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Sketchbooks

Our first visit to Umbria was March 2002. It was a much appreciated break away from running an art gallery in Newcastle’s city centre and an opportunity to spend time reflecting on what had been anxious year in 2001 when Susan and I had major surgery together. I had donated one of my kidneys to Susan in June 2001 in an operation carried out at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

It was lovely to be able to travel around this stunning region, exploring various hilltop towns and villages and being able to enjoy simple yet delicious local cuisine together.

On one particular day we decided to go further afield into the Marche region and visited Fabriano, famous for their hand made paper. I was immediately attracted to their tiny leather bound sketchbooks containing wonderful hand made watercolour paper and purchased a couple.

When we returned to our hotel, the Relais il Canaliccio I decided to make a start tackling the view out of our window of the sun disappearing behind a farm building, seen below. I also made the unusual decision not to do any preliminary pencil work, instead “drawing” with the brush and paint.

Sketchbooks Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour from the Relais il Canalicchio

From that point on, almost all my watercolour sketchbook work has been carried out in this way. Only a handful of slightly more complex subjects have some rudimentary pencil drawing to act as a guide for the brush work.

I now have a significant collection of leather-bound Sketchbooks containing studies painted around Italy, the UK, Oman, the USA and other countries. One of my goals for the year is to make some short videos of some of these books which you can see on my YouTube Channel.

These days I make my own Sketchbooks rather than visit Fabriano which is a very rewarding experience. You can see some of my Sketchbooks at our 20th Anniversary of alanreed.com Exhibition at our Studio & Gallery in Ponteland starting on the 20th April 2019.

Sketchbooks Great North Exhibition 2018

Leather Bound Sketchbooks

 

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Painting an Olive Tree

Painting an Olive Tree

Sketchbook Watercolour Painted in Umbria

One of the subjects I often get our guests on our Painting Holidays to have a go at is Painting an Olive Tree.

The grounds of Chiesa del Carmine are full of them. They are not too difficult to draw compared to other subjects so it’s relatively easy for the guests to spend a couple hours sketching to come up with a result they are pleased with.

On our last Painting Holiday in June this year I made a video of me Painting an Olive Tree. It was a small sketchbook watercolour painted in one of the leather bound sketchbooks that I’ve made containing some quite heavily textured watercolour paper.

Over the years I’ve often worked my sketchbook watercolours of olive trees into larger Studio paintings, making sure that I retain the spontaneity of the original study.

My interest in olive trees began when we first visited Umbria, Italy in 2002. I’d purchased some delightful leather bound sketchbooks from the Fabriano Paper Factory in the Marche region of Italy. I couldn’t wait to christen them with some watercolours and began by painting various scenes around the hotel we were staying. This was the start of a new creative process for me, painting directly with a brush onto hand made watercolour paper with no preparatory drawing in pencil.  Of course I’d painted on location in watercolour many times before, but it had always been on watercolour blocks. Also this was the first time I had not drawn out the scene before hand in pencil. I now have numerous leather-bound sketchbooks containing a wonderful record of our travels both here in the UK and overseas.

Throughout the months of July and August I am displaying my sketchbooks at our Studio and Gallery in Ponteland. Recently a couple of our guests who had been on two Painting Holidays with us, commissioned a watercolour inspired by one of my sketchbook studies. The subject was Perugia, one of the places we had taken them to. They wanted a painting to remind them of the lovely holidays they had been on. They have also re-booked for 2019 which means that our week in June 2019 is fully booked.

Please feel free to visit our gallery to look through my sketchbooks to see if there is something I’ve painted that reminds you of that special place that you have fond memories of. Best to telephone 01661 871 800 first to make sure we’re open.

 

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Drawing Hands

Alan Reed

Hand Drawing in Moleskine Sketchbook

Following on from my recent blog post about the benefits of regular life drawing, I’m aware that it’s not always easy or practical getting along to a life drawing class. However one simple thing that most of us can do is have a go at drawing hands.

My “warming up” exercises vary from quick self portraits to copying John Singer Sargent portraits. On occasion though I will do a quick study of my left hand which is what you can see here.

Here’s a couple of short time lapse videos of some pen and ink drawings that I did recently in my Moleskine sketchbook using a Shaeffer Fountain pen containing sepia ink.

