Tag Archives: moleskine sketchbook

Commission a Portrait

Alan Reed

Portrait of Arthur

On our Painting Holiday in Italy in May 2015, one of the guests asked me to paint a portrait of her husband Arthur for his birthday present in August. It was to be a surprise so she asked if I could work from photographs. I said that I could, but if possible I would prefer to try and do a sketch of him and take my own photographs.

I devised a cunning plan. On the last evening of the holiday, I began to sketch various guests in my Moleskine Sketchbook after dinner as we were all relaxing in the living room of Chiesa del Carmine.

Eventually it was Arthur’s turn and he willingly obliged to sit without suspecting that my humble charcoal sketch would develop into a 20″ x 16″ portrait in oils!

I took inspiration from the new John Singer Sargent Book “Portraits of Artists and Friends” which accompanied the stunning exhibition of Sargent’s Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery in London earlier this year. In the excellent book are some very fresh, informal portraits of Sargent’s artist friends, singers and writers. I tried to keep Arthur’s portrait very simple and relaxed and was thrilled to receive this lovely testimonial from Arthur himself just after he received his present.

“We came home last night from Portugal, where we had been celebrating my birthday on Tuesday with the children and grandchildren. Now, I am the ever so proud and thrilled owner of the most marvellous portrait of me. I have felt both ecstatic and overwhelmed. Diana had erected it suitably on her easel.

When she called me up to see my present from her, and I saw my portrait, (actually I was wearing the same jumper), I just started shaking with excitement. Unusually for me, I was struck dumb, and did not know what to say.

Now a little recovered, I can tell you directly how thrilled I am. It seems a bit self centered to say so, but I think it captures the very essence of me. Just perfect. Thank you so much for taking so much effort to capture the very being of me. I am thrilled.

Please give my very best wishes to Sue, too. We both enjoyed both our original Easter visit to your home, and our wonderful week with you in the summer, and hence we are both equally looking forward to next year.

You cannot imagine how happy you have made my celebration week, for my larger birthday number than I really like to think about.

With all very best wishes”.

Arthur

If you would like to discuss having a portrait painted of a family member or friend, please visit my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland without any obligation or watch the Commissions video on my website to find out more.

Some of the links on this post are affiliate links including the book “Sargent, Portraits of Artists and Friends” available from Amazon. If you click on the links and buy the books then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself.

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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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John Singer Sargent

Richard Ormond & Elaine Kilmurray

Portraits of Artists and Friends

One of the “must see” exhibitions of 2015 has to be the John Singer Sargent, Portraits of Artists and Friends show at the National Portrait Gallery, London. It is accompanied by a terrific new book by Richard Ormond who is the co-author (with Elaine Kilmurray) of the Complete Paintings  of his great-uncle, John Singer Sargent.

In many ways, for an artist like myself, this new book is one of the best by Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray as it contains full size plates of many of the paintings featured in the exhibition and a few of Sargent’s more well known works like Lady Agnew. The book is available from the National Portrait Gallery Shop for £35 (extremely good value) or you can buy it online from Amazon. 

The advantage of the larger plates is that you get a closer view of the amazing brush marks and texture that Sargent used to such great effect.

What is apparent in this exhibition is just how Sargent appears to be even more relaxed and confident in the company of those close friends who were celebrities in their own right. Auguste Rodin, Claude Monet and Antonio Manchini are amongst the cast of artists. Also included are the well known writers Robert Louis Stevenson and Henry James together with a number of famous singers, musicians, dancers and actresses.

Although these portraits can be seen as informal on one level, they also show just how creative Sargent was at getting his subject to sit for him. For example, I find his portrait of his mentor Carolus-Duran utterly engaging. I flit between seeing myself as the one being challenged to paint Sargent’s Parisian master. Or being tutored by Sargent himself, with him watching my tentative efforts at the easel. Finally I stand back as a bystander, watching the intimacy of the young Sargent in full concentration, considering each brush stroke, then wiping it away to replace it with a stroke executed with even greater authority.

