Scarinish, Tiree

Scarinish, Tiree

Scarinish Harbour, Tiree

In May 2017 Susan and I flew to the island of Tiree, one of the Inner Hebrides in a Sea Otter. We were greeted by our friends who were staying in a family holiday home called An Caladh.

First port of call was Scarinish, Tiree, a tiny village which has the only bank on the island, a grocery store, one hotel and a Post Office. There is also a ferry service to Oban on the Scottish mainland.

Whilst the others went to buy food for our stay, I painted a quick watercolour of the harbour in my hand made, leather bound sketchbook. The little red boat is apparently the most painted vessel on the island.

Scarinish, Tiree by Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of Scarinish, Tiree

When painting in the comfort of the Studio, it’s easy to forget the mood and atmosphere that painting “en plein air” provides. Supplementary photographs are helpful for topographical accuracy, however they can sometimes be a little cold and sterile. There really is no substitute for having your own interpretation of the scene that was crafted in paint on the spot. As I’m writing this post with the very same sketchbook in front of me, I’m reminded of the heavy rain clouds departing over the sea whilst trying to balance my tiny box of watercolours on a fence post along with my sketchbook.

I’m also reminded of the fish van behind me selling fresh lobster and langoustines that we were to enjoy later in the evening.

It’s these visual aids that activate memories that you can bring to your studio work so that you end up with a painting that others can identify with and relate to.

You can read more about our trip to Tiree and see some of my other sketchbook studies from our trip on my blog post Paintings of Tiree.

This watercolour of Scarinish, Tiree is available online and from our Studio and Gallery in Ponteland.

Comments { 0 }

Durham Paintings

Alan Reed

Saddler Street, Durham in Winter

Durham is a wonderfully picturesque city famous for its cathedral, now a World Heritage Site. Folk travelling by train are afforded spectacular views that take in one of the most beautiful buildings in Europe towering above the medieval city below. It will come as no surprise that my Durham Paintings are very popular with customers from around the world.

When I used to lecture part time at various colleges around the north east, one of the highlights of the year was to take one particular class of students to Durham for a painting project. The plan was to encourage the class to spend the day sketching around the city. I would join in on the exercise by painting at least one watercolour of Durham on location, even though the project usually took place in February!

One of my favourite vantage points was Wharton Park above the railway station. Looking into the light on a sunny February morning was always a delight to capture in watercolour. These studies became the inspiration for further Durham Paintings executed in the warmth of my studio.

More recently however I’ve been doing a number of watercolour demonstrations for various art clubs. One particular group asked if I’d show them how to add figures in a cityscape. I decided to re-visit some of my Durham reference and was reminded of a small watercolour I did of Saddler Street in winter. Saddler Street is one of the older streets in Durham that takes you up to the Cathedral. Durham is also famous for its prison. At one time it had two. The old County Gaol was owned by the Bishop of Durham and was rebuilt in Saddler Street in the early 15th century.

The reference I had was perfect for the demonstration which the class enjoyed. I used a limited palette to capture figures making their way up and down the cobbled street, their reflections glistening in the wet. Due to the Beast from the East this week I’ve had time in the Studio to complete the painting which is available online and which can be seen from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

Comments { 0 }

Painting Commissions

Alan Reed

St Mark’s Square, Afternoon Sunlight

A significant part of my working life as an artist is working on Painting Commissions and I’m often asked to add in a person or group of people in to the painting that have a personal connection to the client. Sometimes this has been a family walking to the Theatre Royal or on the beach at Bamburgh. On other occasions it’s been a loved one walking their dog.

I recently received a painting commission of St Mark’s Square in Venice, similar to my limited edition print above. The client asked if I could include his partner in the scene so that he could give the painting to her as a birthday present. They had been to Venice on holiday together so the painting would be a lovely reminder and a great gift idea.

Painting Commissions in Venice, particularly in St Mark’s Square, can be challenging because of the crowds but I have a good number of sketchbook watercolours from my travels to inspire me, particularly when painting in the solitude of my studio in Ponteland.

