Rose Kelly was born on August 20, 1952, in Rockville Centre, New York. Her love for drawing and creating art started at a young age with time spent creating paper clothes for her cut-out dolls and doodling on paper napkins at restaurants. Rose claimed that at 6 years old she “knew she wanted to be an artist.” She attended St. Agnes Cathedral School in Rockville Centre through 9th grade, where she was often reprimanded by the nuns and sent to detention for drawing in class instead of listening. Rose graduated from South Side High School, where she was able to fully express her creative side and love for drawing. Following high school, she attended Marymount Junior College in Washington, D.C.
It wasn’t until she left home in 1972 that she really dove into her artistic talent. Against her father’s will, she moved to Colorado to attend the University of Denver. There she received a BA in Fine Art and was greatly influenced by her professors and the pop/psychedelic art of the time. Rose loved Denver; however, her father, a reasonable man, saw no future for her to make a living as an artist. He threatened that if she didn’t find a “real” job soon, she would have to move back to New York. Through a mutual friend of Headmaster Mitchell Walker, Rose landed a teaching job at St. Anne’s in 1974. Mother Irene and St. Anne’s became her home away from home, and she never left Denver again.
Throughout her life, she attended weekly classes at the Art Students League of Denver and lived by the motto that “there is an artist in everyone, it’s just about taking time to practice.” Rose is most known for her pastel landscapes, pulling inspiration from the famous Edgar Degas. While she excelled with chalk pastel, in her later years she explored and fell in love with mixed-media collaging as a way to express the elements of spirit, air, fire, water, and earth. In her final years, she believed that this medium was the truest expression of her creative spirit.
Her “Visual Journals,” done over the last 10 years of her life, bring together all elements and skills of her creativity. Bound and stitched by hand, the pages detailed everything from something she saw or heard that day to her appreciation for the art of calligraphy; some also incorporated mixed-media or watercolor landscapes. Her most remarkable “Visual Journal” depicted the candid battle she faced when first diagnosed with cancer. Always infused with humor and honesty, this journal is a self-reflection of the ups and downs she confronted throughout her illness.
Rose found creativity in every element of living; she was rarely seen without a sketchbook in hand and would find any opportunity to put pen to paper. Whether it was writing or drawing, she found a way to capture even the most minuscule moments and turn them into art.
Her practice, influenced by Julia Cameron’s, The Artist Way, gave her the opportunity to sit and write every morning. Rose believed this habit of writing opened pathways in her mind to be creative in every facet of life. She wrote over 35,000 pages in her morning journal and sold hundreds of pieces of art to the community. However, Rose never failed to comment, “The best art I have ever created is when I have done it for myself and haven’t worried about the outcome.”
Rose Kelly died on July 31, 2010, after a long battle with cancer. Her art lives on as a legacy and reminder that there is undoubtedly an artist in each of us.