Watercolor paintings from artists across the nation are scaling the walls of Bigfork Art and Cultural Center this month for the 37th Watermedia Show.
The Montana Watercolor Society holds the show at the BACC every year and displays 50 pieces of art selected by the chosen judge.
As this year’s judge, Eric Wiegardt, narrowed the watercolors down from about 200 entries a few months ago before traveling to Montana to choose the winners.
Wiegardt judges the paintings based on design concepts, shape construction, value distribution and color scheme.
“It should meet three objectives,” he said. “It should catch the eye at a distance, carry the eye and bring it to an area of dominance.”
While this year’s gold award went to Ken Call, an artist in Illinois, a West Yellowstone man was awarded fifth place in his first-ever show.
Ken Harvey’s watercolor piece of the Gallatin River caught Wiegardt’s eye, and Watercolor Media Chair Tammy Phillips said Harvey is “very giddy” after hearing the news.
“Those kinds of stories I just think are so cool,” Phillips said.
Wiegardt also taught a watercolor workshop in the Flathead for 20 students on Thursday, Oct. 3 through Sunday, Oct. 6 before heading home to Washington.
With almost 40 years of experience as a watercolor artist, Wiegardt has taught more than 5,000 watercolorists in his workshops and has dedicated much of his career to teaching.
Wiegardt has also been awarded several awards, including an American Watercolor Society Gold Medal of Honor in 2012 and a judge award in 2014.
The Montana Watercolor Society chooses a different juror every year, usually two to three years in advance.
“Jurors are picked by their high level of skill in the medium,” Phillips said. “We look for a variety of artists willing to travel and share their knowledge of painting in watercolor with our group. Eric Wiegardt was that highly skilled artist we were looking for and we are thrilled to have him here in Kalispell.”
Phillips says the Montana Watercolor Society has around 300 members, and while there’s no headquarters, it has a full board.
Starting in Missoula in the 1980s, the Montana Watercolor society has evolved from artists collaborating in workshops to the watermedia show held in Bigfork annually.
The society also holds meetings in Lewistown and at the C.M. Russell Museum in Great Falls where it celebrates the famous American Western artist’s birthday.
Born and raised in Kalispell, Phillips took a hiatus in Alaska for a few decades and participated in the Alaska Watercolor Society before returning. She says the Montana Watercolor Society differs because it doesn’t have a headquarters and only meets a few times a year. In Alaska, the organization held a meeting once a month with guest speakers, and Phillips would like to have something similar in Montana’s future.
“We learn from other artists,” Phillips said.
Phillips already has next year’s juror selected, and she’s excited to introduce Iain Stweart out of Georgia for the 2020 watermedia show.