Thursday, October 18, 2012

Meet Helen Shafer Garcia

Cabinet of Curiosities sketchbook page by Helen Shafer Garcia
Jane LaFazio here. I'd like to introduce you to my good friend, Helen Shafer Garcia. She is as an artist, illustrator, arts instructor and gardener. As her bio states "Helen’s paintings are emotionally drawn encounter with paint, color and texture that invokes the spirit for a intriguing visual journey. Some of the images recount visuals from Mexico, New Zealand and other lands intertwining legends, flora, fauna and icons. She’s currently working with watercolor, pastel and mixed media creating contemporary images on paper along with a series of Icon folklore triptychs with wood, watermedia and found object construction." You can read the rest of her bio here.
Helen Shafer Garcia

Why do you keep a sketchbook and how often do you work in it I work in my sketchbooks almost every day. 
HSG: I use them to record ideas, make marks, lay down paint, experiment with concepts, and play.

Do you work in just one at a time or do you have several going at once? 
HSG: I keep many journals going at the same time, different sizes and shapes. 

Cabinet of Curiosities sketchbook page by Helen Shafer Garcia
What's your preferred format and preferred medium for using in your sketchbook?
watercolor, pen, pencil, crayon, collage etc? 
 HSG: My idea sketchbooks are larger than my travel journals. I usually use an 11 x 14 inch or a 9 x 12inch. I work on acid free, archival paper that can handle watercolor as well as dry mediums. I usually work with pencil for value studies first, then color compositions with paint or colored pencils. Some are spiral bound, others have traditional binding. Sometimes I start my sketchbooks from back to front. I’m left handed and the spiral bound books get in the way of my hand. My preferred medium is pen and watercolor and I use it in my travel and hiking journals. 

To me, it's very important to use good quality, acid free, archival paper. My sketchbooks are part of my personal bibliotheca and I have not had any issues with yellowing paper for over 40 years. Take the time to choose carefully when buying a sketchbook. 
page from one of Helen Shafer Garcia's hiking journals
How do you use your sketchbook? For example, do you use it to make studies for larger pieces, for experimenting with materials, to practice drawing, or for making beautiful pages as artworks in themselves? 
HSG: The sketchbooks contain my works in progress, my ideas for paintings, small paintings, my notes and thoughts, my poems, and an assortment of ephemera. I also practice my drawing skills all the time and take a small journal traveling and hiking. 

I use handmade paper journals from India for my watercolors with pen lines. I take these out to paint and draw on location. I love the texture and thickness of the paper. These little paintings stay in the journals. Sometimes I’ll display them during an exhibit or show snippets on my blog but I never sell them.
Illustration for a magazine, by Helen Shafer Garcia
Is your sketchbook different from your art-that-is-not-in- the-sketchbook? Is there anything about working in your sketchbook that is different from working on pieces that are not in your sketchbook? 
HSG: The sketchbooks are where all the concepts are started. Ground to speak. Anything can happen in a sketchbook. I have the freedom to create, then shut the book to view later. I can take it with me where ever I go as opposed to a painting that I’m working on.
Illustration for a magazine, by Helen Shafer Garcia
What advice do you have for someone who wants to keep a sketchbook but doesn't know how to begin? 

HSG: Just do’s only paper! Consider these pages like a one else needs to see them. Don’t judge your works, just make a new one on the next page! I always date my sketchbooks for my library. I can then refer to my idea books at a later date and I can see the progress of my drawings. By the lines are still not “straight” after all these years! 
Dragon Lily, journal page from Helen Shafer Garcia


  1. --these paintings are so delicately beautiful!

    always informative and interesting, too, to hear how other artists work...

  2. What beautiful and inspiring work. It is wonderful to read about Helen. Thank you, Jane, for this wonderful post!


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