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.

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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.

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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.

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.