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Interview with painter Rose Datoc Dall

I first came across Rose’s work at the LDS Conference center in Salt Lake.
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There was a religious art show up & I went to have a look around. The painting was titled FLIGHT, it depicted Mary, Joseph & Jesus flight into Egypt.

The piece was very large, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. New insight came to me as I was able to view a glimpse of a historic time in this young families extraordinary life. Feelings of love for Mary rose in me as she clung to her toddler, not only was Mary protecting her beloved baby but she was to protect the Savior of the world. We have seen many moments of the life of Jesus & that of Mary depicted in paintings for centuries. However, this painting- this perspective was new.

Dalls work feels contemporary, modern yet describes spiritual & religious stories that date back to the beginning. I love the duality her paintings possess, biblical stories described through a modern visual language. Roses testimony comes through in paint. Whether you believe what she is testifying to or not, you can appreciate the beauty of her strokes.

Rose grew up in McLean, VA. She received her BFA in Art History and Fine Art Studio from Virginia Common wealth University School of the Arts. Rose currently lives in Ashburn with her husband Tim Dall & has 4 children, Jessica (19), Ginger (18), Taylor (14) and Nathan (9). Rose describes her self as a contemporary figurative artist whose themes follow along spiritual lines or that of a domestic window into her family, although there are many career paths within the arts Rose could have followed she is first and foremost a painter and printmaker.

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1.What are the most important events in your life that have taken place to help shape your career?

At age 17, I saw an exhibition of Edgar Degas works, his paintings and drawing studies at the National Gallery of Art and it forever changed me- it lit a fire under me and to this day has been one the most influential artist in how I approach the human figure. I might have learned more from observing his drawings and paintings than from any other instructional class in drawing and painting.

After art school and becoming a mother, my activity in my Church led me to ask questions on how to reconcile some of the principles learned about art which were pretty worldly, about creating your own moral universe independent of responsibility, and reconciling it with my religious beliefs. I saw no reconciliation exactly except that I had to choose which voice I would follow.

I then chose to follow the path that God would carve out for me. If that meant being content with whatever He had in store, domestic and un glorified, I would accept it and be happy knowing that He knows better than I. Ironically, once I embraced consecrating my time and my talents to the Lord, this is where success began to happen slowly over time as I shed more and more of the world’s point of view to adopt Heavenly Father’s view.

Then in 2009, one of my paintings, “Flight” earned a Purchase Award in the 8th International Art Competition for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is now owned by the Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City. This painting, which I almost never completed, but which is actually about the family from my own experience as a mother as much as it is about the biblical account, became a catalyst for even more exposure: its usage on the Ensign Magazine Cover and with Deseret Book and other opportunities coming my way.

Also the recent video profile of me done by the Church on completely opened floodgates that I did not even foresee and so many more opportunities have come my way. I am still trying to absorb the full ramifications.

2.How has motherhood influenced your work?

Then after getting married at age 21 and then having my first child 18 months later absolutely shaped my career, which very much had to scale back significantly. Painting would only happen sporadically, but I knew my focus needed to be on my family and be as stay-at-home mom, as difficult a decision this was.

As much as it is a sacrifice to stay at home with the kids, it also became something that fueled my artistic vision and direction. In the early years, I painted much about my very own domestic life within four walls, my own world as I knew it, called my “Interior Landscape Series,” sort of an autobiographical series about my family. They were about letting my children have the spotlight instead of myself. They were about quiet moments of making piece with my choice to be a mom, the moments in between the moments, those unscripted, unheralded everydayness, silent affirmations, for motherhood is filled with challenges as well as joys. It kind of documented my own journey as a mother.

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How else it influenced my work is that I spent much of my early career purposefully keeping a low profile, turning down commissions; there was no way I could hold a full time position due to family demands. The decision to stay home was one to which Tim and I adhered to. I learned that it is okay to say no. I somehow felt in my heart, a season might come, but when the children were young, I learned to go easier on myself, not dwelling on what seemed to be the world to be passing me by. It turns out that I did not miss out on much.

3.What most inspires your work & is there anything you do to give you direction?

Because much of my work is of a spiritual or religious nature, there is no question that I have to pray before I paint, study my scriptures and even record things in my journal or truly there are walls that impede me. I feel the effects if I neglect these simple things and to the degree that I neglect them. I spin my wheels, waste a lot of time having to paint over sections of a painting that did not flow because I might have charged forward thoughtlessly and ended up getting frustrated.

4.It seems your success is mounting as of late, was there a period in your career that seemed like the failures would never end?

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Yes, I used to take it personally whenever I got rejected from a juried competition and I have had my share of disappointment, even devastation. I think most artists will have felt rejection or disappointment at some time in their careers. Once I learned how to separate and put myself in the juror’s shoes, began to understand the nature of these events, I learned how better to compete. Perhaps I did not enter the right piece or did not follow the guidelines succinctly.

5.How has being an artist/painter benefited your family/children?You might have to ask my children this question. I would be

interested to hear their answer. At least I knew I could paint at home in my studio and have flexibility there to be home when the kids came home from school, run them to the dentist or volunteer at school occasionally.

