Tag Archives: Fabriano

Paintings of olive trees

Alan Reed

Olive Grove, Spring Light

I’ve been painting “en plein air” in Italy since 1991 when Susan took me to Venice. I fell in love with its architecture, the light, atmosphere and culture. However, it was not until our first visit to Umbria in March 2002 that I started to make sketchbook studies of olive trees.

We were staying in the Relais il Canalicchio hotel, perched on a hill commanding stunning views of the Umbrian countryside. During the first night of our stay, having enjoyed a fabulous meal at their restaurant, there was a heavy fall of snow. We awoke to complete silence and total white out. We were literally snowed in until the following day. Once the snow had cleared we began to explore Umbria in earnest, taking in hilltop towns like Orvieto, Todi, Perugia, Assisi and Norcia.

On one occasion we drove to the Fabriano paper factory and I purchased several leather bound sketchbooks containing their wonderful hand made watercolour paper that is so lovely to paint on. On our return to the Relais il Canalicchio I wasted no time in testing the first sketchbook by painting the view from our room as the sun was going down.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour from the Relais il Canalicchio

It was during this period that I began to develop a sketchbook painting style in watercolour where I would deliberately avoid drawing out beforehand the scene in pencil. This meant that the brush marks became more considered, fluid and direct.

I also began to make sketchbook studies of the olive trees that surrounded the tiny hill top town of Canalicchio. These became the inspiration for a number of studio paintings including the one below of the Relais il Canalicchio available as a limited edition print.

Painting of Relais il Canalicchio

Relais il Canalicchio

On our reedart painting holidays in Umbria we stay at Chiesa del Carmine. The gardens have plenty of olive trees for the guests to paint. They have fun painting and drawing their twisted branches and beautifully shaped leaves. I also join in the fun with my own sketchbook watercolours. These days I make my own sketchbooks using paper from Khadi Papers and leather from a local supplier.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour of Olive trees

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Parco degli Acquedotti

Alan Reed Watercolour

Parco degli Acquedotti

Over the last few months I’ve been working on a number of painting commissions of Rome for an overseas client. You can read a testimonial on a previous blog post about one of the paintings I did for him of the Arch of Titus.

This has involved me travelling to Rome for short visits to gather suitable reference. The last trip in October saw me take a metro ride from the centre of Rome to Parco degli Acquedotti which boasts some fine remains of the magnificent aqueducts built by Emperors Claudius and Hadrian.

It was late afternoon so I worked rapidly on a couple of “en plein air” watercolours looking directly into the autumn sunlight capturing the main section. Although the longest stretch of the section by Claudius is the most impressive, I was also struck by the fragmented parts which stood alone in a field, creating some rather beautiful shapes, almost like letters of the alphabet.

I couldn’t resist painting a 21″ x 14″ studio watercolour on hand made Fabriano paper of Parco degli Acquedotti in the soft, warm autumnal light which can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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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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Painting of the Pantheon, Rome

Painting of the Pantheon

The Pantheon, Rome

The Pantheon is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Rome and was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa about the time of the Bible’s Book of Acts. Agrippa’s inscription can be seen on the portico which always reminds me of Acts chapters 25-26 where the Apostle Paul is brought before King Agrippa to be tried. So convincing was Paul’s witness of Jesus Christ that even Agrippa said to Paul “You almost persuade me to become Christian”. Chapter 26 verse 28.

I’ve been to Rome a couple of times since my first visit back in 1998 as part of the process of getting reference for my paintings of Italy. Each time I’ve managed to paint a number of watercolours on location. Earlier this year I painted a 14″ x 10″ watercolour of the Pantheon based on my location studies which was the inspiration to do this large painting. In both watercolours I’ve tried to retain the freshness of those painted plein air, keeping the brush marks direct and relatively loose compared to my usual studio paintings.

The painting of The Pantheon, Rome began as a watercolour demonstration for a couple of art groups who had asked me to show the students how to tackle cityscapes, in particular the challenge of painting figures in the context of a city scene. It’s been painted on an expensive sheet of rough Fabriano hand made watercolour paper.

The students seemed to appreciate the various techniques and methods I was demonstrating so I hope they enjoy seeing the finished painting of The Pantheon, Rome which is currently at my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland and will soon be available as a limited edition print.

