About Northwest
Watercolor Society

Our Mission

To promote and elevate the art of watermedia and to encourage the growth and creativity of our artist members as we remain a prime artistic resource.

The Beginning

It was the turn of the 20th century and many local Seattle artists were painting the times in watercolor. Watercolor was a perfect medium for the Pacific NW with its gray and rainy days.

In 1939, three co-founders, Vara Grube, Dorothy Milne Rising and Florence Harrison Nesbit, along with Paul Immel, Al Dunn, James Huston, Dale Goss and Z. Vanessa Helder, formed the Northwest Watercolor Society. These eight were dedicated to celebrating watercolor and its magical wonder.

Throughout the decades many noteworthy watercolor artists joined the society. Some were nationally known, like Irwin Caplan and Mark Tobey. To learn more about the fascinating history of NWWS, treat yourself to a copy of the beautifully illustrated book by David F. Martin, A Fluid Tradition: Northwest Watercolor Society…the First 75 Years.

In its first 75 years, NWWS has grown from a regional society to an international one hosting two major exhibitions each year:

The Annual International Open Exhibition, which has drawn members from around the world, gains in stature each year. This exhibit also draws international jurors who often find it difficult selecting paintings because of the high number of quality entries submitted.

The Waterworks Membership Exhibition is exclusively for NWWS members and showcases some of the best of the Society’s talented artists.


NWWS has grown into the internationally recognized, historically rich organization of today with over 1,000 members. It has been recognized by Artists Magazine as one of the ten most prominent watercolor societies in North America. Like any organization NWWS has had to change with the times and the society has moved steadfastly into the 21st century:

Social Media
NWWS is active on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter – creating a community that celebrates the beauty and challenge of watermedia.

More Than a Meeting
Our eight general meetings a year are now hosted online, boosting our average attendance from – at most – 85 to 95 participants to at times over 300 participants. We have members all over the world who are now part of the NWWS family.

Modernizing Our Exhibitions
Beginning with the 2018 Waterworks Membership Exhibition, NWWS began accepting paintings not framed under glass, allowing for a more personal connection with viewers. Accepted art must still be professional in appearance, but this change encouraged more diverse presentations of watermedia art.

Looking Forward…

The original 20th century members were innovative and wanted to celebrate watercolor. In the 21st century, NWWS continues the tradition of connecting with artists and electronically promoting watercolor and other watermedia throughout the world. NWWS is flexible, embraces technology, and we invite diverse and creative artists to join our celebration of amazing art from around the world. To become a member and find out more about membership benefits, click here.