Tag Archives: Middle East

City Church Portraits

Sight Size Painting

Oil Painting Portrait of Sola Idowu

Over the last 12 months I have been working on a painting project for City Church Newcastle which meets at the CastleGate, Melbourne Street, Newcastle.

In the summer of 2013 I was approached by Ed Morrow (who manages the CastleGate) asking my advice about what kind of artwork would look good in the new atrium which would reflect the vision of the church.

My wife Susan and I have been members of City Church since it’s beginning. Our vision is that we will be a church of thousands, a community full of people from every nation. My suggestion was that I painted a number of portraits of church members of different ages, races and stages of life that represented the church family.

I started the first one in October 2013 with several sittings of Adrian Smith. The Portraits have been painted in oils on aluminium panels for Health and Safety reasons. They have to be prepared first with emery paper then primed using an Etch Primer. I then paint several coats of an oil paint primer before tinting each panel to a neutral tint. It’s at that point I can begin a series of sittings, painting from life.

I have used photography as an aid to make sure that the proportions are correct. With the exception of the children I’ve painted 90% of the painting work is from life, painting from observation.

Most of my 30 year professional career has been spent painting landscapes, cityscapes and seascapes in watercolour throughout the North East, Scotland, UK, Italy and the Middle East. I’ve learned many years ago when to finish a painting in watercolour, the danger of overworking it being a real possibility. Once you overdo it, there’s no going back with watercolour!

With oil painting, it’s quite different. You can always see little details to fiddle on with to keep trying to improve the portrait. If you make a mistake, you simply correct it. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to painting so I needed a justifiable reason to stop each portrait. All christians are a work in progress, none of us will achieve perfection until the day we are united with Jesus Christ. I’ve deliberately decided to have some of the portraits “unfinished”. This is a random choice and not any reflection on anyone’s spirituality!

The plan at this point in time is to have a launch later on in the autumn when the portraits will be hung in the atrium to coincide with a “Vision Sunday” for the church.

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John Singer Sargent Watercolours

Sargent Book

John Singer Sargent Watercolour Book

One of my Christmas presents from 2013 was this lovely book on John Singer Sargent’s Watercolours. The book was published to celebrate a wonderful exhibition of one of America’s finest artists at the Brooklyn Museum in New York and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston over the last few months.

John Singer Sargent Watercolours is available from Amazon. It contains 175 colour illustrations tracing Sargent’s painting trips across Europe and the Middle East as he explored the themes and subjects that truly interested him and recorded them with such skill in watercolour.

Sargent really took painting “en plein air” in watercolour to a new level as he tackled subjects as varied as figurative to landscape and boats to gardens.

The book contains some very informative biographical essays and fascinating studies into his watercolour technique which any student of this most difficult of mediums will find both insightful and inspirational.

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Cox and Kings Morocco Tours

Photograph of El Fna Square, Marrakesh

El Fna Square Marrakesh, Morocco

I’ve recently been chosen as one of six artists to enter a painting competition. The competition has been organised by Cox & Kings, the oldest travel company in the world, established in 1758.

Each artist has been given six photographs of Morocco from which they are select one to produce a painting from. We then have to blog about the finished painting and the competition which is to win one of Cox and Kings’ Morocco Tours.

I’ve chosen this rather interesting scene of El Fna Square in Marrakesh. Although I’ve never been to Morocco, I do have considerable experience painting Souks and markets “en plein air” on my travels to the Middle East and Italy.

My plan is to use that experience to make sure that I don’t end up with a slavish copy of the photograph but rather an interpretation of the image which captures something of the noise, activity, movement and hustle and bustle of Marrakesh. Hopefully I’ll get the chance to visit Marrakesh via the competition as the prize is a two night stay at the Hotel Palais Aziza & Spa.

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Head of an Arab

Head of an Arab

Head of an Arab

Head of an Arab is my study of John Singer Sargent’s oil sketch which he would have painted around 1890-91 when he toured Egypt, Greece and Turkey. It was probably painted abroad, however, he may well have painted it from a model when he returned to London. Sargent was commissioned by the Trustees of the Boston Public Library to paint a mural. He was planning a frieze depicting Old Testament prophets, so this painting is relevant to his preparation.

