Welcome to our series of interviews with some of our favorite member artists on Imagekind. They may be best sellers or up-and-coming artists. We hope that you can learn from these members and find some great new artists to love!
Our first interview is with the wonderfully talented Eli Halpin. Eli has a large fan base and buyers network, and has been featured in Sunset Magazine. As one of our best-selling artists, Eli has been making art like crazy!
Growing up in Alaska has given me a unique perspective on animals, trees and people and their cozy relationships. Studying painting at University of Alaska, Pacific NW College of Art and the Portland Community College in Oregon gifted me with the basic skills to paint full time. Attending a state, then a private and then a community institution blessed me with a broad range of academic experiences. After spending 20 years in Alaska and 10 in Oregon I now live in the heart of Baltimore City, Maryland where the contrast to the Pacific West Coast is fascinatingly extreme. My favorite artists are Jim Henson, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, Theodor Suess Geisel, Janet Hill and Gustav Klimt. All my paintings are made on recycled wood and recycled paint is used whenever possible – Eli Halpin
1 ) When did you first realize that you wanted to be an artist?
I don’t remember ever realizing I wanted to “be” anything, except when I was five I did hope I would become a waitress. This horrified my dad!
I have always enjoyed and was prolific at any type of creative project. When I was in high school, on the first day of school, I was put in an overcrowded math class. I knew I was going to fail. I was on the verge of tears because it had only been 5 minutes and I hated it so much already. I walked out and saw my counselor and told him I REALLY didn’t want to take that class! He said I wouldn’t get into college if I didn’t. I argued with him for a few minutes trying to squirm my way out of the situation. I asked him if I needed that class to go to art school and he got out this 3 inch thick college book and we read the fine print for a few art schools and you know what? No! I didn’t need that stupid class for art school. So I got to go to sculpture class that day!
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2 ) Are you a full time/professional artist? What does that mean to you?
I am a full time artist going on my 6th year without waiting tables!
Hooray! Before that I worked in restaurants and sold my paintings only part time. Being a full time painter gives me a sense of responsibility to the people who buy my work. I need to keep the paintings coming. I need to have new work often and this means getting myself into the studio as much as possible.
Chikadees in Pearl by Eli Halpin
3 ) Do you work at home, or do you have a separate studio?
I have a separate studio about a mile from my house. I am afraid I will eventually track oil paint from the bottom of my shoes all over my floor if I painted at home! This summer however I bought my own house and I am considering building a studio in the upper level. Now that there is no landlord I have a more favorable situation for risking paint stains all over the place!
4 ) Where do you get the inspirations for your pieces? Do you work from life or from photos?
My inspiration comes from people, animals and trees. I grew up in Alaska where there was a lot of distance between people. I experienced different boundaries pre-established there than when I moved down to the more populated parts of the Pacific NW and when I traveled to other countries. Animals and trees also had a different focus when I was in larger cities. I work from life and photographs. I used to use models in school, and would have my sister and friends pose for me. I like to tear out ladies in bridal magazines because of their big dresses! If I am painting animals I usually paint from photographs I took myself. When I visit my grandparents farm in South Dakota I make sure to get up close photos of cows, horses, sheep, donkeys… anything I can get about 10 feet from. My grandfather shears sheep so I am lucky to be able to stand in barns with hundreds of them at once.
Octopus in Gold by Eli Halpin
5 ) Do you participate in a lot of shows? Are you represented by any galleries?
I exhibit my paintings in about 5 shows a year these days. I used to book about 3 every month when I was first starting to be “officially” full time just to make sure I could pay the rent. Now I have a lot of direct sales through my website so it isn’t necessary.
I am not represented by any galleries. I will do a show as a guest but I won’t sign a contract. I do, however, sell my paintings permanently at two stores in Oregon. Unfurl, an organic clothing boutique and Hunt & Gather, a fancy furniture store.
6 ) Who is your target audience? How do you get them to buy your work?
My target audience is people with a sense of humor and an attraction to bright colors. My paintings tend to be very thick, with drippy and messy paint . To me that is an upbeat and high energy thing to look at.
Like I said before, I used to do a lot of shows every year and from doing so I advertised the heck out of my paintings, leaving me with a history of buyers who tend to come back for more. People will often contact me saying their friend or relative has a piece and that’s how they found me. I have also been lucky enough to have a few magazines include me in their pages and that always helps a ton with traffic to my website.
cherry tree by Eli Halpin
7 ) Any marketing tips for your fellow artists?
Yes! Get a good website! I use Other Peoples Pixels and I highly recommend them. Get some good business cards that you can be proud of and always keep them on you. And have lots of exhibitions and leave stacks of beautiful business cards in your wake!
8 ) What is your online presence? (newsletter, website, MySpace, Imagekind, etc…)Yes, yes, yes and yes. I use all four. I have my website elihalpin.com, I keep my mailing list organized and send out newsletters regularly – its a really important component to my online presence. I have 600+ solid contacts of people who have asked to be on my mailing list or who have bought paintings. I use this contact to maintain and track who and where and how many hits I get on my site. On average I get 35 hits a day and after a newsletter I have a spike of about 700 for a few days.
I also use social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, and I have had lots of success with Imagekind. My myspace and facebook pages are not focused on my sales, just a little more advertising, and for fun. I don’t use ads.
Online presence is useful for facilitating transactions, but doesn’t necessarily generate sales. The exception of course is print on demand services for reproductions such as Imagekind. My business revolves around creating original paintings and displaying them. Until recently I relied only on art shows and retailers for my business. For 12 years I have been building a foundation of art buyers from my shows and retailers. I launched my website about 3 years ago. My website lets me show my new work nationally and internationally.
Almost all of my online sales come from people who have seen examples of my work in person.
9 ) You use a lot of recycled materials in your paintings. What makes you want to paint on some of the surfaces you choose? How do you find them? Where do they come from?
I like painting on wood interior hollow core doors. They are light-weight and after sanding off the varnish and priming them the surface is great for painting. They are easy to slice into sections and stay crispy flat for a clean professional canvas-like look. They are also easy to ship because of their weight and durability. I buy the doors at rebuilding centers. Homes that are torn down will often donate salvageable stuff to rebuilding centers where I pick them up.
Giraffe in Blue and Green by Eli Halpin
10 ) Who is your favorite artist (besides yourself!) on Imagekind?
Oh wow that’s not a fair question, aren’t there millions of amazing images?? My first artist I became a fan of was Sloane Tanen. I love the humor in those pieces!
Thanks for taking the time to tell us about yourself, Eli! It was a pleasure to interview you, and we wish you much success!
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