artist Elizabeth R. Whelan in her studio

Louisa Hufstader - April 2021

“From her home studio on Chappaquiddick, Elizabeth Whelan has become one of the Vineyard’s foremost portrait painters, known for deftly capturing her subjects’ images while providing a glimpse into their lives as well.

Islanders she has painted include jewelry artist Sarah Young in her studio, fashion designer Stina Sayre in her atelier and boat builder and designer Nat Benjamin, looking seaward from the Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway workshop.

“Nat’s become my poster child,” Ms. Whelan told the Gazette recently. “He’s on my business card.”

More recently, she has painted a series of portraits of women scientists on the Vineyard, including ocean researcher Megan M. Carroll and wildlife biologist Luanne Johnson. Again, her subjects are shown in their work environments..."

portrait painting of women in science, by artist Elizabeth R. Whelan

Artist Elizabeth Whelan honors the work of the Island’s female scientists.

Gwyn McAllister - March  2021

“Hopefully, with a new administration in place in the U.S., science will be given the weight it deserves once again. Artist Elizabeth Whelan is doing her part to promote science and scientists with her latest series of portraits, which she unveiled at Featherstone in 2019 and is now reworking for future exhibitions.

The series, titled “Women in Science,” features six Island women working in various fields. Whelan originally completed the paintings to include in the 2019 exhibit “Inseparable: Science and Art.” Since then, the paintings have traveled to various locations...”

We are connected to the world around us at the molecular level, in this painting 'Earth', by artist Elizabeth R. Whelan

Nicole Grace Mercier - December 2019

“It’s never too late for someone to take up the pencil or brush,” said artist Elizabeth Whelan. And she would know. As a child she drew and sold her “scribbles” for a nickel each to buy candy. At twenty-six, she got a job as a screen-printing illustrator. At the age of forty-eight she was “bitten by the painting bug.” She’s now known as the Island’s go-to portrait artist, having captured the likes of boatbuilder Nat Benjamin, musician Will Luckey, and author Geraldine Brooks in large, lifelike oil..."

Abstract painting about Planck units of time by artist Elizabeth R. Whelan

Gwyn McAllister - September 2019

“When artist Elizabeth Whelan was given the chance to develop a theme for a show at Featherstone, she dug back into her childhood for inspiration.

“My father is a scientist,” she says. “Many years ago he brought me back a gift from a conference he had attended. It was a gorgeous rendition of DNA by a well-known illustrator. I still have it. It showed me that artists could portray science subject matter in a really captivating way.”

As curator of the current Featherstone show, “Inseparable: Science and Art,” Whelan has proven that statement to be true..."

Paints and palette in Elizabeth R. Whelan's studio

Writer and journalist Louisa Hufstader visited three Vineyard artists and their studios, and I was one of them!

"With real estate prices what they are all over the Island, it’s hard to imagine your average year-round Vineyarder being able to afford much more than living space these days. But in fact we discovered three local artists – a potter, a painter and a composer – who found houses with room for their work in just the past few years. One of the latest to set up a studio at home is Micah Thanhauser, a West Tisbury boy who grew up to become an accomplished potter and moved back to the Island last year. 

Painter Elizabeth Whelan  and her partner, boatbuilder Bill Benns, bought their Chappaquiddick home two years ago – it has room for both their careers. ..." READ MORE

Sophie Mueller stands at the entryway to the Island Theater in Oak Bluffs, in this painting by artist Elizabeth Whelan

Abby Remer - June 2019

"How many times have I been asked about living here, “Isn’t it bleak in the wintertime? Is there even anyone around?” Elizabeth Whelan’s exhibition at the Vineyard Haven library, “As We Live,” lifts the veil on some of the essence of what it’s like to be here off-season. It’s about two things really — the stark but breathtaking beauty of the Island, and the people who live here.

While I’m a warm, sunny-weather person by nature..."

Elizabeth R. Whelan works on the main image for the show promotional materials

July, 2017 - Connie Berry
"In 2010, when portrait artist Elizabeth Whelan gave up her Island graphic design business and made the switch to oil painting, she left behind more than a career. She and her longtime partner, boat builder and restorer Bill Benns, left their West Tisbury home and moved to Nashawena Island, near Cuttyhunk, and lived as caretakers for more than six years.
“It was a real adventure,” Ms. Whelan said. “We looked after a cattle farm, and it was an amazing experience.”
After moving away from design, Whelan began to focus on painting..." READ MORE

