We had the good fortune of connecting with Charlene Mosley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Charlene, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
Risk taking, that is probably my middle name. Charlene Risk Taking Mosley, haha. I believe, being a woman, a lot of times you get talked out of risk taking because you are not a man and so many negative things could happen. I am the kind- of person that always has to go against the grain. As an artist, starting your own business and creating a successful art career is a challenge. There are opportunities everywhere but many times we think we have to go into only one field and stay there, for example, becoming a fine artist that only produces work for gallery exhibition or an illustrator who only illustrates or a digital artist that only works in digital art. I believe being an artist means you have many art paths you can mix and match and acquire new skills from. Of course, it requires countless hours of submissions to artist calls that are mostly rejected, and a lot of effort in searching for those opportunities. I have learned so many things in my development as an artist and it is definitely connected to having the courage to overcome the inner introvert- voice in my head, calling me back to my “safe place” and taking a risk to go out and push for more. I enjoy doing it all, learning something new every year. I illustrate books, paint murals, paint my own work as well as commissions. Lately, I have done my first concept drawings for a film set to film in Prague. I have taught myself digital painting and drawing and then created designs for a luxury car show in Shenzhen China as well as an entire mural of 15×7 meters for a club there. I have gone on to craigslist and found gigs and have been fortunate and was connected to opportunities through contacts. Have I gone to school for film or digital art or painting designs on high-end Scandinavian furniture? No. I have a degree in fine art- painting and drawing and a minor in German Studies. I don’t think one needs to fit into one category when one can grow a career and education from so many different art worlds in the art galaxy. Some may see it as a risk to spread yourself thin and not being able to make a name for yourself in any of the individual art worlds specifically. And yet people reach out to me for all kinds of opportunities. It is all about making connections, reaching out, making sure to leave an impression( if it is not of me personally being an introvert, then of my work). Most importantly, it is also about not being too good for the simple small things as you grow in success and going back in time to analyze how you got this far. What did you do right and how can you learn from your mistakes? Then on to the next adventure. Right after graduation, I flew to Poland. Wait…let’s go back a little further. While I attended college, then university, my instructors were amazing mentors. They pushed me to explore outside out of the box and get out into the art world. So, I made that my mission. To transition smoothly from being an art student to a working artist by submitting to artist calls, participating in competitions, illustrating books, and painting murals for entire preschools before I graduated. But what happened three weeks before graduation from San Diego State University really changed my understanding of what it means to be an artist. At the time, I was a student worker for the vice-president office of the junior college I transferred to university from. Most every day on my break, I would be browsing on the computer for art opportunities I could submit to, when I stumbled over this trailer on Facebook about a new- kind- of film. Supposedly, it would be completely hand painted, full-length feature film about the famous artist Vincent van Gogh. I thought the trailer looked amazing and at last, it mentioned they were in search of artists to paint on the film. So, I thought “WOW”, applied as usual and moved on. I really didn’t think I would ever be able to participate in something like that, but why not at least apply. I couldn’t even grasp the idea of painting a film… Turns out, a couple days after graduation, I received an email with an invite for a three day testing for the film. Little did I know it was in POLAND! I had exactly four days to get there. That night I literally didn’t sleep one moment and freaked out. Next day, despite all of my friends and family discouraging me from going because “I didn’t speak Polish”, or I could be “sold on some black- market” or end up being “kidnapped”, I decided to go for it and that I would regret it if I didn’t. I wasn’t thinking of those things, I was thinking about a new adventure and all the things I could learn. I had no time to save up for the trip, so I set up a fundraiser on GoFundMe and raised enough money for a one way ticket to Poland. Thank God for those friends and family that expressed their worries but ended up trusting me and supporting my decision to go! It was worth it and I couldn’t have made it without them. As many of you already know, I ended up painting for an Oscar-nominated, first- ever- in- its- category film, called Loving Vincent, produced by an amazing team of international creatives. For six months I was immersed into another world