Tag Archives: sketchbook

Sketchbooks

Our first visit to Umbria was March 2002. It was a much appreciated break away from running an art gallery in Newcastle’s city centre and an opportunity to spend time reflecting on what had been anxious year in 2001 when Susan and I had major surgery together. I had donated one of my kidneys to Susan in June 2001 in an operation carried out at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.

It was lovely to be able to travel around this stunning region, exploring various hilltop towns and villages and being able to enjoy simple yet delicious local cuisine together.

On one particular day we decided to go further afield into the Marche region and visited Fabriano, famous for their hand made paper. I was immediately attracted to their tiny leather bound sketchbooks containing wonderful hand made watercolour paper and purchased a couple.

When we returned to our hotel, the Relais il Canaliccio I decided to make a start tackling the view out of our window of the sun disappearing behind a farm building, seen below. I also made the unusual decision not to do any preliminary pencil work, instead “drawing” with the brush and paint.

Sketchbooks Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour from the Relais il Canalicchio

From that point on, almost all my watercolour sketchbook work has been carried out in this way. Only a handful of slightly more complex subjects have some rudimentary pencil drawing to act as a guide for the brush work.

I now have a significant collection of leather-bound Sketchbooks containing studies painted around Italy, the UK, Oman, the USA and other countries. One of my goals for the year is to make some short videos of some of these books which you can see on my YouTube Channel.

These days I make my own Sketchbooks rather than visit Fabriano which is a very rewarding experience. You can see some of my Sketchbooks at our 20th Anniversary of alanreed.com Exhibition at our Studio & Gallery in Ponteland starting on the 20th April 2019.

Sketchbooks Great North Exhibition 2018

Leather Bound Sketchbooks

 

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Hand Made Card

 

Hand Made Card by Alan Reed

Hand Made Cards

Today is our 26th Wedding Anniversary. Once again my main gift to Susan has been a Hand Made Card painted in watercolour. She now has quite a sizeable collection of cards that every so often we will browse through and reflect on. The card itself will often be of a place that we have visited in the past year and the words inside will pertain to that particular trip.

It’s not just Susan that receives a Hand Made Card by myself. Over the years I’ve given various family members and close friends this kind of gift which I know is really appreciated. Of course, what they are actually receiving is an original watercolour which is worth £300 to £500.

A Hand Made Card that captures a place or moment that is shared by a loved one is a wonderful way of celebrating a special anniversary, birthday or memory. They don’t have to be tucked away in a drawer. Framed up and hung on the wall, the Hand Made Card becomes a valued piece of artwork to cherish forever.

Hand Made Card Alan Reed

Hand Made Card of Venice

Last year my second grandson Harry was born. His Christmas present was a Hand Made Card painted in watercolour of the canal in Venice where his dad dropped his toy cars into the canal when he was a little boy living in Italy. Susan and I went to Venice last year with our son Oliver and his wife Sophie. We went to see the home where they used to live and I did a sketchbook watercolour of the scene. Inside I wrote inside the story which I know Harry will read when he grows up.

Someone once said that “LOVE” is spelt T-I-M-E. Spending time with someone, which is the most precious thing we have, is a wonderful way of expressing love. Commissioning a Hand Made Card or an original painting of a place or person that holds dear memories its another beautiful way of cherishing those times together.

If you would like to commission a small Hand Made Card or a larger original painting then please visit our website or call in to our Gallery in Ponteland.

 

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Diana’s Point

Alan Reed

Diana’s Point, Jebel Akhdar

Diana’s Point is named after Princess Diana of Wales who visited Jebel Akhdar with Prince Charles in November 1986.

We first went to Diana’s Point on Jebel Akhdar in Oman back in November 2007. The previous year I had received a number of commissions for a client in Oman depicting scenes around the Al Hajar Mountain range so I felt it would be important for me to visit this stunning landscape for myself. I was not wrong. Apart from the invaluable experience of being able to sketch there on location, six years later my large watercolour of Jebel Akhdar Won the Artist Prize in the Royal Watercolour Society. The winning painting is available as a limited edition print.

