Eli Halpin ~ BLOG

My Brain is an Abstract Kindergarten

I love painting animal bodies and trees... and people bodies too! I just haven't been able to paint people because I have been so busy painting animals and trees. I have been known as "Giraffe Girl", "Birch Tree Girl", "Koi Fish Lady" and "Crazy Bloody Wolf Artist" at points throughout my career. 

The word "Abstract", however, has never been associated with my body of work and its a pretty scary thing to start a new look that I am not known for and do not have buyers expecting or wanting. This will have to start, just like any new inspirations, just for me for now. That's the real way to make art anyways, isn't it? The raw way?

Not that drawing the gaze of a goat's eye or the long bent legs of a standing baby fawn isn't real art, I mean gosh it feels real. But in a different way than simply enjoying fluorescent pink polka dots on top of glossy white paint. Drawing an animal and trying to do its beauty justice requires all of my skill, so much that I can't have anyone in my studio while I'm drawing. I have to be alone and uninterrupted in silence. Ask my husband, my friends, my sister and employees if they have ever seen me draw an animal. They haven't seen me. I have used my sister as a model before, but still.. she was on the other side of the canvas. You know those old school projectors that take a tiny image and blow it up to the size of a large painting sending it through a light bulb so artists can just trace it on? My brain IS one of those machines. I work with tiny photos that I hold in my hands and then the image goes into my eyes and scrambles around in my brain, shoots through my nervous system and comes out my fingertips traveling through a pencil and lands on a white canvas 10 times larger than it started. I can't have music on, I have to have slept well the night before, I need to be perfectly caffeinated (not too much-not too little), fed and I can't have any major gross drama happening in my life. I even had to cut out most of my drinking because the hangovers get in the way of drawing. Drawing! Its serious stuff around here! 

But my abstract paintings...... the opposite of serious! In addition to drinking kale juice and attempting to jump over wooden flower boxes on a horse's back it is a mental health regimen. 


It's super fun for me to just play with new materials and techniques.
When I paint animals, I research the animal and try to capture its personality and behavior, the shape of its pupil, how many toes does it have? What does it eat? Are its ears furry on the inside? How big are its nostrils? Doing that hard work is a passion of mine, but sometimes I just want to enjoy color without all the questions. But then there is that scary side again. For one thing its much harder than I think its going to be and lot of the time I end up giving up and bulldozing white primer over it. And I have been attempting this off and on for 10 years.. never quite able to really nail it with a lot of them. But I am getting braver and it is getting easier and some cracks of light are starting to open up that I can follow and fall into. 

I want to offer my abstract paintings at a lower price point, depending on the complexity of the painting. My prices for originals featuring animals with oil paint and mixed media have gradually gone up over time leaving some of my buyers who originally supported me to the max in the dust. It is an accomplishment to raise my prices however it doesn't always feel good telling someone who bought a painting from me 15 years ago for $250 that they now cost $2500. Having a high demand (the word "demand" sounds so dark) for paintings raises my expenses. I have a much larger art studio, I need more materials and more people to pay for helping me with all the packing, shipping, accounting, photography, website stuff and all the time I spend doing administration things to make so many paintings. I pay my taxes now like a good girl and I'm 37 so I deserve to have health insurance and live without roommates. Staying professional means having a reliable truck to move big art. I can no longer move paintings around on the bus, on a bike, on borrowed cars, tied down to the hood with ropes in the rain or on an old car that doesn't start when I turn the key leaving me in the 106 degrees sun and costing me the whole afternoon to deal with tow trucks and $2000 repairs every 6 months. I need to stay polished and on time every time. But I miss that "Just Starting Out Feeling" of trying something new! I miss the good old days of selling really low priced paintings. It was so fun and fresh and it would be neat to do that again in this way. I still maintain the same professional wood canvas and use the same high quality archival paints and materials as my more time consuming originals, but cutting out the research and drawing process frees me up to offer these works for customers that are looking for big bright original paintings but can't mess with that $$$$. If I could afford to price all of my paintings lower I would but it is better to keep my body and mind healthy than to run it into the ground from fear and guilt. I have learned that the hard way. 

Further adding to my anxiety, my awesomely supportive retailers just don't have the wall space for experimental work and my print publishers aren't interested in licensing them either. There's a lot of risk. Canvases, materials and especially time is very expensive. But happiness is worth all of it.

Plus I think the abstract paintings are a nice compliment to the rest of them!
So if you see an abstract of mine that you like, let me know!  I could use the encouragement and input. I even added ABSTRACT as an official section on my website.. woah!!! I guess I am committed now!
Thanks for all the continued support!


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