Watercolor by Numbers

Artists find camaraderie, inspiration in Southwest Washington Watercolor Society

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Above is "Flying into Portland" by watercolor artist Lee Baughman, a member of the Southwest Washington Watercolor Society (SWWS). This painting, contributed by the SWWS, will be shown during the society's April show at the Angst Gallery in Vancouver.

Camas artist Barbara Hope remembers the days before she learned to master her artistic medium.

“I loved watercolors. I would go into the museum and was attracted to them,” Hope, 72, says. “But when I tried to do it, it looked like a 4 year old’s … so I put it away.”

Then, in her 50s, Hope went to visit her best friend, Vancouver artist Mary Griffin, who was living in Texas at that time.

Griffin, a lifelong artist who excels at watercolors, introduced Hope to the art form she had always loved so much. This time, Hope was hooked on trying to create her own watercolor paintings.

“I can’t draw, but I love to paint,” Hope says. “Watercolor is not a forgiving medium — with oil you can fix it — but it has its own magic.”

Griffin agrees.

“I’ve done some type of art my whole life,” Griffin, 67, says. “When my youngest child went to college in ’95, I signed up for a drawing class.”

She was trying to conquer her “empty nest” feelings, but Griffin reignited her youthful passion for creating art and soon learned how to incorporate her drawing skills into watercolors.

“Watercolors set me free,” Griffin says. “I love the way the colors run into each other. For me, if I try to force it, it doesn’t work. It’s better when I let go.”

Sometimes, Griffin will even step away from a partially finished piece and return to it later, when she’s feeling inspired.

Both women, who have pieces at the two-month “From the Heart” art show featured at the Second Story Gallery throughout the rest of this month, are members of the Southwest Washington Watercolor Society (SWWS), a group that includes a wide variety of artistic talents, including several Camas-Washougal artists.

If you go

The artists of the Southwest Washington Watercolor Society, including several Camas-Washougal area watercolorists, have artwork being shown at a Camas gallery throughout March and a downtown Vancouver gallery in April. Below is more information about both shows. Camas Watercolor Show

What: “From the Heart,” a show featuring artwork from 24 members of the regional watercolor society

Where: Second Story Gallery, above Camas library, at 625 N.E. Fourth Ave., Camas

When: Through the month of March, during regular library hours

More information:

Vancouver Watercolor Show

What: SWWS Exhibition Show, featuring more than 100 watercolor and mixed-media artwork

Where: Angst Gallery, 1013 Main St., Vancouver

When: April 4-29

More information: or

The 40-year-old watercolor society, which started in Vancouver in 1979, states in its promotional material that its goal is to “bring fine art to the community through exhibits and shows, and to encourage a wider experience and education for both artists and the community.”

SWWS includes artists in Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Lewis, Pacific, Skamania and Wahkiakum counties and is always welcoming new members.

The women say they enjoy the watercolor society because the group members often encourage each other, give critical feedback and help put on group shows like the one up at Second Story Gallery, above the Camas Public Library, at 625 N.E. Fourth Ave., Camas.

In fact, the SWWS artists are already planning their next show — the SWWS Spring Exhibition, which runs April 4-29 at the Angst Gallery, at 1013 Main St., in Vancouver. This art show will display more than 100 watercolor and mixed-media artworks from SWWS juried members.

Finding venues to show their art is sometimes challenging, Hope says.

“We need a big space when we do (group) shows like this,” she said recently, speaking inside the Second Story Gallery in downtown Camas, which is showing works from 24 SWWS artists throughout March.

In addition to the galleries already mentioned, Vancouver Art Space in the Vancouver Mall, as well as Clark College have both supported watercolor artists in the past, Hope says.

Right now, the SWWS includes about 160 members. Some are considered “associate” members, while others are at a higher skill level and are juried members, who have more voting rights within the watercolor society.

Many SWWS teach workshops and art classes, including Griffin, who has taught throughout Southwest Washington.

To learn more about the regional watercolor society, visit To see artwork by 24 members of the society, visit the Second Story Gallery above the Camas library during regular library hours: from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Wednesday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday. Or visit

Barbara Hope, Camas artist (Photo courtesy of SWWS)
Barbara Hope, Camas artist (Photo courtesy of SWWS) Photo
Mary Griffin, Vancouver artist (Kelly Moyer/Post Record)
Mary Griffin, Vancouver artist (Kelly Moyer/Post Record) Photo