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!
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.
We share this wonderful place with some great company…..
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.
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.
Have you ever looked up at a building and marvelled at the creativity that has gone into it? Have you thought about the artists and makers and the hours of planning and co-ordination spent to pull something like the Wedgwood Institute together? This building must have been a labour of love for so many.
Whilst I was living in Staffordshire, I wanted to draw every last detail of this building simply to acknowledge it was there. I began with the main entrance which you can see in full here.
I had great plans to draw so much more of this building but life had other plans for me. Just as I had got the next phase of artwork underway, we got news of the move to Scotland and so things went on hold.
However, I had already begun drawing the months of the year and the zodiac symbols in the arches above and so at some point I knew I would finish them – I don’t like leaving a body of work unfinished. Besides, I had begun work on some beautiful heavy watercolour paper (Saunders Waterford 640gsm Not) which is a thick as carboard with a rippling texture and a wonderful surface to paint/draw on.
I pencilled in the outline using a compass to contain the astrological symbols.
I had taken photographs of the existing zodiac signs but some were under cover and some had areas of mosaic missing. I looked up old record photos and in places where details were hazy, I used creative licence and painted them to compliment the rest of the images.
The mosaic symbols were made in bright blues, greens and whites against a deep red background. I used ground up mineral pigments of azurite, malachite and the red and yellow ochre earth pigments that I use to paint icons to capture the life, depth and movement of these rich symbols.
This was as far as I got with the zodiac symbols before I began to pack up to move north. I had made some progress into painting the images of the months – about three or four of them… but enough to have me hooked to want to complete, come what may.
Now, almost four years since I made the first sketches of these images, I’m so happy that I can say I have completed this part and will be sharing what I’ve done to complete them over the next few blog posts.
A new exhibition went up in the Tolbooth Lanark last weekend, titled ‘Coasts and Rivers’. This is Lanark’s invitation for local artists to participate in Scotland’s 2020 celebration of:
‘Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters, a year that will spotlight, celebrate and promote opportunities to experience and enjoy Scotland’s unrivalled coasts and waters encouraging responsible engagement and participation from the people of Scotland and our visitors’.
It’s a step away from my usual buildings but for the past couple of years I’ve been exploring ways to express the beautiful landscape up here through attending a variety of art classes.
I’d been attending a year long drawing/mixed media course held at Paintbox School of Art in Cockenzie until lockdown threw that curve ball. Some of the classes went online so I signed up for their artist’s retreat and one of the morning meditation classes had the theme of oceans.
It involved filling a dozen or so sheets of A4 paper with a whole variety of fluid marks, the movement of ink on wet paper flowing to the sounds of the sea shore. I used three inks – Paynes grey and two blues, plenty of water for misting, sticks and feathers and the bottle dropper to make marks.
I set aside the papers to use as collage for the entry to the Oceans exhibition, thinking about the image of the Hebridean sea that I photographed on our way to St Kilda a few years ago. I wrote about it here.
Some weeks later, I prepared a surface with broad sweeping brush marks in similar colours but using acrylic paint to form a foundation layer, adding in some textured medium. I then tore a few sheets of the collage paper into narrow curved strips and layered them on to the base layer.
I then used inktense sticks to add highlights and deeper shadows.
Finally, to add the metallic sheen to the highlights, I added silver gouache using a cocktail stick held on its side to create irregular fillets of light.
Here’s the finished artwork. I did a double check on the tonal values by seeing how it looked in black and white and was happy with the result.
‘Hebridean Waters’ framed and ready for the exhibition! There’s a wide and interesting variety of work up in the Tolbooth, I think the subject has been appealing and just what we need to get us back in the flow!
Thanks for reading and if you live near Lanark, hope you can come along. The subject has generated some really beautiful and soothing art.
It’s a great feeling stepping back into the Tolbooth, Lanark and greeting old friends at last. Even better to see the walls vibrant with colourful work by local artists as the exhibition ‘Over the Rainbow‘ gets underway.
The exhibition is running from 17th July to Saturday 8th August 2020 and shows the results of the creative competition launched by both the Tolbooth Lanark and the Lanark Community Development Trust ‘to bring colour and joy to the lives of local people during lockdown’.
The range of entries includes paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture and ceramics. There were three categories:
Junior category: all entrants receive an art set.
Amateur Artist: winner Judith Wilson (see photo above)
Here’s the winning entry – it looks familiar! I wrote a little about this in an earlier blog post here. I’m delighted to say that the artwork ‘Finial, Spires and Chimneys’ will go on sale in a silent auction and all proceeds will go towards a charity of the artist’s choice – I’m very happy to say that Scottish Wildlife Trust will be the beneficiary – looking after our natural world is something important to us all. Here’s the link to the Tolbooth where you can place a bid by message.
