Tag Archives: Venice

Grainger Street

Grainger Street

Grainger Street

The popularity of my limited edition prints is partially down to the fact that I usually include figures in the paintings which bring the painting to life. Over the years I spent considerable time observing people going about their daily business in cities like Newcastle upon Tyne, Edinburgh, Venice, Florence and New York. I’ve developed a kind of shorthand for drawing them on the move in my sketchbook which I can refer to when I come to do a studio painting. I will of course take photographs as it’s impossible to draw people in detail walking about the streets unless they are deliberately modelling for you.

It’s the figures in this painting which are the dominant point of interest. Folk have often commented that they love the old man shuffling along with his newspaper sticking out of his back pocket, the two old ladies nattering away with their shopping bags and the road sweeper who has stopped to light up a fag. The original painting sold many years ago but the limited edition print titled Grainger Street is still available online or from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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St Mark’s Square, Afternoon Sunlight

St Mark's Square, Afternoon Sunlight, Venice

St Mark

St Mark’s Square in Venice holds very special memories for my wife and I as it was in the Basilica that Susan gave her life to God over 25 years ago. She had a dramatic conversion to Christianity which transformed her life from one of hopelessness and despair to one of peace, joy and faith in Jesus Christ. Whenever we go to Venice, we like to reflect on that pivotal point in Susan’s life and reflect on the amazing things that God has done in our lives since that day of new birth.

So it goes without saying that I’ve painted St Mark’s Square on more than one occasion, both on location and in my studio. This particular scene is an A4 studio painting based on a smaller sketchbook watercolour which I’ve published as a limited edition print with only 45 in the edition. The original was given to my youngest granddaughter Anya when she was first born, “my first watercolour”.

Other paintings of Italy can be seen in my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland and on my website www.alanreed.com

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Invest in Art

Corso Palladio, Vicenza

Corso Palladio, Vicenza

Rarely does a week go past without one of my customers commenting about the value of their paintings and often they joke about their “Alan Reed” original being worth a fortune once I’m dead! Joking aside, it does raise the question, should one invest in art, and if so, whose art should one buy?

The truth is, not every artist’s work will be worth more money once they are dead, after all, what one generation finds appealing and popular, the next generation may find it ghastly. Conversely, paintings by artists like Van Gogh who hardly had any success when they were alive, are now way beyond the reach of the average collector.

It is also possible to buy art from a living artist at the start of their career and see it soar in value, even during their own lifetime. A good example of this is Jack Vettriano. One of my clients bought two of Jack’s paintings when he first started off for only a few thousand pounds. He later auctioned them several years ago for over a hundred thousand pounds!

Buying paintings by artists who are dead can often be a sound investment. I recall seeing a delightful watercolour of Venice by Edward Seago at a gallery in London for around £8,000 back in 1994. I had only been married for a year and it was just a little out of my reach at the time. A similar Edward Seago watercolour of Venice would now set you back £20-30,000 and I suspect that his prices will continue to rise.

However, the value of art is effected by a multitude of varying factors, so investing, like most investments, can never be an exact science. Buying from a reputable dealer and seeking expert professional advice is usually a safe guard from making a bad purchase, but even then, I’ve seen forgeries that have deceived the dealers expert eye. One of my clients bought an original watercolour signed W. Russell Flint from an auctioneer that was never in a million years painted by Sir William Russell Flint who died in 1969. I’ve also seen paintings being passed off as an “Edward Seago” that were clearly not painted by the great British artist who died in 1974.

The upside is that investing in art, particularly modern art, has been a huge success in the last couple of decades according to experts. Buying from a living artist means that you know the art is likely to be genuine. Finding an artist to invest in is just the first part of the challenge. Investors and collectors need to know that the artist has talent and staying power. The artist’s commitment to their practise is of paramount importance. I’ve seen a number of artists burst onto the scene only to disappear after a few years, unable to make a living. You need to ask questions about their background, training and how they are progressing in terms of their ability, creativity and success before purchasing for investment purposes. Also look for an artist that has an identifiable style that is developing and improving.

Over the last few years I’ve made my own modest acquisitions using some of the criteria mentioned above but with one underlying philosophy. I like to buy a painting that looks good on my wall which I can enjoy every time I look at it. If it goes up in value, then that is an added bonus.

