Tag Archives: Norfolk

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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Sketch of the Day

 

Burnham Overy Mill, Norfolk

Burnham Overy Mill

 

I’ve had a couple of very enjoyable trips to Norfolk with my family where I was able to produce a range of watercolours painted on location.

Some were on watercolour blocks and others, like this sketch of Burnham Overy Mill were painted directly into my leather bound sketchbooks.

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Painting of Burnham Overy Mill

Watercolour Study

Sketchbook Study of Burnham Overy Mill

In September 2009 and July 2010 my wife and I spent a weeks holiday in Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk with our daughter and two of our grandchildren.

It proved to be a mini inspirational homage to one of my painting heroes Edward Seago. Like Seago, I was captivated by the distinctive flat landscape and “big skies” punctuated by windmills, sailing vessels and trees.

I would rise early in the morning before the family woke up so I could spend an hour or so painting directly, without any preparatory pencil drawing, into my handmade sketchbook and Arches watercolour block. As one study was drying, I would alternate to the other until both were completed. Two hours later I was back at the cottage cooking breakfast!

This sketchbook watercolour of Burnham Overy Mill has been painted into a mini handmade sketchbook of Norfolk and is based on 4 separate watercolours painted on location “en plein air” in September 2009. The watercolour of Burnham Overy Mill I painted on the Arches 14″ x 10″ block can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Diamond Jubilee shows Holkham Beach

Holkham Beach Painting

Holkham Beach, Incoming Tide

On the eve of the Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations, I watched a couple of lovely documentaries about Queen Elizabeth. The first on BBC 1 featured some home cine film of Royal Family life starting from when the Queen was first married. It was wonderfully narrated by Prince Charles who recalled with affection, his own childhood memories as he played through the old reels of footage.

One particular sequence showed himself, Princess Anne and their father Prince Philip jumping off the sand dunes at Holkham Beach in Norfolk, not for from Sandringham where they spent family holidays together. The scene triggered off my own memories of recent holidays with our daughter Louise and her children and our times together on this vast, deserted beach. On one occasion I took a short break from playing with the grandchildren to paint the watercolour above of the incoming tide.

The second Diamond Jubilee documentary was equally engaging with some great interviews with members of the Royal Family. It also showed some letters between the Queen and her mother not long after she married the Duke of Edinburgh, some of which were read out loud by Alan Titchmarsh. For some reason he missed out “I do pray….”  from one of the letters, which I thought was such a pity as it showed a personal display of the Queen Mother’s faith. At least we were able to read the hand written words for ourselves.

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Burnham Overy Mill

Burnham Overy Mill is just a short walk from Burnham Overy Staithe in Norfolk. It’s a delightful area for any landscape artist to paint with the low lying land, estuaries and big skies. We’ve stayed there as a family for the last two years and I’ve seized the opportunity to paint on location, rising early to capture the early morning sunlight and often disappearing after our evening meal to take in the fading summer light.

As we were driving into Burnham Overy Staithe for the first time in September 2009, I noticed the windmill and decided to do a sketchbook study later that evening. The light was fading, so I only managed to do the first couple of washes of Lemon Yellow, Rose Madder and Manganese Blue (which was essentially the sky and foreground) before the light made it impossible to paint any further. I returned the following evening to render the windmill and distant trees. A carefully placed application of Raw Sienna in the foreground enabled me to pick out some of the bales.

A few days later I decided to do a day time scene, adopting my usual method of working on a sketchbook study and a watercolour on a 14″ x 10″ Arches Block of rough paper which is available from many good art suppliers. I’ve posted a link to the Heaton Cooper Studio website which is worth a visit.

This time the light was more consistent even though the cloud shapes were constantly moving. Again, Lemon Yellow and Raw Sienna featured, this time for the first wash. Once dry, a mix of Manganese Blue, French Ultramarine and Payne’s Grey with a touch of Purple gave me the cloud colour. I had to be careful to leave a blob of white paper for the roof of the mill and a sliver of white for its sails. Once the sky was dry, I was able to knock in the rest of the windmill, trees and bales as before.

Whilst doing this post, I’ve had fun just flicking through my sketchbook, remembering the trip and feeling inspired to paint again on location. The 14″ x 10″ original watercolour can be seen at my studio & gallery in Ponteland and is also available online.

