View Through a Rain Streaked Window

View Through a Rain Streaked Window

by Will Kirkland

As a self-taught artist I have experimented with different media, but find that colored pencils are the medium that best fits my natural style. Colored pencils allow me to achieve the detail that is characteristic of my art. My penchant for realism and detail may originate from my formal education and academic career in science. This natural tendency for expression of detail was further fueled when I began experimenting with museum quality Grafix polyester drafting film.

Rainy Night

The drafting film has a matte finish on both surfaces which allows me to apply colored pencil to both sides of the film. This enables me to more quickly render the precise color quality I desire with fewer layers of color than are required when other more conventional substrates are used.

All my artworks are based on my personal experiences as viewed through a camera lens. I work exclusively from digital photographs that my wife and I record of landscapes and still life scenes we discover both locally and as we travel out of our home state of Iowa. We are looking for scenes that not only appeal to us, but scenes that we hope will also appeal and relate to other viewers as well.

One additional consideration is that I want to ensure that any scene that forms the basis for my artwork has the potential to stimulate questions and curiosity in the viewer's mind beyond what is actually seen within the piece.

City Rain

I have recently become intrigued by how rain creates an alternative reality for those of us on the inside looking out. Images viewed through a rain streaked window are distorted to different degrees by the refraction of light and the images we are seeing are not actually what it looks like to those people outside walking in the rain. My recent "rain" pieces reflect this effect and still allow me to satisfy my need for detail. I must admit, however, that I find it amazing how these pieces appear so abstract in the early stages, but as more and more color is applied, the images become more easily discernible and appear almost impressionistic in their rendering.

I began this rain series with an image based on a photograph taken through a window filled with closely packed raindrops. However, such a window in the right place does not often occur, and I felt that I needed another way of achieving the rain look I wished to continue rendering in my artwork.

What I eventually realized is that any photograph can be placed behind a glass shower door having a "rain pattern" and the picture photographed again through this glass. The result is a rain scene! Certainly not high tech, but this is the approach I use.

Sunshine Rain

An actual drawing begins with a light, detailed graphite or raw umber drawing of the scene on one surface of the drafting film. I follow the details of the photograph as closely as I can and work in small sections beginning at the upper right side and work to the bottom to avoid pulling my left hand through my work and smudging it. I progressively move to the left through the entire piece. I then initially layer appropriate colors to this surface of the drawing and then adjust the hue and intensity by layering appropriate colors to the undersurface of the film. This back and forth layering process allows me to achieve the realism that characterizes all my artworks.

The rain pieces featured here were all done using Farber-Castell Polychromos pencils.

There is a quote from the writer Henry James that appears in the small book entitled Art and Fear authored by David Bayles and Ted Orland that is relevant to my work featured in this blog. A paraphrase of this quote is the following.

There are two questions you can put to an artist's work. What was the artist trying to achieve? Did he/she succeed? In reality, only the viewer can actually answer these questions in an unbiased manner.


Will earned a Ph. D. from the University of Kansas and was a university professor for 31 years at Mount Mercy University until his retirement in 2011 as Professor Emeritus of Biology. He lives in Cedar, Rapids and his art is represented by local gallery, Corner House Gallery and Frame.

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Comments (1)

I just spoke with my gallery, Corner House Gallery and Frame, today and learned that my painting “Night Rain” sold. It is finding a new home in Ohio. I am very pleased to say the least.

Will Kirkland - Aug 10, 2017

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