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Grand Canal, Venetian Dawn


Grand Canal, Venetian Dawn

Grand Canal, Venetian Dawn

In 2006, Susan and I spent a week in the Dolomites with an old Venetian lady who has a holiday home there. I spent the week awestruck by the majesty and spectacle of God’s creation and produced many sketchbook watercolours painted on location. At the end of the week, we then went to Venice for a few days where we were able to enjoy the Venetian Regatta.

Our flight back to the UK was from Verona, so we had to leave Venice before the sun rose. From the stern of the vaporetto that chugged along the Grand Canal, I looked back towards the Santa Maria Salute to take in the first colours of the Venetian dawn. There was no time to do a painting but I managed to take a few photographs of the scene. Using the photos and sketches I had painted from the Accademia Bridge on previous trips, I produced this very small studio watercolour which I have reproduced as a limited edition print. The deckled edge of the paper has also been reproduced which helps to give the painting a fresh, almost sketchbook feel. It is one of many paintings of Italy I have reproduced as part of my print collection.


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Grand Canal Painting

I’ve been busy over the last few weeks finishing off a number of watercolours which will be on show at the NewcastleGateshead Art Fair 30th September-2nd October. The latest one to be completed is this one of the Grand Canal in Venice. It’s a scene I’ve painted several times before, both on location and in the studio.

The painting was inspired by my own studies painted from the Accademia Bridge and a number of different photographs taken by myself during my trips to Venezia. You can also see on the drawing board the limited edition print I have published of the Grand Canal which I kept referring to throughout the painting process. For other limited edition prints of Venice and Italy, go to my website www.alanreed.com

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Rosso e Nero (Rialto Fish Market) A painting in Stages

Rosso e Nero Finished Painting Stage 8

Rosso e Nero Finished Painting Stage 8

In February 2004 my wife and I spent several days in Venice with my parents. We booked an old Venetian apartment through a website called Venetian-Rentals that was lavishly furnished with old books and paintings. The plan for this trip was to get some fresh reference for me to do some new paintings of Italy.

On one particular day we checked out the fish market by the Rialto Bridge and I came across this amazing scene, full of life, movement and colour. After doing a 14” x 10” preparation study, I drew out the composition with a B pencil on some very rough Italian hand made paper from Fabriano, 28” x 20” which you can see in Stage 1.

For Stage 2, I applied a mix of yellow, cadmium yellow and lemon yellow to set the right base tones for the sheeting which protects the market from the elements. The brush used was a Stratford & York size 20.

Stage 3. Once the yellow areas had dried, I made a red mix of Vermillion Hue and Cadmium Red and began to apply it wet on wet on the floor area to re-create the effect of the red tarpaulin being reflected in the wet flooring. The heavily textured paper helped to keep this part of the painting loose and fresh. The tarpaulins were rendered wet on dry as I wanted to have their edges clearly defined.

Stage 4. This part of the painting is where I began to form the title in my mind, Rosso e Nero (red and black).

I made up three separate colours in saucers, Vandyke Brown, Payne’s Grey and Lamp Black and began to build up washes with these stronger colours for the floor areas. The background arches were picked out using the point of the number 20 Stratford and York brush.

Stage 5. Over the years I have spent hours observing and drawing people in urban settings. I have developed a style where it is possible to identify different individuals by their stance, gesture and movement.

I tend to draw with the brush for each figure rather than relying in lots of pencil work, but at the same time, I don’t get too involved in too much unnecessary detail. I want the figures to appear as though they are part of the painting and yet moving through the scene.

Stage 6. It was simply a matter of painting the figures that were going to bring the scene to life. The danger is to over work them and make them look too static, so it’s vital that the brush marks are kept simple and fresh.

Stage 7. The last few figures really helped to make this scene work. The older couple look typically Venetian, stolling around the various stalls, looking for the right piece of fish for their evening meal. Will it be risotto or pasta for their starter and how will they cook their main meal and with what vegetables? Building up the darker areas around the figures helps to add depth and substance to the overall scenario.

Stage 8. The final painting which was sold from my 20th anniversary exhibition in 2004 to some friends of ours which I’m pleased about, as I get to see the original every time we visit them.

I was so pleased with the finished result that we decided to publish it as a limited edition giclee print with only 20 in the edition. You can see a framed copy at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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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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How do you Paint a Turner Sunset?

