Paintings of Italy: An Artist’s Impression

Artist Alan Reed talks about what particularly attracted him to Italy and why he chooses it more than any other country for his paintings…


Q. You have chosen different settings around the world for your paintings. As an artist, what is it that particularly attracted you to Italy?

A. It was my wife Susan who first introduced me to Italy. She had lived in Venice for five years before we met each other. She was always enthusing about the country, its people, the food and culture. So I didn’t need much persuasion to go with her to Venice for the first of many painting trips back in 1991.

I quickly began to discover for myself why Italy has always inspired artists. Italy has everything: wonderful architecture, bustling cities steeped in history, culture and art, breathtaking landscapes bathed in Mediterranean light, rich colours, undisputed style and very hospitable people. Oh, and not to mention the food and wine! It was the start of an artistic journey for me which I have recorded through many watercolours since, painted on location.

I’ve found myself particularly drawn towards Italy’s cities. There’s something about the architecture, the old churches and piazzas and how they respond to being filled with people getting on with their daily lives, together with the sunlight and shadows hitting the streets and buildings that I find engaging. The shapes of Italy just demand to be painted.

I never travel overseas without a small set of watercolour paints, a couple of brushes and a small leather-bound sketchbook made from beautiful, rough, handmade watercolour paper. I don’t have to travel far into a city before I find myself attracted to a scene that is typically Italian. Painting on location heightens one’s experience of a moment in time which no photograph can capture in quite the same way. It forces you to look closely and really ‘see’ things, essentially making you more visually aware.

If I’m painting a street or market scene, my mind and senses are recording colours, light, temperature, mood, movement, atmosphere, and sometimes even smells and tastes! All these are brought back to memory whenever I re-visit my sketchbook studies, and then I start to work on formulating larger studio paintings from the scenes I have recorded.