Paintings of olive trees

Alan Reed

Olive Grove, Spring Light

I’ve been painting “en plein air” in Italy since 1991 when Susan took me to Venice. I fell in love with its architecture, the light, atmosphere and culture. However, it was not until our first visit to Umbria in March 2002 that I started to make sketchbook studies of olive trees.

We were staying in the Relais il Canalicchio hotel, perched on a hill commanding stunning views of the Umbrian countryside. During the first night of our stay, having enjoyed a fabulous meal at their restaurant, there was a heavy fall of snow. We awoke to complete silence and total white out. We were literally snowed in until the following day. Once the snow had cleared we began to explore Umbria in earnest, taking in hilltop towns like Orvieto, Todi, Perugia, Assisi and Norcia.

On one occasion we drove to the Fabriano paper factory and I purchased several leather bound sketchbooks containing their wonderful hand made watercolour paper that is so lovely to paint on. On our return to the Relais il Canalicchio I wasted no time in testing the first sketchbook by painting the view from our room as the sun was going down.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour from the Relais il Canalicchio

It was during this period that I began to develop a sketchbook painting style in watercolour where I would deliberately avoid drawing out beforehand the scene in pencil. This meant that the brush marks became more considered, fluid and direct.

I also began to make sketchbook studies of the olive trees that surrounded the tiny hill top town of Canalicchio. These became the inspiration for a number of studio paintings including the one below of the Relais il Canalicchio available as a limited edition print.

Painting of Relais il Canalicchio

Relais il Canalicchio

On our reedart painting holidays in Umbria we stay at Chiesa del Carmine. The gardens have plenty of olive trees for the guests to paint. They have fun painting and drawing their twisted branches and beautifully shaped leaves. I also join in the fun with my own sketchbook watercolours. These days I make my own sketchbooks using paper from Khadi Papers and leather from a local supplier.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour of Olive trees

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Clifton Suspension Bridge

Alan Reed

Clifton Suspension Bridge in the Mist

In 2013 I entered the Bristol Prize. The organisers of this new painting competition had also run the Bath Prize for several years where I was runner up in 2010 with my painting of the Royal Crescent. I also won the Circus Prize in 2011 with my watercolour of The Circus.

I was keen to visit Bristol and spent a day painting on location which was one of the criteria for entry. Each artist was given a location to paint “en plein air” which can often be quite a challenge. However, you were also allowed to paint scenes of you own choosing so I wasted no time in finding an appropriate view to sketch this famous bridge which spans the Avon in dramatic fashion. It was opened in 1864 based on Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s initial designs, completed several years after his death.

In this watercolour of Clifton Suspension Bridge I decided to keep the colours quite neutral to create a sense of mood and drama. Painting it in the mist provided areas of contrast both in tonal values but also in the way you have sharp, hard lines verses soft, gentle edges. It’s these kind of elements that one needs to be conscious of when painting this kind of subject, otherwise the overall effect can end up looking sterile and mechanical. The way that the man made tower emerges out of the natural uncut rocks provides further contrast and interest too.

“Clifton Suspension Bridge in the Mist” is now available as a limited edition print online from alanreed.com and from our Gallery in Ponteland.

 

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Royal Albert Hall

Alan Reed

The Royal Albert Hall

I’m always been attracted to fine, beautifully designed buildings. Painting them means that you end up looking much more intensely to their architectural features and appreciating them all the more.

I first painted the Royal Albert Hall, London in 2005 and sold the original watercolour to a famous opera singer. I recently decided to paint a much larger study which is now available as this limited edition print.

As it was almost 12 years since I first painted the Royal Albert Hall, I decided to re-visit the scene early autumn last year to remind myself of its scale and majesty but discovered that the trees either side of the fine steps leading up to the monument had grown much taller and were obscuring the building. Fortunately I still had the research studies I’d made 12 years previously so I could refer to them.

On a painting of this kind of scale the danger is to really tighten up with the brush marks to the point of making the painting look like a photograph. I had to keep stopping myself from going too detailed to keep the painting looking bright and fresh.

I also made sure that I didn’t go too dark with the shadow areas which could have caused the colours to go muddy. Keeping the effect of autumn sunlight hitting the golden architecture was an important element to the painting too. A light wash of Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Lemon at the start provided a good base for all the other colours. The wash was intensified around the area of the Royal Albert Hall.

