Springtime

Alan Reed

Bamburgh Castle Watercolour

It’s springtime! As I’m writing this blog post the weather outside feels distinctly more like winter but that’s not untypical for April in the north east of England. Despite the weather, springtime is the theme for my exhibition currently on show at my gallery in Ponteland throughout the month of April.

Because we can experience such variable weather, sometimes in a single day, my springtime exhibition is as equally varied. There’s an eclectic mix of places and subjects to see for springtime like some of the very picturesque fishing villages on the East Neuk of Fife, cityscapes of Edinburgh and the Alps, including my painting “Mont Blanc and Manganese Blue” which was selected for the Royal Watercolour Society Exhibition earlier this year.

Other subjects include some classic views of Newcastle’s Grey Street, the Roman Forum in Italy both of which have been captured in springtime. I also have some figurative paintings on display too.

Springtime is often a period where we take a fresh look at our homes and gardens to create a new look and feel to the environment we spend so much time in. What better place to start than to add to your art collection.

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Learn to paint

Alan Reed

Watercolour, View from San Gimignano

The guests that come on our painting holidays in Italy learn to paint, mainly in watercolour. I’ve been teaching various aspects of art and design for over 30 years. Throughout this time I’ve learnt that there are no real short cuts to getting good at painting, however there are various things you can do to speed up the learning process.

On our last painting holiday in Umbria, I was impressed by the piano playing of one of our guests who would entertain us on the grand piano at Chiesa del Carmine. I found myself saying, not for the first time, “I wish I could play the piano”. However, on this occasion, I decided to do something about it.

Watercolour by Alan Reed

Leon Playing the Grand Piano at Chiesa del Carmine

When we returned, I went to J.C. Windows in the Central Arcade in Newcastle and purchased a digital piano. I had no previous experience of playing a musical instrument other than playing about on the old piano at my grandmother’s house when I was child, so I knew that if I was going to take this seriously, I would need to get lessons and to practise on a daily basis.

Since the summer of 2015 I’ve been taking lessons once a week and have tried to practise for about an hour a day. When you are a complete beginner in any new skill, you really do benefit from receiving instruction from an expert. Within 6 months of purchasing the piano I had learnt a number of pieces and I’m starting to sight read music. It’s like learning a new language, very difficult at first, but gradually you start to understand what you are meant to be doing.

If you want to learn to paint, then you will benefit from taking lessons from an expert who is good at teaching, however you must also practise on a regular basis. I’m always impressed at how quickly my students have improved when they have attended one of my 6 week watercolour classes, or even on a one week painting holiday. I know that further improvement will happen if they are sketching regularly. You’re better off drawing or painting every day for thirty minutes to an hour than once a week for several hours if you really want to learn to paint.

We still have spaces on week two of our painting holiday in Umbria, Italy 4th – 11th June 2016. Please contact reedartholidays for details.

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Sketchbooks

Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of Mont Blanc from Chamonix

I’m often asked “which is my own favourite painting?” It’s a question which I find so difficult to answer. Over the years I’ve painted many different scenes which I’m really pleased with and on so many different levels.

In more recent years I’ve been painting portraits of people, which again, I’ve become attached to. However, if I had to choose examples of my work to ponder over and reflect on, it would have to be my ever growing collection of hand made leather bound sketchbooks that I take with me on our travels.

Alan Reed

Leather Bound Sketchbooks

Although I’ve been painting on location in watercolour “en plein air” for almost 30 years it was not until a painting trip to Umbria, Italy in 2002 that I began to paint “on the spot” in these precious sketchbooks. My wife and I visited the Fabriano Paper Factory in the Marches region and I fell in love with the small leather bound books containing their lovely paper that they were selling in the factory shop. I purchased several.

When we returned to the Relais il Canalicchio where we were staying I tentatively decided to put brush to paper and painted the view out of our window. You can see my first watercolour of an Umbrian sunset in the image below.

