Sunday, November 15, 2020

National Watercolour Society (1920 - 2020): Annual International Open Exhibition

The National Watercolor Society of America (NWS) is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

  • 1920: founded as the California Water Color Society 
  • 1967: renamed as the California National Watercolor Society; 
  • 1975: renamed again as the National Watercolor Society.
  • 2020: celebrates its 100th anniversary.
The National Watercolor Society is one of the oldest non-profit artist-led societies in the United States. Our mission - encouraging innovation in watermedia through education, outreach, and exhibitions - promote the advancement of watermedia and inspire the next generation of watermedia artists.
One of the things I find interesting is that the NWS had two websites
  • one for the society and wider communication with its members and marketplace re its activities
  • one specific to its online exhibitions which complement gallery exhibitions. 
Below I comment on 
  • its exhibitions in its 100th year and
  • the differences between watercolour painting in different countries
  • the different ways watercolour painters engage with international exhibitions.

100th National Watercolor Society International Open Exhibition

Requirements include that.....
Painting must be primarily water-based media on any appropriate water media surface. Other media, if used, must be in conjunction with the water media, which must be dominant.
  • a Virtual Opening online on October 17, 2020 (see video below). 
  • a dedicated online website with all the selected artwork - which has very large thumbnails and the scope to enlarge the image. 
    • You can view with all images on view (see below)
    • Or click on a painting to see more about who painted it, size and media
    • All artwork is watermarked but the size of the images mean this is much less of a nuisance compared to websites which watermark small images.
The standard of the artwork is very good and I think distinctly different to the Members Show - which can be seen below this one.

National Watercolor Society - 100th International Open Exhibition
with a page on a website dedicated to online exhibitions

It also has 
  • a list of accepted artists - 73 artists from seven different countries (USA, Australia, Canada, China, Italy, Malaysia, Peru, Scotland, Singapore and Taiwan - with the largest contingent by far being from China)
  • a prospectus (pdf file)



The range of entries from other countries is pleasing to see - although I'm bemused as to why so few come from the UK.

However I have noticed that many UK watercolour painters seem to be quite slow to engage with international competitions. 

By way of contrast, those that do - such as Angus McEwen RWS - frequently get selected and often win prizes. This is his painting in the NWS exhibition

Members Annual Exhibition 2020


This video is about the 2020 Annual Exhibition by NWS Members - also online and held earlier in the year 

Online (watermarked) gallery of NHS Members Show 2020
- on a dedicated website for online exhibitions


You can find the NWS at:

The differences between watercolor painting in different countries


I find the differences between the different types of paintings produced by American watercolour painters compared to UK watercolour painters to be very interesting.

For me:
  • Americans tend to paint bolder, brighter more colourful paintings
  • They also tend to include more hyperealistic paintings which to me seem to have been painted from photographs.
  • I also see more of the wonderful effects which can be achieved in watercolour in American exhibitions.
  • While watercolour exhibitions in the UK can be good (and I prefer the RI to the RWS) I find too many entries in watercolour exhibitions in the UK can at times be too focused on "being contemporary" and/or underplay the role of the media - as in many RWS exhibitions in recent times.
Bottom line - if I go to an exhibition of paintings hosted by a watercolour society, I want to see
  • a celebration of the media 
  • innovative uses of that media 
  • and/or excellence in skill in using features which are special to or characteristic of the media (and the Chinese are very good at doing this!).
I'm not particularly bothered which country or artist produces it - I just want to see excellent art painted in an excellent way using water based paints on a support suitable for such paint.

In other words show me acrylic painted on a canvas and I will run a mile and/or not NOT focus a winning painting in a so-called watercolour competition. (UK readers may well remember when I did that!).

It's good to see that many American watercolor paintings are painted using watercolours!

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