Earlier this year we watched a BBC programme on Amazing Hotels hosted by Giles Coren and Monica Galetti. One of the episodes featured the new Anantara Hotel built on the area where Susan and I had a picnic on some rocks back in 2007, long before the hotel was built!

The Anantara Hotel really does live up to the programme. Apart from the total luxury, fantastic food and infinity pool, they have an amazing viewing area called Diana’s Point that overlooks the dramatic canyon below. Early in the morning you can watch the sun catching the jagged mountains. In the evening you can watch the sun disappear behind the horizon.

I did several sketchbook watercolours, some early morning, others at sunset. This A4 size watercolour on handmade paper forms part of my Christmas Exhibition at our Studio & Gallery in Ponteland starting on the weekend of the 24th & 25th November 9:30 – 5pm.

I’ve made a short, one minute time lapse video which you can see on YouTube that shows the main part of the painting process. On the left hand side of the screen you can see one of my sketchbook watercolours painted late afternoon.

 

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Painting an Olive Tree

Painting an Olive Tree

Sketchbook Watercolour Painted in Umbria

One of the subjects I often get our guests on our Painting Holidays to have a go at is Painting an Olive Tree.

The grounds of Chiesa del Carmine are full of them. They are not too difficult to draw compared to other subjects so it’s relatively easy for the guests to spend a couple hours sketching to come up with a result they are pleased with.

On our last Painting Holiday in June this year I made a video of me Painting an Olive Tree. It was a small sketchbook watercolour painted in one of the leather bound sketchbooks that I’ve made containing some quite heavily textured watercolour paper.

Over the years I’ve often worked my sketchbook watercolours of olive trees into larger Studio paintings, making sure that I retain the spontaneity of the original study.

My interest in olive trees began when we first visited Umbria, Italy in 2002. I’d purchased some delightful leather bound sketchbooks from the Fabriano Paper Factory in the Marche region of Italy. I couldn’t wait to christen them with some watercolours and began by painting various scenes around the hotel we were staying. This was the start of a new creative process for me, painting directly with a brush onto hand made watercolour paper with no preparatory drawing in pencil.  Of course I’d painted on location in watercolour many times before, but it had always been on watercolour blocks. Also this was the first time I had not drawn out the scene before hand in pencil. I now have numerous leather-bound sketchbooks containing a wonderful record of our travels both here in the UK and overseas.

Throughout the months of July and August I am displaying my sketchbooks at our Studio and Gallery in Ponteland. Recently a couple of our guests who had been on two Painting Holidays with us, commissioned a watercolour inspired by one of my sketchbook studies. The subject was Perugia, one of the places we had taken them to. They wanted a painting to remind them of the lovely holidays they had been on. They have also re-booked for 2019 which means that our week in June 2019 is fully booked.

Please feel free to visit our gallery to look through my sketchbooks to see if there is something I’ve painted that reminds you of that special place that you have fond memories of. Best to telephone 01661 871 800 first to make sure we’re open.

 

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Painting in Italy

 

Painting in Italy Alan Reed

Civita di Bagnoregio

 

Our next Painting Holiday at Chiesa del Carmine in Umbria in Italy is just a few weeks away. Once again we are fully booked. For some of our guests it will their fourth and fifth time with us Painting in Italy. Over the years we’ve enjoyed some wonderful trips out. We’ve visited many of the picturesque hilltop towns and villages which are a distinctive of Umbria. It’s described as the Green Heart of Italy.

Susan and I decided that it would be a great idea for us to travel out to do some Painting in Italy earlier this month. Our mission was also to visit a few of the towns that we haven’t been to for many years. We wanted to explore some new places that might be of interest to our guests.

Our time on our flight from Newcastle to Pisa Airport passed quickly. We ended up deep in conversation with a lovely couple who have purchased many of my paintings over the years. After picking up a car we drove to Orvieto, famous for its lovely white wine and magnificent Duomo, to see if our guests would enjoy a visit.