Having worked in the Middle East since 2007, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to Arabs on a number of occasions and I’m quite struck by their distinctive, fine looking features which are fascinating to paint. In copying John Singer Sargent’s oil on canvas, I’ve tried to make the same direct, confident brush marks as Sargent, painting directly from observation, without relying on any tracing techniques. Also, I’ve kept to a very limited palate to ensure that the colours are as close to Sargent’s as possible. Of course, I’ve had to work from a photographic copy rather than the original painting, so there will be obvious differences in colouring.

The value in making such studies of the great masters works can be seen when one looks at Sargent’s own studies of the artists he admired such as Diego Velazquez and Frans Hals. This particular study was made on board and can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Grey Street, Snow Flurry

Grey Street, Snow Flurry

Grey Street, Snow Flurry

I’m just preparing for my Christmas Exhibition. The preview weekend starts on Friday 11th, Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th November where there will be a selection of new original paintings on display, most of which have been inspired by recent trips overseas over the last 12 months. It’s been an eventful year for Susan and I, with us both travelling to the Middle East and Italy and my television appearance on the BBC’s “Show me the Monet” with my watercolour of “Grey Street, Saturday Morning”.

Travel always gives me a deeper appreciation of home here in Northumberland, so there will of course, be several scenes of the North East, including the one above of Grey Street, Newcastle seen in a snow flurry.

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North Shields, Fishing

North Shields, Fishing

North Shields, Fishing

A few weeks ago I was doing a watercolour demonstration for a class in Rothbury. As part of the lesson, I was showing the students how to begin a painting, in particular the sky. This is often the most difficult part of painting a landscape or seascape and can be quite daunting for the inexperienced. I was working on several paintings that day, one of which was this 12″ x 9″ watercolour of some lads fishing off the Fish Quay at North Shields.

I was working off two photographs, one for the sky, the other for the figures and River Tyne reference. It was a scene I had painted on location about 10 years ago, so I was well familiar with the view. I began by laying a very pale yellow wash over the whole paper which I intensified at the point of the horizon. When that dried, I went over parts of the wash with some Rose Madder which you can see, particularly in the water. Once dry, I began to pick out some of the blue in the sky with some touches of Manganese Blue. Finally, after mixing the colour for the darker clouds with Rose Madder, Manganese Blue and Paynes Grey, I painted in the dramatic, carefully positioned clouds to bring a strong sense of mood and atmosphere to the composition.

I completed the painting in my studio in Ponteland which will form part of my Christmas Exhibition starting in November which will include other paintings of the North East, Italy and the Middle East too.

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Summer Exhibition

River Tyne Sunset

River Tyne Sunset

My Summer Exhibition is now open at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland. The subjects range from local scenes from the North East including the one above of a River Tyne Sunset which was inspired from reference I took back in 1985. The view has now changed but it does capture a bygone era of the industry that was once common place on the banks of the River Tyne. I recall seeing on BBC’s Look North recently that Sting is currently writing a musical about the ship building industry that once graced the Tyne.

Other watercolours include paintings of Italy. Venice has always been a favourite of mine but there is also one of Ponte Vecchio in Florence where we will be returning in September for a painting project. There are also paintings of countries around the Middle East which I have been working in over the last few years like Oman, Dubai and Kuwait. One can see some of the sketchbook studies painted on location which I have used to produce these original watercolours.

The Studio and Gallery is usually open Tuesday to Saturday, 9:30am to 5:00pm but it’s best to telephone 01661 871 800 just to confirm we are open.

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In June 2008 I organised a charity exhibition at the Castlegate, (the venue of City Church, Newcastle) Melbourne Street, Newcastle upon Tyne to help raise money for three local charities, OWN IT, Open Door and Aquila Way.

The exhibition, titled “Faith, Hope and Charity” was a great success and earlier this year, Richard Davies from OWN IT asked if I would be interested in putting on another exhibition of my paintings as OWN IT will be effected by proposed government cutbacks.

OWN IT was established in 1997 with the work of Richard Davies MBE at Walbottle Campus. It is a unique work experience programme for 14 – 16 year olds who are recommended to the charity by senior members of school staff.

They ask each student “If you could leave school on Friday and start work on Monday, what is it more than anything else in the world that you want to do?”

By focusing on the first choice of each student, OWN IT aims to make their dreams come true and want to take them seriously.

The exhibition preview will start in the evening on the 4th of July. It will continue every day 10am-5pm until Saturday 9th July and will feature a broad selection of my work including new watercolours of Newcastle, Italy, Scotland and the Middle East. If you would like to receive an invitation to the preview, then please contact me on 01661 871 800 or email alan@alanreed.com.

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