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Shoreline Families

Shoreline's World-Class Watercolor Exhibit: A Perfect Show for Kids

May 28, 2019 01:15PM ● By Rachel Belfield

After visiting the Edwin Pratt exhibit at the Shoreline City Hall, I was excited to return and see what was in store at the Northwest Watercolor Society’s (NWWS) 79th Annual Open Exhibition, being hosted in the same location.

However, I honestly was unprepared for the astounding skill and artistry on display, the range of subjects, and the varied styles that the global artists all achieved with the same medium. David Francis, Shoreline’s coordinator of public art, kindly gave me a tour and some inside information about the work in the exhibition.

As background, David explained that he didn’t know much about this exhibition when he was coordinating it, but he learned that this international show is one of the top shows in the country--a museum-quality show that we’re lucky to have accessible in our own backyard. The artists represent all regions of the United States and several other countries, including Greece, Malaysia, and Singapore. I was impressed by how many women, newer painters, and artists of color were represented in the paintings that I explored. 

Grand Prize: “Spring Again,” by Yueqi Zhang of Hammond, IN

When we stopped to view the show’s grand prize winner, David graciously explained some of the reasons the judge selected this as the best of the exhibit. The judge said that one’s eye should be drawn to a center of attraction, and once your eye gets there (to the woman, in this case), there needs to be some return, something to engage with. Also, this painting is clearly telling a story that invites the viewer to linger and ponder the situation. Last, the play of light on the staircase the woman has ascended is technically impressive and draws you in to explore the artist’s skill and attention to detail.

Second Place: “Barcelona Balconies” by Charles Rouse of Vista, CA

This was my personal favorite of the show, as it immediately grabbed my attention with the pops of rich color placed throughout a somewhat drab background. And then I was intrigued by the progression from shadow to light across the canvas, and the artist’s masterful use of perspective that really transported me to the streets of Barcelona and the beauty in everyday moments such as this one.

Third Place: “The Word Not Spoken” by Kate Aubrey of Maryville, TN

A small crown gathered around this painting on a weekday morning, admiring the artist’s mastery in using shadow from the man’s hat brim. The line of the shadow drew my eye right to those of the subject, as it plays across the bridge of his nose. And the subtle use of a rosy hue drew my eye to explore many parts of the canvas after I’d lingered on the details of the man’s face.

Brochure Cover: “Joy” by Devi Brunsch

This aptly named painting is of the artist’s daughter enjoying a rare sunny day in the Pacific Northwest winter, and it was compelling enough for NWWS to select it as the cover of the exhibit’s brochure. Even more impressive, the India-born artist just returned to painting in 2018, having left her job as a user experience designer to spend more time with her family. Devi’s bio beautifully reads “[Devi’s] main subjects have been her two kids, celebrating the quiet day-to-day moments she has with them.” I love that the arts community has welcomed this relative newcomer, rather than maintaining an insular, protective grasp on their craft, as some may be prone to do.

The exhibit offers 60 paintings, each as rich, impressive, and potentially conversation-starting as the next. I urge you to visit on your own, with children, or (as I plan to do) both! The show runs through July 11, and it’s available during City Hall hours (Monday-Friday, 8:00 am - 5:00 pm). That gives you six weeks to get there, including the first couple weeks of summer break for Shoreline Schools!

Tips for viewing with children:

  • Ask them questions, rather than telling them what a painting is about, the story it’s conveying, or the details that stand out to you.

  • Create a scavenger hunt by asking a kid to find every painting that has his or her favorite color, which paintings have animals, or which pieces use light and shadow. Customize this idea to your youngster’s age and observational skills.

  • Ask children to point out the varied use of brush strokes in the paintings. All watercolors should allow you to see and value a “sense of the brush” says David, but the application differs from being apparent and clearly a watercolor to being nearly photographic, where you find yourself hunting for evidence of a paintbrush.

  • What hidden things can they find in paintings? Are there faces hidden in a more abstract painting’s elements, or small details to be found when inspecting the more intricate works?

Here are two more paintings that offered many points of discussion and exploration for children:

 "David and Friends" by Molly Murrah of Kirkland, WA

 "Square One" by Geoffrey McCormack of Eugene, OR