John Singer Sargent

Richard Ormond & Elaine Kilmurray

Portraits of Artists and Friends

One of the “must see” exhibitions of 2015 has to be the John Singer Sargent, Portraits of Artists and Friends show at the National Portrait Gallery, London. It is accompanied by a terrific new book by Richard Ormond who is the co-author (with Elaine Kilmurray) of the Complete Paintings  of his great-uncle, John Singer Sargent.

In many ways, for an artist like myself, this new book is one of the best by Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray as it contains full size plates of many of the paintings featured in the exhibition and a few of Sargent’s more well known works like Lady Agnew. The book is available from the National Portrait Gallery Shop for £35 (extremely good value) or you can buy it online from Amazon. 

The advantage of the larger plates is that you get a closer view of the amazing brush marks and texture that Sargent used to such great effect.

What is apparent in this exhibition is just how Sargent appears to be even more relaxed and confident in the company of those close friends who were celebrities in their own right. Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet and Antonio Manchini are amongst the cast of artists. Also included are the well known writers Robert Louis Stevenson and Henry James together with a number of famous singers, musicians, dancers and actresses.

Although these portraits can be seen as informal on one level, they also show just how creative Sargent was at getting his subject to sit for him. For example, I find his portrait of his mentor Carolus-Duran utterly engaging. I flit between seeing myself as the one being challenged to paint Sargent’s Parisian master. Or being tutored by Sargent himself, with him watching my tentative efforts at the easel. Finally I stand back as a bystander, watching the intimacy of the young Sargent in full concentration, considering each brush stroke, then wiping it away to replace it with a stroke executed with even greater authority.

The poses themselves are very well considered in terms of composition, lighting, movement and mood, helping us to enter into Sargent’s personal world and to connect with his friends.  He woos us with his virtuosity and skill with the brush. His draughtsmanship and use of colour is both breathtaking and full of life. Sargent gives us a privileged insight into his world and creates within us a hunger to discover more.

I went to exhibition in March, armed with my moleskine sketchbook and an array of charcoal pencils. I managed to draw 8 of the portraits on display which was pure fun, particularly later on in the afternoon when the crowds began to thin out and I was able to get much closer to the paintings.

Sargent Portrait

Charcoal drawing of Ernest-Ange Duez after John Singer Sargent

The exhibition continues until 25th May 2015. Go to the National Portrait Gallery website to book your tickets.

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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Portraits

Matthew Tuckey Portrait

Matthew Tuckey Portrait in oils.

At the start of 2011 I was approaching the grand age of 50. It was a period of my life where I began to take a longer, more reflective and honest look at my life on a number of different levels, personally, spiritually, my family life and my career as an artist. One of the outcomes of this time of reflection was the decision that I needed to invest more time in developing and exercising my skills as an artist to ensure that I was making the most of the gifts God has given me.

I felt that to improve as a watercolourist, it would be good to venture into some new subject matter and a different medium which would help me to progress as an artist in terms of both technical skill and creativity.

I had always been an admirer of the paintings of John Singer Sargent who was a highly skilful watercolorist but he was also a brilliant portrait painter. An interest in portraiture was birthed within me and I began to make some serious studies into portrait painting, investing considerable time, energy and resources into finding out how to become how to become an accomplished portrait artist.

Although working from photographs can help you to achieve some good results, there really is no better way to paint a portrait than working from life. As you study the persons features and engage in conversation you begin to develop a unique relationship with the sitter and you try to bring something of the model’s personality, expressions and character into the painting.

In many respects it’s similar to painting a landscape in watercolour. You want to capture the mood and atmosphere of the place you are painting to the point where the viewer feels as though they are actually in the landscape or cityscape, evoking memories about the place or creating in them a desire to visit the place you have painted. With a portrait, you want the viewer to connect in some way with the person captured in paint, whether they know them already or not.

When learning to paint portraits from life, one of the biggest challenges is finding willing models to sit for you and of course the time to paint them. So when I was approached by City Church, Newcastle in 2013  to produce a series of portraits of some of the church members which would reflect  the vision of the church, I realised that this would be a win win situation for all concerned.

The vision of City Church is to be a church of thousands, expressing God’s heart and love for everyone on Tyneside. The artwork that I have been working on since October 2013 is a number of portraits showing the diversity and life of City Church, Newcastle, ranging from small children, teenagers, young adults to older members. Also, the church is made of people from different ethnic backgrounds, so again, the portraits reflect that cultural diversity.

