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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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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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Paintings of Umbria

Alan Reed

Via Roma, Montone

It’s the time of year when I’m busy working on commissions and fitting in time to paint new works for my Christmas exhibition. One of my latest works is this street scene of Via Roma in Montone, Umbria available as a limited edition print.

When we were taking our guests on the Painting Holidays in Italy this year, we spent an afternoon in the delightful hilltop town, Montone. It’s a lovely place with plenty of subject matter to paint. I did a couple of watercolours “en plein air” which were the inspiration for this A4 painting on deckled edged paper.

Over the years, my Paintings of Umbria have resonated with many customers, particularly those who have properties there. I’ve been very fortunate to have received a number of commissions to go out and paint original paintings of clients homes throughout this beautiful region, described as the “Green Heart of Italy”.

Often with my Paintings of Umbria, I deliberately choose to use a limited palatte to create mood and atmosphere. I will refer back to my studies painted on location to ensure that I retain the lively brush marks and looseness of the original sketch. This studio painting of Via Roma follows that pattern. There’s a strong feeling of light and movement running throughout the painting, even in the shadow areas.

This is one of several Paintings of Umbria that will go on display for my Christmas Exhibition later on this year. Please sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on new paintings and events.

 

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Springtime

Alan Reed

Bamburgh Castle Watercolour

It’s springtime! As I’m writing this blog post the weather outside feels distinctly more like winter but that’s not untypical for April in the north east of England. Despite the weather, springtime is the theme for my exhibition currently on show at my gallery in Ponteland throughout the month of April.

Because we can experience such variable weather, sometimes in a single day, my springtime exhibition is as equally varied. There’s an eclectic mix of places and subjects to see for springtime like some of the very picturesque fishing villages on the East Neuk of Fife, cityscapes of Edinburgh and the Alps, including my painting “Mont Blanc and Manganese Blue” which was selected for the Royal Watercolour Society Exhibition earlier this year.

Other subjects include some classic views of Newcastle’s Grey Street, the Roman Forum in Italy both of which have been captured in springtime. I also have some figurative paintings on display too.

Springtime is often a period where we take a fresh look at our homes and gardens to create a new look and feel to the environment we spend so much time in. What better place to start than to add to your art collection.

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Painting of Pittenweem

Alan Reed

Watercolour of Pittenweem.

“A Mix for March” is a new exhibition at the Gullane Gallery which started on the 12th March. I’ve a number of new works on display including this new Painting of Pittenweem. I was fortunate to travel up to the East Neuk of Fife earlier in the year to do some sketchbook watercolours of three of the very picturesque fishing villages dotted along the coastline.

For this particular Painting of Pittenweem, I wanted to retain the loose sketchbook qualities of the “en plein air” study so I used a hand made Indian rag paper with deckled edges and a rough surface. I kept the brush marks lively and fresh without loosing too much detail.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of Pittenweem

It’s not the first time I’ve produced a painting of Pittenweem. If you visit my website www.alanreed.com you will see a range of limited edition prints of the East Nuek of Fife including one of Pittenweem.

The exhibition at the Gullane Gallery finishes 3rd April.

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Princes Street

Alan Reed

Princes Street, Edinburgh

I have a number of new watercolours being exhibited at the Gullane Gallery, East Lothian 12th March until 3rd April. One of the paintings going on show is this cityscape capturing Princes Street, Edinburgh on a winter’s afternoon.

The scene is taken from Calton Hill which boasts commanding views over the city. Often it is the inclusion of figures which can bring a cityscape to life, but in this instance it’s the traffic, in particular the buses nudging their way into the queues of cars, that bring a sense movement to the watercolour.

Even though the time of year is winter and the sun has almost set, there’s a strong feeling of warmth and light coming through because of the base washes of Cadmium Lemon and Rose Madder. This is contrasted by the cold shadows created by a quite bold application of Paynes Grey for the road and rooftops. Further interest has been achieved by the highlights on the cars and buses on Princes Street which have been very simply rendered.

Lifting out some of the colour has brought a feeling of mist and smokiness, giving the architecture an ethereal quality which has enhanced the depth and ariel perspective to Auld Reekie.

I also have a limited edition print titled Princes Street which is available online at alanreed.com and from my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland.

 

 

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Mont Blanc and Manganese Blue

Alan Reed

Mont Blanc & Manganese Blue

On 29th January I was notified that my new watercolour titled Mont Blanc and Manganese Blue had been selected Royal Watercolour Society Contemporary Watercolour Competition 2016. It’s the second time one of my paintings has been chosen. In 2013 my painting “Jebel Akhdar, Oman” won the Artists Prize in the same competition. It’s very difficult to do justice to the grandeur and majesty of a mountain range in a small watercolour painting, however when you are actually up a mountain with a box of paints and a sketchbook you have to give it a try.

Such an occasion arose in July 2015 when Susan and I took our daughter and her children to Chamonix in France. We bought passes for the cable cars in the region and went up Aiguille du Midi which overlooks Mont Blanc. I did a sketchbook watercolour which was the inspiration for a studio painting “View from Aiguille du Midi”. This is currently on view at my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland. We were so taken by the stunning views that my daughter and I returned again, very early morning. I did a second sketchbook study which became the catalyst for “Mont Blanc and Manganese Blue”.