Susan and I were staying at Locanda Rosati, an agriturismo just a few miles from Orvieto. After checking in we still had sufficient time to drive to Orvieto and have a quick exploratory trip before our evening meal. Dinner was a jovial affair as the twenty plus guests from all nationalities including Italy, France, USA, Greece, Australia and Bulgaria were all seated on a long table. Our conversations enabled us to find out more interesting places to visit. One came highly recommended, Civita di Bagnoregio, just twenty minutes drive away.

Civita di Bagnoregio and Lago di Bolsena

Civita di Bagnoregio is a medieval hamlet perched on a plateau of volcanic rock surrounded by steep ravines in the region of Lazio. I discovered that it only has 1o residents. However it is beginning to thrive as a tourist destination due to an initiative from the Mayor of Civita di Bagnoregio.

Any tourists crossing the foot bridge must pay €5 on a Sunday or public holiday and €3 during a weekday. Their ticket system has meant that residents of Civita and Bagnoregio no longer have to pay communal taxes and there is zero unemployment. I found it fascinating that the 850,000 tourists forecast for 2018 has created 400 new jobs for the 200 new businesses that have been birthed in recent years.

When we arrived the following morning thick fog had descended. I was wanting to paint the classic view that I had seen in photographs but it simply didn’t exist!

As it was a Sunday, crowds were already starting to arrive in their droves. We decided on a return visit to Orvieto. Despite the dull, overcast light, I managed a sketchbook watercolour of the Duomo from Via del Duomo. After a lovely lunch I found two great vantage points to paint Orvieto from a distance.  On completion, we set off to a new destination for us, Lago di Bolsena.

Painting in Italy Alan Reed

Lago di Bolsena

By the time we arrived, the low clouds had lifted and we were able to enjoy shafts of sunlight sparkling on the calm waters. I was able to record the tranquil scene in my trusty sketchbook.

The next morning we headed straight for Civita di Bagnoregio. This time I was able to paint the view that I had been after the previous day. We didn’t make the short walk along the footbridge into what was once Italy’s dying town. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to do so one day.

Painting in Italy Alan Reed

Civita di Bagnoregio, Lazio

Our Painting Holiday for June 2018 is fully booked. You can register your interest for the future at art@alanreed.com

For me, Painting in Italy is rewarding experience. Even though this was an exploratory trip, I still came up with some great reference for some future paintings.

 

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Scarinish, Tiree

Scarinish, Tiree

Scarinish Harbour, Tiree

In May 2017 Susan and I flew to the island of Tiree, one of the Inner Hebrides in a Sea Otter. We were greeted by our friends who were staying in a family holiday home called An Caladh.

First port of call was Scarinish, Tiree, a tiny village which has the only bank on the island, a grocery store, one hotel and a Post Office. There is also a ferry service to Oban on the Scottish mainland.

Whilst the others went to buy food for our stay, I painted a quick watercolour of the harbour in my hand made, leather bound sketchbook. The little red boat is apparently the most painted vessel on the island.

Scarinish, Tiree by Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of Scarinish, Tiree

When painting in the comfort of the Studio, it’s easy to forget the mood and atmosphere that painting “en plein air” provides. Supplementary photographs are helpful for topographical accuracy, however they can sometimes be a little cold and sterile. There really is no substitute for having your own interpretation of the scene that was crafted in paint on the spot. As I’m writing this post with the very same sketchbook in front of me, I’m reminded of the heavy rain clouds departing over the sea whilst trying to balance my tiny box of watercolours on a fence post along with my sketchbook.

I’m also reminded of the fish van behind me selling fresh lobster and langoustines that we were to enjoy later in the evening.

It’s these visual aids that activate memories that you can bring to your studio work so that you end up with a painting that others can identify with and relate to.

You can read more about our trip to Tiree and see some of my other sketchbook studies from our trip on my blog post Paintings of Tiree.

This watercolour of Scarinish, Tiree is available online and from our Studio and Gallery in Ponteland.

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Drawing Hands

Alan Reed

Hand Drawing in Moleskine Sketchbook

Following on from my recent blog post about the benefits of regular life drawing, I’m aware that it’s not always easy or practical getting along to a life drawing class. However one simple thing that most of us can do is have a go at drawing hands.

My “warming up” exercises vary from quick self portraits to copying John Singer Sargent portraits. On occasion though I will do a quick study of my left hand which is what you can see here.

