A watercolor painting of a cowboy standing next to a horse
Texas artist Stephen Zhang's painting "Break" earned him the top prize in the Springfield Art Museum's 62nd Watercolor USA exhibition. (Photo by Springfield Art Museum)

For the third time in the last five years, Stephen Zhang has taken the top prize in the Springfield Art Museum’s Watercolor USA annual juried exhibition.

Zhang, from Plano, Texas, receives the Kenneth M. Shuck Memorial $3,000 Cash Award for his entry, “Break.” You can see Zhang’s painting, other award winners and more at Watercolor USA, running June 10-September 3 at the Springfield Art Museum (1111 East Brookside Drive).

“It is often said that watercolor is a difficult medium,” Keiko Tanabe, this year’s judge, who is also an acclaimed artist, said in a press release. “I have heard different reasons but the most common one is that it is hard to control and make corrections. But when I see works like this that were made with such confident brush marks and brilliant layers of cumulative colors, I know it is a testament to the artist’s dedication to this challenging medium and years of training.”

Born in China, Zhang graduated from Luxun Academy of Fine Arts. He received his MFA degree from the University of North Texas. Zhang has been painting watercolor for more than 30 years, under the tutelage of his father, Defu Zhang, and the late professor Rob Erdle, whose work is included in the museum’s permanent collection.

Zhang is an assistant professor at the University of North Texas and has served as a creative director for companies Fossil and Filson, as well as Lodge 26 Branding Agency. He has won numerous honors for his watermedia works, including awards from the Signature Watermedia International Exhibition, the Transparent Watercolor Society of America, the Chinese National Art Exhibition and Art Olympia (Japan). Zhang’s work has been featured in “American Art Collector,” “International Artist” and “Watercolor Artist” magazines.

Other top award winners at this year’s Watercolor USA include:

  • Greg G. Thielen Memorial $2,000 Cash Award: J. (Jie) Li, New York, “Fire and Desire XVII”
  • Bill Armstrong Memorial $1,500 Cash Award: C. Normant, California, “Valley Town”
  • Robert E. Goodier Memorial $1,000 Cash Award for Traditional Transparent Watercolor: Bev Jozwiak, Washington, “Song of Hope”

This is the 62nd year for Watercolor USA. The nationally known exhibition is open to artists from all 50 states and U.S. territories. Organizers say Watercolor USA seeks to discover what is new and what is next in the world of contemporary American watermedia.

A total of 224 artists from 41 states submitted 366 entries to Watercolor USA. Tanabe selected 70 works by 70 artists, representing 25 states, for inclusion in the exhibition. Ten artists from Missouri were chosen, including Springfield’s Alicia Farris and John Fitzgibbon. Republic’s Kevin Goddard and Nixa’s Micki Pierce were also selected for Watercolor USA.

In addition to the Springfield Art Museum awards, the Watercolor USA Honor Society provides 11 additional $300 cash awards, five $500 Board of Directors cash awards and three artist materials award packages, valued at $500 each. These awards were selected by Watercolor USA Honor Society Board Treasurer John Keeling.

Jeff Kessinger

Jeff Kessinger is the Reader Engagement Editor for the Springfield Daily Citizen, and the voice of its daily newsletter SGF A.M. He covered sports in southwest Missouri for the better part of 20 years, from young athletes to the pros. The Springfield native and Missouri State University alumnus is thrilled to be doing journalism in the Queen City, helping connect the community with important information. He and wife Jamie daily try to keep a tent on the circus that is a blended family of five kids and three cats. More by Jeff Kessinger