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Bits of SWS History

Bits of SWS History

SWS Hosted Western Federation Show in 2004

by Jonesy McConnell , SWS, WFW Chairman

The second time SWS hosted the annual Western Federation of Watercolor Societies Annual Exhibition was May 21—June 13, 2004…..WFWS-29. SWS planned and held the Annual Board meeting, Delegate social activities, and Show Opening.

Nationally known artist Dean Mitchell served as our juror. He is a member of AWS, NWS, and received the 131st Annual International AWS Gold Metal. Dean received his Fine Arts degree and Honorary Masters from Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio. One of Dean’s quotes from his Juror’s statement read “Watercolor can be like beautiful music in the hands of a sensitive artist who dares to challenge its unpredictable qualities”.

The Board of Delegates meeting and Show Exhibition were held in the Irving Arts Center. The City of Irving was very generous with monetary donations to help us financially with expenses, with an end result of a balanced budget of Income and Expenses.

SWS members Kim Dennis and Janet Tsou opened their homes for hosting the WFWS Delegates dinners. We also took the Delegates to Fort Worth to see the three major art museums there.

There were 10 Societies as members of WFWS at that time. Oregon and Idaho had not yet joined. Lesley Talty was our SWS President and Jones C. McConnell, Jr. was our WFWS Delegate. MaryAnn Durnin and Jonesy were co – Chairmen of the Show. In order to have a museum – like cohesive show our 99 paintings were all framed alike in gunmetal color metal frames and hung in the main gallery at the IAC. Having the matted paintings shipped to Dallas from all the other western states enabled the other societies to send them at a much lower cost…..and after the Show we sold the frames (with plexiglass ) at cost to our SWS members. It was a win-win situation and was a very professional looking show. 11 cash prizes totaling $2,400, plus eight merchandise awards were presented. The Best of Show went to Shahla Dorafshan from San Diego Watercolor Society for her painting entitled “Red Rose”.

Many, many SWS members worked tirelessly (ok, some got tired) helping with the planning and execution of all the aspects that must be addressed in a major art show.

May 2013


Robert E. Wood versus Robert Wood

by Naomi Brotherton SWS, NWO, TWS, WFWS

In the 1960s large prints of works by oil painter, Robert Wood, were popular in home and office décor. And when the name Robert E. Wood appeared in the Dallas papers as a demonstrator for the Southwestern Watercolor Society at the DP& Light building November 11, 1967, non painters were attracted to see this man at work.

Meanwhile: Rex Brandt, well known watercolorist and teacher, had a book being sold through ads in the Art magazines. SWS learned that he was crossing the country to go to Europe in 1965 where he was to conduct a workshop for what turned out to be Tony Van Hasselt’s first Watercolor Holiday painting tour in Europe as tour director.

SWS invited Rex to do a demo and 3 day workshop en route. While he was in Dallas he told about a young man, Robert E. Wood, who was becoming a popular watercolor artist and teacher in California. Robert accepted the SWS invitation to do a demo and workshop.

As Bob was setting up for the demo, unfamiliar people arrived and wanted a ticket. On learning that he was not the artist who painted the oils, they were disappointed, but some decided to stay anyway.

Bob did 3 half sheet paintings using the same subject, a sail boat, each with different color dominance, different weather, and lighting.

The visitors were amazed, and delighted that they had stayed. It was a plus in favor of our mission to sell the public on the importance of water media paintings.

And is a case of the importance of using the middle initial, a necessity for Bob Wood watercolorist.

April 2013


Western Federation 18 Hosted by SWS in 1993

by Naomi Brotherton SWS, NWO, TWS, WFWS and Deborah Shannon SWS TWS ACA

The First Western Federation Show hosted by the Southwestern Watercolor Society was exhibited at D’Art in Dallas from May 29th to June 29th, 1993 and was chaired by Leo Smith and Deborah Shannon, who had recently moved to Dallas. Much to our great sad-ness, Leo became very ill and was unable to work on the show. Our great blessing was that the year before the show was in Dallas it was hosted by the New Mex-ico Watercolor Society in Albuquerque. NMWS guided Debby step by step through the complicated process of launching a Western Federation Exhibition. Their willingness to share all the tricks of the trade, their limitless patience and splendid humor made what could have been a very difficult process both fun and successful.

Leo wanted WFS 18 to be a first class exhibition with a beautiful color catalogue, a generous amount of awards, an attractive venue, a lovely reception, and a great juror. To meet these budget requirements we started fund raising several years in advance. We put on 11 workshops which covered subjects such as: “How to Enter a Juried Competition”, “How to Cut Mats”, and “How to Photograph Your Work”. And then we organized a studio tour. In addition to draw-ing on several wonderful SWS artists we also included artists who worked in different media and had inter-esting studios, one of which was the magnificent con-verted 1904 church where Ashley Belamy both lived and worked. He had renamed the nave where he hung some of his wonderful huge figure paintings, “The Earth and Cloud Room”.

We had a single juror, Don Getz, because Leo felt strongly he didn’t want the show to be a compromise of two jurors with very different artistic sensibilities. We hung 80 paintings selected from a record number of 1,271 entries.

