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Painting Grey Street

Alan Reed

Shoppers, Grey Street

Grey Street in Newcastle has been described by the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as the finest curved street in Europe. I never tire of sitting down to capture its fine sweeping curve and Georgian columns in all seasons. You can see a number of limited edition prints of Newcastle’s Grey Street including  Grey Street, Saturday Morning which was featured on the BBC’s “Show me the Monet”.

Newcastle is a very busy city so when painting Grey Street I find it great fun to bring life to the scene by adding in people for extra movement and interest. It’s even more fun painting Grey Street in winter because you have the extra challenge of resolving the reflections of the sky, buildings and figures in the wet pavement. Watercolour is the ideal medium for this but you need to know the sequence of washes and how to build up the colour.

You will notice that the gentle yellow colour that you can see just above the distant buildings is actually running throughout the entire painting (apart from the snow lying on the rooftops) and is particularly evident in the pavement in the centre of the foreground. When the wash of yellow dried, I wet the sheet of paper and introduced a very subtle hint of Rose Madder in the sky and foreground before introducing the slate grey for the sky and reflections.

After these washes had dried, it was simply a matter of adding detail to depict the architectural forms before finally painting the various figure. Over the years I’ve developed a “shorthand” painting technique to capture figures moving about. Photography can be a help but it’s also a very useful discipline to observe and sketch from life. That way you can’t get bogged down with detail. You have to pick out the main gesture and gender of the person and make sure that you have them positioned at the correct eye level.

Painting Grey Street outdoors is a real challenge and not for the faint hearted. As I’m writing this blog post, I’m getting tempted to get out there again! In the meantime however, my studio painting “Shoppers, Grey Street” can be seen online and at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Grey Street, Spring

Grey Street, Newcastle upon Tyne Spring

Grey Street, Spring

It’s 22 years since I first painted this amazing view of Newcastle’s Grey Street. Over the years I’ve captured it in all the seasons.

One of the versions was painted on a Saturday morning and in 2011 was featured on BBC’s “Show me the Monet”.

I’ve just completed this new original watercolour of “Grey Street, Spring” which is going to be on show at my “Spring” exhibition at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland starting Saturday 8th March.

Grey Street, Spring is also available as a limited edition print.

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Festival of the North East

Painting of the North East of North Shields, Masts

North Shields, Masts

The Festival of the North East is a celebration of all that’s great about our unique corner of England throughout the month of June. It’s an eclectic mix of art, exhibitions, dance, theatre, music and much more.

My contribution to the festival is an exhibition titled “It’s a Big River”. I’ve been painting various scenes of the River Tyne for over thirty years capturing its iconic bridges, the industry and breathtaking scenery. This exhibition brings together these changing views of the River Tyne from the point where the North and South Tyne meet in Northumberland to where the river meets the sea at Tynemouth.

I’ve spent time traveling along the banks of the Tyne with my watercolours and sketchbook in hand observing and recording the seasons, different times of day and the industry and commerce of the River Tyne.

The exhibition starts Saturday 1st June-29th June at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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St George’s Day

Watercolour of Old Eldon Square

Peace, Old Eldon Square, Newcastle

23rd April is St George’s Day. One of my more unusual paintings of Newcastle is this one of the War Memorial in Old Eldon Square which depicts St George slaying the dragon. The painting is set against the backdrop of a winter sky, indicating the bleakness of war. The inscription of “Peace” is a sign of the hope of peace which we ought to seek amongst our fellow human beings.

There have been numerous times when folk have looked at the painting and thought it was somewhere like Prague, not realising that it was their home town.

The background buildings are the rooftops of Emerson Chambers, one of the finest examples of Art Nouveau architecture in the UK. One can also see Grey’s Monument, a further clue that the scene is Newcastle upon Tyne.

The painting is available in three sizes and can be seen and purchased from

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Grey Street Painting

Grey Street Print

Grey Street, Newcastle upon Tyne

My first limited edition print of Newcastle was of Grey Street published almost 20 years ago. It was an immediate hit my customers. I recently discovered that I had a handful of copies left which are currently available from

Rather than me describe the scene of Grey Street, I thought I’d use this unprompted description by Lex Loizides, a friend and evangelist who writes excellent blog posts on Church history.

