A Gift of Life

Having booked to stay at the beautiful Hotel Paris in Florence to celebrate their 7th wedding anniversary in February 2000, Alan and Susan couldn’t help but feel their trip was overshadowed…

For Susan, it was a trip mostly spent curled up fast asleep in the back of the car while Alan drove, unable to fully enjoy the sights they had looked forward to –  as Alan sketched “en plain air”. Having been diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease – a hereditary disease, she was slowly but surely suffering from kidney failure.

Alan Reed Art
The Artist’s Wife – a painting of Susan in St Mark’s Square, Venice

Susan bravely faced the difficult task of coping with nausea, headaches, extreme exhaustion and painful cramps. Their trip to Florence in February 2000 was certainly a turning point for the couple – their shared love of travel was suddenly cut short as Susan became too poorly to enjoy the adventures they had planned to take together. The Alan Reed Art Gallery in Eldon Gardens was busier than ever, which meant a trip to Rome without Susan, so Alan accompanied by his mother in 2001, to gather more inspiration for his exceptionally-popular Italian Collection of paintings which still resonate with lovers of the country today.

Since the kidneys are capable of functioning at up to 10 percent of their normal capacity, Susan hadn’t realised how ill she was until now. Faced with dialysis three times a week or a kidney transplant – something had to be done soon to rid Susan of the toxins in her body. To make the situation even more difficult; Susan has a rare tissue type which made finding a transplant match virtually impossible. With only three percent of the population predicted to be a match due to Susan’s French and Maltese heritage, Susan’s mother stepped in eager to help. It was at this point that Alan insisted that he get tested to see if he could be a possible match too. Remarkably Margaret was not a match, however the couple were amazed when Alan turned out to be a 50 percent match!

“When a man and woman marry, they are no longer two, they are one flesh” – The Book of Matthew 19:6

A twist of fate so beautiful and rare – Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital who undertook the operation told the couple that out of the estimated 120 kidney transplants they perform each year, there have only been 15 husband and wife matches since 1996.

Because Alan was going to be a live donor, it didn’t matter that the kidney wasn’t a 100 percent match – the couple’s faith and prayers gave them confidence that the transplant would be a complete success.

Alan Reed Painting HolidaysBorn-again Christians Alan and Susan underwent surgery on June 27th 2001, with the power of prayer and faith in God. The couple recovered in adjoining wards, with Alan deemed fit enough to be discharged just four days later. Susan would be on anti-rejection drugs and steroids for the rest of her life, but with a knowingly smile she knew that the kidney transplant was going to be a success, having felt it “burst to life” almost immediately.

Fast forward 14 years and Susan is still in good health. The kidney transplant was a fantastic success, giving Susan the chance of a normal life and bringing the couple even closer. Remaining by each other’s side during highs and lows, the couple were now free to pursue their love of travel and the adventures that would come their way – resulting in their beloved Reedart Italian Painting Holidays. 

Follow their story here.

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.

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.