Elizabeth Whelan Captures the Island on Canvas
Elizabeth Whelan

Elizabeth Whelan Captures the Island on Canvas

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 Hollywood premiere of the latest Hunger Games movie. I am on the auction committee and as a committee member I was aware of the items that were being auctioned off but never focused on the dream Elizabeth was donating. We were sitting at the auction and as they started to announce it I realized I wanted a portrait of Howard for us and then for our children.

When I told Howard that I was going to bid and win that auction item, he was totally uncooperative, saying he had no interest in having a portrait of himself around the house. Definitely macho-male attitude. Once it was done, Elizabeth scheduled to visit with Howard at our home for about an hour to get an idea of the environment he wanted to be in, what he most comfortable with, etc. He was still resistant until she arrived and then it happened; he got into it.
Elizabeth is an amazing artist and a fabulous person and she was able to draw from Howard what were the important elements of his life. They determined (with a little help from me) that he should be on our boat; a place that he enjoyed so much, found relaxing and a real part of his Vineyard life. They met at the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club dock, he in the boat and she with her camera. For the preceding week he discussed: should he keep his beard on or remove it? What color polo shirt should he wear? Glasses or not? A hat or not? Check out the photo in this blog to see what he finally chose!

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Elizabeth sent us a mockup of the painting to include the subject, background and colors. Witnessing the thoughtful collaboration was a wonderful experience.

A native of Yorkshire, England who grew up in Canada, Elizabeth was a West Tisbury resident before moving to the nearby island for a part-time caretaking job. “It’s a position that is allowing me to concentrate on painting and portraiture after a couple of decades in the commercial arts field working as an illustrator and graphic designer,” she said.

On her website www.elizabeth-whelan.com she explains, “I have been able to survive as a freelancer for many years now because people were willing to pay me to do what I love and I consider that to be an excellent outcome. I don’t always choose the subject matter, etc., but that doesn’t bother me. Whether it’s an illustration assignment or a portrait, or a piece of custom artwork, I like the challenge of the parameters of a project and I find that the variety of assignments forces me to try new things, always good!”

This year’s auction will be July 26 at the Winnetu Oceanside Resort in Edgartown. Maybe your dream will be waiting for you there.

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