I know that quite a few readers live a long way from Lanark so here are a few photos to show you around the exhibition.
I’d love to promote all the artists on show here, but I didn’t take a note of all the names. However, there are a few artists that I know and I will share their web details so you can look up their work.
All these works were produced during the peak of lockdown and each one is a tribute to the effort that went into producing the work. There are many more artists that didn’t manage to enter the competition – we were all thrown into different situations and some had too much on their plate to even think about lifting a brush….
Veronica Liddell is an established professional artist based in Corra Linn Studio, New Lanark. Her delightful artwork (top left) is titled ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’ and proceeds will be donated to the Scottish Ambulance Service.
Next along is another firm favourite by Richard Price – artist and ceramicist working in Thankerton. The two following examples are beautifully evocative pieces which express lockdown with clarity and poise: the drawing ‘Carrying Hope’ and the ceramic ‘Burden of Hope’.
Now for another Mr Price…this one is by Nathan, studying at Dundee Art School. If I was Richard I would be very proud of him! If I was Nathan I would be feeling quite pleased with myself. The photo is nowhere near as good as standing directly in front of this colourful creation.
Here we have a wonderful lighthearted line up of Scottish Coos! These are painted by the talented Rosie Mark living just down the road from me in Crossford. Rosie excels in animal portraiture although I know she is pretty good at people portraits too.
Now we have the ethereal work of Evelyn McKewan. Evelyn’s work feels like a breath of fresh air. She has also agreed to include it in the silent auction in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. If you see any of these works and want to place a bid – just head over to the Tolbooth page and message them.
Kirsten Harris is an established artist whose work has a richly symbolic meaning. Her work features her passion for wildlife, horses and birds – check out her website for the breadth of her talent. I love her work in pen and ink – this entry is titled ‘Nineteen Corvid’s’ and proceeds will be donated to the Tolbooth.
Just to wrap this post up with a few more images – not very well focused but just a flavour of the variety on display.
Look out for the next Tolbooth exhibition which will follow this one: Coasts and Rivers.
It’s almost two years since I began the whisky label marathon where I drew over 400 individual sketches of places in Scotland for Sansibar-Whisky’s bottling of a really tasty 1976 Speyside malt. Every sketch was of a place that I had been to and from photos that I had taken.
A year later and the bottles were on display in Finest Whisky, Berlin.
Having drawn labels from Dumfries to Sutherland I can’t tell you how proud I was when I saw that one of the Lanark images was chosen to be on display – Lanark being my new home town!
Quite a few sketches were made of places close to home here in the Clyde Valley. Recently, I supplied the Post Office in Crossford with a small selection of greetings cards of some of the places on labels within walking distance of home.
I thought I would share some of the sketches of the places nearby starting with Hazelbank, named after all the Hazel trees that once grew along the banks of the River Clyde. Most of the hazels have been cleared over the years but a few healthy hazel saplings are growing in our orchard and hopefully they will thrive.
To read a little bit more about how these labels began – I wrote about it here.
The following images are all places that have become familiar to me, especially Broomhouse the one below, which is really ‘Bill’s House’ which I see every morning from our place a bit further up the hill.
Hope you enjoy this small taste of the Clyde Valley and know that every label that went on those 1976 Speysiders was drawn with the same level of dedication that went into making the whisky!
Today, Thursday 11th June 2020, would have been Lanimer Day, a celebration and a week-long town party that has taken place in Lanark since 1892. You can read more about the history of the activities on the Lanark Lanimers website. It’s a rare day in early June that the streets of Lanark are not filled with one of the UK’s largest processions for the crowning of the Lanimer Queen and many other ceremonial activities to celebrate the Royal Burgh.
I’ve hardly been into Lanark these last 12 weeks of lockdown so urban sketching has been replaced by orchard sketching (more on than another time) but I didn’t want the day to pass without acknowledging this significant week or without giving some acknowledgement to a few of the traders who show up in my sketches and who must also be finding it challenging to adapt and keep going.
These are simply some examples from my 2019 sketch book where I can show a small taster of the work that goes on in Lanark by others. Let’s start with some of the work by a Scottish potter Richard Price. This one’s for my Stokie Pals; I can’t help but admire potters wherever they are!
If there is work going on then there has to be a rest in between. Ernie, Tom and Millie sketched whilst on duty during the Tolbooth Christmas exhibition.
Included in the exhibition was a wonderful example of a Yorkshire Ewe by the animal portrait artist Rosie Mark who also works here in the Clyde Valley.
