The sounds of laughter, chairs being arranged, cutlery being laid, and various pots and pans being carried back and forth drifted across the room as Alan and Susan sat for lunch with the congregation of an evangelical church in Pistoia, Italy in the October of 1998.
As active members of City Church, Newcastle (which is part of the family of churches called New Frontiers) Alan and Susan were in Italy as part of an orientation team from New Frontiers who had a vision of planting a church in Italy.It would be their first venture to the Tuscan region, giving the couple a perfect opportunity to explore and sketch this beautiful area.
Catching a train from Florence to Milan on the last leg of their trip, Alan and Susan fell in love with Florence from the moment they stepped foot in the station.
It was a beautiful hot sunny day, despite being well into October and the couple spent the day exploring the local shops, enjoying a coffee and people watching at the popular Café Gilli while Alan completed a sketch of the Ponte Vecchio, a medieval arch bridge over the Arno River.
Unable to resist, the couple returned to Florence just four months later for their wedding anniversary in February. Drinking in the local culture, Susan suggested they embark on an adventure to San Gimignano – a small walled medieval hill town in the province of Siena, Tuscany that she’d spotted on a TV programme about the area.
Fondly nicknamed as the Town of Fine Towers, San Gimignano is famous for its medieval architecture, its hilltop setting and encircling walls which form an unforgettable skyline. Sipping a glass of wine together and sampling the local wild boar salami as Alan painted the skyline beyond the piazza in which they sat, Alan vividly remembers his desire to capture the famous towers bathed in the warmth of the late Tuscan sun.
The finished piece has become one of Alan’s most popular limited edition prints, often bought as a souvenir by customers who have holidayed here, but more surprisingly so as inspiration to visit this stunning location.
Part two of this wonderful trip to mark their wedding anniversary together took Alan and Susan by train back to their beloved Venice. Alighting in the midst of the dazzling Venetian Carnival, the weather was a stark contrast to their last visit, but no less beautiful. Wrapping up from the bitter cold, the city was alive with the sights and sounds of the carnival, providing endless inspiration for any artist.
The Venetian Carnival is an explosion of colour and spectacle during the month of February, starting 40 days before Easter and ending on Shrove Tuesday. Decorative masks and costumes are very much part of the festival – bringing the city to life from the cold winter frosts.
For Susan, who’s two young children took part in whilst the family lived in Venice many years ago, the trip was an unforgettable reminder of happy times spent here.
For Alan, it was another opportunity to immerse himself in this vibrant city and its culture. Interestingly, the severity of the cold temperatures during the carnival meant that Alan had to find another medium if he was to capture this incredible sight, as watercolours would take too long to dry with such little warmth.
Their trip to Florence and Venice for their wedding anniversary in February 1999 further fuelled Alan’s popular collection of Italian-inspired artwork – much to the enjoyment of customers who visited the Alan Reed Gallery regularly in Eldon Gardens and remain fans of Alan’s artwork and admire this incredible country and its culture.