2020 Sixth Annual NorthStar
National Watermedia Juried Exhibition

Exhibition Dates: October 2-November 13, 2020

Juror comments By Nicole Watson (see the video of her comments HERE)

I would like to thank NorthStar Watermedia Society for inviting me to be the juror for this year’s national exhibition. I was not very familiar with this organization when I began the jurying process, and I have really enjoyed getting to know the members, artists and leaders of this group.

I want to commend all the of artists who both submitted to the jury and whose work is featured in the show. It was challenging to select only 14 awards—I am impressed by the range, variety and quality of all of the work I have seen, and I appreciate each artist’s commitment to their medium, especially in light of a global pandemic. I hope making art has and continues to be an outlet that brings each of you hope and pleasure.



Merit Award
Linda Webster, Still Life

(Photo left) I was immediately drawn to this still life—I appreciate the fluid nature of the watercolor, the gesture of the lines drawn beneath the paint, and the way the pencil marks are definite in some places, and recede in others, which works to move the eye around the composition. The suggestion of the patterned tablecloth at the bottom edge, the subtle changes in the values of the forms, and the areas of blocked color in the background are quite appealing to me. This intimate piece is lush and surprisingly complex, beckoning longer looking.

Judith Benham Award
Shelby Cate, Milkweed No. 1

(Photo right) I appreciate the graphic quality of this composition, and the way the artist set the leaf forms against a dark background to push them forward in the picture plane. My impression is that the artist has great control of the medium, which is evident in the finely rendered veins of the leaves, stems and small details, such as the textured exteriors of the seed pods. The palette of the milkweed is limited yet nuanced, with blues and greens melting together to create areas of light and dark. Overall, I think this work reveals an artist who approaches the subject with deep care.

Hahnemuhle Award
Rick Lundsten, Stop and Listen

(Photo left) This was a piece that I found myself revisiting several times throughout the judging period—in addition to reflecting the artist’s mastery of their medium, I found the presentation of that medium to be quite unique. I could see layers upon layers of watercolor and gouache, which appears to be applied in an almost pointillist technique, giving the image great depth. I am particularly impressed by the use of light and shadow, especially in the dappled sunlight of the right side of the composition, and the contrast between the sunlit, rushing water, and the shadowed rock formations to the left. Small details, like the ferns growing among the rocks, and the touches of blue in the waterfall, are thoughtful and alluring.

Dillman’s Creative Art Workshops Award
Claudia Trepanier, The Gate – Forevermore

(Photo right) There are so many things I enjoy about this watercolor painting, including the effective balance between really tightly rendered areas—the doors, the edges of the stairwell, the stunning shapes of bright sunlight—and the more fluid areas of the mottled and shadowy stones and the shingles on the roof. The inclusion of the confetti-like forms that are trickling over the entryway immediately piqued my curiosity—the whole scene suggests a dreamlike quality, simultaneously conveying both realism and enchantment, which is only reinforced by the perspective of the viewer, who is situated at the base of the steps and looking up.

Wet Paint II Award
Mary Zadach, Halloween Run

(Photo left) This image sparked feelings of delight and recognition—as a runner who has participated in Halloween races, I can appreciate the ambition of the artist to capture the early morning light, figures in motion (while wearing costumes!), the iconic Pillsbury sign and cobblestone path of this familiar Minneapolis landscape. The overall image is quite painterly, which I know can be difficult to accomplish when your subject is a street full of people. I love the shadows in this piece, and can almost feel the warm sunshine on back when I look at this painting.

Wet Paint I Award
Wayne Sisel, Inlet or Outlet?

(Photo right) I enjoy the treatment of the medium in this painting, with its layers of colors and the gestural application of the forms. I’m drawn to the brushy, gestural quality of the trees on the right, and the way the shadows fall across the winding water. This landscape, made up of minimal yet nuanced shapes, has great depth that invites the viewer to linger. I appreciate the artist’s resistance to get too detailed—the strength of this piece is in the immediacy of the paint, the suggestion of a quick sketch or a first impression of place.

Holbien Award
Kathryn Wedge, Coming and Going II

(Photo left) When I look at this painting, the words that come to mind are velvety and juicy, which I think comes from the artist’s ability to strike a balance between controlling the medium, and letting it move. For me, this is most evident in the treatment of the ceiling, and the way the floor seems to drip off the front of the composition. I am particularly impressed by the handling of the figures: the way their clothing hangs on their bodies, their weightiness and movements perfectly captured in areas of light and shadow. Overall, a uniformly skilled watercolor piece.

