From March 31 through April 26, the American Watercolor Society will be exhibiting its 142nd Annual International Exhibit at the Salmagundi Club at 47 Fifth Avenue, in New York City. This is usually the first major international exhibition of watermedia paintings to be presented each year, and it will be followed by the 33rd Annual National Exhibit of the Transparent Watercolor Society of America from May 17 through July 16 at the Kenosha Public Museum, in Wisconsin, and the National Watercolor Society’s 89th Annual Exhibition from October 10 through December 20 at the City of Brea Art Gallery, in California.
Like many of you, I always look forward to seeing these comprehensive displays of watermedia painting and reviewing the color catalogues of award-winning paintings. Those events always inspire me to explore new images and techniques, follow the careers of exhibiting painters, and work harder at making my paintings even better. I’m always impressed by the depth of talent among watercolorists and by the varieties of ways they use transparent watercolor, acrylics, gouache, casein, and egg tempera. There are always new people to discover, perceptible shifts in popular styles and subjects to be noted, and fascinating techniques to be studied and applied. The displays always reinforce the idea that if one puts the same paints, brushes, and papers in the hands of 10 artists, the resulting paintings will expand the range of creative possibilities by a factor of ten.
Yes, one can always be suspicious about the politics of who gets juried into the shows and who wins the awards, but in general these exhibitions still offer unknown watercolorists the best opportunity for national exposure. If you read the biographies of internationally known watermedia painters, you will almost always find they got their first big break after winning an award in a state, regional, or national art competition; and they didn’t have to move to New York, Los Angeles, or Houston to be taken seriously as a professional artist.
Most of these organizations now make it easy to enter their contests by uploading a digital photograph to a website and paying the entry fee electronically. You no longer have to wrap up slides, prepare a paper entry form and a self-addressed stamped envelope, or take your package to the post office. If you haven’t been submitting your artwork to contests, I encourage you to do so. It’s a great way to validate yourself and gain recognition for your achievements.
If you have participated in juried shows and have found it to be either a positive or negative experience, I’m sure members of this online community would appreciate learning about your experiences and any advice you might have for taking full advantage of the opportunities.
M. Stephen Doherty