“I paint London in the rain a fair bit,” says plein air artist Peter Brown. “The York Stone paving slabs go a brilliant gloss when the heavens open and views which were not that interesting suddenly pop up everywhere you look.
“I do not always use an umbrella as some canvases are 35 inches square and I am battling the wind enough. I find the view and return to the van, where I work under the tailgate to mix pools of color that I think I’d need. I then return to the spot with my box easel and try to keep as much dry as I can, particularly the canvas (by facing 2 same-size canvases face-to-face).
“Depending on the strength of the downpour I can then work for one or maybe two hours, concentrating on the wet pavements, referencing the architecture above and trying to put down broad areas of tone and color. Eventually everything is soaking wet, the canvas taught as a drum, and the easel completely collapsible due to the wood swollen in the rain. I return when the rain is lighter or it is simply an overcast day to work on the drawing and architectural detail and to strengthen color and tone.
“This one of the Royal Courts of Justice is that important first sitting. As all plein air painters know you get comments from passersby and the most popular doing these is, ‘You should be using watercolor.’ After painting the Chelsea Bridge (above) for two hours and looking like a drowned rat, a passing lady stopped and asked if I had meant to paint in the rain. I think a lot of people look at me and think ‘What an idiot. He should have checked the forecast!'”