For ten hours each week, artist Helen K Davie can be found at Studios on the Park, 1130 Pine Street, in Paso Robles. She enjoys greeting locals and tourists who visit from around our state, our country, and the world. She says, “I love finding out where people are from, why they are here, and what they do. We share stories, I answer questions about my work, and also about the art of my studio partners, Bob Simola, and Betty Wick. As we talk we make a connection. I’m energized by the interaction. Although I have a studio at home, this is where I get most of my work done. I always bring in something to work on. Visitors often watch me as I’m creating a piece, and many will comment that they wish they could find the time to pursue an artistic project. I tell them, you will never FIND the time, you have to MAKE it.”
Studios on the Park is a space filled with separate studios housing a variety of artists working in different mediums providing an atmosphere of inspiration, learning, and sharing. Add in the monthly change of shows in the center atrium of the building and you have what Helen calls “an opportunity for cross-pollination.”
She also credits the encouragement she receives from monthly meetings with a painting group called ARTCENCO, and another group, The Kiddie Writers, composed of Children’s and Young Adult authors to stoke her creative fires. “We have forged strong friendships, and by connecting on a regular basis we stay focused and productive. We show our paintings, or read our work, then offer and receive constructive criticism. It is an incredible benefit and demonstration of support.”
Helen’s first career is illustrating children’s books. She has had more than a dozen published with Random House, Little, Brown, Orchard Books, and HarperCollins. One of her early books, The Star Maiden, written by Barbara Juster Esbensen, was awarded the 1988 Minnesota Children’s Book of the Year and remained in print for over 16 years. Now she has added a second career- exploring creativity and having fun.
About 12 years ago a friend invited her to attend a meeting of the Central Coast Printmakers, a group affiliated with the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art. She replied, “I don’t do printmaking,” and her friend answered, ‘That doesn’t matter– we eat well.’ So, Helen went to the meeting. The congenial Printmakers shared an array of their tasty homemade snacks. They talked about plans to put together a cookbook of appetizer recipes that would be illustrated with 4” x 4” prints. Helen came up with a design, then carved out a linoleum block to make a print of one of her cats, Cory, seated with little squares flying around him to go along with her recipe for Cory’s Spinach Squares. Helen had so much fun and she was hooked.
Helen’s prints are now in private collections internationally. Here at Studios, you’ll find dozens of her original linocut prints on the walls as well as signed copies of some of the children’s books she’s illustrated for sale.
When asked about the making the transition from illustrations done primarily in watercolor to printmaking, Helen says, “The analogy that I use is that musicians often play more than one instrument. Changing mediums is like changing instruments. It’s an excellent way to re-awaken your creative powers. Instead of falling back on the easy or the tried-and-true, a new medium requires me to think about how to use it in the best way to convey my ideas. Recently I’ve been using watercolor crayons along with gouache (opaque watercolor). The crayons take me back to being 5 years old and I feel free to play! I’d like to encourage everyone to try new things, to explore and expand their creativity.”
For those who need a jumpstart, Helen highly recommends the book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love. Gilbert writes, “A creative life is an amplified life. It’s a bigger life, a happier life, an expanded life, and a hell of a lot more interesting life. Living in this manner—continually and stubbornly bringing forth the jewels that are hidden within you—is a fine art, in and of itself.”
Helen invites you to stop by Studios on the Park, chat with the artists, view their work, and come away feeling inspired.