Tag Archives: Drawing

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 🙂

Airborne

Roofline of a Victorian School on Westmuir Street, Glasgow

A hold up, a queue or a gap in the day’s proceedings are a gift to me – if I remember to take it – or if I have my sketch book to hand. Today was one such gift. A slight delay for my sis-in-law as we waited for her pre-flight Covid test on Westmuir Street, Glasgow.

You just have to look up and there’s the skyline full of Victorian chimney stacks, turrets, ridges and eaves.

Birds flying with ease from one perch to another.

I’m almost at the end of this pocket sketchbook – a strange feeling as sketchbooks are companions to me. When a book gets filled up there is a sense of a chapter closing.

A page has turned in our family story as my nephew begins a new life as a student in St Andrew’s, a long way from his home. Little does he know but it’s thanks to him that I have filled the last pages of this sketchbook with Glasgow rooflines and scarlet rosehips!

Rekindling the Sketchbook

Boats in Cockenzie Harbour

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.

Roll up your sleeve!

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.

Lesmahagow church – waiting outside the vets

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.

Coffee out at the Red Barn

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.

Window sill in York

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.

Tide ebbing

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.

Tide flowing

The perspective is skew-whiff on this one below but I loved the crow-step gables against the red roof and bright blue sky.

Side of Cockenzie House

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.

As always, thanks for reading 🙂

Ronnie

Sketching the day

There’s a wonderful art studio here in the Clyde Valley run by Susan McMillan . There’s always a variety of art classes and workshops so I’m delighted to have been invited to give a sketchbook demonstration during two of the six week drawing classes which start in March.

I’ve had a few nudges lately about the value of sketching. To me, the best sketches are those made in 5 minutes or less, sometimes only a few lines with a bit of colour to help make sense of the lines.

Like this thumbnail of the kettle, teapot, jug and mug. I recognise that mug. I still have it and won’t put it through the dishwasher anymore as it’s losing its pattern. It’s one I gave to Dad…

There are some mouthwatering sketchbooks that artists share online and I dream of being able to produce work of such calibre and creativity. That said, I no longer feel so awed by them. They are brilliant because the artists are passionate, they’ve persevered and they have practised, qualities I really admire and try to encompass too.

I’d like to share a day in my life sketched in 2014 when I signed up for a 6 week online course which turned out to be the very first days of Sketchbook Skool. I don’t think this particular class is available anymore but I will never forget it and I made many online friends that have been a great support over the last 6 years.

One of the classes was with Prashant Miranda If you are on Instagram, go and have a look at his work – it makes you smile! It’s thanks to Prashant that I sketched a full day in thumbnails, Easter Monday 2014.

We’ve still got the tortoise (he’s in hibernation) but our cats and Nina are no longer with us – we only said goodbye to Ollie a few weeks ago:-( These sketches are more meaningful to me than any photograph.

I could write a short story for all of these sketches…

…and I could fill a book to go with the image below.

Our old washing machine….

I recall that the plan was to sand down and prime our front bay window that day. Just see how easily we were distracted!

My sketchbooks are probably some of my most treasured possessions. Not so much for the sketches but for the memories that they captured.

If you are hesitating in front of a blank page, here’s what you do. Look at what is catching your eye. Pick up whatever pen/pencil/crayon is nearest. Draw for five minutes. Make a few notes. Add a colour. Don’t judge it good or bad, it’s just your sketch. Close the book and revisit a few years later. It will all make sense one day.

Sketching the washing up a few weeks ago

Thanks for reading.

Ronnie

Eccleshall Glows Red

High Street, Eccleshall with the Arcade – home to Gallery at 12

Gallery at 12 in Eccleshall is a firm supporter of the work done by Shape Arts . Each December the Gallery holds a charity day to fund raise for them and this year it tied in with ‘RED’, their winter-themed exhibition by all the co-operative membership. I’d love to say the words ‘Beam me up Scottie!’ and be transported back to the Gallery for the day but in the meantime I got out my red oxide ink for some fresh sketches of Eccleshall and posted some new work to the Gallery from their long-distance guest member.

