Tag Archives: watercolour

Paintings of olive trees

Alan Reed

Olive Grove, Spring Light

I’ve been painting “en plein air” in Italy since 1991 when Susan took me to Venice. I fell in love with its architecture, the light, atmosphere and culture. However, it was not until our first visit to Umbria in March 2002 that I started to make sketchbook studies of olive trees.

We were staying in the Relais il Canalicchio hotel, perched on a hill commanding stunning views of the Umbrian countryside. During the first night of our stay, having enjoyed a fabulous meal at their restaurant, there was a heavy fall of snow. We awoke to complete silence and total white out. We were literally snowed in until the following day. Once the snow had cleared we began to explore Umbria in earnest, taking in hilltop towns like Orvieto, Todi, Perugia, Assisi and Norcia.

On one occasion we drove to the Fabriano paper factory and I purchased several leather bound sketchbooks containing their wonderful hand made watercolour paper that is so lovely to paint on. On our return to the Relais il Canalicchio I wasted no time in testing the first sketchbook by painting the view from our room as the sun was going down.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour from the Relais il Canalicchio

It was during this period that I began to develop a sketchbook painting style in watercolour where I would deliberately avoid drawing out beforehand the scene in pencil. This meant that the brush marks became more considered, fluid and direct.

I also began to make sketchbook studies of the olive trees that surrounded the tiny hill top town of Canalicchio. These became the inspiration for a number of studio paintings including the one below of the Relais il Canalicchio available as a limited edition print.

Painting of Relais il Canalicchio

Relais il Canalicchio

On our reedart painting holidays in Umbria we stay at Chiesa del Carmine. The gardens have plenty of olive trees for the guests to paint. They have fun painting and drawing their twisted branches and beautifully shaped leaves. I also join in the fun with my own sketchbook watercolours. These days I make my own sketchbooks using paper from Khadi Papers and leather from a local supplier.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour of Olive trees

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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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Royal Albert Hall

Alan Reed

The Royal Albert Hall

I’m always been attracted to fine, beautifully designed buildings. Painting them means that you end up looking much more intensely to their architectural features and appreciating them all the more.

I first painted the Royal Albert Hall, London in 2005 and sold the original watercolour to a famous opera singer. I recently decided to paint a much larger study which is now available as this limited edition print.

As it was almost 12 years since I first painted the Royal Albert Hall, I decided to re-visit the scene early autumn last year to remind myself of its scale and majesty but discovered that the trees either side of the fine steps leading up to the monument had grown much taller and were obscuring the building. Fortunately I still had the research studies I’d made 12 years previously so I could refer to them.

On a painting of this kind of scale the danger is to really tighten up with the brush marks to the point of making the painting look like a photograph. I had to keep stopping myself from going too detailed to keep the painting looking bright and fresh.

I also made sure that I didn’t go too dark with the shadow areas which could have caused the colours to go muddy. Keeping the effect of autumn sunlight hitting the golden architecture was an important element to the painting too. A light wash of Cadmium Yellow and Cadmium Lemon at the start provided a good base for all the other colours. The wash was intensified around the area of the Royal Albert Hall.

A large size 20 brush was used for much of the painting to avoid going too tight although I did use a smaller brush for some of the architectural details and the figures.

You can watch a short video of me painting 2two of the figures on YouTube.

Music has always been a huge part of my life. Since I’ve started to learn to play the piano in 2015, it has become even more influential to my daily routine. For anyone who has fond memories of seeing concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, this painting will no doubt trigger off recollections of their favourite music.

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Tree of the Year

Painting of Robin Hood's Tree, Hadrians Wall

Sycamore Gap, Hadrians Wall

Sycamore Gap on Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland was voted Tree of the Year this week by a public vote for the nations best loved tree, organised by The Woodland Trust. 

The winning tree will now receive a grant of £1000 for some “Tree LC” and will compete against trees from all over the Continent for the title of European Tree of the Year, organised by the Environmental Partnership Association.