The client supplied me with a few photographs of his partner so that I could paint her in the scene with a decent likeness. I also decided that it would be a nice idea to make a short video of key parts of the painting process. You can watch the video on YouTube.

I had the original painting framed in a lovely deep edged mount with an antique silver frame. I also used non reflective Ultra View Glass which helps to protect the painting from Ultra Violet Light. It’s so good that the painting almost looks like it has no glass.

If you would like to find out more on how to Commission a Painting then please contact Alan Reed Art Gallery.


Comments { 0 }

River Tyne

River Tyne Sunset, Near North Shields

River Tyne Sunset

One of the first commissions I received when I went self employed back in 1984 was to do two original watercolours of the River Tyne near the North Shields Fish Quay for a leading North East businessman. Over the years I’ve enjoyed going back to the reference material I gathered back then to do fresh interpretations of the same scenes. My watercolour style and technique has changed over the years but it still ends up being a joy to tackle paintings of the Tyne which capture a bygone era.

The River Tyne of course has been an inspiration for local songwriters and musicians including Sting, Lindisfarne and Jimmy Nail and when you spend time looking at the Big River it’s easy to see why.

The scene above titled “River Tyne Sunset” is now available as a limited edition giclee print online and from our Studio and Gallery in Ponteland. It was painted as a very large original watercolour which was challenging to paint with huge washes of colour to control for the sky and water.

Another difficulty was ensuring that the colours worked together. In particular I had to be careful that the Manganese Blue didn’t pollute the yellows and oranges around the darker cloud shapes. In the end I was very satisfied with final outcome and feel it is a long overdue addition to our growing collection of North East Prints.


Comments { 0 }

Tyne Bridge Painting

Alan Reed

Oil Painting of the Tyne Bridge

In 2017 I received a commission to do a very large oil painting of the Angel of the North which you can read about in an earlier blog post.  The Angel’s wings were coated with 22 carat gold leaf.

My client loves his painting of the Gateshead Angel and once I’d hung it for him we discussed a second commission to go alongside, this time a Tyne Bridge Painting.

After bringing the Tyne Bridge Painting close to completion I decided to add a little extra gold leaf and make a short video of the process which you can see on YouTube. First I applied some liquid size for the gold leaf to adhere to. The next stage is to place the gold leaf over the size once it’s gone off and it sticks straight away. As you can see in the video it also sticks where you don’t want it! I just have to carefully lift it off and put it where I want it to go.

Then with the backing paper over the gold leaf I can rub it down so that the bond becomes more secure.

As you will see, the video of the Tyne Bridge Painting is showing some of the smaller details of the painting process.

This is not the actual finished painting commission, it’s actually a much smaller preparation oil painting on canvas board 30″ x 20″.

The reason for doing a smaller preparation painting first is to make sure that everything is going to work out in terms of colour, composition and of course where on the painting to apply the gold leaf.

The Tyne Bridge Painting can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland and online at

Comments { 0 }

Drawing Hands

Alan Reed

Hand Drawing in Moleskine Sketchbook

Following on from my recent blog post about the benefits of regular life drawing, I’m aware that it’s not always easy or practical getting along to a life drawing class. However one simple thing that most of us can do is have a go at drawing hands.

My “warming up” exercises vary from quick self portraits to copying John Singer Sargent portraits. On occasion though I will do a quick study of my left hand which is what you can see here.

Here’s a couple of short time lapse videos of some pen and ink drawings that I did recently in my Moleskine sketchbook using a Shaeffer Fountain pen containing sepia ink.

If you want to add further interest to your drawing, use an angle poise lamp to create shadows from your fingers which will add depth to your study.

To get greater variation to the positioning of the hand then you will need to use a mirror to draw the reflection of the hand.

You can see an example of my hand drawn from being reflected
in a mirror at the end of this video.

If you are drawing hands on a regular basis you will start to see an improvement in your drawing generally. The important thing is to keep practising and not give up.

As Michelangelo once said “Work hard and don’t on any account neglect your drawing’. 

