NAWS Program Highlights the Design Process of Narrative Painter Mary Helsaple

Saguaro Cactus Meet Up by Mary Helsaple. (Courtesy of NAWS)

Have you ever wondered how a successful illustrator plans their visual stories? Mary Helsaple of Sedona has a personal approach to planning the painting of an idea she would like to share with you.

Learn Helsaple’s creative process on April 22 at 9 a.m. at Sedona United Methodist Church at 110 Indian Cliffs Road in Sedona. This program is sponsored by the Northern Arizona Watercolor Society (NAWS), a regional non-profit aquatic arts association with members from Flagstaff to Prescott.


“I’m what you call a narrative painter,” Helsaple said. “For me, it’s about the idea and the story it tells.”

His artistic journey has taken many paths over the years. She co-produced Emmy-winning nature television documentaries, won numerous awards as a distinguished painter, and taught her own version of watercolor journaling at Yavapai College. A common thread running through these creative endeavors has been his desire to tell stories that connect people to nature.

“Every painting has a compositional substructure and an abstract design that is integral to the success or failure of a painting,” Helsaple said.

According to her, one of her strongest skills is applying this design process even before starting a painting. Using original artwork, she will show how she uses drawings and drawing templates to conceive and finalize her painting ideas.


Founded in 1995, NAWS has approximately 150 members who typically meet monthly to celebrate watercolor painting. These meetings feature informative learning topics and artist demonstrations. Additional benefits of membership include access to top-quality workshops, participation in smaller critiquing groups, and an extensive lending DVD library of painting technique videos. NAWS welcomes visitors to its monthly meetings. For more information about NAWS, please email

Information provided by NAWS.

Abdul J. Gaspar