The Grand Tour…

Flanked by sprawling vineyards, olive trees and succulent lemon groves; Lake Garda is Italy’s largest lake and an area of such outstanding natural beauty that it makes almost everyone’s to-do list when planning their sightseeing adventures across Italy.

Limone, Lake Garda by Alan Reed
Limone, Lake Garda by Alan Reed

Alan and Susan first visited Lake Garda on a week-long trip with two friends, Bob and Heather in September 1999. Though not a research trip, unlike their previous trip to Rome to discuss the possibility of showcasing Alan’s ever-expanding Italian Collection of paintings, Lake Garda proved to be a bountiful source of inspiration for Alan – none more so than the popular beauty spot Limone, situated on the North West shore of Lake Garda in Northern Italy.

Hiring a car for the day, Alan and Susan drove to Vicenza in Northern Italy – a city off the beaten tourist track but one bathed in history and splendour nonetheless. It was on this trip that Alan and Susan had the opportunity to meet up with old friend and Pastor Paul Finch, his wife Elaine and his family whom she was close with whilst living in Venice several years previously. The trip was a chance for Alan and Susan to explore more of Italy’s history and heritage together, providing Alan with a unique source of inspiration for his collection of Italian paintings which remained hugely popular both in originals and Alan’s new limited edition series of prints.

Florence from Piazza Michelangelo by Alan Reed
Florence from Piazza Michelangelo by Alan Reed

Fast forward to the long-awaited millennium and Alan and Susan were preparing for another trip to Florence to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Their plan was to hire a car whilst there and visit Siena, a city in the centre of Tuscany dominated by magnificent medieval architecture and true Italian spirit. Alan and Susan had booked to stay at the beautiful Hotel Paris in Florence  on this trip, just a stone’s throw away from Florence Cathedral and the city sights – a perfect way to celebrate their  7th wedding anniversary.

Alan and Susan’s love for Italy has only deepened over the years, especially after these early years of exploration – in sickness and in health the couple have made wonderful, lasting memories. Susan remembers spending much of their trip curled up fast asleep in the back of the car, as she was beginning to suffer from kidney failure.

A husband and wife team through and through, Alan remembers one day in particular during their trip to Siena in which he pulled over and sketched by the side of the road in San Gimignano as Susan slept soundly, resting in the back of the car. Having caught sight of local workmen burning olive branches, a painting he would later complete known as Burning of the Vines.

Burning the Vines, Tuscany by Alan Reed
Burning the Vines, Tuscany by Alan Reed

The couple’s adventures across Italy provided Alan with some fantastic references for his popular collection of Italian paintings – along with wonderful memories sitting people watching in busy piazzas, relaxing by the shore of Lake Garda and impromptu sketching of some truly unique, real scenes of daily life in Italy.

It was a buoyant time for the young family, and for the Alan Reed Art Gallery back in Old Eldon Square too. Despite Susan’s ill health, the couple made the best of a bad situation and squeezed every last drop out of life – unsure of what the future would hold…

Our Winter Wonderland

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.

Caffe Gilli
Cafe Gilli, Florence

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.

A limited edition print of Ponte Vecchio, Florence by Alan
A limited edition print of Ponte Vecchio, Florence by Alan

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.

Alan Reed artist Ponteland
Alan sketching in San Gimignano

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.

Jester, Carnival Venice
Alan’s original watercolour of a Jester at the Carnival in Venice

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.

Reedart Holidays in Italy
Susan with a young Louise and Oliver dressed up for the Venetian Carnival

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.

A New Frontier

The business of art is conducted much like any other commercial venture, in which something is bought, sold, or traded, yet a work of art is not a commodity in the ordinary sense of the word…

For artist Alan Reed, who regularly showcases his work through exhibitions in galleries across the world and in a permanent space in his home in Northumberland, it wasn’t until an opportunity presented itself in 1996 as part of the Arts Council’s “Arts 2000” project which sought to celebrate the artistic achievements of artists across the country from 1990 to the year 2000 that Alan considered the business of selling his art and a new commercial venture.

It was an exciting time for all involved as the year 1996 was “won” for the North East by the regional art association Northern Arts. Bringing together the counties of Cleveland, Cumbria, Durham, Northumberland and Tyne & Wear, the region prided itself on listing more than 3000 exhibitions, events, commissions and residencies from March until December 1996. It was during this time that Eldon Gardens approached Alan about potentially installing his artwork in a “pop up” style gallery in their busy shopping mall.

Reedart Holidays in Italy

For six weeks, an empty unit within Eldon Gardens was transformed into a hive of activity – attracting shoppers, art lovers and tourists to the region, resulting in a phenomenally successful month of sales for Alan Reed Art and a boost overall in the community’s interest and perception of art. As the six weeks quickly drew to a close, Alan and Susan discussed the idea of opening a gallery full time within Eldon Gardens, having been inspired by the Arts Council’s initiative.

