Tag Archives: watercolour

Painting of Piccadilly

Alan Reed

Piccadilly, London

In 2016 I was working on a number of painting projects in London. As I was walking along Piccadilly, enjoying the late afternoon sunlight I was struck by the wonderful contrast between the warm rays of sunlight catching the opposite side of the street, the cool shadows and the way the two were being connected by shoppers darting in and out of the sun.

I had some time to spare so I dashed off a quick sketchbook watercolour knowing that it was warm enough for the paint to dry in time for my next appointment. Over the years I’ve developed a shorthand technique of rendering buildings and figures in a way which provides sufficient information to inspire me for any future studio paintings.

Once I’d knocked in the people (some of which were literally blobs of colour) I knew that this was going to work as a larger watercolour Painting of Piccadilly.

Because the main palette was Cadmium Lemon, Cadmium Yellow, Rose Madder and Manganese Blue, applied over a series of simple washes and non detailed shapes, I also felt that this Painting of Piccadilly would also work as a short video that might be helpful for any budding watercolourist.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook Watercolour of Piccadilly

Obviously a few other colours have been introduced for the figures and the telephone box but essentially, like most of my paintings, I’ve kept it simple.

The Studio watercolour was painted on a 12″ x 9″ Arches Watercolour Block which is ideal for painting smaller watercolours as there is no need to stretch the paper.

The video Painting of Piccadilly shot on my iphone in my Studio and Gallery in Ponteland can now be seen on YouTube so I hope you find it helpful.

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Painting of the Angel

Alan Reed

The Angel of the North in Progress

Earlier this year I received a request to do an oil Painting of the Angel of the North. Although I have painted several paintings of the Angel since it was first erected in April 1998 the client had very specific ideas about the size, colours and view point which were completely different from my other paintings of the Angel.

All my previous works of the Angel had been in watercolour so I was excited about tackling it in oils. I suggested to the client that the painting could have more visual impact with some gold leaf on the wings. Over the years I’ve painted a number of different subjects using gold leaf and the effects can be pretty amazing. A more recent example is the scene below of Buckingham Palace from Green Park.

Oil Painting by Alan Reed

Original Fine Art Painting of Buckingham Palace from Green Park painted in oils on Gold Leaf.

I made several trips to see the Angel to get fresh reference and to remind myself just how iconic the Angel has become.

I’m always observing interesting skies and whenever possible I’ll either paint them on the spot or photograph them. In the case of sunrises and sunsets, they are more challenging to paint on location because the colours change so quickly. I searched through my library of photos and found a suitable sky for inspiration.

Alan Reed

Sunset Sky

Producing a Painting of the Angel with gold leaf involved some experimentation with the base colour of the wings so that the gold leaf had maximum impact. I decided that using the same red as the sky would work best. It would provide the right visual connection between the sky and the Angel.

Adding gold leaf demands patience and care but it’s very satisfying when you see the finished result. It’s even more satisfying when the client sees the painting for the first time and loves it!

I’ve had the Painting of the Angel hanging in our kitchen for the last few days. It’s great to see the effects of gold leaf at various times of the day under different lighting conditions. It’s a painting which is quite different from anything else I’ve painted.

I’ve now published this painting of the Angel as a  limited edition giclee print, available on paper and also hand embellished with gold leaf.

A smaller oil painting of the Angel from a different angle is now complete and is available to view at our Studio and Gallery in Ponteland.

Alan Reed

Painting of the Angel

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Paintings of Tiree

Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of Scarinish, Tiree

2017 has been a very busy year for Susan and I both with business and family. Our son was married 13th May so as a way to relax after the build up to the wedding we planned a painting trip to a Scottish Island called Tiree. Some friends of ours bought a holiday cottage there called An Caladh ( meaning rest place by the sea ) so we arranged a three night stay and hoped that the weather would be favourable and that its name would live up to expectations.

As we left from Glasgow Airport in a Twin Otter we hit thick cloud so it wasn’t until we descended below cloud level that we caught our first view of this small island, only about 8 miles long. We landed on the tiny airstrip that was once used by Coastal Command during WW2 to be greeted by our friends.

First port of call was Scarinish Harbour to purchase lobsters, crabs, fresh langoustines and local steaks for our evening meals which were exquisitely prepared by Susan. Whilst these were being discussed at the local fish van I launched into my first sketchbook watercolour of the picturesque harbour set against the backdrop of an ominous sky.

Alan Reed

Tiree Lobster & Crab

 

Alan Reed

Langoustines from Tiree

Fortunately the ominous sky was more of a show than a shower so after lunch we were able to enjoy a sunlit walk along Balephil Bay where I painted the beautiful white sands. This just whetted my appetite for more beach paintings so before our evening meal I went down to Balevullin Beach only 5 minutes walk from An Caladh.

The beach is a favourite haunt for surfers and I could see why as the waves rushed in. I found a suitable vantage point and tackled two watercolours of the beach, one in my sketchbook, the other on a 12″ x 9″ Arches Block.

Alan Reed

The beach at Balevullin, high tide

The next day I returned to do another sketchbook watercolour, this time changing the format of the composition to include the foreground rocks. Due to the strong sunlight and low tide, the sea became more turquoise in colour which made for a completely different painting. I was already starting to build up a mini collection of Paintings of Tiree to be developed into more finished pieces.

