Tag Archives: Florence

San Gimignano

Alan Reed

San Gimignano, Afternoon Sunlight

Susan and I first visited San Gimignano in February 1999. We were staying in Florence for several days and having seen San Gimignano featured on a holiday programme, we decided to go there for the day. A local bus took us to nearby Poggibonsi then after a short wait, another bus to our destination, the medieval hilltop town of San Gimignano.

From a distance it looks like a mini Manhattan with its 14 towers gracing the Tuscan skyline. Apparently it did boast 72 towers, built by the Patrician families who controlled the town. The bigger the tower, the greater your wealth! I remember painting a watercolour by the well in Piazza della Cisterna whilst Susan went off to buy some wild boar salami for an al fresco lunch. Even though it was February, it was bright, warm and sunny, ideal conditions for painting “en plein air”.

After lunch I spent the afternoon wandering about gathering further reference to do a studio painting to add to my Italian Collection of Limited Edition Prints. As the sun began to set and we made our way to the bus I noticed that the stonework began to turn a beautifully warm pink with hints of orange. I logged the colours in my mind and decided that this would be mood and atmosphere I would aim to capture.

The studio painting of San Gimignano which was reproduced as a limited edition print was an immediate success. I still sell copies of it online and from our gallery in Ponteland. More recently I’ve painted a portrait version of a similar view which is also available as a limited edition print.

You can see a short video on YouTube of the original watercolour “San Gimignano, Afternoon sunlight” which can also be seen at my Studio & Gallery.

 

 

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The Artist

Alan Reed

Florence from Piazza Michelangelo

21. My style really began to develop when I was an art student. It improved through my desire to become a better watercolourist. More than ever, I am always seeking to improve my skills and to become the artist I’m meant to be.

22. I find that I’ve learned to know when to stop. Too many watercolours can be ruined by overworking them. I’d rather leave the painting looking slightly unfinished (it never does!) than overdo it.

23. The elements are the biggest problem. Changing weather conditions, especially the arrival of rain when the scene started off bright and sunny is a problem. I actually enjoy painting the rain from start to finish if I’m properly prepared. The painting above of Florence was inspired by a watercolour painted on location in the rain. My wife had to stand in the cold holding an umbrella over me!

24. If a watercolour goes badly wrong at the very start, then I’ll scrap it. If a small mistake occurs, then I can usually correct it by lifting out the offending area and re-painting it.

 

Alan Reed

Sight Size method in Studio

25. There are various techniques one can use to draw out a composition in the studio such as grids, sight-size, tracing etc. I’ve used many of them from time to time. However, I’m finding that over the last few years I’m doing more and more “drawing” with the paint brush. Indeed, with my location painting, I rarely use a pencil and prefer to paint directly onto the watercolour paper. The “Sight Size” method is is more a philosophy of seeing which I use when painting portraits.

26. At art college I had a brilliant lecturer called Laurie Stangroom who used to do artist’s impressions of buildings from architects plans. He taught me how to project the plans into any perspective you wanted through understanding picture planes, eye levels and vanishing points. It’s been a tremendous foundation for my watercolour paintings of cities. I like John Singer Sargent’s belief that painting is a science which is necessary to acquire in order to make of it an art.

27. I always start my watercolour work with large washes of colour to take away the white of the paper and to set the mood for the rest of the painting. It’s only when these washes are dry that I will begin to work on the main elements of the subject. I always work from light to dark in watercolour. If it’s a portrait or figure, I will work on a neutral tinted canvas (a mix of white, raw umber and black) rather than pure white. I like to make sure that the proportions are correct before commencing on any colour work. It’s usually best to get the mid tones in first before doing the darks and highlights.

28. I’m currently working towards my next exhibition at my Studio & Gallery at our home in Ponteland, Northumberland and a number of commissions. My wife and I are always seeking to improve our website www.alanreed.com to make it more interesting and informative, not just for online sales but as a resource for artists. We’ve already made a couple of painting videos and plan to do more in the future. The Artist in me is always wanting to move forward.

www.alanreed.com

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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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Spring Exhibition

Ponte Vecchio Painting of Italy

Ponte Vecchio, Firenze

Florence is possibly my favourite Italian city. I’ve been fortunate to travel there several time since my first visit back in 1998 when I sat on one of its bridges under the warm autumnal sun and painted a watercolour of Ponte Vecchio in an Arches Watercolour Block.

During my last visit there in 2011 I did a small sketchbook study of Ponte Vecchio from Piazza Michelangelo, a view which I’ve also reproduced as a very popular limited edition print.

This new original watercolour takes elements from the sketchbook study which I painted on location to depict the famous bridge stretching over the River Arno and the surrounding buildings.

I’ve also made this painting available as a small limited edition print.

Both the print and the original can be seen at my Spring Exhibition at the Studio & Gallery, Ponteland.

Some of the links on this post are affiliate links to products which I personally use available from Amazon. If you click on the links and buy any of these products then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself.

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Via di Spirito Santo, Firenze

Painting of Via di Spirito Santo, Firenze

Via di Spirito Santo, Firenze

The last blog post I did showed the early stages of a watercolour I have been working on of a street scene in Florence. Last September I painted a number of sketchbook watercolours of Florence on location with a view to using these studies for some studio works.

