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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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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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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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Painting of the Roman Baths

Watercolour Painting Roman Baths, Reflections

Roman Baths, Reflections

Bath is a stunningly beautiful city which boasts some of the finest Georgian architecture in the country. In 2010 and 2011 I entered the Bath Prize with a number of original watercolours of Bath. I came runner up in 2010 with my painting of the Royal Crescent and won the Circus Prize in 2011. Also in 2011 my painting Pump Room in the Snow was Highly Commended. One of my favourite subject though which I have painted several times on location was the Roman Baths. This particular scene depicts these ancient waters bathed in the early evening torchlight with the architecture reflected in the pool that dates back almost 2000 years. The original watercolour can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Durham School v St Paul’s School

Durham School v St Paul's School

Durham School v St Paul’s School Watercolour Painting

One of the commissions I had in 2013 was Durham School v St Paul’s School in the Veterrimi IV final on 3rd November 2013.

This was a historic event that saw the oldest rugby clubs in the world play off in a fantastic tournament which is one of a kind and only happens every two years.

The painting of such an event is not only a once in a lifetime opportunity to capture the event itself, but even more so for the parents whose sons featured in the match.

An opportunity to possess a painting of them playing is unlikely to occur again in their rugby careers.

I spent the weekend at Sherborne where the tournament was being held so I could gather the necessary reference to do the painting. The standard of rugby was very high and Durham School came out as winners in a competitive final.

The original watercolour painting can currently be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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#SBS Winners Event 2013

Photo Shoot #SBS Winners Certificate from Theo Paphitis

Receiving #SBS Winners Certificate from Theo Paphitis

Last Thursday I went to the #SBS Winners Event 2013 at the ICC Birmingham. I had several attempts at tweeting @TheoPaphitis my business with the all important hashtag #SBS during the time slot 5-7:30pm on a Sunday before winning the coveted RT from Theo Paphitis to his 400,000 plus followers.

My winning tweet on 11th June 2012 was “Painting is my passion, come rain or shine” with a photo of my original watercolour “Pump Room, Bath” available as a limited edition print from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

Small Business Sunday, shortened to the hashtag #SBS on Twitter, was created by Theo Paphitis in October 2010. Theo is best known for appearing on Dragons Den on BBC Two. He is Chairman of Ryman Stationery plus Boux Avenue lingerie and Robert Dyas, as well as joint owner of Red Letter Days.

Each week Theo looks at the 1,000’s of tweets he receive’s and chooses his favourite 6 who are then re-tweeted. The winners can gain an immediate surge of followers and some positive social media coverage.

The winners event 2013 was a great experience as we had the chance to ask Theo questions and hear his valuable business insight. My favourite quote from Theo on the day was “make a living doing something you’re passionate about”. I’ve been very fortunate to being able to do just that for the last 29 years.

 

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Sketchbook Tip – Painting “Plein Air”

plein air painting

Sketchbook Watercolour of Burnham Overy Mill

I’ve enjoyed a couple of very enjoyable painting trips using my Sketchbook in Norfolk in recent years following in the footsteps of one of my painting heroes Edward Seago who lived and painted around Norfolk. For those of you who are interested in landscape painting, there are some excellent books available about this immensely gifted and popular artist whose exhibitions would sell out within hours.

I’ve made several studies of Burnham Overy Mill on these trips. Whilst I was painting the one above, I also did a larger 14″ x 10″ on an Arches 140lb watercolour block whilst the washes were drying in the sketchbook which you can see on my website alanreed.com

I would keep reverting back to the sketchbook study and back again to the watercolour block. I also did another watercolour in my moleskine sketchbook.

It’s a useful “plein air” painting tip to employ for several reasons:

You can generally get twice as much done in the same amount of time whilst you are waiting for paint to dry.

The scene is usually a changing one because of the sky and cloud formations.

You will become more visually aware of your subject.

You will have something to refer back to in your sketchbook if you sell your other painting.

Next time you’re painting “plein air” in watercolour, try painting two of the same scene. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

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Durham School v Ampleforth College

Durham v Ampleforth

Durham School v Ampleforth College

On 20th October 2012 Durham School 1st XV played Ampleforth College in one of the biggest rugby fixtures the school plays. I was there to record the game in this new limited edition print, in respect of Noel Shearing who the game is played in memory of. There are only 34 prints available as this was the age Noel Shearing died and I will be donating a framed print to Noel’s charity for auction.

Many of the boys are clearly identifiable in the painting and I am sure this will be the only time any of the Durham School players could hope to have a painting of themselves playing in such a historic side with such a breathtaking backdrop as Durham School and Durham Cathedral. Already several of the boys are ordering their copies of the print, signed and numbered with the same number shirt they usually wear for the team.

The print and the original watercolour painting can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Painting of York Minster

York Minster Watercolour

York Minster

If one was to remove the figures from this watercolour of York Minster, the scene would not only loose it’s sense of scale, it would also look lifeless. Cityscapes are meant to look alive with a life blood of their own, indeed people are the heart of a city. There are occasions when it is appropriate to omit figures from a street scene, but generally it’s best to arrange them accordingly to give the composition interest, scale, life and colour.

Even though York Minster is quite clearly the backdrop to this street scene of busy shoppers, it’s still an integral part of the painting.

This limited edition print of York Minster can be seen at my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland and is the natural partner to my print of the Shambles.

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