Being part of the Tolbooth’s new exhibition feels rejuvenating. A call for new work, not shown before, inspired by living in the Clyde Valley – Garden of Scotland, has been a summons to shake out the cobwebs and create something fresh.
It has also been a delight to think of new growth against a backdrop of the traumatic 20th anniversary of 9/11 and two personal family health situations. Life is so complex and I never forget how fortunate I am to be here in the Clyde Valley.
I’ve been working on a few things – taking the Paintbox approach to not putting all your eggs in one basket. I find this freeing as it means I don’t get locked into worrying over one piece of work. It allows a bit of space and time to compare and contrast as I go along.
For the few long term readers here, this is a step away from drawing streets, but only a step. I feel like my current work is only archiving our orchard landscape which is the wider context of the streets.
Here’s ‘Pick the Bloody Ploughman’ – an apple tree growing in our orchard and named after a mythical character who was caught red handed stealing apples…
The Tolbooth only thrives because there are committed people who realise the value it brings to the community.
There’s a great display of work up at the Tolbooth – if you are in the area – please do call in and have a good look around and a chat! You will receive a warm welcome!
There’s a new florist in the Clyde Valley. It’s exciting to witness this new business appear. The Flower Shop at Silverbirch (Silverbirch Garden Centre), is full of life and colour and only a few minutes from where we live in Hazelbank.
It’s all the more exciting for me as my new body of expressive flower work is now on the walls and available to buy from The Flower Shop at Silverbirch.
As artists, we are always looking for outlets to support and collaborate with us at various stages of our work. These last few years it has felt like many doors have closed; to have some open up feels so encouraging! I would like to extend a big thank you and a warm welcome to the Clyde Valley to @john_gold_floristry for giving me this opportunity to share and sell my new work.
You might be wondering how I’ve moved from drawing buildings to flowers. In short it’s in response to living on an orchard and wanting to express the vitality of the plant world. As ever, Paintbox – the art school by the sea, was there with a four day workshop ‘Garden Extravaganza’ where we immersed ourselves in the structure, textures, colour and variety of the gardens at Cockenzie House.
There’s a clear process as to how to approach a subject at Paintbox – I like the structure of the exploration – settling into a particular place in the gardens, responding to colours, forms, textures, shape, line and movement and simplifying what we experience into bold black and white drawings at a big scale – then moving along. Here we were given a 4 leaf concertina sketch book, each page A2 in size. We prepared the paper with white emulsion paint to give a tooth and texture.
Things move at quite a pace and next up are some fast colour plays on what we have experienced to make material for collage. It also makes a great surface to cut down into a small concertina sketchbook – everything has a use!
Next along was to find details from our black and white explorations that called for further development. I loved the sea thistle and so we looked at several colour palettes adding in our collage material as a disruptor.
Here you can see how these giant drawings of nasturtium leaves serve to form the base of these paintings – the flat round leaves forming a contrast to the wild lines of the sea thistles.
Foxgloves are a favourite of mine as they appear in the warmth of summer with their vibrant pinks contrasting against rich purples of the undergrowth.
We taped off sections and worked freely on large sheets of paper. Although time ran out, I knew what to work on when I got back home.
It’s always a highlight to see the work finished, cropped, framed and named.
Many thanks to John Gold for the thoughtful display – here are a few on the walls.
Silverbirch Garden Centre is a great destination here in the Clyde Valley and the Flower Shop is located right beside the main entrance, open Tuesday to Sundays, 10-4. If you are in the area – why not call in?
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.
These last few days have had a theme – archives. Actually, the theme has woven between archived sketchbooks of artists who have gone before us and sketching graveyards with some monumental archival gravestones.
I spent yesterday morning with my Paintbox classmates and the archivist at Edinburgh Gallery of Modern Art Two soaking up every detail we could from the sketchbooks of Mary Newbery, William Crozier, William MacTaggart, Joan Eardley, James Mackintosh Patrick, Josef Sekalski and Oskar Kokoshka. All these sketchbooks are available for anyone to look at by appointment. No photos, but we can use pencils to make sketches and notes…
It’s very moving being present to witness these private moments of an artist. Through their sketches, they share that same frame of mind when they were in that sketching space, recording what they saw, then years pass and here we are, in the Reading Room, observers for a few passing minutes, seeing with their eyes.
After our time in the Reading Room, we went out with our own sketchbooks to find a quiet corner and sketch. Dean graveyard is right behind the gallery and it’s a mini-city of high-rise head stones. The trees are winning though with their majestic presence and golden canopies.
Mary Newbery’s sketchbook included a line drawing of flowers against a painted green/grey background. Nothing at all as clumsy as this sketch – but this will remind me of her work.
Today I was back getting ready for my exhibition at the Tolbooth which will be on from next Monday, here in Lanark. As you know, all my streets are drawn as archives but there’s always so much more I want to include.
When I drew Kirk Road Dalserf, I felt that the street was incomplete without some sketch of this significant Covenanter’s church so I’m happy that I completed a sketch today. The original will be framed and on display by next week.
I’m planning to post more about my work that’s going up in the Tolbooth as the people who pass by this page are miles away from here. I’m happy enough to share my work as long as you are kind enough to give up your time to read.
This post is dedicated to Colina, our neighbour here on the Braes, who passed away last night taking almost a century of memories with her.
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!