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Sketchbooks

Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of Mont Blanc from Chamonix

I’m often asked “which is my own favourite painting?” It’s a question which I find so difficult to answer. Over the years I’ve painted many different scenes which I’m really pleased with and on so many different levels.

In more recent years I’ve been painting portraits of people, which again, I’ve become attached to. However, if I had to choose examples of my work to ponder over and reflect on, it would have to be my ever growing collection of hand made leather bound sketchbooks that I take with me on our travels.

Alan Reed

Leather Bound Sketchbooks

Although I’ve been painting on location in watercolour “en plein air” for almost 30 years it was not until a painting trip to Umbria, Italy in 2002 that I began to paint “on the spot” in these precious sketchbooks. My wife and I visited the Fabriano Paper Factory in the Marches region and I fell in love with the small leather bound books containing their lovely paper that they were selling in the factory shop. I purchased several.

When we returned to the Relais il Canalicchio where we were staying I tentatively decided to put brush to paper and painted the view out of our window. You can see my first watercolour of an Umbrian sunset in the image below.

Sketchbook watercolour

View from the Relais il Canalicchio

Unusually for me, I decided not to do any preparatory pencil drawing, choosing to “draw” with the brush, painting directly onto the beautifully textured paper. It’s a discipline that I’ve continued with ever since. It’s not something that I would advocate for a beginner if I was teaching them on our painting holidays in Italy but it is a discipline that a more experienced water-colourist would find both challenging and rewarding.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of Aiguille du Midi

When we took our daughter and grandchildren to Chamonix in France in July 2015 and the grandchildren watched me paint Aiguille du Midi (above) and Mont Blanc, the value of my sketchbooks became apparent, even to the grandchildren. They could see how I was recording in paint some of the special aspects of our holiday in a way that photography cannot. They even started asking me if they could have certain sketchbooks when I die!

I now have an ever growing collection of sketchbooks which document our travels to countries like Italy, Oman, Kuwait, USA and of course throughout the UK. I’ve even started to make them myself which is even more rewarding.

The guests on our painting holidays to Italy are encouraged to paint both on watercolour blocks or pads of watercolour paper but also in sketchbooks so that they too can have a record of their travels.

If you would like to find out more about working in sketchbooks “en plein air” or coming on a reedart painting holiday then please contact me.

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Painting Holidays in Italy

The story of our first trip to Italy together in 1991 and ultimately the start of our Painting Holidays in Italy.

THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
After a chance meeting in local pub The Diamond in Ponteland, family members and friends could scarcely have predicted the adventures in store for Alan and Susan who married three years later. Having recently returned home from living abroad in Venice with her two young children and settling back into life in the North East, Susan longed to show Alan the sights, sounds and smells of her beloved Venice and introduce him to some of the lifelong friends the family made there.

Alan Reed

Venetian Dawn

It was June 1991 when the couple finally took that much-talked about trip. This would be Alan’s first trip to Venice and armed with little else than a conversation he’d had with an old colleague about the architecture and stories he’d read about this iconic city, it became one of the most memorable trips of the couple’s lifetime and the couple returned to Venice in August 1994 where Alan painted 14 “en plein air” watercolours which were part of the “A Tale of two Cities” exhibition in the Spring of 1995.

Alan Reed

Alan & Susan in Italy

 

While Alan’s family had strong Christian roots, Susan’s rebirth as a Christian was borne in St Mark’s Church whilst living in Venice, and a visit to this magnificent church tied the couple even closer together as Susan shared this chapter of her life with him. Introducing Alan to the friends and “family” Susan made whilst there, Alan quickly found himself falling in love with the Italian way of life. A true home from home for Susan, she happily wandered around the shops with the children, buying handmade sketchbooks and exploring the little back streets and lesser known piazzas whilst Alan painted the joys of Venice – soaking up every inch of the Grand Canal, the view from the vaporetti (the water buses of Venice) and everything in between.

