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Watercolor wins at National Show

On a beautiful day a week ago, I drove out into the middle of the state to the Next Picture Show Gallery in Dixon for the Illinois Watercolor Society's annual National Show. Just the previous Wednesday, I hurried to drop off my submission, "Tago vos," at the gallery past its due date. The facilitator was very willing to give it a space. It was their 32nd national show, with one Taiwanese applicant (not accepted) who gives prudence to the group's influence gaining strength in prominence internationally. This open invitation to join for a third time in a row with recognition from the space and senior members went straight to heart.

Heading the event was the judge and demonstrator, Mark E Mehaffey, who is a signature member of a dozen societies and boasts his teaching nuances learned the hard way over 28 years in the Lansing Public School system. His international origins, growing up in Japan's educational system, and compulsion to keep occupied with many projects at once lent to eventually finding complement in watercolor experimentation on Yupo paper, utilizing various masking techniques to create abstract images with a geometric sway. His process involves creating visual and organizational "problems" that are subsequently "solved" by altering the landscape with color or other compositional gestures. Many onlookers in a standing-room-only environment were awed by what he simply explained was "playing."

Other than being somewhat amused that a lack of certain technical brilliance in the way he creates could attract such a reaction, my curiosity mounted. Why did nobody other than me questioned his intentions and process? I felt those chosen for distinctions were biased towards abstraction and am fortunate to have been nominated at all for an Honorable Mention among many other lackluster winners. This affinity, he admits, is influenced by "jealousy" for those pieces that achieve that conceptualization that he both admires and desires in his own work.

The Best of Show, however, does stand out, as an abstraction and technical marvel (especially when viewed at a small distance) that accentuates what Mr. Mehaffey professes to strive towards in his works. It deserves that award, as does Dan Danielson and his Signature Membership to IWS after only a few years. Those and all the contributing members give yourself a hearty pat on the back for your progress and I hope to see you the coming year!

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