The poses themselves are very well considered in terms of composition, lighting, movement and mood, helping us to enter into Sargent’s personal world and to connect with his friends.  He woos us with his virtuosity and skill with the brush. His draughtsmanship and use of colour is both breathtaking and full of life. Sargent gives us a privileged insight into his world and creates within us a hunger to discover more.

I went to exhibition in March, armed with my moleskine sketchbook and an array of charcoal pencils. I managed to draw 8 of the portraits on display which was pure fun, particularly later on in the afternoon when the crowds began to thin out and I was able to get much closer to the paintings.

Sargent Portrait

Charcoal drawing of Ernest-Ange Duez after John Singer Sargent

The exhibition continues until 25th May 2015. Go to the National Portrait Gallery website to book your tickets.

Some of the links on this post are affiliate links including the book “Sargent, Portraits of Artists and Friends” available from Amazon. If you click on the links and buy the books then I will receive a small percentage of the sale from Amazon at no extra cost to yourself.

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Watercolour Course

Original Watercolour of Theatre Royal

Grey Street, Snow is Falling

My next Watercolour Course is being held at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland starting Friday 30th January-6th March.

This new Watercolour Course lasts 6 weeks and I will be covering many different aspects of what has been described as the most difficult medium to master.

However, even though watercolour painting is challenging, even an absolute beginner will be able to gain an insight and understanding of at least the basics of watercolour painting through the step by step demonstrations I’ll be giving on a weekly basis.

Each day begins with me going through the reference material provided for the lesson by demonstrating each stage for the students. They then go and work through the process themselves. I’m always on hand should anyone run into any major problems, although I do stress that we learn the most through making mistakes!

Fresh tea and coffee is provided but I recommend that pupils bring a packed lunch to break up the lesson which runs from 10-3pm.

Regarding materials, these are the colours I tend to use the most and which I carry on location: Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Scarlet Lake, Rose Madder, Ultramarine Violet, French Ultramarine, Manganese Blue Hue, Cobalt Turquoise Light, Windsor Green, Burnt Umber, Vandyke Brown, Payne’s Grey, Lamp Black and Chinese White.

Alizarin Crimson, Cerulean Blue, Winsor Yellow and Cadmium Orange are also colours which I might also use when working in the studio. Remember, you can mix colours, either in your mixing palettes or through laying one wash of colour on top of another when it’s dry.

For paper, I like to demonstrate on Arches Watercolour Blocks, 14″ x 10″ rough surface or 12″ x 9″ size. I also recommend having a moleskine sketchbook to practise drawing out the subject before commencing the painting.

The painting above “Grey Street, Snow is Falling” is one of the paintings I demonstrated on the last course for the final week. It’s a variation on a watercolour I painted several years ago as a Christmas Card.

I was pleased with the results that the class came up with after only 5 weeks tuition and the feedback about the watercolour course I received from everyone was very positive. If you are interested in finding out more, please contact me.

The links on this post are affiliate links to products which I personally use. 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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Temple of Aphaea – A Daily Sketch

Watercolour of Temple of Aphaea, Aegina

Temple of Aphaea, Aegina

In 1999 we had a week on the Greek Island of Aegina. Whilst exploring the island I came across the ruined Temple of Aphaea and made some studies.

Last weekend I was doing a watercolour demonstration for a local art club. As part of my demonstration, I started a small watercolour on a 14″ x 10″ Arches watercolour block based on the reference I gathered on that trip.

Notice also the smaller study made in the moleskine sketchbook that was painted directly onto the paper without any pencil preparation.

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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Sargent Studies – A Daily Sketch

Gouache Sketch

Gouache Sketch of “Old Man with a Dark Mantle”

For the last few weeks I have been continuing with my daily discipline of a sketch a day. I try to do this for 20 minutes to an hour, 5 or 6 days a week, usually in my Moleskine Sketchbook. 

Most of my studies have been made with a charcoal pencil, however today I decided to do a gouache rendition of John Singer Sargent’s oil sketch of “Old Man with a Dark Mantle”. Although I would prefer to paint this in oils, the advantage of using gouache paint is that it’s quick drying.

