Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Transparent Watercolour Society - Annual Exhibition 2012

In the UK we don't have a watercolour society which limits itself to the use of just transparent watercolours.  However in the USA there is such an art society - the Transparent Watercolor Society of America.

Transparent Watercolor Society of America 

The mission of the Transparent Watercolor society is to preserve and promote the unique character of transparent watercolor as a major medium.

It was created in response to the growth in water-based media which began to take over traditional watercolour societies in the seventies.  In essence, the TWSA differentiates between:
  • transparent watercolour
  • water-based media
Annual Exhibition 2012

Annual Exhibition

Annual Exhibitions have been held since 1977, shortly after the new society was created.  Initially it had a midwest focus and latterly has grown to become a national art society - changing its status in 2003.  It now has over 1,000 members.

This year's exhibition recently opened - and can be seen in Wisconsin.  At present the exhibition is NOT an international exhibition and entries are limited to residents of North America.  Nor does it tour the USA and/or Canada.

This is the prospectus for this year's exhibition (pdf file) for those contemplating an entry next year.

Criteria for entry

The criteria for art media are, as one might expect, very much defined for a society and exhibition of this type.
  • Requirements of paintings:
    • Transparent watercolor applied in a transparent manner on single sheet of 100% rag or cotton
    • paper, free of pigment and/or embedded materials
    • Use of any pencil only for planning marks
    • Framed size will not exceed 50” in either direction
    • Minimum image size (mat opening) of 8”x10”
  • Unacceptable entries include:
    • White paint or gesso/priming
    • Acrylic
    • Gouache
    • Ink
    • Pastel
    • Metallic/iridescent paint
    • Collage or surface constructions
    • Embossing/varnishing
    • Yupo/other types of paper not listed as acceptable.
    • Use of digital images or enhancements
Award winners

This is a link to the award winners in the 36th Annual National Exhibition of the Transparent Watercolor Society of America.

Some of the Award Winners
Transparent Watercolor Society of America - Annual Exhibition 2012
Selected artists

These are the artists selected for the 2012 Exhibition.  The links go direct to an image of their artwork in the exhibition.  TWSA after their names indicates a signature member of the society


I find it interesting to compare the different styles employed by American artists compared to UK artists.

On the whole subject matter and treatment is in general much more traditional.  For example, there are no abstracted paintings amongst the award winners - with the possible exception of Foil Grid Fold by Kathleen Ballard (however even then I'd regard the painting as abstracted hyperrealism).

There are fewer variations in style and I also detect a certain style which I'm more used to seeing on USA website than UK ones.  I'm guessing this might be influenced by influential instructors in the USA?

The use of colour in general tends towards the bold and saturated rather the subtle end of the spectrum.  Some paintings look - to English eyes - rather more "in your face".  However one has to allow for the fact that colours do look different in different climates.  I guess some of the more delicate English watercolours seen at national watercolour shows in the UK might look a tad washed out to those viewing in the USA

I'd have liked to see more used of reserved whites (rather than complete coverage of the paper with washes) and more demonstrations of how pigments can mix and granulate on the paper - which can be amazingly effective when used judiciously.

That said, technical competence is high.

Where can you see the exhibition?
  • What: 2012 exhibition of the Transparent Watercolor Society (free admission)
  • Where: Kenosha Public Museum, 5500 1st Avenue, Kenosha, Wisconsin. 
  • When: Until 5 August 2012.  Museum hours are 
    • Tuesday-Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
    • Sunday and Monday, noon to 5 p.m. 
In 2011, the Society made both the exhibition catalogue and a DVD available for sale - although there are no indications of this for 2012 on the website at present.

Transparent watercolour in the UK

I'm a huge fan of transparent watercolour - of all the available art media, it's one of my favourites.

Of late I have been much impressed with the work of two RHS gold-medal winning botanical artists who use transparent watercolours - namely Fiona Strickland (see A 'Making A Mark' Profile of Fiona Strickland) and Carolyn Jenkins (see A New Leaf - an exhibition by Amicus Botanicus and RHS Botanical Art Show & Five Gold Medal Winners)

I've also asked why so few botanical artists join watercolour societies - see Botanical art, watercolour and art societies

I've also had a good old moan at times about my perceived lack of demonstrable skills in the use transparent watercolour (as in 'not enough paintings' created using transparent watercolours) in the exhibitions of the watercolour art societies.

Maybe we need a Transparent Watercolour Society in the UK? What do you think?

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