Suesan Stovall and Elizabeth R. Whelan with portrait of Suesan at Artists in Art

July 19, 2017 - Gwyn McAllister
"It won’t just be the artwork, but the artists themselves who will be the focus of a unique exhibit at the Grange Hall this weekend. Elizabeth Whelan has put together a group show featuring the work of 24 local painters and illustrators, accompanied by portraits of the two dozen artists painted by Ms. Whelan. Every 15 minutes during the day, she will unveil a portrait — displaying it for the first time to the public as well as to the subject.
“I had the idea about a year and a half ago,” says Ms. Whelan. “I wanted to do it as a sort of thank-you to all of the artists who have given me help over the years — showing up at openings or giving me advice on hanging work or just generally being supportive...”READ MORE

Artist jack Yuen stands by his portrait, painted by Elizabeth R. Whelan, at the event Artists in Art

July 24, 2017 - Chloe Reichel
"Elizabeth Whelan’s voice was hoarse. Her seven-hour marathon art opening on Saturday was about halfway through and already she had done a lot of talking.
Every 15 minutes on the dot, she made her way over to one of the 24 artist displays in the Grange Hall and spoke about the work. Then she unveiled a portrait she had painted of the artist.
“I was an illustrator and graphic designer, and when I switched over to fine art, I didn’t have a clue,” Ms. Whelan said. “I decided I wanted to come up with a way that would thank them [the artists who had given her input], but help to promote them too...”READ MORE

Waiting for the next unveiling by artist Elizabeth Whelan at the West Tisbury Library show

May 11, 2016 - Gwyn McAllister
"Painter Elizabeth Whelan is honoring the town where she lived for a number of years with a show called “A Slice of West Tisbury,” currently on display at the West Tisbury library through the end of the month. The exhibit includes five portraits of people who are closely associated with West Tisbury, and a series of oil sketches of the town’s landscapes.
The opening on Friday, May 6, was the latest in a series of unveiling events..." READ MORE

Author Geraldine Brooks stands beside her portrait painted by artist Elizabeth Whelan

August 26, 2015
"Last Saturday artist Elizabeth Whelan presented her latest portrait unveiling, “Island Women in Portrait,” to an enthusiastic crowd at Stina Sayre Design’s Boutique and Design Studio on Main Street in Vineyard Haven. The exhibit, which featured five newly painted portraits of five women from the Vineyard community, as well as new landscapes, will remain on display through Friday, August 28.
Ms. Whelan has spent the past few months capturing several Vineyard women through art in oils on canvas..." READ MORE

color study of Howie Attebery for portrait by Elizabeth Whelan

The winter blizzards of 2015 caused humor and havoc with a portrait commission! Cynthia kept her readers abreast with the following posts:

"Howie's Portrait -- The other day, Mark Attebery, Howie’s son, and I were discussing my proposed Christmas and birthday present to his dad..." READ MORE

"Follow-up on the Portrait -- Elizabeth Whelan, the artist painting Howie’s portrait, planned to come to the Vineyard to talk to Howie..." READ MORE

"Island to Island Mail Service -- An excerpt of correspondence between Elizabeth Whelan, who lives on one of the Elizabeth islands, and me..." READ MORE

All's well that ended well, though, as the portrait was indeed completed and delivered to great approval!

Ross Gannon and artist Elizabeth Whelan with portrait of Ross, at the Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway Vineyard Haven Martha's Vineyard

June 10, 2015 - Gwyn McAllister
"Last Thursday, artist Elizabeth Whelan presented boatbuilder Ross Gannon with his portrait during a public unveiling at the Gannon & Benjamin Shipyard in Vineyard Haven. It was the very first time that Mr. Gannon was seeing the painting, an image of the boatbuilder at the helm of his wooden sloop Eleda, clearly relaxing and enjoying a sail on a beautiful Vineyard day.
“I was shocked at the likeness,” says Mr. Gannon. “I didn’t know what to expect..." READ MORE

Howard Miller detail from portrait by Elizabeth R. Whelan

In 2014 and again in 2015, Elizabeth Whelan donated a portrait as an auction item for the Art Buchwald Possible Dreams fundraiser, which benefits the Martha's Vineyard Community Services organization. Elaine Miller was the winning bidder in 2014, and writes this blog post about their experience.

"Recently I commissioned a portrait of my husband Howard from Elizabeth Whelan, an artist who lives on Cuttyhunk Island, just off Martha’s Vineyard. Each summer for 36 years Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, the Island’s largest human services provider, has held the Possible Dreams Auction where generous summer and year-round residents donate items and experiences to support the organization. Last year’s dreams ranged from a trip to the Greek Isles and the south of France to the..." READ MORE