Here’s a couple of short time lapse videos of some pen and ink drawings that I did recently in my Moleskine sketchbook using a Shaeffer Fountain pen containing sepia ink.

If you want to add further interest to your drawing, use an angle poise lamp to create shadows from your fingers which will add depth to your study.

To get greater variation to the positioning of the hand then you will need to use a mirror to draw the reflection of the hand.

You can see an example of my hand drawn from being reflected
in a mirror at the end of this video.

If you are drawing hands on a regular basis you will start to see an improvement in your drawing generally. The important thing is to keep practising and not give up.

As Michelangelo once said “Work hard and don’t on any account neglect your drawing’. 

Alan Reed

“Thumbs Up” Pen and Ink Sketch in Moleskine Sketchbook

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Paintings of Venice

Alan Reed

Handmade Sketchbooks

I’ve been fortunate to paint on location in Venice many times since my first visit in 1991. A small box of watercolour paints, travelling brush and a hand made sketchbook is all you need to capture its wonderful light, mood and atmosphere. Many of my studio Paintings of Venice started off as either small watercolours on blocks or sketchbook watercolours.

On our last trip there in 2012 I recall taking the vaporetto across the dark waters of the lagoon to St Marks Square. I managed to take a few photographs of San Marco before reaching the stop. The sketchbook watercolours and photographs became the inspiration for a small watercolour “Venezia di Notte”. I decided to make a video of the main aspects of how I painted this scene which you can see on YouTube.

For those of you who are interested in painting in watercolour I’ve added the script for the video which gives you the names of some of the colours I’ve used which you may find helpful.

“I’ve sketched the main elements in pencil so the first step is to get some colour down. After wetting the paper I’m using my usual mix of Cadmium Lemon and Cadmium Yellow to provide the base colour for the artificial light that illuminates the magnificent architecture that attracts so many tourists.

This first wash covers the top half of the paper but for the bottom half I’m being more selective, leaving some of the white of the paper to indicate the lights around the buildings and their light reflecting in the water. Whist the paint is still wet, I’m dropping in some more intense colour to add variation.

Now for some Rose Madder to add depth to the night sky and warmth to the architecture. As with the first wash of yellow, I’ve wet the paper to help the colour spread easily without leaving any steaks. However I’ve left the paper is dry where the buildings are so I can paint hard edges to define them.

This colour is also being reflected in the water. You’ll see that I’m having to be more precise with the brush marks even though I am wanting the overall scene to look lively and loose. The texture of the watercolour paper helps the brush marks to retain a sense of spontaneity.

This next wash is a mix of purple with a touch of turquoise which I’m going to be using throughout the painting, not just for the sky but also for some of the architectural details. Again, I wet the paper with clean water before adding this wash. Just softening the edge of the wash with some clean water before tackling the windows with a much smaller brush. It’s worth saying that this video only represents a fraction of the time I’ve spent painting the details.

Now it’s time to use a colour which appears as black but it’s actually a mix of Paynes Grey, Purple and Lamp Black. This time it’s wet on dry. Again, I’m using a small brush to pick my way around the distinctive architecture.

Alan Reed

The Original Watercolour “Venezia di Notte”

I’m continuing to take my time rendering the different features of the Doges Palace. You will notice that the preceding colours of yellow and Rose Madder loose their dominance when the much darker colours are placed alongside.

These finer details are very small, occupying an area of just a few centimetres so I’m taking a little bit more time to paint them in. Having a contrast of larger, looser, bolder brush marks up against finer, more precise strokes creates further interest in the painting.

Once again, I’m taking my time, working carefully on the different elements of the painting so that they look convincing and credible when there is so much going on. Each arch is painted differently.

You will also notice a few little blobs of slightly darker yellow. This is masking fluid for the white lamps which I will rub off at the end when the paint is dry. A touch of Rose Madder to the turquoise grey adds further interest to these dark arches.

Back to the big brush and the black mix for the night sky. I’m working rapidly wet on dry to avoid streaks. Care is needed here because I’m also having to define the the left hand side of the bell tower and the tops of the buildings. Even though the brush has a decent point I have to switch brushes for the finer details.

