Artist on File: Peter Brown

Peter James Brown

Peter Brown

The talented artist Peter Brown lives in a picturesque country cottage, up a single track road, and it is here that I visited him in his home studio.  The views around his cottage are glorious, surrounded by barley fields. I can see why the vistas would inspire a painter to capture the surroundings and how it would also be a wonderful and tranquil place to create any art.

Peter is a figurative artist mainly using oils on canvas. ‘I do work with watercolours and acrylics but I prefer oils as you can easily change anything you’re not happy with. Also when mixing oils, I can use them the next day and keep the same colour preserved’.

We sit in his upstairs living room with views out on to the fields. There are several of Peter’s works on the walls and I can’t wait to talk about one of them called ‘Reflections, L’Ametlla de Mar at Night’.   ‘I like to capture the moment when the water reflects the lights at dusk. The effect is muted. I particularly like the balance between the natural and artificial light and their reflections.’ For me this painting really sums up the feeling of a balmy Spanish night; holidays spent whiling away the hours watching the harbour and soaking up the laid back atmosphere of a Spanish coastal town. The shimmering columns of reflected light in the Mediterranean are beautiful and I find the painting mesmerising. Peter and his wife know this urbanisation very well as they spend part of the year there in their apartment overlooking the harbour.

There are two other works hanging in the lounge which I would like to mention. One is of a tree lined lane to the side of the walled garden at Luton Hoo. Peter created this work using only a pallet knife.

The piece is called ‘The Dower House’.  ‘After I have spent painstaking hours on a very detailed piece, I enjoy the release of using a more freestyle method’. After delighting in all the scrupulous detail and intensive work that goes into his paintings I can completely understand this.  Another painting I admired, called ‘The River at Barnes’, evokes a peaceful scene at dusk by the Thames.

The lights of riverside houses echo and bleed their reflections on to the calm water. There are two other works in this series which are equally as beautiful called ‘Hammersmith Bridge, Reflections’ and ‘Low Tide, Hammersmith’.

Peter grew up in Manor Park, East London and married his wife 43 years ago; living in Harrow, St Albans, Harpenden and now Redbourn.  I asked Peter if he had taken an art degree; ‘In those days I didn’t see art as a career and the commercial art field didn’t appeal to me. I trained and worked in Accountancy’. 

Peter’s love of art has spanned his entire life and he has painted since boyhood.  ‘I did take evening classes for many years at East Ham Technical College doing portrait painting and life classes.  I also learnt a lot by copying the painters I loved, which were Turner and Monet. Early on, this is how I practised technique. It helped me to appreciate colours and shapes. There is an unconscious osmosis that takes place; Art influences you in ways you don’t notice.’

It was only when he retired 6 years ago that Peter became a full time artist; ‘Painting certainly keeps you going’.

I was then given the tour of the studio which has stunning beams and plenty of light; it is a serene and creative space. There are two easels, both of which held work in progress and Peter explains: ‘I work on a couple of paintings at a time. One gets to a certain point with a piece and there is a need to put it aside for a while and work on something different; either because the oils need time to dry before going on to the next layer or sometimes you simply need time to reflect on what to do next’.

Hanging on the wall of Peter’s studio is a painting called ‘Gateway to Vintry Garden, St Albans Abbey’ which demonstrates Peter’s attentive eye for detail. Every brick and architectural element is carefully reproduced and the effect of rain glistening on the stone floor is stunning. 

It is always interesting to see the subject of a piece of art in person. At the end of my time with Peter, we walked around the side of his house as he wanted to show me the view that was revealed in the watercolour called ‘St Albans Abbey, Across the Fields’. The wintery scene and composition of the picture is charming. Two other watercolours I particularly admire are the elegant ‘Clevedon Pier, Somerset’ and the reflections in ‘Dane End Farm Mill’.

Commissions and Exhibitions

Peter has received many commissions. “I sometimes work from photographs, but would much rather go to a place to paint it. If it’s practical I would either set up an easel or take a number of photos and do sketches. Go back and forth until its right.

Peter is taking part in our annual Open Studios in September and I highly recommend seeing his work personally.

He also regularly exhibits his work at the ‘Art on the Common’ event held every June in Harpenden.  Peter is a member of the Harpenden Art Club; with his accountancy background coming into play he was asked to be Treasurer and Membership Secretary.


If you would like to contact Peter his details are:

Tel:                 01582 793174