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Victoria Street, Edinburgh

 Victoria Street, Edinburgh

Victoria Street, Edinburgh

Victoria Street, Edinburgh boasts a quaint array of brightly coloured artisan shops and restaurants on a gentle incline that takes one down to the Grassmarket. Although it doesn’t have the grandiose feel of Princes Street or George Street, it typifies (for me anyway) the spirit and architecture of Edinburgh.

A dark, threatening sky was always going to be a prerequisite to any painting of the architecture to ensure that the sunlit stone work above the colourful shop facades stood out to provide suitable weight to balance out the heavy shadow areas on the left of the painting. Carefully positioned shoppers stepping in and out of those shadows helped to tell the story of retail life on Victoria Street. For more paintings of Edinburgh, go to alanreed.com.

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Melville Street, Edinburgh

Melville Street, Edinburgh

Melville Street, Edinburgh

This limited edition print of Melville street, Edinburgh is dominated by the distinctive outline of St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral. Its central spire of 270 feet punctuates the skyline of this street scene of Edinburgh’s New Town.

The figures, each one preoccupied with their own tasks, are an integral part of this watercolour. One can see different aspects of city life being played out through these people. The young woman in the foreground is fumbling about in her bag for something, the office worker is barely breaking his stride to post something in a hurry and an older man is clearly feeling the strain of heavy shopping bags in contrast to the pace of the other gentleman who has overtaken him. His only burden is his jacket thrown casually over his shoulder. Further down the street, another man is resting against a lamppost whilst waiting for somebody.

These paintings of Edinburgh remind me of the study notes of Proverbs Chapter 1 verses 20-21 in the NIV version of the Bible where wisdom speaks out through the centre of life in the city, where man’s communal experience of the creation order is concentrated. One can also read in chapter 8 of Proverbs how wisdom personified was with God at the beginning of creation.

You can see further examples of life in Edinburgh by visiting my studio and gallery in Ponteland or the section on Scotland on my website.

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Heriot’s School from Victoria Street, Edinburgh

Heriot's School from Victoria Street, Edinburgh

Heriot's School from Victoria Street, Edinburgh

One of the things I really enjoy painting when in Edinburgh are the old telephone boxes, including the old Police ones. This print of Heriot’s School taken from above Victoria Street features two types. The old police box predates the era of mobile communications, so most have been withdrawn from service, however they live on in Britain today albeit through the BBC television science fiction series Dr Who. The Doctor’s time machine was named the TARDIS  which stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space”. It appeared much bigger on the inside than what it did from the outside, unlike the real police boxes which were a mini police station inside.  Today the word TARDIS is often used to describe a room or space that looks much bigger inside than it does from outside.

Recently my sister in law was quite surprised to hear her six year old son say that he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up. After going through with him the various options of different types of medical doctors and finding him getting more and more confused, she realised that he meant Dr Who.

For this painting of Edinburgh, I kept the sky simple and warm as there is lots of activity going on in the main painting with sunlight and shadow areas, figures, cars, detailed architecture and of course the telephone boxes!

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The Tolbooth, Edinburgh

The Tolbooth, Edinburgh

The Tolbooth, Edinburgh

Several of my paintings of Edinburgh feature different parts of the Royal Mile. The Canongate Tobooth in Edinburgh can be found towards the end of the Royal Mile. It was built in 1591 and it was here that the tolls or public dues were collected. It also served as a council house, court room and a prison. The impressive clock that protrudes from its wall is dated 1820.

I recall being on the Royal Mile on a cold January afternoon with bursts of low winter sunlight catching the old stone architecture. The rest of the buildings were in shrouded in shadows. By painting a heavy cloud running from top left, down towards the Tolbooth’s spire, I’ve added a sense of  mood and drama to the composition and emphasised the sunlight areas on the buildings. The figures also play an important part to this watercolour, providing movement, colour and added interest.

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Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

Princes Street Gardens, EdinburghPrinces Street Gardens, Edinburgh

Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh is a lovely area to relax in, particularly in the summer months. For this particular painting, I wanted to capture it from a more unusual angle so I decided to climb Scott’s Monument, a Victorian Gothic monument to the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. It’s 200 feet and 6 inches high and from its various viewing decks, one can get some outstanding panoramic views of Edinburgh including this one which I’ve captured in watercolour. I always think it looks like a Gothic version of Thunderbird Three.

For this painting of Edinburgh, I felt it was important to include figures to give a sense of scale to the overall scene and to provide a contrast of detail to the loose treatment of the grand trees that grace the gardens. Edinburgh Castle and the National Gallery in the background contribute to the composition by adding further interest and depth.

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Castle from the Grassmarket, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket

Edinburgh Castle from the Grassmarket

My first limited edition print of Edinburgh was a scene of the Grassmarket published in 1993 which sold out in less than a year. Since then I’ve had a further 18 of my watercolours of Edinburgh published as limited edition prints which have been hugely popular.

