Category Archives: Whisky

Kitchen Table: Music, Whisky and Flo 1/3

Little Flo

‘The Kitchen Table’ is 2021’s theme for the Carluke Jam and Ham Exhibition (online). As I thought about the subject, I realised how much the Kitchen table is the heart of our home and how many stories and relaxed evenings have been spent around it. It brought to mind the highlight of last summer when restrictions were lifted enough for my family to come and visit – a magical time!

I really enjoy sketching the things we use each day – they become more familiar and loved with use, such as our wee red tea pot and the rainbow mug from Grapevine in Alsager.

The Carluke exhibition invites up to three entries so I decided to go for it with a triptych of our table, working out a composition for three stand alone paintings, all on 25cm square wooden boards, which would flow one into the other. I first made tiny thumbnail sketches then drew them at the same size as the boards.

Flo sizing up my sketch book – or perhaps eying up the Glenfarclas!

I love the start and close of each day. It’s at the end of the day that the table lights up and it’s a treat to get out a wee dram and capture the moment in my whisky sketch book.

One of the entries in my whisky sketch book earlier this year

Animals have been a part of my life for many years – this is Flo, our most recent addition to the household, she joined us from Lanark Cat Rescue, a timid curious wee cat and though she is still very shy she seems content with her life on an orchard.

Small paintbox which I carry in my handbag for urban sketching – it has all the lovely ochres and golds perfect for whisky sketches!

The whisky glasses were gifts from our visit to the Union Jack pub Berlin, when they were filled with some very fine malt whisky and great hospitality!

Flo on day one with us – early spring 2020.

I found a few music sheets in the local Oxfam shop which I thought would be useful for collage. I gave them a wash in red and orange inks and tore them into shapes for the flowers which sit in the Burleighware jug from my sister.

Musical flowers

Music from Radio Scotland or Radio 6 late into the night is part of the evening kitchen. If my brother is visiting, then we’ll have a session as he is great on guitar and stories.

Burleighware jug from the Stoke-on-Trent Pottery

Our striped red, orange and turquoise table runner is also something that brightens up the table – from Staffordshire days.

I will sign off with the finished painting. This is the central part of the triptych – more to follow on the other two very soon.

Thanks as always for reading!

Ronnie 🙂

bottling the streets of Berlin

Great excitement for me here in the Clyde Valley to be invited to draw labels for Finest Whisky Deluxe‘s special bottling of another respectable Speyside malt. These bottles are for the forthcoming whisky fair in Berlin and I’ve dedicated a new page to it here on the blog (see menu bar above) where you can see some of the finished work. In this post I thought I would share a little about my process.

I prefer to work from my own photos so this called for a flying visit to Berlin. The Finest Whisky team gave us a great welcome and introduced us to the most amazing whisky shop I have ever set foot in! I can only liken it to what Cornelissen’s is to artists…you suddenly want to try or buy everything (all top quality) and it is all laid out so beautifully! It gave me a real buzz to see my artwork drawn in Scotland (for Sansibar Whisky) all lit up on these gleaming bottles of amber, looking quite at home in Berlin!

Original art labels need to be robust, waterproof, light-fast and non-toxic so the choice of drawing materials is very important. After agreeing the style of sketch for this commission, I chose a Pigma micron 01 pen in black with a .25mm line which meets all the above as well as being fade-proof and of archival quality.

I start by cropping and editing the photos in Photoshop, to find the most interesting part to draw, then I display the image on a large screen so I can sketch from this; it’s the closest I can get to sketching from life. I usually sketch directly in ink but a preliminary pencil sketch helps place it well on the label. The labels are quite small (10 x 12cm) in comparison with my street drawings!

With this example, I’m sketching the inside of the Union Jack, another treasure in the whisky world. As I was sketching my way around the image, I realised I had photo-bombed this one and so I’ve included half a selfie!

After completing the line drawing, I shade and model with diluted Dr Ph Martin’s Bombay black ink. When completely dry I apply a wash using a limited palette from the Ziller ink range of Cardinal Red, Buffalo Brown and Sunflower Yellow. These are intense colours and I dilute and mix them to tone them down. The only reason I chose a different brand of ink to the previous Scottish labels was to find slightly different colours but ones which would still harmonise with the warm gold of the whisky.

Once the labels have their final colour wash on, I place each one between some folded paper and press flat under a pile of books and leave overnight ready to be scanned the following day.

I parcel them up in glassine paper (acid free) with protective card and post them off to Berlin together with signed labels of authenticity. Then it’s over to Finest Whisky to stick them on to the bottles and help them find their new homes.

There are a few more images below but if you want to see all that I have drawn so far, please visit Finest Whisky Deluxe ‘s website.

Thanks for reading!

Ronnie

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