“So many contrasts in one painting! You have the languid, relaxed, sunny morning, somehow epitomised in the flag. Then you have the permanence of the historic buildings with both an optimistic stateliness and a kind of foreboding one. Then you have the no-nonsense bustle of folk swiftly moving to work, united in their haste yet alone. And then this lovely little group of pigeons pecking away. It’s a stunning painting Alan. You should be nationally recognised!”

Thank you Lex!













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Show me the Monet

Grey Street, Saturday Morning, Painting

Grey Street, Saturday Morning

The BBC are re-showing the series Show me the Monet. It’s a programme where I was given the opportunity to show my original watercolour “Grey Street, Saturday Morning” (now available as a limited edition print) before a panel of three judges to see if would be selected for exhibiting at the Royal Acadamy in London later that year in 2011.

The painting was rejected however I did sell it a few months later for the price I said on the programme. You can catch the Show me the Monet episode on BBC iPlayer for the next 2 days.

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Ponteland Paintings

Watercolour of 1 Main Street, Ponteland

1 Main Street, Ponteland

The watercolour above is a scene in Ponteland I first painted back in 1980 when I was an art student. I remember selling the original watercolour to one of my lecturers at the time. Little did I know that 23 years later I would have a Studio & Gallery 2003-2008 upstairs in the building on the right hand side of the painting.

I’ve reproduced the watercolour as a limited edition print. You can see it at my Studio & Gallery which is now at our home in Ponteland, 17 Cheviot View, just a short walk from Dobbies Garden Centre.

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Tyne Bridges in the Snow

Tyne Bridges in Snow Christmas Card

Tyne Bridges in Snow

Paintings of the Tyne Bridges always strike a cord with folk from the North East. The charity The Cyrenians based in Newcastle work with vulnerable, disadvantaged and homeless people. earlier this year Sian Thomas, their marketing administrator, asked if they could use some of my paintings as Christmas Cards to help raise money for the charity which has been going for over 40 years.

This original watercolour of Newcastle’s bridges and quayside caught in a snow shower is the third painting which about to be scanned, ready to be reproduced as a charity Christmas card. All three paintings, including this one of the Tyne Bridges, can be seen at my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland from next week.

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Angel Christmas Card

Angel Christmas Card

Angel, Snow Sunset Christmas Card

Many years ago I did an Angel Christmas Card to help raise money for a local charity. Earlier this year I was approached by the charity The Cyrenians based in Newcastle who work with vulnerable, disadvantaged and homeless people. Sian Thomas, their marketing administrator, asked if they could use some of my paintings as Christmas Cards to help raise money for the charity which has been going for over 40 years.

Over the last 20 years or more, I know that the paintings I have done have raised thousands of pounds through being reproduced as Christmas cards, in particular for the Marie Curie cancer care, so I was more than happy to oblige.

We’ve decided to do three paintings of Newcastle, the first of which is a classic scene of the Theatre Royal in the Snow which was a sell out limited edition print. I’ve painted a similar view recently which I reproduced as a limited edition print titled Grey Street, Snow Shower.

The second card is this one of The Angel of the North depicted against the backdrop of a winter sunset, the colours of the sky being reflected in the snow. The two figures at the feet of the Angel help to create a sense of scale.

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Theatre Royal in the Snow

Theatre Royal in Snow Watercolour

Theatre Royal in Snow

Over the years I’ve painted the Theatre Royal in Newcastle many times in different season and from various view points. I know that it’s too early to be thinking about Christmas but for those of us who are involved in Charity Christmas cards, it’s time to get things moving.

Over the last few months I’ve been working on several paintings to be reproduced as Christmas cards for the Cyrenians, a charity based in Newcastle who work with vulnerable, disadvantaged and homeless people.

This one titled Theatre Royal in the Snow is similar to a watercolour I painted earlier in the year titled Grey Street Snow Shower which is currently available as a limited edition print.

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