Students and faculty quickly filled the floor of the Muckenthaler Cultural Center to appreciate the old art form of watercolor painting that covered the walls this past Thursday. The center held an event showcasing the prestigious works of the National Watercolor Society.
The National Watercolor Society gallery opening featured international artists as well as a few newcomers. The diverse and impressive pieces of artwork from nature, to machinery, to live muses attracted a crowd of excited viewers.
This is not the first exhibition the Muckenthaler hosted for the National Watercolor Society, said Matthew Leslie, chief curator at Muckenthaler. “They’ve been having annual exhibitions for their members since 1920 … we’ve hosted about 10 different shows,” Leslie said. The National Watercolor Society is a traveling show holding exhibitions in about 10 different venues around the country, he said. Among the artists featured was Chuck McPherson, a painter who acknowledges his status as the new kid on the block.
“I’m a new painter,” McPherson said, grinning. “I’ve only been painting eight years in watercolor … I’m a child compared to these guys.”
Members of the National Watercolor Society are required to be approved by a certain juror, meaning that they must be voted in after an application that requires they submit sample of their work, McPherson said.
Despite the few years McPherson has been a member of the Watercolor Society, his artwork came to life and held its own among the work of the other respective painters. McPherson uses unique techniques when painting in watercolor. One in particular involves blue tape, which he uses to outline his work. He later applies watercolor paints on canvas. He may be considered new in the society of watercolor, but his pieces are striking and stood out with its bold colors, fine contrast and bold whites. McPherson’s unique style of using tape to outline his work takes over nine hours, and that’s only in preparation for the watercolor paint, he said.
Another artist whose work was on display was European native Frank Eber, a lifelong artist who’s been painting since he was 10 years old, and describes art as his life. He explained that historically, watercolor artwork is overshadowed by the “king of medium;” oil painting. “Watercolor is historically thought of as the sketch medium,” Eber said.
Watercolor paint is considered the step that one takes before starting on painting oils, so throughout its history, it has never been given the recognition many of its artists believe it deserves, he said. Yet, it is still watercolor that holds his heart.
“That process is kind of addictive,” he said about painting in watercolors. “It’s like this high-risk painting.” Eber expressed his hopes for the youth and advises aspiring artists to explore different art mediums.
“You absolutely have to try everything … it’s kind of, like, life itself, you know? You don’t get it all done in one day, so you just keep at it,” Eber said.
Alice Kayuha, the treasurer of the National Watercolor Society, had her own works on displays featuring abstract paintings. Her mother, who was an artistic presence in Kahuya’s life, heavily influenced her creativity. “My world was — my mother never made a pancake, it was always a squirrel or a bunny; it was never just a round moon,” Kayuha recalled.
One of the biggest challenges watercolor painters face is the difficulty in controlling the water. Kayuha explained how this challenge makes watercolor painting an unpredictable and organic process.
“Watercolor is my favorite because there’s so many good surprises and things happen that you didn’t expect, and sometimes, you think they’re mistakes and turn out to be the best thing about it,” Kayuha said.