Behind the scenes of a Reedart Painting Holiday in Italy

Having stayed at the Villa Capanne in 2014 and fallen in love with the refined rusticity of their accommodation, Alan, Susan and their guests were certainly in for a treat in 2015 when they returned to Umbria for a second Reedart Italian Painting Holiday, this time in the newly-renovated Chiesa Del Carmine: a stunning, no-expense-spared ancient church and adjoining farmhouse nestled deep in the heart of a picturesque valley. Far enough from civilisation to sit and enjoy the silence of the unspoilt Italian countryside, but close enough to the spectacular Robert Trent Jones Championship golf course at the Antognolla Golf Estate and nearby hilltop towns, Chiesa Del Carmine was the perfect spot for Reedart Holidays to settle into.

Chiesa Del Carmine
Chiesa Del Carmine

Borgo San Jacopo 2

There were trips aplenty on this Reedart Italian Painting Holiday too – stopping off to sketch at Todi, enjoying lunch alfresco in Gubbio and browsing the market at Umbertide and buying cheese, ham and souvenirs to take home. As always, there was a good mix of guests who were here to paint – from beginners and hobby painters – to the more advanced and those who were simply here to eat, drink and explore some of Italy’s hidden gems thanks to Alan and Susan’s unrivalled knowledge of the area.

 

 

A painting of Leon playing the piano for guests at Chiesa Del Carmine
A painting of Leon playing the piano for guests at Chiesa Del Carmine

The group had the added bonus of fellow guest Leon’s piano playing skills this year, who often took himself over to the baby grand piano in the lounge in the evening. It was a magical moment which made the holiday even more memorable for those who had come along to paint, and those who had not.

This particular trip was a memorable one for two guests in particular – with Arthur’s special birthday approaching, his wife Diana commissioned Alan to paint a portrait of her husband. It was to be a surprise so she asked Alan if he could work from photographs. He could, but if possible it would be better try and do a sketch of him and take his own photographs. So Alan devised a cunning plan. On the last evening of the holiday, he began to sketch various guests after dinner as they were all relaxing in the living room of Chiesa Del Carmine. Eventually it was Arthur’s turn and he willingly obliged to sit without suspecting that Alan’s humble charcoal sketch would develop into a 20″ x 16″ portrait in oils!

Arthur's birthday Portrait by Alan Reed
Arthur’s birthday Portrait by Alan Reed

Arthur was delighted with the result….

I am the ever so proud and thrilled owner of the most marvellous portrait of me. Unusually for me, I was struck dumb, and did not know what to say. Now a little recovered, I can tell you directly how thrilled I am. I think it captures the very essence of me. Just perfect. Thank you so much for taking so much effort to capture the very being of me. I am thrilled. We both enjoyed both our original Easter visit to your home, and our wonderful week with you in the summer, and hence we are both equally looking forward to next year. You cannot imagine how happy you have made my celebration week, for my larger birthday number than I really like to think about”

A sketchbook watercolour of Gubbio by Alan Reed
A sketchbook watercolour of Gubbio by Alan Reed

For those who would be painting, the owner of Chiesa Del Carmine light-heartedly offered €250 to the best painting of the villa and left it up to Alan to judge the worthy winner at the end of the trip. Thanks to Alan’s expert guidance and tuition over the past seven days, the guests’ painting skills had undeniably come on leaps and bounds and so the eventual winner proved to be a difficult choice for Alan. The winner was John Chapman, whose painting of Chiesa Del Carmine hangs proudly in the venue today.

Seven fun, inspiring, adventure-filled days exploring Italy, roaming from sea to city to countryside and sampling some of the finest food and drink left the guests of Reedart Italian Painting Holidays heading home feeling fantastic. Many were struck by how incredible value for money the holiday was – food, drink, travel and accommodation was all included in one price for the entire week. They had journeyed to some unforgettable places, enjoyed some magical moments and really bonded with their hosts – so much so that when Alan and Susan mentioned they were heading to Florence for a couple of nights before flying home all of their guests who flew out with them from Newcastle asked if they could come too!

Susan scoured the internet for suitable accommodation, found apartments for everyone in a convenient spot near Ponte Vecchio as well as places for them all to eat and drink together. It was a perfectly unexpected ending to a perfect trip. Due to their popularity, Reedart Italian Painting Holidays became a fully-fledged arm of their 31 year old family business.

