year is now out there hard at work tilling the earth. Here’s a look ahead into March where he is planting the ground.

All the original paintings are available to buy from Barewall Gallery in Burslem and there are several full sets of signed cards available in my Etsy shop.

You can also see the full set of artwork on my website. If you see anything that is not yet for sale online – please drop me a line ronniecruwys@drawingthestreet.co.uk Things are selling a bit faster than I anticipated! πŸ™‚

Here are the rest of the months – when they were all lined up ready for mounting and sending off to Barewall Gallery in Burslem.

This has been a fab project – so pleased to have brought it to completion and returned it back home to Burslem before being shipped far and wide.

Thanks for reading and happy Burns Night!

Ronnie πŸ™‚

Aquarius of Burslem

Aquarius of Burslem can be found high up on the Wedgwood Institute on Queen Street, Burslem in the first alcove dedicated to the month of January. This is the month that shows a woman holding her infant – the symbolic infant new year with hand held high, gazing into the future.

It was 2014 that I took these photos – getting as much detail as I could so that I could draw them one day. It’s only taken me seven years but I am so happy to say that I have done it! I have drawn all the Wedgwood signs of the zodiac and the months and I am really excited to let you know that Barewall Burslem will be selling the original artwork. It felt fitting that the original artwork go back to the Mother Town and hopefully find homes with people who connect with and love this place.

It was back last September that I mentioned this body of work so let’s have a little refresher as to what I did for all my arty pals that read here.

Back in Staffordshire, I chose to work on some really weighty watercolour paper using natural pigments and gum arabic – making my own watercolour paint as I already have a selection of rich earth and mineral pigments.

Pencil sketched images from the Wedgwood roundels and building up using thin layers of pigment washes. The first one here is in English Yellow Ochre, then various red ochres added to build up the mosaic texture.

This is the point where I left them and moved up north.

The blues and greens of mineral pigment – the semi-precious stones crushed up to make colour is so fresh and bright – it felt fitting to use these to represent this mosaic artist’s beautiful work from back sometime around 1865.

I masked out the earlier work to frame the roundel in a deep rich red brick colour, adding texture by stippling on a darker red.

Here’s the full set of the astrological symbols. I added highlights of 23 carat shell gold to the mosaics to catch small sparkles of light.

These are all mounted and ready to fit a standard 12 inch square frame.

Each original artwork will shortly be on sale at Β£195 each from Barewall. If you are interested in one, please email me at ronnie.cruwys@btinternet.com or kindly get in touch with Amanda at Barewall Gallery, Burslem.

I have also stocked my Etsy shop with some packs of greetings cards which you can buy here.

Thanks for reading and will post more on the months very soon!

Ronnie πŸ™‚

Sowing Seeds in January

The ground is hard, the air is cold and the year is brand new but I like to think of January as a time to be sowing seeds – seeds of ideas for the year ahead. I may be one of a minority who loves January here in the Northern hemisphere but apart from the cold, it’s a quiet time for reflection that I cherish.

When I began this personal project to sketch and document all that grows here in our patch of orchard in the Clyde Valley, I wasn’t sure that I would stick at it. However, it was in the opening weeks of January 2020 that I wondered who else was drawing wispy strands of withered Rosebay Willow herb that day? Just another common weed.

Or the shrivelled leaves of a hazel next to fresh green buds?

Or weather-battered rose hips?

My underlying concern was the climate crisis and the observations that so many of the things we now take for granted may not be present for future generations.

So I continued to draw day by day – whatever caught my eye or was near to hand given that much of a January day is dark.

Little did I know that the practice of daily drawing was going to see me through some unexpected times ahead.

As each drawing took its place on the pile, it became more interesting when seen together. I have since begun to bind a print of each sketch together in a hand made book for each month. It might take me a while to finish but I’ve started!

I will close here wishing you all the best for this New Year and happy idea sowing!

Thanks for reading

Ronnie πŸ™‚

From Lavender to a Baby Orchard

Day four of the drawing project is Lavender – a quick line drawing of a sprig growing close to the door.

It’s New Year’s Eve and we are closing on 2020. Enough said.

It’s been a while since my last post but my attention has been elsewhere. We live here in one of the old orchards of the Clyde Valley and early last December I made a commitment to myself to draw everything that grew here as a record of the weeds, the trees, the flowers…whatever grew here in this 3 acre plot of old Scottish orchard.

