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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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Drawing

Sargent Studies

Charcoal Studies of Sargent Portraits drawn at The National Portrait Gallery

A few weeks ago I was asked to write an article for the website of a new initiative here in the North East called Drawing?

Drawing? is a 6 month long, region wide programme of exhibitions and events which aims to explore drawing in art and culture and also in other areas such as science, design and technology. The project is a partnership between The Customs House, Sunderland University, Newcastle University, Northumbria University and mima (Teesside University) and is being co-curated by Esen Kaya and Mike Collier.

Below is the article which I wrote describing the reasons why I draw but it’s well worth visiting the Drawing? website to find out more from other artists too.

Drawing is and always will be the main foundation of my creative process. Many visual artists and painters do rely heavily on photography to pull together the material from which they paint from. There’s nothing wrong in that, however I do feel that the discipline of drawing and observing from life is a valuable tool that can enrich the flow of creativity.

For me, one of the main uses of drawing is research. If I’m going to an exhibition, I am armed with a moleskine sketchbook and some charcoal pencils. A good recent example would be the John Singer Sargent “Portraits of Artist’s and Friends” at the National Portrait Gallery. I will typically spend several hours sketching the portraits on display as a means of achieving a deeper appreciation of Sargent’s use of tone, lighting and his characterisation of his sitters. The studies and techniques that I record in this kind of research are then translated from charcoal pencil on paper to a brush loaded with oil paint on to canvas when I come to do my own portrait paintings. I strive to keep the brush strokes as lively, free and expressive as those rendered from observation.

Likewise, if I’m painting a landscape or cityscape I will often paint the scene on location “en plein air”. This time however, the drawing element is achieved by using a brush, drawing directly with watercolour paint on to the paper. I rarely pre-draw the scene in pencil. This very spontaneous, direct approach means I can produce a very fluid and loose “drawing” that can prove to be invaluable when it comes to creating a larger studio painting where I may also harness the use of photography for topographical accuracy. The observational studies will help to prevent any slavish copying of the photographs that could result in a more sterile, static painting.

I also draw simply for the “fun of it”. Regular drawing helps my hand to eye co-ordination and enables me to be more visually selective when painting in the studio. It’s much easier to focus on the main point of interest when you’re drawing from life. This “focus” can be realised by using stronger, more direct lines on the areas that are really important. Conversely, the use of less fussy, more simplistic line work on background areas helps to create a composition that has more visual impact. Again, this can translate well when it comes to painting. I’ve been painting professionally for over 30 years and I’m drawing more now than I ever have done, not just to maintain my technical skills as a draughtsman, but to stay connected in a deeper flowing stream of creativity.

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 the product 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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Bomber Command Memorial

Charcoal Sketch in Moleskine Sketchbook

Charcoal Sketch of Bomber Command Memorial

I went to see a couple of fine Edward Seago exhibitions in London recently. More on that later. Whilst on my travels around the city I decided to have a look at the Bomber Command Memorial in Green Park.

It commemorates the aircrews of RAF Bomber Command who embarked on missions during the Second World War. The Bomber Command Memorial was built to mark the sacrifice of 55,573 aircrew from Britain, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Poland and other countries of the Commonwealth as well as civilians of all nations killed during the air raids. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth officially opened the memorial on 28 June 2012.

On arrival I was immediately impressed by the scale of the 7 crew members depicted in the memorial and the detail of the flying uniform rendered in the sculpture. Many of the larger bombers like the Lancaster had a crew of 7 so it was only fitting to show a full crew.

I began by doing an A5 sketchbook watercolour. Whilst I was painting it, a retired pilot came alongside to watch me paint. It turned out that his father used to fly Lancaster Bombers during the war.

The Bomber Command Memorial has been designed in such a way that one cannot see all the crew members at once. You have to move about to see them all. I suppose that it could signify that the crew members were spread about the aircraft from the nose to the tail of the plane.

I decided to return to the Memorial the following day when I produced another watercolour sketch and a couple of charcoal pencil drawings in my Moleskine Sketchbook. One of the figures reminded me of my Great Uncle Ronnie who was a flight engineer on Lancaster Bombers.

Many of my sketchbook studies can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland as part of the Art Tour 2014.

One of the links on this post is an affiliate link to a Moleskine sketchbook, 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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