A lot of artists might balk at the suggestion that their paintings were “very internet,” but not Linda Halsey. The artist, who lives in Imperial Beach, readily admits that the imagery of popular internet culture inspires her work. She uses characters from Pokémon and Mario, usually juxtaposing the otherwise innocent figures with nefarious behavior. Pikachu holding an aerosol can? Charmander smoking a joint? Yes to both, and more. Halsey even incorporated into a painting the image of Freddie Mercury striking a triumphant pose, which is usually used on internet message boards to indicate epic personal success.
“I used to work desk jobs,” she explains. “I would waste time on the internet. I’ve always done that. There are all these jokes and images online and I can use them any way I want in my paintings.”
From the internet’s limitless supply of weirdness (see rule 34 for an extreme, NSFW example of the fact that there is truly no end of internet content), Halsey gravitates towards some of the most kawaii, cute imagery, even when she is creating her own characters. Right now, Halsey is working on paintings and stickers of narwhals, the arctic whales that look like a cross between unicorns and dolphins. Rather than being scientifically accurate, Halsey’s narwhals are adorable little cartoons, emphasizing the fantastical aspects of the creatures that spawned a legion of myths. True to form, Halsey’s narwhals engage in the passage a l’acte, using their cartoon tusks as bongs to smoke cartoon weed beneath the painted arctic sea.
“They’re cute. They’re funny. And they’re the closest thing you can find to a unicorn,” Halsey says, having the definitive say on the narwhal.
“I also made some unicorns,” she adds with a laugh. “But I’m working on a few other characters as well.”
Some of Halsey’s best ideas come to her right before sleeping.
“I see a lot of things when I close my eyes before I go to sleep,” she says. “Especially if I have been painting or drawing all day. When I shut my eyes, I start to see other things being drawn almost immediately. It’s like if you’ve been playing a video game all day long and you’re obsessed with the game. You close your eyes and you still see the game going on. It’s like that, but with pictures!”
Living and breathing her art is a new development for Halsey, who spent much of her life chasing job security. She’s been painting on and off for about six years, but it wasn’t until recently that she decided to make the leap to full-time painting.
“In the last year, I’ve been able to commit to this and start experimenting with my style,” she says. “It’s kind of scary. My whole life, I’ve always been focused on having a job, so that I can get health insurance and stuff like that. I’m at a point in my life right now where I can work on art. My husband is really supportive, and my life is stable enough that I can work on art. At the same time, I don’t have the major responsibilities of having kids or anything.
“I’ve never liked working in the office, doing the typical 9-5 thing, punching a clock.”
As she mimes punching a time card, Halsey grimaces in a way that perfectly illustrates the frustration felt by any artist not doing what she loves.
“I have my MBA,” Halsey says, illustrating just how seriously she chased a career. “I was working on getting the degree around the time I started to get serious about my painting. The more I learned about the inner workings of business, the more I realized that I would never, ever be happy in that world. I know too much now! All the things I learned are applicable outside of business, but as far as the rat race--trying to work my way up to middle management, dealing with a big old company, that whole thing--it’s just trying to extract money out of a community and it doesn’t sound appealing at all.
“Now, I feel more free. I can use my education, but I get to work on whatever project I want to.”
Compared to her hometown of Ventura, Halsey has found the local art scene inviting. Live painting has been a huge motivation for her. Being able to go out and work alongside other artists gives her a chance to share in mass creative energy and not slip into the doldrums of working at home, where the temptation to stop working and goof off on the internet always lurks. She might not find some future inspiration there, anyways.
In the near future, Halsey has plans to work on a mural at the Friendship School in IB. She hasn’t painted anything large in a long time. Most of her work is on small gessoed boards.
“I’ve never done one before, but it’s something I’d love to try. When I first started painting, I did a lot of really big pieces. I haven’t done anything like that in a long time. A mural could be a cool next step for me.”