Electric Rain

posted in: Blog, Classes, Painting | 6

With modern Cities came paved streets. With smooth and wet paved streets artists found new visual menu. Rain hits the smooth surface and spreads out like glass as it searches for depressions and flow opportunities.  On relatively level surfaces rainwater flows in shallow reflective sheets. These sheets of rainwater become vibrating mirrors of the city’s life, an alluring sparkling visual phenomenon to artists.

Keeping the streets flattened and free from ruts continues to be a major task of urban governments. In the late 19th century we could see the result of these efforts in Paris.  Artists like Pissarro tried to catch the experience of the roadway’s pool reflections while simultaneously evoking the sensation of a misty rainy atmosphere. Soft, pale pastel colors were the ticket as you see in example 1, a detail by Pissarro of Paris in the rain.

Example 1. Camille Pissarro, detail from a painting of Paris in the Rain,

In the first decade of the 20th century American Impressionists would find their city streets becoming more hospitable to both vehicle traffic and pedestrians with their improved flattened avenues and sidewalks. In 1907 Paul Cornoyer applied the lessons of impressionists (example 2). Here again are soft blurred misty effects suggesting wet weather and watery reflections on the sidewalks.

Example 2. Paul Cornoyer, “Grand Army Plaza” 1907,

The dynamic activity of the weather and the watery streets with their incessantly changing reflective patterns are alluring to me too. How to suggest the kinetic activity of the infinitely changing reflections appealed to me. I chose brushed silver Dibond as a substrate. It already has baked in reflectivity. I began painting this surface monochromatically allowing exposed slivers of the brushed silver to be exposed through the paint (example 3). In example 4, I took my cue from the impressionists and overlaid a fuzzy net of complementary colors, lavender and yellow. Their juxtapositioning gave a soft luminosity to the image.

Example 3. Step one, “Rainwalking” oil on brushed silver Dibond,

Example 4. Step two, “Rainwalking” after overlaying diffused lavenders and light yellows.

In my final example “Times Square Electric Rain” I cast the hotter electric colors of the Square’s lights onto the streets, flashing their blurred colors around and under the passersby. The passersby served to anchor the chaotic lighting to recognizable but, blurring shapes.

Example 5. Step one of “Times Square Electric Rain”. The lay-in of primarily dark blues and bright light yellows.

Example 6. Step two; I began finding the shape of the crowd and a few outliers.

Example 7. Step three and the current state of “Times Square Electric Rain”.  The atmospheric effects of blending colors and softened edges help enhance the sensation of glowing lights.



6 Responses

  1. Katrina Weber

    Hi David, It’s been a couple of years since I took your workshop at the Huntsville Alabama art museum. I really enjoyed the workshop – your energy level, the interesting turns your mind takes, and your willingness to do the research to bring these far-ranging ideas together are remarkable. I didn’t realize at the time that I was getting access to these continuing gems from you. Thank you for being so giving!

    • David Dunlop

      I am so glad you found my blogposts. I am also teaching zoom classes which you can register for at this website, daviddunlop.com. Best, David

  2. Patricia Scanlan

    These examples show an intriguing example of weather and water that I wouldn’t have really thought about. I love the water in your city painting “Rainwalking.” Thank you for all that you do. You are so instructive and make art a fun challenge.

  3. Alice Jackson

    It is hard to imagine that it’s possible, but you keep getting better and better. The luminosity of these paintings is wonderful. I hope to take another class with you soon.

    • dd_admin

      HI Alice. thank you for your kind words. I would love to have you join me in my zoom classes. you can register for them at Daviddunlop.com see the box that says “classes and events” on the home page.
      Best, David

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