Best in the West

Ever wonder what a juror looks for in a painting? Kathleen Conover shares her thoughts on a selection of prizewinners from the Western Federation of Watercolor Societies' 44th annual exhibition.

The Western Federation of Watercolor Societies will hold its 44th Annual Exhibition through May 31, 2019 at the San Diego Watercolor Society. The SDWS gallery is located in the historic Naval Training Center or what is now known as Liberty Station, after decommissioning and returning it to the city of San Diego.

Juror Kathleen Conover had this to say about some of the award-winning paintings.

“Seated No. 6” by Marion Mettler, SDWS | SDWS Enthusiasts Best of Show

Seated No. 6 has total emotional impact at first viewing. There’s wonderful design, shape, color, line, and impact – it’s very entertaining. It uses all of the tools in our toolbox to make great compositions. It’s abstract but, on closer inspection, you find that there are figures. It’s not non-objective – it’s truly abstract. There are alternating warm and cool colors. The spot of yellow is repeated just enough to keep us moving through the painting.

“The Front Parlor” by Helen Hayes, SDWS | Founder’s Award

The Front Parlor has a dramatic presentation of design, composition, and imagery. We may see imagery first, but it isn’t the most important part. It’s the strength of the abstract composition that hits you from across the room and as you get up close the sensitive handling of the figural form is very intriguing and yet it’s not over-done. It’s very simply presented and beautifully unified.

“Blow Your Horn, Baby” by Gay Paratore, SDWS | Award of Excellence

Blow Your Horn, Baby is a strong design piece. The movement in this piece zigzags from the top right to the bottom left and brings you diagonally up one shape, around, and through the painting. This keeps the eye moving and it’s very entertaining. Color, shape, drama of contrast are all used to make a wonderful composition.

“Motion In Space” by Pat Moseuk, SDWS | Award of Excellence

Motion In Space is a true non-objective work, which I find the hardest kind of painting to make because you don’t have the crutch of imagery to rely upon. It shows true mastery of the design principles that we have to work with. It’s a perfect example of a non-objective painting.

“Key West Window” (watercolor, 14 x 11 in.) by Robin Erickson | APT Critique Group Award

Key West Window has a subtle but very original composition with the large dark shape in the lower right of the painting connected to the very strong dark shape in the lower left corner and the line that goes from the large dark all the way to the top and it’s all connected. The composition just keeps the eye moving. The colors are beautiful. There are soft edges and hard edges – it’s just great.

Kathleen Conover exhibits her work, juries exhibitions, gives demonstrations and teaches in-depth workshops. She has been juried into more than 200 exhibitions, receiving national and international recognition for the vision, innovative techniques, and fearless expression that give rise to her unique designs. Painting with openness to her subject matter, she is guided by intense observation and deep personal reflection. The result is rich symbolic layers of literal and figurative design.

SDWS was established in 1965. With more than 600 members, it is one of the largest and most active watercolor societies in the U.S. The SDWS gallery is located in the historic Naval Training Center or what is now known as Liberty Station, after decommissioning and returning it to the city of San Diego.


  1. The WFWS show hung beautifully in the 4,000sf Gallery of the San Diego Watercolor Society! For those who may not be aware, this extremely active group is staffed and managed by a ton of volunteer artists. SDWS is one of the top venues in the world for the finest in water-based creations! MY humble opinion.

    Oh, and it’s open five days a week AND has online sales during shows. Can’t say that about many other galleries…


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