_____

With its crisp white walls and striking black exterior, neither Alan nor wife Susan could have imagined what the future had in store for the “Alan Reed Gallery at Eldon Gardens”.

As the gallery flourished, Alan and Susan decided it was time to take another trip to Italy, this time to explore the idea of meeting a printer/publisher who could help promote Alan’s artwork across Italy – an idea inspired by the success of his Venetian themed artwork in an earlier exhibition “A Tale of Two Cities” at the Malcolm Innes Gallery in Edinburgh.

Reedart Holidays in Italy
A watercolour 14″ x 10″ painted “en plein air” by Alan of the market at Campo di Fiori in 1998

The couple arranged to meet with a gentleman in Rome, whilst staying at a hotel in Campo de’ Fiori in Rome to discuss their idea. After two hours’ discussion, the couple had lots to think about and the week away spent exploring a new Italian city gave Alan the opportunity to sketch and further build his portfolio of Italian-inspired artwork.

Having browsed various shops and markets for art to bring home as a souvenir of their trip, Alan and Susan were surprised to discover there were very few original paintings or prints they could buy, instead choice was limited to old engravings or amateur watercolour paintings sold for the equivalent of a few pounds at the local market.

Reedart Holidays in Italy
Alan and Susan enjoying supper with Susan’s old friend Maria Rose and her family – a snapshot of a typical Italian family meal and wonderful memories for the couple.

In a twist of fate, Alan and Susan got into conversation with a couple from the South of the UK at the airport on the way home, who shared their frustrations that they couldn’t find any original artwork or good quality originals of Rome to take home as a souvenir. Laughing that he actually had some sketches in his luggage, the couple promised to visit the new Alan Reed Gallery in Newcastle and take a look.

______

True to their word, the couple they met in the airport did pay a visit to the gallery and buy a print from Alan’s ever-expanding “Italian Collection” of paintings which also included scenes from Tuscany, including San Gimignano, Siena and Florence.

Reedart Holidays in Italy
Alan’s much-loved painting of San Gimignano Limited edition Print

What Alan and Susan soon realised is that they’d spotted a gap in the market for high quality paintings or sketches of Italy, and so Alan met with his printer Di Rollo whom Alan had worked with to publish his paintings of Edinburgh from 1993 onwards.

Di Rollo spotted some of his Newcastle scenes in the Malcolm Innes Gallery in Edinburgh and the pair began chatting about the best way to create a series of limited edition prints from his original artwork to solve the problem. Giclée prints* had not yet become the popular, mainstream way of printing or reproducing original artwork as they are today and so the pair decided on a lithographic method to reproduce the prints.
*(Giclée prints were a revolutionary new way of accurately reproducing paintings, drawings or artwork and has become very popular with artists wishing to sell their art to a wider audience.)

With the new gallery flourishing, his mind swimming with inspiration from another insightful trip to Italy and an exciting new distribution opportunity in the pipeline, 1996 was an exciting chapter in the story of Alan Reed Art – and one that continued right up until 2002 when Alan and Susan decided to relocate the Alan Reed Gallery back to their beautiful home in Northumberland.

A Tale of Two Cities

Venice…

Moonlight shone brightly on the gently rippling waters of the Orseolo Basin, illuminating a shoal of gondolas tied together for the evening; a picture-perfect scene young artist Alan Reed would later capture during his stay at the historic Hotel Cavalletto on the family’s long-awaited return to Venice in 1994.

His watercolour study of the hotel itself was bought by one of the North East’s most renowned opera singers Graeme Danby, signalling the beginning of something special for the 14 paintings Alan painted on this return trip to Venice.

La Gondola, Venice Limited edition Print
The view from our hotel gave us a wonderful view of the gondolas berthed for the night in the tiny canal below. The sweeping composition gave the impression of them being like a shoal of fish darting through the water.

Staying at the Hotel Cavalletto for three days before moving on to Marghera in the suburb of Venice to stay with Susan’s friends Franca and her family, it was here Alan began to entrench himself in the Venetian way of life, often stealing himself away for a morning’s painting by getting the bus into Venice at 7am before returning for lunch at one o’clock on the dot – an Italian custom. The pace of life in Venice can be wonderfully sedate as Susan Reed knows to well, who went from rushing into town on the bus for the school run to waiting patiently to be sailed down the Grand Canal in a Vaparetto.

A scene from Alan’s pocket sketchbook filled with mementos of Venice

Reedart Holidays in Italy

Reedart Holidays in Italy

Day trips to fair Verona, morning service at Chiesa Evangelica di Padova and boat trips to beautiful Burano to see its famous coloured houses, to Treviso and the coastal town of Chioggia with wife Susan and two children Louise and Oliver provided Alan with an abundance of inspiration for his artwork and fond memories for the young family.

