Fifty Streets:2/3

Sitting outside Cowling and Wilcox drawing Holloway Road, North London, summer 2016

The more streets that I drew, the clearer I became on what it was all about. It’s simple and selfish – I only draw the streets that are meaningful to me in some way.

Half a dozen people stopped to talk to me that afternoon, curious as to what I was drawing.

Sometimes it’s because some detail has caught my eye and sometimes streets link me to family and friends. This way I connect with each street and I get lost in the hours that sink into each drawing.

Holloway Road, North London

The other thing that is really important to me is that I draw them as architectural and social records. These are my surroundings as I find them now. The people on the drawings were there at the time, including the chap taking a breather from working in the Hope Cafe.

Each street is gradually added to my archive blog where I break the streets into individual buildings and add insights of history that I discover as I go along. It’s a slow but steady process but it really gives you an idea of what Drawing the Street is all about.

Holloway Road, above ‘Ginger Lettings’

From time to time someone suggests a street for me to draw, including complete strangers! I always consider it because I might find it as interesting as they do and sometimes surprising connections unfold in the drawing of it.

Mount Parade, York was one such street. I was planning to draw the street nearby when a gentleman walked past me, stopped and asked whether I knew about the street just around the corner.

Thanks to the gentleman on the right for telling me about this street

I must have cycled past the end of this street countless times going back and forth to town and had missed it all these years!

Elegant Georgian terrace only minutes from the centre of York

As my streets gathered pace I became a member of Staffordshire Artists Cooperative and displayed my work in Gallery at 12 where I later held a joint exhibition with the library to display all my local street scenes. Another exhibition followed on a few months later in Blossom Street Gallery in York.

Thanks to Noel Bennett Photography, Eccleshall, for this pic taken in Gallery at 12
Another thank you to @SueSherman for this pic taken at Eccleshall library.

The best part for me is discovering and acknowledging the people who lived in these places, the lives that have gone ahead of me. For instance, I discovered that Charles Hammersley set out from this house almost a century ago, only to be killed in France in WW1.

N o 7 Hitchman Street, Fenton, Stoke-on Trent

I haven’t mentioned how much urban sketching is part of the fabric of Drawing the Street – it’s where I meet people and really get the feel for a place.

In my next 3/3 post on this reflection of my fifty streets I will bring you up to date with my latest news up here in Scotland!

Thanks for reading! Ronnie 🙂

High Street Eccleshall, Summer 2015

Fifty Streets: 1/3

Drawing the Street turned six this summer. My thanks to all who have accompanied me from the beginning and to those who have followed along the way as something has caught their interest.

Ironmarket drawing on its way to Newcastle Library -framed by Terry Hunt at Jollies Arts Ltd

With my Newcastle work currently on display in the Brampton Museum and Gallery, I’ve been posting some of these drawings on social media to share it further afield. Having also just completed my 50th street drawn on over 60 metres of archival cotton paper, it seems timely to reflect on how this all began as a post-card sketch.

There’s a beautiful poem called ‘Fluent’ by the late John O’Donohue from his book Conamara Blues. I’ve never forgotten his words:

‘I would love to live Like a river flows, Carried by the surprise Of its own unfolding.’

When I sketched the former Ironmarket post office on to a post card, I had no idea what would unfold. It turns out that I was sowing the seed for an archive of streets, all meaningful to me in some way. This is part one of three posts about this story.

Ironically, it was the limitations of a post card that prompted me to think about a full-length drawing of the Ironmarket. This all took place whilst attending drawing classes run by Staffordshire artist David Brammeld.   When considering how long to make the drawing, David’s advice was: “Don’t limit yourself!” Shortly after, our son asked me what I would like for Christmas. I suggested a large sheet of paper and received a 10 x 1.2 metre roll! There was no going back.

Ironmarket unfurled , early 2013

I gave no thought as to where this would lead but concentrated on representing the Ironmarket in a way that could be read in future. During my time as a conservation architect, I had always been grateful for old drawings of buildings that showed details which would inform my work. I knew that by drawing a street as a whole, individual buildings could be read in context, such as the shops standing on narrow burgess plots.

Java Coffee shop situated on an ancient burgess plot

The Ironmarket retains a lot of its fine structure and is rich in stories if we pause a moment to look. Drawing is that pause. I choose which parts of my view I want to record – in a way that I hope is also good to look at.