Long before the virus struck, things had seemed pretty intense with our climate situation. I felt that in just a generation some of the plants that made up the view from within the orchard might be gone.

It was the everyday weeds and plants – things we take for granted – that I wanted to draw – just to acknowledge that they grew here. Things that we call weeds were also once well-regarded herbs with medicinal properties; for example Valerian, considered helpful for treating sleep disorders.

Common Valerian

We share this wonderful place with some great company…..

Bees on the Braes
Visiting deer

With all that’s gone on this year, I’ve thought a great deal about what I would like to leave behind me. I’d love to leave more trees and a bouquet of sketches of our landscape.

Months piling up!

A year’s worth of daily sketches is too much to introduce here – I’ve shared about half of them on Instagram (@ronniecruwys) but I will end with today’s last sketch of a baby orchard pack of saplings – hazel, apples, pears, medlar and quince. These were a gift from my family and I can’t wait to see them thriving in the ground!

I will close by wishing you all a gentle New Year. Wishing you all the best of health and thanks for reading.

Ronnie

I’ve Started so I’ll Finish

Looking up at the Wedgwood Institute, Burslem

Have you ever looked up at a building and marvelled at the creativity that has gone into it? Have you thought about the artists and makers and the hours of planning and co-ordination spent to pull something like the Wedgwood Institute together? This building must have been a labour of love for so many.

‘November’ high up on the Wedgwood Institute, Burslem

Whilst I was living in Staffordshire, I wanted to draw every last detail of this building simply to acknowledge it was there. I began with the main entrance which you can see in full here.

Detail of ‘Wedgwood Institute Door’, showing the stone carving, brick and tilework

I had great plans to draw so much more of this building but life had other plans for me. Just as I had got the next phase of artwork underway, we got news of the move to Scotland and so things went on hold.

Sign of Pisces

However, I had already begun drawing the months of the year and the zodiac symbols in the arches above and so at some point I knew I would finish them – I don’t like leaving a body of work unfinished. Besides, I had begun work on some beautiful heavy watercolour paper (Saunders Waterford 640gsm Not) which is a thick as carboard with a rippling texture and a wonderful surface to paint/draw on.

I pencilled in the outline using a compass to contain the astrological symbols.

I had taken photographs of the existing zodiac signs but some were under cover and some had areas of mosaic missing. I looked up old record photos and in places where details were hazy, I used creative licence and painted them to compliment the rest of the images.

The mosaic symbols were made in bright blues, greens and whites against a deep red background. I used ground up mineral pigments of azurite, malachite and the red and yellow ochre earth pigments that I use to paint icons to capture the life, depth and movement of these rich symbols.

Malachite being broken down to small chunks using a pestle and mortar.
Malachite being ground to a fine pigment
Pisces – the fish

This was as far as I got with the zodiac symbols before I began to pack up to move north. I had made some progress into painting the images of the months – about three or four of them… but enough to have me hooked to want to complete, come what may.

Now, almost four years since I made the first sketches of these images, I’m so happy that I can say I have completed this part and will be sharing what I’ve done to complete them over the next few blog posts.

Thanks for reading!

Ronnie πŸ™‚

Hebridean Waters

A new exhibition went up in the Tolbooth Lanark last weekend, titled ‘Coasts and Rivers’. This is Lanark’s invitation for local artists to participate in Scotland’s 2020 celebration of:

‘Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, a year that will spotlight, celebrate and promote opportunities to experience and enjoy Scotland’s unrivalled coasts and waters encouraging responsible engagement and participation from the people of Scotland and our visitors’.

It’s a step away from my usual buildings but for the past couple of years I’ve been exploring ways to express the beautiful landscape up here through attending a variety of art classes.

I’d been attending a year long drawing/mixed media course held at Paintbox School of Art in Cockenzie until lockdown threw that curve ball. Some of the classes went online so I signed up for their artist’s retreat and one of the morning meditation classes had the theme of oceans.

It involved filling a dozen or so sheets of A4 paper with a whole variety of fluid marks, the movement of ink on wet paper flowing to the sounds of the sea shore. I used three inks – Paynes grey and two blues, plenty of water for misting, sticks and feathers and the bottle dropper to make marks.

I set aside the papers to use as collage for the entry to the Oceans exhibition, thinking about the image of the Hebridean sea that I photographed on our way to St Kilda a few years ago. I wrote about it here.

