What Makes a Winning Painting

Judge Mike Hernandez reveals why these paintings caught his eye

“A Helping Hand” by Karen Knutson

To come up with 60 paintings for this year’s Northwest Watercolor Society’s (NWWS) annual membership exhibition, Waterworks Unlimited, Judge Mike Hernandez had his pick of 362 submissions. In the end, it came down to a feeling of connection to the work, he says. Not only did the paintings have to illustrate technical expertise or an unexpected expression, they had to be honest.

Of the painting he awarded first place, A Helping Hand by Karen Knutson, Hernandez says, “You can feel the connection of friendship of the two characters. … This painting connected to me more than any other piece.”

“Less Than Approachable” by Liz Walker

Second place went to Liz Walker for Less Than Approachable. “What we see in the abstract and the literal, the calm and rhythm, says so much without the expressions on the people’s faces,” Hernandez said of Walker’s mixed-watermedia painting.

“Seeing Red” by Janet Barnette

Hernandez characterized third place winner, Seeing Red by Janet Barnette, as an experience that evoked a response of beauty and balance. It had a familiarity to him, a connection.

“I found that getting lost in the world of art was a blessed relief in such stressful times,” NWWS Chair Charlene Burley said. President Molly Murrah added, “There is something for everyone to savor, appreciate, and connect to.”

See the online Waterworks Unlimited exhibition any time you want, for free, through June 30, 2022.

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Kelly Kane
PleinAir Magazine and American Watercolor Weekly Editor-in-Chief With more than 20 years experience in art publishing, Kelly Kane has served previously as Editor-in-Chief of Watercolor Artist magazine and Content Director for The Artist’s Magazine, Drawing, Acrylic Artist, and Pastel Journal. She has interviewed many of the preeminent artists of our time and written numerous articles about painting, drawing, art education and art history. She is now the Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine and the American Watercolor Weekly newsletter. Click here to send her an email.


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