Sketchbook watercolour

View from the Relais il Canalicchio

Unusually for me, I decided not to do any preparatory pencil drawing, choosing to “draw” with the brush, painting directly onto the beautifully textured paper. It’s a discipline that I’ve continued with ever since. It’s not something that I would advocate for a beginner if I was teaching them on our painting holidays in Italy but it is a discipline that a more experienced water-colourist would find both challenging and rewarding.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of Aiguille du Midi

When we took our daughter and grandchildren to Chamonix in France in July 2015 and the grandchildren watched me paint Aiguille du Midi (above) and Mont Blanc, the value of my sketchbooks became apparent, even to the grandchildren. They could see how I was recording in paint some of the special aspects of our holiday in a way that photography cannot. They even started asking me if they could have certain sketchbooks when I die!

I now have an ever growing collection of sketchbooks which document our travels to countries like Italy, Oman, Kuwait, USA and of course throughout the UK. I’ve even started to make them myself which is even more rewarding.

The guests on our painting holidays to Italy are encouraged to paint both on watercolour blocks or pads of watercolour paper but also in sketchbooks so that they too can have a record of their travels.

If you would like to find out more about working in sketchbooks “en plein air” or coming on a reedart painting holiday then please contact me.

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Painting of Pittenweem

Alan Reed

Watercolour of Pittenweem.

“A Mix for March” is a new exhibition at the Gullane Gallery which started on the 12th March. I’ve a number of new works on display including this new Painting of Pittenweem. I was fortunate to travel up to the East Neuk of Fife earlier in the year to do some sketchbook watercolours of three of the very picturesque fishing villages dotted along the coastline.

For this particular Painting of Pittenweem, I wanted to retain the loose sketchbook qualities of the “en plein air” study so I used a hand made Indian rag paper with deckled edges and a rough surface. I kept the brush marks lively and fresh without loosing too much detail.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of Pittenweem

It’s not the first time I’ve produced a painting of Pittenweem. If you visit my website www.alanreed.com you will see a range of limited edition prints of the East Nuek of Fife including one of Pittenweem.

The exhibition at the Gullane Gallery finishes 3rd April.

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Princes Street

Alan Reed

Princes Street, Edinburgh

I have a number of new watercolours being exhibited at the Gullane Gallery, East Lothian 12th March until 3rd April. One of the paintings going on show is this cityscape capturing Princes Street, Edinburgh on a winter’s afternoon.

The scene is taken from Calton Hill which boasts commanding views over the city. Often it is the inclusion of figures which can bring a cityscape to life, but in this instance it’s the traffic, in particular the buses nudging their way into the queues of cars, that bring a sense movement to the watercolour.

Even though the time of year is winter and the sun has almost set, there’s a strong feeling of warmth and light coming through because of the base washes of Cadmium Lemon and Rose Madder. This is contrasted by the cold shadows created by a quite bold application of Paynes Grey for the road and rooftops. Further interest has been achieved by the highlights on the cars and buses on Princes Street which have been very simply rendered.

Lifting out some of the colour has brought a feeling of mist and smokiness, giving the architecture an ethereal quality which has enhanced the depth and ariel perspective to Auld Reekie.

I also have a limited edition print titled Princes Street which is available online at alanreed.com and from my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland.

 

 

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Gullane Gallery

Alan Reed

Crail, Coming Home

For the last three years I’ve been exhibiting my paintings at the Gullane Gallery, East Lothian. I’ve been invited again to show a selection of new works as part of their easter exhibition starting 12th March.

For over 20 years I’ve enjoyed painting in Scotland so for this exhibition I decided to revisit some of the fishing villages that I’ve painted in the past along the East Neuk of Fife. The weather has been dreadful over the winter months which hindered my plans right up until early February when I was finally able to travel with the promise of sunny weather.

I managed to visit three of the fishing villages which I have painted before and have published as limited edition prints, Pittenweem, Anstruther and Crail.

Even though it was sunny, it was still very cold but I was still able to do a sketchbook watercolour at each one of the harbours. The one of Crail was painted from a high vantage point looking into the low winter sun.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour of Crail

For the larger studio painting I tried to keep the palette as simple as the sketch and the brush marks as lively, however I couldn’t resist adding some of the details found in the nearby buildings which overlook the picturesque harbour.