Looking outside the Tolbooth window, the pigeons settle down to roost on the chimney stacks.
Now for someone we all miss – our hairstylists! This is Heather at Nelson’s Hair Salon, which is being redecorated in anticipation of opening sometime soon.
Something else that I miss: being part of an audience at a music event such as this one held at Scottish Wildlife Trust visitor centre, New Lanark.
Finally I’d like to include an acknowledgement of the work put in by Ian Wilson Leitch and the Tolbooth volunteers and Kirsten Harris who all worked tirelessly on behalf of so many artists and creators to set up this shared exhibition open to all working in the area. You did a great job!
Here’s hoping that the pandemic recedes and that we can all pick up some of our most treasure threads of our daily lives with renewed enthusiasm.
Calling all Lanark artists! Lanark Tolbooth Trust and Lanark Community Development Trust have put their heads together and come up with a great idea for artists living within 7 miles of Lanark, by holding a rainbow themed art competition.
The competition is to create rainbow inspired images for an exhibition to be held at the Tolbooth, Lanark when the restrictions are lifted.
They have been inspired by the uplifting colourful pictures of rainbows that children have put in their windows spreading messages of hope and thanks to the NHS and key workers.
I thought I would do something a little different…
I don’t think I’ve mentioned here yet but since last October (until lockdown) I had been attending a weekly drawing and mixed media class at Paintbox School of Art in East Lothian. I’ll get round to telling you a bit more about the classes on another day (they’re great!) but for now I’ve discovered that preparing your surface makes quite a difference to your work.
There are many ways to do this but for the idea I had in mind, I wanted a lightly textured background, for a mostly monochrome drawing apart from the rainbows.
In my mind’s eye, I had a composition of disordered buildings, interweaving fragments drawn very simply, with the emphasis on windows and the rainbow posters. I’ve only been into Lanark twice since lockdown so it felt apt that it was more dreamlike. The monochrome sums up how things feel at the moment and helps the rainbows pop out.
I prepared 4 sheets of A3 paper with a coat of white emulsion paint mixed with a dash of blue grey. It gives a chalky tooth for the graphite and a varied flow to ink. I then worked directly on to the paper, starting with one key building placed off-centre and then placed other buildings in response to that one and so on.
I got carried away doing four sheets but I kept finding parts of buildings that I wanted to include. I now have to decide on which drawing to enter or do another one!
The drawings have been cropped into squares – top and bottom sections so you can have a good look.
If you are a professional or amateur artist living in or near Lanark, there is still time to enter – closing date 1st June 2020. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of colour next month!
I draw my street scenes in waterproof ink directly on to fancy Italian paper (Fabriano Artistico cotton archival quality paper, 300 grams cold pressed), which I buy in a ten metre roll. It’s a gorgeous quality paper and expensive. I have the street all mapped out in rough beforehand so there is no excuse to mess up.
I’m used to working at home but it’s taking all my concentration to redirect my thoughts away from how hard it is for so many people right now.
So when I finally gathered enough concentration to start back on some street drawing to focus on something creative away from Covid 19, I made a mistake! In the grand scheme of things it is hardly a mistake to even blink over, but since this street is part of a body of work that is serving as an archive of our streets as they stand at the time of drawing – it felt a bit of an ‘oops’ moment.
But not really. I don’t worry about things like this any more since I have a few treasures up my sleeve that I can pull out. One of these treasures was knowing that it is possible to correct a drawn mistake with some humour as I had seen before…
When the new St John’s Bible was being hand written on vellum, mistakes were made that the scribes couldn’t easily undo. However, they had a creative way of correcting the mistakes. For example, where a line of text was missing, the scribe drew in a bird with a fine line in its beak, diverting the reader’s eye to the stray text written below. There is a full description about this clever technique written in the St John’s Bible newsletter here.
As you will see from the work in progress pics, I had already got to a stage where it wasn’t going to be possible to correct my mistake other than tear up the paper and start again.
So my challenge was how to draw in something that wasn’t going to be too much of a distraction from the street but would serve to show that something was missing… in this case approximately a metre’s worth of street space to the side of the Old Chapel in Acomb.
I slept on it for a few days then an idea popped into my head. I would draw myself into the scene, pointing out the error with one hand and a measuring rod in the other hand which showed the extent of the street that was missing.
I decided to really spell it out by adding my initials to my jacket and to draw in a bag from GAP.
It’s interesting how it has changed my perception of the drawing. I no longer feel really annoyed when I see it, but instead it makes me smile!
Thanks for reading and wherever you are, stay well.
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.