If you want to add further interest to your drawing, use an angle poise lamp to create shadows from your fingers which will add depth to your study.

To get greater variation to the positioning of the hand then you will need to use a mirror to draw the reflection of the hand.

You can see an example of my hand drawn from being reflected
in a mirror at the end of this video.

If you are drawing hands on a regular basis you will start to see an improvement in your drawing generally. The important thing is to keep practising and not give up.

As Michelangelo once said “Work hard and don’t on any account neglect your drawing’. 

Alan Reed

“Thumbs Up” Pen and Ink Sketch in Moleskine Sketchbook

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Painting of Todi

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour of Todi, Umbria

On our painting holidays in Italy we take our guests to the various hilltop towns that are a feature of Umbria. This sketchbook watercolour was painted on location in a picturesque town called Todi which we have been to on a number of occasions.

Using a combination of the sketchbook watercolour, this simple pen drawing and photographs I decided to paint the scene as a larger A4 Watercolour Painting of Todi on hand made deckled edged paper for one of my painting videos.

Alan Reed

Sketch book pen drawing of Todi, Umbria

I like the colours of this watercolour sketch of Colle di Val d’Elsa in Tuscany which are more autumnal so I  intensified the colours from the sketchbook watercolour. I remembered the time when we visited Todi in the autumn one year.

Alan Reed

Watercolour of Colle di Val d’Elsa, Tuscany

The first step after drawing out the scene in pencil was to wet the paper and get down a quick wash of Cadmium Lemon and Cadmium Yellow. This set the tone and mood for all the other colours. I kept the yellow light in the sky so that when I added the blue, it didn’t end up looking green. However, it is distinctly more intense over the buildings.

Next wash was Rose Madder. Again, I wet the sky to avoid hard edges and to create some lighter patches for the clouds. However the area where the buildings are was dry because I wanted a few areas of yellow to come through in places to create interest and variation.

I recently purchased some new brushes from Rosemary & Co so I used a size 14 Series 344 to apply some clean water up to the edges of the buildings so that when I painted the sky, the colour flowed freely up to the rooftops without me having to paint round them and run the risk of the paint drying to quickly and end up with streaky brush marks.

So using the same brush I painted in some French Ultramarine over different parts of the sky, allowing some of the Rose Madder to show through to represent cloud shapes.

As I was painting nearer the buildings, I switched blues to Manganese Blue which added further interest, fusing into the French Ultramarine. A tad more Rose Madder helped the whole blending process.

The same Rosemary & Co brush is great for this type of painting. I just worked my way around the different buildings, catching the surface of the paper at times so that the painting retained the fluidity of the sketchbook study. The darker Rose Madder colour that I painted at the start, suddenly didn’t look to dark when  up against the darker shadow colour.

This is where the brush came into its own, large enough to cover the bigger areas but having a fine enough point for detail.

A number 4 Rosemary & Co brush from the same series was required for some of the smaller shadow areas.

When the shadows areas dried, I started to work on even finer detail, picking out all the windows with a very dark mix of purple, Vandyke Brown and Paynes Grey.

I wasn’t being too fiddly with these details, just sufficient accuracy to represent the windows, eaves and chimneys.
Once I completed all these finer details, which took more than an hour, I brought the painting to conclusion by painting in the foliage to break up the interlocking shapes of all the buildings.

I mixed a nice green made up of Cadmium Lemon, Paynes Grey with possibly the smallest touch of Winsor Green.

Alan Reed

Watercolour Painting of Todi, Umbria

I was back to the size 14 again, this time using mainly the side of the brush rather than the point to represent lots of branches. I used a wet on dry technique, flicking the brush over the surface of the paper to create the effect of lots of foliage.

For the smaller areas of foliage I used the size 4 brush again, going in with a much deeper green, probably more Paynes Grey than green for the shadows. I used the same technique of dragging the brush to create texture.

If you would like to learn more about how to produce a Painting of Todi or similar, why not join us on one of our Painting Holidays in Umbria, Italy.

Watch the Video Painting of Todi here.

Visit www.alanreed.com or www.reedartholidays.com to find out more.

