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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Painting Holidays in Italy

Over the last few months we have been telling the story of our love affair with Italy on the Reedart Painting Holidays in Italy blog. You can see the story unfold by going straight to Reedart Painting Holidays in Italy, but if you want to follow our adventures from here then read on.

The Adventure Begins

“The world stood still around them as they sat together on the piazza of San Gimignano, a beautiful walled medieval hill town in Tuscany. Having spent the afternoon sampling wild boar salami, cheeses and other delicacies, and dipping in and out of the local papiro (paper) shops and boutiques, the pair sat together watching the world beyond in perfect harmony, Susan sipping a glass of wine while Alan painted the scene before them.”

Their trips taken together span wedding anniversaries, births of grandchildren, picnics at Lake Garda and other international adventures to some of the world’s most beautiful and far-flung locations and they all have one thing in common: travelling the world with his wife Susan and family, painting often “on location” or, later from a misty memory or photograph has helped shape the distinctive style of one of the North East’s most admired artists, Alan Reed.

Join us in this brand new series of blog posts as we take a trip down memory lane and uncover the stories behind Alan Reed Art and their Painting Holidays in Italy.

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Christmas Exhibition

Alan Reed Art

Aiguille du Midi

Christmas Exhibition at the Alan Reed Studio & Gallery in Ponteland

Christmas Exhibition Preview Weekend 5th & 6th December

Tuesday to Saturday 9:30am -5:00pm

Continues until 24th December 2015

Earlier this year we had a family holiday in Chamonix, France with our daughter and grandchildren. We took two trips up the spectacular Aiguille du Midi which we would gaze at every day from our apartment in Chamonix.

On each trip up this dramatic peak, accessed by cable car, I did a sketchbook watercolour, one of Mont Blanc, the other seen below, looking across the vast expanse of mountain peaks that seemed to go on for ever. The sketchbook painting became the catalyst for this 16″ x 12″ studio watercolour above, which can be seen at our Christmas Exhibition.

The preview weekend starts 5th & 6th December. The Christmas Exhibition continues until 24th December.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of Aiguille du Midi

From Aiguille du Midi you also get a wonderful view of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps. I enjoyed painting these scenes so much that I intend to develop more of my sketchbook paintings from Chamonix into larger works.

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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

 

A classic Grey Street snow scene with busy Christmas shoppers and their umbrellas. I’ve used a limited palette for the architecture and sky however a touch of Cadmium red for the traditional British red pillar box and Anya provides a focus point to this wintery Christmas Card.

The original watercolour painting is 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”.

Arthur

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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Drawing

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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