Worked as a conservation architect in Staffordshire for many years, I'm now living and working in the Clyde Valley, South Lanarkshire. Drawing, sketching and exploring my new Scottish life and surroundings. Graduate of Aidan Hart's Icon Diploma course, run by the Prince's School of Traditional Arts. Please visit my other blogs https://www.icondiplomastudent.com and https://drawingthestreet.com and main website https://www.drawingthestreet.co.uk
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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’
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
This has been my view as I work – the mist is over the River Clyde in the valley below.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
It’s surprising what you can catch when you know you only have seconds when the bus stops.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I will sign off with this sketch of an old red phone box, not so many around these days.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
I live a few hundred metres from the site of Whitmore’s old railway station booking office. The station itself closed in 1952. On first sight there’s nothing more remarkable than a blue plaque on a building with boarded up windows.
Whitmore Railway Station Booking Office
Even though I’ve lived in the area for 15 years, I didn’t pay much attention to it until a couple of years ago, when Staffordshire historian Andrew Dobraszczyc held a guided local history walk around Whitmore to speak about the influence that the new railway had on the buildings in our area.
Andrew informed us that construction of our present railway line, built by the Grand Junction Railway Company, began in 1835 and Whitmore was one of the principal stations on the line being the nearest to the Potteries.
During the walk, Andrew drew our attention to a short row of terraced houses tucked mostly out of sight behind the booking office. They are on a cul de-sac, set back from the main road and mostly hidden behind trees.
When the railway first came to Whitmore, the company built four railway cottages, ‘two up, two down’ with a wash house out the back where 1841 records show that railway porters had made them their homes.
A few years later, another few cottages were added and they now stand at ten. These are worth recording and I made a few sketches before beginning the formal architectural drawing.
It’s timely to reflect on these buildings now because as I write the new HS2 railway line is mapped out to pass very close by here but this time around it won’t be stopping at Whitmore. These buildings will remain, but there are many homes which are now up for sale where the line crosses their path.
I will be scanning the drawing soon and plan to include this in my November exhibition at Gallery at 12 in Eccleshall. There will also be a small run of limited edition prints. Please get in touch (RonnieCruwys@drawingthestreet.co.uk) if you would like me to reserve a print.