The Artist

Painting of Jebel Akhdar, Oman

Original Watercolour of Jebel Akhdar, Oman

In 2013 I won “The Artist Prize” in the Royal Watercolour Society competition with my painting of Jebel Akhdar, Oman. The prize was a 3 page feature in “The Artist” Magazine where the writer Susie Hodge interviewed me.

I’m regularly asked questions by art students about my working methods and how I started off as an artist so I thought it may be helpful for me to post some of my answers. Here are the first 10 answers.

  1. Although I had seen my father use watercolours and I had always admired Rowland Hilder’s paintings featured in the Artist’s Britain Calendars in the 1970’s it wasn’t until the age of 15 that I first tried them out at school through my art teacher. I immediately fell in love with the way one could achieve different colours by laying one wash on top of another. I enjoyed art at school, particularly when I came second in an art competition at the age of 9. With the prize money I purchased some poster paints which I then used to win first prize in another art competition the following year with a painting of Bamburgh Castle.
  2. There was never really any doubt in my mind that I wanted to become an artist, particularly with my father Ken Reed) being an artist and seeing my grandfather paint too.

    Alan Reed

    Winter Landscape after Rowland Hilder

  3. I left school at 16 and went to art college in Newcastle upon Tyne studying Graphic Design and illustration. At college we were introduced to lots of different mediums. None of the lecturers showed me how to use watercolour though. I recall starting to teach myself one summer holiday by studying Rowland Hilder’s paintings. I showed my efforts to my lecturers the following term and they were very encouraging. Some of them actually bought my paintings. I had my first exhibition as an art student in our local library and sold all 12 paintings exhibited. I started to receive commissions from the exhibition.
  4. A couple of years after leaving college I decided to go self employed as a full time artist at the age of 22 using the Enterprise Allowance Scheme. To be eligible you had to be unemployed for several weeks then open up a business account with £1000 in. The government would then pay you £40 a week for a year. I guess 99% of the businesses would have failed but it was a great help to me. I also did a couple of days part time lecturing in art and design around the North East which was an additional income. I gave up the lecturing around 2004 although I still do 3 or 4 watercolour demonstrations to various art clubs around the North East.
  5. The time I spend on doing a painting varies. If I’m painting “plein air” it will take an hour or two. I might spend a little time in the studio to finish it off if required. Studio paintings will generally take a day to two weeks depending on the size, subject matter and interruptions!

    Alan Reed

    Sketchbook Watercolour of the Arch of Titus

  6. If I’m painting a landscape or cityscape in watercolour I will use a combination of sketchbook studies painted on location and my own photographs. I sometimes have to work off the clients photographs on some commissioned work. If I’m painting a portrait in oils, then I much prefer painting from life over a period of 4-6 sittings rather than photographs.
  7. Choice of scenes will depend on if it’s a commission or for an exhibition. The client will often be guided by my own thoughts and ideas. I usually get an idea straight away of what’s going to work. When painting a landscape or cityscape, I’m wanting the viewer to feel as though they are a part of the scene before them, so creating mood, emotion and atmosphere are very much a part of my design.
  8. I will use artist’s license whenever necessary, sometimes leaving out cars, road signs and certain figures in a cityscape or adding in figures. I’ll often change the sky or add foreground shadows to create drama in a landscape.

    San Gimignano

    San Gimignano, Evening Sunlight

  9. I love to capture the hustle and bustle of city life with interesting architecture, particularly cities like Edinburgh, Bath, Newcastle, Florence and Venice. Coastal scenes like the West Coast of Scotland and Norfolk are also a favourite. I’m enjoying portraiture at the moment too.

10. Capturing mood and atmosphere, the fleeting moment of light striking a building or the first rays of sunlight in a Tuscan landscape really appeals to me.

Also trying to describe someone’s personality and psychology in a portrait is a really enjoyable challenge.

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Painting Commissions

Alan Reed

Warehouse

One of the most interesting painting commissions I’ve worked on in 2016 has been for the Lakes Distillery. The Lakes Distillery opened in 2104 and is already winning awards for its Whiskey, Gin and Vodka. It is housed in a Victorian Cattle Farm with hand made copper stills, set in the stunning scenery of the Lake District.

When I was given a tour around the distillery to get painting ideas, the first thing that really struck me was just how beautifully thought out everything is about the Lakes Distillery, from the branding through to the actual buildings themselves. It really is a credit to everyone who has been involved with this project.

The first subject which demanded to be painted was the warehouse containing dozens of barrels of maturing whiskey. The distillery manager John Drake took me around and we decided that a painting with him testing the progress of one of the whiskeys would make an interesting painting.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour of the Warehouse

My initial study was an A5 watercolour painted in my home made leather bound sketchbook. When painting on location, I tend to draw with the brush, rarely using a pencil. Working in this manner produces brush marks which are very direct and expressive. Photography is also an aid to make sure everything is drawn out accurately when it comes to the finished studio painting.

