Sketching the day

There’s a wonderful art studio here in the Clyde Valley run by Susan McMillan . There’s always a variety of art classes and workshops so I’m delighted to have been invited to give a sketchbook demonstration during two of the six week drawing classes which start in March.

I’ve had a few nudges lately about the value of sketching. To me, the best sketches are those made in 5 minutes or less, sometimes only a few lines with a bit of colour to help make sense of the lines.

Like this thumbnail of the kettle, teapot, jug and mug. I recognise that mug. I still have it and won’t put it through the dishwasher anymore as it’s losing its pattern. It’s one I gave to Dad…

There are some mouthwatering sketchbooks that artists share online and I dream of being able to produce work of such calibre and creativity. That said, I no longer feel so awed by them. They are brilliant because the artists are passionate, they’ve persevered and they have practised, qualities I really admire and try to encompass too.

I’d like to share a day in my life sketched in 2014 when I signed up for a 6 week online course which turned out to be the very first days of Sketchbook Skool. I don’t think this particular class is available anymore but I will never forget it and I made many online friends that have been a great support over the last 6 years.

One of the classes was with Prashant Miranda If you are on Instagram, go and have a look at his work – it makes you smile! It’s thanks to Prashant that I sketched a full day in thumbnails, Easter Monday 2014.

We’ve still got the tortoise (he’s in hibernation) but our cats and Nina are no longer with us – we only said goodbye to Ollie a few weeks ago:-( These sketches are more meaningful to me than any photograph.

I could write a short story for all of these sketches…

…and I could fill a book to go with the image below.

Our old washing machine….

I recall that the plan was to sand down and prime our front bay window that day. Just see how easily we were distracted!

My sketchbooks are probably some of my most treasured possessions. Not so much for the sketches but for the memories that they captured.

If you are hesitating in front of a blank page, here’s what you do. Look at what is catching your eye. Pick up whatever pen/pencil/crayon is nearest. Draw for five minutes. Make a few notes. Add a colour. Don’t judge it good or bad, it’s just your sketch. Close the book and revisit a few years later. It will all make sense one day.

Sketching the washing up a few weeks ago

Thanks for reading.

Ronnie

close to Lanark high street

In Yorkshire, they’re called ‘ginnels’ or ‘snickelways’. Here in Lanark, they are called a ‘close’. Lanark High Street has 14 of these narrow openings that weave in and out of the town centre, tracking centuries of movement and trade.

Up until last year, they were dark and run down but the Discover Lanark BID and Lanark Community Development Trust have transformed the High Street’s closes by turning them into features which promote key aspects of Lanark’s history. At least seven closes have been repainted and had new energy efficient light fittings installed.

The next step planned is to install panels explaining the history of each close including information about their names, you can read more about it here.

Six of these closes are featured on my drawing of the High Street, it’s up in full on my website here.

On the opposite side of the street, Wallace Close has been brought to life with artwork depicting key moments of Wallace’s life in Lanark. Perhaps that’s another street drawing for the future!

Prints and cards are available to buy through the Tolbooth Lanark, or from my website.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read,

Ronnie

Behind the walls of New Lanark

New Lanark is a World Heritage Site set in native Scottish woodland next to the River Clyde, here in South Lanarkshire. This Cotton mill village was founded in the 18th century and and has been thoroughly documented with a digitised survey of all the buildings – you can read more about it here. It doesn’t need ‘Drawing the Street’ to record it! However, the interiors are irresistible to draw!

Kitchen table

They are full of objects that remind me of my earliest childhood … some from our ‘old house’ and others from our neighbours in York which held hand-me-downs from generations before. Take for example the table above. This could have been Mum’s kitchen table in the mid-sixties. However, I’m not that old….the sketch below is of the Millworker’s House of the 1820’s.

Pots and Pans

We often go up to New Lanark to walk in the wildlife reserve or to see the Falls of Clyde, once visited and painted by Turner. However, it was when my American family came to visit last year that we did the tour inside and around the mill including the workers’ accommodation and Robert Owen’s House .

Wally Dug on the Dresser

I managed to take a few photos knowing that I wanted to sketch some of them later. I only get to notice things when I sketch such as this mouse and the clay pipes tucked behind the packs of tobacco. All reconstructed but still appealing.

Beer, whisky, fish, cheese, bacon ….can you spot the mouse?
Brush out the Cobwebs
Sacks of cotton
Reels of thread

Hope you enjoy this inside view of just a few of the sights within these magnificent buildings. It’s a fascinating destination in a beautiful location – well worth a visit.

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

Mill Workers’ House, New Lanark

Eccleshall Glows Red

High Street, Eccleshall with the Arcade – home to Gallery at 12

Gallery at 12 in Eccleshall is a firm supporter of the work done by Shape Arts . Each December the Gallery holds a charity day to fund raise for them and this year it tied in with ‘RED’, their winter-themed exhibition by all the co-operative membership. I’d love to say the words ‘Beam me up Scottie!’ and be transported back to the Gallery for the day but in the meantime I got out my red oxide ink for some fresh sketches of Eccleshall and posted some new work to the Gallery from their long-distance guest member.

These are cropped images from four little original drawings of Eccleshall, all mounted ready to frame. I’ve also made sets of cards of these as handy stocking fillers.

You will always get a warm welcome in the Gallery and Eccleshall is such a picturesque place to visit – if you live in the area, why not head over.

If I don’t post again before Christmas, here’s wishing all my readers a very happy one and hope you get many peaceful sofa moments!

Lanark Sketches

Girnin Dug Lanark

Sometimes the long street scenes don’t catch all that I want to include. There are countless vignettes here in Lanark which I’ve made a start on sketching as part of my exhibition ‘Streets of Lanark’ in the Tolbooth from Monday 28th Oct for a fortnight.

