New Christmas Card for 2015

New Christmas Card for 2015

This is my new Christmas Card titled “Dear Santa” featuring my 7 year old Granddaughter Anya posting her letter to Santa.

Buy a pack of 5 for £6


Dear Santa, New Christmas Card for 2015. Grey Street Newcastle in the snow


Grey Street snow scene with busy Christmas shoppers and their umbrellas also showing the traditional British red pillar box. The original watercolour painting for sale in our Christmas Exhibition starting on Saturday December 5th.

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Commission a Portrait

Alan Reed

Portrait of Arthur

On our Painting Holiday in Italy in May 2015, one of the guests asked me to paint a portrait of her husband Arthur for his birthday present in August. It was to be a surprise so she asked if I could work from photographs. I said that I could, but if possible I would prefer to try and do a sketch of him and take my own photographs.

I devised a cunning plan. On the last evening of the holiday, I began to sketch various guests in my Moleskine Sketchbook after dinner as we were all relaxing in the living room of Chiesa del Carmine.

Eventually it was Arthur’s turn and he willingly obliged to sit without suspecting that my humble charcoal sketch would develop into a 20″ x 16″ portrait in oils!

I took inspiration from the new John Singer Sargent Book “Portraits of Artists and Friends” which accompanied the stunning exhibition of Sargent’s Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in London earlier this year. In the excellent book are some very fresh, informal portraits of Sargent’s artist friends, singers and writers. I tried to keep Arthur’s portrait very simple and relaxed and was thrilled to receive this lovely testimonial from Arthur himself just after he received his present.

“We came home last night from Portugal, where we had been celebrating my birthday on Tuesday with the children and grandchildren. Now, I am the ever so proud and thrilled owner of the most marvellous portrait of me. I have felt both ecstatic and overwhelmed. Diana had erected it suitably on her easel.

When she called me up to see my present from her, and I saw my portrait, (actually I was wearing the same jumper), I just started shaking with excitement. Unusually for me, I was struck dumb, and did not know what to say.

Now a little recovered, I can tell you directly how thrilled I am. It seems a bit self centered to say so, but I think it captures the very essence of me. Just perfect. Thank you so much for taking so much effort to capture the very being of me. I am thrilled.

Please give my very best wishes to Sue, too. We both enjoyed both our original Easter visit to your home, and our wonderful week with you in the summer, and hence we are both equally looking forward to next year.

You cannot imagine how happy you have made my celebration week, for my larger birthday number than I really like to think about.

With all very best wishes”.


If you would like to discuss having a portrait painted of a family member or friend, please visit my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland without any obligation or watch the Commissions video on my website to find out more.

Some of the links on this post are affiliate links including the book “Sargent, Portraits of Artists and Friends” available from Amazon. If you click on the links and buy the books then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself.

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Commission a Portrait

Alan Reed

CastleGate Portraits Painted in oils

On the 9th September 2015 a project was finally unveiled which I had been working on for two years. The artwork depicts a selection of portraits of people who are either past, present or future members of City Church Newcastle which Susan and I have been a part of since 1993. The portraits are hanging in the atrium of the CastleGate building which we bought as a church in the late nineties and is to reflect the vision of the church.

Most of the portraits have been painted from life over several sittings at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland. Typically, each sitting would last a couple of hours which has been a mutually enjoyable experience for both myself and the sitter.

Part of painting someones portrait is not just capturing a good likeness but also about bringing out something of the persons personality and character. That comes from spending time in conversation with the sitter, getting to know them and bringing out an expression or “look” that is typically them.

I find that over the course of a two hour sitting, the light will often change casting either a shadow over part of the face or a highlight on another part which, when painted, really helps to describe something about that person. This has always been my aim since investing a huge amount of time in studying portraiture over the last four years. It’s not just about developing a good, sound painting technique in oils but producing a piece of art which people can really connect with, whether they know the person or not. I find that when I’m studying John Singer Sargent’s portraits, I’m really captivated, not just by the painting but the subject too. I somehow feel as though I’d like to meet them.

Alan Reed

Atrium of the CastleGate

If you would like to Commission a Portrait then why not visit the CastleGate on Melbourne Street, Newcastle to take a closer look at the 24 portraits which have been painted in oils on aluminium panels.

To find out more about the process of commissioning a portrait you can also visit my website or Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.


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Sargent Studies

Charcoal Studies of Sargent Portraits drawn at The National Portrait Gallery

A few weeks ago I was asked to write an article for the website of a new initiative here in the North East called Drawing?

Drawing? is a 6 month long, region wide programme of exhibitions and events which aims to explore drawing in art and culture and also in other areas such as science, design and technology. The project is a partnership between The Customs House, Sunderland University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University and mima (Teesside University) and is being co-curated by Esen Kaya and Mike Collier.

Below is the article which I wrote describing the reasons why I draw but it’s well worth visiting the Drawing? website to find out more from other artists too.

Drawing is and always will be the main foundation of my creative process. Many visual artists and painters do rely heavily on photography to pull together the material from which they paint from. There’s nothing wrong in that, however I do feel that the discipline of drawing and observing from life is a valuable tool that can enrich the flow of creativity.

