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Meet the Artist: Michael Helfen

Posted on July 16 2020

Meet the Artist: Michael Helfen

A self-taught artist, Michael started painting twenty years ago at his wife's suggestion and hasn't stopped since. He draws his biggest inspiration from Cape Cod's landscape and as a result, has painted several locations within this peninsula he proudly calls home. A painter and photographer, he loves traveling but can't picture himself living anywhere but Cape Cod, which he says "always offers many surprises". 

We talked to Michael about his work and his creative process. Find it below! 



When did you start painting and why?

I started painting about 20 years ago. I was a full-time English and literature teacher, drama director, and part-time photographer. I decided to try my hand at painting the things I saw, or wrote about, or worked with on a stage. As my wife said to me, a stage is nothing but a large canvas. Things seemed to come together for me. Twenty years later, I keep practicing, painting, showing my work, and selling. Still haven't taken lessons.


Do you paint on location or at home/studio?

I photograph and sketch on-site, then paint my pieces in my studio at home using the computer to see the image as I saw it in real-time.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

Being featured in the "Cape Cod Art" Annual Magazine in 2018.

Click here to read it.

You live in Sandwich, MA, did you always live on the Cape?

My wife and I have lived in the same home for more than 50 years.

Private Property cape cod beach painting

What’s your favorite place on the Cape?

Any place I find beauty. The entire region of towns has something special, whether it be dunes, marshes, or ocean sunsets or sunrises. 

What’s been the biggest lesson along the way?

There is no one way to paint something. Each artist has his or her own way of expressing his or her personality. Artistic license is what drives me and my work. What matters most is what the viewer sees, not what I see when I paint. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Did you paint during quarantine? How has the pandemic affected you?

I promised myself to paint every day, and I have. I have posted new work and sketch paintings online every day since March 17th. I set it up the afternoon before so I do not have to think too much about the process.

Coastal beach oil painting by cape cod artist

Favorite Cape Cod restaurant?

There are lots of good ones but my wife and I do not go out to restaurants very often. Our favorites when we do go out are Not Your Average Joes, Kreme n' Korne, Scargo Café, and Wicked

What’s your advice to new artists?

Paint through the pain and blank moments. Your first effort may not be your best, but do not be afraid to start over.

What’s one thing you want people to know about you?

I'm always content with myself after I paint. I always learn something about who I am while I paint. Painting is my meditation.

Most importantly, my wife is my muse. Every artist should have that voice who will tell him or her what they feel about the piece of work. Trust, honesty, and love are all components of being a muse.


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