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Meet Charlene Mosley

Today we’d like to introduce you to Charlene Mosley.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
I was born and raised in Berlin, Germany, where I visited international schools up until I was 17, learning English, Italian, and French. I then moved to San Diego in 2008. I finished high school and went to Cuyamaca Community College and then San Diego State University. I graduated in 2016 with a BA in Studio Arts with emphasis in Painting and Drawing and a minor in German Studies.

I have always been in love with art, and although I tried all kinds of other directions, I came to the conclusion that art is my life and I always needed it to give me a balance to cope with other things. Fortunately, my mother has always been supportive and very encouraging to follow my creativity, growing up. As a single mother, she did her best to support my sister and I through our childhood to the fullest in all our practices.

I won my first bronze medal award when I was five years old in a world-traveling art competition I had submitted to. The awards were announced in China, and I placed third place. A year later, I won an award from a Walt Disney Art Competition. As a child, I felt overexcited to send off my work to see what others thought of it and learnt early on that it takes many tries and submission, many rejections forever win or award. It pushed me to try harder and continue to draw and paint.

It was at Cuyamaca Community College, that I intensely studied painting, mostly in watercolors and oils with great instructors pushing me to explore, go big and experiment. That is also when I began working as a student aid for the Art Department, getting a chance to see the behind the scenes of setting up exhibitions and prepping artwork to be hung properly. As the budget was cut, I transferred to work for the school Cashier, and later in the Administration Office for the Vice President of Instruction for the School. Transferring into the business side of the school, gave me so much important insight into business administration and business terminology, which I can say helped me a lot when it comes to my art career/ business as a freelance artist/muralist/illustrator.

I learned about proposals, grants, meetings, business forms, contracts, etc…All the things necessary to apply for art jobs and set up one’s own business. I have always gotten so much support from my family, school, and work. I will always be grateful, and it made it so much easier for the questions to come from people: “So you want to become a starving artist?”, “Are you sure that is what you want to do?”, ” How will you support yourself?” …

Throughout my time at SDSU, my instructors encouraged me to further apply to exhibitions, I learned to be persistent and to fine tune my skill. I painted murals with my classes and exhibited frequently in group art shows around town. My instructors at school gave me useful advice regarding the art business itself, schools to continue my education at and other possible routes I could go. I was and still am so thankful for all the information my mentors have shared with me about the arts and their personal experiences. I believe it is vital to share what one learns as an artist about the business, the arts, and careers.

In 2016, just as I was finishing up my last semester at SDSU, I submitted my portfolio to an international artist call to paint a movie called, Loving Vincent. Life continued just as before; I was super busy working part-time and going to school full time. I forgot about the artist call, as I apply all over to all kinds of opportunities all the time and usually never hear back. Shortly after graduation, I get an email with a Skype invitation. Little did I remember it was about Loving Vincent. So, I called, and the coordinator said, “Okay so, I will see you for an interview next Thursday, yes?!” and I replied, “Sure! Where do we meet?”. Well, she said Poland, which I had totally missed when applying. I said, yes, had a little freak-out moment and set up a fundraiser told all my friends, acquaintances, and family about it and raised the money to fly to Poland four days after my call.

I could write a book with multiple volumes about my extraordinary, unforgettable experience working with 60 other artists in one of three studios on the film, Loving Vincent, but for the purpose of this interview, I will keep it short. After, passing testing and training which took a month, I got hired to work as a painter- animator. It was an amazing roller coaster ride with struggles and successes. I painted about 250 frames in the six months I worked in Gdansk, Poland. That came out to about 20 seconds in the film. I am proud of it and all the others. Loving Vincent is a breathtaking achievement and literally took a village of 125 artists, three years to paint and a crew and almost a decade of the creators’, Dorota Kobiela’s and Hugh Welchman’s, life to put together.

A year after the worldwide release of the Oscar-nominated film, Loving Vincent, I still travel and do promotional events for the movie working with Royal Talens; I get to share the behind the scenes of this experience and do it with fellow artist Tiffanie Mang and others of the crew who live here in the US. After working on the film, I returned to America with more determination than ever, to be independent. I chose to not work side jobs to support my art career but to support it with art. My best friend and fellow artist from the film, Tiffanie Mang and I got a studio on Art on 30th, calles STUDIO 15, here in North Park with monthly exhibitions and more. Now, we share it with another artist, Kaitlyn Fusco.

