IN this summer of leaden skies and torrential downpours, it’s cheering to see one of the region’s best loved buildings bathed in sunshine.
Alan Reed, the popular Ponteland artist, says there’s a moment in the afternoon – on a fine day – when the sun goes down at the top of Westgate Road and the Lit & Phil catches the light.
He captured that moment in the watercolour painting you see here – and which has been published as a limited edition print to raise money for the Lit & Phil Development Appeal which is aimed at securing the institution’s future and broadening its activities.
Alan, who has painted many scenes of Newcastle and also of Venice, where he has been a frequent visitor, says he ventured into the Grade II-listed Lit & Phil library for the first time earlier this year.
He is the latest in a long line of visitors to be seduced by its charms.
It was there that I found him earlier this week, down in the soothing depths of the Silent Room where the windowless walls are clad in books so old they may not have been taken out since before you were born.
Beneath a shelf laden with studies and biographies of a man who was clearly the talking point of the moment, Napoleon Bonaparte, Alan is painting a portrait in oils.
This is a departure for the accomplished watercolour artist.
“I used to get frustrated with oils because of the long drying time but I turned 50 recently and decided I wanted a fresh challenge,” says Alan.
“I looked at artists who have painted in oils but could also switch easily to watercolours – artists like John Singer Sargent and Winslow Homer – and decided I ought to explore oils further.
“I’m enjoying it. I picked up a commission from a guy who has five children who wanted a portrait of each of them. I’ve done the first three and I’m pleased because the guy said the results have exceeded his expectations.”
Alan’s current subject is North East businessman Bill Midgley who is also the Lit & Phil trustee in charge of the appeal.
If he looks about as happy as Napoleon after Waterloo, Alan says it would be hard for a sitter to maintain a smile for as long as a portrait in oils takes to complete.
Alan says he was introduced to the Lit & Phil by fundraiser Alma Devine who came across a flyer advertising his work.
The upshot is the Lit & Phil watercolour which will form part of an Alan Reed exhibition opening at the Westgate Road library from Friday and running until July 21.
It is to be auctioned tonight with part of the proceeds, along with a percentage of all exhibition sales, going to the appeal and hopefully bringing a smile to Mr Midgley’s face. Details of the exhibition and Alan’s work are on www.alanreed.com For more on the Lit & Phil go to www.litandphil.co.uk