It was undoubtedly the beginning of something special, especially for Alan who compares their trip to Venice “like being on a stage set”. The pinch-me moment came when the week all-too-quickly drew to a close and Alan found himself overcome with emotion, already planning his next trip to the city that had stolen his heart after only a week. “I’ll definitely be back”, he thought and he was right. Venice, and indeed Italy has been a constant source of inspiration for Alan’s artwork throughout his career, his works of Venice have been featured in art galleries and various art books over the years – but none can compare to the feeling of pure excitement and exhilaration the young family felt as took their first trip together to a place filled with so many memories – giving Alan a wonderful sensory insight to the wonders of Venice that he in turn shares with us all through his artwork and his Painting Holidays in Italy.

When to Visit Venice:
Venice is magnificent any time of the year, beautifully hot in the summer months before turning icy cold in winter. The sight of everyone wrapped up in their furs and the frost dazzling on the canal is unforgettable – while the iconic Venice Carnival which takes place in February is a must not miss.

Where to Go:

Head to the Castello neighbourhood of Venice and you will find the “Giardini” (gardens) where is nice to wander in the shade to cool off. We often took the boat over to the Lido to sunbathe on the beach. I would make a large container full of home made lemonade to take with us to drink throughout the day, it was so refreshing made with about a dozen fresh lemons.

Where to Eat:

An unusual restaurant in the Jewish part of Venice was Gam Gam which serves fantastic tasty food and very reasonably priced. We also highly recommend Osteria Enoteca near San Marco and Antico Forno, near Rialto for a nice pizza. Try Al Covo Restaurant and Osteria all’Alba near Rialto for cocktails.

“When I lived there, my old Venetian friend Nai used to take the children and I to the island of Burano famous for its lovely different coloured painted houses and the old ladies sitting in the doorways making lace. I could hardly wait for Alan to capture all its colours. We ate in a restaurant called Al Gatto Nero (The black Cat) and sat outside in the sun eating Fritto Misto with a bottle of white wine, a memory to treasure” – Susan Reed

Reedart Painting Holidays in Italy

“The moon shines bright. In such a night as this. When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees and they did make no noise, in such a night…”
― William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

Follow this link to view all of Alan’s Italian original paintings currently available for sale.

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Painting Holidays in Italy

Over the last few months we have been telling the story of our love affair with Italy on the Reedart Painting Holidays in Italy blog. You can see the story unfold by going straight to Reedart Painting Holidays in Italy, but if you want to follow our adventures from here then read on.

The Adventure Begins

“The world stood still around them as they sat together on the piazza of San Gimignano, a beautiful walled medieval hill town in Tuscany. Having spent the afternoon sampling wild boar salami, cheeses and other delicacies, and dipping in and out of the local papiro (paper) shops and boutiques, the pair sat together watching the world beyond in perfect harmony, Susan sipping a glass of wine while Alan painted the scene before them.”

Their trips taken together span wedding anniversaries, births of grandchildren, picnics at Lake Garda and other international adventures to some of the world’s most beautiful and far-flung locations and they all have one thing in common: travelling the world with his wife Susan and family, painting often “on location” or, later from a misty memory or photograph has helped shape the distinctive style of one of the North East’s most admired artists, Alan Reed.

Join us in this brand new series of blog posts as we take a trip down memory lane and uncover the stories behind Alan Reed Art and their Painting Holidays in Italy.

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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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Sketchbook Painting

Sketchbook watercolour

View from the Relais il Canalicchio

Our first trip to to the region Umbria in Italy was in the spring of 2002. We stayed at the Relais il Canalicchio which boasts commanding views over the Umbrian countryside. In fact the owners of the hotel commissioned me to do a painting of the Relais which is available as a limited edition print.

On one of our trips out to explore the region we ventured further afield and visited the Fabriano paper factory in Le Marche. I couldn’t resist purchasing several leather bound sketchbooks containing their beautiful hand made paper. It’s a delight to paint on.  You initially feel a little scared to paint in these books in case you mess up!

I did pluck up the courage though and one evening I painted the view from out window, a simple composition of a small farm building silhouetted against the warmth of the spring evening light.

