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Paintings of Umbria

Alan Reed
Sketchbook Watercolour of Via dell’Orso

Reedart Painting Holidays

When producing Paintings of Umbria I always try to articulate in paint the distinctive characteristics of this fascinating region. My wife and I have been visiting Umbria since 2002. We’ve grown to love and appreciate this regions wonderful hilltop towns, its food and wine. Through our reedartholidays we’ve been able to share our knowledge with many others who regularly join us. Our trip in June 2018 is already fully booked. However we are taking expressions of interest for a possible trip in September 2018. The clients we look after are looking forward to doing their own Paintings of Umbria on location.

On a recent Painting Holiday to Italy we took our guests to Perugia. It’s a large town in Umbria which has lots of narrow streets winding their way to the top. I noticed this particular street which was mainly in shadow. Apart from a shaft of sunlight breaking out to catch different aspects of the architecture in the distance.

Sketchbook Watercolour

I quickly whipped out my sketchbook and did this small watercolour making sure that I captured not only the sunlight and shadows but also the figure to provide a sense of scale and interest. By the time I had finished there was another strong shaft of midday sunlight hitting the top of the archway I was under on the right hand side.

I was recently doing a watercolour demonstration for a North East Club and decided to do a much larger watercolour inspired by the sketchbook study. In the demonstration I only got as far as the first two washes. The first was a mix of Cadmium Lemon and Cadmium Yellow. Once that dried I went over parts of that first wash with some Rose Madder.

For the benefit of those attending the demonstration I decided to video me finishing off the rest of the Painting of Umbria which you can watch on YouTube. Most of the video is a time lapse and it doesn’t include all the painting work I did but it does give you an idea of how I tackled the main areas and some of the important details.

Alan Reed
Watercolour of Via dell”Orso, Umbria

Original Sketchbook

You can see in the video that I’ve been very direct with the brush marks to keep them lively and fresh. I’ve also dropped in some more Rose Madder to capture parts of the stone work being warmed by the sunlight.

Once the shadow areas have dried you can see how there is some lovely granulation of the pigment. This provides some interesting texture to the stonework.

Using a much smaller brush,  I started adding in a few areas of detail like the windows, stonework and bricks. I kept the original sketchbook study close at hand. This was to make sure I didn’t fall in to the trap of just copying the reference photograph which I use for accuracy.

I always let the shadow areas dry before going in with the details like the dark doorways. I like leave some of the first washes to show through. This is to bring some light and sparkle to parts of the painting which could otherwise become lifeless.

The bottom of the street is sunlit and this became the focal point of the painting, not just because of the warmer, lighter colours but also because of the figure making its way down the steep hill.


I went into the shadows with some even darker tones for further detail and depth. Then it was back to using the big brush to avoid going to fiddly. You can also see in the video that I’m not just using the tip of the brush but also its side. I’m using it to catch the very rough texture of the paper, which is Fabriano Esporzione, a beautiful handmade paper. Its surface is perfect for doing Paintings of Umbria.

A few more details were added. Then I made the decision to lift out some of the colour where the sun is just above the tops of the buildings. This emphasised the sense of sunlight breaking out to create the shaft of light cutting through the dark, slightly foreboding shadows.

So there you have it. A large watercolour of Via Dell “Orso in Perugia, Umbria available from and from our Gallery in Ponteland.

You can see more watercolour Paintings of Umbria and painting videos on

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