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Different strokes 

'Go Hawaiian,' 'Fish,' 'Bad Girl' in watercolor show at ASI.

'GO HAWAIIAN': At the Arkansas Studies Institute.
  • 'GO HAWAIIAN': At the Arkansas Studies Institute.

I have a watercolor confession to make. I am not a fan of the accidental made intentional. I like watercolors that are controlled by the artist, rather than the other way around. This makes me picky. Sometimes I'll skip a watercolor exhibit.

But I didn't skip the "Mid-Southern Watercolorists" 40th annual juried exhibition at the Arkansas Studies Institute, and I was well rewarded. These artists have won the war with their medium and the River Market district gallery highlights just how different their battle plans can be. Dean Mitchell — a great watercolor artist himself whose work can be found at Hearne Fine Art — was the judge.

Jacquelyn Kaucher won the Arvest Bank Gold Award for her large and tricky "Fish," a batiky composition of loosely drawn and tightly composed fishes, with the judicious use of bits of sparkling something representing the glint of scales. It's huge, painted on a scale (no pun intended) not easily achieved in watercolor.

I kept going back to a smaller watercolor by Margaret Harrell of Mountain View. Harrell uses watercolor like acrylic, overpainting with highlights and using a woodcut-like stroke. A man on a horse is passing a building; his reflection in a window precedes him. I'm not horse-crazy, or cowboy-crazy, or cinderblock-building-crazy, but I really like this painting because of Harrell's technique.

I'm not sure why a Michigan artist is in the Mid-Southern Watercolorists show, but I was glad to see Fredrick Bidigare's "Bad Girl" (which I believe is erroneously titled "New Day" in the free catalog that comes with the show), an image of a shadowy woman yielding a knife. A block of red in the lower right-hand corner and a jag on her face and the end of the knife are juxtaposed with the otherwise gray and black composition. I love how Bidigare has suggested movement in her arm.

There's not a single random flow of color in Htun Tin's "Go Hawaiian," a super painting of storefronts on a sun-bathed city street; this California artist is as skilled in light, shadow and hard-edge landscape as juror Mitchell.

There are many notable works in the show — Sue Harvey's "Burst of Summer," which escapes the floral genre by shoving the lillies into one corner and letting them trail off into abstracted blooms; Joyce Hartmann's "At the All You Can Eat Buffet," a pen and watercolor illustration; Barbara Edward's "Carolina Wrens," a Diebenkorn-meets-bird done in paint thick enough to scrape; Ron Licklider's "Flapper," a portrait in washes of color. You can preview the work on the MSW website, midsouthernwatercolorists.com.

The third Friday of the month draws nigh, which means galleries in the Argenta neighborhood of North Little Rock are gearing up for a night of ArtWalk fans. Here's the July 16 roster: At Greg Thompson Fine Art, ASU professor Roger Carlisle is showing his work in a show called "Light in the Landscape." Ketz Gallery features the work of neopointillist (my moniker, not necessarily one he'd chose) Tim Jacob, and pastel artist Virmarie DePoyster will demonstrate how she works at the Thea Foundation and the 2nd floor THEArtists Studios will be open for a meet-and-greet. Look for other artists up and down Main Street as well.

On Saturday, July 17, Gallery 26 will host an opening reception for artists Becki Lamascus and Katherine Strause, who are showing paintings and mixed media work there through Sept. 14. Lamascus' work plays with the nasty, brutish and short facts of life with a touch of humor; Strause touches on our common history in her work inspired by old photographs. The reception is 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.; the Winston Family Orchestra will play.

Speaking of DePoyster, a note on her blog pointed us to an exhibit at the South Arkansas Arts Center in El Dorado. The 2010 Annual Juried Exhibit was this year judged by David Houston, chief curator at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art in New Orleans. He chose 38 works (including one by DePoyster) from 347 entries from artists in Arkansas and Louisiana and states on the East and West coasts as well. An award ceremony and reception is Saturday at the SAAC.

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