We had the good fortune of connecting with Charlotte Bassin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Charlotte, we’d love to hear about how you approach risk and risk-taking
There is one character trait inherent to being a traveler and to being an artist – a willingness to take risks. Not just a willingness, but a passion, a calling. It’s the reason I spent a decade exploring the world before getting married and the reason I am an artist now.
Risk-taking to me is driven by a fear of living a boring life. It’s a desire to live an extraordinary life, because the way I see it, we have just one life to live… better make the most of it.
In my younger years I traveled solo, a girl and her backpack. I jumped out of planes and off bridges (tethered by a bungee cord); learned to scuba dive; trekked to where I could see the peak of Mt. Everest; slept under a blanket of stars in the Sahara; showed up in India on 9/11 with $500 in my pocket, no return ticket home and a desire to help humanity.
I met my husband on a plane. He had taken a trip around the world the year before so he understood the joy of travel. We got married (he proposed on a plane), bought a house, got a dog and now have two beautiful daughters. Put simply, I settled down… but I didn’t settle.
Instead, and with the support of my wonderful husband, I pursued my dream of being an artist. It shouldn’t be a surprise that my subject matter was maps of the world.
I have been making artistic world maps for the past two decades. I have made hundreds of them and I have created them using all kinds of different materials and techniques from traditional methods like painting, printmaking, drawing and collage to using non-traditional materials like flowers, sea glass, gumballs and bike chain.
The most satisfying (and scariest) ones to make are the ones where I take the biggest risks — when I work with materials I’ve never used before (like resin, dead fish or blood); when there’s a possibility that the next step I take will destroy all my hard work up until that point; when I use my art to speak out about social injustices; and when I have to own that I am an idealist at heart and make art to spread joy, inspire hope and bring more beauty into the world even though it seems cooler to be edgy.
In a way, risk-taking is about dealing with fear. Being an artist means dealing with rejection, imposter syndrome, creative blocks and above all a fear of being a starving artist.
I have learned through travel and through art that risk-taking isn’t about facing a fear but rather it’s about having the courage to move forward despite your fear and to trust that everything is going to be okay. It’s about resilience — if things don’t turn out how you hoped, then you have the opportunity to learn and grow. You will come out stronger and your life more interesting.
To me, risk-taking is the secret to living a life filled with adventure and having no regrets. When I’m on my deathbed, that’s the story I want to tell.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Wander + Wonder LLC is the official name of my art business. I like to say that I make art to inspire the travelers, adventurers and changemakers of our world. With each work of art that I create, I aspire to inspire. I see my art as an invitation for us to think anew about our inherent connections to humanity and to Mother Nature, to consider how we might best preserve Earth’s natural beauty, revitalizing hope in the process.
Many of my maps reproduce well as prints, others are one of a kind 3-dimensional pieces. I have done commissioned works that were created for a special purpose or person in mind. I love working with people to create that perfect work of art and welcome all creative ideas.
The name of my business comes from the fact that I have the words wander and wonder tattooed on my feet. As I travel the world, I take photos of my feet in all kinds of fun locations with famous landmarks or gorgeous landscapes. It embarrasses my family but I think it’s a fun way to commemorate the places I’ve been.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I live in Golden which is right in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, so of course I would take them on a bunch of nearby hiking trails. Going up Lookout Mountain would give them an awesome view of Denver and the mountains.
We’re also home to Coors Brewery so I might take them on that tour but then I would hit our favorite local breweries: Cannonball, Mountain Toad, Golden City Brewery, New Terrain and Golden’s newest eatery, The Golden Mill.
We’d visit Denver for sure where I’d take them to Denver Zoo (where I worked as a designer and photographer for 6 years before becoming an artist full-time). I also love driving through the Rocky Mountain Arsenal to visit the herd of bison and other awesome wildlife. We’d check out all the great murals and public art in RiNo, hit the Denver Art Museum, and walk around 40 West Arts District, where my studio is located.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There have been so many people — friends, teachers, mentors and other artists who have supported me along the way on this journey — it would be impossible to name them all. A huge shoutout goes to everyone who has crossed my path and given me words of encouragement, taught me important lessons, given me new perspectives and most importantly pushed me to take risks.
I like to think that I would have pursued my career as an artist as a woman on her own, but I know it would have been much more difficult without the support from my husband over the past 15 years. Being a professional artist is not for the weak. It takes constant hard work, devotion to the vocation, a vision for success and unless you’re super fortunate, years of very little income. Someone once told me “don’t quit your day job” and they were right, but thanks to my husband I was able to quit my job and to give the time and attention necessary to becoming a successful artist. I like feeling like we are living this adventure together.
Portrait sitting – Photo Credit: Daniel Fox