Besides working with Royal Talens and on my personal work, I also illustrate books, paint murals and do all kinds of artwork. This year I have illustrated two children’s books, Mathimals published in the UK, and tied in being published in New York this fall. I have also just finished illustrating a romance novel, called Dear Danger bound to be published in January 2019. Currently, I am working on another children’s book, collaborating with a Navy officer on illustration of their life, a 12x8ft commissioned painting, and I just finished an album cover for a singer. My life is exciting, and I am grateful. I get to work with all kinds of people in all parts of the world. And although people say I live the dream, it doesn’t come without hard work and determination. Sometimes I live by the penny; sometimes I make a lot of income to carry me over several months. There is so much to learn, and there is not a prescribed, safe route to take. As an independent artist, I have to keep searching for opportunities, expose my work, connect to people, but I also notice it pays off. The more my name gets out there, the more I get looked up, and people search my name to offer me jobs.

My art career is just starting, and I am stoked about it! I consider myself very blessed for all that I have gotten to experience already and will continue to go after my passion.

Please tell us about your art.
My art is about people, mostly their faces and natural elements, combined with pixilation. I observe the 21st-century society and its relationship to technology and mass media, and how that influences its relationship to the natural surroundings. I explore expression on a person’s face with juicy, expressive, colorful brushstrokes. And contrast that with floral plant matter that fights to push through to the foreground, from a pixelated background. This is to show how in our busy lives we focus on us as individuals and the people around us through social media, capturing pixelated pictures of the world around us, but forget to set a moment aside to inhale and notice the taste of the air or the sound of the trees as the leaves get pushed back and forth by the wind. The lens of our cameras captures our worlds as it is stored into a microchip of gigabytes. In my work, I try to call attention to our senses, to using all five of them to experience the world we live in. I do that mainly in watercolor paintings as well as oil paintings.

What do you think about conditions for artists today? Has life become easier or harder for artists in recent years? What can cities like ours do to encourage and help art and artists thrive?
Life is definitely hard in San Diego as an artist. I am always working, always thinking of new opportunities to grab to search after, working online on international jobs. I take multiple illustration/ commission jobs at a time to support my career and work hard to continue to have time to paint my personal work. Over the last year, it has paid off as I am getting my name out there, and am gaining more income as I am building my business. However, as an artist finding affordable studio space in San Diego is a struggle for many artists. I find myself very blessed to have found my studio at Art on 30th. The location is great, and I get to be surrounded by many other successful artists of San Diego. It is a very inspiring space to be in where much can be learned from one another and great exposure.

Often times though, including me, artists share spaces as they can’t afford them on their own. Rent is just too expensive in San Diego. Then submission fees to gallery exhibitions are definitely high up there and rising making it difficult for up and coming artists to gain exposure. This is not only in San Diego. Many highly talented artists I have gone to school with have chosen different careers, discouraged by the San Diego art scene. Or they have moved away to art hubs such as Los Angeles and New York to find more opportunity.

But San Diego has many amazing art niches, some being in North Park, Barrio Logan, Liberty Station, La Jolla, and many other places. It is visible that these art communities have their struggles with rent increases and gallery/studio closures, one being the Studio Door that sadly closed recently. The Arts is fighting in San Diego, and as locations go out of business and close, others revive in other places. Barrio Logan is rebuilding and redefining its art scene impressively with new studio spaces for artists, as well as Downtown San Diego and North Park. Many individuals I have gotten to know over the years invest a lot of time into finding locations, such as breweries, coffee shops, businesses, and organizations to create and curate a space for artists to showcase their work.

I believe what would help the art scene in San Diego grow and flourish more, is if the art communities around town would work together more on events, communication and sharing information on calls, and opportunities. Over the past years, I have observed that happening more and more and as a result, have seen artists and organizations working together to build a supportive art community in the whole of San Diego. That interconnected network needs to grow stronger and bigger so that it is less of a picking a niche within San Diego, but more of a drifting within one whole art scene. An increase of artist, curators, gallerists’ talks and networking are vital to create a support system for new and experienced artists to share information on how to navigate within the ever-changing San Diego art scene. This will keep artists from fleeing the San Diego scene in hope of success in other cities and create a stronger more thriving art community, in my opinion.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
I have my work up on my website: www.charlenemosley.com and social media.
Instagram: @cm__art
Facebook: Charlene Mosley

Most of my newest pieces can be seen in person at my studio, STUDIO 15, at Art on 30th, top floor above the Ashton gallery (4434 30th street, San Diego, CA 921160). You can make an appointment to view my work or come to a monthly exhibit to support and meet me in person. 🙂

Every third Saturday of the month, I host an exhibition and open studio with refreshments provided, together with my friends and co-owners of the studio, Tiffanie Mang and Kaitlyn Fusco. We also have a Facebook page, Studio15, where we post classes and other events happening at our studio.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Loving Vincent movie poster- credits to LovingVincent.com and Good Deed Entertainment

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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