Coffee outside the Tolbooth

I’ve added all these sketches in a new page in this blog ‘Lanark Sketches’. Click over to see them all including some cropped close ups as I know my other sketching friends reading here like to have a good close look.

pen and ink drawing of girnin dog 2 castlegate lanark
Girnin dog, Castlegate, Lanark

Of course I had to include the real local hero ‘the Girnin Dug/Dog/Doogie’. Couldn’t decide which was his best side, so drew them all, including a close-up!

Close up of the Girnin Doogie
Just the one sketch of New Lanark so far…

Thanks for reading and hoping to see one or two of you at the exhibition.

Ronnie

passing time

Dalserf Parish Church, dating back at least to mid 17th C.

These last few days have had a theme – archives. Actually, the theme has woven between archived sketchbooks of artists who have gone before us and sketching graveyards with some monumental archival gravestones.

I spent yesterday morning with my Paintbox classmates and the archivist at Edinburgh Gallery of Modern Art Two soaking up every detail we could from the sketchbooks of Mary Newbery, William Crozier, William MacTaggart, Joan Eardley, James Mackintosh Patrick, Josef Sekalski and Oskar Kokoshka. All these sketchbooks are available for anyone to look at by appointment. No photos, but we can use pencils to make sketches and notes…

Making quick notes on the sketching techniques of William Crozier and William MacTaggart

It’s very moving being present to witness these private moments of an artist. Through their sketches, they share that same frame of mind when they were in that sketching space, recording what they saw, then years pass and here we are, in the Reading Room, observers for a few passing minutes, seeing with their eyes.

James Mackintosh Patrick -exquisite sketches

After our time in the Reading Room, we went out with our own sketchbooks to find a quiet corner and sketch. Dean graveyard is right behind the gallery and it’s a mini-city of high-rise head stones. The trees are winning though with their majestic presence and golden canopies.

Leaves giving way…

Mary Newbery’s sketchbook included a line drawing of flowers against a painted green/grey background. Nothing at all as clumsy as this sketch – but this will remind me of her work.

Today I was back getting ready for my exhibition at the Tolbooth which will be on from next Monday, here in Lanark. As you know, all my streets are drawn as archives but there’s always so much more I want to include.

When I drew Kirk Road Dalserf, I felt that the street was incomplete without some sketch of this significant Covenanter’s church so I’m happy that I completed a sketch today. The original will be framed and on display by next week.

I’m planning to post more about my work that’s going up in the Tolbooth as the people who pass by this page are miles away from here. I’m happy enough to share my work as long as you are kind enough to give up your time to read.

This post is dedicated to Colina, our neighbour here on the Braes, who passed away last night taking almost a century of memories with her.

Colina’s View of the Clyde Valley

Thanks for reading, Ronnie

Fifty Streets 3/3

Dog Groomers and Turkish Barber…not to be confused

This is West Port in Lanark, my new Scottish home town which I’m enjoying getting to know as I draw and share my work online.

Since moving here last summer, I’ve drawn six Lanark streets, all of which had something to catch my eye. How timely that the Tolbooth Lanark is kindly hosting an exhibition of my drawings of these streets just as I’ve reached the milestone of 50 drawings.

It will be on from Mon 28th October to Sat 9th November where I will be showing these as well as Kirk Road in Dalserf and a few originals from York, where I grew up.

West Port, Lanark

You have to keep your eyes on the road whilst driving along West Port but it’s one of the key ancient streets – or ports – in Lanark, steeped in history and legend if you scratch below the surface. The town became a Royal Burgh in 1140 so there was plenty going on before this date to be granted this noble status.

I haven’t had much time to update you on work in progress lately so let me skim over the last few streets which I’ve drawn here. They are on my website now where you can see them in more detail. Broomgate (not to be confused with Bloomgate), runs at a right angle to the High Street.

No 38 Broomgate (middle building)

Broomgate is a street which holds a rich and varied history. To focus on no 38, its past use includes a school, a house for the headmaster of Lanark Grammar School (early 19C), a Poorhouse in the 19-20thC and possibly used as a Drill Hall in WW1.

This isn’t a history blog but I do like to record anything relevant for my archive blog drawingthedetail. If you have any knowledge of the past uses for any of these buildings I would love to hear from you.

Living history happens as I draw and I love it when I can record the people who belong to the street. Here on my Broomgate drawing you can see Ainsley from Nirvana Yoga (being followed by a passing rainbow as I drew) and Kym, who runs the Wallace Tea Rooms, spotted for a moment sitting outside with me this summer.

Heading back along the High Street and around the corner towards Wellgate you will discover another street full of traditional colourful Scottish rendered buildings. Gone are the Staffordshire bricks!

2-62 Wellgate, Lanark

If you look closely at the bottom of the chimney stack you can see the initials DW and a date carved into the masonry – 1893.

Spot the smaller proportions/roof line of these older shops below.

As with all my drawings, I scan them at high resolution and have a small number of signed limited edition giclee prints available.

Three completed drawings ready to scan

These will be available to buy/order during the exhibition at the Tolbooth or get in touch RonnieCruwys@drawingthestreet.co.uk. More information is available on my website Drawing the Street

Small prints by Smith York Fine Art Printers, Ironbridge, of first three Lanark street scenes

Next post I will tell you about my sketches of Lanark that I have drawn just for the exhibition – all being framed at the moment but here is the first one…

My sincere thanks for reading and an extra big thank you to those who have been with me over the last few years!

You keep me going! Ronnie 🙂

St Nicholas Clock tower from The Wallace Tea Rooms

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

drawing out the best in our streets