Too many people, when stuck in a waiting room, spend the time head down, eyes glazed, fingers swiping as they scroll through their phone.

Not so Helen Boland. The Walla Walla artist carries sketch pad, pen, pencils, even brush and portable paints with her everywhere she goes. Everything she sees, every place she visits, provides inspiration to capture the world around her on paper.

“Waiting in airports or for appointments are opportunities to sketch, capture characters and scenes, and practice technique,” Boland says.

“Sketching helps me focus and occupies me while waiting. There is no boredom or impatience. Sketching helps me to be present in the moment.”

This form of daily art practice, she adds, increases her awareness of color, light and shadow, in addition to fluidity and attention to form. By the time she gets officially behind the easel — which may be at her studio/house, or in the forest as she paints plein air — she embarks upon a more detailed and concentrated form of artistic expression.

“I work in watercolor, ink, acrylics, pastel and also collage,” Boland says.

“As a retired science teacher, homestead farmer and lifelong naturalist, I focus on art that reflects my love of animals, nature and landscape. I move between detail, realism, and impression.”

Her habit of sketching, drawing and painting anytime, anywhere, stems from when she was “an often ill but oddly energetic child.

“My mother frequently handed me crayons, pencils and a pad to pacify me during wait time in doctors’ offices or during long visits with relatives when all that was spoken was Portuguese.”

She describes drawing as a permissible activity when she was hospitalized or ill with fever. When convalescing outside, she took note of minute details of light, shadow and color. She even took advantage of fevers, which brought her view slightly out of focus and allowed her to observe the surrounding world as if it were a Monet painting.

“This is my foundation as an artist as well as a biologist,” Boland says, explaining that while science took the lead in her professional career, she often used art expression as a means of processing, understanding and teaching scientific concepts. Now retired, she focuses on painting full time, in fulfillment of a promise she made to herself years ago while pursuing her professional teaching career, raising a family and running a small homestead farm.

“My paintings are like my offspring that I set free. I have a true experience with each one, and they all reflect a piece of me and a moment in my life.

“When I paint a person or an animal, I speak to it, and in a way it speaks back. I develop a love and a relationship through the painting process.

“And then I let them go.”

Some of the places where Boland has let her paintings go are collectors’ homes in Walla Walla and Eastern Washington, Massachusetts, Colorado, California, Canada and a goat farm in New Jersey, among others.

She has regularly participated in the Artwalla Art Squared event and has been a featured artist in the organization’s First Friday Pop Up.

She has shown her work at art walks and events throughout Walla Walla, Dayton and Tri-Cities. And for the last 1½ years, she has participated in Sunday Self Portrait, an international Facebook group in which people from all over the world post their portrait, created from their image in a mirror, on Sundays.

“I have posted one every Sunday for the past year and a half. That’s a lot of pictures of me!

“I have learned so much about the lives, experience and art techniques from all over the world. This helps me keep perspective.

“It also has improved my skill at drawing the face, the same captive face, week after week. They all don’t show an accurate physical likeness of me, but they all show some aspect of me. I can look at the portraits and assess how I am doing emotionally and perhaps spiritually.”

Originally from rural Massachusetts and Vermont, Boland focuses her latest paintings on landscapes from Columbia and Walla Walla counties, reflecting her residence in each: her town home (and studio) is in Walla Walla, and she owns forest management property near Dayton. She is happiest in the studio and in the woods, because wherever she is, she is somehow drawing, painting or sketching.

“Getting out on the land creates opportunities to observe, photograph and find inspiration for art,” she says.

“The biologist and the artist within are both satisfied with my time spent in nature, both in my garden in town and the forest land in the Blue Mountains.

“My art reflects my world view and my deep love of the natural world. It is a truth in a moment.”

Carolyn Henderson is a freelance writer who co-owns Steve Henderson Fine Art and SteveHendersonCollections.com with husband Steve. Contact her at carolyn@stevehendersonfineart.com.

Annie joined the U-B news staff in 1979 and since 1990 has written Etcetera, a daily community column. She was promoted to a copy editing post in 2007. She edits copy, designs and lays out pages, including the weekly arts and entertainment guide Marquee,