Each drawing starts with a preparatory sketch where I map out the entire street as accurately as I can whilst still keeping it a freehand drawing. I’m always looking at ways to improve my work, whether learning about colour harmonies, shading, light, tone etc but always retaining that close reference to drawing what is there.

This first drawing ignited a great discussion on how the street had changed during living memory and prompted me to draw further streets around the town centre. I held my first exhibition in the library and Drawing the Street was born.

First exhibition held in the Library on the Ironmarket, 2013

Drawing the Street is a growing entity; it has become more than just sketches of streets.  It now contains many memories, some poignant, some funny. As the streets grow, so does my drawing style, evolving to include the things that I see as important – the people that belong to the street, the shops and businesses there at the time, the little details of life such as spotting my old work mates from the roofing contractor Miller Heritage working on the renovation of Mellard’s Warehouse – drawn below.

Although most of my streets are in conservation areas, I like to include the modern infrastructure. These too are part of our surroundings and tell their own story.

Garden Street, (in part) with the later addition of a workshop for TW Heating.

As the streets progressed, I stepped up my work on to archival quality cotton paper and redrew the Ironmarket at a slightly smaller scale than the first 2.7m drawing and entered it into the local open art exhibition. It was voted favourite by the Friends of the Borough Museum and awarded third prize – an honour and a great boost to continue. A few years later, the Friends bought my entire collection!

Thanks again for joining me and for reading this far. The streets belong to us all!

Ronnie 🙂

Capturing the present

Church Street, Newcastle-under-Lyme – part of ‘Capturing the Past’ exhibition at the Brampton

I sometimes get asked to draw buildings back into the street that have been demolished using old photos for reference. For instance, the much missed old ‘Muni’ on the Ironmarket, Newcastle-under-Lyme, which was taken down in the late 1960’s to make way for the library.

My intention for Drawing the Street is to draw what is there at the present. Drawing buildings back in that have gone somehow feels inauthentic. That said, who knows how many buildings might disappear from the streets that I’m drawing now!

Besides, I want to capture the life that is quietly ongoing such as here in Church Street, where the chap (Nathan) above Mr Dicks was giving me the thumbs up as I was photographing the building. The business closed not long after but it makes my day that the spirit of Nathan firmly remains on the drawing.

My drawings are records of our streets as they stand now for the future. Thing is, as soon as the drawing has gone to print, there are already micro-changes and within no time shops have changed hands and it’s out of date! So by default I’m also capturing the past, which is the great name for the exhibition currently on display at the Brampton Museum and Art Gallery.

Capturing the Past – exhibition at the Brampton, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I made a flying visit to to the Preview – a 12 hour round trip from Scotland for an hour at the museum. It was worth it to see fourteen original Newcastle streets framed and on display ! Plus a number of other Newcastle sketches, all capturing details that have caught my attention.

High Street, Newcastle-under-Lyme

When I set out my first exhibition at Newcastle library, I had no idea where the idea for Drawing the Street would take me but I knew it was a baby worth nurturing and helping to its feet. I can’t tell you how heartening it is for me to reflect back on the last six years and see the meandering route that my streets have led me.

If you have read this far, thank you! I can share with you that I have just finished my 50th street! I’m going to be sharing a lot of images of my Newcastle work over on Facebook and Instagram over the next few weeks so hope to be in touch with you over there.

Merrial Street, Newcastle-under-Lyme

Back to the brampton

the brampton museum and art gallery
The Brampton Museum and Art Gallery, Newcastle-under-Lyme

I have a big trip quietly planned for Friday 13th September. A lot of time in the car, train and taxi to spend a couple of hours at the Brampton Museum, Newcastle-under-Lyme, but I’m thrilled that my work is to be included in an exhibition ‘Capturing the Past‘ held by the Museum from 14th Sept to 3rd Nov 2019.

Picture of Ronnie Cruwys by Stoke Sentinel
Thanks to Stoke Sentinel for taking this photo shortly after my first exhibition in Newcastle-under-Lyme Library.

The exhibition invites us to: ‘take a trip down memory lane and see our town through the eyes of local artists and photographers. Nothing ever stays the same – our world is constantly changing’. The selection has been taken from the museum’s vast archive of local history and it is a great honour that my work has been included to display.

The Friends of the Brampton bought the entire collection of my original Newcastle-under-Lyme street drawings before I left for Scotland and they are hosting a preview at the Museum on Friday from 2pm.

