Kelly Halpin and the Art of Running

Hannah Green chats with Kelly Halpin about the interplay between running and art for her, future projects, and inspirations.

By on May 1, 2024 | Comments

Meet artist and athlete Kelly Halpin.

Kelly has long caught my eye with her creativity in the light-and-fast realm blurring the lines between ultrarunning, thru-hiking, and alpinism while seeking out the fastest known times (FKT) off the beaten path. Kelly’s creativity in long, scrambly routes through the mountains flows into her drawings and photography, which are likewise rich in line and color. She also is the author and illustrator of children’s books that showcase the landscape and wildlife that she grew up with in Wyoming.

Here is Kelly, in her own words:

Kelly Halpin standing on mountain

Kelly Halpin is constantly looking to explore lines — on paper and in landscapes. All photos and art courtesy of Kelly Halpin.

-how did you get into running? and art?

Art has always been a part of my life. My mother is an artist, as well as my sister. We grew up drawing and painting and were exposed to galleries and art shows. I became a professional illustrator in 2007 after graduating from college.

As far as running goes, I was a climber first and when moving fast in the mountains became more of a priority, I began running. I got into endurance and ultra distances after completing the Grand Teton Picnic in 2014.

-what’s your medium(s)?

I typically stick to micron pens and paper but occasionally play with paint, graphite pencils, and charcoals. I also love photography and have a Bachelor of Fine Arts in filmmaking.

Kelly Halpin art - running

-what artists have inspired you? what runners/athletes/movers have inspired you? and landscapes?

Some of my favorite artists are Georgia O’Keeffe, Jonathan Wayshak, Terry Border, and Greg Simkins. Lynn Hill, Diana Nyad, Courtney Dauwalter, Hilaree Nelson, Tommy Caldwell, and Jared Campbell for athletes.

I’m constantly inspired by the places I travel to the earth is stunning. Some incredible landscapes I’ve been lucky enough to visit include Patagonia, Greenland, Death Valley, and the Wind River Range. But where I live, the Teton Range will always be my favorite.

-how do you see art and running as being related? And how has your relationship with both evolved over time?

I think running and art are both about exploration whether it’s exploring lines on paper or in a landscape — and my objectives constantly evolve to explore that curiosity. It’s always an adventure, and it never turns out quite how you had originally planned!

Kelly Halpin on glacier

Kelly Halpin is constantly finding inspiration in landscapes.

-does your running style mimic your artwork at all?

I do love nice lines! Composition and contrast are very important in art and creating routes. I like them both to flow and create some kind of visual and experiential journey.

-any art and/or running projects in the works?

Both! I am currently working on the illustrations for a second wildlife children’s book to accompany the mammals edition I published two years ago. This one is for birds in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

For running, I have a few projects lined up. I’m hoping to finish this big technical traverse in the Gros Ventre Range that I wasn’t able to finish last season. I also have a few FKT projects, some to return to, and a few new ones.

-what’s your favorite mode of transportation besides running?

I love hiking slowly, either to forage berries/mushrooms/plants or listen to the mountains and forest. I also love climbing, cycling, and backcountry snowboarding.

Kelly Halpin art - sitting by tree

-favorite color?

Dirty turquoise and sage!

-random question: if you could be a tree, what kind of tree would you be?

Probably a mountain whitebark pine, even though they are threatened by climate change. I suppose we are all in danger of that, no matter what species you are.

-where’s your favorite place to see local art where you live?

I love any shows, performance or otherwise, at the Jackson Hole Center for the Arts. Altamira Fine Art is also a great gallery.

Call for Comments

  • Have you followed Kelly’s FKT efforts and other creative runs?
  • Do you seek art in your running and movement?

Kelly Halpin art 1

Kelly Halpin art - skull and mushrooms

Kelly Halpin art - raven

Hannah Green
Hannah Green wanders long distances by foot and takes photos along the way. When not outside, you can likely find her at the nearby coffee shop. Find more on Instagram and at Hannah Green Art.