Tag Archives: Royal Crescent

Clifton Suspension Bridge

Alan Reed

Clifton Suspension Bridge in the Mist

In 2013 I entered the Bristol Prize. The organisers of this new painting competition had also run the Bath Prize for several years where I was runner up in 2010 with my painting of the Royal Crescent. I also won the Circus Prize in 2011 with my watercolour of The Circus.

I was keen to visit Bristol and spent a day painting on location which was one of the criteria for entry. Each artist was given a location to paint “en plein air” which can often be quite a challenge. However, you were also allowed to paint scenes of you own choosing so I wasted no time in finding an appropriate view to sketch this famous bridge which spans the Avon in dramatic fashion. It was opened in 1864 based on Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s initial designs, completed several years after his death.

In this watercolour of Clifton Suspension Bridge I decided to keep the colours quite neutral to create a sense of mood and drama. Painting it in the mist provided areas of contrast both in tonal values but also in the way you have sharp, hard lines verses soft, gentle edges. It’s these kind of elements that one needs to be conscious of when painting this kind of subject, otherwise the overall effect can end up looking sterile and mechanical. The way that the man made tower emerges out of the natural uncut rocks provides further contrast and interest too.

“Clifton Suspension Bridge in the Mist” is now available as a limited edition print online from alanreed.com and from our Gallery in Ponteland.


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Painting of the Roman Baths

Watercolour Painting Roman Baths, Reflections

Roman Baths, Reflections

Bath is a stunningly beautiful city which boasts some of the finest Georgian architecture in the country. In 2010 and 2011 I entered the Bath Prize with a number of original watercolours of Bath. I came runner up in 2010 with my painting of the Royal Crescent and won the Circus Prize in 2011. Also in 2011 my painting Pump Room in the Snow was Highly Commended. One of my favourite subject though which I have painted several times on location was the Roman Baths. This particular scene depicts these ancient waters bathed in the early evening torchlight with the architecture reflected in the pool that dates back almost 2000 years. The original watercolour can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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Bristol Art Prize 2013

Bristol Prize 2013 Invitation

Clifton Suspension Bridge in the Mist

The Bristol Art Prize 2013 Preview night was last night. The event was opened by the Lord Mayor of Bristol and prizes were awarded to various artists who had submitted paintings inspired by the City of Bristol.

The organisers of the event had previously run the Bath Prize, a competition which had been held the previous 4 years. I had come runner up in 2010 with my painting of the Royal Crescent and I won the Circus Prize in 2011.

I was hoping that I was in with a chance of a prize this year, particularly when I saw that my watercolour “Clifton Suspension Bridge in the Mist” was used on the front of the invitation. I didn’t win a prize but my painting of the magnificent bridge designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel was “Highly Commended” by the judges.

The exhibition at the Guildhall Arts Centre in Bristol will be open today and tomorrow and throughout October – Tuesdays and Wednesdays 2pm to 5pm. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 10am to 5pm. Bristol is a fascinating city with lots to see and do, so if you’re in the area it’s well worth a visit.

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Pump Room in the Snow

Pump Room in the Snow, Bath

Pump room in the Snow, Bath

“Pump Room in the Snow” is a large studio watercolour based on studies I’ve made on location in Bath. Over the last two years I’ve entered the Bath Prize, a painting competition  held annually in Bath where contestants are given a specific location in Bath to paint “plein air”. Once they have painted their allocated scene before the competition deadline, they can enter other paintings they may have done of Bath.

In 2010 I came runner up with my painting of the Royal Crescent and in 2011 I won first prize for the best painting of the Circus in Bath. In 2011 Kingsmeade Square was the place I was given to paint on location. On the day I went to Bath to paint there was heavy rain, however I was able to turn the elements to my advantage by using some of my studies of figures holding umbrellas in this painting of the Pump Room in the snow.

Over the years, I have often painted snow scenes, so I drew on my experience to render the snow falling from the heavy clouds to create wet reflections in the pavements. By keeping the palette quite monochromatic, I was able to make the whole cityscape feel cold and moody. The little girl dressed in a bright red coat (my eldest granddaughter Emily) added an important focal point to the composition. The original watercolour can be seen at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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The Circus, Bath

I’ve recently been asked to do a painting of the Circus in Bath. I remember looking at the scene in the summer last year, however it was difficult to get a view of the remarkable architecture because of the central trees in full leaf. I knew I would have to return in the spring before the new buds appeared. I made it just in time. They were already starting to spring forth obscuring some of the detail. I spent the afternoon taking reference photographs and did two watercolour sketchbook studies to help me remember the scene.

In 2010 I came 1st runner up in the Bath Painting Prize with my watercolour of the Royal Crescent. I decided to do this scene in the same long landscape formate to emphasise the curve of the architecture. After drawing the main composition in pencil, I put down some base washes of yellow, rose madder and blue to set the tone for the distinctive honey colouring of the stonework and sky. Like the Royal Crescent, The Circus is constructed from Bath stone, a Limestone comprising granular fragments of calcium carbonate.

Before embarking on the architecture itself, designed by John Wood the Elder, I decided to paint in the main aspects of the trees, including the early spring buds. As one is painting, a deeper appreciation of the thinking behind the classic Georgian architecture is formed. Wood’s inspiration was in fact the Roman Colosseum, another great piece of architecture I have painted, both from the inside and out. The Colosseum was designed to be seen from the outside, whereas the Circus faces inwardly. Work began in 1754 and completed in 1768. Sadly, Wood died less than 3 months after the first stone was laid. His son, John Wood the Younger completed the scheme to his father’s design.

Next came the time consuming task of painting the windows and columns. The Circus (Latin for ring, oval or circle) consists of 3 storey townhouses with a mansard roof. Three classical orders are used, Greek Doric, Roman/Composit and Corinthian, one on top of the other. The danger when doing detail of this nature is to make it too tight and photographic. A camera can do a better job than the artist of capturing detail. I wanted to retain the freshness of the location sketchbook watercolours, so as you can see, I kept my leather bound sketchbook open in front of me at all times as a constant reminder.

After laying a fresh green wash for the foreground grass, I returned to the branches of the trees to add more detail. The final painting will form part of the Inspired Exhibition at the Octagon in Bath which opens on the 25th April and ends 10th May..

P.S. You may have noticed an Origami camel on my drawing board. It was made by my talented 9 year old nephew, Noah last weekend in a matter of minutes!

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