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Sketchbook Painting in Norfolk

One of the greatest thrills as an artist is to have a painting trip where one can paint a variety of subjects on location. My last two trips to Norfolk have been just that. As you can see from the small gallery selection, the subjects range from the estuary at Burnham Overy Staithe to the lavender fields at Heacham.

My preference is to paint early morning to capture the light rising. Imagine my disappointment when I arose to be greeted with a rather dull, flat mist. I still pressed on and decided to tackle the buildings and boats overlooking the estuary. The scene came to life when a lady decided to take her boat out on the right hand side of the study which provided some added interest.

The beach huts are great fun to paint. An array of assorted bright colours set against a backdrop of green foliage. The dark clouds threatening rain compressed the scene, keeping the focus on the huts. As I don’t use a pencil for these kinds of studies, it was important to really think through the composition before putting brush to paper. I liked this one so much, I decided to put it on the homepage on my website.

This harbour scene at Wells-next-the-sea was very complex. I was waiting for the rest of the family to show up and had some time to kill. I decided to tackle this sailing vessel berthed by the harbour wall. The figures on the right provided a sense of scale to the composition as well as some extra interest. The multiple rigging by the main masts was indicated by a few brush strokes, however I had to take a little more time with the ropes on the bow.

Most of the lavender had been harvested by the end of July, but I managed to find this particular field looking into the afternoon sunlight. The sun was reflecting off the sea in the background and kept bursting out of the clouds. A few deft flicks with my brush whilst the watercolour paint was still wet helped to suggest the rays of sunlight.

I have another four sketchbook paintings from the same trip which I’ll show you another time.

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Oil Painting of Norfolk

Oil Painting of Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk

Oil Painting of Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk

What’s on the Drawing Board?

I have been asked recently to do an oil painting for a particular client. As I usually work in watercolor paints, I thought it would be prudent to get back into the swing of painting in oils (as it is a completely different painting technique) by doing a quick practise painting.

For the last couple of years, I have spent a week in Norfolk painting on location. The place where we have been staying is Burnham Overy Staithe, a small village on the coast not far from Wells-next-the-sea. I’ve painted several watercolours there, two of which you can see on my drawing board above the unfinished oil Painting of Norfolk. Using the two location studies and some supplementary photographs, I’ve tackled the subject of small sailing boats berthed at low tide, early morning.

The frustrating thing I find about oil painting is the time it takes for the paint to dry, so I’m leaving it for now until early next week when I will be adding detail to the boats. I’m thinking about buying some water based oil paints instead of having to use turps to clean my brushes and the smell, so if any artists out there can recommend any particular brand, please let me know.

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Painting on Location

One of the most satisfying and rewarding disciplines I do as a painter is getting up early to capture the early morning light in watercolour. Over the last couple of years I’ve been fortunate to spend a week in Norfolk over the summer with my family, following in the footsteps of some of my watercolour heros, particularly Edward Seago.
12" x 9" watercolour study of Burnham Overy Staithe

12″ x 9″ watercolour study of Burnham Overy Staithe

Burnham Overy Staithe is a painters paradise. The low lying land means you get the extremes of either low or high tide and of course the dramatic big skies which are always a challenge to paint. This particular scene was commenced about 6am at low tide with the sun attempting to break through the grey clouds which were scurrying across the sky.
As usual, I tackled two paintings, one in my sketch book, the other on a 12″ x 9″ Arches watercolour block of rough paper. The advantage of doing this is that whilst one is drying, you can crack on recording the ever changing scene with the other painting. One can keep alternating between the two, so the whole process is a very intense painting period. The sketch book study is always the more simple study, mainly because it is smaller, therefore one does not have as much space to fit in detail. There is no pencil work in either study as I prefer to “draw” with the brush directly on to the paper. This means you get a very expressive free brush stroke which brings a freshness to the work.
What I have ended up with is two, quite different renditions of the same scene which I hope to work up into a much larger painting at some point in the future. The photograph provides some valuable topographical information to supplement the watercolour studies. The challenge with the studio painting will be to retain the spontaneity of the location paintings.
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