This is the third year of sketching at the Christmas pop-up shop in the Tolbooth, Lanark. Over 40 artists living in and around the Clyde Valley submit some of their hand-made created/painted/knitted/woven/sewn art work to sell and contribute toward the upkeep of this vital community building. Plus they offer a wide range of gorgeous gifts for friends and family.
This year, there is a focus to raise funds to improve access to the first floor of the Tolbooth.
Back in Dec 2019, the focus was to redecorate the first floor, improve the lighting and flooring to make it a more attractive room for community use. This has been done and with some style!
I’m delighted to have some of my framed limited edition prints of Lanark’s historic streets on display upstairs. You can see these in more detail on my website here.
There are a couple more of my framed prints available – here’s Bloomgate and the High Street pictured top right.
I love the circular work by Patricia West above – I think it’s called ‘Connections’ made with fragments of different sari fabric. Pat McKenzie’s work always catches my eye – she has some gorgeous art in the Tolbooth – my photos/sketches do her no favours!
That’s plenty for now. I will continue with a few more sketches in the next day or so. Meanwhile, keep well and warm.
I’ve been making my way through a long list of unfinished jobs – gradually bringing things I’ve started to completion. A theme in my drawings caught my attention as I noticed several post offices and letter boxes feature in the streetscapes. I like to include some of the street furniture – bus stops, telephone boxes etc to bring some context.
My most recent street drawings of Acomb, York are now up on my website. I started a set of four drawings back in February 2020 and it has taken 18 months to get them scanned. I return to my former workplace to do this – it gives me the chance to see my old workmates at HHA in Stafford (see later on in this post) . I will write more about the Acomb drawings in another post but wanted to take a moment to look at post offices on my streetscapes.
Lets scroll back through my work …. here we are in Lanark, 2019 on West Port. The Post Office is now on Bannantyne Street but this letter box remains outside the location of the old PO on West Port.
There’s a rare Victorian (VR) letter box built into the wall outside Christ Church on Hope St, Lanark, well maintained in painted pillar box red.
Moving down to Eccleshall in Staffordshire, I picked up the Post Office on Stafford Street, where there is a substantial ‘ER’ post box outside.
You can see the rest of this street here on my street archive blog.
Next up is a sketch I made of the letter box on the platform at Stoke-on-Trent station.
This is a bit of a personal favourite as it has a connections to old friends in Staffordshire. This one is a ‘GR’ – George Rex.
Stepping back on the Drawing the Street time line, we reach Audlem, Cheshire. Back in 2014 there was a Post Office here on Stafford Street.
Last of all, is Market Place in Burslem. This too was drawn in 2014.
A regular double sized ‘ER’ post box sits outside the PO Burslem. Here, I included one of my work colleagues, with a bag inscribed ‘HHA’ (Horsley Huber Architects), which marked that the office had been involved in some repair work on this building back then.
I love these little details. They bring the drawings alive!
Sketching out my work before starting on a surface allows me to weigh up the composition and add or remove things. In this instance Flo is shown sketched above but she got rubbed out and moved into the central picture (previous post). Rum Tum in turn, moved on to the chair. I had realised that the glow from the flame would hide Flo and I wanted Mum’s candle as the focal point of the table with the statesman-like Rum Tum serving as a good table end.
This is the second of three of the exhibition pieces for the Carluke Jam and Ham Festival 2021. It’s nothing to do with streets but I like to participate in local art events and hope you enjoy the change of subject.
A candle has blazed on this particular holder on our kitchen table most nights for close to 19 years. We light it in the evening to invite the spirits of the ancestors to join us.
I’m no musician, but music of all kinds has been important to our family for as long as I can remember. Candlelight, music, stories, glasses filled with a wee dram, a pottery jug from Ireland – all part of our Kitchen Table at one time or other.
I used collage for the pottery/cats. I painted a thin layer of blue over natural straw-coloured tissue paper, then made more pattern marks with finger prints and the end of a brush. It’s flimsy and easy to tear but once it’s held in place with ‘matt medium’ it becomes part of the surface.
Here’s the finished piece – ‘A Night in with Rum Tum’.
Rum Tum, once a wild boy roaming the braes and trusting no-one. That said, since we moved in, he has worked out where his bread is buttered.
I’m not the first to volunteer to be on air/ video. It’s something that I think many other artists also find hard to do but when the reasoning behind the idea is so compelling – well I just have to get over myself.
Stephanie Whatley and Christine Brown are both glass artists who work in Biggar and Lanark respectively and were moved by how many artists are ‘swiped away’ on social media. They were moved enough to set up a podcast and interview local artists at work in their studio, simply to get to know them a bit better. This is such a generous and supportive move of their fellow artists – how could I refuse when they asked to come and chat to me!
Pause a moment with Steffi and Chrissy as they join me in my studio for a wee art blether.
From their podcast web-page: “Stephanie Whatley and Christine Brown are both glass artists who work in Scotland. Frustrated by the amount of art on social media that is easily swiped away, they want to stop…take a minute and talk with the artists behind the art, Track & Trace the processes, materials and thought behind the creations. With lively discussions, in a podcast that doesn’t take its self too seriously. The podcast may be based in Scotland, but they are keen to talk to artists from across the world whither they are painters, sculptors, potters or glass artists.“
My ‘handbag sketchbook’ has been dormant for a while. It’s a hand-sized book which I normally sketch in when out and about but over the last year or so, trips out have been straight to the point and home again.
I realised how much I had missed capturing some of the day-to-day aspects of life when I was waiting for my second Covid jab. This chap was ahead of me in the fast moving queue at Ravenscraig Sports Centre and it struck me that I should get the moment down even if it was just a few lines.
I was surprised at how l had fallen out of the habit of these short sketches – I’ve been drawing and painting plenty of other things (more on this another time) but these sketches are my visual diary. Life goes past so quickly that I sometime wonder what I was doing last week and these capture the moments when I pause.
These sketches are for me – I don’t mind how haphazard they are as long as I sketch something of the moment. I had added a wash of yellow ochre on one of the pages – it’s a simple but effective background to liven up a few hasty lines.
A ten minute wait for a routine vet visit was a great opportunity to sketch the profile of the church at Lesmahagow.
Here’s my first café sketch in over a year – looking up to the shelf where there was a line up of colourful Edinburgh Gin bottles.
A visit at last to see my sister in York for her birthday. She placed these beautiful lily-of -the valley flowers in a vase that came from Kerry, the part of Ireland that my mother came from.
In-person classes have resumed at Paintbox – the Art School by the Sea – over in Cockenzie. You can catch the feel of a place in just a few lines – enough to remind you of the day.
If I arrive at Cockenzie a little earlier than class starts, I have a coffee from my flask and sketch the view from the car.
The perspective is skew-whiff on this one below but I loved the crow-step gables against the red roof and bright blue sky.
I’ve been over to Cockenzie many times but not stayed to have a look further up the coast so we set Midsummer’s Day aside to go out to Bass Rock. Another few minutes waiting our turn to board the boat and I sketched what was in front of me.
Bass Rock is spectacular! Located just off the coast of North Berwick, it’s high-rise accommodation for 150,000+ gannets! We had booked on an hour trip which took us right up to the side of the rock where we got a great view of the birds and their young chicks.
The only way to pick up where you left off is to turn the page and pick up a pen.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
From ‘In the Air’ we move down to earth – but not for long….
…Where are these stairs leading us?
‘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’.
All the original artworks featured can be seen on my website.
The hotel above lies empty, ready and waiting – but not this little chap.
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.
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.
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:
‘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.’
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.
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…
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 £195 each from Barewall. If you are interested in one, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org 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!