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!
The Closes of Lanark remind me of the ‘Snickelways’ of York. ‘Snickelway‘ is a word conjured up by Mark W. Jones in his 1983 book ‘A Walk Around the Snickelways of York‘ and it weaves together the words snicket, meaning a passageway between walls or fences, ginnel, a narrow passageway between or through buildings, and alleyway, a narrow street or lane’.
York has many of these pathways, mostly medieval and often with unusual names such as Mad Alice Lane and Finkle Street. Lanark too has twelve remaining ancient pathways called ‘Closes’, hiding in plain sight along both sides of the High Street.
Wide Close, Duncan’s Close and Hunter’s Close show up on my drawing of 1-51 High Street (shown in full here).
The Closes map rich histories with their narrow footprint, architectural fragments and tiny details such as this doorbell in Shirley’s Close.
The Closes have recently been part of a project by Discover Lanark to make them safer, brighter and more welcoming and the latest stage in this project has been to install a series of information panels highlighting the history of each Close.
Kirsten Harris has brought layers of Lanark’s history to life with her wonderful artwork which fires up the imagination with the stories held deep within each of the Closes. You can read more about Kirsten’s creative process with the panel artwork here.
Meanwhile, I’ve been working on ‘the backs’ – the parts of the Closes where clues remain to remind us of what’s been before as part of ‘Close Encounters’, an upcoming exhibition at The Tolbooth, featuring the history of Lanark’s Closes as well as the framed originals of Kirsten’s Closes artwork.
Kirsten recently posed a question: ‘Has Covid changed your artwork?’ This was such a rich question that I’m still reflecting on the answer but this project shows me that it has definitely changed my work.
Previously I would have reached for my fine-line mapping pen but this time, I went for a broad brush to paint lots of yellows and golds to reflect my need for brightness and light after a Covid winter. I drew with the ink dropper straight onto the prepared surface with a feeling of urgency and that to hesitate is a not an option.
For this series of twelve rear views of the Closes, I had a strong idea from the outset and did a rough concept sketch below. A bright optimistic background as foundation with grimy and colourful history overlaid, keeping a narrow strip of light to draw your eye into the close.
I chose a tall, thin 2:3 format to reflect the vertical feel of the Closes – to walk along them you can almost feel the stones close in as you pass through centuries of witnessing walls.
With the composition sketched out I then added ink washes of Payne’s Grey on top of the prepared surface to give an underpainting toned with yellows and greens – the colours of April.
The next part was me having fun working in some gorgeous rich pastel colours (by Unison), responding to the tones beneath and keeping in mind the title of the exhibition ‘Close Encounters’. Passing through these narrow Closes can be a little intimidating on a dark dreich day, but they are far from dead ends and it’s worth looking up.
It’s a great help to check that there’s a good balance of tones by taking a black and white photos as you go along.
Finally, it’s always good to take a step back and the bench outside the back door is a great place for an overview. More about the Closes next time. As always, thanks for reading.
It’s a great feeling stepping back into the Tolbooth, Lanark and greeting old friends at last. Even better to see the walls vibrant with colourful work by local artists as the exhibition ‘Over the Rainbow‘ gets underway.
The exhibition is running from 17th July to Saturday 8th August 2020 and shows the results of the creative competition launched by both the Tolbooth Lanark and the Lanark Community Development Trust ‘to bring colour and joy to the lives of local people during lockdown’.
The range of entries includes paintings, drawings, photography, sculpture and ceramics. There were three categories:
Junior category: all entrants receive an art set.
Amateur Artist: winner Judith Wilson (see photo above)
Here’s the winning entry – it looks familiar! I wrote a little about this in an earlier blog post here. I’m delighted to say that the artwork ‘Finial, Spires and Chimneys’ will go on sale in a silent auction and all proceeds will go towards a charity of the artist’s choice – I’m very happy to say that Scottish Wildlife Trust will be the beneficiary – looking after our natural world is something important to us all. Here’s the link to the Tolbooth where you can place a bid by message.
I know that quite a few readers live a long way from Lanark so here are a few photos to show you around the exhibition.
I’d love to promote all the artists on show here, but I didn’t take a note of all the names. However, there are a few artists that I know and I will share their web details so you can look up their work.
All these works were produced during the peak of lockdown and each one is a tribute to the effort that went into producing the work. There are many more artists that didn’t manage to enter the competition – we were all thrown into different situations and some had too much on their plate to even think about lifting a brush….
Veronica Liddell is an established professional artist based in Corra Linn Studio, New Lanark. Her delightful artwork (top left) is titled ‘Hope is the thing with feathers’ and proceeds will be donated to the Scottish Ambulance Service.
Next along is another firm favourite by Richard Price – artist and ceramicist working in Thankerton. The two following examples are beautifully evocative pieces which express lockdown with clarity and poise: the drawing ‘Carrying Hope’ and the ceramic ‘Burden of Hope’.
Now for another Mr Price…this one is by Nathan, studying at Dundee Art School. If I was Richard I would be very proud of him! If I was Nathan I would be feeling quite pleased with myself. The photo is nowhere near as good as standing directly in front of this colourful creation.
Here we have a wonderful lighthearted line up of Scottish Coos! These are painted by the talented Rosie Mark living just down the road from me in Crossford. Rosie excels in animal portraiture although I know she is pretty good at people portraits too.