Alan Reed

“Thumbs Up” Pen and Ink Sketch in Moleskine Sketchbook

Comments { 0 }

20th Birthday for the Angel

Alan Reed

Angel Print Hand Embellished with Gold Leaf

The 17th February 2018 marks the 20th Birthday for the Angel. Created by Anthony Gormley, the “Gateshead Angel” or “The Angel of the North” has become an icon for the North East, often featured on television when a reference for the region is needed.

Opinions are divided about the Angel but I’m in the camp of those who are in favour of this huge sculpture that welcomes those travelling on the A1 to the north.

I recall painting the Angel for the first time back in the spring of 1998 after visiting it on a very wet and muddy day. The site looked like a scene from the First World War with broken fence posts, large puddles and JCB tracks leading up to the dark, almost forbidding sculpture, silhouetted against the bleak sky.

Angel of the North

The Week the Angel Went Up

The scene is now quite different as we are nearing the 20th Birthday for the Angel. The surrounding area has been landscaped and there is a handy car park for visitors.

Since 1998 I’ve painted the Angel on several other occasions at various times of the day, however 2017 saw me receiving one of my largest commissions to date. An exiled Geordie asked me to paint the Angel in oil paint with its wings filling the canvas, coated with 22 carat gold leaf. The result was one of my most dramatic paintings, the Angel standing proudly against a blood red sunset.

We’ve published the painting of the Angel as a limited edition print. Some of the prints are on paper and some are on canvas where I have hand embellished the wings with the same Gold Leaf used on the original oil painting. These hand embellished prints of the Angel also have areas that have been hand painted with oils making them original prints.

I’ve made a short video on YouTube of me applying the Gold Leaf to the wings of the Angel using the same method as on the prints so you can see the process.

You can see all my prints of the Gateshead Angel online at or by visiting our Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

Comments { 0 }

Life Drawing

Alan Reed

Detail of Figure Painting

One cannot underestimate the importance to the artist of regular drawing, particularly when painting the human form. Don’t just take my word for it. Here are a few quotes from some of the experts:

“Work hard and don’t on any account neglect your drawing. Draw Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and don’t waste time”. Michelangelo.

“Do not fail, as you go on, to draw something every day, for no matter how little it is it will be worth while, and you will do a world of good.” Cennino Cennini from The Craftsman’s Handbook c 1400.

“You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh.” John Singer Sargent.

With this in mind I like to work on Life Drawing studies on a regular basis. Whenever possible I prefer to work on a single pose for at least an hour to two hours to give myself a chance to resolve the figure proportions as well as capturing the pose, tonal values and form.

Once the Life Drawing pose has been established and the model is comfortable I use the “Sight Size” method to ensure I can fit the whole pose on a tinted canvas board, usually 16″ x 12″.

Alan Reed

Figure Painting on Canvas

I then begin to “draw” with the brush using a thin mix of Yellow Ochre, Light Red and Lamp Black. I’ll use this colour to block in the darker shadow areas, using the tinted board colour as a half tone. As soon as I feel I’ve captured the pose I then begin to paint in the highlights using a flesh tone made up of Lead White together with the same Yellow Ochre and Light Red.

The painting can look quite monochromatic like Figure Painting No 2 as it’s more important to get the tonal values right than the colour.

During this stage it’s important to keep all the edges soft, almost slightly out of focus because after the model takes a break, they may not be able to resume the pose in exactly the right position. I sometimes go over the painting with a piece of kitchen roll or a dry brush to achieve these soft edges. It’s at this point that I also aim to capture a likeness with the portrait which you can see in Figure Painting No 1.

Notice also in the detail of No 1 the mix of hard edges and softer, more blurred edges.

Alan Reed

Detail of Figure Painting No 1


After an hour the model needs a twenty minute break. When you step away from the painting and review your work afresh you begin to see areas that need immediate attention. Once corrections have been attended to it’s time to start refining some of the shapes and building up the colour, particularly on the flesh tones where there is strong light.

Alan Reed

Figure Painting No 1

On Figure Painting No 1 above you can see how the tinted background has also been used as a flesh tone, particularly on the models thigh.