A sketchbook watercolour of Florence by Alan
A sketchbook watercolour of Florence by Alan

The couple returned to the area in October 2015 to look for new places they could take their guests – not least because some of them would soon be joining them for the third year running! A truly organic business venture that is driven by a love and passion for Italy and a long-lasting relationship with Chrissie and David who own Casa San Gabriel and run the estate, it’s little surprise the first of two holidays in 2016 sold out almost immediately…

Would you like to join us?

21st – 28th MAY 2016 – Fully Booked.
4th – 11th JUNE 2016 – Fully Booked

June & October 2017 – Fully Booked

June 2018 Fully Booked

2019 Please contact us directly to register your interest.

 

 

 

To Umbria Again: The First Reedart Painting Holiday

After the hustle and bustle and excitement of launching their first overseas exhibition in Marostica, Italy in November 2005 – an undisputed highlight of Alan’s career – Alan and Susan were already planning another exciting new aspect of Alan Reed Art : painting holidays in Italy.

IMG_0738

Alan and Susan had kept in touch with Chrissie and David after first being introduced to the couple through a commission request to paint their cottages and the view from Casa San Gabriel in Umbria two years previously. During their last visit, they had talked about bringing guests to the cottages for painting holidays and after falling in love with the area Alan and Susan were so excited at the prospect of sharing this hidden gem with others that they decided to give it a go.

Painting on location in Spello with Reedart Painting Holidays Italy
Painting on location in Spello

The first Reedart Painting Holiday in Italy took place in April 2006 at Casa San Gabriel. Alan and Susan were joined by another couple from the North East called Kevin and Nicola Brown and a young man from Canada called Matthew. With a beautiful, traditional Italian cottage at Casa San Gabriel to themselves furnished with everything you could ever need, the group spent a week exploring the hilltop towns of Cortona, Gubbio and Spello with their sketchbooks in hand to paint on-location under Alan’s expert teaching.

Enotecca in Spello
Guests enjoying a wine tasting evening at an Enotecca in Spello

Alan and Susan took their new role as tour guides in their stride, confident that their guests would fall in love with this beautiful part of Italy and really develop their painting skills. It was important for Alan and Susan to ensure that non-painting guests still had a memorable holiday too and so they took trips to Fabriano’s famous paper mills, local shops, beauty spots, cultural landmarks – and even bagging an invite to a local gentleman’s 61st birthday street party in Spello where they all enjoyed a simple lunch of freshly baked bread, broad beans, Pecorino cheese and white wine together, sampling some real local Italian culture.

 

A mid-afternoon snap of Assisi on a Reedart Italian Painting Holiday
A mid-afternoon snap of Assisi

It was little things like this that added a sense of authenticity and true value to the very first Reedart Painting Holiday – not to mention the confidence Alan and Susan instilled in their guests as they drove from town to town or picked out local restaurants to dine at, having explored the area at length themselves.

All too soon the week came to an end and their guests went their separate ways – full of praise for Alan, Susan and their “home from home” cottages at Casa San Gabriel in Umbria. Before heading back to Newcastle, Alan had a number of appointments to make while in Italy. Word had spread about the painting of Casa San Gabriel he was commissioned to paint another holiday home in the next valley which led to a number of other new commissions of the area.

Sunday evening life in L'Aquila
Sunday evening life in L’Aquila

One memorable stopping point on this trip in particular was to L’Aquila in central Italy for three nights where Alan would be sketching for reference for a another potential commission. Describing the town as delightfully “olde worlde”, L’Aquila isn’t on the tourist trail and so the locals certainly took Alan and Susan to their hearts. L’Aquila is the capital of the hilly Abruzzo region and during their stay Alan and Susan ventured to the Monti della Laga National Park to do some exploring.

 

Gran Sasso and the chorus of crocuses
Gran Sasso and the chorus of crocuses

One memorable stopping point on this trip in particular was to L’Aquila in central Italy for three nights where Alan would be sketching for reference for a another potential commission.

Describing the town as delightfully “olde worlde”, L’Aquila isn’t on the tourist trail and so the locals certainly took Alan and Susan to their hearts. L’Aquila is the capital of the hilly Abruzzo region and during their stay Alan and Susan ventured to the Monti della Laga National Park to do some exploring.

