One of the first things I noticed when I started editing American Artist thirty years ago is that some artists identify themselves by their preferred medium and others by the subjects they draw and paint most often. Oil painters seemed more inclined to introduce themselves by saying they were portraitists, plein air landscape painters, still life painters, or figurative artists; whereas others would tell me they were watercolorists, pastel painters, or colored pencil artists. Once I recognized that pattern of self-identification, I could better understand why there were dozens of local, state, and national watercolor societies but no significant groups of oil painters. (This was before the founding of the Oil Painters of America and the National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society.)
When I started attending exhibition openings and conventions that brought artists together, the watercolorists seemed to be the most sociable artists. They were more actively involved in societies, they took more workshops, they entered more juried shows, and they attended more meetings. They seemed to thrive on interacting with other watermedia artists, whereas oil and pastel painters only had a small group of artist friends.
Over the years new organizations of colored pencil artists, pastel painters, and oil painters were formed, but the watercolor groups also grew in number and size. There are some state watercolor societies that are now larger than the national organizations of oil, pastel, and acrylic painters.
What does any of this mean? Perhaps that art groups grow like political and religious organizations in that the more the members promote the benefits of the group, the larger the membership will become. The proliferations of books, DVDs, workshops, and competitions for watercolorists makes it easier for people to become involved in the activity, thus increasing the likelihood that they will join forces with others who share their interest. It may also be true that those beginners have the mistaken idea that watercolor is easier, cheaper, and safer than other painting media, so novices are more likely to try it.
If my ruminations making you curious about some of the groups I’m mentioned, then perhaps you might want to check out some of the organizations dedicated to helping you connect with other artists with similar interests.
National Watercolor Society: www.nationalwatercolorsociety.org
American Watercolor Society: www.americanwatercolorsociety.org
Transparent Watercolor Society of America: www.watercolors.org
Florida Watercolor Society: www.floridawatercolorsociety.org
Ohio Watercolor Society: www.ohiowatercolorsociety.com
Southern Watercolor Society: www.southernwatercolorsociety.org
Colored Pencil Society of America: www.cpsa.org
Pastel Society of America: www.pastelsocietyofamerica.org
International Association of Pastel Societies: www.pastelinternational.com
Portrait Society of America: www.portraitsociety.org
Oil Painters of America: www.oilpaintersofamerica.com
National Oil and Acrylic Painters Society: www.noaps.org