It’s also in the final stages of the sitting that I often load the brush with the lighter flesh tone which I’ve been using and begin to describe the form and muscles of the nude with some more direct, expressive brush marks. On the Figure Painting below of a male model I’ve used long, fluid strokes throughout the pose, especially on his right thigh.

Alan Reed

Figure Painting No 8

The detail photograph below shows the tinted canvas tone coming through to describe highlights on his hair. It’s this combination of thin areas of paint verses thicker applications of paint, hard edges verses softer edges, loose brush marks verses more detailed areas that help to create a study of the human form that is engaging for the viewer on so many levels.

I’ve added several of my figurative oil painting studies from my Life Drawing sessions to my website which are available to purchase online and from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

Alan Reed

Detail of Figure Painting No 8


Comments { 0 }

Paintings of Venice

Alan Reed

Handmade Sketchbooks

I’ve been fortunate to paint on location in Venice many times since my first visit in 1991. A small box of watercolour paints, travelling brush and a hand made sketchbook is all you need to capture its wonderful light, mood and atmosphere. Many of my studio Paintings of Venice started off as either small watercolours on blocks or sketchbook watercolours.

On our last trip there in 2012 I recall taking the vaporetto across the dark waters of the lagoon to St Marks Square. I managed to take a few photographs of San Marco before reaching the stop. The sketchbook watercolours and photographs became the inspiration for a small watercolour “Venezia di Notte”. I decided to make a video of the main aspects of how I painted this scene which you can see on YouTube.

For those of you who are interested in painting in watercolour I’ve added the script for the video which gives you the names of some of the colours I’ve used which you may find helpful.

“I’ve sketched the main elements in pencil so the first step is to get some colour down. After wetting the paper I’m using my usual mix of Cadmium Lemon and Cadmium Yellow to provide the base colour for the artificial light that illuminates the magnificent architecture that attracts so many tourists.

This first wash covers the top half of the paper but for the bottom half I’m being more selective, leaving some of the white of the paper to indicate the lights around the buildings and their light reflecting in the water. Whist the paint is still wet, I’m dropping in some more intense colour to add variation.

Now for some Rose Madder to add depth to the night sky and warmth to the architecture. As with the first wash of yellow, I’ve wet the paper to help the colour spread easily without leaving any steaks. However I’ve left the paper is dry where the buildings are so I can paint hard edges to define them.

This colour is also being reflected in the water. You’ll see that I’m having to be more precise with the brush marks even though I am wanting the overall scene to look lively and loose. The texture of the watercolour paper helps the brush marks to retain a sense of spontaneity.

This next wash is a mix of purple with a touch of turquoise which I’m going to be using throughout the painting, not just for the sky but also for some of the architectural details. Again, I wet the paper with clean water before adding this wash. Just softening the edge of the wash with some clean water before tackling the windows with a much smaller brush. It’s worth saying that this video only represents a fraction of the time I’ve spent painting the details.

Now it’s time to use a colour which appears as black but it’s actually a mix of Paynes Grey, Purple and Lamp Black. This time it’s wet on dry. Again, I’m using a small brush to pick my way around the distinctive architecture.

Alan Reed

The Original Watercolour “Venezia di Notte”

I’m continuing to take my time rendering the different features of the Doges Palace. You will notice that the preceding colours of yellow and Rose Madder loose their dominance when the much darker colours are placed alongside.

These finer details are very small, occupying an area of just a few centimetres so I’m taking a little bit more time to paint them in. Having a contrast of larger, looser, bolder brush marks up against finer, more precise strokes creates further interest in the painting.

Once again, I’m taking my time, working carefully on the different elements of the painting so that they look convincing and credible when there is so much going on. Each arch is painted differently.

You will also notice a few little blobs of slightly darker yellow. This is masking fluid for the white lamps which I will rub off at the end when the paint is dry. A touch of Rose Madder to the turquoise grey adds further interest to these dark arches.

Back to the big brush and the black mix for the night sky. I’m working rapidly wet on dry to avoid streaks. Care is needed here because I’m also having to define the the left hand side of the bell tower and the tops of the buildings. Even though the brush has a decent point I have to switch brushes for the finer details.

Now a rusty red mix for the campanile, St Marks Bell Tower. First painting around the windows then working my way down the tower.