Edinburgh Castle boasts a commanding position over Auld Reekie. Many of my paintings of Edinburgh depict the castle almost as a backdrop to some other aspect of the city, as in this scene of street life in the Grassmarket. The loose brush marks which I’ve used to render the sky, the figures moving in and out of the shadows and the dark, heavy foreground, all help to add drama and life to the overall composition titled “Castle from the Grassmarket Edinburgh”.

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St Giles, Edinburgh

St Giles, Edinburgh

St Giles, Edinburgh

St Giles Cathedral stands proudly along Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile in-between the Castle and John Knox House. It has a distinctive crowned spire which reminds me of Newcastle’s St Nicholas Cathedral. Today it attracts a congregation of several hundred worshippers led by around 50 elders who manage the building and the church. When I say church, I mean the people, not the building.

For this particular painting of Edinburgh I wanted to make the Cathedral the main focal point, so I made took photographs of the sun hitting the stone work. This meant that most of the rest of the buildings were in shadow. To create further interest, I wanted to show the Royal Mile on a typical rainy Edinburgh day, so I took some reference photographs of the High Street in the rain with plenty of folk avoiding the puddles. Using a combination of photographs taken on two different days I was able to produce this watercolour capturing a burst of sunlight breaking out from behind the clouds after a heavy Scottish downpour. The red phone box and black cab add further colour and movement to the whole aspect of life in the city. It’s been one of my best selling limited edition prints of Edinburgh.

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New Bridge, Ayr

New Bridge, Ayr

New Bridge, Ayr

I’ve always been attracted to painting bridges, indeed, my first exhibition back in 1981 contained several watercolours of the bridge in Ponteland. Although the New Bridge in Ayr does not have the drama of the Forth Rail Bridge, I do like this particular painting because of the colours and sunlight on the buildings.

For centuries, the harbour at Ayr was the most important on the West Coast of Scotland until taken over by Glasgow. The first bridge to cross the river was built around 800 years ago and even the New Bridge was built in 1878. Ayr itself is steeped in history. Its long stretch of sandy beaches made it became a fashionable holiday resort in the early 1800’s. Initially folk used the steamer services but when the railway opened in 1840 linking Ayr to Prestwick and Glasgow the boom began.

Today, the West Coast of Scotland is a popular tourist destination attracting thousands each year. With the stunning countywide surrounding the town of Ayr, one has to put it on one’s radar when visiting Robert Burns country.

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George Street, Edinburgh Castle

George Street, Edinburgh Castle

George Street, Edinburgh Castle

One of the first paintings of Edinburgh I had published was this scene taken from Charlotte Square at the end of George Street and over the years it’s proved to be a very popular print.

Just after Christmas 1992 I had decided to spend the day in Edinburgh to gather reference material of subjects to paint. It was a bright, sunny (and freezing cold) winter’s day and I spent the whole time wandering around the city, looking for unusual views to capture in watercolour.

George Street is part of the New Town, a grand street that runs parallel to Princes Street and Queen Street which is very much central to Edinburgh’s business district. I wanted to capture something of the streets majesty and grandeur but also bring the castle into the composition too. The only way was to get up a hight, so I managed to get access to one of the building rooftops in Charlotte Square and take some reference photographs. These provided me with some of the material I needed to do a very large watercolour which I sold in 1993.

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Princes Street, Edinburgh

Princes Street, Edinburgh

Princes Street, Edinburgh

The idea of creating a new town for Edinburgh to be built on the farmlands to the north of the Castle began in the eighteenth century. A young architect, James Craig submitted plans for the competition at the age of only 22, 9 years prior to the building work which commenced in 1767. His winning design was a simple but beautifully pleasing arrangement of parallel main streets, George Street, Queen Street and Princes Street running from North to South.

Today, Princes Street is the home of some of the biggest names in retail including Jenners, Marks and Spencers, British Home Stores, Debenhams and House of Fraser.

This limited edition print of Princes Street, Edinburgh is one of 19 of my paintings of Edinburgh that have been published as limited edition prints. This particular one which depicts Princes Street on a winter’s afternoon was featured in a book titled “Landscapes in Watercolour” by Theodora Philcox. The book contained some of the works of 23 of the leading watercolourists from around the world. I felt privileged to have some of my paintings included.

It is one of my personal favourites of Edinburgh as the technique of using the subtle build up of washes to create the effect of ariel perspective is quite tricky to achieve. One can easily overdue the washes and in doing so, kill the translucency  of the watercolour. Sorry, I didn’t mean to go all technical!

If you have one of my prints of Princes Street and you would like to share any special memories the painting evokes, then please feel free to post a comment below.

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