These are cropped images from four little original drawings of Eccleshall, all mounted ready to frame. I’ve also made sets of cards of these as handy stocking fillers.

You will always get a warm welcome in the Gallery and Eccleshall is such a picturesque place to visit – if you live in the area, why not head over.

If I don’t post again before Christmas, here’s wishing all my readers a very happy one and hope you get many peaceful sofa moments!

Fifty Streets: 1/3

Drawing the Street turned six this summer. My thanks to all who have accompanied me from the beginning and to those who have followed along the way as something has caught their interest.

Ironmarket drawing on its way to Newcastle Library -framed by Terry Hunt at Jollies Arts Ltd

With my Newcastle work currently on display in the Brampton Museum and Gallery, I’ve been posting some of these drawings on social media to share it further afield. Having also just completed my 50th street drawn on over 60 metres of archival cotton paper, it seems timely to reflect on how this all began as a post-card sketch.

There’s a beautiful poem called ‘Fluent’ by the late John O’Donohue from his book Conamara Blues. I’ve never forgotten his words:

‘I would love to live Like a river flows, Carried by the surprise Of its own unfolding.’

When I sketched the former Ironmarket post office on to a post card, I had no idea what would unfold. It turns out that I was sowing the seed for an archive of streets, all meaningful to me in some way. This is part one of three posts about this story.

Ironically, it was the limitations of a post card that prompted me to think about a full-length drawing of the Ironmarket. This all took place whilst attending drawing classes run by Staffordshire artist David Brammeld.   When considering how long to make the drawing, David’s advice was: “Don’t limit yourself!” Shortly after, our son asked me what I would like for Christmas. I suggested a large sheet of paper and received a 10 x 1.2 metre roll! There was no going back.

Ironmarket unfurled , early 2013

I gave no thought as to where this would lead but concentrated on representing the Ironmarket in a way that could be read in future. During my time as a conservation architect, I had always been grateful for old drawings of buildings that showed details which would inform my work. I knew that by drawing a street as a whole, individual buildings could be read in context, such as the shops standing on narrow burgess plots.

Java Coffee shop situated on an ancient burgess plot

The Ironmarket retains a lot of its fine structure and is rich in stories if we pause a moment to look. Drawing is that pause. I choose which parts of my view I want to record – in a way that I hope is also good to look at.

Each drawing starts with a preparatory sketch where I map out the entire street as accurately as I can whilst still keeping it a freehand drawing. I’m always looking at ways to improve my work, whether learning about colour harmonies, shading, light, tone etc but always retaining that close reference to drawing what is there.

This first drawing ignited a great discussion on how the street had changed during living memory and prompted me to draw further streets around the town centre. I held my first exhibition in the library and Drawing the Street was born.

First exhibition held in the Library on the Ironmarket, 2013

Drawing the Street is a growing entity; it has become more than just sketches of streets.  It now contains many memories, some poignant, some funny. As the streets grow, so does my drawing style, evolving to include the things that I see as important – the people that belong to the street, the shops and businesses there at the time, the little details of life such as spotting my old work mates from the roofing contractor Miller Heritage working on the renovation of Mellard’s Warehouse – drawn below.

Although most of my streets are in conservation areas, I like to include the modern infrastructure. These too are part of our surroundings and tell their own story.

Garden Street, (in part) with the later addition of a workshop for TW Heating.

As the streets progressed, I stepped up my work on to archival quality cotton paper and redrew the Ironmarket at a slightly smaller scale than the first 2.7m drawing and entered it into the local open art exhibition. It was voted favourite by the Friends of the Borough Museum and awarded third prize – an honour and a great boost to continue. A few years later, the Friends bought my entire collection!

Thanks again for joining me and for reading this far. The streets belong to us all!

Ronnie 🙂

Derek at the Door

Remembering a Gentleman

Part of Audlem’s high street

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.

Derek loading the newspapers for the day

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.

Sunny day in August 2013 – a passing moment when Derek was at the door.