I recall painting a watercolour of the tree in snow as a Christmas Card for the Marie Curie Cancer fund over 10 years ago. This stretch of Hadrian’s Wall is bleak but spectacular in its barreness and stark beauty. As I’m writing this I’m feeling compelled to go for a walk along the wall and do a spot of sketching!

Sycamore Gap is also known as Robin Hood’s Tree for its appearance in the film Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner.

I’ve since painted the famous tree of the year again in winter sunlight. My viewpoint is taken from the Military Road which shows the tree of the year nestling in the famous gap in the wall. Sunlight is catching the clouds behind and creating an overall feeling of warmth to the painting.

The painting forms part of my Christmas Exhibition at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland which finishes on the 24th December 2016.

 

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San Gimignano

Alan Reed

San Gimignano, Afternoon Sunlight

Susan and I first visited San Gimignano in February 1999. We were staying in Florence for several days and having seen San Gimignano featured on a holiday programme, we decided to go there for the day. A local bus took us to nearby Poggibonsi then after a short wait, another bus to our destination, the medieval hilltop town of San Gimignano.

From a distance it looks like a mini Manhattan with its 14 towers gracing the Tuscan skyline. Apparently it did boast 72 towers, built by the Patrician families who controlled the town. The bigger the tower, the greater your wealth! I remember painting a watercolour by the well in Piazza della Cisterna whilst Susan went off to buy some wild boar salami for an al fresco lunch. Even though it was February, it was bright, warm and sunny, ideal conditions for painting “en plein air”.

After lunch I spent the afternoon wandering about gathering further reference to do a studio painting to add to my Italian Collection of Limited Edition Prints. As the sun began to set and we made our way to the bus I noticed that the stonework began to turn a beautifully warm pink with hints of orange. I logged the colours in my mind and decided that this would be mood and atmosphere I would aim to capture.

The studio painting of San Gimignano which was reproduced as a limited edition print was an immediate success. I still sell copies of it online and from our gallery in Ponteland. More recently I’ve painted a portrait version of a similar view which is also available as a limited edition print.

You can see a short video on YouTube of the original watercolour “San Gimignano, Afternoon sunlight” which can also be seen at my Studio & Gallery.

 

 

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The Artist

Selection of Alan Reed Sketchbooks

Sketchbooks painted on location

This blog post continues on from the previous one where I have writing about my working methods, how I started my career as an artist and my artistic influences.

11. I use a limited palette with watercolours, Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow, Yellow Ochre, Raw Sienna, Rose Madder, Vandyke Brown, Payne’s Grey, Manganese Blue, French Ultramarine, Purple, Cadmium Red, Windsor Green, Purple and Lamp Black. For oils I use Lead White, Yellow Ochre, Light Red and Ivory Black. I rarely use any other colours.

12. For my watercolours I tend to use Stratford and York synthetic brushes, Winsor and Newton Artist’s Paints and either Arches or Fabriano watercolour paper. I sometimes use Two Rivers watercolour paper. For oils I use Old Holland Paints.

13. I’m often asked if I use masking fluid. Very rarely but on the odd occasion I find it helpful.
14. I tend to prefer early morning light and will usually try to avoid painting midday, particularly in the summer when the sun is high. I find painting sunsets “plein air” a little frustrating as your’e battling against the fading light. At least if you start a painting as the sun is rising you will have generally put down the right colours before they have changed which will then set the mood for the rest of the painting.

15. I will usually spend some time thinking through the composition and plan out the scene in my minds eye and in sketchbook form before starting on a studio painting.

16. Regarding art competitions, much will depend on my work schedule. 2013 was the first time I’d entered the Royal Watercolour Society Competition so I was delighted to have had my work accepted and recognized by The Artists Magazine and won The Artists Prize.

17. The hardest aspect of being an artist is the actual running of a business so that one can make a living to pay a mortgage and support a family, particularly during a recession.

18. I probably do about 4 or 5 paintings a month. However some will have taken a day and some will have been painted over several months.

