3 Tips for Painting a Rainy Cityscape

There’s something poetic about a rainy day. I know I’m not alone when I say that it makes me want to just curl up inside with a good book. And it’s no surprise that a rainy downtown area begs to be painted. The contrast of headlights and streetlamps, the reflections of sky on pavement and the hurried pace of those trying to avoid getting soaked–Mike Barr’s Late Rain (below) exemplifies this and more.

Mike’s work and advice is featured in Acrylic Artist magazine (Fall 2015), and the following is a sneak peek at his tips for painting a successful rainy cityscape.

Acrylic and Cityscape Painting Tips by Mike Barr | ArtistsNetwork.com

“Late Rain (acrylic on canvas, 40×40) focuses on the two figures in the foreground; the rest of the painting is a prop for them,” Mike says. “Their umbrellas are at different angles, which invites the viewer to look between them to the figures in the distance.” (Pin this!)

From “Slick and Simple” by Mike Barr

Tackling a rainy cityscape may seem daunting, with buildings, perspective, vehicles and figures all adding up to a complex mix. Simplification and a few other key techniques help you over these obstacles.

1. Get Wet and Take Some Photos
Some artists actually do paint in the rain and I greatly admire them; however, I do think that important fleeting moments can be lost forever if we don’t take a photographic record. Walking around town in the rain usually brings up some surprise gems, and even the most mundane streets can become more interesting in the wet. There is one street that I go back to all the time because it continually intrigues me. The good thing about working from photographic references is that you can mix and match. Sometimes a street scene needs people with umbrellas in it and they just aren’t there; but if you have lots of photos you can find them and work them into your painting. (The demo on page 84 of Acrylic Artist, Fall 2015 is a mixture of three photos.)

2. You’re the Boss
Don’t be a slave to photographs or to real life. Photos of streetscapes are rarely ready to go, and one of the joys of painting is interpreting and determining where to exaggerate the scene. Make it darker, make the traffic lights brighter, make the buildings bigger and the distance hazier–anything you want to do to give a painting more interest and mood is fair game. Unless you prefer to make paintings look like photos, forget “trace and paint” because it will deaden your creative side. Do thumbnail sketches of what you’d like the painting to be: these will help tremendously and the process will release you from the chains that a photo might impose on you. Remember, you’re always the boss.

3. Simplify the Complicated
Cityscapes can often seem impossible to tackle with so much detail at hand. Buildings, vehicles and people all have their complexities, but only if you allow them to. All of these objects or people can be simplified into shapes or lines. Remember that we are artists and our goal is to convey mood and story. We only need to give impressions of automobiles, not the make, color and year. We certainly don’t have to paint every single window on those buildings; if we did, the painting would get lost in detail. Implied detail is the key and this is easier to do on a rainy day when things get blurry.
~Mike Barr

Continue reading Mike’s list for seven more ways to successfully paint a rainy cityscape. You’ll find his full feature in the Fall 2015 issue of Acrylic Artist magazine, available at North Light Shop. In it, 18 professional artists guide you on taking your paintings to the next level and an expert team answers your acrylic-related questions. And don’t miss out on the Acrylic Artist Painting Bundle, which features this magazine and a helpful brush hanger system for your studio space.

Happy painting,
Cherie
Cherie Haas, online editor
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