 

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Painting of Seaton Sluice

Alan Reed

Seaton Sluice Watercolour

Earlier this summer I painted a small sketchbook watercolour Painting of Seaton Sluice on location.

As well as being a family day out, it was a typical summers day in the north east, patches of blue sky with sunlight bursting through dark threatening clouds.

I decided to work the sketch up into a larger 14” x 10” studio painting on an Arches Watercolour Block which I made a video of showing the different stages. You can watch the video here on YouTube.

Alan Reed

Seaton Sluice Sketchbook Watercolour

As in the sketchbook watercolour I decided to keep the rooftops of some of the buildings white to indicate bright sunlight striking the surface. I could have used masking fluid but instead carefully painted around them using just clean water.

The water allows the first wash of Cadmium Lemon to flow quite freely around the areas I wanted to keep white so that the application of colour looks fresh and lively.

Whilst the yellow was still wet, I introduced some Raw Sienna to the party accompanied by the delightful Rose Madder for the sandy beach colours.

Again, I left a few areas of white for the waves and the sunlight dancing off the surface of the pools of water. The rough surface of the paper helped to suggest the highlights.

Using Manganese Blue, the next step was to paint in the transitory patches of blue sky that appear behind the darker clouds.

Once again, I’ve wet appropriate parts of the paper to create some soft edges to the blue and to allow this colour to flow with ease.

Whilst this was still wet, next another touch of Rose Madder to create a gentle purple just above the rooftops. Let it dry.

Now for the dangerous part! Using some purple and a mix of Paynes Grey and Lamp Black it was time to create some drama.

I wet the paper where I want the dark clouds to flow then dropped in this dark mix, pushing it about, catching the rough surface in places where the paper is dry to emphasis the cloud edges. Initially it looked really dark, but I knew it would dry lighter.

A touch of French Ultramarine helped to add further interest to the clouds. More clean water added variation to the density of the sky.

You will notice also on the video that I don’t paint over the areas of colour once I’ve applied them. Doing so tends to kill the translucency of the pigment and the wash looses its freshness. It’s best to live with the shapes you initially make rather than trying to go over them to try and improve what you’ve already done……..you probably won’t.

Back to the darker colour for the higher clouds for a greater sense of ariel perspective. You will notice that I’m also varying the angle of the brush to produce more interesting marks.

When the sky is totally dry, it was time to define the buildings perched on the horizon, a distinctive feature in a Painting of Seaton Sluice. I carefully picked out the main details like the windows and chimneys. This took a while.

Having reviewed the sky, I wasn’t totally happy with a slight cauliflower effect. I lifted it out by applying some clean water then just disturbing the surface of the paint, dabbing it off with a tissue.

The sea is a mix of French Ultramarine and turquoise, moving the brush horizontally and allowing some of the white of the paper to show through for the waves.

I was careful to get the shapes right without getting too niggely or too tight. Then introduced some purple for the shallower pools of water.

Unlike the sketch, I decided to introduce a strong foreground shadow produced by a passing cloud to keep the interest in the middle distance. I used a much more intense purple colour. I also wetted the paint beforehand to let the colour flow and to create a gentle, soft edge where the dark shadow meets the sunlit sand.

Finally, I scratched out a few further highlights of sun on the surface of the pools of water with a scalpel.

So there you have it. A small sketchbook watercolour painted on the beach inspiring this larger studio Painting of Seaton Sluice.

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Paintings of Tiree

Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of Scarinish, Tiree

2017 has been a very busy year for Susan and I both with business and family. Our son was married 13th May so as a way to relax after the build up to the wedding we planned a painting trip to a Scottish Island called Tiree. Some friends of ours bought a holiday cottage there called An Caladh ( meaning rest place by the sea ) so we arranged a three night stay and hoped that the weather would be favourable and that its name would live up to expectations.

As we left from Glasgow Airport in a Twin Otter we hit thick cloud so it wasn’t until we descended below cloud level that we caught our first view of this small island, only about 8 miles long. We landed on the tiny airstrip that was once used by Coastal Command during WW2 to be greeted by our friends.