Now a rusty red mix for the campanile, St Marks Bell Tower. First painting around the windows then working my way down the tower.

The base colours of yellow and Rose Madder are giving the effect of light as I’m picking out its features. The same rusty red colour is used again for the reflection in the water. I can afford to be more expressive with my brush strokes.

More reflections with the dark turquoise grey wash, being conscious that the water is constantly moving so the brush strokes that I’m making need to be communicating movement.

There are lots of gondolas berthed at the waters edge so these are painted using the black mix, together with their mooring poles and other details. Again small brush is required. It’s these contrasting tones, light and dark that are doing all the work.

The same colour is used for further reflections so that the water really does start looking dark and mysterious, particularly up against the light that is now starting to sparkle in the water. I’m using the side of the brush with horizontal strokes. Once again, it’s another contrast to the vertical brush strokes I made earlier.

So there you have it, Venice at night, as seen from a vaporetto”.

My Paintings of Venice continue to be very popular with my customers. Susan and I are looking forward to returning to Venice later on in 2018.

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Paintings of Umbria

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour of Via dell’Orso

When producing Paintings of Umbria I always try to articulate in paint the distinctive characteristics of this fascinating region in Italy which my wife and I have been visiting since 2002. We’ve grown to love and appreciate Umbria’s wonderful hilltop towns, its food and wine. Through our reedartholidays we’ve been able to share our knowledge with many others who regularly join us. Our trip in June 2018 is already fully booked so we are taking expressions of interest for a possible trip in September 2018.

On a recent Painting Holiday to Italy we took our guests to Perugia, a large town in Umbria which has lots of narrow streets winding their way to the top. I noticed this particular street which was mainly in shadow apart from a shaft of sunlight breaking out to catch different aspects of the architecture in the distance.

I quickly whipped out my sketchbook and did this small watercolour making sure that I captured not only the sunlight and shadows but also the figure to provide a sense of scale and interest. By the time I had finished there was another strong shaft of midday sunlight hitting the top of the archway I was under on the right hand side.

I was recently doing a watercolour demonstration for a North East Club and decided to do a much larger watercolour inspired by the sketchbook study. In the demonstration I only got as far as the first two washes. The first was a mix of Cadmium Lemon and Cadmium Yellow. Once that dried I went over parts of that first wash with some Rose Madder.

For the benefit of those attending the demonstration I decided to video me finishing off the rest of the Painting of Umbria which you can watch on YouTube. Most of the video is a time lapse and it doesn’t include all the painting work I did but it does give you an idea of how I tackled the main areas and some of the important details.

Alan Reed

Watercolour of Via dell”Orso, Umbria

You can see in the video that I’ve been very direct with the brush marks to keep them lively and fresh. I’ve also dropped in some more Rose Madder to capture parts of the stone work being warmed by the sunlight.

Once the shadow areas have dried you can see how there is some lovely granulation of the pigment which provides some interesting texture to the stonework.

I used a much smaller brush to start adding in a few areas of detail like the windows, stonework and bricks. I kept the original sketchbook study close at hand to make sure I didn’t fall in to the trap of just copying the reference photograph which I use for accuracy.

I always let the shadow areas dry before going in with the details like the dark doorways and I like leave some of the first washes to show through to bring some light and sparkle to parts of the painting which could otherwise become lifeless.

The bottom of the street is sunlit and this became the focal point of the painting, not just because of the warmer, lighter colours but also because of the figure making its way down the steep hill.

I went into the shadows with some even darker tones for further detail and depth. And it was back to using the big brush to avoid going to fiddly. You can also see in the video that I’m not just using the tip of the brush but also its side, using it to catch the very rough texture of the paper, which is Fabriano Esporzione, a beautiful handmade paper.

A few more details were added before making the decision to lift out some of the colour where the sun is just above the tops of the buildings. This emphasised the sense of sunlight breaking out to create the shaft of light cutting through the dark, slightly foreboding shadows.

So there you have it. A large watercolour of Via Dell “Orso in Perugia, Umbria available from www.alanreed.com and from our Gallery in Ponteland.