Alan Reed

My Sketchbook Watercolour of Mont Blanc from Aiguille du Midi

The clarity of colour and crispness of light meant that when painting the sketch, I had to strip back my palette to basic colours. I used the white of the paper to indicate the snow on Mont Blanc and neat Manganese Blue (with a touch of French Ultramarine) for the sky. I added the smallest amount of purple for some of the shadow areas and Raw Sienna and Vandyke Brown for the dark foreground rocks. When it came to painting the studio work I made sure I maintained the simplicity of the sketchbook watercolour, even laying it over the larger original whilst it was in progress to ensure I wasn’t making it too tight.

Alan Reed

Mont Blanc and Manganese Blue original and sketchbook

The title of this painting comes partly from using the lovely colour “Manganese Blue” produced by Winsor and Newton which I have been using since the late 1980’s. It’s a brighter blue than Cerulean which I personally find a little flat in comparison. When used in conduction with French Ultramarine and Winsor Blue, you can achieve some beautiful deep blue skies.

My painting “Mont Blanc and Manganese Blue” goes on show at the Bankside Gallery, London Friday 4th – Wednesday 16th March 11am – 6pm and will be available to purchase from the exhibition.

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Parco degli Acquedotti

Alan Reed Watercolour

Parco degli Acquedotti

Over the last few months I’ve been working on a number of painting commissions of Rome for an overseas client. You can read a testimonial on a previous blog post about one of the paintings I did for him of the Arch of Titus.

This has involved me travelling to Rome for short visits to gather suitable reference. The last trip in October saw me take a metro ride from the centre of Rome to Parco degli Acquedotti which boasts some fine remains of the magnificent aqueducts built by Emperors Claudius and Hadrian.

It was late afternoon so I worked rapidly on a couple of “en plein air” watercolours looking directly into the autumn sunlight capturing the main section. Although the longest stretch of the section by Claudius is the most impressive, I was also struck by the fragmented parts which stood alone in a field, creating some rather beautiful shapes, almost like letters of the alphabet.

I couldn’t resist painting a 21″ x 14″ studio watercolour on hand made Fabriano paper of Parco degli Acquedotti in the soft, warm autumnal light which can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Christmas Exhibition

Alan Reed Art

Aiguille du Midi

Christmas Exhibition at the Alan Reed Studio & Gallery in Ponteland

Christmas Exhibition Preview Weekend 5th & 6th December

Tuesday to Saturday 9:30am -5:00pm

Continues until 24th December 2015

Earlier this year we had a family holiday in Chamonix, France with our daughter and grandchildren. We took two trips up the spectacular Aiguille du Midi which we would gaze at every day from our apartment in Chamonix.

On each trip up this dramatic peak, accessed by cable car, I did a sketchbook watercolour, one of Mont Blanc, the other seen below, looking across the vast expanse of mountain peaks that seemed to go on for ever. The sketchbook painting became the catalyst for this 16″ x 12″ studio watercolour above, which can be seen at our Christmas Exhibition.

The preview weekend starts 5th & 6th December. The Christmas Exhibition continues until 24th December.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of Aiguille du Midi

From Aiguille du Midi you also get a wonderful view of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps. I enjoyed painting these scenes so much that I intend to develop more of my sketchbook paintings from Chamonix into larger works.

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Worship

Watercolour by Alan Reed

Worship

I’m currently reading Andrew Graham Dixon‘s excellent, well researched book “Caravaggio A Life Sacred and Profane”. I recall being totally enthralled and inspired by the stunning exhibition of Caravaggio’s paintings at the National Gallery in London back in 2005 and wished that I’d had a deeper understanding of the Christian symbolism that is at the core of his paintings.

Andrew’s carefully thought out book which beautifully dovetails the relevant passages of scripture to each painting described, certainly enlightens the viewer to both the meaning of each masterpiece and provides a helpful insight to the Word of God that Caravaggio’s work aimed to bring to life in his generation as a catalyst to worship.

Over the years I have painted a number of watercolours which do contain symbolism and meaning beyond the surface depiction of a specific place or person, however I’ve always allowed the viewer to come to their own conclusion of any significance. On our recent Painting Holiday in Umbria, Italy I began to see another painting develop from a single sketchbook watercolour that I decided to paint for my own meditation and reflection.

One of our guests on the Painting Holiday is a talented pianist and a committed christian. Every day he would spend time playing the grand piano that sits in the beautifully restored church Chiesa del Carmine where we stay. In the evenings after our evening meal he would entertain us with some delightful rendition of “As time goes by” and “Somewhere over the Rainbow”. The symbolism in the painting is not too difficult to see as the scene portrayed is in a building that once was a dwelling place for believers as they gathered to worship. There are plenty of objects in the room setting that one can meditate on and use to bring scripture to mind to reflect on like the terracotta lion, the crucifix, the incense burner, the candle stands, the light streaming through the window and of course the piano itself being played by the believer. There are others which I will leave to the viewer to ponder and look for.

Back in 2004 we were staying at the nearby Casa San Gabriel and we took the scenic walk around the undulating valley. I stopped to do a small sketchbook water-colour of the old church, then in ruins, overgrown and looking totally dilapidated. I remember thinking at the time it would be great to take this ruined structure and restore it, however I never envisioned that I would actually be staying there and painting it with a group of guests!

The actual quality of the restoration is of the highest standard, right down to the smallest details. Chiesa del Carmine has a fully fitted kitchen, dinning room, living room and toilet and is the perfect place to relax, read, listen to music or even play music. The villa next door has also been restored to the same high standard and can accommodate 14.

Our week in May 2016 is now fully booked up. There is availability for the week in June 2016 and we may do a week in September 2016 too. Please contact us if you would like to receive further details.

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