The base colours of yellow and Rose Madder are giving the effect of light as I’m picking out its features. The same rusty red colour is used again for the reflection in the water. I can afford to be more expressive with my brush strokes.

More reflections with the dark turquoise grey wash, being conscious that the water is constantly moving so the brush strokes that I’m making need to be communicating movement.

There are lots of gondolas berthed at the waters edge so these are painted using the black mix, together with their mooring poles and other details. Again small brush is required. It’s these contrasting tones, light and dark that are doing all the work.

The same colour is used for further reflections so that the water really does start looking dark and mysterious, particularly up against the light that is now starting to sparkle in the water. I’m using the side of the brush with horizontal strokes. Once again, it’s another contrast to the vertical brush strokes I made earlier.

So there you have it, Venice at night, as seen from a vaporetto”.

My Paintings of Venice continue to be very popular with my customers. Susan and I are looking forward to returning to Venice later on in 2018.

Comments { 0 }

Paintings of Umbria

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour of Via dell’Orso

When producing Paintings of Umbria I always try to articulate in paint the distinctive characteristics of this fascinating region in Italy which my wife and I have been visiting since 2002. We’ve grown to love and appreciate Umbria’s wonderful hilltop towns, its food and wine. Through our reedartholidays we’ve been able to share our knowledge with many others who regularly join us. Our trip in June 2018 is already fully booked so we are taking expressions of interest for a possible trip in September 2018.

On a recent Painting Holiday to Italy we took our guests to Perugia, a large town in Umbria which has lots of narrow streets winding their way to the top. I noticed this particular street which was mainly in shadow apart from a shaft of sunlight breaking out to catch different aspects of the architecture in the distance.

I quickly whipped out my sketchbook and did this small watercolour making sure that I captured not only the sunlight and shadows but also the figure to provide a sense of scale and interest. By the time I had finished there was another strong shaft of midday sunlight hitting the top of the archway I was under on the right hand side.

I was recently doing a watercolour demonstration for a North East Club and decided to do a much larger watercolour inspired by the sketchbook study. In the demonstration I only got as far as the first two washes. The first was a mix of Cadmium Lemon and Cadmium Yellow. Once that dried I went over parts of that first wash with some Rose Madder.

For the benefit of those attending the demonstration I decided to video me finishing off the rest of the Painting of Umbria which you can watch on YouTube. Most of the video is a time lapse and it doesn’t include all the painting work I did but it does give you an idea of how I tackled the main areas and some of the important details.

Alan Reed

Watercolour of Via dell”Orso, Umbria

You can see in the video that I’ve been very direct with the brush marks to keep them lively and fresh. I’ve also dropped in some more Rose Madder to capture parts of the stone work being warmed by the sunlight.

Once the shadow areas have dried you can see how there is some lovely granulation of the pigment which provides some interesting texture to the stonework.

I used a much smaller brush to start adding in a few areas of detail like the windows, stonework and bricks. I kept the original sketchbook study close at hand to make sure I didn’t fall in to the trap of just copying the reference photograph which I use for accuracy.

I always let the shadow areas dry before going in with the details like the dark doorways and I like leave some of the first washes to show through to bring some light and sparkle to parts of the painting which could otherwise become lifeless.

The bottom of the street is sunlit and this became the focal point of the painting, not just because of the warmer, lighter colours but also because of the figure making its way down the steep hill.

I went into the shadows with some even darker tones for further detail and depth. And it was back to using the big brush to avoid going to fiddly. You can also see in the video that I’m not just using the tip of the brush but also its side, using it to catch the very rough texture of the paper, which is Fabriano Esporzione, a beautiful handmade paper.

A few more details were added before making the decision to lift out some of the colour where the sun is just above the tops of the buildings. This emphasised the sense of sunlight breaking out to create the shaft of light cutting through the dark, slightly foreboding shadows.

So there you have it. A large watercolour of Via Dell “Orso in Perugia, Umbria available from and from our Gallery in Ponteland.

You can see more watercolour Paintings of Umbria and painting videos on

Comments { 0 }