My Art And Soul: Tracey Moloney
One of our favorite things about Costa Mesa’s robust art community – besides all the inspired art, jewelry, paintings, galleries, street murals, keepsakes, clothing, graphics and classes we get to enjoy – is the way its members look out for each other and support their fellow artists.
“I saw your article about Location 1980 posted on Facebook,” began Moloney as we sat down for the interview. “It was so well done, and one of the photos was of my painting hanging in their gallery. It was awesome.
“So I asked Jesse about it. He told me you guys just literally walked in off the street, introduced yourselves and asked to set up an interview. I was like, ‘That’s awesome! I want them to come to my house and feature me.’ Jesse said, ‘Call them up. They’ll come.’ Now here you are.”
Moloney has been living – and creating – in Costa Mesa for almost twenty years. One look at the beautiful paintings, mixed media and wood-carvings displayed throughout her ethereal, eclectic home-slash-studio and it’s clear she wields both talent and experience.
“I’ve always been artistic, ever since I was a little girl with crayons and coloring books,” said Moloney. “When I was twelve, my mom put me into an oil painting class after school and that was it. I loved it. So when it came time to go to college, I was ‘all in’ for art school but, of course, my dad was skeptical. We finally compromised on advertising – which seemed like a good combination of both business and art.
“I wound up going to the University of San Francisco and the Academy of Art. I did plein air in San Francisco and stained glass and sculpture classes, and then I also took the advertising classes which helped me with my business today.
“But I’ve never set foot in an advertising agency. Ever. I’ve just always had a free spirit and couldn’t be told what to do.”
Moloney primarily spends her time painting murals and portraits on commission through her business, My Art And Soul. But take a jaunt around her Eastside property and it becomes clear the creativity doesn’t stop there.
Honestly, we can’t even mention her space without swooning just a little. Oh, how to describe? Imagine a secret garden and a meditation room got together and decided to open a gallery curating ‘The Life Of A California Artist’ – and we might be getting close.
Some spaces need to be seen to be believed, and Moloney’s home-studio is certainly one. So much love, and so many little touches, have gone into its design; every piece, every choice, every build, every trinket has a story, vignetting the chronicles of Moloney’s lifetime.
Strolling through the surroundings was a singular and magical experience, like sauntering through the very soul of an artist. We were ready to move in.
For her, it’s a conscious choice to stay free, stay focused and always be creating.
“People think artists are a product of their talent,” said Moloney. “But it’s really more about commitment to the work. Life as an artist is a mindful choice you make, a lot of people don’t realize that.”
“My parents taught me from a very young age the importance of work. I’ve worked all sorts of odd jobs. But when I moved down to this area at twenty-seven, I said to myself, ‘That’s it. I’m going to do murals and decorative painting full-time.’
“Part of that commitment means I have to take the business side as seriously as the art side. As an artist, you’d think that I’d be late and always behind schedule. But I have been complimented over and over by clients who say, ‘Out of everybody we hired, we expected the least from the artist. And you’re the person who came in on time, if not before time, under budget and you didn’t hassle us.’
“I love helping people create a vision that they don’t have the ability to create themselves. So I never get offended when a client asks me to change something or apply a different color. I am really dedicated to getting their vision right, and I like the collaboration.”
Not all the art Moloney crafts ends up in the hands of clients. She has a robust personal collection of her own; art for purely art’s sake.
“Right now, I love painting crows,” said Moloney. “A while back I found a baby crow that had been thrown out of its nest and left for dead. It was covered with bugs and in pretty bad shape. So I took this baby crow, over three days, and kept soaking it in warm water to get the bugs off and help it heal.
“Once it got better, I went to release it as a free animal but it wouldn’t leave. It stayed here, it would visit the neighbors, it was like a pet. Eventually, we think a hawk got the crow because it didn’t come around anymore. But even since then, I watch the crows and just have a new relationship with them. I feel a connection.”
The simplicity and unapologetic honesty of Moloney’s style – in both her speaking and her art – is both refreshing and bold. She has an open “what you see is what you get” manner that really comes through when she describes her work.
“I got obsessed with chairs for a while,” said Moloney. “I did a year’s worth of chair paintings as a meditation. My chairs are above and beyond my personal favorites. My goal was to have 365 chairs at the end of the year, and I accomplished that goal.
“My intention for my chairs is for them to tell me how they’re going to figure into some future charity event. I feel like that’s where they want to go. It’s not about making money with the chairs, but it could definitely be about raising money for art awareness.”
We heart that idea.
But the life of an artist isn’t always fun, or easy. Moloney is as straightforward about that fact as she is about everything else.
“Sometimes I think to myself, ‘Well, that’s it. It’s time to go get a real job,'” said Moloney reflectively. “The economy really made things rough for a while. And when you’re self-employed, there’s no benefits, no help, no anything. It’s like, ‘Well, good luck. You’re on your own.’
“So, when it is a struggle, when I’m down to my last dollar in the bank and starting to worry, that’s when something always comes. I will have waited until the very last minute, about to go get a job at Starbucks, and miraculously a phone will ring. Or a friend says they need something done and it’s exactly enough money to get me through.
“I think that’s a sign I was meant to do this. I can see myself doing such bigger things, on a broader level. Like designers who have created lines of fabric, or lines of furniture, or are known for stuff across the country.”
“When Mother’s Market was moving from 17th Street to where Border’s Books used to be, they had a trailer on site during construction,” said Moloney. “So I just walk up to the trailer and had my book open as I went in. The first guy I see is Al Almond and he said, ‘Wow. This is good stuff. You should meet the owners.’
“Now I’ve done work in a few of their stores. I continue to do and redo the murals and everyone at Mother’s is just great.”
Moloney is also involved with the Youth Expo, which comes to the OC Fairgrounds every spring. She creates a mural and then the kids paint it in.
“It’s like a giant coloring book,” said Moloney. “The kids love it. I’m doing that again in the spring.”
So when Moloney isn’t painting or muraling or meditating or rescuing animals, how does she spend her time in Costa Mesa?
“Well, in Costa Mesa you have everything, and we’re also close to everything else,” said Moloney. “I like to go to Tewinkle Park and walk the dogs. I love to go to the Fairgrounds and just wander around, getting ideas for my garden. It’s good for me to get out like that.
“As an artist, I have to stay very aware of what’s going on around me. I have to always stay connected to my creativity.” ♥
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