Time Lapse Portrait Sketches

Alan Reed

Charcoal Pencil Sketch

There are no short cuts to achieving sound drawing skills. Regular practise at drawing from observation will pay off in most visual disciplines in art, whether it’s painting, sculpture, graphic design or even photography. Before working on a commission or a painting for exhibition I will often warm up for 10 to 20 minutes with a charcoal pencil sketch of a John Singer Sargent portrait. I’ve drawn dozens over the last few years, particularly as I’ve been receiving more portrait commissions.

I’ve recently started to make time lapse videos of my portrait sketches so that one can see the process on how I draw a face from the start. If you watch the video which is only 24 seconds long, you will see that I draw a faint outline for the shape of the face.

I then make a mark halfway down to indicate where the eyes are to go. I then make another mark in between the eye line and the chin for the tip of the nose. Finally I do one last guideline for the mouth, usually slightly higher than halfway between the tip of the nose and the chin.

Once these are in place, I then start to draw in with greater care the details for the eyes, working my way down the face for all the other features. After that, it’s simply a matter of shading in the hair and drawing in the neck and shoulders. You will see that I’m drawing with a charcoal pencil which gives you a lovely dark, rich tone. I’m  also a big fan of the Moleskine sketchbooks which come in a good range of sizes.

Time lapse videos are quite easy to do and it’s a great way to show folk the drawing process without it taking up too much time.

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Painting Grey Street

Alan Reed

Shoppers, Grey Street

Grey Street in Newcastle has been described by the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as the finest curved street in Europe. I never tire of sitting down to capture its fine sweeping curve and Georgian columns in all seasons. You can see a number of limited edition prints of Newcastle’s Grey Street including  Grey Street, Saturday Morning which was featured on the BBC’s “Show me the Monet”.

Newcastle is a very busy city so when painting Grey Street I find it great fun to bring life to the scene by adding in people for extra movement and interest. It’s even more fun painting Grey Street in winter because you have the extra challenge of resolving the reflections of the sky, buildings and figures in the wet pavement. Watercolour is the ideal medium for this but you need to know the sequence of washes and how to build up the colour.

You will notice that the gentle yellow colour that you can see just above the distant buildings is actually running throughout the entire painting (apart from the snow lying on the rooftops) and is particularly evident in the pavement in the centre of the foreground. When the wash of yellow dried, I wet the sheet of paper and introduced a very subtle hint of Rose Madder in the sky and foreground before introducing the slate grey for the sky and reflections.

After these washes had dried, it was simply a matter of adding detail to depict the architectural forms before finally painting the various figure. Over the years I’ve developed a “shorthand” painting technique to capture figures moving about. Photography can be a help but it’s also a very useful discipline to observe and sketch from life. That way you can’t get bogged down with detail. You have to pick out the main gesture and gender of the person and make sure that you have them positioned at the correct eye level.

Painting Grey Street outdoors is a real challenge and not for the faint hearted. As I’m writing this blog post, I’m getting tempted to get out there again! In the meantime however, my studio painting “Shoppers, Grey Street” can be seen online and at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Mount Street Gardens

Mount Street Gardens is a very quiet, peaceful public garden in Mayfair, London created in 1889. When I first came across it I was immediately struck by its calm, tranquil atmosphere. The warm afternoon sunlight was forming dappled areas of sunlight and shadows. There was little sound of the traffic, only the birds which have made Mount Street Gardens their home.

I wasted little time in getting out my sketchbook to make some simple watercolour studies to capture the scene which you can see below. A light wash of Cadmium Lemon over most of the page has added warmth to all the other colours. As with the majority of my sketchbook watercolours, there is no preliminary pencil drawing. I prefer to draw with the brush with paint so that all the brush marks are loose and have a directness to them.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour of Mount Street Gardens

The studio painting is a 12″ x 9″ watercolour available from my website and has been painted on Arches watercolour paper. I’ve deliberatly chosen to keep the same palette as the sketch and avoided the temptation to tighten up with extra detail. I did take several photographs that afternoon and decided to base the composition on a viewpoint where I was standing up, rather than the seated position for the sketch.

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Paintings of Umbria

Alan Reed

Via Roma, Montone

It’s the time of year when I’m busy working on commissions and fitting in time to paint new works for my Christmas exhibition. One of my latest works is this street scene of Via Roma in Montone, Umbria available as a limited edition print.

When we were taking our guests on the Painting Holidays in Italy this year, we spent an afternoon in the delightful hilltop town, Montone. It’s a lovely place with plenty of subject matter to paint. I did a couple of watercolours “en plein air” which were the inspiration for this A4 painting on deckled edged paper.

Over the years, my Paintings of Umbria have resonated with many customers, particularly those who have properties there. I’ve been very fortunate to have received a number of commissions to go out and paint original paintings of clients homes throughout this beautiful region, described as the “Green Heart of Italy”.

Often with my Paintings of Umbria, I deliberately choose to use a limited palatte to create mood and atmosphere. I will refer back to my studies painted on location to ensure that I retain the lively brush marks and looseness of the original sketch. This studio painting of Via Roma follows that pattern. There’s a strong feeling of light and movement running throughout the painting, even in the shadow areas.

This is one of several Paintings of Umbria that will go on display for my Christmas Exhibition later on this year. Please sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on new paintings and events.


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Portrait Sketches

As I mentioned in my previous post, I will often start my painting days with a warming up exercise. My usual practise is one or two charcoal pencil studies of John Singer Sargent portraits in my Moleskine sketchbook.

Last year I did a few time lapse videos of these portrait sketches to show the process of these simple studies. I start off with the outline of the head. Halfway down I start to draw the eyes. One these are in place, halfway between the eyes and the chin I’ll make some marks to indicate the tip of the nose. Slightly above the halfway mark between the nose and the chin is the mouth.

