Fifty years ago, Finis Collins, Ivan McDougal, and Clay McGaughy were hanging out in a local pub, nursing beers. They talked about the occasional painting jaunts they’d taken in the local countryside, “plein air, if one wants to sound worldly.” It was suggested that the three take a week-long painting trip together, and all agreed that Big Bend National Park would be picturesque and interesting. The first trip proved so rewarding that it was decided to make it an annual event. The name “The Watercolor Gang” was never intended, but seemed to evolve naturally as they had exhibits of each trip at various galleries.
Presently there are four Gang members: Finis Collins, Clay McGaughy, Lee Ricks, and E. Gordon West.
One of the founding members of the Watercolor Gang in 1964, Finis Collins designed the major brochure for “Hemisfair-1968.” This elaborate brochure was printed in large quantities and was distributed throughout the world. His most noted piece of art, which has been seen by millions, is the symbol that he created for the San Antonio Spurs.
Finis loves helping developing artists. For over 25 years, he spent his evenings as an art instructor. He was the owner and director of the San Antonio School of Art from 1964 to 1968, directing a 12-teacher staff covering every facet of commercial and fine art. He also taught Advertising Art and Design at Trinity University. Collins is past President of both the Artist and Designers Society (1964) and the Texas Watercolor Society (2003). He has earned, through his many awards in fine art, the honor of wearing the prestigious TWS Purple Sagebrush Pin. He was named “Artist of the Year” by the San Antonio Art League and Museum in 1984.
Another founding member of the Watercolor Gang, San Antonio artist Clay McGaughy received his degree in Art from the University of Texas. Clay’s work has been exhibited in galleries throughout the U.S., including the Grand Central Gallery and the Crossroads of Sport in New York. He has been a member of the San Antonio Watercolor group, the Coppini Academy of Fine Arts, the San Antonio Art League, the Society of Animal Artists, and is a past president of the Texas Watercolor Society. His work is in the collection of the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, and he was the San Antonio Art League’s “Artist of the Year” in 1976.
Clay’s art has been widely published. He was featured in the January 1978 issue of Southwestern Art and has done covers and illustrations for Texas Game and Fish, True West, Texas Highways, American Artist, The Artists’ Magazine, Progressive Farmer, and Outdoor Life. His works are included in the books, Texas Hill Country and Pecos to Rio Grande, both published by Texas A & M Press.
Lee Ricks joined The Watercolor Gang in 2007. He is an award-winning South Texas artist who loves and records the beauty of nature. He respects the traditional, and is interested in chronicling in his work those older things and people that are vanishing so quickly from our modern world.
Although he graduated from the University of Texas with a degree in Art, Lee spent 35 years as an entrepreneur and businessman before returning to his first love. Watercolor quickly became Lee’s chosen medium, and in that medium he captures the Old West and Mexico in beautiful landscapes, coastal scenes, and the old colonial buildings of Mexico and Europe. He is a signature member and past president of the Texas Watercolor Society, his works have been published in several national publications, and he has won numerous awards in national competitions. To encourage new talent, Lee teaches workshops all over Central and South Texas.
E. Gordon West
E. Gordon West joined the Watercolor Gang in 1972. His subject matter is incredibly diverse. From landscape to old barns to people in their day-to-day activities, he has developed an interest in water in all its forms- rivers, waterfalls, and just the calm ripples on the surface of a woodland pond. He is a graduate of the University of Louisville and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago.
Gordon is a signature member of the American, National, and Texas Watercolor Societies, the Western Federation of Watercolor Societies, and the Watercolor USA Honor Society. He has garnered many awards in national exhibitions and has works in the permanent collections of the McNay Art Museum (San Antonio) and the museums at both Texas A&M University and the University of Louisville. He was named “Artist of the Year” by the San Antonio Art League and Museum in 1985. West has also been the subject of articles in numerous national publications, such as Artist’s Magazine and American Artist Magazine, and is included in “Who’s Who in American Art.”
A new exhibit, “The Watercolor Gang at 50 Years” will open on Saturday, October 17, 2020, at Art Gallery Prudencia in San Antonio, Texas. A reception for the exhibit’s opening will be held from 12 to 4 pm, and guests will have a chance to speak with the artists about their works and also purchase copies of the book written by and about “The Watercolor Gang” (edited by Pat Safir).
About Art Gallery Prudencia
Art Gallery Prudencia was founded by Texas native Prudence Lucas and opened in San Antonio, Texas in 2018. Our revolving exhibits include a mix of representational art, contemporary, sculpture and pure abstracts.