I always aim to retain the fluency and freedom of the sketchbook studies when it comes to working in the Studio otherwise the painting can loose its freshness and spontaneity.

Two paintings were commissioned. The second one of the copper stills was again inspired by a sketchbook watercolour. I’ll be writing about this one in another blog post.

Paul Currie, the Lakes Distillery founder and his team were delighted with their two painting commissions which have been reproduced as limited edition prints to present to their Founder Club Members.

I really recommend a visit to the Lakes Distillery if you are in the area. The setting is stunning and their restaurant is first class.

 

 

 

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Christmas Exhibition

Alan Reed

Mont Blanc & Manganese Blue

 

Christmas Exhibition starts Saturday 5th November with Fresh Coffee and Mince Pies.

Christmas Exhibition starts Saturday 5th November with Fresh Coffee and Mince Pies.

Click HERE for more information.

 

2016 has been busy and eventful year. It began with my watercolour “Mont Blanc and Manganese Blue” being selected for the Royal Watercolour Society‘s Competition in January. It is a painting inspired by a very memorable trip to Chamonix in the summer of 2015 when I was able to produce a number of sketchbook studies of the stunning scenery. My Mont Blanc painting forms part of this years Christmas Exhibition.

Alan Reed

Last Light, Ruwi, Oman

Much of this year has been spent working on commissions, including another 4 large landscapes for a client in Oman. Two of the commissions were oil paintings of mountain wadis. Continuing on the mountain theme is “Last Light, Ruwi, Oman” a painting which I was shortlisted for “Artist of the Year”. This watercolour is also on show for my Christmas Exhibition.

My connections with Scotland remain as strong as ever so I have several new original paintings on display featuring Edinburgh, Eigg and Rhum, Crail, Pittenweem and North Berwick.

You can also browse through my extensive collection of limited edition prints of Scotland at our Christmas Exhibition.

Italy has also been on our radar throughout 2016. In May and June we took guests out to Umbria for the painting holidays which we organise. We also took day trips to Arezzo and Anghiari in Tuscany so that the guests could have experience in painting these picturesque hill top towns steeped in history. Our week for June 2017 is already fully booked but we are taking expressions of interest for future painting holidays.

We returned in August for another trip where we experienced the tremors of the tragic earthquake which left many dead and homes destroyed. A reminder of the fragility of life.

I’ve also had the good fortune of working on several more painting commissions of Italy including 2 of the Colosseum. See some of my new works of Italy this Christmas Exhibition.

Alan Reed

Theatre Royal in the Rain

Of course, Newcastle and Northumberland features heavily for my Christmas Exhibition so there will be some new works for you to see on the run up to Christmas.

My Christmas Exhibition starts on Saturday 5th November. It runs Tuesday to Saturday 9:30 – 5pm right up until Christmas Eve on the 24th so you will have plenty of time to buy that special present for your loved one.

 

 

 

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Roman Forum

Alan Reed

Roman Forum, First Light

For over a year now I have been working on a number of painting commissions for an overseas client who has a passion for Roman history and paintings depicting Roman architecture. To paint these subjects with the kind of insight and integrity that they deserve, I make sure that I gather sufficient original reference by going on location to the exact places that have been requested.

Considerable time is spent surveying the subject from different angles and at different times of day to get the best composition and lighting. For this particular view of the Roman Forum I awoke when it was still dark and walked briskly from our hotel room along the deserted streets of Rome to capture the first rays of sunlight striking the ancient columns of the Temple of Saturn. I have to say, if you are visiting any busy city, it’s well worth the effort to get up early before the rest of the tourists take to the streets.

I wasted no time in whipping out my leather bound sketchbook to do a rapid watercolour study to get a feeling of the mood, light and general atmosphere of the Roman Forum.

Alan Reed

Painting on location in Rome

After taking several photographs from my first view point of the Roman Forum, I then made my way to another vantage point to tackle another possible painting. By then however, the sun had risen considerably higher so the lighting was not as interesting. I decided to return again the following morning. Fortunately I’m used to getting up early, so another visit was very much a pleasure than a chore. In the end, it was the second painting which the client was delighted with and which has been added to his growing collection of Alan Reed original paintings.

I’m pleased to say that my original painting of the Roman Forum titled First Light has been published as a limited edition print available online and from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland, Northumberland. The original watercolour is also currently on view as well.

 

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Faded Prints

Alan Reed

Correct colours against a faded print

I have been having my original paintings published as limited edition prints since 1993. Initially it was through a publisher that was based in Edinburgh called Di Rollo Ltd. The publisher would organise the printing and ensure that the colours were as close to the original watercolour as possible. I would make the final approval then sign and number each print.