These are the kind of subjects that I would be encouraging guests on our painting holidays in Italy to paint. I would be leading by example but also overseeing their work, deciding on the right composition, advising on choice of colours, sequence of washes and of course making sure that they don’t spoil the painting by overworking it.

Nowadays there are some excellent sketchbooks available in the UK and online containing good quality paper to paint on. I also recommend the Arches watercolour blocks for slightly larger paintings. A 14″ x 10″ or 12″ x 9″ containing rough paper which is small enough to pop into a bag with the rest of your painting gear.

I usually have a range of materials available from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland, Northumberland. To find out more about our painting holidays in Italy visit reedartholidays.com

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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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Painting Holiday

Alan Reed Painting Holiday

Demonstrating how to paint in the grounds of Chiesa del Carmine

We have just returned from another successful Painting Holiday in Umbria, Italy. Six of our guests from our Painting Holiday in 2014 joined us again this year and  all nine guests hope to return in 2016.

The venue this year was the recently restored church Chiesa del Carmine, a building that was in ruins which I first painted on location back in 2004. I never dreamed that one day I would have the privilege of painting in, what is now, beautifully landscaped gardens.

The accommodation itself is stunning and is the perfect place to chill out and relax. There are plenty of subjects to paint in and around the property (which we did) but we also enjoyed a couple of day trips out and about.

The first was the small hilltop town Todi, just south of Perugia. We based ourselves in the piazza and painted the architecture before enjoying a delicious pizza at a nearby restaurant. 

 

Alan Reed Painting

Watercolour Sketchbook Study of Todi, Umbria

 

After lunch we continued painting the town, this time from a vantage point where we could tackle the terracotta roofs and countryside.

The second day trip was to the market at Umbertide where guests enjoyed wandering about in the warm sunshine followed by lunch in Gubbio, a larger town that boasts the remains of a Roman Teatro and a network of typical Umbrian street scenes.

The painting guests tackled a rather challenging stone fountain, appropriately named Fountain of Madness.

I too had a go painting the fountain but also painted a sketchbook watercolour of the nearby street, capturing the contrasts between the sunlit areas and shadows.

The owners of Chiesa del Carmine offered a 250 Euro prize to the best painting of the week that captured the venue. All the painting guests spent considerable time tackling what was a very difficult subject and the results were not easy to judge. We had an informal critique at the end of the week of all the paintings produced where I also announced the winning painting which will go on display in Chiesa del Carmine.

Alan Reed Painting

Sketchbook Watercolour of Street scene in Gubbio

We’ve already booked the same venue our Painting Holiday next May but this time over two weeks as many more folk have expressed an interest in coming. Please contact for further information.

 

 

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Painting Holiday in Umbria

Near Pienza, Evening Sunlight

Near Pienza, Evening Sunlight

There are only 2 double rooms and a single room left on our Painting Holiday in Umbria, Italy 9-16th May 2015.

I’m really looking forward to what promises to be a lovely time of painting “en plein air” in and around a beautiful part of Italy.

Guests will have a fabulous opportunity to brush up on their painting skills whilst enjoying a lovely spring break in the glorious Umbrian countryside.

I recently demonstrated to my Friday watercolour class how to paint the Tuscan landscape using a series of simple washes to create depth and mood. This was done over two paintings. One was of Val d’Orcia early morning. The other was a scene near Pienza capturing the early evening sunlight. I’ll be planning similar exercises for the folk coming on the Painting Holiday in Umbria.

Guests will also be able to enjoy 7 Night Luxury 5* accommodation with heated swimming pool at the enchanting Italian hideaway, 5* luxurious Chiesa del Carmine.

We will have the opportunity to explore the surrounding villages and towns, as well as enjoying ample time to capture the stunning scenery surrounding Chiesa del Carmine.

After enjoying a delicious breakfast together at the Villa, a typical day will either be spent visiting one of the nearby towns like Cortona, Assisi, Spello or Perugia, or we will spend the day painting around Chiesa del Carmine or Casa San Gabriel.
Non painting guests are also very welcome and can either join us on days out or explore for themselves the beautiful surroundings. We will endeavour to meet your every requirements.