I learnt early on in my career as a watercolourist when to actually stop working on a watercolour painting. If you overwork a watercolour, you run a very real risk of spoiling it and there’s no going back to making it better. Oil painting is quite different. You have the luxury of painting over mistakes and re-working brush marks to make corrections or improvements.

After painting the first 10 portraits, almost exclusively from life, I came to a realisation that I had to find a creative reason to finish each one. Because of my own high standards and desire for perfection (which I’m never going to achieve!) I kept seeing aspects of everyone’s portrait that I wanted to change to try to improve it. I came to the conclusion that I would leave some of the portraits deliberately “unfinished”. The idea behind that decision is that all of us who are Christians are a work in progress. We are growing in maturity to being like Jesus but non of us will be like Him until we see Him face to face. My choice of who is “unfinished” is not any judgement on that particular person’s spirituality, but much more of a random choice. The unfinished look is also an acknowledgement on my part that I’m not the “finished” artist that God intends me to be, I’m still learning all the time.

I now have 22 portraits painted in oils on aluminium panels that will hang collectively in the atrium of the CastleGate, accompanied by testimonials of City Church members. It’s been a genuine privilege for me to spend time with the folk I have painted. What is also interesting is that several members have moved on which also reflects the transient nature of a thriving church community. God is also on the move, leading people to fulfil their destiny, which is not always going to be in Newcastle. This project has been a significant part of my development as an artist and as a member of City Church, Newcastle. I’m hoping that the paintings will be hung sometime late May, early June with an official launch later on in the year.

The photograph above is of Matthew Tuckey after his first 2 hour sitting.

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Frank Henry Mason

Frank Henry Mason

Pyramids at Gizza, Cairo

I’ve been a long admirer of the Marine Painter and Poster Artist Frank Henry Mason. Over the years one of my clients has collected Frank Henry Mason’s work and I’ve had the privilage of organising new conservation mounts for the paintings to go into.

In a blog post from 2012 I wrote about Frank Henry Mason which was picked up by a gentleman called Edward Yardley. “Ed” had written about Frank Henry Mason back in 1996 and to cut a long story short, I was able to introduce him to my client. The result of their meeting is a lovely new book about Frank Mason by Edward Yardley and a series of major exhibitions of Frank Henry Mason’s art over the next few months.

The first exhibition opened last night at Hartlepool Art Gallery in Church Square. It opens to the public Saturday 21st March and runs until the 30th May 2015. I went to the preview evening and I have to say, it’s probably the finest exhibition I’ve seen in the North East since the Winslow Homer Exhibition in 1988 at the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art in Sunderland.

Frank Henry Mason’s varied artistic skills are clearly evident in his delightful watercolours of sailing ships, fishing vessels, places like Venice, Portugal and the North East Coast. There are also dramatic seascapes depicting World War 1 & 2 navel conflicts, his carefully considered etchings and of course his stunning railway posters.

One of my favourites is this beautifully executed watercolour and gouache painting of Pyramids at Gizza seen in what looks like early evening light. The limited palate has been tastefully chosen to render the fading light. Flicks of red, ultramarine and pink add subtle sparkle to the scene. The crescent moon hanging off centre in the sky, just above the towering palm trees is a small but crisp contrast to the smooth, skilfully rendered washes for the sky.

Make no mistake, Frank Henry Mason was a very fine painter. This exhibition is an absolute must. If that wasn’t enough, another exhibition opens Saturday 21st March at Darlington Railway Museum of Railway Posters and Carriage Prints by Frank Henry Mason. Both exhibitions run until 30th May.

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Gullane Art Gallery

Painting of Preston Mill, East Lothian

Preston Mill, East Lothian

I’ve been invited back to exhibit at the Gullane Art Gallery in East Lothian, Scotland as part of their “Promise of Spring” exhibition.

This will be the third time I’ve exhibited at this lovely art gallery not far from North Berwick. I remember as a child we had several family holidays in North Berwick and have vivid recollections of climbing the Law, playing on the putting greens and exploring rock pools.

I also remember Preston Mill, East Lothian’s last working water mill which is now a National Trust property. One of my painting heroes, Rowland Hilder did a watercolour of it, probably in the 60’s. My father Ken Reed also painted it about forty years ago. I thought it only fitting that I should have a go at capturing this delightful historic building for this new exhibition at the Gullane Art Gallery.

Watercolours of the Bass Rock, the Lamb and Fidra also feature in the show together with a new painting of the Grassmarket in Edinburgh. New paintings of Italy, particularly Tuscany, form part of the exhibition too.

