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Thursday, April 18, 2013 12:51 am

Wonderful world of Illinois watercolors

Statewide contest honors Skip Watts’ support of arts

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“Honfleur Harbor Market” by Tom Francesconi of Homewood, Ill.

Carol Watts and Mary Selinski enjoyed a watercolor class together years ago. Neither could have guessed that in 2012-13 they would collaborate on a sizable statewide watercolor exhibit and contest.

Carol owns Watts Copy Systems, headquartered at 2860 Stanton Ave. She and her late husband, Bowen E. “Skip” Watts, have supported the arts in central Illinois for years. So several years ago when Mary, of the Sangamon Watercolor Society, found herself with only 48 hours to find display space for an exhibit she was coordinating, Carol came to mind. Fate had it that Carol would answer Mary’s call (she was grieving the recent loss of Skip at the time and not taking calls), and the Sangamon Watercolor Society Skip Watts Memorial Exhibit was born.

To raise awareness of the competition and exhibit and kick off the event, a watercolor exhibit featuring portraitures of Skip by local watercolorists was unveiled at the site in July 2012. The Watts building works surprisingly well for an exhibit space – it is spacious and inviting. And Selinski and contest co-chair Ellie Unterbrink were given enormous office space and all the equipment they needed to complete all the logistics of a competition and exhibit this size.

The Skip Watts Memorial Exhibit Opening Reception, the grand finale, will be held Saturday, April 20, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the Watts office. Fifty paintings by some of the best watercolorists in Illinois will be unveiled. The public is invited and encouraged to attend this milestone show in honor of the local businessman and supporter of the arts.

“Flowers and Shadows” by John Gabb of Effingham, Ill.
The display will grace four rooms and three hallways. A huge monitor in still another room will feature a talk by contest judge and internationally known St. Louis watercolorist Paul Jackson. Besides numerous other prestigious awards and accomplishments, Jackson designed the Missouri state quarter, was featured as one of the Master Painters of the World in International Artist Magazine and was a 2009 invited juror for the American Watercolor Society’s 142nd Annual International Competition.

Out of the 50 juried finalists selected by Jackson, awards will be announced during the reception for best of show ($3,000) and other categories of prize-money winners. More than 60 local businesses and individuals donated $10,000 in prize money that will be given away. In addition to the talk, exhibit and award announcements, all entries submitted to the show, approximately 120 watercolors, will be projected for viewing.

Each of the following watercolorists from Springfield is one of the 50 finalists whose work was selected for the Watts Memorial exhibit: Earl D. Meadows, Mary Selinski, Carolyn Owens Sommer, Kevin Booten, Douglas Brackney, Fran Byers and Evelyn Wilson. Others from nearby towns include Debbie Megginson, Auburn; Janet Smith, Oakford; Louisa Boshardy, Chatham; Janice DiGirolamo, Athens; Priscilla Kluge, Rochester; and Elizabeth Trone, Aneita Gates and Kate Becker, Petersburg.

If you can’t make it to the grand opening reception, the exhibit will be on display at Watts Copy Systems through May 24. The public can view it weekdays during business hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Bear Creek Afternoon Reflections” by Sharon Zimmerman, Argenta, Ill.


Sangamon Watercolor Society is a nonprofit watercolor group that sponsors two major workshops in Springfield each year, holds plein air painting gatherings regularly and exhibits six times a year at the Hoogland Center for the Arts boardroom in conjunction with the art exhibit at H.D. Smith Gallery.

Watts Office Systems began in Springfield 30 years ago by Carol and Skip in the basement of their home. The company now employs more than 70 people and has eight satellite offices in Illinois, with Carol at the helm.

Contact Anita Stienstra at astienstra@illinoistimes.com

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