that kind of reminded me of my hometown, Berlin in so many ways, yet the language and culture were completely different. I have always travelled with my family on vacations that were more exploratory before setting out on my own. So, that may explain the “risk taker” and Wanderlust in me. That was my first solo trip for work and pleasure. Opportunities, like those don’t come around much, so I really don’t mind being a risk taker. Am I horrified every single time of having to become an extrovert in a foreign place, different culture and work environment? Sure, but about just as much as I am excited and eager to expand my horizons. Needless to say, when I travel to different countries for work, I do do copious amounts of research, google map everything to the exact window of the place I’d work and stay in, and leave important information with my family. Those things have made me more of a safe risk taker, I suppose. I still find myself wondering; ” WHAT WAS I THINKING, WALKING AROUND THAT LATE OUT IN THOSE DARK ALLEYS HOME? (because I decided to work so late all public transportation stopped) or “WHY DID I GET INTO THE CAR OF THAT “TAXI DRIVER” IN MOROCCO IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT TO GET TO MY HOTEL FROM THE AIRPORT (He wasn’t an official taxi or Uber driver, just a guy in a regular car wanting to make money. I also did just come from a 20+hour flight and was super tired, so that may explain the carelessness in that moment.)” That kind of risk taking, although they make for crazy stories, I don’t recommend! I believe, without risk taking I wouldn’t have had been able to explore and experience any of the outlandish opportunities, I have been so blessed to have. I wouldn’t have met such wonderful friends I call family all over the world! Each and every one of those experiences, and that is not only the travels across the world but those here at home as well, have made me the artist I am today. Don’t get me wrong, they never went without serious thinking. I don’t come from money, so all costs were on me. If I wanted to risk it I would have to work three times as much to make it work out. If anything would’ve gone wrong, I still had a family that needed my share of the rent and financial support back home. Risk taking, traveling and following my passion in the art world has required some serious dedication and discipline, not without pressure. But I would not change it for the world. I have had the pleasure to create in Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Shanghai (China), Prague, Tokio, Ine (Japan) Morocco, and counting. Yours truly, Charlene RISK TAKER Mosley
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
In my opinion, art is a galaxy of worlds. I want to explore all it has to offer but just one world is immense. So being an artist is being myself. I don’t necessarily see my work as something separate from my personal life but rather something interwoven into my life. Each and every opportunity in the arts has molded me as an artist as well as a human being. The people I meet often end up becoming friends or great acquaintances I keep in touch with. I love being out in nature, exploring forests, mountains and the sea. My work reflects those things, no matter if it is a painting or an illustration for a children’s book I collaborate one. I believe I have a lot to learn and am still evolving as artist on the regular. I make mistakes. I sell my work for too little at times, get into contracts that are more time consuming then the payment accounts for and or just mess up my personal work here and there. Sometimes I don’t have new ideas for months when it comes to my personal work. And yes, as mentioned in the risk taking response earlier, I like to immerse myself into several art fields, such as illustration, fine art, murals, digital art, which often leads to me overdoing it at times and having to force myself to take a break. The risk of spreading yourself too thin is real, so it is important to know your boundaries. But, being able to work multiple areas creates and interconnectivity from which I derive new ideas and knowledge all the time. It also keeps me from becoming bored of what I do and offers opportunity to venture out to all kinds of places. Just a couple months ago I assisted my friend, a well-known muralist in the creation of a huge building size mural of hers. We ended up getting invited to tour the glass factory for research purposes. I don’t think I would have ever thought of visiting a glass factory before. It turned out to be such an interesting thing to do. I have also gotten to work with a marine officer on visually documenting a very important part of their life, exploring and receiving an intensive tour on an active military ship here at our harbor. Being an artist is challenging in good and hard ways. There is no path in my art career that I could read up on and see where it’s headed. Success and financial stability depends on the effort, time and sweat I want to invest into it. For me, a workaholic, I definitely see how it is starting to pay off. I evaluate and reevaluate my business and life in general, all the time. I go over finances over and over again and create projections of future endeavours and possibilities. The past years have become a lot easier when it comes