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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.

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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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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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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City Church Portraits

Sight Size Painting

Oil Painting Portrait of Sola Idowu

Over the last 12 months I have been working on a painting project for City Church Newcastle which meets at the CastleGate, Melbourne Street, Newcastle.

In the summer of 2013 I was approached by Ed Morrow (who manages the CastleGate) asking my advice about what kind of artwork would look good in the new atrium which would reflect the vision of the church.

My wife Susan and I have been members of City Church since it’s beginning. Our vision is that we will be a church of thousands, a community full of people from every nation. My suggestion was that I painted a number of portraits of church members of different ages, races and stages of life that represented the church family.

I started the first one in October 2013 with several sittings of Adrian Smith. The Portraits have been painted in oils on aluminium panels for Health and Safety reasons. They have to be prepared first with emery paper then primed using an Etch Primer. I then paint several coats of an oil paint primer before tinting each panel to a neutral tint. It’s at that point I can begin a series of sittings, painting from life.

I have used photography as an aid to make sure that the proportions are correct. With the exception of the children I’ve painted 90% of the painting work is from life, painting from observation.

Most of my 30 year professional career has been spent painting landscapes, cityscapes and seascapes in watercolour throughout the North East, Scotland, UK, Italy and the Middle East. I’ve learned many years ago when to finish a painting in watercolour, the danger of overworking it being a real possibility. Once you overdo it, there’s no going back with watercolour!

With oil painting, it’s quite different. You can always see little details to fiddle on with to keep trying to improve the portrait. If you make a mistake, you simply correct it. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to painting so I needed a justifiable reason to stop each portrait. All christians are a work in progress, none of us will achieve perfection until the day we are united with Jesus Christ. I’ve deliberately decided to have some of the portraits “unfinished”. This is a random choice and not any reflection on anyone’s spirituality!

The plan at this point in time is to have a launch later on in the autumn when the portraits will be hung in the atrium to coincide with a “Vision Sunday” for the church.

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City Church Portraits

3rd Sitting of Portrait of Leon Le-Dune

Portrait of Leon Le-Dune

4th Sitting of Portrait of Adrian Smith
Portrait of Adrian Smith

 

Portrait painting from life is a demanding artistic challenge. I’ve recently undertaken a painting project which involves painting a number of portraits of members of City Church Newcastle.

These are to be hung in the new Atrium area of the CastleGate where the church meet. The building itself has an amazing story and is very much a part of the City. Adrian Smith, whose portrait is depicted above was instrumental in bringing the building to the attention of the church.

I’ve currently 4 different portraits currently in progress  and will be starting work on one of the younger members of the church very soon.

 

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Susan in St Mark’s Church

Susan Reed, Portrait in Oils

Susan in St Mark’s Church, Venice

In September 2012 Susan and I travelled to Venice to work on a number of painting projects, one of which was this oil painting of Susan in the Basilica San Marco. On the 7th April 1985 Susan experienced a dramatic conversion to Christianity on her own as she cried out to God in the famous church in St Mark’s Square. The painting depicts Susan quietly giving thanks to God for His goodness towards her since that day in St Mark’s Church.

Susan and I spent time together in St Mark’s Church so that I could do a small sketchbook watercolour to capture the colours and mood of the interior which you can see in a previous blog post. I returned the following day to do some detailed studies of some the architectural elements of the interior so I could refer to them in the finished painting. Back in my studio Susan assumed the same pose so that I could paint her from life in oils.

The original painting can be seen at my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland.

 

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Mother with Child

Pregnant woman

Mother with Child

Life drawing is a discipline that has huge rewards if practised on a regular basis. Unfortunately I don’t  spend anywhere near enough time painting and drawing the human form from life as I would like but I do try to attend an evening life drawing class once a week. It’s only on for two hours (Probably only 90 minutes painting with breaks) and we have a different model with a different pose each week.

If it’s a long pose, I will tackle it in oils so I can work on colour as well as form. The pose of the pregnant young woman Louise titled Mother with Child has been the only time when we actually had her back the following week in the same pose! I had the rare opportunity to refine and correct my efforts from the previous week.

The painting “Mother with Child” is part of my Spring exhibition at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland which continues until 28th April.

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Painting of Dhows

Arabian Dhows on Gold Leaf

Dhows, Oman – Oil on Gold Leaf

There’s a story on how I ended up doing a Painting of Dhows on Gold Leaf. In 2010 I was involved in a painting of a very large Biblical scene which was to go in a church building. It was a massive project and painting, executed on 5 panels of gold leaf in oil paints. I had several small boards coated with gold leaf to experiment with and decided to do my own paintings on this unusual and expensive surface.

I did two quite different scenes, one of the Grand Mosque in Oman, the other of some Arabian Dhows at low tide in Sur, Oman. I sold the Grand Mosque to a client in Oman, however, this one of the dhows is available to purchase. Other original paintings and prints of the Gulf can be seen on my website.

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