Shake a leg for #sot2021

sketch of feet in Stoke on Trent
Feet up Hanley Duck

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.

urban sketch of the Leopard Burslem
Post Office (new-ish) and the Leopard, Burslem

Good to see the repairs on the Post Office by Horsley Huber Architects looking nicely weathered in.

I then moved down to St John’s Square to sketch the New Inn.

sketch by ronnie Cruwys of New Inn Burslem
New Inn, Market Place, Burslem.

This Bank Holiday Monday the town burst into life with its summer festival “Our Burslem Unites

Stoke Urban Sketchers got together for the event and to enjoy capturing the flavour of the day. Here are a few of mine.

sketch of Burslem School of Art from the Wedgwood Institute
Looking out from those big Wedgwood Doors

urban sketch of burslem

fun and games in Burslem
Fun and Games on the Corner of Queen Street

Burslem Unites urban sketch ronnie cruwys
Hook a Duck – a prize every time

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

A Stately Stoke Terrace

Pen and ink drawing of Fenton, artwork by Ronnie Cruwys
Corner of Hitchman Street and Victoria Road, Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent

Hitchman Street holds some interesting connections for me. When I first saw this red brick terrace, I was on my way to to deliver a framed print of an Audlem street to Williams of Audlem. Not knowing anything about the terraces in Fenton, I looked them up when I got home.

I was surprised to find that the land that these houses were built on was purchased in 1765 by the architect William Baker of Audlem. William Baker (‘the first’ as there were a few more to follow) bought ‘the estate and manor of Fenton Culvert, together with pottery, for his second son William Baker II’ (extract from Stoke Council’s conservation area appraisal). However, it was some generations later when William Meath Baker, the great grandson of the first William, commissioned these terraces. It’s all explained in the conservation appraisal.

William Meath Baker had inherited the Baker Pottery nearby and built these houses (and many others) to provide accommodation on a philanthropic model for the workers associated with the Baker Pottery.

red brick terrace in Fenton Stoke on Trent drawn by artist Ronnie Cruwys
Hitchman Street, Fenton

The Baker Pottery has gone now, but the kilns remain.

victoria-road-baker-kilns-fenton
Baker Pottery Kilns visible from Victoria Road

Pen and ink drwing of Victorian terracotta tile rosettes
Another example of the terracotta tiles on the gables.

Looking up these old threads, it never fails to unearth other connections. When I worked as a conservation architect in Stafford, I spent ten years as part of the team looking after the repair and upkeep of the grade 1 listed Chillington Hall, the south wing which was designed by Francis Smith of Warwick in 1724. Francis Smith was the celebrity architect of the Midlands in his day and it turns out that one of Smith’s pupils was the young William Baker of Audlem, learning from the master.

I’d like to think that an appreciation of good design has been passed down the generations. It certainly  shows up here in these terraces.

To see the drawings in full as well as a few more tile sketches, please visit www.drawingthestreet.co.uk

Thanks for reading,

Ronnie

 

Ready, Unsteady, Draw!

sketches from a london bus
Unsteady thumbnail sketches from the 253 bus

Been thinking ahead to drawing another stretch of the Great North Road later this year. I like to sketch from the street first to get a good look at some of the details so pitched my perch opposite the Fig and Olive on Upper Steet, Islington.

pen and ink and wash in sketchbook of Upper St Islington
Looking up at gables on Upper Street, Islington

I use a handy portable camping stool – it’s lightweight and fits easily into a bag and I tucked myself into a corner, well clear of the fire station.

Stating the obvious, it was pretty cold and so on the fist day of the Chinese New Year (Rooster), I chickened out after one sketch and went for an indoor brew nearby. Couldn’t see a Shirker’s Cafe, but this place, the Workers Cafe looked like I could sketch from the empty seat in the front window.

workers cafe Upper st
The Workers Cafe for a mug of tea

Sketch book view of Islington Town Hall
View from inside the Workers Cafe on Upper Street

thumbnail sketches
43 bus to London Bridge

Back home again next day via a catch-up with a dear old pal, meeting up in Milton Keynes.

Thanks for reading, Ronnie

sketches Milton Keynes
Back home the next day via Milton Keynes, 50 years old