I’ve photographed the palate, brushes and Winsor and Newton paints, together with the reference book I’ve used, John Singer Sargent Figures and Landscapes, 1883-1899 by Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray.

Richard Ormond and Elaine Kilmurray have written some brilliant books on Sargent’s paintings which give a fascinating insight into his work.

To follow my daily sketches on twitter, go to @adailysketch

The links on this post are affiliate links to products which I personally use. 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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The Kiss

The Kiss by Rodin

Charcoal Sketch of Rodin’s The Kiss

 

I’d heard the Rodin’s famous sculpture, The Kiss is currently on display in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities. I’ve been painting its stunning architecture and famous streets for over 20 years, producing over a dozen limited edition prints of Auld Reekie. Last week I was dropping off some paintings at a gallery nearby so I couldn’t resist popping in to the National Gallery to see some truly engaging art. There’s too much to see in less than two hours so I restricted myself to making three charcoal sketches in my moleskine sketchbook.

After a brief date with the lovely Lady Agnew by John Singer Sargent and a quick hello to one of Rembrant’s later self portraits (both recorded in my sketchbook) I decided to make another charcoal drawing of Auguste Rodin’s ‘The Kiss”. I had already made several studies earlier on this year which I used to produce a larger watercolour available as a limited edition print.

If you haven’t been to the National Gallery recently then it’s well worth a visit and if your’e an artist, make sure you take your sketchbook!

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Windmills in Holland

Windmills in Holland

Windmills, Early Morning Light

Since painting windmills on location in Norfolk, I’ve enjoyed tacking this unusual subject matter. Earlier this year I travelled to Holland to work on some painting commissions for a client. The client wanted some scenes that were typically Dutch. My research took me to this particular scene where I did two small watercolours on Arches watercolour blocks.

I also made some charcoal studies in my moleskine sketchbook which are great for carrying about to make quick studies and for taking notes.

Using the on the spot studies, my own reference photographs and my experience in painting skies, I’ve produced this original watercolour which is now available as a limited edition print titled “Windmills, Early Morning Light”.

 

 

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Sketchbook Tip – Painting “Plein Air”

plein air painting

Sketchbook Watercolour of Burnham Overy Mill

I’ve enjoyed a couple of very enjoyable painting trips using my Sketchbook in Norfolk in recent years following in the footsteps of one of my painting heroes Edward Seago who lived and painted around Norfolk. For those of you who are interested in landscape painting, there are some excellent books available about this immensely gifted and popular artist whose exhibitions would sell out within hours.

I’ve made several studies of Burnham Overy Mill on these trips. Whilst I was painting the one above, I also did a larger 14″ x 10″ on an Arches 140lb watercolour block whilst the washes were drying in the sketchbook which you can see on my website alanreed.com

I would keep reverting back to the sketchbook study and back again to the watercolour block. I also did another watercolour in my moleskine sketchbook.

It’s a useful “plein air” painting tip to employ for several reasons:

You can generally get twice as much done in the same amount of time whilst you are waiting for paint to dry.

The scene is usually a changing one because of the sky and cloud formations.

You will become more visually aware of your subject.

You will have something to refer back to in your sketchbook if you sell your other painting.

Next time you’re painting “plein air” in watercolour, try painting two of the same scene. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

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Sketchbook Tips

Moleskine Sketchbook

Charcoal Studies After John Singer Sargent

Over the last few weeks I’ve been doing a number of watercolour demonstrations for various art clubs throughout the region. One of the tips I tell the students to help them improve on their painting skills is to practise drawing in their Sketchbook. A great discipline is to make observational drawings of some of the masters. Just 20-40 minutes drawing a day will help ones confidence when it comes to painting.

I find that making studies in my moleskine sketchbook is a terrific (and enjoyable) way of creating passion and inspiration for future painting projects. There are no short cuts to doing good watercolour paintings, however there are disciplines you can do to speed up the process of learning. Regular drawing is one of them.

 

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