19. Buildings and people are hard to do. I’ve spent considerable time working on both.

20. I started off my career admiring Rowland Hilder’s landscapes. Over the years I’ve been a great fan of Sir William Russell Flint, Winslow Homer, Edward Seago and Arthur Melville. They were all great draughtsmen which I think is essential when using watercolour and for painting portraits from life. At the moment I find myself drawn to John Singer Sargent, an extraordinarily gifted individual.  I will often warm up before I start a painting by copying a John Singer Sargent portrait sketch in my Moleskine sketchbook. I’ve even copied several of his portraits in oils like “Head of a Capri Girl” to help understand his techniques.

They have all been an influence one way or another. It’s good to study the techniques and skills of those who have been before and have left a rich body of work for others to enjoy.

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Christmas Exhibition

Alan Reed

Mont Blanc & Manganese Blue

 

Christmas Exhibition starts Saturday 5th November with Fresh Coffee and Mince Pies.

Christmas Exhibition starts Saturday 5th November with Fresh Coffee and Mince Pies.

Click HERE for more information.

 

2016 has been busy and eventful year. It began with my watercolour “Mont Blanc and Manganese Blue” being selected for the Royal Watercolour Society‘s Competition in January. It is a painting inspired by a very memorable trip to Chamonix in the summer of 2015 when I was able to produce a number of sketchbook studies of the stunning scenery. My Mont Blanc painting forms part of this years Christmas Exhibition.

Alan Reed

Last Light, Ruwi, Oman

Much of this year has been spent working on commissions, including another 4 large landscapes for a client in Oman. Two of the commissions were oil paintings of mountain wadis. Continuing on the mountain theme is “Last Light, Ruwi, Oman” a painting which I was shortlisted for “Artist of the Year”. This watercolour is also on show for my Christmas Exhibition.

My connections with Scotland remain as strong as ever so I have several new original paintings on display featuring Edinburgh, Eigg and Rhum, Crail, Pittenweem and North Berwick.

You can also browse through my extensive collection of limited edition prints of Scotland at our Christmas Exhibition.

Italy has also been on our radar throughout 2016. In May and June we took guests out to Umbria for the painting holidays which we organise. We also took day trips to Arezzo and Anghiari in Tuscany so that the guests could have experience in painting these picturesque hill top towns steeped in history. Our week for June 2017 is already fully booked but we are taking expressions of interest for future painting holidays.

We returned in August for another trip where we experienced the tremors of the tragic earthquake which left many dead and homes destroyed. A reminder of the fragility of life.

I’ve also had the good fortune of working on several more painting commissions of Italy including 2 of the Colosseum. See some of my new works of Italy this Christmas Exhibition.

Alan Reed

Theatre Royal in the Rain

Of course, Newcastle and Northumberland features heavily for my Christmas Exhibition so there will be some new works for you to see on the run up to Christmas.

My Christmas Exhibition starts on Saturday 5th November. It runs Tuesday to Saturday 9:30 – 5pm right up until Christmas Eve on the 24th so you will have plenty of time to buy that special present for your loved one.

 

 

 

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Roman Forum

Alan Reed

Roman Forum, First Light

For over a year now I have been working on a number of painting commissions for an overseas client who has a passion for Roman history and paintings depicting Roman architecture. To paint these subjects with the kind of insight and integrity that they deserve, I make sure that I gather sufficient original reference by going on location to the exact places that have been requested.

Considerable time is spent surveying the subject from different angles and at different times of day to get the best composition and lighting. For this particular view of the Roman Forum I awoke when it was still dark and walked briskly from our hotel room along the deserted streets of Rome to capture the first rays of sunlight striking the ancient columns of the Temple of Saturn. I have to say, if you are visiting any busy city, it’s well worth the effort to get up early before the rest of the tourists take to the streets.

I wasted no time in whipping out my leather bound sketchbook to do a rapid watercolour study to get a feeling of the mood, light and general atmosphere of the Roman Forum.

Alan Reed

Painting on location in Rome

After taking several photographs from my first view point of the Roman Forum, I then made my way to another vantage point to tackle another possible painting. By then however, the sun had risen considerably higher so the lighting was not as interesting. I decided to return again the following morning. Fortunately I’m used to getting up early, so another visit was very much a pleasure than a chore. In the end, it was the second painting which the client was delighted with and which has been added to his growing collection of Alan Reed original paintings.