The magnificent Gran Sasso
The magnificent Gran Sasso

Neither could forget how the snow was piled at least ten foot high either at the side of the road as they drove to the Gran Sasso – the centrepiece of the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park. Despite the mountains being covered in snow, Alan and Susan were taken aback to find the air was warm and spring had sprung, covering the ground in beautiful purple crocuses.

Despite their numerous trips to Italy over the past decade, it would seem Italy still had a few surprises up its sleeve for Alan and Susan to discover.

The Light

Sitting on the sunny piazza in Marostica
Sitting on the sunny piazza in Marostica

It was a surreal moment as Alan sat surrounded by some of his closest family members and friends sipping coffee in the bright sun in the Piazza degli Scacchi in Marostica as his painting of Marostica on the exhibition posters stared back at him ten times over…

It was the 17th of November 2005, two days before Alan would launch his very first overseas exhibition in Italy and here they were, sitting beneath a number of promotional posters advertising the exhibition to the locals of Marostica in Italy’s Veneto region. “The Light” was a long a time coming considering how much time artist Alan and his wife Susan had spent gathering reference around Italy for his ever-expanding popular collection of Italian paintings and unlike the ancient oil paintings that tourists and locals alike were used to seeing hung in galleries, or the fly-by-night souvenir paintings sold for pennies at local markets – Alan’s lively, unique watercolour paintings of some of Italy’s most loved locations and some hidden gems proved popular with the Italians. Carefully loading around 40 paintings onto a private courier, Alan, Susan and their parents flew to Bergamo to meet them, joined by friend’s Loretta, Hilary, Carrol and Franco, Cath and Mike.

Alan Reed The Light Exhibition poster
Alan Reed The Light Exhibition poster

Much of their first day in Marostica was spent hanging paintings with the help of Alan’s father.

Within the town of Marostica there are two medieval castles, an upper Castle known as Castello Superiore and a lower castle known as Castello Inferiore. In front of the old Castello Inferiore and its ancient library is a prominent chess board.

Every even year during the month of September a game of chess is played using live pieces.

The custom began after the First World War where members of the local chess club began playing chess in the main square and decided to play a game of chess using people as the game pieces. After the Second World War, comedy writer Mario Mirko Vucetich wrote a play in which two noblemen fell in love with the beautiful daughter of a local lord. They challenged each other to a duel to win the hand of their beloved – only to be stopped by the Lord of Marostica who did not wish to see them duel and so forbade the encounter. Instead, it was decreed that the two rivals would play a game of chess and the winner would win his daughter’s hand in marriage and the loser would marry her younger sister.

Alan Reed outside The Light exhibition
Alan Reed outside The Light exhibition

With such a rich history and artistic background, the lower castle was a popular place to host events and exhibitions and so with the help of publisher and exhibition curator Alberto Brazzale whom they had met in Rome not long ago the space was booked to run from the 19th of November 2005 until the 6th of December.

The Commune di Marostica were too incredibly helpful to the couple promoting and facilitating the exhibition – one lady in particular named Francesca did an excellent job of promoting The Light on Alan and Susan’s behalf whilst they were back in England running the busy Alan Reed art gallery in Ponteland.

Although Marostica was not on the tourist track, the couple’s friends Paul and his wife lived nearby and they fell in love with the area. Sending across images of his work to Alberto across to Italy via CD (it was 2005 after all!) the exhibition began to come together.

FullSizeRender (6)
Invite to The Light, Marostica

The couple vividly remember how they rose early each morning with eager anticipation to introduce Alan Reed Art to a new audience.

Alan was to be interviewed by respected art critic Signora Maria Lucia Ferugatti on the afternoon of the 18th, the day before the exhibition opened.  Signora Ferugatti was impressed and wrote rave reviews about the exhibition for the local paper and regional news.  The opening date passed by in a wonderful blur of opening speeches, chatting to locals and listening to their stories about the history of the town, followed by a very welcome visit the next day by their dear friend Nai who had travelled by train all the way from Venice to Marostica to be there.

Lovers of Italy’s slow food movement, the group enjoyed a number of fantastic meals whilst in Marostica, and to this day Susan still recreates the divine polpette meatballs they ate at Osteria Madonnetta.

