In recent years, Perthshire based artist Ron Lawson has become one of the UK’s most popular and sought after landscape artists.
With regular sell-out exhibitions such is the demand for his work, Ron celebrates 40 years of exhibiting his paintings this October with his biggest ever exhibition to date. The Grey Light at the Strathearn Gallery, Crieff will feature over 50 new paintings by Ron, based on a return trip to his beloved Hebrides.
Ron Lawson’s work has achieved what every artist desires – instantly recognisable work.
His stark flat (usually grey) backgrounds are set against detailed depictions of the landscape and often feature a sole cottage, building or the occasional sheep. Using either long and thin or tall and narrow canvases with a limited colour palette, Lawson perfectly captures the remoteness and majesty of the Scottish Highlands and Islands and his paintings have been met with an extraordinary response from collectors worldwide.
However although many people are familiar with Ron’s distinctive and unique landscapes, few may realise his artistic journey has spanned the last four decades.
It was at the age of 16 that Ron landed a job with DC Thomson & Co Ltd in Dundee which propelled him into a life-long career in the artworld.
Ron said: ‘As a youngster I’d worked away at creating a massive portfolio with many different examples of the kind of work I enjoyed at that time. On the strength of that body of work, at the age of 16, I landed a full-time job in the art studios of publishers DC Thomson. From the moment I set foot in that art studio in August 1976, I knew that life as a professional artist was exactly what I wanted and I’ve been a professional artist ever since.’
It was only a few years after embarking on what would turn into a 34 year career with DC Thomson, that away from his day to day work, Ron started exhibiting his own paintings in galleries in 1978.
He continued: ‘In those days I used to show my work around little art galleries mostly in the Angus area with fairly modest success but it was a great start and every little bit of encouragement just keeps you going forward. By the mid 1980s into 1990 I started to develop what has now become my signature grey skies and as the 1990s progressed, I concentrated more on Scottish landscape painting.
‘The popularity of my paintings depicting the remoteness of the Hebridean landscape featuring leadened skies and isolated cottages started in the mid 90’s and have increased in popularity and demand ever since.’
As the demand for Ron’s paintings steadily grew during this period as his work came to the attention of more and more art buyers, it wasn’t until 2010 that Ron decided to take the huge step of leaving a full-time job he’d been in since 1976 to focus entirely on his own paintings.
That decision however, proved to be a wise move as he hasn’t looked back since.
There are few artists in today’s art market that regularly achieve sell-out exhibitions but Ron Lawson is one such artist which is testament to his talent and hard work. And although he is aware the demand (and clamour) for his work is high, he remains an artist not only selective about the galleries he works with but about the amount of original work he produces.
Indeed, his forthcoming exhibition at The Strathearn Gallery will be the his biggest ever exhibition with around 50 new paintings being the culmination of many many months of hard work researching, travelling and in his studio painting.
As with many well-known artists nowadays, Ron also has a successful line of prints which helps bring his work to the attention of a wider audience and perhaps provide an entry point to those who may not be in a position to buy an original piece.
But it’s with Ron’s original work you get a true feeling of the depth and sense of what Ron is looking to achieve through his art.
He explained: ‘What I try to capture in my work is a feeling. I want the viewer to imagine they’re standing right there in that view. Perhaps walking up a beach, over rocks or maybe sitting enjoying the peace and quiet.
‘Whilst my work is obviously an interpretation, it’s pleasing that so many people are taken right to the location and feel the peaceful calmness.’
For his forthcoming exhibition, Ron has returned to the Western Isles, his work evolving to focus more on the landscape rather than entirely on the small isolated houses. Depicting locations in greater detail than before but still featuring the beautifully remote dwellings so distinctive to that part of Scotland.
He said: ‘The Highlands and islands have always been favourite locations of mine from early childhood holidays to the present day and I visit the islands regularly sourcing new material.
‘I never tire of returning to the Hebrides. The openness of the landscape and the quite often remoteness of small communities and individual houses very much appeals to me. Perhaps I’ve got an idealistic view and I translate it into my art. I’m certain that life on the Outer Hebrides can be challenging. It’s been said to me by more than one islander that many people who come to settle on the islands last only one winter. It’s my intention in the not too distant future to spend all four seasons on the Uists; I’d like to get a better feel for the place. Doubtless I’ll prove the islanders correct though.’
To achieve his unique and distinctive artworks, Ron elects to use a mixture of watercolour and gouache (an opaque watercolour), notoriously difficult paints to work with but ones Ron has spent his entire career working:
He revealed: ‘I was introduced to watercolour as soon as I started working in DC Thomsons art studio in 1976. It is arguably the most difficult medium to master. There’s no re-touching or alterations, no improvisation and no second chances. Watercolour demands instant one touch ability and it is incredibly demanding, but also incredibly satisfying.
‘The development and use of gouache in my work came about from the need to create completely opaque skies and backgrounds. While watercolour, being a transparent medium, doesn’t allow this, gouache does I’ve never been tempted to learn many different mediums. Instead, I decided to achieve the best I could with one: watercolour.’
After 40 years, it is clear Ron’s passion and need to paint remains undiminished and he’s in the fortunate position of pursuing a career that he so clearly loves. That so many people also love and collect his work is merely an added bonus.
He added: ‘After a lifetime of painting, it’s still an enormous thrill and incredibly satisfying to see my work completed, framed and on display. The reaction from people, some of whom have become interested enough in my work to start collecting, is extremely gratifying; it’s all the encouragement an artist needs to keep going.’
The Grey Light by Ron Lawson at the Strathearn Gallery, Crieff opens Saturday 13 October at 10am and will run until 11 November.
Paintings will be available to view online ahead of the exhibition opening at www.strathearn-gallery.com.