Scottish artist makes waves across the pond despite ferry challenges closer to home

Ron Lawson

REVERED Scottish landscape artist Ron Lawson’s new exhibition has been his toughest yet to produce – thanks to the ongoing £500 million CalMac Ferries issue.

Ron, who left a 34-year career at publishers DC Thomson to concentrate solely on his art in 2010, makes frequent pilgrimages to the Hebrides, where he finds inspiration for his work.

Recently however, this pursuit is becoming increasingly difficult as frequent crossing delays and cancellations  caused by ageing vessels in the CalMac fleet and the knock-on effect of the Ferguson Marine controversy make it challenging for visitors to travel to Scotland’s island communities.

The Perthshire-based artist said: “The islands are becoming harder and harder to access – it’s pot luck whether your ferry booking will actually take place or not. It’s chaotic.

“The Scottish Islands are such wonderful places and they’ve changed my life. What was once just a visit out of sheer curiosity has become my life’s work. It’s my career now, so I have to travel there regardless of the challenges – who knows what would have happened if they were always this difficult to access?

“When I’m there, I spend a lot of time with locals and I know the situation is having a large impact on the people who live there.

“It’s really not acceptable how difficult it’s making life for those who need to get on and off the islands. These boats are a lifeline so the issues need to be resolved as soon as possible”

While Ron’s work has acted as an advert for tourists coming to the islands, he worries many simply won’t bother due to the ongoing travel trouble.

The Scot, who has a gallery in Dundee,  has built a global following which has grown significantly in recent years, with art lovers from Asia, the US, and Australasia among those enchanted by his portrayals of the raw and rugged beauty of the Hebrides. 

He said: “It’s vital people are able to experience these spectacular places. Hopefully my work will continue to be a gateway which encourages people to make it to the islands, regardless of the challenges. I love it when people tell me they intend to go out to the islands to seek out a location I’ve painted.

“But during my last visit in June, I was astonished how quiet the islands were. That makes for amazing painting, but it doesn’t help the islands to thrive. I worry that fewer people are going to visit the islands out of sheer curiosity as the ferry issues rumble on.

“There’s massive demand for paintings from Barra, Eriskay, and South Uist, so I always love when someone tells me they’ve bought one of those paintings, and then made a point to make a trip.

“When I paint, I visit the place, and I sketch while my son, Paul, who’s a wonderful photographer, takes loads of photographs. I’ll never copy those images, instead using the pictures as a reference point and I work from that sketch book, allowing me to create my interpretation. 

“I believe my work stays true to the essence of the Hebrides. I am immensely proud when people tell me I’ve captured the feel.”

Ron, who is widely regarded as Scotland’s most original and distinctive contemporary landscape painter, continued: “It’s an unbelievable thrill that my little trips over to the Hebrides and the work I produce in my studio has such global demand. I can’t believe my work is hanging on walls around the world.

“But I’m sure they feel just as I do when I look at my paintings at home; it’s like being transported to the Hebrides, wherever you are.”

Since opening in 1994, Perthshire’s Strathearn Gallery has grown into one of Scotland’s largest contemporary art galleries and built a reputation for showcasing and supporting the very best of Scottish art .

Owners Susan and Scott Bennett have a long-standing relationship with Ron Lawson and are excited to welcome him back to their Crieff gallery for the new exhibition, ‘A Brush with Colour’, opening in October.

Susan said: “It’s easy to see why Ron’s work has such global demand. It really does transport you. People all around the world are fascinated by the Hebrides and Ron’s paintings are the next best thing to being there yourself. 

“While fans of Ron’s work will be pleased to hear this exhibition is still recognisably Ron Lawson, it’s also an evolution with Ron introducing more colour while maintaining his distinctive stark look.

“Ron paints with a more restricted colour palette compared to most artists but he’s always experimented with different colours and techniques and this exhibition will bring in extra colour in a couple of different ways – through his watercolour skies creating greater contrast in the landscape pieces and also by introducing pops of colour in a focussed selection of bird paintings.

“Ron’s puffin paintings have always been in huge demand but this exhibition introduces a number of native bird paintings which are incredibly striking. I’m sure collectors and enthusiasts alike will be excited to see them.” 

Ron Lawson’s new exhibition, ‘A Brush with Colour’, will run from October 21 to November 12  at the Strathearn Gallery. 

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