Monday, April 24, 2017


Rachel Rubin Wolf
Program Chair, Claudia Taylor announced the April monthly program speaker, Rachel Rubin Wolf, book editor for North Light Books.  She has a Degree in Fine Art, majoring in Painting from Temple University, Kansas City Art Institute and the Philadelphia College of Art.  After taking time for family and career, Rachel has recently returned to painting.  Among her many interests are Biblical, Rabbinic and modern Hebrew, traveling and many outdoor adventures.

Her career began at North Light Books in 1989, where she started the Splash series in 1990.  She masterminded the production, judging, editing and overall design and layout of the books that have now entered their 19th year of publication.  She extended her influence to many other North Light books.  She has also took on the role of Acquisitions editor in past few years.  She writes for many books and publications.

Her personal art is displayed in her oil paintings.  She explores subjects and stories that bring out her sense of humor.  Her recent series of suburban geese exemplifies this expression in her work.

Rachel’s Splash series started input from David Lewis and Greg Albert, also of North Light Books.  Prior to Splash, art was represented primarily in instruction books.  This new concept in books put the best watercolors of the day in one book, which just featured the paintings.  She began by contacting all the watercolor societies she could find.  There was no internet to assist her research.  She invited artists by mail and through advertising in the Artist’s Magazine.  The participation grew to two to three thousand entries for each year.  Initially, the submittals required slides and were judged on light table. They quickly switched to a projector to review by showing on a wall.  Now it is all digital.  In part because of the internet, there has been a big surge in entries from Asia in the past few years, as well as India.   The typical subjects have focused on animals, figures, flowers, portraits, cities, landscapes, still lifes, abstracts, misc.   Rachel pointed out that if one is submitting an abstract painting, it needs to be good.

Rachel listed some critical ‘Dos and Don’ts’ for submittals to not only the Splash series, but submittals to regional and national watercolor shows for our consideration:
·         Image must be in focus;
·         Don’t show background;
·         Make sure files are right side up;
·         Don’t pick ‘popular’ (read Trendy) subjects;
·         Strive for original and interesting compositions;
·         Send in your best work;
·         Provide accurate personal info;
·         Don’t miss deadline;
·         Respond to acceptance email to confirm your receipt of their email.
      For the Splash books, once accepted, you will need to submit better quality image for printing.  One must pay attention to how their submittal reads digitally.  Artist must take liability.
      Rachel revealed some of her personal and professional observations in the kinds of things that influence her during her judging process:
·         Realistic paintings must be drawn well;
·         Art should be for pleasure
·         Interesting compositions will get more attention;
·         Originality is very important;
·         Compositions within subjects should be explored;
·         Some subjects get more submissions.  They go in trends over time;
·         Subject needs to be fresh;
·         She has 5-6 rounds of selecting images.
·         There is always a level of subjectivity in judging.
·         Naturalness  of an image wins over self-conscious or labored pieces.

Rachel reviewed a series of painting comparatives; contrasting paintings that were accepted into the Splash books with paintings that didn’t make it.  Each pair of paintings were discussed for positive and negative compositional aspects.  Rachel emphasized that by the time she sees a painting in her judging process, it has already been vetted by her staff so that she only sees the quality pieces.  As she went through her thought process of analyzing each set of paintings, Rachel explained how she measures the success or lack thereof of the paintings she reviews.  Important points of emphasis are:
·         Compositions need to be strong graphically. 
·         Values are often overlooked.  They need to be strongly composed.
·         Detail work within the value structure is important.
·         Differentiate between illustration and fine art.
·         Uniqueness of viewing angle often differentiates good work from great work.

Rachel confessed that the process of judging paintings for her books or for shows is always going to be subjective.  Strong work will usually win out over less convincing pieces.  She wanted to offer support for everyone to take a chance and put your work out there.  To paraphrase a sports expression, “you miss out on 100% of the shows that you don’t try to enter”.

Having Rachel Rubin Wolf come to meet with the Greater Cincinnati Watercolor Society was a great coup.  She lives and works here in Cincinnati.  She is a major player in the national watercolor scene.  The wisdom and insight that she provided to our membership was invaluable to those in our Club that aspire to subject our work to artistic critique in regional and national competition.  We look forward to continuing our relationship with Rachel and to invite her to be a regular contributor to the success of our Club. 

See you at the next meeting on May 3rd, where we welcome Peggy Bishop.  Peggy is the daughter of our own Marilyn Bishop.  Peggy is a realist who paints in a variety of subjects including seascapes, landscapes, animals, portraits, still life and florals.  In other words, she does it all !!  Looking forward to hearing from her.

Submitted by Tom Schroeder, Secretary, Greater Cincinnati Watercolor Society, April 2017
Photographs courtesy Jane Hittinger and Tom Schroeder

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