Some weeks later, I prepared a surface with broad sweeping brush marks in similar colours but using acrylic paint to form a foundation layer, adding in some textured medium. I then tore a few sheets of the collage paper into narrow curved strips and layered them on to the base layer.

I then used inktense sticks to add highlights and deeper shadows.

Finally, to add the metallic sheen to the highlights, I added silver gouache using a cocktail stick held on its side to create irregular fillets of light.

Here’s the finished artwork. I did a double check on the tonal values by seeing how it looked in black and white and was happy with the result.

‘Hebridean Waters’ framed and ready for the exhibition! There’s a wide and interesting variety of work up in the Tolbooth, I think the subject has been appealing and just what we need to get us back in the flow!

Thanks for reading and if you live near Lanark, hope you can come along. The subject has generated some really beautiful and soothing art.

Ronnie πŸ™‚

Open doors at the Tolbooth Lanark

It’s a great feeling stepping back into the Tolbooth, Lanark and greeting old friends at last. Even better to see the walls vibrant with colourful work by local artists as the exhibition ‘Over the Rainbow‘ gets underway.

Judith Wilson, winner in the Amateur category to the left and a poster of the winning entry in the professional category on the easel.

The exhibition is running from 17th July to Saturday 8th August 2020 and shows the results of the creative competition launched by both the Tolbooth Lanark and the Lanark Community Development Trust ‘to bring colour and joy to the lives of local people during lockdown’.

The range of entries includes paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture and ceramics. There were three categories:

Junior category: all entrants receive an art set.

Amateur Artist: winner Judith Wilson (see photo above)

Here’s the winning entry – it looks familiar! I wrote a little about this in an earlier blog post here. I’m delighted to say that the artwork ‘Finial, Spires and Chimneys’ will go on sale in a silent auction and all proceeds will go towards a charity of the artist’s choice – I’m very happy to say that Scottish Wildlife Trust will be the beneficiary – looking after our natural world is something important to us all. Here’s the link to the Tolbooth where you can place a bid by message.

I know that quite a few readers live a long way from Lanark so here are a few photos to show you around the exhibition.

‘Hope is the thing with Feathers’, by Veronica Liddell, top left

I’d love to promote all the artists on show here, but I didn’t take a note of all the names. However, there are a few artists that I know and I will share their web details so you can look up their work.

All these works were produced during the peak of lockdown and each one is a tribute to the effort that went into producing the work. There are many more artists that didn’t manage to enter the competition – we were all thrown into different situations and some had too much on their plate to even think about lifting a brush….

A small selection of the art on display

Veronica Liddell is an established professional artist based in Corra Linn Studio, New Lanark. Her delightful artwork (top left) is titled ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’ and proceeds will be donated to the Scottish Ambulance Service.

Artwork by Richard Price

Next along is another firm favourite by Richard Price – artist and ceramicist working in Thankerton. The two following examples are beautifully evocative pieces which express lockdown with clarity and poise: the drawing ‘Carrying Hope’ and the ceramic ‘Burden of Hope’.

Carrying Hope by Richard Price
‘Burden of Hope’ by Richard Price

Now for another Mr Price…this one is by Nathan, studying at Dundee Art School. If I was Richard I would be very proud of him! If I was Nathan I would be feeling quite pleased with myself. The photo is nowhere near as good as standing directly in front of this colourful creation.

Sculpture by Nathan Price

Here we have a wonderful lighthearted line up of Scottish Coos! These are painted by the talented Rosie Mark living just down the road from me in Crossford. Rosie excels in animal portraiture although I know she is pretty good at people portraits too.

‘Rainbow Parade’ by Rosie Mark

Now we have the ethereal work of Evelyn McKewan. Evelyn’s work feels like a breath of fresh air. She has also agreed to include it in the silent auction in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. If you see any of these works and want to place a bid – just head over to the Tolbooth page and message them.

Kirsten Harris is an established artist whose work has a richly symbolic meaning. Her work features her passion for wildlife, horses and birds – check out her website for the breadth of her talent. I love her work in pen and ink – this entry is titled ‘Nineteen Corvid’s’ and proceeds will be donated to the Tolbooth.

‘Nineteen Corvids’ by Kirsten Harris

Just to wrap this post up with a few more images – not very well focused but just a flavour of the variety on display.

Look out for the next Tolbooth exhibition which will follow this one: Coasts and Rivers.

In the meantime, thank you for reading, stay well

Ronnie πŸ™‚

drawing out the best in our streets