Juror Comments: March 2020 Member Exhibition

The March Member Exhibition is on display until March 28, 2020 at the San Diego Watercolor Society. This outstanding watermedia show was juried by artist, Kate Ashton. We are thrilled to provide a little background about Kate and share some of her juror insights.

Interview by Carla Scheidlinger

A Silent Prayer, Kate Ashton

Kate Ashton is the owner of Ashton Gallery @ Art on 30th. Her mantra is that in life, art is a calling. It is difficult for her not to paint, so it is the most authentic career she could have chosen. She studied art in college but took a different path, only to return back to art years later, waking up to the commitment one day to be an artist. After attending an Artist’s Way class, the rest of her journey has been a collection of single, simple steps, focused on the advice that “if you want to be an artist, then get up every day and paint.” Within 5 years she was making a reasonable living as an artist and began teaching. Art on 30th, her deep passion, is the realization of a dream to open an arts and cultural center for active artists in the heart of North Park. Now she has the great honor to be mentoring other amazing artists and helping them to grow as professional, selling artists. And, of course, she is still painting every day.

In addition to providing comments on the selected winning pieces, Ms. Ashton offered her impressions of the show at large. She was impressed with its diversity, as it was not overly heavy on landscapes as is often the case for watercolor shows. The iconic landscapes present were lovely though. She found it very difficult to choose winners when there were so many good pieces. She concludes that watercolor is alive and well in San Diego.

First place: “Photo Album” by Michael Garberick

This painting just grabbed me. I turned to go back to it; I wanted to go back and look at it not as a juror but just as a viewer. There is a wonderful use of the muted colors that give it an atmospheric quality. There is a feeling of something very vintage, from the chair, the hat, and the colors. The artist did a wonderful job of putting in some bright spots; the patches of white bring the piece to light and make it exciting. Any time an artist chooses to do more than one figure, it indicates that the artist has the confidence to attempt and execute a more complex piece. This is simply a gorgeous piece.

Second place: “Winter Wonderland” by Shuang Li. 

The composition is very well done, it is exactly what it ought to be. The layering of color is spectacular, a clear sign that the artist has really honed their craft to be able to do the subtle shifts of color. This artist really knows how to use color, and the piece is masterfully executed.

Third Place, “Cogitating” by Roberta Dyer

This piece really caught my attention, as it is an unusual piece for a watercolor show. It is also a standout treatment of the human figure. I love how utterly loose it is. It is very difficult to do a human face and do it loosely; the artist is very skilled. Loose drawings give an emotional response. In this case, the feeling of the piece is guttural and primal, suggesting what it might look like to age and feel good about it. I love the dark background that brings the figure forward to us. This is beautifully done.       

Best of Miniatures: “The Slicker” by Joanne Newman

This piece caught my eye, as it is different from the others. It made me stop and want to really look at it. The composition is strong, with each figure looking a different way. We don’t know who they are, so there is some mystery. I like the color choices, which are really arresting. The artist left it loose and knew when to stop.

Honorable Mention, Miniature: “One Spent Flower” by Lois Althearn 

Among the many florals, this one caught my eye. It is fresh and loose, done with a hand confident enough to go very loose. It has the vitality of contrasts, and the purplish-black background is bold against the delicate flowers. I like the composition, with no stems shown, leaving the viewer to figure it out. The flowers look as though they are still alive and vital.

Best of Theme: “Under Cover, NYC Rain”, Rebecca McCullough 

The theme was of marks, and this piece caught my eye as a night scene, which is not often done, so it is a little surprising and delightful. I liked the looseness of this, with a deep emotional component. When you look closely, you see a lot of marks: raindrops, trees with squiggly marks. This captures a beautiful night scene that also captures the theme of the show.

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