The exhibition at the Gullane Gallery will also feature another painting of Crail as well as paintings of Pittenweem, North Berwick and Edinburgh. The exhibition continues until 3rd April 2016.

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Mont Blanc and Manganese Blue

Alan Reed

Mont Blanc & Manganese Blue

On 29th January I was notified that my new watercolour titled Mont Blanc and Manganese Blue had been selected Royal Watercolour Society Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2016. It’s the second time one of my paintings has been chosen. In 2013 my painting “Jebel Akhdar, Oman” won the Artists Prize in the same competition. It’s very difficult to do justice to the grandeur and majesty of a mountain range in a small watercolour painting, however when you are actually up a mountain with a box of paints and a sketchbook you have to give it a try.

Such an occasion arose in July 2015 when Susan and I took our daughter and her children to Chamonix in France. We bought passes for the cable cars in the region and went up Aiguille du Midi which overlooks Mont Blanc. I did a sketchbook watercolour which was the inspiration for a studio painting “View from Aiguille du Midi”. This is currently on view at my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland. We were so taken by the stunning views that my daughter and I returned again, very early morning. I did a second sketchbook study which became the catalyst for “Mont Blanc and Manganese Blue”.

Alan Reed

My Sketchbook Watercolour of Mont Blanc from Aiguille du Midi

The clarity of colour and crispness of light meant that when painting the sketch, I had to strip back my palette to basic colours. I used the white of the paper to indicate the snow on Mont Blanc and neat Manganese Blue (with a touch of French Ultramarine) for the sky. I added the smallest amount of purple for some of the shadow areas and Raw Sienna and Vandyke Brown for the dark foreground rocks. When it came to painting the studio work I made sure I maintained the simplicity of the sketchbook watercolour, even laying it over the larger original whilst it was in progress to ensure I wasn’t making it too tight.

Alan Reed

Mont Blanc and Manganese Blue original and sketchbook

The title of this painting comes partly from using the lovely colour “Manganese Blue” produced by Winsor and Newton which I have been using since the late 1980’s. It’s a brighter blue than Cerulean which I personally find a little flat in comparison. When used in conduction with French Ultramarine and Winsor Blue, you can achieve some beautiful deep blue skies.

My painting “Mont Blanc and Manganese Blue” goes on show at the Bankside Gallery, London Friday 4th – Wednesday 16th March 11am – 6pm and will be available to purchase from the exhibition.

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Behind the Scenes – Holidays in Italy

Holidays in Italy.

Having stayed at the Villa Capanne in 2014 and fallen in love with the refined rusticity of their accommodation, Alan, Susan and their guests were certainly in for a treat in 2015 when they returned to Umbria for a second Reedart Italian Painting Holiday, this time in the newly-renovated Chiesa Del Carmine: a stunning, no-expense-spared ancient church and adjoining farmhouse nestled deep in the heart of a picturesque valley.

Far enough from civilisation to sit and enjoy the silence of the unspoilt Italian countryside, but close enough to the spectacular Robert Trent Jones Championship golf course at the Antognolla Golf Estate and nearby hilltop towns, Chiesa Del Carmine was the perfect spot for Reedart Holidays to settle into………Reed more here

Alan Reed Painting of Gubbio

Sketchbook Watercolour of Street scene in Gubbio.

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Painting Holidays in Italy

The story of our first trip to Italy together in 1991 and ultimately the start of our Painting Holidays in Italy.

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
After a chance meeting in local pub The Diamond in Ponteland, family members and friends could scarcely have predicted the adventures in store for Alan and Susan who married three years later. Having recently returned home from living abroad in Venice with her two young children and settling back into life in the North East, Susan longed to show Alan the sights, sounds and smells of her beloved Venice and introduce him to some of the lifelong friends the family made there.

Alan Reed

Venetian Dawn

It was June 1991 when the couple finally took that much-talked about trip. This would be Alan’s first trip to Venice and armed with little else than a conversation he’d had with an old colleague about the architecture and stories he’d read about this iconic city, it became one of the most memorable trips of the couple’s lifetime and the couple returned to Venice in August 1994 where Alan painted 14 “en plein air” watercolours which were part of the “A Tale of two Cities” exhibition in the Spring of 1995.