The exhibition was without doubt a high point in Alan’s career.  Now a fully-fledged international artist, light remains an incredibly important theme that weaves throughout his work.  From painting against fading light “on location”, to establishing a light source in the painting and creating highlights, contrasts and shadows using watercolour to bring the painting to life.

Demo in Marostica
Alan’s live painting demonstrations at The Light

Returning to Marostica on the 2nd of December, Alan did a series of live painting demonstrations at the exhibition which delighted visitors.

Crediting the whole event as a stimulating and thoroughly enjoyable experience getting to chat to the locals in Italian and introduce Alan’s work to them, there was just enough time to enjoy a wonderful supper at their hotel restaurant, Due Mori where they had been upgraded to a room that overlooked the castello beyond and also to their indispensable assistant Francesca’s family home for a home cooked meal.

Alan Reed Art was moving in the right direction – and fast. Selling several originals, The Light was a collection of Alan’s paintings of Italy, London, Edinburgh and even Chicago and all showcased his lively style of working with watercolours to create light and darkness in his paintings.

Skating in MarosticaLimited edition Print

Leaving Marostica on the 6th of December after taking the exhibition down, there was just enough time to relax and soak up the scenery – including one particularly lovely scene of ice skaters on the piazza. Begging Alan to capture the scene for a future Christmas card, Skaters in Marostica later became one of Alan’s most popular Christmas card designs, and now you know the story of how and where it all began.

A Foodies Paradise

Touching down in the beautiful Côte d’Azur, Nice in March 2005, Alan and Susan picked up a hire car and headed an hour’s drive away across the borders to Liguria – also known as Italy’s Riviera for a week-long trip of research and getting reference.

The couple had booked a space at the hugely popular La Dolce Vita event in London (a three day event hosted by Italy magazine aimed at promoting all things Italian) later in the spring, so their trip to Liguria would be a fantastic research opportunity for Alan to sketch and add to his collection of Italian paintings which he would be showcasing at the La Dolce Vita event. Despite its reputation as a jewel in Italy’s coastline, Alan and Susan arrived in Liguria on a dull, grey rainy day.

Corso Palladio, Vicenza by Alan Reed
Corso Palladio, Vicenza by Alan Reed

They had decided to book a hotel once they arrived, giving them more freedom and scope to explore the area but with the weather being so bad they decided to drive to their next destination and see whether they could check in at their hotel a few days early.

As luck would have it, heading straight to Alba turned out to be the best decision they could have made… Stopping for directions on the way, Alan and Susan were told “you will eat well” in Alba, and they certainly did! Alba is known for its slow food movement – no fast food culture grows here, but instead an appreciation for seasonal, organic local produce.

As Alan and Susan would discover, there were no menus in Alba’s Osterias. Instead, you were served what was seasonal and fresh that day – like pizza topped with deliciously soft stracchino cheese which is unavailable to buy in England due to its quick sell-by-date.

The food in Alba was unlike anything they’d ever eaten before…

The couple still vividly remember one favourite Osteria Sognatori in Alba where they were treated like old friends and served a culinary feast of antipasti, salami, cheese, pasta and ravioli to start, before moving on to a main of meat and fresh vegetables served with local wine. Finishing their meal with coffee and the customary grappa, Alan and Susan were amazed to find the whole meal at Osteria Sognatori cost just €45.

Tommaso' vineyard in Veneto
Tommaso Bussola vineyard in Veneto

Alan and Susan spent the remainder of the trip in the Piedmont region of Italy driving to nearby hilltop towns of Bra, La Morra, Neive, Mango and Nebbiolo, stopping to visit their hotel owner’s vineyard in Barolo in between and sampling some fantastic local produce to bring back home.

Picking up salami and cheeses at various other stops on their trip, Alan and Susan were taken aback by the beautiful scenery in the Piedmont region.

 

Six days of adventure passed all too quickly and it was time to head to the airport via Liguria and Monte Carlo – but not before Susan stopped a local fisherman to ask where they might find the best seafood restaurant in Noli, Liguria to enjoy one last fantastic meal here.