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Paintings of Italy

Over the last few years I’ve received a number of commissions from clients who have a home in Italy and who have wanted a painting of their property. Each building has been quite different in terms of size and location but they have all had their own distinct charm and appeal.

In 2007 I was commissioned by an English couple to do a painting of their home near a small, compact Umbrian village called Panicale, which overlooks Lake Trasimeno. We stayed in an old Villa called Villa Le Mura which was being restored by its owners. In the evening we met up with our clients that evening for a lovely meal at Masolino Albergo Ristorante which served us authentic Umbrian cuisine.

The following morning I woke up before 7am and drove straight to the property to catch the early morning light. I was just in time. I found a suitable vantage point in between some olive trees which gave a delightful aspect of the house nestling in its own little valley. Initially it was shrouded by a shadow being cast by the hill behind me but as soon as the sun rose above the horizon it was bathed in a warm golden hue.

I quickly embarked on a small sketchbook study in a tiny leather bound book purchased direct from the Fabriano Factory in Le Marches from a previous trip and whilst the paint was drying I took a number of photographs of the rapidly changing early morning light. The owners served me a very welcome and much appreciated coffee before I crashed on with another watercolour study, this time of the olive grove which surrounded their home.

I returned to capture the evening light but we decided that the mornings work was going to be sufficient to enable me to do the finished painting, a 21″ x 14″ watercolour which the client was delighted with.

Susan and I will be returning to Italy in September for a painting project in Florence and will be happy to meet up with anyone wishing to discuss any possible commissions of properties, holiday homes or favourite views, places to paint in Italy.

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Rosso e Nero (Rialto Fish Market) A painting in Stages

Rosso e Nero Finished Painting Stage 8

Rosso e Nero Finished Painting Stage 8

In February 2004 my wife and I spent several days in Venice with my parents. We booked an old Venetian apartment through a website called Venetian-Rentals that was lavishly furnished with old books and paintings. The plan for this trip was to get some fresh reference for me to do some new paintings of Italy.

On one particular day we checked out the fish market by the Rialto Bridge and I came across this amazing scene, full of life, movement and colour. After doing a 14” x 10” preparation study, I drew out the composition with a B pencil on some very rough Italian hand made paper from Fabriano, 28” x 20” which you can see in Stage 1.

For Stage 2, I applied a mix of yellow, cadmium yellow and lemon yellow to set the right base tones for the sheeting which protects the market from the elements. The brush used was a Stratford & York size 20.

Stage 3. Once the yellow areas had dried, I made a red mix of Vermillion Hue and Cadmium Red and began to apply it wet on wet on the floor area to re-create the effect of the red tarpaulin being reflected in the wet flooring. The heavily textured paper helped to keep this part of the painting loose and fresh. The tarpaulins were rendered wet on dry as I wanted to have their edges clearly defined.

Stage 4. This part of the painting is where I began to form the title in my mind, Rosso e Nero (red and black).

I made up three separate colours in saucers, Vandyke Brown, Payne’s Grey and Lamp Black and began to build up washes with these stronger colours for the floor areas. The background arches were picked out using the point of the number 20 Stratford and York brush.

Stage 5. Over the years I have spent hours observing and drawing people in urban settings. I have developed a style where it is possible to identify different individuals by their stance, gesture and movement.

I tend to draw with the brush for each figure rather than relying in lots of pencil work, but at the same time, I don’t get too involved in too much unnecessary detail. I want the figures to appear as though they are part of the painting and yet moving through the scene.

Stage 6. It was simply a matter of painting the figures that were going to bring the scene to life. The danger is to over work them and make them look too static, so it’s vital that the brush marks are kept simple and fresh.

Stage 7. The last few figures really helped to make this scene work. The older couple look typically Venetian, stolling around the various stalls, looking for the right piece of fish for their evening meal. Will it be risotto or pasta for their starter and how will they cook their main meal and with what vegetables? Building up the darker areas around the figures helps to add depth and substance to the overall scenario.

Stage 8. The final painting which was sold from my 20th anniversary exhibition in 2004 to some friends of ours which I’m pleased about, as I get to see the original every time we visit them.

I was so pleased with the finished result that we decided to publish it as a limited edition giclee print with only 20 in the edition. You can see a framed copy at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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