You can see more watercolour Paintings of Umbria and painting videos on alanreed.com

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Arabian Dhows

Alan Reed

Dhows, Sur

When we first visited Oman in 2007 we were fortunate to go on a day trip to the coastal town Sur, famous for its dhow building. I recall doing a couple of sketchbook watercolours in the heat of the day, the high sun catching the top of the clouds.

These studies of Arabian Dhows became the inspiration for a number of studio paintings including one on gold leaf, and a number of watercolours which are available as a limited edition prints from alanreed.com.

I’ve recently painted a 14” x 10” watercolour capturing these beautifully shaped sailing vessels lying out of water which I’ve filmed for a new Painting Video which you can watch on Youtube.

For your interest, here is the script for the voice over for the video to save having to take notes.

First step is to get my usual wash down of Cadmium lemon and Cadmium Yellow which is used to harmonise all the other colours and to take away the stark white of the paper. I’ve wet some of the paper with clean water so that the first wash spreads easily, avoiding hard edges. This initial wash always seems to look wrong to begin with but remember, it always dries lighter.

I forgot to film the second wash of Rose Madder, but again, I wet the paper in places allowing some of the yellow to show through. As you can see, the Rose Madder doesn’t cover the whole sheet.

Once dry, another application of clean water and it’s time to add Manganese Blue for the sky. This time the brush marks are even more carefully considered. I want to re-create the effect of the sun bursting through the clouds from the top right hand side corner. The brush marks echo the direction that the rays of sunlight are coming from. I’ve added a touch of purple to the blue to bring a sense of depth to the lower foreground cloud.

Using a smaller brush it’s time to paint the areas of sky being reflected on the sand that is still wet from the receding tide. The brush marks I’m making are more horizontal and I’m working wet on dry. At times I’m just catching the surface of the paper to replicate the patterns in the sand. As with the sky, I’m dropping in the occasional purple for variation. You can also see that I’m leaving the first wash of yellow to come through in places to suggest the sunlight sparkling on the surface of the water.

A subtle mix of purple and Raw Sienna is used to paint in the areas of wet sand. I’m careful not to overload the brush, almost dabbing it on the surface of the paper.

I’m using this colour, not just for the wet sand but also for the hull of the dhow that is in shadow. Taking the shadow area back into the sand, always leaving parts of reflected blue and sparkle to shine through. Also a few very small details to indicate the ripples of wet sand. Where the shadow is darkest, I’m adding a slightly more intense purple to deepen the shadow.

Arabian Dhows on Gold Leaf

Dhows, Oman – Oil on Gold Leaf

The distant dhow has a base of Manganese blue to suggest a cool shadow, intensifying it with a darker blue for the keel.

A much finer brush is required to paint the fine wooden details that are another distinctive feature of the dhows. You need to be very careful at this point because it’s difficult to lift out any mistakes against such a light background.

It shouldn’t be necessary to say that this 12 minute video does not represent the entire time it took to do this painting. I’m just showing the main areas of interest.

I’ve mixed a lovely rusty red for the sides of the dhows. Again, I’m being very precise as to where I’m adding the colour, varying the intensity of the colour.

The same rusty red is used “wet on wet” for the distant dhow.

A darker purple and the thin brush is used again for these other detailed areas which take a bit of time to work out. I’m keeping the brush marks simple, not too niggley or fiddly but still varying the tonal values of the linear brush marks for interest.

I’ve decided that I’d like the hull slightly lighter so I’m painting some clean water on to the hull then just dabbing the water with some tissue to lift off the colour.

This dark shadow area almost looks black. It’s actually a mix of purple, Paynes Grey and perhaps a touch of Lamp Black. Carefully defining the gentle curve of the hull then contrasting that mark with some freer more expressive brush marks to suggest the more uneven ground where there are some rocks.

The left hand side of the hull needs to go darker so I’m running a slightly lighter version the same shadow colour over the rusty red.

On this close up you can see many other details that I’ve added like the anchors and rocks.

So there you have it. Arabian Dhows resting at low tide at the coastal town of Sur in Oman.

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