For artist and Penn State alumnus Tom Mosser, ideas and inspiration can come from all different kinds of people, places, and things. He finds motivation in creating works of art that perhaps nobody else has, and uses his talent to bring so many of these spectacular ideas to life.
Mosser grew up 30 miles away from State College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. His parents met at Penn State, more specifically, at a frat party at Delta Chi in the mid-40s. Similar to how many Penn State family legacies continue, both of Mosser’s sisters attended Penn State and he followed suit.
Besides a seven-year stint as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ mascot in the 90s, a career in art is all Mosser has ever known and dreamt of.
There is a certain child-like energy an artist must possess. One must be self-motivated and continually using their creativity in the best ways possible. For Mosser, this energy and motivation to succeed in the art industry began when he was a child and has continued throughout his entire career.
“I remember kids gathering around watching me fingerpaint. I still remember the feeling of swooshing around the paint on whatever paper we used,” Mosser said. “I remember kids gathering around and saying, ‘Oh Tom’s good. Tom’s good.’”
As most young kids do at some point in their life, Mosser even took his art to mean painting and drawing on the walls of his home. Mosser’s father, who worked at a newspaper, would bring home roll upon roll for his son so that he could express his art somewhere other than on their walls.
Mosser never grew out of this fascination with art, but he certainly did move on to bigger and better things than painting on his living room walls.
When Mosser came to Penn State in the 80s, he worked for The Daily Collegian for four years as a graphics and editorial cartoon staff member. He was also a member of Phi Kappa Theta for two years and a Penn State cheerleader his senior year.
“I tried out my freshman year [for cheerleading] and I also tried out for the Nittany Lion, but there was no interceding the guy. My skill was that I could dance,” Mosser said. “I tried out for cheerleading because I wanted to meet girls, essentially.”
Mosser’s involvement with Penn State football went beyond when he was on the field as a cheerleader. He also had the opportunity to use some of his artwork to create the program covers for various games. Today, pieces of his art are on display in James Franklin’s office, as well as in other areas throughout the Lasch Building.
Although many of Mosser’s pieces relate to sports or large universities, he paints a much broader horizon. Sports, though, is where he found his niche.
“I know the language of sports, I know about uniforms, I know the history,” he said. “There’s a lot of great artists in this world, but they may not know who played second base for the New York Yankees when they won the World Series five years ago or something. Or what uniforms Penn State wore a certain year. I know all that stuff.”
As Mosser’s parents aged, he realized that he wanted to go for a career in art full time and felt like he was ready and prepared to try to make a name for himself.
Now throughout his career, Mosser has created work for sports arenas like Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee, US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, and the Prudential Center Arena in Newark. He created more than 50 pieces for the Prudential Center, including a massive, 5,400-square-foot mural.
Six years ago, Mosser created a painting of his golden retriever that changed his life. He created this painting for the fun of it, but prints of it went viral. The paintings sold out in six weeks to people all over the world, and have raised over $36,000 for rescue groups around the world.
One of the most notable things about Mosser’s work is that he paints with a variety of unique objects. From tires to basketballs to footballs, you name it, and Mosser has probably painted with it.
“I would look around me and I would think what is around me that I’m not seeing. I had to do a commission painting with a theme of a heart that had been run over,” he said. “So, I said, ‘Well I’ll go get a couple of car tires and I’ll roll them across the canvas.’ I thought, what other things leave an imprint? I had a basketball and a football in my studio that I would just toss around and I just started painting them,” Mosser said.
The attention to detail and individuality of Mosser’s work is absolutely captivating, and the deeper level his media adds is incredible. After all, there’s no better way to paint a Penn State logo than with a Penn State football.
“It’s really fun to do. It’s really good to do with kids,” he said. “I have a couple of kids from The School for the Deaf that are going to come by the studio next week, and I’m going to show them the technique and we’re going to create logos for their school using the technique.”
Through his Penn State family, connections, and through Nittany Lion logos, Mosser has made a name for himself. He still gets that same excited feeling though that he did in kindergarten that motivates him to keep going.
“I think the inspiration goes back to when I was finger-painting. That same feeling that I got that day as a little kid, is the same feeling I get when you’re making art, and you’re writing, or when you’re in the arts,” Mosser said. “You’re always on the side trying to create something that nobody else has in some way.
“That’s the great thing about creating art. I will create something that literally did not exist in the morning. Whether I’m talking to an artist who is 50 years old or 18 years old, nobody paints like you. Nobody draws quite like you. Take advantage of that uniqueness and that perseverance factor.”