You can see my paintings on the Gullane Art Gallery website.

The exhibition at the Gullane Art Gallery starts from noon on Saturday 7th March and runs until Sunday 29th March.

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Edinburgh in the Snow

Edinburgh in the Snow available as a print

Edinburgh in the Snow

This year, my 30th Anniversary since going self employed as a full time artist, I am holding a number of special exhibitions at various venues.

The current exhibition opened on Friday night at the Bob Abley Gallery at Spennymoor Town Hall. The exhibition runs 7th – 28th February and features 30 paintings that represent many of the subjects and places I have painted over the last 30 years.

Since 1993 I have been very fortunate to sell many limited edition prints of Edinburgh.  It was only fitting to include in the exhibition, a new original watercolour of Edinburgh in the Snow which is also available as a limited edition print with only 95 in the edition.

Other subjects include some new original paintings of Newcastle, Italy and the Middle East. As I’m currently working on a series of portraits of members of City Church, Newcastle, I’ve also included some figurative paintings too.

The Bob Abley Gallery is a lovely well lit exhibition space so I’m delighted to have the opportunity to show so many of my paintings together throughout February.

 

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Painting Holiday in Umbria

Near Pienza, Evening Sunlight

Near Pienza, Evening Sunlight

There are only 2 double rooms and a single room left on our Painting Holiday in Umbria, Italy 9-16th May 2015.

I’m really looking forward to what promises to be a lovely time of painting “en plein air” in and around a beautiful part of Italy.

Guests will have a fabulous opportunity to brush up on their painting skills whilst enjoying a lovely spring break in the glorious Umbrian countryside.

I recently demonstrated to my Friday watercolour class how to paint the Tuscan landscape using a series of simple washes to create depth and mood. This was done over two paintings. One was of Val d’Orcia early morning. The other was a scene near Pienza capturing the early evening sunlight. I’ll be planning similar exercises for the folk coming on the Painting Holiday in Umbria.

Guests will also be able to enjoy 7 Night Luxury 5* accommodation with heated swimming pool at the enchanting Italian hideaway, 5* luxurious Chiesa del Carmine.

We will have the opportunity to explore the surrounding villages and towns, as well as enjoying ample time to capture the stunning scenery surrounding Chiesa del Carmine.

After enjoying a delicious breakfast together at the Villa, a typical day will either be spent visiting one of the nearby towns like Cortona, Assisi, Spello or Perugia, or we will spend the day painting around Chiesa del Carmine or Casa San Gabriel.
Non painting guests are also very welcome and can either join us on days out or explore for themselves the beautiful surroundings. We will endeavour to meet your every requirements.

Antognolla is a championship golf course only 10 mins drive away and golf clubs are available.

Evenings are convivial gatherings, with pre-dinner drinks taken on the terrace, followed by a delicious Italian home cooked evening meal by our own chef either at Chiesa del Carmine or at a nearby restaurant. Breakfast and evening meals are Included in the price.

Guests will need to organize their own flights and car hire. However, it may be possible to share the cost of car hire with other guests.

If you would like to find out more, then please contact Alan or Susan on 01661 871 800  or email.

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Painting Holiday, Italy

Watercolour Sketch

Sketchbook Watercolour of Perugia

There are still a few places available for our Painting Holiday, Italy May 2015. This year we’ve booked the luxurious 5* Chiesa del Carmine set in a picturesque valley in Umbria.

Susan and I first stayed in this stunning valley at  Casa San Gabriel  (which boasts commanding views looking towards Assisi) back in 2004. The owners, David and Chrissie, commissioned me to do a painting of their properties which had been lovingly restored into holiday homes. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we’ve kept coming back ever since!

The dates for this Painting Holiday, Italy are 9th-16th May 2015. Six of the guests from last year have re-booked and this is what one couple had to say about the trip.

“My wife and I decided to go on a painting and sketching holiday last year organized by Alan Reed.

The location was in the Italian region of Umbria. Our expectations were high but were far exceeded by the actual experience.

A combination of beautiful scenery, superb accommodation and professional guidance made it an unforgettable event”.

Thank you Alan. Léon and Linda.

Susan and I will be taking guests out to some of the nearby towns and villages so that the painters can learn how to paint “en plein air”. I’ll be leading by example through my sketchbook watercolours and larger studies painted on Arches Watercolour Blocks.

I’ll also be showing the benefit of sketching in moleskine sketchbooks to improve ones drawing techniques.

