History of WSO

The Watercolor Society of Oregon [WSO] was founded in 1966 with 38 members and a mission “to further the interest of transparent watercolor painting and to encourage a wider experience, enjoyment, and education to the painter and the viewing public.” Its Bylaws provided for semi-annual meetings in April and September, each hosting a juried show which would travel throughout the state for a year.

Admission to membership was determined by jurying an artist’s works, submitted by slides of the images.  In early years Fall and Spring events were one-day meetings, and only transparent watercolors were admitted to the shows.  In 1975 all aqueous media on paper were eligible for the Spring Show.

Dues were set at $3 per year in 1966, which included the right to submit 3 paintings to a show.  Dues later increased to $5 per year with a $2 entry fee and have periodically increased over the years to coincide with the cost of doing business.

Early jurors for the semi-annual shows were WSO members or local professionals; in 1980 WSO engaged nationally recognized professional artists as jurors.  Each juror conducted a workshop in conjunction with the meeting.  The late Millard Sheets from California, a gracious and knowledgeable artist, was the first. He later returned to jury WSO’s 25th anniversary show in 1985.  One-day meetings eventually expanded to weekend events.

Early shows required matted/shrink-wrapped paintings.  60 were selected and the show was divided into three tours. Each tour of 20 paintings was exhibited in a different part of the state.  In 1972, the Best of Show artist was awarded $5 in addition to the ribbon. By 1975, cash awards had increased to $25 for Sweepstakes and $10 for blue ribbon paintings.  As time went on, awards were expanded to include cash, merchandise, and purchase certificates. Today’s awards are all cash.

Since 1966 WSO’s membership has blossomed thanks to bi-annual events and traveling shows.  By 1985 membership was at 500, increasing to 900 in 2013.  WSO’s 50th Anniversary Celebration was held at the Oregon Gardens in Silverton in the Fall of 2016.  The opportunities to exhibit, participate in peer and professional critiques, workshops, and artistic networking have benefitted WSO members for over five decades.