Come and join us

“Come and do another painting holiday! It’ll be fantastic”

Sitting on the patio of Chrissie and David’s beautiful Umbrian villa looking out over the pool to the valley beyond, it wasn’t hard to imagine how perfect this place was for people craving a sun-drenched escape. There was plenty to keep people occupied too for when the sun goes down or hunger strikes. Unspoilt countryside brought a bounty of fresh fruit and vegetables to cook supper, while the nearby towns of Spello, Perugia and Assisi promised an authentic Italian experience.

Guest sketching at Villa Capanne
A guest sketching on the lawn of Villa Capanne

British expats Chrissie and David had been running the estate for well over ten years and had restored the apartments and villa here to exceptionally high standards.  The little ‘houses’ are close but incredibly private, each with its own terrace. Their restoration is sympathetic and unpretentious – the off-white décor and soft furnishings enhancing undulating beams and stone walls. Producing their own wine, olive oil and seasonal herbs and vegetables on-site, Chrissie and David’s two children would take great pleasure in showing the guests how to feed a fluffy alpaca.

Alan and Susan decided to do it! They booked the Villa Capanne, which sleeps 12 for a week and put the feelers out in their local community. It had been five years since their last visit to Umbria, but having visited on so many occasions over the years Alan and Susan knew Umbria and the surrounding hilltop towns like the back of their hand. Alan would devise a painting schedule of must-see places like Cortona, Perugia, Assisi, Spello and Umbertide, stopping points and range of scenes to ensure the painters on the holiday would have every opportunity available to them. Non-painters were more than welcome too, there was the pool, nearby golf course, gardens, library of books and board games on offer in the main house to keep them occupied. The estate’s cooks would prepare all of the guests’ food, the bedrooms were suitable for families, couples and single travellers – all that was left to do was get on a plane and enjoy it.

 

Crit of Guests paintings 2014
Alan’s crit of the guest’s paintings after an unforgettable week away on their Reedart Italian Painting Holiday

The trip sold out, with 12 guests joining them from the North East and as far as Cheshire. It was the beginning of a brand new arm of Alan Reed Art, an exciting new business venture working alongside Alan’s art and exhibitions that had grown organically from the couple’s love of Italy and adventures they’d taken over the past decade. During the trip, David mentioned the crumbling old ruins of the Chiesa Del Carmine which Alan had sketched in the past. Did they remember it had undergone a no-expense-spared restoration by the estate owners, and did they want to see it now?

 

The newly restored Chiesa Del Carmine
The newly restored Chiesa Del Carmine

The old church was breath-taking. Sunlight bathed the old stone walls, there was an elegance about the place now, where weeds had once penetrated its old crumbling walls there were now state-of-the-art furnishings, private landscaped gardens and beautifully refurbished original features. Chrissie and David’s two girls found a tune on the grand piano, before Leon, one of the guests sat and played a beautiful piece. It was a magical moment for all, and one that cemented the future of Reedart Painting Holidays.

 

 

Whether you’re a keen painter, just at the beginning of your journey or a non-painter craving some peace and quiet, culture and adventure, you are welcome to join us on our next trip to Umbria

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

New Beginnings

Returning from their first trip to Umbria in 2002 feeling refreshed, Alan and Susan focused their efforts on the new Alan Reed Art Gallery just a stone’s throw from their home in Ponteland.

The gallery quickly became a go-to destination in its pretty village location amidst the local coffee shops and village pubs. Alan continued to receive a number of interesting commissions during this time – one memorable commission in particular was for banking group Northern Rock, who commissioned a series of paintings of Northumbrian castles for their boardroom.

Warkworth Castle by Alan Reed
Warkworth Castle by Alan Reed – one of the castle’s in Alan’s collection available to purchase as a limited edition print.

Fast forward to May 2003 and the couple began to get the travel bug once again. Alan’s ever-expanding Italian Collection of paintings continued to sell exceptionally well and so the couple decided to embark on a new adventure to the Amalfi coast and Sorrento. Looking up prices online, Susan found a fantastic deal that would take them to the cerulean coast for a week’s sightseeing and research, but at £1,500 for the pair they jokingly asked God that if he wanted them to take this trip, someone would come into the gallery that afternoon and buy a painting to fund their trip. As luck would have it, their prayers were answered! They sold two original paintings that afternoon of Italy which went towards their trip.

 Ravello, an iconic scene from the Amalfi coast.
Ravello, an iconic scene from the Amalfi coast.

With its pastel coloured fishing villages, glittering coastline and clifftop olive groves, the Amalfi coast certainly didn’t disappoint. Moving on to soak up the culture in Sorrento, Pompeii, Rivoli and Capri; Alan and Susan saw as much as they could in a week, including a fascinating trip to the oldest paper mill in Italy where Alan was gifted a few sheets of paper from the master craftsmen which resulted in a painting of the iconic Colosseum.

Having purchased a selection of handmade sketchbooks whilst in Fabriano, Umbria, Alan continued his new method of cataloguing his references in these pocket sketchbooks during their trip to Sorrento and the Amalfi coast.

During the early years of his career, Alan vividly remembers his artwork being featured on local news programme BBC Look North. Reporting at the time, broadcast journalist Wendy Gibson mistakenly mentioned that Alan painted without a pencil – which certainly sounded impressive, but wasn’t quite true in Alan’s case. It wasn’t until Alan naturally felt inspired to adopt this new method of painting directly into his pocket sketchbooks during this trip that reminded Alan of this news report and signalled a sort of rebirth in his method of painting.

The Faraglione Rocks, Capri
Faraglione rocks, Island of Capri from trip to Sorento May 2003

As life got back to normal at the gallery after their trip, Alan uploaded pages from his sketchbooks to his website. From quick painterly sketches of scenes before him, to little anecdotes of their trip (like the time their bus driver concentrated more on a pretty female passenger than the winding roads up to Positano) the sketchbooks had, in a way, become unique photo albums of his travels and varied from Umbria, Venice and Florence.

