Helen Burton honored as member of the National Watercolor Society
by Special to the Banner
Sep 19, 2011 | 1202 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Helen Burton
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Helen Burton of Cleveland has been honored with a Signature Membership in the National Watercolor Society, considered one of the most prestigious art organizations in the world.

Burton painted a new watercolor specifically for the 91st annual International Exhibition and entered it in the competition along with more than 1,000 other artists around the world.

The president of the National Watercolor Society, Mike Bailey, personally telephoned Burton with the exciting news on Sept. 12. Burton said, “His hearty congratulations made my day!”

After 27 years of painting with watercolor Burton called the special honor “the highlight of my entire art career.”

“I just saw the list of the artists who are in the exhibition. It is interesting that seven are from China, one from Australia, one from South Africa and one from the United Kingdom — definitely an international group,” Burton noted.

“I am the only artist from Tennessee. There are 27 states represented with the most artists from California — the site of the exhibition and home of the National Watercolor Society in San Pedro.”

The jurors, Ted Nuttall, chairman, Mary Ann Beckwith and Judy Morris selected just 100 paintings from more than 1,000 entries. Their unanimous decision on the first round of voting set a new record. Burton’s work is included in that elite 10 percent.

Signature Membership is normally achieved by acceptance into three separate exhibitions. National offers an alternate opportunity. The artist whose work is accepted for the exhibition is invited to submit three more paintings that equal the quality and consistency of the accepted piece for review by the jurors.

If jurors agree the pieces meet those qualifications, the artist is invited to become a signature member. This means that he or she can put the initials of the organization after his or her signature on their paintings in recognition of this standing.

“Seamen of the Seine” is the title of Burton’s painting in the NWS show. It depicts a bridge in Paris that has an impressive sculpture of two seamen struggling to retrieve their boating equipment after an apparent shipwreck.

She photographed this scene while on a riverboat tour of the city, and knew she had to portray the emotion of those figures in a painting. Because the iron bridge and cast-iron sculpture are a grey-green color, her painting is almost monochromatic and sets the melancholy mood of the subject. The painting is entirely transparent watercolor with no opaque paint or white paint used.

The three paintings sent for review needed to be related to the Seamen. Burton had another Paris bridge painting, “Siren of the Seine” already completed. But she needed to come up with two more similar paintings, and had just two weeks to do that.

She researched her travel photos and found two of Bernini’s fountain in Rome that had figures and water, but no bridge. It represented the four major rivers of the world. Burton chose “Ganges” from Asia and “Plata” from America, naming them “River God of Navona I” and “River God of Navona II” because the fountain was the centerpiece of the Piazza Navona.

The exhibition opens on Oct. 22 when the new signature members will be presented and awards will be announced at the reception; it continues until Dec. 3 at the NWS’s own gallery in San Pedro, Calif.