I also began to publish some of my work too and would over see the whole process. In the 1990’s all my prints were printed through a 4 colour lithographic process. In the last 15 years or so, the giclee method of printing has become much more popular with artists. The popularity with publishers and artists has grown for several reasons:

  1. The set up costs are not as high as the lithographic prints.
  2. Although the unit cost per print through giclee is significantly more than a lithographic print, publishers don’t have to print the whole edition in one go, so they don’t have to carry huge amounts of stock.
  3. Publishers can test the market with just one or two prints rather than being left with hundreds of prints if the image is not as popular as expected.
  4. The quality of the inks is far superior through the giclee process than with the lithographic prints so you are less likely to get faded prints.

Today I still sell both lithographic prints and giclee prints, however all my new prints are giclee because of the reasons outlined above.

Since my first paintings were published, I’ve been able to monitor the light fastness of the prints as I’ve seen them hanging on the walls of family, friends and clients. I can conclude that if the prints are hung away from sunlight, the colours remain strong. My sister in law has at least six of my prints which I see on a regular basis. She has been careful to hang them away from strong light. Only one has faded which was close to a large window.

Over the last few years, several clients have brought to me faded prints which they have hung in direct sunlight. The most recent is this lithographic print of the Grand Canal, Venice. I’ve recently replaced it with a giclee print for the client. Indeed, the lithographic version is no longer available, only the giclee.

Even though it is the full responsibility of the client to ensure that ALL their artwork is hung away from strong light, I like to show goodwill with any customer who has a faded print of one of my paintings, even if it is not one that I actually published.

I can replace faded prints at a trade price with a giclee print and I will sign and number it the same as the faded one. I can also put the new print in the frame for a small charge of £20- £30 depending on the size of the frame.

If you feel as though one of your Alan Reed prints has faded, please contact me on 01661 871 800 or email art@alanreed.com

 

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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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Painting Grey Street

Alan Reed

Shoppers, Grey Street

Grey Street in Newcastle has been described by the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as the finest curved street in Europe. I never tire of sitting down to capture its fine sweeping curve and Georgian columns in all seasons. You can see a number of limited edition prints of Newcastle’s Grey Street including  Grey Street, Saturday Morning which was featured on the BBC’s “Show me the Monet”.

Newcastle is a very busy city so when painting Grey Street I find it great fun to bring life to the scene by adding in people for extra movement and interest. It’s even more fun painting Grey Street in winter because you have the extra challenge of resolving the reflections of the sky, buildings and figures in the wet pavement. Watercolour is the ideal medium for this but you need to know the sequence of washes and how to build up the colour.

You will notice that the gentle yellow colour that you can see just above the distant buildings is actually running throughout the entire painting (apart from the snow lying on the rooftops) and is particularly evident in the pavement in the centre of the foreground. When the wash of yellow dried, I wet the sheet of paper and introduced a very subtle hint of Rose Madder in the sky and foreground before introducing the slate grey for the sky and reflections.

After these washes had dried, it was simply a matter of adding detail to depict the architectural forms before finally painting the various figure. Over the years I’ve developed a “shorthand” painting technique to capture figures moving about. Photography can be a help but it’s also a very useful discipline to observe and sketch from life. That way you can’t get bogged down with detail. You have to pick out the main gesture and gender of the person and make sure that you have them positioned at the correct eye level.

Painting Grey Street outdoors is a real challenge and not for the faint hearted. As I’m writing this blog post, I’m getting tempted to get out there again! In the meantime however, my studio painting “Shoppers, Grey Street” can be seen online and at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Mount Street Gardens

Mount Street Gardens is a very quiet, peaceful public garden in Mayfair, London created in 1889. When I first came across it I was immediately struck by its calm, tranquil atmosphere. The warm afternoon sunlight was forming dappled areas of sunlight and shadows. There was little sound of the traffic, only the birds which have made Mount Street Gardens their home.

I wasted little time in getting out my sketchbook to make some simple watercolour studies to capture the scene which you can see below. A light wash of Cadmium Lemon over most of the page has added warmth to all the other colours. As with the majority of my sketchbook watercolours, there is no preliminary pencil drawing. I prefer to draw with the brush with paint so that all the brush marks are loose and have a directness to them.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour of Mount Street Gardens

The studio painting is a 12″ x 9″ watercolour available from my website and has been painted on Arches watercolour paper. I’ve deliberatly chosen to keep the same palette as the sketch and avoided the temptation to tighten up with extra detail. I did take several photographs that afternoon and decided to base the composition on a viewpoint where I was standing up, rather than the seated position for the sketch.

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Paintings of Umbria

Alan Reed

Via Roma, Montone

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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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