For me, one of the main uses of drawing is research. If I’m going to an exhibition, I am armed with a moleskine sketchbook and some charcoal pencils. A good recent example would be the John Singer Sargent “Portraits of Artist’s and Friends” at the National Portrait Gallery. I will typically spend several hours sketching the portraits on display as a means of achieving a deeper appreciation of Sargent’s use of tone, lighting and his characterisation of his sitters. The studies and techniques that I record in this kind of research are then translated from charcoal pencil on paper to a brush loaded with oil paint on to canvas when I come to do my own portrait paintings. I strive to keep the brush strokes as lively, free and expressive as those rendered from observation.

Likewise, if I’m painting a landscape or cityscape I will often paint the scene on location “en plein air”. This time however, the drawing element is achieved by using a brush, drawing directly with watercolour paint on to the paper. I rarely pre-draw the scene in pencil. This very spontaneous, direct approach means I can produce a very fluid and loose “drawing” that can prove to be invaluable when it comes to creating a larger studio painting where I may also harness the use of photography for topographical accuracy. The observational studies will help to prevent any slavish copying of the photographs that could result in a more sterile, static painting.

I also draw simply for the “fun of it”. Regular drawing helps my hand to eye co-ordination and enables me to be more visually selective when painting in the studio. It’s much easier to focus on the main point of interest when you’re drawing from life. This “focus” can be realised by using stronger, more direct lines on the areas that are really important. Conversely, the use of less fussy, more simplistic line work on background areas helps to create a composition that has more visual impact. Again, this can translate well when it comes to painting. I’ve been painting professionally for over 30 years and I’m drawing more now than I ever have done, not just to maintain my technical skills as a draughtsman, but to stay connected in a deeper flowing stream of creativity.

One of the links on this post is an affiliate link to a product which I personally use, available from Amazon. If you click on the link and buy the product then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself.

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Sketchbook Painting

Sketchbook watercolour

View from the Relais il Canalicchio

Our first trip to to the region Umbria in Italy was in the spring of 2002. We stayed at the Relais il Canalicchio which boasts commanding views over the Umbrian countryside. In fact the owners of the hotel commissioned me to do a painting of the Relais which is available as a limited edition print.

On one of our trips out to explore the region we ventured further afield and visited the Fabriano paper factory in Le Marche. I couldn’t resist purchasing several leather bound sketchbooks containing their beautiful hand made paper. It’s a delight to paint on.  You initially feel a little scared to paint in these books in case you mess up!

I did pluck up the courage though and one evening I painted the view from out window, a simple composition of a small farm building silhouetted against the warmth of the spring evening light.

These are the kind of subjects that I would be encouraging guests on our painting holidays in Italy to paint. I would be leading by example but also overseeing their work, deciding on the right composition, advising on choice of colours, sequence of washes and of course making sure that they don’t spoil the painting by overworking it.

Nowadays there are some excellent sketchbooks available in the UK and online containing good quality paper to paint on. I also recommend the Arches watercolour blocks for slightly larger paintings. A 14″ x 10″ or 12″ x 9″ containing rough paper which is small enough to pop into a bag with the rest of your painting gear.

I usually have a range of materials available from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland, Northumberland. To find out more about our painting holidays in Italy visit

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Art Exhibition with Demonstration

Art Exhibition with Demonstration

on September 17th 2015

at The Northern Counties Club, 11 Hood Street, Newcastle

The evening will commence at 6.00pm with a reception drink and canapés.

7.00pm – 8.00pm

Watercolour demonstration and viewing of paintings


Supper in the dining room

Alan has 30 years experience in teaching Art & Design. He is regularly asked to do watercolour demonstrations for Art Clubs and he takes his own Art Classes and Painting Holidays. He also does private lessons in painting and drawing. Taking commissions and portrait paintings from life is another one of Alan’s specialities.

Tickets are £25 and can be purchased by calling Alan on 01661 871 800

Network Artist Alan Reed Studio

Artist Alan Reed in Studio

Watching an experienced artist doing a painting demonstration can be a great help in understanding some of the techniques and methods that you can use if you’re looking to develop your own craft. When I’m doing a demonstration I will usually work on several paintings over the duration of the lesson so that no time is lost waiting for the paint to dry.

Whether you are an experienced painter or just a beginner I’ve no doubt that you will gain some benefit from watching me paint. As a taster, why not watch this short video of me painting on location.

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Watercolour by Alan Reed


I’m currently reading Andrew Graham Dixon‘s excellent, well researched book “Caravaggio A Life Sacred and Profane”. I recall being totally enthralled and inspired by the stunning exhibition of Caravaggio’s paintings at the National Gallery in London back in 2005 and wished that I’d had a deeper understanding of the Christian symbolism that is at the core of his paintings.

Andrew’s carefully thought out book which beautifully dovetails the relevant passages of scripture to each painting described, certainly enlightens the viewer to both the meaning of each masterpiece and provides a helpful insight to the Word of God that Caravaggio’s work aimed to bring to life in his generation as a catalyst to worship.