Now we have the ethereal work of Evelyn McKewan. Evelyn’s work feels like a breath of fresh air. She has also agreed to include it in the silent auction in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support. If you see any of these works and want to place a bid – just head over to the Tolbooth page and message them.
Kirsten Harris is an established artist whose work has a richly symbolic meaning. Her work features her passion for wildlife, horses and birds – check out her website for the breadth of her talent. I love her work in pen and ink – this entry is titled ‘Nineteen Corvid’s’ and proceeds will be donated to the Tolbooth.
Just to wrap this post up with a few more images – not very well focused but just a flavour of the variety on display.
Look out for the next Tolbooth exhibition which will follow this one: Coasts and Rivers.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Calling all Lanark artists! Lanark Tolbooth Trust and Lanark Community Development Trust have put their heads together and come up with a great idea for artists living within 7 miles of Lanark, by holding a rainbow themed art competition.
The competition is to create rainbow inspired images for an exhibition to be held at the Tolbooth, Lanark when the restrictions are lifted.
They have been inspired by the uplifting colourful pictures of rainbows that children have put in their windows spreading messages of hope and thanks to the NHS and key workers.
I thought I would do something a little different…
I don’t think I’ve mentioned here yet but since last October (until lockdown) I had been attending a weekly drawing and mixed media class at Paintbox School of Art in East Lothian. I’ll get round to telling you a bit more about the classes on another day (they’re great!) but for now I’ve discovered that preparing your surface makes quite a difference to your work.
There are many ways to do this but for the idea I had in mind, I wanted a lightly textured background, for a mostly monochrome drawing apart from the rainbows.
In my mind’s eye, I had a composition of disordered buildings, interweaving fragments drawn very simply, with the emphasis on windows and the rainbow posters. I’ve only been into Lanark twice since lockdown so it felt apt that it was more dreamlike. The monochrome sums up how things feel at the moment and helps the rainbows pop out.
I prepared 4 sheets of A3 paper with a coat of white emulsion paint mixed with a dash of blue grey. It gives a chalky tooth for the graphite and a varied flow to ink. I then worked directly on to the paper, starting with one key building placed off-centre and then placed other buildings in response to that one and so on.
I got carried away doing four sheets but I kept finding parts of buildings that I wanted to include. I now have to decide on which drawing to enter or do another one!
The drawings have been cropped into squares – top and bottom sections so you can have a good look.
If you are a professional or amateur artist living in or near Lanark, there is still time to enter – closing date 1st June 2020. I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of colour next month!
Sometimes the long street scenes don’t catch all that I want to include. There are countless vignettes here in Lanark which I’ve made a start on sketching as part of my exhibition ‘Streets of Lanark’ in the Tolbooth from Monday 28th Oct for a fortnight.
I’ve added all these sketches in a new page in this blog ‘Lanark Sketches’. Click over to see them all including some cropped close ups as I know my other sketching friends reading here like to have a good close look.
Of course I had to include the real local hero ‘the Girnin Dug/Dog/Doogie’. Couldn’t decide which was his best side, so drew them all, including a close-up!
Thanks for reading and hoping to see one or two of you at the exhibition.
This is West Port in Lanark, my new Scottish home town which I’m enjoying getting to know as I draw and share my work online.
Since moving here last summer, I’ve drawn six Lanark streets, all of which had something to catch my eye. How timely that the Tolbooth Lanark is kindly hosting an exhibition of my drawings of these streets just as I’ve reached the milestone of 50 drawings.
It will be on from Mon 28th October to Sat 9th November where I will be showing these as well as Kirk Road in Dalserf and a few originals from York, where I grew up.
You have to keep your eyes on the road whilst driving along West Port but it’s one of the key ancient streets – or ports – in Lanark, steeped in history and legend if you scratch below the surface. The town became a Royal Burgh in 1140 so there was plenty going on before this date to be granted this noble status.
I haven’t had much time to update you on work in progress lately so let me skim over the last few streets which I’ve drawn here. They are on my website now where you can see them in more detail. Broomgate (not to be confused with Bloomgate), runs at a right angle to the High Street.
Broomgate is a street which holds a rich and varied history. To focus on no 38, its past use includes a school, a house for the headmaster of Lanark Grammar School (early 19C), a Poorhouse in the 19-20thC and possibly used as a Drill Hall in WW1.
This isn’t a history blog but I do like to record anything relevant for my archive blog drawingthedetail. If you have any knowledge of the past uses for any of these buildings I would love to hear from you.
Living history happens as I draw and I love it when I can record the people who belong to the street. Here on my Broomgate drawing you can see Ainsley from Nirvana Yoga (being followed by a passing rainbow as I drew) and Kym, who runs the Wallace Tea Rooms, spotted for a moment sitting outside with me this summer.
Heading back along the High Street and around the corner towards Wellgate you will discover another street full of traditional colourful Scottish rendered buildings. Gone are the Staffordshire bricks!
If you look closely at the bottom of the chimney stack you can see the initials DW and a date carved into the masonry – 1893.
Spot the smaller proportions/roof line of these older shops below.
As with all my drawings, I scan them at high resolution and have a small number of signed limited edition giclee prints available.
These will be available to buy/order during the exhibition at the Tolbooth or get in touch RonnieCruwys@drawingthestreet.co.uk. More information is available on my website Drawing the Street
Next post I will tell you about my sketches of Lanark that I have drawn just for the exhibition – all being framed at the moment but here is the first one…
My sincere thanks for reading and an extra big thank you to those who have been with me over the last few years!