A large size 20 brush was used for much of the painting to avoid going too tight although I did use a smaller brush for some of the architectural details and the figures.

You can watch a short video of me painting 2two of the figures on YouTube.

Music has always been a huge part of my life. Since I’ve started to learn to play the piano in 2015, it has become even more influential to my daily routine. For anyone who has fond memories of seeing concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, this painting will no doubt trigger off recollections of their favourite music.

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World Encephalitis Day

Alan Reed

Behind the Smile

The 22nd February 2017 is World Encephalitis Day, the global awareness day for people who are directly or indirectly affected by encephalitis. I had no idea what encephalitis was until Sarah was diagnosed. I’d watched Sarah grow up from being a little girl for over 20 years so I was deeply shocked to hear of her illness.

Sarah has found painting and writing poetry a way of raising awareness of her illness. I’ve had the privilege of giving Sarah some drawing lessons to help her develop her growing skills in this area. Earlier this year I asked Sarah if she would like to sit for me to have her portrait painted so that I could play my part in helping folk understand more about encephalitis. The portrait was painted in oils over three sittings using a sight size method. I’ve used a very limited palette of only 4 colours using Old Holland Paints. For those wishing to try oil painting here is an excellent independant blog post reviewing many different brands.

We decided together that Sarah would wear her laboratory coat as a reminder of her training as a chemist and that we would keep the background stark and clinical as a reference to her illness and treatment.

I’ve asked Sarah to write a few words about her story so that we can try to understand what it must be like for her. As it’s World Encephalitis Day 22nd, the Millennium Bridge is going to be lit red. I’ll be joining Sarah and her mum at 7pm as they hand out flyers.

Behind the Smile by Sarah Galloway

A picture says a thousand words, though a thousand words may be insufficient to paint the picture of my story. I’ll try sticking to roughly five hundred instead.

I am 26, a chemist by training though dabbling in art myself as a trade. This portrait was painted after four years of serious illness. Four years of psychotic episodes, spontaneous self-harm and memory loss. Four years of utter hell.

So what’s the problem? A portrait seems quite fitting for this as it is quite literally all in my head. My body has been attacking parts of my brain causing it to swell. This is known as encephalitis.

At 22 I found myself lost and utterly undone. It is hard to go into detail about the events of that time, partly because I genuinely don’t remember, and partly because it is simply too shocking to want to think about. Let’s agree on one thing…psychosis sucks. It is a thief that drags away your security, identity and stability and leaves you hollow, confused and empty.

I have spent the last four years battling hallucinations and dramatic emotional outbursts. I have seen and felt spider’s legs on my torso, worms in my mouth and teeth on my neck. My sequencing became so bad that I would shower with my clothes on by accident. Socially I was unable to focus or remember what people were saying. It has been frightening and frustrating.

I was incredibly moved when Alan asked to paint this portrait. Raising awareness about encephalitis has been my main motivation this year and it was amazing to see this shared by a friend.

As I was part way through a relapse and also experiencing nerve pain down one leg I found it very challenging to sit still for the actual painting itself. Holding a smile is also quite difficult!

The smile was deliberate. Encephalitis can be like having an invisible illness. Most of the time, to most people, I can seem perfectly normal. My natural setting is a smile and it has sometimes become like a mask. Encephalitis can be very personal and painful to talk about so it is better to deflect then have to delve into it all with everyone.

Some people however have been complete rocks in my life. My family and my closest friends have been sources of comfort and confidence. My faith has been another stable place in which I can stand against encephalitis. For these I am eternally grateful.

The more people that know about it the easier it will be to find and fight this disease! Encephalitis is happening all the time. I, like many others, was misdiagnosed at first. My recovery is based on a fortunate research trial. The right treatment at the right time can literally save a life.

 

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Painting on Gold Leaf

Oil Painting by Alan Reed

“Buckingham Palace from Green Park” painted in oils on Gold Leaf.

I first started painting on gold leaf in 2009 when I was working on a large painting commission. As part of the project I worked on some small boards about 19″x 15″ which were primed with gold leaf. I used these to produce some experimental paintings, one of which was a portrait of my wife Susan. The whole experience was challenging but very rewarding. Difficulties can arise in trying to get the right colours when the gold comes through the initial coat of paint. You have to build up the tonal values and colours to balance them against the gold. This can take time.

Painting on gold leaf creates effects which can change quite dramatically depending on the lighting. This can bring an almost 3D quality to the painting, especially when viewed with a spotlight.

