A reader sent me an email a few months ago telling me she just loved a watercolor that an artist on Instagram had done of her kitty - so I went to check out her work and was equally as impressed. I asked the artist, Halie French, if she would do an interview with me for the site and she was game.
Halie French was born and raised in Lebanon, Oregon, a small town situated in the beautiful Willamette Valley. She was educated formally at Linn Benton Community College, but has been creating art her entire life, from the first time she could hold a pencil. Favorite mediums to work with are oils, acrylic and watercolor. Her love of animals is reflected in her artwork, and she particularly loves to recapture memories for others- memories of oldest and dearest pet companions who may be gone, but not forgotten. Her greatest joy of all is bringing happiness to others through art.
You can reach Halie on:
Thanks, Halie, for doing an interview with us!
How did you get interested in cats? How old were you when you had your first kitty?
I have always loved cats ever since I can remember. My mother had rescued some cats that had been hit by cars. I think Max was the first cat I warmed up to. He clawed my head real good when I was a baby but after that we were pals. I carried him around like a doll. When I got older my mother allowed me to rescue tiny kittens (2 at a time) at least once a year. I bottle fed kittens I'd find and raise the ones my mom helped me rescue. And when they were big enough they would go out and be barn cats. Catch mice and rats in our horse barn. My favorite cat smokey, I think he appreciated being rescued the most because I was his family. He would bath me. He followed me everywhere. He even came to me on my pony from a fence post, to my surprise. He was so sweet. His tail had two kinks on the very tip of his tail that kinked back on itself. He lived until he was around 15. Best cat ever.
Please describe your creative process.
My creative process starts with research. I look all around me. Always ready to catch a beautiful scene in a photograph to paint. I also look online for things that inspire me. Mostly adorable close up of cats make me want to paint. And any beautiful things. Then I sketch it out on paper, canvas or saw blade. I then start to paint. It helps me relax and is like a kind of therapy. Painting helps me cope and get through tough times.
How did you discover eBay as a way to sell your work? Did you consider other ways to sell your products?
I had a watercolor teacher turn me onto ebay and painting ACEOs (art cards editions and originals) which are 2.5x3.5 inch art cards. I actually sold the first thing I listed. It was slow at first but picked up here and there. Though it's still not a lot of sales unfortunately. Though it gets me by. I tried etsy a try but was not able to sell anything that way. And I also get on instagram and look for gorgeous cats to paint because cats are my favorite to paint, and cat people are generally very kind and adore their cats. Many enjoy my paintings of their cats.
Do you sell your products in a local store in your area?
I sell on ebay, on instagram and the artist co op gallery in Lincoln City Oregon coast.
Have you been successful at selling your products on eBay? Have you always been successful, or did you end up getting a lot more traffic after being featured on a specific blog?
I would consider my sales on ebay as a success however it has ups and downs. I have ever been featured on a blog, that I know of, that is.
Do your customers ever give you new ideas for products?
Sometimes my customers offer some advice but not really for new products.
Have you thought of featuring a Ragdoll cat is some way? (Had to ask.)
I have painted a lot of Ragdoll cats, I love painting them. They are one of my favorites, very gorgeous breed.
Are you a one wo/man show?
Yes, I do all of the painting and creative work. And promoting. However my boyfriend helps me a lot with prep work and promoting. He buys sawblades from garage sales and buys some of my art supplies. Also he sand blasts and spray paint primers all the sawblades. He is a huge support for me. And works to keep us afloat while I pursue my art dreams. I am truly lucky and supported by everyone who is around me (family and friends).
Do you have a blog?
Do you do custom ordering? Can someone return it if they don't care for it?
I love doing custom commissions. It is my greatest joy to bring a long lost loved pet back to life in paint. I don't usually do returns but I keep painting until my customer likes the portrait. Often times redoing an entire painting.
Can you share a story with us behind any of your products that you especially enjoyed working on? Maybe because of the story behind the kitty?
I'm not sure if I have any specific order that I enjoyed. I enjoy all my orders pretty equally. I really just love hearing about how much joy I brought people who lost their beloved pet and then I give them something to remember the love with. Maybe one specific portrait, the clients house burned down and their poor pet was sadly lost in the tragic blaze. I painted the gorgeous animal and now their portrait they recieved from me is up on their wall by the door. I was told that the hubby of my customer touches it and smiles everytime he leaves the house. I'm not sure about this, but sometimes it seems that the art can generate healing and consol some of us when something tragic happens. Art can help people get through tough times- I know it helps me all the time. I lost my best friend a couple years back, she was in a car wreck, and I feel that painting got me through some of the toughest moments I've ever experienced in my life.