“Koi 2013 #3,” by Cheng-Khee Chee, is among 30 paintings chosen from among 2,000 for the 2014 National Watercolor Society Traveling Exhibit.

Dixon Hosts National Watercolor Exhibit

The Next Picture Show is one of just five venues to host an impressive collection of paintings shared by some of the world’s most respected artists. Explore a few of the sights at this latest exhibit.

“Koi 2013 #3,” by Cheng-Khee Chee, is among 30 paintings chosen from among 2,000 for the 2014 National Watercolor Society Traveling Exhibit.
“Koi 2013 #3,” by Cheng-Khee Chee, is among 30 paintings chosen from among 2,000 for the 2014 National Watercolor Society Traveling Exhibit.

Brand new paintings by some of the world’s most respected watercolor artists will be on display in Dixon, Ill., as part of the National Watercolor Society Traveling Exhibit Nov. 4 to Dec. 31. Dixon is one of just five U.S. communities to receive the honor, thanks to the excellent reputation of The Next Picture Show (TNPS) fine arts center, 113 W. First St.
“We like bringing live paintings –meaning the real thing, not reproductions – to smaller cities across the country that don’t have easy access to major galleries,” says Penny Hill, director of exhibitions at the National Watercolor Society, San Pedro, Calif. “I remember, as a 10-year-old, seeing an actual Andrew Wyeth painting. It blew me away. It changed my life. That’s the kind of experience we like to provide to people across the country.”
Founded in 1920, The National Watercolor Society promotes the best of water media painting, from experimental to traditional, and encourages support for watercolor as an enduring art form.
It’s no small thing for an artist to be included in this traveling exhibit. More than 2,000 submissions from among the Society’s 10,000 worldwide members are narrowed to 98 for the annual show of the Society at its home gallery in San Pedro. From that pool, a selection of 30 watercolors go on the road.
The paintings may be purchased, but not until the five-city tour is completed. Prices for paintings in this traveling exhibit average $1,500 to $9,000.
Visitors will notice a wide range of subject matter and techniques. Some of the subjects are what one might expect of watercolors – still lifes and landscapes. Others are unexpected, like a pile of old farm machinery. No matter the subject, these paintings were selected for the artists’ ability to present something fresh – an edgy point of view, an experimental technique, a new way of interpreting a classic subject, says Hill.
“Watercolor is very hard to do,” says Bonnie Kime, executive director of TNPS in Dixon. “It takes phenomenal talent to achieve paintings like these. The detail they manage to incorporate using this watercolor media just fascinates me. It’s not an easy thing to do, even for accomplished artists.”
As an example, she points to “Winter Alley” by John Salminen, of Duluth, Minn. The wintery streetscape has a lacy, filagree quality. A large bank of spiny tree trunks at left and a line of tilting telephone poles at right lean toward one another, as two small figures traverse the snowy alley below. The degree of detail is staggering.
Salminen stated in exhibit notes about his painting, “In Minnesota, April can be very unpredictable, in terms of weather. It is not yet spring and rain and snow combine to create beautiful atmospheric effects. I choose to use watercolor because its transparency allows for subtle effects of light and snow.”
Color mixing and palette range are two strengths of watercolor that entice artists, says Kime. “There’s no question that watercolor is just inherently beautiful.”
Midwest painters in particular will enjoy “In a Farm Yard,” by United Kingdom artist David Poxon. The artist describes his subject as “a clutter of old farm machines basking in the early sunlight. Its working life long since past, it is now at rest.”
Poxon used no white paint on the canvas. “I rehearsed the coulourways and shadow structures for the Lister [a brand of machinery] for a whole day before committing to a 15-wash process in pursuit of the blue/green glow which first enticed me to this subject,” stated Poxon.
The face of a man with white hair and beard is the subject of “50 Years Later,” by Myrna Wacknov, Foster City, Calif. “A loving tribute to my favorite face — my husband of 50 years,” she says. The work incorporates collage papers and gesso with the watercolor paint. “I am constantly exploring texture combinations and mysteries,” she says.
Minnesota artist Cheng-Khee Chee sometimes paints on wet paper, as was the case in “Koi 2013 #3.”
“I soaked the Fabriano cold pressed paper until it was thoroughly saturated,” he said. Some people know Chee as the illustrator of childrens books Old Turtle and Swing Around the Sun.
Those who enjoy more traditional watercolor subjects will revel in “Pear Mosaic,” by Marsha Chandler of Douglasville, Ga. The subject is an assortment of pears and shiny silverware scattered on a table. A bit of sky and cloud is reflected in the rim of a pan behind them.
“The effects of light on the pears and silverware are what I painted,” says Chandler. “The shapes of the reflections in the pan and silverware, along with the sky and cloud reflections, create little abstract paintings.”
Dixon is the fifth and final stop for the exhibit, which has been in California, Minnesota, Wyoming and Iowa.
Kime describes TNPS as “a true, blue non-profit with an educational mission.” Therefore, unlike some galleries hosting this exhibit, there’s no admission fee to see the paintings. In fact, hosting the traveling exhibit costs the gallery money in shipping costs, promotion and opening night catering. Those expensess will be underwritten by the Hughes Foundation.
“Because we’ve hosted the Illinois Watercolor National Show exhibit for six years, I really wanted to bring in this exhibit, when the door of opportunity opened,” says Kime. “We’ve reached for the next level.”
The Illinois Watercolor National Show attracts entries from across the nation and its exhibit will be hosted by Dixon for the seventh time, next May 1-31.