In the oil painting of “Buckingham Palace from Green Park” I decided to use my limited edition print of the same scene as a basis for the idea. However, instead of using a wider range of tones and colours, I chose to use just 6 colours in a flat art deco style, leaving the gold leaf itself as an extra colour for the sky and reflections and highlights in the foreground.

The overall effect is both engaging and dramatic. You get a strong sense of light and warmth coming through from the sky which is emphasised by the shadows being cast by the trees and the lamp post. I’ve stylised the scene to simplify it as there is a lot going on with the leaves, architecture and trees.

Both the Buckingham Palace painting and the portrait of Susan can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland as part of my Christmas Exhibition which runs until the 24th December 2016.

Alan Reed

Susan, Oil on Gold Leaf

 

 

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Tree of the Year

Painting of Robin Hood's Tree, Hadrians Wall

Sycamore Gap, Hadrians Wall

Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland was voted Tree of the Year this week by a public vote for the nations best loved tree, organised by The Woodland Trust. 

The winning tree will now receive a grant of £1000 for some “Tree LC” and will compete against trees from all over the Continent for the title of European Tree of the Year, organised by the Environmental Partnership Association.

I recall painting a watercolour of the tree in snow as a Christmas Card for the Marie Curie Cancer fund over 10 years ago. This stretch of Hadrian’s Wall is bleak but spectacular in its barreness and stark beauty. As I’m writing this I’m feeling compelled to go for a walk along the wall and do a spot of sketching!

Sycamore Gap is also known as Robin Hood’s Tree for its appearance in the film Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner.

I’ve since painted the famous tree of the year again in winter sunlight. My viewpoint is taken from the Military Road which shows the tree of the year nestling in the famous gap in the wall. Sunlight is catching the clouds behind and creating an overall feeling of warmth to the painting.

The painting forms part of my Christmas Exhibition at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland which finishes on the 24th December 2016.

 

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San Gimignano

Alan Reed

San Gimignano, Afternoon Sunlight

Susan and I first visited San Gimignano in February 1999. We were staying in Florence for several days and having seen San Gimignano featured on a holiday programme, we decided to go there for the day. A local bus took us to nearby Poggibonsi then after a short wait, another bus to our destination, the medieval hilltop town of San Gimignano.

From a distance it looks like a mini Manhattan with its 14 towers gracing the Tuscan skyline. Apparently it did boast 72 towers, built by the Patrician families who controlled the town. The bigger the tower, the greater your wealth! I remember painting a watercolour by the well in Piazza della Cisterna whilst Susan went off to buy some wild boar salami for an al fresco lunch. Even though it was February, it was bright, warm and sunny, ideal conditions for painting “en plein air”.

After lunch I spent the afternoon wandering about gathering further reference to do a studio painting to add to my Italian Collection of Limited Edition Prints. As the sun began to set and we made our way to the bus I noticed that the stonework began to turn a beautifully warm pink with hints of orange. I logged the colours in my mind and decided that this would be mood and atmosphere I would aim to capture.

The studio painting of San Gimignano which was reproduced as a limited edition print was an immediate success. I still sell copies of it online and from our gallery in Ponteland. More recently I’ve painted a portrait version of a similar view which is also available as a limited edition print.

You can see a short video on YouTube of the original watercolour “San Gimignano, Afternoon sunlight” which can also be seen at my Studio & Gallery.

 

 

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Christmas Cards

Christmas Cards available to purchase online www.alanreed.com or from Alan Reed Studio and Gallery in Ponteland

Our Christmas Exhibition is now on where you can visit us and see a large collection of Paintings, Prints, Christmas Cards and Gifts.

Grey Street in the Snow

Christmas Cards

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The Artist

Alan Reed

Florence from Piazza Michelangelo

21. My style really began to develop when I was an art student. It improved through my desire to become a better watercolourist. More than ever, I am always seeking to improve my skills and to become the artist I’m meant to be.

22. I find that I’ve learned to know when to stop. Too many watercolours can be ruined by overworking them. I’d rather leave the painting looking slightly unfinished (it never does!) than overdo it.

23. The elements are the biggest problem. Changing weather conditions, especially the arrival of rain when the scene started off bright and sunny is a problem. I actually enjoy painting the rain from start to finish if I’m properly prepared. The painting above of Florence was inspired by a watercolour painted on location in the rain. My wife had to stand in the cold holding an umbrella over me!