Alan Reed

The beach at Balevullin, Tiree

The pattern for the weather was rain in the morning, sun in the afternoon and great sunsets in the evening so on the Monday morning I was confined to painting a view from one of the windows of An Caladh. The distant white houses highlighted against the threatening sky and the palm tree made for an interesting composition.

Alan Reed

View from a window, An Caladh, Tiree

Producing Paintings of Tiree is just one of the many activities I enjoyed during our three days on the island.

Did I mention the bike rides, watching thirty seals playing very close to the shore of Balephetrish Beach, wonderful walks and spotting very large hares, feasting on local produce, bird watching and a visit to the museum about Skerryvore Lighthouse?

As we took off, the skies were clear so we were able to enjoy stunning views of the inner Hebrides including Staffa, Mull and Iona, a reminder of some of the paintings I have produced in the past of these islands.

Visit alanreed.com to get updates on new Paintings of Tiree.

Alan Reed

Tiree Sunset

 

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Painting Holidays in Italy

Alan Reed

Chiesa del Carmine watercolour

We have just returned from another wonderful week in Umbria where we ran another Painting Holiday. Once again Chiesa del Carmine was the venue. For some of the guests it was their 3rd and 4th Painting Holiday in Italy with us and they have already re-booked for 2018 along with some our new guests this year.

This time we decided to make the holiday even more relaxing by hiring a luxury coach to enable stress free transfers for guests travelling from Newcastle Airport and for our day trips out to the hilltop towns of Assisi, Cortona, Todi and Perugia.

We added wine tasting and a fun trip around the nearby vineyards to our itinery which everyone loved.

The painters responded well to the challenge of painting “en plein air” throughout the week and were pleased with their results. It was a delight to see them develop their skills and grow in their understanding of drawing and painting.

As usual, I would often paint alongside the painters to aid tuition. Sometimes I would do a simple pen drawing in my sketchbook to help resolve the composition.

Alan Reed

Pen & Ink drawing of a vineyard near Chiesa del Carmine

Alan Reed

Sketch book pen drawing of Todi, Umbria

On other occasions I would either paint a sketchbook watercolour on hand made watercolour paper in the new batch of leather bound sketchbooks I had made myself at the Literary and Philosophical Society in Newcastle. It’s so rewarding painting in a sketchbook you have made yourself.

Alan Reed

Sketchbook watercolour of a vineyard

Or I would produce a larger painting on an Arches Watercolour Block. Sometimes I would do all three!

Although there is always lots to paint around Chiesa del Carmine, when you are running Painting Holidays in Italy, it’s always fun to break up the weeks activities by visiting other nearby places. The hilltop town of Todi has easy access for the guests who are less mobile. Park at the bottom of the town and take the funicular to the top where you can get terrific views of  the town which are fascinating to paint.

Several of the guests had a go at painting the scene below. What could have been quite a daunting cityscape for many was simplified by breaking down the complex array of gable ends, eaves and rooftops into more manageable horizontal and vertical shapes. A light wash of Lemon Yellow and Rose Madder for the sunlit areas and a gentle purple mix for the shadows helped to capture the higgledy piggledy nature of the Medieval town without resorting to lots of fussy detail.

Alan Reed

Todi, Umbria

It was a very satisfying trip on so many levels, summed up beautifully by the lovely testimonial below from one of our new guests who has already re- booked for 2018.

 

“Of all the many and varied holidays I’ve had this was one of the very best.  So many aspects of it will stay with me:  the beauty, tranquility, flora and fauna of the valley; the superb reverentially restored church and farmhouse; the attention to detail and comfort (who would have thought of building a fridge and glasses cupboard into an ancient wall surrounding the swimming pool?); the wonderfully talented chefs and friendly staff; the lovely and unspoiled local towns and cities and, most importantly of all, the thought and care that goes into combining all of these into a perfectly balanced week with something for everyone and lots of choice.
 
What about the painting? you’ll be thinking. This was a very personal experience for each of us. As someone with a love of art and no experience of creating any I learned something very important. How to look and how to see. I love Alan’s style and very much enjoy the paintings of his I own. A treasured possessions is one of his exquisite notebooks.
 
He is a sensitive, encouraging teacher at the same time as being an honest and helpful critic (not an easy balance to achieve). I confess to being frustrated by my own crass attempts at producing an actual painting of something recognisable but was not discouraged. I learned about mixing colours, appropriate brushes and something about the techniques I’d be so proud to master. I do have a drawing of an olive tree I’m quite happy with.
 
It was an absolute joy to watch those more skilled (and dedicated!) on site, in cafes, churches and viewpoints learning, sketching and painting. The finished works are more than inspiring.
 
I’m much better at shopping.  And Susan is a highly skilled mentor and adviser in this respect. Local knowledge and networking is something else that is a huge bonus in so many aspects of this holiday.
 
Good conversation, laughter and fun were in abundance last week. I’m missing that already – and the sun. Did I mention the sun? It shone all the time and sometimes with a gentle cooling breeze. Perfect. Everything was, actually, perfect.
 
 Thank you Susan and Alan so, so much”.
Maggie C

We have already set one of the dates for our Painting Holidays in Italy for 2018, 2nd – 9th June. There is now only one double room available.

Due to growing interest, we are considering running another one of our Painting Holidays in Italy in either September or October 2017. You can register your interest for 2018 at reedartholidays.com or alanreed.com

 

 

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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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