I’m pleased to say that my original painting of the Roman Forum titled First Light has been published as a limited edition print available online and from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland, Northumberland. The original watercolour is also currently on view as well.

 

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Faded Prints

Alan Reed

Correct colours against a faded print

I have been having my original paintings published as limited edition prints since 1993. Initially it was through a publisher that was based in Edinburgh called Di Rollo Ltd. The publisher would organise the printing and ensure that the colours were as close to the original watercolour as possible. I would make the final approval then sign and number each print.

I also began to publish some of my work too and would over see the whole process. In the 1990’s all my prints were printed through a 4 colour lithographic process. In the last 15 years or so, the giclee method of printing has become much more popular with artists. The popularity with publishers and artists has grown for several reasons:

  1. The set up costs are not as high as the lithographic prints.
  2. Although the unit cost per print through giclee is significantly more than a lithographic print, publishers don’t have to print the whole edition in one go, so they don’t have to carry huge amounts of stock.
  3. Publishers can test the market with just one or two prints rather than being left with hundreds of prints if the image is not as popular as expected.
  4. The quality of the inks is far superior through the giclee process than with the lithographic prints so you are less likely to get faded prints.

Today I still sell both lithographic prints and giclee prints, however all my new prints are giclee because of the reasons outlined above.

Since my first paintings were published, I’ve been able to monitor the light fastness of the prints as I’ve seen them hanging on the walls of family, friends and clients. I can conclude that if the prints are hung away from sunlight, the colours remain strong. My sister in law has at least six of my prints which I see on a regular basis. She has been careful to hang them away from strong light. Only one has faded which was close to a large window.

Over the last few years, several clients have brought to me faded prints which they have hung in direct sunlight. The most recent is this lithographic print of the Grand Canal, Venice. I’ve recently replaced it with a giclee print for the client. Indeed, the lithographic version is no longer available, only the giclee.

Even though it is the full responsibility of the client to ensure that ALL their artwork is hung away from strong light, I like to show goodwill with any customer who has a faded print of one of my paintings, even if it is not one that I actually published.

I can replace faded prints at a trade price with a giclee print and I will sign and number it the same as the faded one. I can also put the new print in the frame for a small charge of £20- £30 depending on the size of the frame.

If you feel as though one of your Alan Reed prints has faded, please contact me on 01661 871 800 or email art@alanreed.com

 

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Painting Grey Street

Alan Reed

Shoppers, Grey Street

Grey Street in Newcastle has been described by the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as the finest curved street in Europe. I never tire of sitting down to capture its fine sweeping curve and Georgian columns in all seasons. You can see a number of limited edition prints of Newcastle’s Grey Street including  Grey Street, Saturday Morning which was featured on the BBC’s “Show me the Monet”.

Newcastle is a very busy city so when painting Grey Street I find it great fun to bring life to the scene by adding in people for extra movement and interest. It’s even more fun painting Grey Street in winter because you have the extra challenge of resolving the reflections of the sky, buildings and figures in the wet pavement. Watercolour is the ideal medium for this but you need to know the sequence of washes and how to build up the colour.

You will notice that the gentle yellow colour that you can see just above the distant buildings is actually running throughout the entire painting (apart from the snow lying on the rooftops) and is particularly evident in the pavement in the centre of the foreground. When the wash of yellow dried, I wet the sheet of paper and introduced a very subtle hint of Rose Madder in the sky and foreground before introducing the slate grey for the sky and reflections.

After these washes had dried, it was simply a matter of adding detail to depict the architectural forms before finally painting the various figure. Over the years I’ve developed a “shorthand” painting technique to capture figures moving about. Photography can be a help but it’s also a very useful discipline to observe and sketch from life. That way you can’t get bogged down with detail. You have to pick out the main gesture and gender of the person and make sure that you have them positioned at the correct eye level.

Painting Grey Street outdoors is a real challenge and not for the faint hearted. As I’m writing this blog post, I’m getting tempted to get out there again! In the meantime however, my studio painting “Shoppers, Grey Street” can be seen online and at my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland.

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