24. If a watercolour goes badly wrong at the very start, then I’ll scrap it. If a small mistake occurs, then I can usually correct it by lifting out the offending area and re-painting it.

 

Alan Reed

Sight Size method in Studio

25. There are various techniques one can use to draw out a composition in the studio such as grids, sight-size, tracing etc. I’ve used many of them from time to time. However, I’m finding that over the last few years I’m doing more and more “drawing” with the paint brush. Indeed, with my location painting, I rarely use a pencil and prefer to paint directly onto the watercolour paper. The “Sight Size” method is is more a philosophy of seeing which I use when painting portraits.

26. At art college I had a brilliant lecturer called Laurie Stangroom who used to do artist’s impressions of buildings from architects plans. He taught me how to project the plans into any perspective you wanted through understanding picture planes, eye levels and vanishing points. It’s been a tremendous foundation for my watercolour paintings of cities. I like John Singer Sargent’s belief that painting is a science which is necessary to acquire in order to make of it an art.

27. I always start my watercolour work with large washes of colour to take away the white of the paper and to set the mood for the rest of the painting. It’s only when these washes are dry that I will begin to work on the main elements of the subject. I always work from light to dark in watercolour. If it’s a portrait or figure, I will work on a neutral tinted canvas (a mix of white, raw umber and black) rather than pure white. I like to make sure that the proportions are correct before commencing on any colour work. It’s usually best to get the mid tones in first before doing the darks and highlights.

28. I’m currently working towards my next exhibition at my Studio & Gallery at our home in Ponteland, Northumberland and a number of commissions. My wife and I are always seeking to improve our website www.alanreed.com to make it more interesting and informative, not just for online sales but as a resource for artists. We’ve already made a couple of painting videos and plan to do more in the future. The Artist in me is always wanting to move forward.

www.alanreed.com

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The Artist

Selection of Alan Reed Sketchbooks

Sketchbooks painted on location

This blog post continues on from the previous one where I have writing about my working methods, how I started my career as an artist and my artistic influences.

11. I use a limited palette with watercolours, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Rose Madder, Vandyke Brown, Payne’s Grey, Manganese Blue, French Ultramarine, Purple, Cadmium Red, Windsor Green, Purple and Lamp Black. For oils I use Lead White, Yellow Ochre, Light Red and Ivory Black. I rarely use any other colours.

12. For my watercolours I tend to use Stratford and York synthetic brushes, Winsor and Newton Artist’s Paints and either Arches or Fabriano watercolour paper. I sometimes use Two Rivers watercolour paper. For oils I use Old Holland Paints.

13. I’m often asked if I use masking fluid. Very rarely but on the odd occasion I find it helpful.
14. I tend to prefer early morning light and will usually try to avoid painting midday, particularly in the summer when the sun is high. I find painting sunsets “plein air” a little frustrating as your’e battling against the fading light. At least if you start a painting as the sun is rising you will have generally put down the right colours before they have changed which will then set the mood for the rest of the painting.

15. I will usually spend some time thinking through the composition and plan out the scene in my minds eye and in sketchbook form before starting on a studio painting.

16. Regarding art competitions, much will depend on my work schedule. 2013 was the first time I’d entered the Royal Watercolour Society Competition so I was delighted to have had my work accepted and recognized by The Artists Magazine and won The Artists Prize.

17. The hardest aspect of being an artist is the actual running of a business so that one can make a living to pay a mortgage and support a family, particularly during a recession.

18. I probably do about 4 or 5 paintings a month. However some will have taken a day and some will have been painted over several months.

19. Buildings and people are hard to do. I’ve spent considerable time working on both.

20. I started off my career admiring Rowland Hilder’s landscapes. Over the years I’ve been a great fan of Sir William Russell Flint, Winslow Homer, Edward Seago and Arthur Melville. They were all great draughtsmen which I think is essential when using watercolour and for painting portraits from life. At the moment I find myself drawn to John Singer Sargent, an extraordinarily gifted individual.  I will often warm up before I start a painting by copying a John Singer Sargent portrait sketch in my Moleskine sketchbook. I’ve even copied several of his portraits in oils like “Head of a Capri Girl” to help understand his techniques.

They have all been an influence one way or another. It’s good to study the techniques and skills of those who have been before and have left a rich body of work for others to enjoy.

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