Over the years I have painted a number of watercolours which do contain symbolism and meaning beyond the surface depiction of a specific place or person, however I’ve always allowed the viewer to come to their own conclusion of any significance. On our recent Painting Holiday in Umbria, Italy I began to see another painting develop from a single sketchbook watercolour that I decided to paint for my own meditation and reflection.

One of our guests on the Painting Holiday is a talented pianist and a committed christian. Every day he would spend time playing the grand piano that sits in the beautifully restored church Chiesa del Carmine where we stay. In the evenings after our evening meal he would entertain us with some delightful rendition of “As time goes by” and “Somewhere over the Rainbow”. The symbolism in the painting is not too difficult to see as the scene portrayed is in a building that once was a dwelling place for believers as they gathered to worship. There are plenty of objects in the room setting that one can meditate on and use to bring scripture to mind to reflect on like the terracotta lion, the crucifix, the incense burner, the candle stands, the light streaming through the window and of course the piano itself being played by the believer. There are others which I will leave to the viewer to ponder and look for.

Back in 2004 we were staying at the nearby Casa San Gabriel and we took the scenic walk around the undulating valley. I stopped to do a small sketchbook water-colour of the old church, then in ruins, overgrown and looking totally dilapidated. I remember thinking at the time it would be great to take this ruined structure and restore it, however I never envisioned that I would actually be staying there and painting it with a group of guests!

The actual quality of the restoration is of the highest standard, right down to the smallest details. Chiesa del Carmine has a fully fitted kitchen, dinning room, living room and toilet and is the perfect place to relax, read, listen to music or even play music. The villa next door has also been restored to the same high standard and can accommodate 14.

Our week in May 2016 is now fully booked up. There is availability for the week in June 2016 and we may do a week in September 2016 too. Please contact us if you would like to receive further details.

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Great Review from a Client

Watercolour of the Arch of Titus

Arch of Titus, Rome


I’ve been working on a number of painting commissions of Rome for a new client. Last week I sent out one of the paintings so I was very pleased to receive the following review today for the original watercolour of “The Arch of Titus”.

This particular painting is based on a sketchbook study painted on location and a number of photographs. I felt that it was important to take care in capturing the Latin inscription and the scene under the arch itself that shows the spoils of Jerusalem. However, it was also important to retain the spontaneity of the sketchbook study too.

“Dear Alan,
I fear singing your praises as you may decide to raise your price for future work.
But worthy praise should be given heartily and your work is spectacular – worthy of the Emperor himself!
Thank you.
I look forward to the forum and other works.
Enjoy the weekend.”


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Summer Exhibition July 2015

Summer Exhibition

All are welcome to join us on 11th July 2015 for our Summer Exhibition.

Enjoy luscious strawberries and Prosecco whilst browsing beautiful paintings.

Today we have been packing up invitations and brochures to send out to our valued customers.

If you are not on our mailing list and would like to receive one then please contact us and we would be happy to send one out to you.

The brochure displays new paintings and prints, also information about commissions and news of our Painting Holiday.



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Painting Holiday

Alan Reed Painting Holiday

Demonstrating how to paint in the grounds of Chiesa del Carmine

We have just returned from another successful Painting Holiday in Umbria, Italy. Six of our guests from our Painting Holiday in 2014 joined us again this year and  all nine guests hope to return in 2016.

The venue this year was the recently restored church Chiesa del Carmine, a building that was in ruins which I first painted on location back in 2004. I never dreamed that one day I would have the privilege of painting in, what is now, beautifully landscaped gardens.

The accommodation itself is stunning and is the perfect place to chill out and relax. There are plenty of subjects to paint in and around the property (which we did) but we also enjoyed a couple of day trips out and about.

The first was the small hilltop town Todi, just south of Perugia. We based ourselves in the piazza and painted the architecture before enjoying a delicious pizza at a nearby restaurant. 


Alan Reed Painting

Watercolour Sketchbook Study of Todi, Umbria


After lunch we continued painting the town, this time from a vantage point where we could tackle the terracotta roofs and countryside.

The second day trip was to the market at Umbertide where guests enjoyed wandering about in the warm sunshine followed by lunch in Gubbio, a larger town that boasts the remains of a Roman Teatro and a network of typical Umbrian street scenes.

The painting guests tackled a rather challenging stone fountain, appropriately named Fountain of Madness.

I too had a go painting the fountain but also painted a sketchbook watercolour of the nearby street, capturing the contrasts between the sunlit areas and shadows.

The owners of Chiesa del Carmine offered a 250 Euro prize to the best painting of the week that captured the venue. All the painting guests spent considerable time tackling what was a very difficult subject and the results were not easy to judge. We had an informal critique at the end of the week of all the paintings produced where I also announced the winning painting which will go on display in Chiesa del Carmine.

Alan Reed Painting

Sketchbook Watercolour of Street scene in Gubbio

We’ve already booked the same venue our Painting Holiday next May but this time over two weeks as many more folk have expressed an interest in coming. Please contact for further information.



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