Schmincke Award
Ann Magnusson, Lee, Poet

(Photo right) I think one of the greatest skills any artist can achieve is knowing when to stop painting. I say this because it is the less finished areas of this portrait (for example the books in the background, the sleeve of the shirt) that are just as valuable as the more refined areas (the sitter’s face and hands). This gives the image space to breath, and infuses it with light and energy. The use of line is particularly effective in this composition, especially in the shape of the mouth and the hand, around the ear and in the creases, folds and collar of the shirt. The painting reveals the artist’s agile hand and aptitude for capturing the essence of the person pictured.

Artworks Art and Frame Award
Caitilin Stolle, Barn Door

(Photo left) My favorite aspect of this painting is the way it seems to hover between representation and abstraction, which I think is achieved by the unusual vantage point: that of being inside of a decrepit structure and looking out. The contrast of the light-filled, geometric window openings and the flat, dark areas of paint work to create tension in the composition, a sensation of pushing and pulling in the picture plane. The sinewy lines of vines, and the purple and pinks of the snow that seems to be pushing its way into the foreground further challenges perception. Evocative and skillfully composed, this painting is compelling in both subject matter and style.

Artists’ Choice Award II
Patty Healy, Hand Woven

(Photo right) The level of detail in this painting amazes me, from the suspended, bundled skeins of thread and the vertical lines of the thread in the loom, to the folds in the figure’s shirt and their wispy braid. I’m also drawn to the body language of the weaver—the slight dip of their shoulders, the crossed legs, head bent to their work; I can almost see the determination in the weaver’s face. I applaud the artist’s skillful use of watercolor here, and appreciate the uniqueness of her subject—though the idea of an artist making an image of another artist has a long tradition in art history, the choice to focus not on the image of the artist but on action of making, is really appealing.

Artists’ Choice Award I
Dennis Murnyak, Winter Woods

(Photo left) There is a quickness to the way the paint is applied in this landscape, a sketchy quality that suggests it was made outside and on site. I’m drawn to the rich, earthy browns, and the way they are worked with cool blues and grays—the palette initiates an olfactory memory for me, one of crisp, cold air and the peacefulness of walking outdoors in winter. I love the quiet of this painting, the complexity of its painterly lines and forms, and the way it captures winter light.

Third Place
Mary Nagel Klein, Longing

(Photo right) Casein is handled nimbly and thoughtfully in this intimate and painterly still life. I appreciate the way the layered shadows have an active presence in this painting, as if they were another object in the arrangement. I’m drawn to the expressive brushwork and the subtle repetition of forms here: the circular openings of both the plant’s pot and the fish bowl, and the way the leaf forms mimic the fins of the fish. The color is layered and luscious, and the use of light and the image of water to distort portions of the composition adds complexity and interest. For me, this painting exudes pleasure.

Second Place
Robert Wardle, Butterfly Kisses

(Photo left) Expertly applied watercolor and an imaginative composition work together to create an impressive piece of artwork. The scale left an impression on me, too: at 40×30”, this painting has a serene, yet powerful presence; there is something almost cinematic to me about this image, the way the embracing skeletons are intertwined with swirling Monarch butterflies. It creates a sensation of upward movement, almost as if we’re seeing a still from an animated film. Details such as the suggestion of the night sky in the skulls and throughout the bones, and the way the butterflies leave trails of light along the figures, are magical to me. This painting stirs feelings of hope, fantasy and pure delight.

Best in Show
Z. Feng, Mechanic

(Photo below) My first impression of this portrait is that it seems lovingly painted. I say this because I sense a connection between the artist and the subject, if not in person, in the careful and thoughtful approach of the painter. There are many areas in the composition that belie the artist’s skilled hand—I couldn’t stop looking at the mechanic’s course beard; his soft, wrinkled cheeks, upturned in a slight smile; the striped inside layer of his jacket collar; the beautifully rendered areas of his shadowed face and the highlight on the frame of his glasses. The artist has a keen eye for value, form and line, and they treat their subject with great care and precision. This artwork is equally beautiful and compelling. I’m honored to award it best in show.