to financial stability as I am learning to hold my bearings within the art community and world. This year I have been offered gallery representation with Sparks Gallery, which I am very excited about. I have always thought the artists they represent were amazing and am intrigued to explore this new path with them. I have to admit having other artists to talk to regarding career decisions, finances, and experiences can be very reassuring and helpful. Being able to share information, artist calls, and opportunities with other artists in a highly competitive art space is also crucial, in my opinion. The good and especially the bad can keep another artist from steering in the wrong direction. I have definitely dodged a couple potentially bad situations because of other artists warnings. That is why I try to share useful things I learn on my social media or in conversations with fellow artists and friends. Coming out of school, I didn’t know much at all about writing proposals, grants, applying for a business license, sales taxes, seller permits, filing for taxes as a self-employed individual. I took a couple business classes in college and had worked in the business administration of said college so some of the wordage was familiar. But, I really still had no idea going into the business world as an artist. So, I contacted other artists. I bought books that talked about the business of an art career (which by the way were two or three that I could find at the time), I talked to my mentors, I talked to people from all kinds of other trades and did research online. With the help of a village I figured it out, well still am haha, but you get my point. I feel like describing my life as an artist could be a never ending process…
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
In the times we live in, I would make it an outdoor trip away from any crowds. I love doing that anyway. Let’s see…I would create a challenging but fun hiking, camping and exploration trip in the wilderness of San Diego. I would drive to various locations and spend the day at site. I would start with the historic Goat Canyon Trestle, the worlds largest all-wooden trestle, built in 1933. The strenuous hike would pay off with a beautiful site and a bit of San Diego history in the canyons close to the Mexican border. Next, we would work our way through the Anza- Borrego Desert and go free- floating in the desert dunes, that’s what I call it when driving in the sand. We might get stranded and needed a good tow….you never know with my luck. We would need a good car for that. With regular hikes through different areas we would explore the desert wildlife and plants growing out there far after sunset. Coyotes, desert sheep, hares, snakes and lizards would leave us in awe. A stop at a campsite is definitely included. On our way further up north we may go to the Salton Sea, because it is just an interesting site. From afar you think you are on your way to an oasis, a vacation spot in the middle of the desert, until you arrive to something completely different. Nevertheless, I find this odd place makes for an incomparable experience. Bring drinking water! Then we’d drive through Palm Springs maybe catch a bite, check out the artsy downtown area and keep going to Joshua tree. Lots of hikes and more exploring of the special desert life, before we would circle back down through the Palomar mountains and spend time in the deep pine forests. We’d gather huge pine cones and whistle through the shells of seeds, find a wild plants to eat and make camp. The morning alarm of wood peckers and blue jay calls would get us out of bed at 5am or earlier after which we would step out of the tent and have a good laugh about the mess the racoons have left us with. Next up, we would head towards the coast and drive down to San Diego with many stops at all the amazing beaches. We would grab some burritos, ahi tuna bowls, sushi, and all kinds of other delicious food with the occasional big catch of a fish, fishing at one of the piers along the coast. We’d stop for a couple bonfires and slowly wrap up the adventure as we head home. Really, San Diego has so much to offer when it comes to outdoors activities, I could go on for days. All of its nature is inspiration for my work! So there is always plenty of inspiration I am soaking up on each trip!!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have an amazing support system of family and friends that have seen something in me from the beginning that I might not have always realized and encouraged me to pursue the arts. Especially my mother and sister have always been so sure of my success in life as I grew as an artist. I think that is a big part of the courage and self- esteem I gathered to go out and take opportunities that don’t always have a guaranteed outcome. I have learned that taking a risk goes hand in hand with knowing the pros and cons of it, which my support village definitely helps me be aware of. I want to also thank all my friends and acquaintances who have believed in me and supported me throughout the years and all the amazing instructors and teacher from elementary school to university who mentored me and pushed me to aspire for more. I have received so much love from my international community, they deserve credit! I am grateful!