The Creatives: Wildlife artist Chase Mullins
Hometown: Baton Rouge
Artistry: Wildlife painting
The large ceramic cup of coffee cradled in his hands is the only tell of the all-nighter Chase Mullen pulled painting last night as he surveys the noonday sun from under the bill of a dark green baseball cap stitched with a simple but searing message: Do Better.
The explorer and wildlife artist likes resting the cap on his desk at the Industriplex art studio he shares with graphic designer and pop illustrator Thomas Wimberly. A gut-check reminder to never ease his foot off the gas.
“Artists need to know that you’re going to go through cycles where your work won’t be any good,” Mullen says. “And working through that is part of the creative process. It’s good to know that. So when I am really producing and I get to that flow state, I know that this won’t last, that I need to make the most of it.”
Mullen is making the most of his work these days, expanding his reach at regional markets and museum shows and filling the walls at The Foyer on Perkins Road near Juban’s. His style is an evocative blend of forms, both artful and anatomical, a document of Louisiana creatures and a headlong dive into some lucid watercolor dream.
Along with his Do Better cap, Mullen fills his workspace with well-worn camping gear, kayaks and the stacks of salvaged cypress and old heart pine he uses as frames to add a rough-hewn texture to his pieces that can feel like specimens pulled deep from the daily roux of Louisiana life and put on display in a white space for further study. Further appreciation.
“Everything you bring into your space is meant to inspire creativity and call out your muse,” Mullen says. “It has to stoke that fire.”
The Baton Rouge native grew up always creating. On fishing trips, he was more interested in the scales and anatomy than how many he caught, though he says he is highly competitive by nature.
For 10 years he’s been showing and selling originals and prints of his work, but it was living overseas in Qatar with his wife Cheryl, a teacher, that made him get a DSLR camera and really start hunting for unique images of wild animals as reference for his paintings.
Inspired by pre-camera illustrations and old field manuals, Mullen’s worldview holds romantic sway over his pencil and brush.
“That used to be a profession—a guy would be hired to pack up a rucksack and explore and survey every bird that lives in a forest—like Audubon,” he says. “The best of those guys were detailed and very prolific.”
Mullen’s advice for creatives striving to produce a lot of quality work is as much of a swift gut check as the message on his cap:
“Knock down every door that’s in the way.”