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

 

 

St Kilda – a world away from home

pen and ink sketch of st kilda village
Abandoned village on St Kilda

I heard of St Kilda when we first went to Harris and Lewis 27 years ago. I’ve wanted to visit it ever since so you can imagine how excited I was when we received a gift of a pair of tickets for a day trip with Kilda Cruises (thank you Marie!).

In brief, St Kilda is the remains of what was once a volcano active 60 million years ago. There are four main islands (Hirta, Soay, Boreray and Dun) and a number of spectacular sea stacs. Hirta has the highest sea cliffs in the British isles and and Stac an Armin is the highest sea stac. Boreray is home to the world’s largest colony of gannets.

For thousands of years, a small community had lived on these islands but in 1930 the last few islanders left which brought their unique way of life to an end. The remains of this deserted village extends in a ribbon around the bay.

We knew it would be hit and miss with the weather and decided to make the 1100+ mile round trip to Leverburgh on Harris taking our chances on the last available dates of the year. Trips are only confirmed the evening before as poor weather conditions restrict landings on the island.

This is a trip that I know many of my friends and family would love to make but may never manage so I would like to share some photos and a few sketches. St Kilda has a street which I would love to draw one day.

Leaving our home in Staffordshire at 5am last Tuesday, we set off for Ullapool.

1 Road to Ullapool RonnieCruwys
Road to Ullapool

2 Ullapool bay RonnieCruwys
Enjoying the view from Ullapool’s Ferry Boat Inn.

3 Ullapool to Stornaway ferry
Evening ferry to Stornaway

Back packers bunkhouse Tarbert
Back Packers Stop in Tarbert, Harris

We reached Tarbert on Harris by 9.30pm where we had booked in for two nights in the Back Packers Stop, where we shared an 8-bed dorm with cyclists, walkers and bikers! Our trip to St Kilda had been cancelled for the following day so we spent a day on the south side of Harris.

Watching herons on the Golden Road
Watching herons on the Golden Road

Temple Cafe Harris
‘Money tree’ stuffed with coins and notes supporting the roof of the Temple Cafe

We stopped for a coffee at the Temple Cafe where we overheard a chap say that he had just heard that St Kilda was on for tomorrow! Woohoo!

Hirta Kilda Cruises Sept 2017 RonnieCruwys
The ‘Hirta’ at Leverburgh Jetty at 7.30am

5 Dolphins KildaCruise
Dolphins and porpoises joining us on our way out

6 Hirta view1 KildaCruises
St Kilda with Stac an Armin to the left

7 Hirta St Kilda view2 RonnieCruwys
Arrival on Hirta

St Kilda Street RonnieCruwys
Deserted homes of the St Kildans

Anne Gillies House no12 St Kilda RonnieCruwys
Each home has a named slate – No 12 was once home to Ann Gillies

Stephens ink from Highbury on ST kilda
Stephen’s Ink from Highbury London, in the school house.

soay sheep st kilda ronnie cruwys
Soay sheep (direct descendants of Bronze age sheep) enjoying a back scratch

pen ink and wash of Dun St Kilda
Skyline of Dun from the House of the Fairies

An underground store dating from 500bc to AD300 known as the House of the Fairies
An underground store dating from 500BC to AD300 – known as the ‘House of the Fairies’

St Kilda Bay RonnieCruwys
Looking towards Dun

St Kilda Sea Stacs 1ronniecruwys
St Kilda stacs with gannets circling

St Kilda Stacs 2 Ronnie Cruwys
St Kilda Stacs

St Kilda Ronnie CruwysSt Kilda Stacs 3 Ronnie Cruwys

return st kilda
Leaving St Kilda

We have been so very lucky to have visited these remote islands. The crew of Kilda Cruises were first class – my thanks to them and to you for reading and hope that this has given you a flavour of the extraordinary place that is St Kilda.

Ronnie

 

Forgotten pubs around the Hornsey Road

Gourmet coffee stoke station
Coffee from Gourmet Cafe Stoke Station

Back to the London sketchbook. All trips to London start with a tea from Gourmet on Platform1, Stoke Station.  Here are a few sketches which I made around the Hornsey Road which runs parallel to Holloway Road, drawn over several visits.

On some of these trips, I enjoy making tiny thumbnail sketches in less than two minutes, then adding a bit of colour at home.

London bus no 253 Holloway road
253 to Nags Head, Holloway Road

It’s surprising what you can catch when you know you only have seconds when the bus stops. 

sketches from the bus stop
A few bus stop sketches

On my way to the Hornsey Road, I walked past Royal Northern Gardens, a park created in 2002 on Manor Gardens. The Royal Northern Hospital opened in 1888 and once stood on this site.  A new Casualty Department was opened in 1923 following WW1 as a memorial to the people of Islington and these rainwater hopper heads caught my eye, having been salvaged from the subsequent demolitions in the mid 1990s. They are now part of the memorial wall and used as planters.

sketch of rainwater hopper Manor Road Holloway
Rainwater hopper head from the former Royal Northern Hospital

Heading down Bavaria Road, I stopped to draw the ghost sign from the former Alexander Coffee Tavern. it turns out that this was once home of The Blenheim Arms, 395 Hornsey Road. Following closure this became a temperance pub called The Alexandra Coffee Tavern.