Non painting guests will be able to explore the places we visit knowing that Susan will be on hand to translate any Italian if required. There will also be time to chill out in the beautiful grounds of Chiesa del Carmine or go for relaxing walks in the valley. Included in the price is the accommodation, breakfasts and evening meals.

To find out more, please contact Susan or myself.

Some of the links on this post are affiliate links to products which I personally use, available from Amazon. If you click on either of the links 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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Watercolour Course

Original Watercolour of Theatre Royal

Grey Street, Snow is Falling

My next Watercolour Course is being held at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland starting Friday 30th January-6th March.

This new Watercolour Course lasts 6 weeks and I will be covering many different aspects of what has been described as the most difficult medium to master.

However, even though watercolour painting is challenging, even an absolute beginner will be able to gain an insight and understanding of at least the basics of watercolour painting through the step by step demonstrations I’ll be giving on a weekly basis.

Each day begins with me going through the reference material provided for the lesson by demonstrating each stage for the students. They then go and work through the process themselves. I’m always on hand should anyone run into any major problems, although I do stress that we learn the most through making mistakes!

Fresh tea and coffee is provided but I recommend that pupils bring a packed lunch to break up the lesson which runs from 10-3pm.

Regarding materials, these are the colours I tend to use the most and which I carry on location: Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Scarlet Lake, Rose Madder, Ultramarine Violet, French Ultramarine, Manganese Blue Hue, Cobalt Turquoise Light, Windsor Green, Burnt Umber, Vandyke Brown, Payne’s Grey, Lamp Black and Chinese White.

Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue, Winsor Yellow and Cadmium Orange are also colours which I might also use when working in the studio. Remember, you can mix colours, either in your mixing palettes or through laying one wash of colour on top of another when it’s dry.

For paper, I like to demonstrate on Arches Watercolour Blocks, 14″ x 10″ rough surface or 12″ x 9″ size. I also recommend having a moleskine sketchbook to practise drawing out the subject before commencing the painting.

The painting above “Grey Street, Snow is Falling” is one of the paintings I demonstrated on the last course for the final week. It’s a variation on a watercolour I painted several years ago as a Christmas Card.

I was pleased with the results that the class came up with after only 5 weeks tuition and the feedback about the watercolour course I received from everyone was very positive. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact me.

The links on this post are affiliate links to products which I personally use. If you click on the links and buy any of these products then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself.

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Artist of the Year 2014 Exhibition

 

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Alan Reed outside Mall Galleries, London

On Tuesday evening I attended the Preview evening for Artists & Illustrators Magazine‘s “artist of the year 2014″ exhibition.

I was delighted to be chosen as one of 50 shortlisted artists out of over 3000 entries with my entry “Last Light, Ruwi”, particularly as it came in my 30th anniversary year.

You can read more about my painting in a blog post I wrote 7th October about the competition.

The exhibition is being held at the Mall Galleries, London until 17th January.

If you’re in London during this period I can recommend calling into the Mall Galleries (situated on the Mall near Admiralty Arch) to see the exhibition for artist of the year 2014. It features a wide range of artistic styles and mediums.

Also, try to see the stunning Rembrandt show at the National Gallery which finishes 18th January. It’s worth putting up with the crowds to take in the late works of one of the greatest painters of all time.

I managed to get to the Rembrandt, Late Works show and despite the crowds was able to make several sketchbook studies in my moleskine sketchbook using charcoal pencils. I’ll be saying more about this in a future blog post.

One of the links on this post is an affiliate link to a Moleskine sketchbook, a product which I personally use, available from Amazon. Another is for some charcoal pencils. If you click on the links and buy any of these products then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself.

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Portraits in Charcoal

Charcoal Portrait of Emanuela

Portrait of Emanuela

Drawing Portraits in Charcoal can be a very rewarding experience, especially when you are working from life. When I have a portrait commission, especially if it’s a child, I find it helpful to do a quick study in one of my moleskine sketchbooks.

Usually children these days don’t like to sit still for even just a few minutes so it’s nigh on impossible to do an oil painting from life of a child. One has to rely on photographs but there is a real benefit in having a couple of sketches to refer to as well.

This study in charcoal pencil of Emanuela is based on a much longer drawing made from life over three short afternoon sittings. It is currently on view as part of my 30th Anniversary Christmas exhibition at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

One of the links on this post is an affiliate link to a Moleskine sketchbook, a product which I personally use, available from Amazon. Another is for some charcoal pencils. If you click on the links and buy any of these products then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself.

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