Alan Reed

Alan & Susan in Italy

 

While Alan’s family had strong Christian roots, Susan’s rebirth as a Christian was borne in St Mark’s Church whilst living in Venice, and a visit to this magnificent church tied the couple even closer together as Susan shared this chapter of her life with him. Introducing Alan to the friends and “family” Susan made whilst there, Alan quickly found himself falling in love with the Italian way of life. A true home from home for Susan, she happily wandered around the shops with the children, buying handmade sketchbooks and exploring the little back streets and lesser known piazzas whilst Alan painted the joys of Venice – soaking up every inch of the Grand Canal, the view from the vaporetti (the water buses of Venice) and everything in between.

It was undoubtedly the beginning of something special, especially for Alan who compares their trip to Venice “like being on a stage set”. The pinch-me moment came when the week all-too-quickly drew to a close and Alan found himself overcome with emotion, already planning his next trip to the city that had stolen his heart after only a week. “I’ll definitely be back”, he thought and he was right. Venice, and indeed Italy has been a constant source of inspiration for Alan’s artwork throughout his career, his works of Venice have been featured in art galleries and various art books over the years – but none can compare to the feeling of pure excitement and exhilaration the young family felt as took their first trip together to a place filled with so many memories – giving Alan a wonderful sensory insight to the wonders of Venice that he in turn shares with us all through his artwork and his Painting Holidays in Italy.

When to Visit Venice:
Venice is magnificent any time of the year, beautifully hot in the summer months before turning icy cold in winter. The sight of everyone wrapped up in their furs and the frost dazzling on the canal is unforgettable – while the iconic Venice Carnival which takes place in February is a must not miss.

Where to Go:

Head to the Castello neighbourhood of Venice and you will find the “Giardini” (gardens) where is nice to wander in the shade to cool off. We often took the boat over to the Lido to sunbathe on the beach. I would make a large container full of home made lemonade to take with us to drink throughout the day, it was so refreshing made with about a dozen fresh lemons.

Where to Eat:

An unusual restaurant in the Jewish part of Venice was Gam Gam which serves fantastic tasty food and very reasonably priced. We also highly recommend Osteria Enoteca near San Marco and Antico Forno, near Rialto for a nice pizza. Try Al Covo Restaurant and Osteria all’Alba near Rialto for cocktails.

“When I lived there, my old Venetian friend Nai used to take the children and I to the island of Burano famous for its lovely different coloured painted houses and the old ladies sitting in the doorways making lace. I could hardly wait for Alan to capture all its colours. We ate in a restaurant called Al Gatto Nero (The black Cat) and sat outside in the sun eating Fritto Misto with a bottle of white wine, a memory to treasure” – Susan Reed

Reedart Painting Holidays in Italy

“The moon shines bright. In such a night as this. When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees and they did make no noise, in such a night…”
― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Follow this link to view all of Alan’s Italian original paintings currently available for sale.

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Parco degli Acquedotti

Alan Reed Watercolour

Parco degli Acquedotti

Over the last few months I’ve been working on a number of painting commissions of Rome for an overseas client. You can read a testimonial on a previous blog post about one of the paintings I did for him of the Arch of Titus.

This has involved me travelling to Rome for short visits to gather suitable reference. The last trip in October saw me take a metro ride from the centre of Rome to Parco degli Acquedotti which boasts some fine remains of the magnificent aqueducts built by Emperors Claudius and Hadrian.

It was late afternoon so I worked rapidly on a couple of “en plein air” watercolours looking directly into the autumn sunlight capturing the main section. Although the longest stretch of the section by Claudius is the most impressive, I was also struck by the fragmented parts which stood alone in a field, creating some rather beautiful shapes, almost like letters of the alphabet.

I couldn’t resist painting a 21″ x 14″ studio watercolour on hand made Fabriano paper of Parco degli Acquedotti in the soft, warm autumnal light which can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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