A Tribute to the Baltimore Watercolor Society, by Susan Avis Murphy
I have been an avid fan of watercolor since I was about 8 years old, when I was inspired by the simple paintings my mother brought home from a painting class she was in. They seemed so real and clever! It is amazing how childhood influences affect our lives, because I have been hooked on watercolor ever since.
I started taking it more seriously after college, and it became an avocation while I was teaching science in middle school. When we moved to Maryland in 1979, I made a full-time commitment to watercolor and began to consider it my profession. This involved entering juried shows, finding a good gallery, and mounting shows of my work. In 1982 I discovered the Baltimore Watercolor Society and was very happy to find a good group of like-minded individuals.
The Baltimore Watercolor Society is about 600 members strong. It draws its membership from the seven-state region around Maryland, including Virginia, the District of Columbia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. So-called “signature members” have to be juried in by the board of directors, while associate members have most of the privileges of membership also.
There are numerous advantages to membership in the BWS. We sponsor watercolor workshops 2-3 times per year, as well as lectures and demonstrations. We arrange fabulous exhibitions at venues around the Baltimore/Washington area, and are most well-known for our annual Mid-Atlantic Regional Watercolor Exhibition. This very competitive juried show draws hundreds of artists from the seven-state region. Shows like this help set the standards and raise the bar for excellence in our field. We don’t want people to think of watercolor as that “limpid medium little old ladies like to do”! Watercolor can be an extremely bold and strong form of artistic expression, as you will see in our upcoming Mid-Atlantic Exhibition this June at the Stevenson University Gallery, starting June 10, 2013.
Also in June we are arranging a four-day workshop with the nationally-known watercolorist Paul Jackson, who we are flying in from Missouri. His workshop filled up in three days! You can see that our membership is very active and takes advantage of all the wonderful things the Baltimore Watercolor Society has to offer. Some of the other activities we arrange are:
- A fun bus trip to New York to view the American Watercolor Society’s annual show and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art
- An annual banquet with a respected speaker, such as the Victoria Wyeth, grand-daughter of Andrew Wyeth
- A workshop on sumi-e painting with the former president of the Sumi-e Society of America
- Outdoor painting trips for “plein-air painting”
- Seminars on topics for professional artists such as photography of your artwork, characteristics of your watercolor pigments, best practices for the business of art, how to get into a good gallery, etc…
Personally, I have benefitted so much from being in the Baltimore Watercolor Society, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Perhaps the main benefit has been to get to know so many other professional and semi-professional artists. To be able to exchange ideas and learn about the art world together has been a tremendous asset to my development as an artist. For that reason alone I am very grateful to the existence in my life of the Baltimore Watercolor Society. I became a member of the Board of Governors in 2010 to provide service in organizing workshops, and have benefitted tremendously from the opportunities this job has given me. I cannot endorse and recommend this group more highly!
Susan Avis Murphy, AWS, BWS
March 14, 2013