Christopher Cruikshank: My Journey

Posted: Wednesday, June 7, 2017
Category: General, 

Author: Chris Cruikshank

One of my last live performances

Art is when you hear a knocking from your soul — and you answer.” ~Terri Guillemets

When I was 8 years I received my very first guitar. It was the best Christmas present ever. I spent days and weeks, every waking hour, either learning to play my favourite songs (The Ventures were popular then) or polishing and inspecting every part of the instrument for any sign of wear and tear.

The art of Music called to me. From guitar I made the jump to the piano and finally to the organ. I was truly obsessed with the sounds of Goldy McJohn, the organist in a Band Called Steppenwolf. It was the sound of his Hammond Organ, growling and swirling…so new to the music scene. I had to have a Hammond organ and learn to make that music. Art had once again come knocking, no, pounding and at that point, I became two people; one a man, with what turned out to be a great career, married to the love of my life, and raised two beautiful vibrant and successful children. The second was a man possessed with music. For over forty years I kept honing my art on the “keyboards “ and played hundreds of nights in pubs, concerts, wedding, and parties in many rock groups and blues bands.

Not long ago the fates decided that my life would change forever. A medical issue with brain took away many of the things that I had taken for granted all these years. Playing my beloved Hammond became difficult and almost impossible, work and driving a car no longer an option. My prognosis was frightening. With the time left to me I found it important to record our family history and our Scottish heritage for my children and their children. Our family roots are firmly planted in the Highlands of Scotland, our family a Sept or adherent family to the Clan of Stewart of Atholl.

What has all of this to do with painting?

One of my last live performances
As I researched my family’s history I ran across a painting by a 19th century artist, George W. Joy. The painting was entitled “Bonnie Prince Charlie bids Farewell to Flora MacDonald” The painting cast a spell on me just like Goldy McJohn’s organ sounds so many years ago. I had to have the painting. I had to be able to look at it and study it and just enjoy it every day.

The original masterpiece was of course not for sale and also well beyond my means to purchase it. For some reason I decided that I might be able to copy it and really study how Mr. Joy had created such a thing. I bought a canvas and oil paints and began to copy as best I could this work of art. Joy’s use of deep rich colour and his sense of shadow and highlight borders on genius. After a few weeks of constant work …taking time out only when sleep became necessary, I had recreated the painting… To this day I cannot reproduce the quality of work I had achieved. It was if George Joy was guiding my hand… I simply felt like I had painted this work before and knew without hesitation how it was created. Now I am not foolish enough to think that my work is anyway comparable to Joy’s masterpiece… I could not copy his subtle brushwork or the genius of colour palette… but I did create something special. (My painting is pictured here on this blog)

It was a spiritual and cathartic experience. I started to paint other subjects and found that I may just have a new gift that emerged from the wreckage of my illness. This event took place two years ago and I have been painting ever since. I have not re-achieved the quality of that first work but I am learning fast with the help of a very accomplished artist.

It is a trite old saying but life’s lemons really can produce lemonade …. I talk to people at our art shows and they tell me that they could never paint… but wish they could. I plead with them to pick up a brush, a pencil, or a crayon and just try… and keep trying for there may be an accomplished artist in their soul just waiting for the door to open.

Thank you for taking the time to read this rather lengthy biography and thank you for looking at my paintings. My wish for you is that Art does come knocking at your soul… if it does, do not be afraid to open the door!

I have a number of paintings in the works and I will post my progress on this blog… so please let’s keep in touch!


Chris Cruikshank

My recreation of “Bonnie Prince Charlie bids Farewell to Flora MacDonald”

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