Antognolla is a championship golf course only 10 mins drive away and golf clubs are available.

Evenings are convivial gatherings, with pre-dinner drinks taken on the terrace, followed by a delicious Italian home cooked evening meal by our own chef either at Chiesa del Carmine or at a nearby restaurant. Breakfast and evening meals are Included in the price.

Guests will need to organize their own flights and car hire. However, it may be possible to share the cost of car hire with other guests.

If you would like to find out more, then please contact Alan or Susan on 01661 871 800  or email.

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Painting Holiday, Italy

Watercolour Sketch

Sketchbook Watercolour of Perugia

There are still a few places available for our Painting Holiday, Italy May 2015. This year we’ve booked the luxurious 5* Chiesa del Carmine set in a picturesque valley in Umbria.

Susan and I first stayed in this stunning valley at  Casa San Gabriel  (which boasts commanding views looking towards Assisi) back in 2004. The owners, David and Chrissie, commissioned me to do a painting of their properties which had been lovingly restored into holiday homes. We enjoyed ourselves so much that we’ve kept coming back ever since!

The dates for this Painting Holiday, Italy are 9th-16th May 2015. Six of the guests from last year have re-booked and this is what one couple had to say about the trip.

“My wife and I decided to go on a painting and sketching holiday last year organized by Alan Reed.

The location was in the Italian region of Umbria. Our expectations were high but were far exceeded by the actual experience.

A combination of beautiful scenery, superb accommodation and professional guidance made it an unforgettable event”.

Thank you Alan. Léon and Linda.

Susan and I will be taking guests out to some of the nearby towns and villages so that the painters can learn how to paint “en plein air”. I’ll be leading by example through my sketchbook watercolours and larger studies painted on Arches Watercolour Blocks.

I’ll also be showing the benefit of sketching in moleskine sketchbooks to improve ones drawing techniques.

Non painting guests will be able to explore the places we visit knowing that Susan will be on hand to translate any Italian if required. There will also be time to chill out in the beautiful grounds of Chiesa del Carmine or go for relaxing walks in the valley. Included in the price is the accommodation, breakfasts and evening meals.

To find out more, please contact Susan or myself.

Some of the links on this post are affiliate links to products which I personally use, available from Amazon. If you click on either of the links and buy the product then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself.

 

 

 

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Painting Holidays in Italy

Sketchbook Watercolour of Chiesa del Carmine

Sketchbook Watercolour of Chiesa del Carmine

Chiesa del Carmine

Watercolour Painting of Chiesa del Carmine

Painting Holidays in Italy are becoming increasingly popular. Following the success of our painting holiday in Umbria in May 2014 at Villa Capanne we have now booked up a slightly larger 5 * luxury accommodation for 9th-16th May 2015 which sleeps 14 guests, Chiesa del Carmine.

I first stumbled upon this building back in 2004 when it was a derelict church in ruins. Most of the ground floor was buried underground and the roof had collapsed. The bell tower was intact. Although in a sorry state, it was still very paintable so I did a little sketchbook watercolour which you can see above.

During our last Painting Holiday in Italy we were able to see Chiesa del Carmine in its restored state. All our guests were suitable impressed with the very high standard of restoration. The church has its own kitchen, dinning room and reception room which has a grand piano. One of our guests treated us to a wonderful rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” which was a delight.

Six of our previous guests have already booked up for May 2015. There are currently 4 more places available.

I returned a few days later with one of the painting guests so that we could do a watercolour each of the Chiesa del Carmine from a nearby vineyard which you can see above, painted on an Arches Watercolour Block.

There are lots of other amazing views to paint within a short walking distance of the church which will be a joy to anyone who loves to paint “en plein air”.

You can see a recent newsletter about the May 2015 Painting Holidays in Italy by clicking on the link. Should you be interested in finding out more then please email alan@alanreed.com or telephone 01661 871 800.

One of the links on this post is an affiliate link to a product which I personally use, available from Amazon. If you click on the link and buy this product then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself. 

 

 

 

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