First port of call was Scarinish Harbour to purchase lobsters, crabs, fresh langoustines and local steaks for our evening meals which were exquisitely prepared by Susan. Whilst these were being discussed at the local fish van I launched into my first sketchbook watercolour of the picturesque harbour set against the backdrop of an ominous sky.

Alan Reed

Tiree Lobster & Crab

 

Alan Reed

Langoustines from Tiree

Fortunately the ominous sky was more of a show than a shower so after lunch we were able to enjoy a sunlit walk along Balephil Bay where I painted the beautiful white sands. This just whetted my appetite for more beach paintings so before our evening meal I went down to Balevullin Beach only 5 minutes walk from An Caladh.

The beach is a favourite haunt for surfers and I could see why as the waves rushed in. I found a suitable vantage point and tackled two watercolours of the beach, one in my sketchbook, the other on a 12″ x 9″ Arches Block.

Alan Reed

The beach at Balevullin, high tide

The next day I returned to do another sketchbook watercolour, this time changing the format of the composition to include the foreground rocks. Due to the strong sunlight and low tide, the sea became more turquoise in colour which made for a completely different painting. I was already starting to build up a mini collection of Paintings of Tiree to be developed into more finished pieces.

Alan Reed

The beach at Balevullin, Tiree

The pattern for the weather was rain in the morning, sun in the afternoon and great sunsets in the evening so on the Monday morning I was confined to painting a view from one of the windows of An Caladh. The distant white houses highlighted against the threatening sky and the palm tree made for an interesting composition.

Alan Reed

View from a window, An Caladh, Tiree

Producing Paintings of Tiree is just one of the many activities I enjoyed during our three days on the island.

Did I mention the bike rides, watching thirty seals playing very close to the shore of Balephetrish Beach, wonderful walks and spotting very large hares, feasting on local produce, bird watching and a visit to the museum about Skerryvore Lighthouse?

As we took off, the skies were clear so we were able to enjoy stunning views of the inner Hebrides including Staffa, Mull and Iona, a reminder of some of the paintings I have produced in the past of these islands.

Visit alanreed.com to get updates on new Paintings of Tiree.

Alan Reed

Tiree Sunset

 

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Time Lapse Portrait Sketches

Alan Reed

Charcoal Pencil Sketch

There are no short cuts to achieving sound drawing skills. Regular practise at drawing from observation will pay off in most visual disciplines in art, whether it’s painting, sculpture, graphic design or even photography. Before working on a commission or a painting for exhibition I will often warm up for 10 to 20 minutes with a charcoal pencil sketch of a John Singer Sargent portrait. I’ve drawn dozens over the last few years, particularly as I’ve been receiving more portrait commissions.

I’ve recently started to make time lapse videos of my portrait sketches so that one can see the process on how I draw a face from the start. If you watch the video which is only 24 seconds long, you will see that I draw a faint outline for the shape of the face.

I then make a mark halfway down to indicate where the eyes are to go. I then make another mark in between the eye line and the chin for the tip of the nose. Finally I do one last guideline for the mouth, usually slightly higher than halfway between the tip of the nose and the chin.

Once these are in place, I then start to draw in with greater care the details for the eyes, working my way down the face for all the other features. After that, it’s simply a matter of shading in the hair and drawing in the neck and shoulders. You will see that I’m drawing with a charcoal pencil which gives you a lovely dark, rich tone. I’m  also a big fan of the Moleskine sketchbooks which come in a good range of sizes.

Time lapse videos are quite easy to do and it’s a great way to show folk the drawing process without it taking up too much time.

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Portrait Sketches

As I mentioned in my previous post, I will often start my painting days with a warming up exercise. My usual practise is one or two charcoal pencil studies of John Singer Sargent portraits in my Moleskine sketchbook.

Last year I did a few time lapse videos of these portrait sketches to show the process of these simple studies. I start off with the outline of the head. Halfway down I start to draw the eyes. One these are in place, halfway between the eyes and the chin I’ll make some marks to indicate the tip of the nose. Slightly above the halfway mark between the nose and the chin is the mouth.

All these distances are only guidelines for doing portrait sketches. To get a good likeness you have to be really accurate with your proportions, shapes and mark making. Like any craft or skill, regular practise in necessary to become competent.

To find out about commissioning a portrait then visit my website to watch a short video.

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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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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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