This painting of Via di Spirito Santo includes many of the elements that are characteristic of Florence, the narrow streets with tall buildings that seem to shut out any daylight, antiquated lamps that hang over the streets, bicycles and locals darting in and out of doorways.

The painting Via di Spirito Santocan be seen at my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland.

 

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Painting of Florence

Firenze painting on location

Via Spirito Santo, Firenze on Drawing Board

To do a Painting of Florence is always a joy and delight. Last September I was working in Florence on a number of painting projects, one of which was painting several street scenes on the spot in my hand-made watercolour sketchbook. In the photograph of what’s on the drawing board you will see the sketchbook depicting my watercolour study of Via di Spirito Santo painted standing up with my small box of paints balanced in one hand with the sketchbook, the other holding my traveling paint brush.

I wanted to capture the dark, narrow street which had snatches of the early evening light catching the tops of some of the buildings and so I used a very limited palate of Raw Sienna, purple and Payne’s Grey for much of the sketch. I’m wanting to retain the freshness of this sketch in my studio production which I’m intending to work on over the next few days. Watch this space for the finished result.

 

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Grainger Street

Grainger Street

Grainger Street

The popularity of my limited edition prints is partially down to the fact that I usually include figures in the paintings which bring the painting to life. Over the years I spent considerable time observing people going about their daily business in cities like Newcastle upon Tyne, Edinburgh, Venice, Florence and New York. I’ve developed a kind of shorthand for drawing them on the move in my sketchbook which I can refer to when I come to do a studio painting. I will of course take photographs as it’s impossible to draw people in detail walking about the streets unless they are deliberately modelling for you.

It’s the figures in this painting which are the dominant point of interest. Folk have often commented that they love the old man shuffling along with his newspaper sticking out of his back pocket, the two old ladies nattering away with their shopping bags and the road sweeper who has stopped to light up a fag. The original painting sold many years ago but the limited edition print titled Grainger Street is still available online or from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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San Gimignano

San Gimignano

San Gimignano, Evening Sunlight

The first time I went to San Gimignano was in February 1999. We took the bus from Florence to visit this Medieval Tuscan hilltop town after seeing it on a holiday programme. Seeing its 14 famous towers for the first time from several miles away made me even more eager to explore and paint the distinct skyline. We entered the small walled town, making our way to the piazza via the enticing shops selling wild boar salami and other mouth watering local produce.

By now it was lunch time so whilst Susan went off in search for salmi, bread and wine, I painted a small watercolour which I later sold from my gallery. Although it was a bright, sunny day, the afternoon was short but I managed to obtain sufficient reference to do a large studio watercolour of the town’s famous towers bathed in the winter sun. I had the painting reproduced as a limited edition print which has been extremely popular over the years. The prints of Italy and the smaller original watercolour (inspired by the trip) can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland and also online at alanreed.com

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Florence from San Miniato

Florence from San Miniato

Florence from San Miniato

In February 1999 Susan and I spent a week in Italy, taking in Florence and the Venetian Carnevale. During our stay in Florence we took the rewarding walk leading up to Piazza Michelangelo which boasts majestic views over this fine city of art and culture. I recall walking a little further on to the church of San Miniato where I did a small 7 ” x 5″ watercolour of the Duomo dwarfing the smaller surrounding buildings in the watery winter sunlight.

I used this study to do a slightly larger watercolour which has been reproduced as a successful limited edition print and is still available online. Recently I was doing a watercolour demonstration for an art group in Rothbury and decided to tackle this same scene of Florence to show the students how to approach painting a cityscape. I still have the original location study framed up and hanging in our living room, so I had the reference fresh in my mind whilst painting this new rendition.

It’s impossible to paint the same subject in watercolour in exactly the same manner and technique which I use. This means that each painting has its own unique differences. Both the original watercolour and print will be on view at my Spring exhibition which starts 10th March-31st March at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Da Vinci, The Lost Treasure

Fiona Bruce on Ponte Vecchio, Firenze

Fiona Bruce on Ponte Vecchio, Firenze

Whilst painting in Italy in September, I saw Fiona Bruce being filmed on Ponte Vecchio in Florence. I stopped to take a photograph of her, along with dozens of others, wondering which programme she was being filmed for. On Sunday evening I discovered that it was for a documentary written and presented by herself titled “Da Vinci, The Lost Treasure”.   

This BBC 1 programme was essentially uncovering the story of Leonardo da Vinci and gave us an exclusive preview of a newly found painting by the Renaissance genius which he did of Christ.  Throughout the programme the multi lingual Fiona Bruce travelled to Florence, Milan, Paris, Warsaw and to New York, to look at some of Leonardo’s most famous paintings including the “Lost Treasure” depicting the restored painting of the Christ.

Art is very subjective, but I have to say, for me personally, this is a more engaging painting than Leonardo’s depiction of  “The Last Supper” where he deviated away from the original account in John’s Gospel  and showed Jesus and His disciples sitting upright at a table instead of reclining, most probably at floor level. The figures in the Last Supper are however, superbly handled, particularly the expressions on their faces when, as the painting depicts, Jesus declares that one of them will betray Him.

Fiona Bruce was very impressive with her presentation, especially when spoke fluent Italian and French. She still pronounced Michelangelo “Michael Angelo” but hey, I wish my Italian was that bad!

This “new” Leonardo forms part of an exhibition of his paintings at the National Gallery in London starting on the 9th November-5th February 2012 which promises to be a must to visit.

 

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