Hannah a native of northern New England, lives and paints in New Boston, NH. She is a Plain air painter who likes to work outside.In Hannah’s words: “my art is the result of my continuous exploration of the world outside my window and the forces at work there”. Hannah and I met online while working on our mutual blogs. We were classmates in “The Blog Triage” class given by Alyson Stanfield and Cynthia Morris.
- I read in your website that you studied Physics in college. What changes came about that you ended up going to study painting and drawing. What happened to the scientist in you? When did you first discover your creative talents?
Many people are surprised when they find out that I was a physics major since I am an artist now, but I don’t think it is weird at all. As a representational landscape painter, my work is always about attempting to discover more about the natural world around me. Painting and drawing is one way to learn more about something, just like running experiments and describing the results using mathematical equations. I observe my surroundings and record my findings using paint.
Really, I have been both an artist and a scientist my whole life – as a kid, I spent as much time as I was allowed outside wandering around in the woods or on the beach with my eyes wide open looking for…what? I still don’t know, really. My grandmother was a watercolorist and she gave me drawing lessons when I visited her and I took art classes outside of school too. I did attempt to draw it all back then with the training I did have, but of course I wasn’t all that good and I was often frustrated. Maybe that is why I tried the science route.
I realized in college that becoming a physicist meant spending most of
my time analyzing data on a computer in a basement. I am happiest
when I can spend a lot of time outdoors, so plein air painting is a
better course for me.
- Do you paint “en plein air” year round? It gets cold up there in New England. Do you go out in the winter months?
I do paint outside year round! In the winter, I put my quilted coverall over a bunch of layers, strap on some snow shoes and make sure to have extra hand-warmers. Oil paint stiffens a little in cold temperatures, but it is still workable. I don’t paint outside in the winter as often as I do during the warmer months, but I love snow and I love painting it. The woods right outside my door are especially compelling for me in winter because snow offers all kinds of exciting colors I usually don’t get to see – bright
purples and blues. Snow also covers the forest floor, branches, sticks and leaves, which simplifies the whole scene.
- I also read that you do printing and I saw your last blogpost with the print of “stuffed puppy love”. What kind of printing do you do? Can you tell me something about it?
Most of my prints are white-line woodcut reliefs, which is a derivative of Japanese style color woodcuts. Basically, I use one block of wood, carve only the outline of my design and ink the resulting shapes one by one with watercolor. I rub the back of a piece of paper with a spoon to transfer the image.
I am currently trying to learn everything about printmaking that I can. In the past couple of years, I have created etchings, linoleum reliefs, silkscreens and lithographs. The biggest problem is that I find myself enjoying each process, which leaves less time for painting. That is a good problem to have, so I am not complaining. Plus, I think I am a stronger painter since embarking on this printmaking journey. Exploring new media is forcing me to think about my subjects and what I have to say about them in new ways that I find exciting.
- Share with us something funny that has happened to you recently related to your art.
A few months ago I brought my dogs on a painting trip with some friends. When we all took a break for lunch, one of my friends asked if she could give one of my dogs, Hattie, some of her food. I told her it was fine with me, but the dog would probably keep bothering her for more. She thought that was fine and shared a snack. Not surprisingly, when we went back to our easels, Hattie went with the woman who had fed her, around 60 yards from where I was set up. After a little while, I looked up from my work to make sure the dog wasn’t pestering my friend too badly. Hattie was sitting directly behind the her staring at her back. When the painter moved a bit to one side or the other as she worked, Hattie leaned the opposite way. It looked for all the world like my friend was doing a demonstration and Hattie was watching her paint!
- How often do you get away from the studio/ outdoors…and do the business part of all this?
- Any words of advice for aspiring artists? What can you tell them?
My advice for artists is the same for anyone who thinks they might want to learn any new skill – just try it and worry about the consequences later! And if you try it and like it, keep going, regardless of how bad at it you seem to be. If you love doing it, you are supposed to do it enough to get good at it.
You can reach Hannah:
Hannah W. Phelps
PO Box 523
New Boston, NH 03070
Thanks so much Hannah!