All these distances are only guidelines for doing portrait sketches. To get a good likeness you have to be really accurate with your proportions, shapes and mark making. Like any craft or skill, regular practise in necessary to become competent.

To find out about commissioning a portrait then visit my website to watch a short video.

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Time Lapse Sketches

Alan Reed

Charcoal Drawing of a John Singer Sargent Portrait

When I have a painting day ahead of me I like to spend a few moments warming up in my Moleskine Sketchbook. Usually I’ll have a quick flick through my John Singer Sargent books and choose a portrait to draw. I’ll sharpen up a medium to soft charcoal pencil and launch straight into the study.

The idea is simply to warm up, getting my hand to eye coordination  up to speed before tackling a more finished painting. It’s more about the journey than the outcome.

I’ve recently started to do some time lapse videos on my iPhone so folk who are interested can see the process of making a quick outline of the head before adding the details of the eyes, nose, mouth, hair etc. These videos have been uploaded to YouTube so if you click on the link it will take you to their site. The image above is a still from the time lapse video. The actual real time of the sketch is no more than twenty minutes.


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Corporate Art

The Circus, Bath, Early Morning

The Circus, Bath, Early Morning

Impress your visitors with bespoke art in your reception area or decorate your working environment with art that conveys your company’s corporate message.

Alan Reed Art carries many large pieces of original art as well as having the facilities to reproduce images in large format on media over 1 metre wide by 20 metres long, with or without frames.

You could commission a piece of art for your Boardroom or Reception area which would be exclusive to your company. The artwork reproduced can then be placed in all of your outlets to strengthen your corporate identity.

This key piece of art can be specifically painted to relate to your business ie:  manufacturing, industry, cafe scene, street scene, people dancing or enjoying a drink, sporting activities etc, the list is endless.

Or you might like to choose artwork to be painted in your corporate colour to build on your corporate image. As well as providing a feel good factor for workers and visitors alike, it can add to the aesthetic ambiance of your working environment.

Alan Reed Art offer a full corporate service for any type of businesses both large and small and includes a free consultancy service to guide you and give advice on images, sizes of artwork, colour co-ordination and styles of framing etc…

Please feel free to discuss your requirements, no matter how big or small, using art@alanreed.com or telephone 01661 871 800

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Painting Holiday

   Saturday 3rd – 10th June 2107  (Fully booked)
To find out more about Painting Holidays in Italy visit reedartholidays.com


Alan Reed

Chiesa del Carmine

We have just returned from our Painting Holiday in Italy. This year we did 2 weeks, one in May and one in June. Once again, it was a huge success with our guests, many of whom have now been on 3 painting holidays with us.

The setting was the beautifully restored Chiesa del Carmine, a 13th century church in the tranquile Valenzino valley in Umbria. We were fortunate with the weather and enjoyed sketching some of the nearby hill top towns and villages like Corciano, Anghiari, Montone and Arezzo.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of Corciano, Umbria

The guests are equally as happy to paint the interior of Chiesa del Carmine and its delightful gardens, full of olive trees, fragrant bushes and very paintable terracotta pots.

Alan Reed

Terracotta Pots

Our guests have been very enthusiastic about the whole experience which has been nicely summed up with this testimonial.

Dearest Susan and Alan

Where to start! Well, what a wonderful experience. Heather and I really did not want to leave. Not only because of the beautiful setting and sheer luxury combined with being pampered and being served exquisite food along with the days visiting beautiful places. But most all, and the icing on the cake, was being able to be there with you. A time to share, reflect and be thankful for all that we have. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for memories made possible and which will remain for some time to come. Much love and blessing.

Bob and Heather. Xxxx

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Colosseum Painting

Alan Reed

Colosseum, Rome

One of the many thrills of being a full time artist is receiving commissions to paint subjects which you find stimulating and exciting. Over the last 12 months I’ve received a number of commissions to paint some of the architecture built by the Romans.

Because of my training at art college in architecture, I really enjoy the whole process of gathering reference material on location through watercolour sketchbook studies of the ancient architecture and photography. Pulling all the material together in my studio to create a finished watercolour is a rewarding task, particularly when I know how much the client really appreciates the final outcome.

The most recent commission is a painting of the Colosseum in Rome. I’ve painted the Colosseum on a number of occasions at different times of day and various angles. This particular view of the Colosseum is taken from the Roman Forum when I spent an afternoon sketching around the various ruins.

Alan Reed

Roman Forum, Dawn

I also rose before dawn to capture the sun rising over the remains of the temples as you can see in the watercolour sketch above.

Other commissions of Rome have included the Arch of Titus and Parco degli Acquedotti and the Roman Forum.

To find out more about commissioning a painting, please visit my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland for an informal chat or watch the Commissions Video on my website.

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Painting Holiday

Alan Reed

Spello, Umbria

It’s only a few days now until our first Painting Holiday in Italy for 2016. All of the guests from our trip in 2015 have re-booked for another week in the 5 star luxury accomodation Chiesa del Carmine a beautifully restored ancient 13th century church.

Due to the popularity of the Painting Holiday, we have hired Chiesa del Carmine for a second week 4th – 11th June and we do have late availability.

Guests will be able to receive instruction on how to paint “en plein air” in watercolour, taking in the stunning views around the valley. We will also be going out for day trips to some of the picturesque hilltop towns and villages like Spello seen in the sketchbook watercolour above.

There are non painting guests too who are happy to enjoy relaxing in the fabulous grounds, the day trips and a round of golf at the nearby championship golf course Antognolla.

Alan Reed

Chiesa del Carmine

Bed, breakfast and evening meals are included in the price of the Painting Holiday. To find out more visit reedartholidays.com or to see a brochure click on this link.

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