Squeezing as much sightseeing as they could into their fourteen day trip, Alan’s mind raced with visions of this enigmatic, unique city on his return

Edinburgh…

A city famed for its iconic architecture and the next big city to his home in Newcastle, Alan would often find himself on a train heading north and spend the day exploring Edinburgh and capturing its timeless beauty in his pocket sketchbooks….

Capturing the hustle and bustle of the crowds of Christmas shoppers on Princes Street on a late winter’s afternoon, or the dappled sunlight that bathes the old stonework of the Grassmarket, Alan’s artwork proved very popular with tourists and residents alike. Given the couple’s love of Venice, it’s no surprise that the Valvona & Crolla Ristorante and Deli in Edinburgh became one of their favourite restaurants to visit during their frequent trips to Edinburgh. Scotland’s oldest Delicatessen and Italian Wine Merchant; their visits were a dream come true for Susan who could buy fresh fruit and vegetables flown in from Milan that morning and pick up gourmet goodies that the family used to enjoy whilst living in Venice.

Alan Reed
One of my favourite paintings of the city of Edinburgh which captures the hustle and bustle of a late winter’s afternoon on Princes Street. Carefully laid out washes create a sense of depth and light. Limited edition Print of Princess Street, Edinburgh

The relationship between Edinburgh and Venice goes back to the 18th century when Edinburgh continued to expand rapidly. The medieval part of Edinburgh, now known as the Old Town was no longer large enough to contain the city’s rapidly growing population. A solution to the problem was sought in the form of a public competition inviting plans to develop the city. The young architect James Craig won – his plan being an elegant Neo-classical development located to the north of the castle. Building work carried out between 1767 and 1830 became known as the New Town and was noted as a huge success. The result was one of the most attractive cities in the whole of Europe, and Edinburgh was soon dubbed the “Venice of the North”.Reedart Holidays in Italy

A Tale of Two Cities 

A chance meeting with his father and his father’s agent during a trip to Edinburgh later led to an exhibition of his work titled A Tale of Two Cities at the Malcolm Innes Gallery, Edinburgh in 1995.

It was here that Alan drew upon the similarities between Venice and Edinburgh, two very distinctive cities in terms of architecture, but both equally as unique and enigmatic as one another.

Showcasing his series of paintings from his trip to Venice a year earlier and some of his most popular Edinburgh street scenes the exhibition remains one of Alan’s favourite exhibitions he has curated throughout his career.

As the exhibition opening date drew closer, Alan had planned to invite guests to a preview evening – only for their plans to be interrupted thanks to a postal strike, meaning very few people actually received their invitations to the event. In a twist of fate, this is when Susan joined the business and suggested they schedule an exhibition of the paintings in their home for those who didn’t receive their invites in time. Working tirelessly to call customers past and present, design new invitations and organise the event – A Tale of Two Cities part two was the start of a truly special working relationship for the couple, and an opportunity for families to reconnect as Susan reconnected with her father’s cousin Dr Alan Rutherford who was working in Edinburgh and spotted Alan’s artwork in the Malcolm Innes Gallery!

As their story unfolds, Venice and Edinburgh continue to be two cities that define Alan’s artwork. Featured in various publications and exhibitions, Venice and Edinburgh are enjoyed the world over…

The Merchant of Venice

After a chance meeting in local pub The Diamond in Ponteland, family members and friends could scarcely have predicted the adventures in store for Alan and Susan who married three years later. Having recently returned home from living abroad in Venice with her two young children and settling back into life in the North East, Susan longed to show Alan the sights, sounds and smells of her beloved Venice and introduce him to some of the lifelong friends the family made there.

It was June 1991 when the couple finally took that much-talked about trip. This would be Alan’s first trip to Venice and armed with little else than a conversation he’d had with an old colleague about the architecture and stories he’d read about this iconic city, it became one of the most memorable trips of the couple’s lifetime and the couple returned to Venice in August 1994 where Alan painted 14 “en plein air” watercolours which were part of the “A Tale of two Cities” exhibition in the Spring of 1995.

Reedart Holidays in Italy

While Alan’s family had strong Christian roots, Susan’s rebirth as a Christian was borne in St Mark’s Church whilst living in Venice, and a visit to this magnificent church tied the couple even closer together as Susan shared this chapter of her life with him. Introducing Alan to the friends and “family” Susan made whilst there, Alan quickly found himself falling in love with the Italian way of life. A true home from home for Susan, she happily wandered around the shops with the children, buying handmade sketchbooks and exploring the little back streets and lesser known piazzas whilst Alan painted the joys of Venice – soaking up every inch of the Grand Canal, the view from the vaporetti (the water buses of Venice) and everything in between.