Blenheim Road
Look above the road sign and you can just make out the former Blenheim Road name

Sketch of the Alexandra Coffee tavern Bavaria Road
Alexandra Coffee Tavern on the Hornsey Road

Another old sign caught my attention – ‘Plough Stables’. I was joined while I sketched by Martin and his dog Barney and I discovered it too was once a pub, a favourite of Martin’s dad.

sketch of Plough Stables Hornsey Rd London N7
Plough Stables, Hornsey Rd

Mosque which was once a pub
Mosque on Hornsey Road which was once a pub – there’s a green man over the door!

Then sketching this ornate entrance to the Mosque, it too was once a pub – I smiled when I learned it was called the Hanley Arms.

I usually have to go inside to warm up at some point and since a kind person brought me out a green tea from the Rusty Bike Cafe, I went in for a bite to eat.

 

sketch inside Rusty Bike Cafe, Hornsey Road
Warming up inside the Rusty Bike Cafe, Hornsey Road

I will sign off with this sketch of an old red phone box, not so many around these days.

George Gilbert Scott design telephone box Hornsey Road
One of the original George Gilbert Scott design telephone boxes

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

 

Sketchbook scan tips

Colquhoun lodge banner.jpg

Rhomany’s Realm of Urban Sketchers Stoke-on-Trent recently asked me this great question: “Can you give us any tips on scanning/photographing your sketches for sharing online?”  I thought it was worth taking some time to answer.

With most mobile smart phones, it’s straightforward enough to take a great photo, crop and edit it and post on line. Here’s an example from a few years ago, when I began with indoor sketching, the softies option. I took this pic with my camera and although it looks ok, it doesn’t really engage the viewer with the content of the sketch.

colquhoun lodge
Early indoor urban sketches

I’m sure that most people can do a much better job than this with their phones and the wide range of editing tools available but over the last few years, I’ve found I get a fresher and more consistent image by scanning the sketch.

I keep a record of most of my sketches and file them by date and location. I scan them as a jpeg at a medium resolution (300dpi),  on a six year old Canon MG5250 scanner/printer.

When I place the sketch book on the scanner, I press the lid down to flatten the spine so as to get an even scan up to the binding otherwise the edges are blurred. This works up to within 1cm of the spine and it’s worth bearing in mind to keep any penwork away from the spine when sketching. Pressing down also helps flatten bumpy page surfaces.

Here’s the unedited scan of the sketch. You can see the blurred lettering where the spine can’t quite lie flat.

Colquhoun lodge unedited.jpg

The next thing to do is to crop the image and get rid of any unwanted parts in Photoshop or Microsoft Picture Editor.

I’ve cropped the image below but the lettering still looks fuzzy so I opted to lose it for the shared image and cropped it again.

Chateau Bill edit 1.jpg

There are lots of tools for colour corrections but I often end up using the ‘auto-correct’ tools to enhance contrast which lifts the mist from the image.

Colquhoun lodge Cruwys
Bill’s holiday cottage supplies

I add my web address in the image as a reference so when it sails off into the ethers, it retains a reference to my website. I prefer to keep the web address fairly discreet so as not to distract from the sketch. I also save the image at a lower resolution so it looks fine on screen but isn’t sharp enough to print.

This is a simplified description of my editing and like all these things, I could go into it in more detail, so any questions, just ask. That said – I may not know the answer!

I have all my street drawings scanned, colour corrected and printed professionally by Smith York Fine Art Printers as it gets quite complex.

Although this process takes up a bit of time, it’s an organised way to keep your sketches so you can find them easily and it’s also a record in case your sketchbook gets drenched in rain or coffee or your cat decides to help out…

Normans Paw.jpg

by the paw of Norman.jpg

Happy sketching and thanks for reading.

Ronnie

Shake a leg for #sot2021

sketch of feet in Stoke on Trent
Feet up Hanley Duck

Funny how waiting in a queue is now something I enjoy. There’s always something to draw. I started with one foot, then a bit of leg then another…

Back to this month. I’ve had a great time sketching in Burslem, the mother town of the Potteries,  starting with this one of Market Place, one of the streets which I’ve already drawn formally a few years ago which you can see here.

urban sketch of the Leopard Burslem
Post Office (new-ish) and the Leopard, Burslem

Good to see the repairs on the Post Office by Horsley Huber Architects looking nicely weathered in.

I then moved down to St John’s Square to sketch the New Inn.

sketch by ronnie Cruwys of New Inn Burslem
New Inn, Market Place, Burslem.

This Bank Holiday Monday the town burst into life with its summer festival “Our Burslem Unites

Stoke Urban Sketchers got together for the event and to enjoy capturing the flavour of the day. Here are a few of mine.

sketch of Burslem School of Art from the Wedgwood Institute
Looking out from those big Wedgwood Doors

urban sketch of burslem

fun and games in Burslem
Fun and Games on the Corner of Queen Street

Burslem Unites urban sketch ronnie cruwys
Hook a Duck – a prize every time

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

drawing out the best in our streets