We budgeted $27,000 for the show, but in the end our costs were lower and our income was higher than anticipated so we were able to put $ 8,200 into a savings account to help future Western Federation Exhibitions.

March 2013


Did You Know SWS Once Had Chapters?

by Naomi Brotherton SWS, NWO, TWS, WFWS

The name, Southwestern Watercolor Society, gave a regional ambiance which seemed to call for unity of the southwestern U.S. watercolorists. From the beginning, the mission of SWS was to edify the public about the worth of watercolor as a major painting medium. Unity would give strength to that message.

SWS invited existing watercolor organizations to join as chapters. New Mexico Watercolor Society, Oklahoma Watercolor Association, Water-color Art Society Houston (WASH), San Antonio Watercolor Group, San Diego Watercolor Society, Arizona Watercolor Society and Corpus Christi Watercolor Society all joined and participated in the annual Membership Exhibition.

Each of their members received the SCENE and their news was included in it. SWS assessed the chapters’ funds to help with printing/mailings in the form of dues.

The annual membership show at D’art was particularly impressive, with top artists from all over the west exhibiting. It was later moved to North Park Mall, making it more visible to the public.

Dr. David Gale of the New Mexico Watercolor Society organized a different plan for this combo for competition in a new format now known as Western Federation of Watercolor Societies, and held their first show in Albuquerque, NM in 1976.

As this new plan became stronger, the chapter plan became weaker, and one by one the chapters resigned from SWS. Corpus Christi Chapter stayed with SWS the longest.

In 1986 Southwestern Watercolor Society joined Western Federation of Watercolor Societies. The addition of another SWS sponsored exhibition gave members an additional opportunity to increase their credits toward Signature member-ship, an attractive possibility… Yes!

To be continued…

February 2013


The “Signature Member” Originated with SWS

by Naomi Brotherton SWS, NWO, TWS, WFWS

Did you know that the term “Signature Member” originated with Southwestern Watercolor Society? In Spring of 1966 the board of SWS had been concerned about the small number of entries in the annual Membership Show. A stimulus was needed.

In route to my last board meeting of that year, I thought of a possible solution. American Watercolor Society had for many years rewarded show exhibitors with credit toward membership in the organization. Three acceptances and review of three other paintings
by a committee gained the artist membership and the privilege of signing AWS after their signature on future paintings, making membership very special.

Why couldn’t Southwestern Watercolor Society do something similar? The initials SWS signed after our signature would boost the prestige of the member and the club.

As I burst into the meeting with this idea, we didn’t even wait till the proper time to discuss it. But there were doubts, and a new board was to take charge. The idea was tabled much to my disappointment.

Jo Taylor from Pittsburg, Texas, was coming on the board that fall, and she stayed at my home when she came. Before her first meeting, I told her about my idea. She liked it, and took it to the new board.

It took many meetings to be ironed out. The idea of requiring 5 acceptances was to make it hard to accomplish, so as to keep the interest in competition aggressive.

Made retroactive to our first show, a few of us had enough to be “Signature” members its first year, 1968.

When other art organizations heard what we were doing with this, they latched onto the idea, and now most all art clubs have some version of it.

January 2012


The Jewels of SWS

by Naomi Brotherton SWS, NWO, TWS, WFWS

Have you wondered why some SWS members have a piece of jewelry in the water-drop design used on our SCENE? They are Signature members of SWS.

While Don Mitchell was president 1969-70, the SWS water drop symbol which Bud Biggs had de-signed for our stationary and the SCENE masthead was made into jewelry for the members to pur-chase. Sales were not great, and it was soon forgot-ten.

When Hermine Sallinger was president 1979 to 1980, the Board decided to reward the Signature members with a piece of the SWS water-drop jew-elry – a tie pin for the men and a necklace orna-ment for the women.

At the February 1980 meeting, Hermine sur-prised everyone when she announced this plan and presented each of the current Signature mem-bers with the piece of gold jewelry to be worn as a badge of their accomplishment, acceptance in 5 SWS exhibitions earning Signature membership in Southwestern Watercolor Society.

December 2012


SWS Exhibition – Born in a Barn?

by Naomi Brotherton SWS, NWO, TWS, WFWS

I would like to share an interesting story about the 1st Annual Membership Exhibition.

As Exhibit Chairperson, Harwood K. Smith, wanted to test the quality of the work of the new organization. A semiprivate showing was arranged in the barn of Wiley’s Dude Ranch near Dallas. It was judged by a watercolorist, Joe Donaldson, professor of the Architecture Department at Texas A&M University. Reese Kennedy designed the Merit Awards (No Cash Awards) and the show opened with a barbeque dinner on October 24, 1964. The twenty Merit Award winners were then displayed at the Random Gallery in Richardson – for public viewing.

The show must have made the grade, as the next year’s 2nd SWS Annual Membership Exhibition was hung at the Dallas Public Library in downtown Dallas.

We all know Harwood K. Smith today as HKS Architect, whose firm designed the Dallas Cowboy Stadium and the W-Hotel and many, many more national icons.

There have been some amazingly talented and creative artists that have touched and helped shape the SWS of today.

November 2012