Unbeknown to them, another couple half way across the world were looking at the very same photo album…

One of the joys of being an artist is never knowing what opportunities are going to come along – and for Alan, an exciting opportunity to return to Italy had just popped into his inbox. Chrissie and David had escaped the rat race and purchased four derelict 16th century dwellings in the Umbrian Valley, transforming one into their home and the remaining three into beautiful self-catering cottages. With panoramic views from the terrace of the valley beyond, Chrissie and David invited Alan to recapture the beautiful scenery for customers to enjoy on postcards and in the cottages themselves at Casa san Gabriel.

Rosso e Nero, inspired by the couple's trip to Venice February 2004 featuring the Rialto Fish Market and is available as a limited edition print.
Rosso e Nero, inspired by the couple’s trip to Venice February 2004 featuring the Rialto Fish Market and is available as a limited edition print.

Alan and Susan jumped at the chance to return to Umbria, where they had once laughed about being snowed in despite the sunny weather the day before and organised the trip to coincide with a trip to Venice with Alan’s parents in February 2004. Gathering more reference of the iconic Venetian carnival whilst there, Alan and Susan introduced his parents to some of Susan’s friends Franca and Massimo who live on the outskirts of Venice and of course to much loved old friend Nai whose story you can read more about here.

From there, the family went their separate ways – with Alan’s parents heading back to England and Alan and Susan catching a train to Umbria where Chrissie and David would pick them up from the station and take them to the cottages.

Alan and Susan stayed for just one night which gave Alan a short window in which to take reference of the cottages to produce a sketch for Chrissie and David at a later date, but it took even less time for the couple to fall in love with the beautiful cottages and view here. Surrounded by the Umbrian countryside, Casa San Gabriel had been thoughtfully furnished by Chrissie and David and Alan and Susan knew they would be back.

Casa San Gabriel, Umbria  by Alan Reed
Casa San Gabriel, Umbria by Alan Reed

As it turned out, the couple have returned to Casa San Gabriel on a number of occasions over the last ten years and witnessed the cottages evolve with an outdoor pool, landscaped garden, BBQ facilities and a soon-to-be-completed winery. Alan and Susan also got to know the couple’s two young daughters Eli and Lucia over the years and always make a trip to see the family when they are visiting the area. As the gallery in Ponteland blossomed, so too did Alan and Susan’s love for Umbria, thanks in part, to Chrissie and David’s vision for Casa San Gabriel. Chrissie and David also took on an old church just a short distance from their cottages as the years passed – managing it alongside their own cottages.

The Chiesa del Carmine left a lasting impression on Alan and Susan – although in a sorry state at the time, they kept an eye on the church during its planned restoration and an idea began to form in their heads – wouldn’t this be an amazing place to bring guests on a painting holiday?

Wouldn’t it indeed.

Painting Holiday May 2015

The venue this year was the recently restored church Chiesa del Carmine, a building that was in ruins when Alan first painted it on location in 2004. We never dreamed that one day we would have the privilege of staying in, what is now, a beautifully restored building with breathtaking views and landscaped gardens.

The accommodation itself is stunning and is the perfect place to chill out and relax. There are plenty of subjects to paint in and around the property (which we did) but we also enjoyed a couple of day trips out and about.

The first was the small hilltop town Todi, just south of Perugia in Umbria. We based ourselves in the piazza. Alan and the painting guests sketched the architecture in watercolour before enjoying a delicious pizza at a nearby restaurant.

Alan Reed Painting Holidays
Sketchbook Watercolour by Alan Reed of Todi

Availability

A TYPICAL DAY

We start the day with a good healthy breakfast of fruit juices, freshly baked croissants , fresh fruit, eggs, bacon, toast with plenty of fresh coffee or tea. This is where we might discuss the days events and activities, which might be painting on location around the glorious landscape of Chiesa del Carmine or spending a day painting in the nearby villages or towns such as Assisi, Spello, Todi or Cortona.

This could be a half day out or full day depending where we have decided to go and how far it is to travel. The non-painting guests usually come out with us (apart from the golfers) and we all travel together in our luxury coach. Of course anyone who prefers to have a day relaxing by the pool or taking one of the many walks around the valley is their own choice.

We also offer cookery classes, wine tasting, truffle hunting and more……….

Reedart Holidays Swimming Pool
Swimming Pool at Chiesa del Carmine

 

Non painters can spend a day or  two at the 18 hole Championship Golf Course of Antognolla nearby

Antognolla Championship Golf Course in Umbria
Antognolla Championship Golf Course in Umbria

Whilst the painters are busy  the others enjoy sightseeing, shopping or simply enjoying the scenery and passers by with a coffee or glass of wine. This could be Lake Trasimeno, Perugia or any other nearby village.

On arrival back to our luxurious villa,  the cooks have already arrived and busy with

activity in the well stocked kitchen. Those who wish to swim in our amazing pool, this is a lovely time of the day to do so before we sit down to a beautifully prepared evening meal by our own Italian cooks.

All are welcome to join our party even if you don’t intend to paint! Reedart Painting Holidays take you on a creative journey through winding landscapes, secluded villages and awe-inspiring vistas that’s not only good for your painting portfolio, but good for the soul too.

 

New dates available for September 2019

Saturday 21st – Saturday 28th September 2019 (1 Single, 1 Double & 1 Twin Rooms)

  Saturday 1st – Saturday 8th June 2019 (Fully Booked)

Contact:  art@alanreed.com

Call us on +44 (0) 1661 871 800 | +44 (0) 7718 741 546

 

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