(Image Credit: Alan Reed Art)

It was undoubtedly the beginning of something special, especially for Alan who compares their trip to Venice “like being on a stage set”. The pinch-me moment came when the week all-too-quickly drew to a close and Alan found himself overcome with emotion, already planning his next trip to the city that had stolen his heart after only a week. “I’ll definitely be back”, he thought and he was right. Venice, and indeed Italy has been a constant source of inspiration for Alan’s artwork throughout his career, his works of Venice have been featured in art galleries and various art books over the years – but none can compare to the feeling of pure excitement and exhilaration the young family felt as took their first trip together to a place filled with so many memories – giving Alan a wonderful sensory insight to the wonders of Venice that he in turn shares with us all through his artwork.

When to Visit Venice:
Venice is magnificent any time of the year, beautifully hot in the summer months before turning icy cold in winter. The sight of everyone wrapped up in their furs and the frost dazzling on the canal is unforgettable – while the iconic Venice Carnival which takes place in February is a must not miss.

Where to Go: Head to the Castello neighbourhood of Venice and you will find the “Giardini” (gardens) where is nice to wander in the shade to cool off. We often took the boat over to the Lido to sunbathe on the beach. I would make a large container full of home made lemonade to take with us to drink throughout the day, it was so refreshing made with about a dozen fresh lemons.

Where to Eat: An unusual restaurant in the Jewish part of Venice was Gam Gam which serves fantastic tasty food and very reasonably priced. We also highly recommend Osteria Enoteca near San Marco and Antico Forno, near Rialto for a nice pizza. Try Al Covo Restaurant and Osteria all’Alba near Rialto for cocktails.

“When I lived there, my old Venetian friend Nai used to take the children and I to the island of Burano famous for its lovely different coloured painted houses and the old ladies sitting in the doorways making lace. I could hardly wait for Alan to capture all its colours. We ate in a restaurant called Al Gatto Nero (The black Cat) and sat outside in the sun eating Fritto Misto with a bottle of white wine, a memory to treasure”  – Susan Reed

 

Reedart Holidays in Italy

“The moon shines bright. In such a night as this. When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees and they did make no noise, in such a night…”
― William ShakespeareThe Merchant of Venice

Follow this link to view all of Alan’s Venetian paintings currently available for sale. 

The Adventure Begins…

“The world stood still around them as they sat together on the piazza of San Gimignano, a beautiful walled medieval hill town in Tuscany. Having spent the afternoon sampling wild boar salami, cheeses and other delicacies, and dipping in and out of the local papiro (paper) shops and boutiques, the pair sat together watching the world beyond in perfect harmony, Susan sipping a glass of wine while Alan painted the scene before them.”

Painting of San Gimignano

Their trips taken together span wedding anniversaries, births of grandchildren, picnics at Lake Garda and other international adventures to some of the world’s most beautiful and far-flung locations and they all have one thing in common: travelling the world with his wife Susan and family, painting often “on location” or, later from a misty memory or photograph has helped shape the distinctive style of one of the North East’s most admired artists, Alan Reed.

Join us in this brand new series of blog posts as we take a trip down memory lane and uncover the stories behind Alan Reed Art.

We leave for Venice in the morning…

Sketchbook Watercolours by Alan Reed

Umbrian Sunset
Sketchbook Watercolour of Umbrian Sunset

Our first trip to to the region Umbria in Italy was in 2002. We stayed at the Relais il Canalicchio which boasts commanding views over the Umbrian countryside.

On one of our trips out to explore we visited the Fabriano paper factory where I purchased several leather bound sketchbooks containing their beautiful hand made paper which is a delight to paint on. In fact these tiny sketchbooks are so lovely you initially feel a little scared to paint in them in case you mess it up!

I did pluck up the courage though and one evening I painted the view from out window, a simple composition of a small farm building silhouetted against the warmth of the spring evening light.

These are the kind of subjects that I would be encouraging guests on our painting holidays in Italy to paint. I would be leading by example but also overseeing their work, deciding on the right composition, advising on choice of colours, sequence of washes and of course making sure that they don’t spoil the painting by overworking it.

Nowadays there are some excellent sketchbooks available in the UK and online containing good quality paper to paint on. I also recommend the Arches watercolour blocks for slightly larger paintings. A 14″ x 10″ or 12″ x 9″ containing rough paper which is small enough to pop into a bag with the rest of your painting gear.

I usually have a range of materials available from my Studio & Gallery in Ponteland, Northumberland.

 

City Church Portraits by Alan Reed

City Church Portraits by Alan Reed

Tyne and Wear annual Heritage Open Days programme.
Coinciding with the launch, will be the unveiling of 22 oil portraits of church members, painted from life by artist Alan Reed who works from his Studio and Gallery in Ponteland, Northumberland.

The launch event will take place at the listed CastleGate building in Melbourne Street, Newcastle on 9th September at 7.30pm All Welcome.