 

A sketch from Alan's sketchbook of the beach at Liguria
On the beach at Noli, Liguria – by Alan Reed

 

Sketchbook watercolour from the couple's trip to Alba, Piemonte
Sketchbook watercolour from the couple’s trip to Alba, Piemonte titled: “On the way from Mango to Stephano Belvo”

With a sketchbook full of reference of vineyards, street scenes, rich Italian landscapes and a head full of memories of bustling streets lined with wine bars and friendly locals who “never get English people here” – Alba was not yet on the tourist radar, but Italy enthusiasts Alan and Susan had certainly discovered a true hidden gem.

 

Fast forward from March to September 2005 and Alan and Susan were packing their bags for Italy once again. Thanks to an influx of incredibly cheap Ryanair flights during this time, there was no excuse not to, and so the couple booked to stay at La Mason, a complex of apartments near Verona.

Landing in Bergamo, they headed for the Veneto along the motorway following La Serenissima, once an ancient trade route between Venice and Milan. They spent 7 days exploring the area. Travelling off the beaten tourist track,  Alan and Susan also discovered one of the most incredible seafood restaurants they had ever eaten at.  Said to be a favourite of one of the famous Formula 1 champions, they were in good company as they dined at Il Tenere where the owner, an enormous hulk of a man sat down in front of them and asked them what they wanted. Instead of being presented with menus, they were treated to an incredible meal of fresh fish and local wine.

Alba and Veneto

Such is the life of an international artist,  Alan visited the historic towns of Marostica, Asolo, Asiago, Padua and Vicenza on this particular research trip.

Providing him with an abundance of reference for a forthcoming exhibition, the trip was also a perfect opportunity to meet up with their old pastor Paul in Marostica and Alberto Brazzale, the publisher whom they had met a year earlier in Rome.

 

Working on location, often battling against quickly fading light conditions gave Alan’s work a painterly sense of immediacy and energy. Painting directly with his paintbrush using watercolours rather than pencil or charcoal gives Alan’s work a truly distinctive style enjoyed the world over – from their gallery in Ponteland to London’s La Dolce Vita and even at the airport in Italy!

 

Alan Reed artist sketching in Veneto
Alan sketching on location in Veneto

Alberto and Tommaso
“We try to make two working trips to Italy each year, every trip is different and deepens our love affair with the country.”

From the very first Italian Collection of paintings assembled on his very first trip to Venice in the early 90s, to an ever-expanding collection over ten years later, Alan Reed Art had certainly seen The Light when it came to focusing on Italy as a collection of paintings, not least because it meant jetting off to Italy for research purposes, painting on location and getting to uncover some memorable hidden treasures, but more on that later…

 

 

 

 

 

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.

A Prophetic Dream

After Susan’s kidney transplant in the year 2000 and a phenomenally successful summer at the Alan Reed Art Gallery in Eldon Gardens, Alan and Susan could both, at last, look forward to the future with a sense of security as post-transplant life for Susan was getting brighter each day. Indulging in their shared love of travel was of course top of their list.

During this time a member of their congregation, Christine, told them about a prophetic dream she had about the couple. The dream carried the message that God was going to uproot them and she had the word Jubilee, which in the Biblical sense refers to a concept of ‘jubilee’ a time when debts were cancelled. Perhaps most peculiar of all, Christine could vividly see a house in her dream, in which Alan was visible upstairs putting sold tickets on various paintings. Downstairs, there were “For Sale” signs in the window.

Neither Christine or Alan and Susan knew what any of it meant. Not long after, the couple were unexpectedly called into a meeting with the management of Eldon Gardens. They were to be given one month’s notice to pack up the gallery and find a new unit to rent as management had found a new, higher bidder to pay for the space. Suddenly their whole livelihood and future was thrown into uncertainty. The gallery had been doing exceptionally well – customers were already earmarking paintings for Christmas gifts and Alan’s artwork was earning a fantastic reputation across the region. Despite the sudden shock of having to close the gallery in Eldon Gardens and look for new premises, Alan and Susan remember feeling nothing but a remarkable sense of peace.

Did this have something to do with Christine’s dream, they wondered?