I was really pleased that the collection stayed together in their birthplace. Six years on, the drawings will reveal how things have changed in the interim.

My drawings focus on streets as a whole rather than just an assortment of buildings enabling the viewer to see them from a wider perspective; how one building relates to another and how the loss of one building affects its neighbours. I created them as a social and historical archive so I am very happy they were retained as a collection for public record in Newcastle. They can be read and interpreted in years to come.

Time now for some new work hot off the press! To celebrate this great moment for me – just over six years since Drawing the Street set out, I have sketched three more buildings of the town, including the much loved Brampton Museum itself at the top of this post.

pen and ink drawing of high street newcastle under lyme by ronnie cruwys, artist, part of exhibition at Brampton Museum
Looking down the High Street towards St. Giles, Newcastle-under-Lyme

The street layout at the heart of Newcastle is medieval and I’ve always loved the view from the end of the High Street looking down towards the pinnacles, gables and tower of St Giles’ church.

Looking down at street level, we see a few signs directing us down through the arch, along the very narrow Pepper Street.

Look closely at the sign boards for Amore Italian Restaurant and Blacks Menswear

I had to include a reference to Cassie and Francesco at Amore Italian restaurant, Pepper Street, where my work was on display for several years.

The third sketch is another feature of the High Street – the Guildhall.

pen and ink drawing of clock tower above the Guildhall, High Street, Newcastle-under-Lyme by ronnie cruwys artist
Clock tower above the Guildhall, High Street, Newcastle-under-Lyme

These sketches will all be available to buy at the Brampton as greetings cards and also as signed prints set in A4 mounts at £20 each. There aren’t many as I am only taking as many as I can carry…

To see the full collection of my Newcastle drawings please visit my website Drawing the Street.

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

bottling the streets of Berlin

Great excitement for me here in the Clyde Valley to be invited to draw labels for Finest Whisky Deluxe‘s special bottling of another respectable Speyside malt. These bottles are for the forthcoming whisky fair in Berlin and I’ve dedicated a new page to it here on the blog (see menu bar above) where you can see some of the finished work. In this post I thought I would share a little about my process.

I prefer to work from my own photos so this called for a flying visit to Berlin. The Finest Whisky team gave us a great welcome and introduced us to the most amazing whisky shop I have ever set foot in! I can only liken it to what Cornelissen’s is to artists…you suddenly want to try or buy everything (all top quality) and it is all laid out so beautifully! It gave me a real buzz to see my artwork drawn in Scotland (for Sansibar Whisky) all lit up on these gleaming bottles of amber, looking quite at home in Berlin!

Original art labels need to be robust, waterproof, light-fast and non-toxic so the choice of drawing materials is very important. After agreeing the style of sketch for this commission, I chose a Pigma micron 01 pen in black with a .25mm line which meets all the above as well as being fade-proof and of archival quality.

I start by cropping and editing the photos in Photoshop, to find the most interesting part to draw, then I display the image on a large screen so I can sketch from this; it’s the closest I can get to sketching from life. I usually sketch directly in ink but a preliminary pencil sketch helps place it well on the label. The labels are quite small (10 x 12cm) in comparison with my street drawings!

With this example, I’m sketching the inside of the Union Jack, another treasure in the whisky world. As I was sketching my way around the image, I realised I had photo-bombed this one and so I’ve included half a selfie!

After completing the line drawing, I shade and model with diluted Dr Ph Martin’s Bombay black ink. When completely dry I apply a wash using a limited palette from the Ziller ink range of Cardinal Red, Buffalo Brown and Sunflower Yellow. These are intense colours and I dilute and mix them to tone them down. The only reason I chose a different brand of ink to the previous Scottish labels was to find slightly different colours but ones which would still harmonise with the warm gold of the whisky.

Once the labels have their final colour wash on, I place each one between some folded paper and press flat under a pile of books and leave overnight ready to be scanned the following day.

I parcel them up in glassine paper (acid free) with protective card and post them off to Berlin together with signed labels of authenticity. Then it’s over to Finest Whisky to stick them on to the bottles and help them find their new homes.

There are a few more images below but if you want to see all that I have drawn so far, please visit Finest Whisky Deluxe ‘s website.

Thanks for reading!

