An Exciting Agenda

February 2004

Sitting in a quiet corner of Pani’s Cafe in the heart of Newcastle city centre Susan and Loretta are babbling away in broken Italian. Half English, half Italian phrases carry through the air to the kitchen, where a superb Italian feast is being prepped for the busy pre-theatre rush later that evening…

Having lived in Venice for several years in her early twenties, Susan was introduced to Loretta after a meal at Pani’s and the pair would often catch up over a coffee or bowl of pasta so Susan could practise her Italian. It was during one of these meetings that Loretta mentioned she knew a publisher in Italy who she would love to introduce Alan and Susan to, with a view to publishing a book of his work.

Sketching in Vicenza 2004
Sketching in Vicenza 2004

With their gallery on Main Street in Ponteland now well on its way to being well established, the couple were looking forward to the future of Alan Reed Art and decided to meet with the publisher, Alberto Brazzale in Rome in September 2004.

Meeting Alberto for the day at the hotel where they were staying in the Trastevere area, he talked confidently about his previous work and explained how he sought sponsorship from local companies and banks in Italy to publish his books. Giving Alan and Susan some exciting ideas to go home and discuss, Alberto also suggested some new locations Alan might like to visit and paint to add to his collection of Italian paintings.

One of Alberto’s suggestions was to visit Vicenza, a historic city in the Veneto region highly regarded for its Palladian architecture. Knowing very little about the area, Alan and Susan later met with old friend and pastor Paul and his wife who now lived there in the November of 2004.  It was a joyous trip for both parties as Susan was delighted to be reunited with old friends from the church congregation she was part of whilst living in Venice, and Alan sketched some new scenes for his Italian Collection of paintings. As the couple mulled the idea of creating a book about Alan’s Italian-inspired artwork, and possibly even hosting an exhibition in nearby Marostica, unbeknown to them, another idea was brewing. They just didn’t quite know it yet…

After their meeting with Alberto the pair were off to Umbria again! This time, they would be meeting their good friends Bob and Heather at Rome airport and heading two hours into the sunset to Umbria to stay with Chrissie and David at Casa San Gabriel.

Painting of Casa San Gabriel by Alan Reed
Painting of Casa San Gabriel by Alan Reed

Cultural heritage is not Umbria’s only selling point – this produce-laden province is beloved by Susan in particular for the wild boar and truffles of its woods that grow in abundance here. Umbria is rustic, rural, romantic Italy at its undiscovered finest, where sheep roam free in the unspoilt valleys and medieval villages and landmarks that dot the landscape.

Alan and Susan wasted no time in introducing Bob and Heather to the area – driving along its winding roads to the foot of the Sibillini Mountains and onto the wild and wonderful Piano Grande basin where lentils grow in abundance and a patchwork quilt of red, purple and blue wildflowers carpets the view below during the summer months. Unquestionably one of the most spectacular sights in the area, the scenery and the silence up here are exhilarating no matter what time of year you visit.

The foursome stood still, drinking in the view. For Alan, it was a wonderful opportunity to sketch and catalogue some of the world’s most far flung locations that would delight customers at the gallery. Despite their wonderfully rural location, Susan spotted a small caravan parked up in the distance serving sandwiches and light lunches. They decided to stop for lunch here and headed over to the mysterious caravan…. Greeted with wild boar sandwiches and a glass of wine, Alan, Susan, Bob and Heather enjoyed a fantastic lunch at the top of the Piano Grande basin – one they still vividly remember today.

Spending a week together touring the sights of Tuscany and the Umbrian Valley, a little over an hour’s drive from Casa San Gabriel took the group everywhere. From the pretty hilltop town of Cortona to chocolate and salami shops in Norcia and onwards to the peaceful mediaeval town of Gubbio on the slopes of Monte Ingino. Their base at Casa San Gabriel, nestled deep in the Umbrian Valley proved a perfect spot to stay – Chrissie and David were the perfect hosts and opened up their own home for dinner one evening on the terrace of their home with breathtaking views of the valley where Bob and Heather celebrated their 25 th wedding anniversary and Bob presented her with a beautiful ring to mark the occasion.

Shortly before their trip came to an end, the foursome discovered the crumbling ruins of an old church tucked away just a ten minutes walk from where they were staying. While Alan sat and sketched the ruins, Susan and Heather sat in the sun and chatted about how wonderful it would be to have the money and time to renovate the church and make it into something….

Chiesa del Carmine 2004
The ruins of Chiesa del Carmine 2004

The Chiesa del Carmine was renovated, not by Alan and Susan – or Bob and Heather, but by the landowner and is managed by none other than Chrisse and David who own Casa San Gabriel. Standing in the very same spot ten years later, in 2014, Alan and Susan thought back to that conversation with Bob and Heather and the concept of Reedart Painting Holidays in Italy was born

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…