__________

The gallery closed its doors after six years in March 2002, giving Alan and Susan a renewed sense of freedom. Until they decided where to open a new gallery, they were technically free to do as they pleased. It had been so long since they had been to Italy together due to Susan’s ill health, they decided to book a trip to Italy’s “green heart” – the lush valleys of Umbria, an Italian region bordering Tuscany, Lazio and Le Marche. Beloved for its medieval hilltop towns, dense forests and local cuisine, particularly foraged truffles and wines, Umbria would be a new adventure for the couple – little did they know that this would be the start of a very special relationship. Alan and Susan had booked to stay in the Relais il Canalicchio, a picturesque hotel overlooking olive groves and rolling countryside.

Reedart Holidays
Umbria, by Alan Reed

As they drove along the winding drive and enjoyed a simple supper of tomato and mozzarella salad on the patio in the warm evening sun: it was the perfect retreat Or it was, until they woke up the next day snowed in!

Waking up to blankets of snow carpeting the rolling hills they had admired only the day before in t-shirts, Alan and Susan found themselves snowed in for the day unable to go anywhere. Instead, they explored the hotel, the kitchens brought warming soups to the guests and Alan sat by the log fire and sketched.

Reedart Holidays

As if by magic, the snow had vanished by the next morning and the couple were free to explore the various hilltop towns of Perugia, Spello, Assisi, Spoletto, Orvietto and everything in between over the next two weeks. Hunting out some of the local cuisine, Alan and Susan remember coming across a traditional family-run pizzeria in search of a light meal. Though they spoke no English, it gave Susan an opportunity to recall her Italian after living in Italy and learning the language many years ago. Fully immersed in the Italian culture, something shifted…

Reedart Holidays
Alan’s sketches of the Hotel Relais il Canalicchio whilst snowed in

Life had been such a struggle lately with Susan’s illness and now the gallery being uprooted, they had the opportunity to sit back and enjoyed a slower pace of life here in  Umbria. Blessed with endless beauty spots and inspiration for Alan’s Italian Collection of paintings, his working method even began to change. Having previously used a watercolour block (a pad of pre stretched watercolour paper) to paint, Alan would sometimes lament the fact that his reference of that place, or moment in time was lost once the painting was sold. He would work carefully in pencil sketching various features and scenes, but after a day trip to Fabiano, he decided to buy a selection of leather bound sketchbooks which fitted neatly in his pocket.

The region of Fabriano has a long heritage of making paper for Italian bank notes and Alan immediately fell in love with these beautiful, distinctive sketchbooks. Instead, Alan now found himself working directly with a brush filled with watercolour paint as he painted various scenes in his new sketchbooks. A type of shorthand for himself, Alan could record what he saw and paint it larger on a sheet of stretched hand made watercolour paper whilst still keeping his original references.

Reedart Holidays
Old methods of painting solely using a block and new methods of painting in pocket journals.

The sketchbooks were a catalyst in bringing back memories of the beautiful places he’d visited and remain so today. Umbria also refreshed Susan’s love of food and cooking. Often, Susan would look out for unusual oils or ingredients you couldn’t buy at home to recreate real Italian flavour in her dishes. Prior to this trip, the couple had been given a bottle of truffle oil as a gift but didn’t enjoy the flavour. Known for its rich source of truffles, Umbria completely changed the couple’s feelings about truffles as they were served them in pasta and sauces, on bruschetta and even scrambled eggs in the morning. Suddenly, they couldn’t get enough of it and even today they still love truffles – the taste taking them back to their very first trip to Umbria in 2002. Umbria was a fantastic tonic for both Alan and Susan, and it’s little surprise why it is their chosen location for their Reedart Italian Painting Holidays.

Reedart Holidays
1 Main Street, Ponteland. The Alan Reed Art Gallery seen in Christine’s dream 2003-2008

With so much to enjoy and explore, Alan and Susan returned home after their trip and decided for now, to run the Alan Reed Art Gallery from their home in Northumberland. But what did Christine mean when she said she saw Alan in a house with “for sale” signs in her dream? In December 2002 Alan received a phone call from one of the local estate agents, out of the blue, to say there were some rooms available for rent above her shop in Ponteland which could be used as a studio and gallery. Looking around, she was quite right. The space was large enough to create a beautiful gallery and give Alan a studio to work in. Shortly after, Alan could be seen hanging paintings upstairs, putting price tickets on his work as “for sale” signs could be seen in the windows of the estate agent below…

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. 

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.

 

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