Local Faces: Fran Halpin
By Mary Dennehy
PEBBLES have become Fran Halpin’s stepping stones to a life as a full-time painter, providing bouyancy to her childhood dream of being an artist ‘when she grew up’.
Growing up in Tallaght, Fran (46), who is a former student of Old Bawn Community School, has from an early age wanted one thing – to be an artist.
Now, more than 40 years down the line, Fran spoke with The Echo about how “lucky” she feels to be living her childhood dream, and having her own studio in the Blanchardstown home she shares with husband Karl, daughter Tori, son Senan and Terrier/Lab cross, Chance.
“Since childhood, the only thing I wanted to be was an artist”, Fran said.
“When I finished up college I said to myself that I wasn’t just going to take up any job, I was focused on being an artist…and I went broke until I started making some money.”
Fran’s first job after leaving college was a 100sqm mosaic on the ceiling of a bar, work which resulted in her being commissioned to create murals and paint effects on the walls of Tallaght’s Playhouse nightclub.
“I ended up getting work on the back of these early jobs, and travelled all over the world doing murals”, Fran said.
“I still do a few murals but I’m lucky now to be painting a lot more of my own stuff.”
Fran’s own work centres around pebbles, with the use of light and shade, and splashes of colour, bringing her work to life.
Pebbles create connections, providing us with little reminders of people, places and moments as they sit on a mantlepiece or in a jewellery box or jean pocket.
Who hasn’t travelled abroad, or even to Bray or Brittas, and not brought back a pebble as a little piece of a special day or as a gift for someone you wished was there.
Pebbles also bring us to the sea, the beach, and this, alongside Fran’s colour pallette, can be said to contibute to the overall sense of ‘escapsim’ in her work.
“There is something quite restful about pebbles”, Fran said.
“We go collecting pebbles as a family.
“My husband and two kids come along and pick pebbles for my work, which makes it all more personal, more family-orientated and we’re making memories.
“Recently people have started sending me their own pebbles. I have a few commissions on the go where people have sent me their own pebbles and are creating their own memories.”
She added: “Our lives are so busy, so when I go into the studio I kind of want to escape, I always find painting like a meditation.
“I suppose because I’m trying to escape from the busyness, this comes into my work.
“People have told me that my work takes them away, that they can get lost in the painting.
“I want to chill out when I’m painting or looking at a painting, so I guess that spills into my work.”
After decades of dedicating herself to her dream and her work, Fran considers herself “very lucky” to be a full-time artist.
“It’s not easy [being an artist]… and very few get to do it, certainly not as a full-time job”, Fran said.
“I consider myself very lucky but I just stuck with it. I learned a lot on the job in the early years, and from working with designers, about how to pitch my work.
“I think art college should have a business/marketing module for students – teach students how to market their work, get represented by galleries etc.”
When asked if she had any advice for young people with dreams of being an artist, Fran said: “Paint what you like, draw what you like… and don’t give up.
“Don’t be a people pleaser and paint what you think other people want.
“For about 15 years after I left college, I didn’t paint any of my own work and just did commissions.
“I was afraid of putting myself out there, what if I painted something and someone didn’t like it?
“I’ve learned that you can’t just wait for inspiration to come to you.
You need to be painting, pushing, and inspiration will find you.”
Fran and five other artists are hoping, pending Covid-19 guidelines, to exhibit their work in Firmount House in Clane in early December.
The exhibition will have a small admission fee, with all proceeds being donated to St Vincent De Paul. Further details at https://firmounthouse.com/
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