Sitting Down with the Editor of Watercolor Magazine

29 Sep 2011

Farm Visitors by Hardie Gramatky, watercolor.
Farm Visitors by Hardie Gramatky, watercolor, 1971.
I can't get over the fact that Watercolor magazine is celebrating its 25th year. For a quarter of a century it has been the eyes and ears of watermedia artists all over the country, and has featured dozens of amazing artists in its pages. To honor the occasion, I pulled in a big favor and asked Naomi Ekperigin, the editor of Watercolor, if I could pick her brain about the magazine's past, present, and future. Enjoy!

Artist Daily: What is the appeal of watercolor painting for artists far and wide?

Naomi Ekperigin: I think that overall, the major appeal is its portability. It's like the iPhone of the art world--anywhere you are, you can just break it out and get down to work. With that ease, you can continually practice and continually improve your craft.

And if you're impatient like I am, the idea of waiting days for a passage to dry--just to re-work it later--and then months for it to dry completely is beyond unappealing. With watercolor, I know what I've got--and what I need to change, add, or remove--almost immediately.

Self-Portrait by Mary Cassatt, watercolor, 1878.
Self-Portrait by Mary Cassatt, watercolor, 1878.

AD: What is your single favorite watercolor painting or artist?

NE: Single favorite? This is harder to answer than a math problem on the SAT. And, like many of the SAT math questions, I am not going to answer it.

A light laundry list, though, would include:

Mary Cassatt (The woman could do no wrong. No one can ever come at me with something negative about Mary C!)
Hardie Gramatky (Talk about expressive brushstrokes! There's just this energy in all of his work. You can feel the passion and love he has for watercolor.)
Edward Hopper (Naturally.)

Light at Two Lights by Edward Hopper, watercolor on paper, 14 x 20.
Light at Two Lights by Edward Hopper, watercolor on paper, 14 x 20.

In terms of contemporary artists, I love Mario Robinson's work. I'm also very excited about the artists we found for our "25 to Watch" feature. Andrew Kish III's paintings are really evocative and a bit...dangerous. Jenny Davis' portraits demonstrate such great skill and a unique voice for someone so young.

AD: What types of watercolor artists are you especially excited by and want to feature in the future?

NE: I really do believe that I owe it to readers to explore the diversity of the watermedia world. With that in mind, I'm aiming to feature more artists who work with gouache, casein, egg tempera, and mixed media. I would never abandon traditional techniques or subjects, but there are so many artists who are taking time-honored practices and spinning them--just a little bit--to create work that stands out from the crowd.

Leon's Tire Service by Mario Robinson, watercolor on paper, 18 x 24.
Leon's Tire Service by Mario Robinson, watercolor on paper, 18 x 24.

AD: What is it about Watercolor that has enabled it to stay relevant for so long?

NE: I think we've been able to celebrate our 25th anniversary because watermedia has evolved so much even in just 25 short years. First, it was deemed a sketching medium. Then, it was just for older hobbyists--often called "weekend painters"--who wanted to return to their favorite pastime. In the last 10 to 15 years, alternative surfaces and opportunities for mixed media have inspired younger artists and experimental painters to try their hand at watercolor. In short, Watercolor has stayed relevant because watercolor keeps changing. If we just--ahem--go with the flow, there'll never be a shortage of artists to highlight, inspiration to find, and painting possibilities to keep us engaged for 25 more years.


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