A Wynd up For Bernard

Now is that a ‘wind up’ as in a coiled spring or a ‘wind up’ – as in your sails? With all the subtleties of the English language it’s easy to to get confused but here a ‘Wynd’ has yet another meaning – a narrow passageway or a Close as they are called here in Lanark.

Bernard’s Wynd is one of Lanark’s twelve Closes which map the course of the town’s circulation between the High Street and the surrounding streetscape. Back in 1777, it was declared a common passage to the South Vennel. From the High Street, (south side) all that you see is this narrow entrance.

Located between the Horse and Jockey and Hays Travel – you will see that the entrance is set back – revealing a small slice of the old building which marks the line of the earlier street frontage and one of the locations that William Wallace lived in during the 13th Century.

If you look around the back and look up, you can see medieval window arches within the masonry, which thanks to Kirsten giving me a timely nudge, I’ve since been included on this drawing!

Bernard’s Wynd once led to the factory of Bernard Bell, principal shoemaker in the Royal Burgh. It was during the 17th and 18th centuries that Lanark’s biggest and richest craft was shoemaking – helping to meet the demand for stout footwear in Glasgow.

When I began planning this exhibition, I was going to work on A4 size boards but this format wasn’t ideal to capture the feeling of being enclosed in a narrow space. It was time to rethink.

No window arches on this format!

The proportion 2:3 was a better fit to express the narrowness of these Closes and to include some of the details that remain as clues to the past, like the fragments of window arches.

Work in progress – building up layers of colour

I wanted to simplify the work to highlight the Close itself – they have been fitted with new lighting to invite movement through them in safety – they are such important aspects of the town’s history and newcomers to the town may not realise their significance.

Back to work in progress. There are a few tips to help guide yourself along – one of which is to hold the image up in a mirror and view it in reverse, or to stand back and view it from a distance but a great tip is to flip the image into black and white to check the tonal composition is balanced.

As I sign off, I’m really happy to know that all the artwork prepared by Kirsten and myself is now framed and ready to hang over the weekend ready for open doors on Monday 26th April 2021.

‘Close Encounters’ is on at the Tolbooth Lanark until 8th May. All very welcome – please wear a face covering and keep to social distancing – thank you, and thanks as always for reading.

Ronnie

Close Encounters

The Closes of Lanark remind me of the ‘Snickelways’ of York.  ‘Snickelway‘ is a word conjured up by Mark W. Jones in his 1983 book A Walk Around the Snickelways of York and it weaves together the words snicket, meaning a passageway between walls or fences,  ginnel, a narrow passageway between or through buildings, and alleyway, a narrow street or lane’.

York has many of these pathways, mostly medieval and often with unusual names such as Mad Alice Lane and Finkle Street. Lanark too has twelve remaining ancient pathways called ‘Closes’, hiding in plain sight along both sides of the High Street.

Wide Close on Bloomgate, Lanark

Wide Close, Duncan’s Close and Hunter’s Close show up on my drawing of 1-51 High Street (shown in full here).

The Closes map rich histories with their narrow footprint, architectural fragments and tiny details such as this doorbell in Shirley’s Close.  

Miss Shirley Baxter – door bell in Shirley’s Close

The Closes have recently been part of a project by Discover Lanark to make them safer, brighter and more welcoming and the latest stage in this project has been to install a series of information panels highlighting the history of each Close.

Kirsten Harris has brought layers of Lanark’s history to life with her wonderful artwork which fires up the imagination with the stories held deep within each of the Closes. You can read more about Kirsten’s creative process with the panel artwork here.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on ‘the backs’ – the parts of the Closes where clues remain to remind us of what’s been before as part of ‘Close Encounters’, an upcoming exhibition at The Tolbooth, featuring the history of Lanark’s Closes as well as the framed originals of Kirsten’s Closes artwork.

Kirsten recently posed a question: ‘Has Covid changed your artwork?’ This was such a rich question that I’m still reflecting on the answer but this project shows me that it has definitely changed my work.

Previously I would have reached for my fine-line mapping pen but this time, I went for a broad brush to paint lots of yellows and golds to reflect my need for brightness and light after a Covid winter. I drew with the ink dropper straight onto the prepared surface with a feeling of urgency and that to hesitate is a not an option.

For this series of twelve rear views of the Closes, I had a strong idea from the outset and did a rough concept sketch below. A bright optimistic background as foundation with grimy and colourful history overlaid, keeping a narrow strip of light to draw your eye into the close.

I chose a tall, thin 2:3 format to reflect the vertical feel of the Closes – to walk along them you can almost feel the stones close in as you pass through centuries of witnessing walls.

With the composition sketched out I then added ink washes of Payne’s Grey on top of the prepared surface to give an underpainting toned with yellows and greens – the colours of April.

Underpainting the rear view of Wide Close

The next part was me having fun working in some gorgeous rich pastel colours (by Unison), responding to the tones beneath and keeping in mind the title of the exhibition ‘Close Encounters’. Passing through these narrow Closes can be a little intimidating on a dark dreich day, but they are far from dead ends and it’s worth looking up.

It’s a great help to check that there’s a good balance of tones by taking a black and white photos as you go along.

Finally, it’s always good to take a step back and the bench outside the back door is a great place for an overview. More about the Closes next time. As always, thanks for reading.

Ronnie πŸ™‚

Reflecting DOuglas

Doors might be closed but the windows of The Scrib Tree are free for all to look into when going for a stroll through Douglas. Level 4 lockdown here in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, sees many doors closed but people are finding ways to continue working safely within the restrictions.

Around the Corner‘, an exhibition of 16 unexpected views of the historic village of Douglas, is now on view to the town and I’m really pleased to have it on display in this wonderful place.

I know I could put the work to one side and wait till we have the all clear for a proper on-the-wall exhibition but this work sums up the spirit of place that we are in right now – the feeling that better things are ‘imminent’, ‘on the brink’, ‘on the horizon’…. which are all names of paintings in this exhibition.

Just to side track a moment – look at this wee Scrib Tree charmer! He was no help whatsoever in putting up my work! If you read to the end, I promise you a melty moment pup pic….

I think this is my favourite photograph of the window exhibition. Big light cloudscapes behind dark skylines. It shows a little of the drama of this intense historic village.

Here’s a detail below from ‘In the Air’.

‘In the Air’

From ‘In the Air’ we move down to earth – but not for long….

…Where are these stairs leading us?

‘On the Brink’.

‘On the Brink’
‘On the Brink’

I’m curious to find out where these stairs lead – are they simply going around the corner with another flight out of sight or is there another level that has since disappeared?

Here we have tall chimneys against a dark sky. This is a dramatic building that lies empty – ‘Ready and Waiting’.

‘Ready and Waiting’ – detail

All the original artworks featured can be seen on my website.

‘Ready and Waiting’

The hotel above lies empty, ready and waiting – but not this little chap.

As always, thank you for reading!

Ronnie

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

drawing out the best in our streets