Rosanne, can you tell us a little about your background in art?
I've been making art since I was a small child and drew in all the blank pages of my story books. I studied art in junior high and high school, and minored in it in college. However, I didn't take it seriously until my children were teenagers and I returned to taking classes at Watkins Institute.
Is it your "day job"?
Sadly, no. I'm an academic counselor at Vanderbilt by profession, but if I don't paint regularly, I get very grouchy.
From your work, I see that celestial figures are your preferred subjects. Can you tell us how you came to this subject?
Traditionally, angels are viewed as being God's agents, messengers, or warriors. While I paint a lot of angels, it feels more like they choose me. They are a pictorial way of representing spiritual truth or action, and they often become my subject matter when I am working through grief or other spiritual issues. Who knows what an angel looks like? I may portray them as winged beings, but they are symbols of the ineffable, the unseen. I believe that angels are active in the world, but they may be perceived as kind and generous acts by other people, comfort that is given unexpectedly, a nod or smile that recognizes a common humanity when one is feeling isolated and forgotten. Who knows? Maybe they are present in our pets who comfort us, or a refrain of a song that gives us courage. I paint a lot of other subjects, but people seem to remember the angels more than anything.
Can you tell us a little about your process & your chosen mediums?
Okay. About half of the time I do have a vision or an idea that I've worked out in sketches and transferred to the canvas or paper. But often I have no idea whatsoever, and simply "throw" paint at the surface, letting the paint be paint and allowing it to show me what it wants to do. I'll let it drip and run until the surface is really chaotic-and then I begin to clean it up. Most of the time an image emerges, and I work to bring it out and eliminate the extraneous. However, I find that the underpainting, the chaotic mess, provides a solid grounding for the final image. (Oh, did I mention that I am terribly threatened by blank white canvas?)
The above technique works best with acrylics because of the fast drying time. For the more carefully planned work, I prefer to use oils. I also love to work with pastels, and struggle with varying degrees of success with water colors.
Please tell us about your new works inspired by the crisis in Haiti and other future plans.
By way of background, I have turned to painting whenever I have to come to grips with a world event that is too horrendous to grasp. I did many paintings after 9/11 that depicted the souls lost as multi-colored feathers. After the tsunami in the Pacific, I painted waves of love. The images of the destruction of Port-au-Prince and the suffering of the people made a huge impact on everyone; one thing that struck me was many people who, in the midst of their anguish, nevertheless sang praises to God. So in the painting, I tried to depict not only the destruction, death, and destitution, but also the spiritual power of the people. The angels in the piece represent the outpouring of love from relief workers, doctors, nurses, and others who physically helped, as well as those around the world who donated money and prayers to the cause.