How often do you go out sketching in the rain?

October 7, 2022 | 8 Comments

Yesterday morning it was raining again (we’ve had a very wet year) and I was thinking about my options for my usual morning walk, coffee and sketch.

  1. I could stay home but then I wouldn’t get my walk, a cafe coffee, or a sketch done.
  2. I could go into a cafe but at the moment I significantly prefer to be outside sketching. There is something super special about being on the street with my sketchbook.
  3. I could get my usual takeaway coffee and sketch outside. There is really only one reliable spot in my local area where I can sit on a wet day (a taxi stand) and I knew that with all the rain and wind that we had overnight that it wouldn’t be that sheltered.

So not a lot of options, but I went for the most uncomfortable one and sat on a cold damp bench at the taxi stand (after wiping the raindrops off) and tried to sketch even though the wind was driving some rain onto my page. I didn’t spend a lot of time sketching as the rain got heavier but as always it felt great to be sketching on location!!!

BTW I could also have sketched standing up… and I really should start doing that on wet days but I couldn’t then ‘sip and sketch.’

There was nothing special about my sketch but the experience was fun and just what I needed to get the creative juices flowing for the start of a busy workday.

The rain was a little inconvenient but I believe that it’s always worth pushing through a few barriers in order to build a consistent habit of urban sketching. (A few barriers while still remaining safe!)  Yesterday for a spring day in Sydney was a little cool (so I put on an extra layer before heading out), but of course, this can’t compare with the temperatures that I know some of you are experiencing at the moment as you head into winter.

And then in the afternoon, I had a brief visit to Lane Cove National Park. This is one of the best spots to visit when it’s raining because there are so many covered places to sketch from. I love the bush when it’s wet and the birds seem even noisier than usual.

Yesterday was the first time I could sit at a new picnic table but I had to walk through mud and very soggy grass to get there.

As the rain was light and there was no wind the picnic shelter kept me dry. But as I wanted the texture in this sketch to match my morning one, I stood up and stuck my book out into the rain!

And here is the final double-page spread. This page makes me happy because of the fun I had today… and also I do like the colours of the two sketches.

So yesterday was a good reminder that to keep a sketching habit going you just have to keep sketching (somehow) even on days when the weather isn’t ideal.

 In everyday life (especially when we’ve had so much rain in recent months) it does require a bit more of a push to go out sketching in the rain. But I don’t think twice about it when I’m travelling, teaching or attending a sketch meet. Here are a few sketches and photos from the past….

I’ve been taking risks and sketching in crazy conditions from the early days – this was during an International Sketchcrawl day many years ago! I wrote at the time that it was raining too hard to get up but it does look as if I was trying to pack up.

These photos (taken a week or two afterwards) prove that I was happy to sketch under an umbrella (though seriously a larger umbrella would help!)


Deliberately exposing my page to raindrops in Cambodia while using watercolour pencils (and a little paint).

And then doing the same trick again in Krakow.

Sketching in a downpour during a sketchmeet in Montreal

A more recent example during a USK Sydney event last year. I was sitting on a bench under an umbrella and once again, intentionally let my sketch get wet at times throughout the sketch.

And of course, when I think of fun experiences sketching in the rain I always think of this Friday night sketching session in Times Square. It was craziness on many different levels.


As for teaching and sketching in the rain… the symposium in Manchester comes to mind.

And finally more locally…Doing a demo in the rain during a workshop in the Rocks. ‘Sadly’ we had to head to a cafe shortly after this photo was taken!

Ah! it’s so much fun to revisit a few sketches/photos of previous rainy-day sketches and it makes me even more determined to not to let the weather stop me from sketching regularly!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about sketching in the rain. Is it something you are happy to do or do you avoid it at all costs?

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  • Tina Koyama says:

    I love that you deliberately let the rain onto your sketches! I have done that, too! The “DNA” of the location is permanently part of the page. 😉 When I am going to take a fitness walk in the rain, I take my sketchbook made of waterproof Yupo paper. The only thing that really works on it when the pages are wet is a really soft graphite pencil, but the look is beautiful — and I can sketch in the rain! No umbrella needed, just a good jacket with a hood. 🙂

  • I live in Scotland so regularly get caught in a shower. A little bit of rain can do magical things with water soluble materials such as an ink drawing. I have also had an entire watercolour painting washed off in the time it took me to turn over the sheet of paper after a downpour snuck up behind me. It’s all just part of the game called plein-air

  • Ginger Young says:

    I remember sketching in Gubbio on your course in Umbria and watching my people in the piazza turn into mermaids when the rain began! But afterwards the atmosphere in the cafe was so cozy and dry. 🙂

  • alexandra sirugue-mac leod says:

    Liz, you’re very interesting blogpost is the perfect kick I needed on this rainy morning in Chicago!

    Thank you~

  • KathyAnne Whittemore says:

    Fun column. What materials do you really like to sketch with in the rain?

  • Your sketches/paintings don’t look like they were done in the rain. Love them. No-I have never sketched in the rain but its tempting.

    I have a question. When and how do you decide to use one color or a bit of another as in your sketches in Cambodia?They are wonderful.

  • David Savage says:

    Not tried as yet as we have had a long hot summer in Spain. When the rain arrives over the next month the sketching will probably be from the deck. Wet-on-wet is one thing, the extremes here are another.
    Love this article / posting.

  • Mary Lynn Munro says:

    I could see the fun and interesting aspects of rain, but now we are headed into SNOW and COLD. Will do my best.

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