Tell us a bit about yourself
My name is Charlie Mann. I’m 33 years old, living and working in South East London, but
originally I am from Kent. Currently I work full time at Alzheimer’s Society as a CRM
Functional Lead, but around this career I manage my own artistic practice. I have a small
studio in Camberwell which is where I spend most of my weekends.
I think it's important to be realistic and call out how difficult it is to be solely financially
independent off of your own artistic practice – I knew this would never be feasible for me,
especially with living in London. I have the greatest respect and admiration for my friends
who have succeeded with this, but I have witnessed how gruelling it can be and personally I knew I would need to explore other options.
I make paintings, videos, drawings, and animations within my practice. My work usually
involves themes around people and narrative. I wouldn’t have it any other way, I really love my day job and separating this from my practice keeps me motivated and inspired to make the work I want to, with no pressure.
What made you choose this career?
What’s a CRM Functional Lead? Good question. In short, my role involves leading and
supporting an organisation through a new system implementation. There is a lot of
problem solving, a lot of working with a variety of different people and a lot of working
with technology. I didn’t choose this career, I kind of just fell into it and that's ok! When I first moved to London, I got a job at The Natural History Museum which was incredible. Everyone I worked with was an artist of some sort, I made some incredible friends, and it was my first step into my career and into a new artistic community. From there I began working with system implementation and people, I haven’t looked back.
Did you go through formal education? If so, what did you study and where? If not please explain your journey.
I entered the art school system as soon as I left school at age 16. I studied Fine Art at UCA for two years completing a BTEC qualification and then went on to University College Falmouth to complete a BA in Fine Art. These were honestly the best years of my life. I had a tough time at school and art school was a completely new world. It gave me the time and space to purely just focus on art and have a good time along the way! I would recommend this experience. A few years later I started an academic MA focusing on Art Theory and Criticism at the University of Kent, and to be honest all I wanted to do was make my own work and not write essays about others. I entered this MA because I thought that was what I needed to do after completing a BA. I thought an academic art MA would further my career prospects within the arts, but in reality I could have saved that money and just read a few more books. I was completely unprepared for the next steps post-graduation – something I think art schools need to get better at. There was never a discussion about what opportunities are open to me post university, or how difficult and competitive it is to find a place within the arts. Unpaid internships were one of the only routes in, I hope this isn’t the case anymore.
Did this have a positive or negative impact on your chosen career?
I think having the experience of going to art school had such a positive impact on my life
and outlook that it has naturally had a positive impact on my career. Knowledge and skills I have learnt from formal education filter through into my job, particularly when working
with a range of different people. Thinking creatively always gets you somewhere good.
Who inspires you?
I’m fortunate enough to be part of a buzzing artistic community.. Most of my friends have
studios, makeshift galleries and run exhibitions and events (as well as careers in
completely different fields). These people inspire me. My friends Jamie Temple and
Karolina Glusiec started up their own gallery space in Deptford, run out of their flat
(deptfordcontemporary.com). They work towards creating sustainable ways in which to
make and share work, opening up their space as a platform for new contemporary art in all its forms to local artists and makers. Without spaces like this there is nowhere for artists to start from – it’s so important.
What’s the scariest thing about your job and how have you overcome it?
My job isn’t scary. Just remember that usually everyone is just blagging it, no one really
knows what they are doing, you are going to be fine.
What do you want to change about your industry?
I work within technology which means I usually work with men. This isn’t a problem, but it
would be nice to have more female colleagues. Women are great!
What advice would you give someone who is starting out in your field?
There is no set path, jobs come and go, make mistakes, you are allowed to change your
mind. I put so much pressure on myself to try and find a place within an artistic career because I thought it was what I should do but it wasn’t what I wanted at all. What’s important to me is that I can still make art, and that I have space and time to do that.
Take your time to figure out what is important to you, it's all about the journey.