Hella Shattuck was born in Frederick, South Dakota in 1906. Her parents were Finnish immigrants and her father served as a pastor in the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Church. Her family moved often, from South Dakota to Wisconsin, Minnesota and Oregon. Always a talented artist, Shattuck's musical abilities were encouraged by her father and she became a classically trained concert pianist. While pursuing her musical talents, Shattuck also held a passion for painting, a talent not encouraged by her family but one she would remain deeply committed to throughout her life.
Shack began her artistic training in Minneapolis and continued her studies under Clyde Leon Keller when her family moved to Portland, Oregon. In 1934, she visited Santa Fe, New Mexico, and decide she would stay. Once in Santa Fe, she quickly became involved in the art scene and took this opportunity to study painting with several local artists. Along with Odon Hullenkremer, Shattuck was asked to illustrate for The History of New Mexico, a book written by George Hammond and Thomas Donnelly. In 1936, Shattuck participated in the invitational alcove show at the New Mexico Museum of Art, and by 1938 her work was featured in number of additional exhibitions and she was named "Future Artist of New Mexico." In 1946, Shattuck moved frequently throughout New Mexico. Fluent in Spanish, she took particular interest in the Hispanic communities of Northern New Mexico - relishing in their rich customs and traditions. Shattuck also displayed a strong connection for Native American subjects. Shattuck became an artist in residence at Isleta Pueblo and would go on to live for extended periods of time at both Isleta and the Laguna Pueblos.
Shattuck later moved to Taos, New Mexico, and resided at the famed "Pink House," owned by Mable Dodge Luhan. This move is said to have marked the richest and most productive period of her career. She was greatly influenced by the renowned artists in Luhan's circle and many of her works reflect the style of that period. In 1962, Shattuck would help found the Taos Opera Guild, and for a time, was board member for the Santa Fe Opera. She received many awards from organizations such as the National League of Thousand Women of Achievement and the National Social Register. Her works have been included in the collections of the New Mexico State Museum, The Finnish-American Heritage Center, Mary Washington College, and numerous private collections throughout the United States and abroad.