Hannah Phelps is a New England-based artist whose love of nature and deep connection to the region she calls home has been the driving force behind her award-winning plein air oil paintings and relief prints. Phelps was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and raised north of Portland, Maine. “I’m a classic New Englander,” she says. “I’m really attached to this geographic place.” Her work represents the natural world outside her window, and the forces at work there, often depicting the crashing waves and jagged rocks of the northern New England coast where she spent her childhood.
Phelps studied physics at Mount Holyoke College but felt unfulfilled. Drawing and painting from nature became her primary means of artistic expression. Her knowledge of physics informs her kinetic depictions of the ocean and waves crashing against rocks. Phelps took painting classes at the Maryland Institute of Art while living in Baltimore after college. By the time she moved to New Boston, a small town in central New Hampshire, she was painting regularly.
Phelps considers herself a painter first, primarily painting in plein air. Printmaking evolved naturally, and she employs different techniques, including jigsaw woodcuts and white-line woodcuts, a technique characterized by a white outline surrounding each shape of color. “I love printmaking,” Phelps says. “You can work on an oil painting for years, but in printmaking, there’s a finality to the process that I enjoy.”
Aspiring printmakers can take classes from Phelps, including a summer workshop on Appledore Island, off the coast of Portsmouth. Her work is available through League of New Hampshire Craftsmen stores in Nashua, Meredith, and Littleton, New Hampshire, and she also has booths at the League’s annual fair and the December Button Factory Open Studios in Portsmouth.