Ronnie

Derek at the Door

Remembering a Gentleman

Part of Audlem’s high street

Audlem is quite the beauty spot with its canals, painted narrow boats and mix of historic buildings. We took all our visiting relations there when we lived in Alsager and later on from Whitmore; it was a great destination any time of year. We had all grown to love this place so it was an easy choice to draw the main high street – some five years ago now.

Derek loading the newspapers for the day

I include figures in my drawings as they are the life of the street. I take photos of the buildings and whoever is passing by at the time gets drawn in. Sometimes I find out about them later – like I discovered that the gentleman here at the door of Williams is Derek Mckelvey, so much part of the history of Audlem and a delight to meet and chat to when I called in to the shop.

I was very sorry to learn he passed away early in the New Year. My condolences to all the family and the community as they say their goodbyes.

Sunny day in August 2013 – a passing moment when Derek was at the door.

The Sound of the Clyde

From the doorstep

The best thing about our new home here in Scotland, is stepping outside our back door. From here, the rush of the mighty River Clyde is carried up the sides of the valley where it never fails to take my breath away, make me stop whatever I’m doing and drink in the landscape of the Clyde Valley.

Rooftops against the woodland of the Clyde Valley

We overlook the old apple, plum and damson orchards of Hazelbank and beyond towards Crossford, where as the name suggests, there is a bridge over the Clyde. When we moved here it was peak growth season, with mostly rooftops, cables and crows visible above the dense foliage.

‘Broomhouse’ tucked into the foliage

The greenery has all died back now and as we get closer to the year end, I just wanted to wish you all a very happy Christmas and give you a flavour of some streets I plan to draw as next year unfolds.

Before I got stuck into my whisky label project (see previous post), I made a start on a few sketches of places close to our home in Hazelbank, to help anchor me into my new surroundings.

Starting with the back door step

Our nearest town is Lanark, a place full of history which I am looking forward to learning about as my new street drawings come to life.

Rich red local sandstone on the high street
Close up of a traditional Scottish window detail in Lanark town centre
Here’s the window in context (and now featured on a bottle of Speyside Malt)
Part of Bloomgate, Lanark

Much as I love this time of year, it can be very stressful for all sorts of reasons and I hope that whatever you are doing and wherever you are, you can take a few minutes to enjoy some of the beauty of the season.

I’d like to sign off by saying a sincere thank you for bearing with me during this year of our big move and wish you all the best for 2019. Thanks for reading! Ronnie

November dawn over Lanark

Diversion at the Pot Still

Have you ever tried to pin down where a new story begins? In my world the best stories begin with a sketch. Take this one from 2014, part of the very first series of Sketchbook Skool ‘Beginning’

sketch of whisky festival by Ronnie Cruwys

Four years later and it’s second nature to draw a few bottles on the wall of Glasgow’s Pot Still  where we were enjoying a glass of Edradour during our transition North. It’s a convivial pub especially on a snowy night and we began chatting with our table companions over my sketchbook…They were over from Germany visiting some distilleries and I gave it hardly a passing thought when Jens mentioned he was looking for an artist to draw labels.

Wee Dram of Edradour Pot Still  Glasgow ronnie cruwys
Where the diversion began…

I’ve got quite a few whisky sketches tucked away. They’re a bit of a clue that I quite like a malt though I am no expert!

Colquhoun Lodge Cruwys.jpg

whisky fest 2015 Ronnie Cruwys.jpg

I’m going to keep this a short story.

Today I finished the 386th hand drawn label to go on a very fine 1976 Speyside Malt for Sansibar – an independent bottler in Germany. You can see some of the bottles here: Sansibar

ronnie cruwys sansibar labels speyside 1976 2.jpg
Spot the Burlsem Burleighware by my elbow! 

It’s been a drawing marathon taking up pretty much all of my working time since moving to Scotland at the end of June. Each label is a sketch of somewhere I’ve been to over the years, some detail that caught my eye, or some place that meant something to me including our current neighbours’ place (below). If you look closely you’ll see their dog Flynn being watched by our two cats and the local stray (now part of our gang) with his half bitten ear. We call him Rum Tum. Plums are dripping off the trees above him and you can see the old apple trees of the Clyde Valley orchards beyond.

duncan and Louise place.jpg
left to right: Josh, Ollie, Flynn and Rum Tum

If you really want an idea of where we’ve moved to, Countryfile did a short tv clip on the Clyde Valley orchards filmed practically on our doorstep. We live in the Fruit Basket of Scotland!