Last night I received a tweet containing a link to the Tate blog by Alison Smith from one of my followers Jorgelina Vega. Alison is lead curator of “Watercolour” and Curator (Head of British Art to 1900), Tate Britain.The blog contained a fascinating little video by Mike Chaplin, one of a series he’s made on how to paint with watercolour. In the video he featured one of Turner’s watercolours on display at the Watercolour Exhibition at Tate Britain. After a careful analysis of Turner’s paper, technique and colours, Mike showed how Turner might have tackled his sunset scene my doing a watercolour of the Thames.

All this reminded me of the difficulties and joy I have experienced as a watercolourist over the last 30 years in painting sunsets and sunrises on location. In May 2007 I was painting in Venice in my small leather bound sketchbook. On one particular afternoon, we were on the island of Burano, famous for its lace and brightly coloured houses. After spending a pleasant afternoon on the island, which included a quick sketchbook watercolour of one of the canals, we waited for the vaporetto to take us back to our hotel, La Calcina formally Ruskin’s house.

I just had time to blast off a rapid watercolour in about 15 minutes where I managed to nail the sky and reflections of a Venetian sunset in two washes. The first was a base wash of Lemon Yellow, the second was a combination of Manganese Blue, purple and Rose Madder. It dried just in time for me to indicate the outline of the nearby island from which the vaporetto seemed to come from. By then, the colours of the sky had completely changed which is the challenge one has when painting sunsets on location. By the time your first wash has dried, the scene has changed. This is why Turner often carried a selection of tinted papers so that he could pick the colour and tone closest to the one he had in front of him.

I have experienced similar challenges when painting sunrises too. In many respects, they are even more difficult as you start off in semi darkness, trying to imagine what the colours are going to be over the next thirty minutes or so. The sketchbook study above of a sunset over Muttrah in Oman was tackled in two washes for the sky, the same colours as mention previously, followed by a combination of Raw Sienna and a purple for the foreground rocks.

In June I went to see the Watercolour exhibition at Tate Britain. To quote the introduction in the small booklet which accompanies the exhibition, “This exhibition explores what watercolour can achieve in terms of technique and expression that no other medium can, and why it is capable of producing an astonishing variety of effects, from subtle atmospheric washes to brilliant translucent colour.” There are some stunning paintings on display, which is well worth a visit if you are spending any time in London until 21st August.

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The Artist’s Wife, Venice

The Artist's Wife

The Artist's Wife

It was my wife Susan who first introduced me to Italy. She had lived in Venice for five years and was always enthusing about the country, its people, the culture and of course, the food and wine. We made our first trip together in 1991 and I soon found myself painting exquisite scenes on location. I was beginning to discover for myself why Italy has always inspired artists from all around the world.

Sketchbook Study of St Mark's Basilica, Venice

Sketchbook Study of St Mark's Basilica

St Mark’s Square has a special place in Susan’s heart as it was in the Basilica on the 7th April in 1985 that she cried out to God and committed her life to Jesus. So the painting above, titled “The Artist’s Wife”, depicting Susan standing under one of the archways with St Mark’s church in the background, is one that holds poignant memories for Susan.

Although the original watercolour remains in our private collection of paintings of Italy, we have reproduced it as part of our series of limited edition prints of Italy. There are 250 in the edition and 25 artist’s proofs which are hand remarked as seen in the mounted print above.

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Grand Canal, Venice

The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal, Venice

The view from the Academia Bridge of the Santa Maria della Salute is probably the definitive view of Venice. In 1630 Venice experienced a devastating outbreak of the plague. The Republic of Venice vowed to build a church to be dedicated to Our Lady of Health. A student of Andre Palladio, Baldassare Longhena designed the Santa Maria della Salute in the Baroque style. Inside the church, many of the objects of art bear references to the Black Death.

When one stands on the bridge with sketchbook and brush in hand, one is acutely aware of the great artists like Canaletto, J.M.W. Turner and John Singer Sargent who have gone before and painted the very same scene. At this point, it is tempting to shrink back and not bother as you just know that there will be passers by leaning over your shoulder to offer criticism, but that’s the easy option. Instead, it’s head down and paint!

Over the years I’ve made several sketch book studies from this view point. The watercolour above is a studio production based on those studies and my own reference photographs. I was so pleased with the result that I’ve kept the original which hangs in our living room and have reproduced it as a limited edition print. It has to be one of my favourite paintings of Italy.

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