Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Painting Rainy Streets

Here in Salamanca it almost never rains, I suppose I should be grateful.  After painting a few cityscapes of the buildings of in the typical yellow sandstone called Villamayor illuminated by a bright blue sky I began to realise that yellow on blue can get boring sometimes.  Instead of waiting for a day with nice weather to go out and take source photos I began to get my camera out on gloomy days.  One great advantage of rainy days is that the light from the sky is reflected up off the ground, even if it is gloomy grey or white light, the result is that light is coming from everywhere and the ground becomes a mirror for the rest of the painting.  I had been looking at some paintings by Ken Howard and was extremely impressed by his depiction of wet city streets, it caught my eye how much green he used in the reflections.  When I looked at some photos I had taken of Salamanca in the rain I noticed that there was also a lot of green in the reflections, even though there weren't any trees or anything green in the images.  I decided to have a go and did this oil painting of Calle Toro, I never finished it and it's a few years old now, despite this it is still by far my most popular painting on Flickr.com, with over 1500 views!  I had intended to to more on it but got distracted by another painting and when I went back to this painting couldn't muster the energy to get into it again.

I followed the same theme of rainy streets by taking some photos of the National Gallery on Trafalgar Square when visiting my parents one Christmas in London.  In this one it is almost dark and so it is the floodlights on the facade that are reflected by the wet pavement.

Another key to both of these paintings is the people milling about in the streets, cityscapes without people tend to look spooky, no matter how nice the buildings are.  In the painting of the National Gallery they are little more than silhouettes, in the Calle Toro painting they are a bit more elaborate but still just blobs of colour, well worth putting in though.  I never wait for people to get out of the way when I am taking a photo to paint in a city, always mindful of the added value these strangers may give to my paintings.

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