Cover artist Kelly Halpin on tweaking, cookie dough and getting au naturel in nature.
Words: Robyn Vincent
Kelly Halpin lives in a strange, java-soaked world. It is a land where people ride the backs of skeletal creatures, dragons hiss sweetly into your ear, and bears, ravens and bison reign.
Her work can be found gracing the pages of four children’s books, on ESPN’s website and in Powder Magazine, to name just a few of Kelly’s recent projects.
An avid rock climber, snowboarder, trail runner and mountain biker, Kelly’s art elucidates our beautiful and strained relationships with nature. Her black and white and color illustrations often depict outdoor exploration in the American West with a fantastical twist – a snowboarder stands at the edge of a crumbling cliff that floats in the sky; a bird faced boy grows wings while sitting despondently in the desert.
Of course, in order to dream up such a fantastically weird world, one must be weird, too. So let us enter the perfectly bizarre annals of Kelly Halpin’s mind.
Robyn Vincent: Oh hey girl. What’s shakin’? How did you spend your off-season?
Kelly Halpin: Oh heeeeey! I spent the fall at my new place in Moab, taking care of chickens and climbing almost every day. It was so warm and sunny. Got my spring break tan on right before winter.
Robyn: May I have your chicken eggs? …So you were profiled in issue five of JHSM. We’re now on issue 11 and you have anointed us with a fine cover. In issue five, you used these three words to describe your art: “Root ball; ambles; alkali.” Please explain.
Kelly: Ha! Well, those words happen to be some of my favorite words. I really don’t think it describes my art at all though. They are just plain fun to say. Try it out.
Robyn: Root ball… ambles… alkali…I feel like I should be perched over a cauldron? Today, what three words would you use?
Kelly: I would say the main one would be “bio-surrealism.” Maybe the other two would be “weird” and perhaps a little “ethereal.”
Robyn: How has this bio-surreal, weird, ethereal work of yours evolved since you were profiled in this magazine six years ago?
Kelly: Well, I use a lot more color now. I’ve always been shy of color, but I absolutely love it these days; the bolder the better. I’ve also been experimenting with paint and trying to step out of my pen and ink comfort zone.
Robyn: Speaking of comfort zones, let’s talk about your caffeine comfort zone, i.e.: The Coffee Weirds. When I drink too much coffee I become paralyzed with energy and fear, so naturally I drink a lot of coffee all the time. What happens to you and what are The Coffee Weirds?
Kelly: As I explain on my website, “The Coffee Weirds (noun): The state of being nervous, spastic, compulsive, or completely tweaked out from consuming too much coffee.” These days I get a little too paralyzed with energy and fear, so I’ve been trying to drink more tea. Of course, then I end up drinking 50 cups of tea and eventually it amounts to the same caffeine level. Can you say tweeeeeeeaked!
“Wake up. Sit down in the studio and draw something incredibly deep and emo, burn it.”
Robyn: Tweakers unite! Recent photographic evidence leads me to believe you are rather comfortable in your naked skin. And I do remember you saying how much you loved getting naked for a recent Mountain Khaki photo shoot. Tell me more… much more.
Kelly: Oh dear. Oh dear. The truth is out. Yes. I like to get natural in the nature. A lot. It just feels… well…. natural. And yes, it started as a dare for the photo shoot and certain friends who know me well kind of volunteered me and I thought, “Oh what the hell. Better get evidence of this bod now before the constant donut and ice cream binging catches up.” But don’t you think for a second I’m not covered up or hidden in certain areas in those photos. I keep it classy.
Robyn: I would never question your class, not until I see what kind of donuts and ice cream you like to binge on. You proposed to your man, Rob Kingwill, on the summit of the Grand Teton this past fall. (Despite being at a blustery almost 14,000 feet, you changed into a little white dress for the occasion.) What kind of crazy planning and logistics did this involve?
Kelly: Oh, months of plotting and giggling with friends. I carried the dress up (and cans of champagne) in my pack and snuck off to “answer the call of nature” while my photographer friends distracted Rob. I changed and snuck up on him while his back was turned. I actually almost fell off a rock I was so nervous. It was a good time for sure. And yes, I was freeeeeeezzzzing in that dress.
Robyn: But that shit was hot! …Describe a day in the life of Kewwy Hairpin.
Kelly: Wake up. Hit the snooze. Wake up again. Consume dangerous amounts of caffeine. Eat egg and sweet potato tacos. Yoga stretches. Sit down in the studio and draw something incredibly deep and emo, burn it. Eat again. Go climb/snowboard/hike all afternoon. Give some high fives. Do a moose or raven call. Bake cookies, or pretend to while I eat the raw dough. Epsom salt bath. Cry about why I ate all the cookie dough. Sit ups and plank for 15 minutes. Play with my dog, Scrappy. Try to scare the crap out of Rob or a friend by hiding behind a door. Eat dinner. Run a naked lap. Binge watch a TV show and wonder why I couldn’t have saved some cookies for now. Curl up into a ball under the covers and fall asleep.
Robyn: Cookie dough solves most problems. Is your life as cool as it looks on Instagram?
Kelly: What can I say? It’s all Photoshopped. By the way, follow me @kyehalpin!
Robyn: What recent art projects are you most stoked on? You were doing some pretty rad stuff for ESPN last winter, huh?
Kelly: Yeah that was fun! The ESPN illustrations were a series for their Women in Action stories they put out last spring. I just did some art for Powder Magazine too, some caricature illustrations. Currently I’m working on illustrating my fourth children’s book. So fun! I love my job!
Robyn: We’ve done a nice amount of shredding together (you rip!). What’s your favorite run/trajectory at Teton Village?
Kelly: Aww, you rip too Robyn. Let’s shred this winter. Favorite fun run is probably the jib line down from the gondi to Dick’s Ditch on a sunny, slushy day. So many little hits and airs! On powder days I usually sneak off to the backcountry with friends. And yes, I will yell at anyone I see out there without avy gear.
Robyn: OK, now for the lightning round!
Preferred riding jams?
Kelly: Spice Girls. But when I’m tired of feeling 12 years old, I listen to a lot of electronic music. Or anything with a solid beat.
Robyn: Favorite kind of cheese? (Yeah, I want to know.)
Kelly: Mmmm. I like all the classic stinky cheeses, but my fav is frying up a nice Parmesan with a drop of honey. Try it! Trust me, your mind will be blown. Goat Brie comes in a close 2nd.
Robyn: Preferred shredstick?
Kelly: Franco SnowShapes. I ride a 148 Franco pintail and have a new custom Franco swallowtail on the way. Can’t wait!
Robyn: Toughest thing about living in JH?
Kelly: Adjusting to town growth and development.
Robyn: If you could be reincarnated as anyone (living or dead), who would it be?
Kelly: A Sumerian living at the time the Anunnaki descended from the sky. Google it.
Robyn: Yeah, you’re not weird at all… Anything else?
Kelly: Do you have any cookie dough?
Robyn: I’ll cut you for some cookie dough.
Not much has changed since issue 10 – Robyn Vincent is still not sleeping well. @TheNomadicHeart