So these are the last batch of labels on their way to Germany.

ronnie cruwys sansibar whisky labels1976 speyside malt a.jpg

This has been my view as I work – the mist is over the River Clyde in the valley below.

Clyde valley ronnie cruwys home view 1.jpg

It’s been a wrench to leave Staffordshire with a lot of goodbyes on top of the passing of my beloved sister but what a time it has been this summer!

I haven’t forgotten my streets and will leave you with a taste of my new surroundings with a big thank you for reading!

Ronnie

hazelbank clyde valley ronnie cruwys
Hazelbank, Clyde Valley

 

Waiting for the 43 Bus

43 Bus Holloway Road Ronnie Cruwys
Waiting for the 43 on Holloway road

Sometime last month I was asked if I had any sketches of North London’s number 43 bus. I scratched my head and went back through my sketchbook to find this one which I hope will bring a smile to my fellow blogger’s face.

My apologies it has taken this long to respond, but my scanner packed in and I had to get a replacement, plus I’m in the thick of preparations for a twin exhibition of my streets in Eccleshall which begins next week.

So this post is short and sweet with a bit of a sketchy bus theme all drawn from a bus stop and a few drawn from inside or up on the top deck.

253 to Nags Head
This is the bus I usually catch, 253 to Nags Head.

quick sketches from London bus
Hats on, collars up.

 

royal cafe camden
Thumbnail sketches when the bus stops

london buses
Wobbly bus thumbnails

Inside london bus
Inside the 253

Thanks for reading!

Ronnie

Drawing the Street Together in Eccleshall

fire station in Eccleshall now Kru by Ronnie Cruwys
Kru, once the fire station, Mo and Peel House, Eccleshall High Street

I’ve just completed my ninth Eccleshall street drawing.  There are more streets to draw (Gaol Butts, Castle Street and Small Lane) but I’m happy that I’ve drawn enough to share on the walls of Eccleshall Library and Gallery at 12 in my forthcoming twin exhibitions this November.

Why on earth did I opt for Drawing the Street ‘Together’ in the same town? Well, as a member of Staffordshire Artists Cooperative, we take it in turn for a monthly exhibition upstairs in Gallery at 12. After two years, my first turn is this November!

Having drawn a few streets elsewhere in Staffordshire, I decided to hire the exhibition area in Eccleshall library, a few doors along where I will display my Eccleshall drawings.  Gallery at 12 will hold my Staffordshire drawings. These venues are only a few doors apart as you can see below.

eccleshall High Street Exhibition Together by Ronnie Cruwys
A few doors between

To bring you up to date with the most recent drawing, it starts from Kru and extends to the 1960’s sheltered housing ‘John Pershall Court’ on the High Street. You can see it in full here.

pen and ink drawing of Eccleshall by Ronnie Cruwys
Galley at 12 artists Jo Hill, Helen Cartlidge and Jo Hearn, chatting together on the High Street

This drawing includes three fellow artists from Staffordshire Artists Cooperative: Jo Hill, Jo Hearn and Helen Cartlidge and her dog Tatty, the latter who live on this part of the street.

Eccleshall artists on the high street
Three artists and a dog

Helen and I are October birthday buddies – sharing the same date of birth but there has been no let up for either of us this year!  As soon as the prints are ready, they are round to Helen for framing. Thanks Helen.

Before this was a drawing of 3-19 Stafford Street, from Daru Chini restaurant to Perrys the Butcher.

pen and ink art of eccleshall
Daru Chini Restaurant, Eccleshall Fish Bar and the side of the Coop, Stafford Street, Eccleshall

Local historian Jan Baker has kindly given me some insights into some of the more hidden features of the town such as the listed milestone, tucked discreetly behind a planter.  Jan is featured walking past – a tribute to her with my thanks.

KIngs Arms Eccleshall Ronnie Cruwys
Jan Baker walking past the Kings Arms, Eccleshall, milestone behind the planter.

I would love to invite you to come and visit this lovely rural town and to see the exhibitions. They are up between 1-30 November. Limited edition prints are all available to buy after the exhibition or order sooner as unframed prints.

If you are free on Tuesday 7th November, I will be having a  Drawing the Street Welcome Evening I would love to see you there!

Thanks for reading.

Ronnie

 

 

drawing out the best in our streets