Category Archives: Uncategorized

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

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 🙂

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:

‘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

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 £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 🙂

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 🙂

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

An Unusual Lanimer Day

Roofscapes above the High Street when viewed from inside the Tolbooth.

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.

View of St Nicholas’s church tower and the side of Jacks Ironmongery shop from Broomgate.

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!

Some of Richard Price’s pottery on display at Lanark Tolbooth
Richard Price giving a demonstration at the Tolbooth in 2019

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.

Enjoying a cup of tea whilst I sketch Heather at work

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.

Feis Rois musicians playing at 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.

Thanks for reading and may you all keep well.

Ronnie

Owning a mistake

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.

Ink on paper first then add the first wash of colour.

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.

Under-painting brickwork on the old Chapel, Acomb

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.

Adding in the pointing finger

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.

Ronnie

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

Diversion at the Pot Still

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’

sketch of whisky festival by Ronnie Cruwys

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.

Wee Dram of Edradour Pot Still  Glasgow ronnie cruwys
Where the diversion began…

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!

Colquhoun Lodge Cruwys.jpg

whisky fest 2015 Ronnie Cruwys.jpg

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

ronnie cruwys sansibar labels speyside 1976 2.jpg
Spot the Burlsem Burleighware by my elbow! 

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.

duncan and Louise place.jpg
left to right: Josh, Ollie, Flynn and Rum Tum

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.

ronnie cruwys sansibar whisky labels1976 speyside malt a.jpg

This has been my view as I work – the mist is over the River Clyde in the valley below.

Clyde valley ronnie cruwys home view 1.jpg

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!

Ronnie

hazelbank clyde valley ronnie cruwys
Hazelbank, Clyde Valley