The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

February 1, 2014

One-woman show | Johnstown artist, educator's work inspired by positive changes in lifestyles


JOHNSTOWN — An artist and educator from Johnstown’s 8th Ward will unveil a one-woman show at the Community Arts Center of Cambria County in Westmont.

Jaime L. Helbig will exhibit “Transformation,” a collection of more than a dozen works representing Helbig’s years of depicting local portraiture.

An opening reception will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday at the arts center, 1217 Menoher Blvd.

The show will be on display through March 7.

“Transformation” came about as a result of Helbig’s involvement with a group of individuals who had gone through a recovery program that was hosted at her church.

Amazing changes

She saw amazing changes that took place in this group of otherwise hopeless people who had been labeled as failures by family members and friends.

“I extended my selection of models beyond a recovery program and opened up my selection to anybody who had gone through personal struggles, but chose to highlight one important element,” Helbig said.

“All of my models had one aspect of their experience in common. They all believed that their recovery came supernaturally.”

Helbig, who was born and raised in Johnstown, loves to study people and analyze their individual stories.

“Through this analysis, I have completed work that describes a survival of struggles, healing from addictions and the overcoming of human flaws,” she said.

Her work is inspired by the positive changes in lifestyles.

Part of the process of what she presents is motivated by the purging of her model’s emotions by way of a reflection; some upon their past, their present and sometimes their future.

‘Becky’ a favorite

While all the portraits are special to Helbig, including a self-portrait, her favorite is “Becky.”  

“I think it showcases my talent best because it captures the emotion of the subject as she stands near stained glass, which symbolizes the different changes in peoples’ lives and the strength to handle those changes,” she said.

Helbig’s painting process begins with a selection of the perfect setting – one that would be symbolic and would feature the model in a positive way, all the while keeping lighting and drama in mind. The process continues by evoking emotion.

Reflecting on recovery

“I ask for the models to reflect upon their recovery,” she said. “My models have expressed emotions of reflection, remorse, and some show a sense of victory by showing a joyous expression upon their faces.”

Rose Mary Hagadus, arts center executive director, expects the collection of portraits to evoke a response among viewers.

“These portraits convey quite a bit of emotion,” Hagadus said.

“They are not sad so to speak, but more periods of reflection for each of these individuals.”

Personality, spirit

There also is an element of large scale, which presents challenges inherent in painting a person’s likeness while capturing their personality and spirit.

“What is remarkable about Jaime’s work is the size of her oil paintings, which measure about 3 feet by 4 feet,” Hagadus said.

“It’s unusual to paint in that size with oil because that is a lot of canvas to cover.”

Helbig estimates that she has about 40 hours invested in each portrait.

“I hope the show would generate some commissions,” she said.

“I will have business cards on hand or people may visit my website at”

She developed a love for the arts early in her life.

Parental influence

Her mother, a pastel artist, and her father, an architectural draftsman, had a great deal of influence upon her career as an artist.

Through the years, she has honed her skills as a contemporary figurative portrait painter in a traditional medium.

While Helbig has worked in pencil, watercolor and acrylics, oil paints have been an avenue to which she is able to paint her dramatically lit figures.

After receiving a bachelor’s degree in art education in 2003 from Indiana University of Pennsylvania, she earned a master’s degree in fine art in 2013 from the Academy of Art University.

Throughout Helbig's studies, work has been closely related to the family bond and religious ties that had been so grounded within her throughout her life.

Photography plays a prominent role in Helbig's creations. She works in an analogous split-complementary color scheme with a clear photograph.

“Lighting is significant,” she said.

“A strong light source is not only symbolic, but it also illuminates the figures, thus capturing the dramatic effect that I am interested in capturing.”

To communicate symbolic meaning, she concentrates on the painting’s composition, environment, pose and lighting.

Helbig is drawn to oil paints because of its flow of the brush against a traditionally stretched canvas.

She hopes to continue the series as an ongoing development of work.

“Since all of humanity is born into struggles, models will always be plenteous,” she said.

“I make a statement about hope. This will always be my ultimate goal.”

Helbig has had opportunities to teach all age groups. Her educational experience stretches from public schools to arts centers, including an adjunct professor at Pennsylvania Highlands Community College in Richland Township.

Tom Lavis covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on LavisTD.


Who: Jaime L. Helbig.

What: “Transformation,” exhibit of     portraits.

Where: Community Arts Center of Cambria County, 1217 Menoher Blvd., Westmont.

When: Friday through March 7.

Opening reception: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Admission: Free.