I also teach private art classes which involve my kids, those who would take it.

At least one of my daughters, a senior in HS, aspires to be a visual artist, and my oldest daughter is pursuing photography on college, which was also included in my curriculum. I think that having that link in those shared interests have forged bonds. Our home is full of music as well, as art and music are connected and each one of the children have that as part of their world. While I cannot foresee all the full benefits of having their mother as an artist (given the drawback that my studio takes up most of the basement which is also entertainment area), I hope that maybe one day at least some the paintings I create will be a legacy for my kids and their kids after I die, along with my journals which document so much of the process. I am hoping that there will be a continual royalty on the prints for my children.

6.Are there any grassroot artist beliefs that you have & are not willing to compromise on?

So much of my principles early on were based on Clement Greenberg’s essay’s, more purist in theory, anti-kitch sentiment. While I feel in some ways I have had to readjust my thinking to even permit myself to make prints of my own work and sell them on my site (this was a stretch for me), I absolutely will NOT sell my artwork at Costco. (I am chuckling here). I definitely draw the line there! I cannot give up that part in my sentiments on kitch. Not that I do not like Costco. I love it, but I go there to buy food in bulk and get great food samples, not buy artwork.

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7.What do you think is the biggest downfall of religious art today?

The biggest downfall has been the narrow market of work available and tastes acclimatized only to mainstream realism, when that is only one mode of expression. However, there is quite a lot of activity this current climate with a fresh new tide of painters and artists who are finding their voices as contemporary, realist, folk, minimalist artists, etc. It is an exciting time to be an artist who does religious work as the definition of religious art is redefining itself and expanding.

8.What artists specifically influenced you and your work the most?

Edgar Degas, Michelangelo, Wayne Thiebaud, Gustav Klimt, Alphonse Mucha.

9.Take us through an average day for you, how often do you paint & where?

On the average day, after getting kids off to school and doing my scripture study and prayer, and doing some chores in the morning, I go down to my basement studio and begin work. This starts about from 9:30 am. Painting as a sole proprietorship also means a whole host of other things since I currently do not have a regular assistant, such as answering emails, managing internet orders of prints, packing and shipping. Therefore somedays I am behind the canvas with a brush, sometimes I am doing conceptual drawings, some days I spend planning or ordering supplies, some days I am on the phone with my giclee printer, others I am doing photo shoots of models for paintings, or shooting my artwork, sometimes it is sculpting scale manikins for studies for paintings, sometimes I am updating my website and blog, sometimes it is editing photos. Some days very little gets done since life happens, such as doing my visiting teaching, driving to orthodontist appointments, doing necessary housework. Once a year, I teach 2 week figure drawing and painting workshops at the local high school. Those days also have limited painting productivity.

But by 2:45 pm, most studio activity pauses since kids start arriving from school. While my older teenagers are independent, one a driver, my youngest son usually needs help with homework and piano. After he is finished, there is a short window of time where I can return to the studio if he is occupied playing with his friends before dinner. Or a couple of nights a week I go down the street to the gym for evening fitness classes and on those nights my husband or teenage daughter often take care of dinner. We then clean up.

Then in the evening, after things have settled down and kids are in bed, I can return to my studio to work before bed, careful not to stay up too late, although I am prone to do so, getting in the zone. However, if I have a deadline looms, I permit myself to work long hours into the night.

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10.What advice do you have for young mothers pursing their passion or a creative career?

I have 3 bits of advice:

  1. Go easy on yourself. I do not know if other young mother artist have the same sentiments I did, but having young babies and small children might be the most physically taxing stage of motherhood. It is a time when hormones are jacked up then depleted, we might experience baby-blues, or exhaustion from the full-on job as the go-to person for everything, meals, laundry, crisis control, refereeing, etc. I have known moms to have felt depression because of the stress. All of the above are fodder for the vicious cycle of self-doubt and self-criticism. We might be berating ourselves over “why can’t I seem to ever fit in time to paint or create. So-and-so seems to have it all together, so why can’t I be like her?” I fell victim to this early on. Know that there are few moms who are immune to these stresses so do not compare yourself to others who “seem” to have it all together. And creative moments can be few and far between and that is okay. That is life. My career did not happen in a day. Sometimes there were periods where I could not even think of picking up a paintbrush, let alone have the energy when the kids were infants for instance. Mostly it was painting here a little and there a little over 20 years.
  2. To paraphrase the words of another mother artist Cassandra Christensen Barney, she said that the studio was always open to her children, a place were memories were made with her children, as it was with her artist father. I am not sure I am master of making memories in the studio, but I am improving as I still have 3 children left at home. It is amazing advice! Don’t shut your kids out of the studio, but let them in. My kids for instance never got into my paints and messed about as small children simply because it was not a novelty (but by all means please keep the poisonous stuff away from the kids). It is just part of our lives, a permanent fixture.
  3. Get with other creative moms. We feed off each other and support one another! Knowing other artists is such a blessing of which I could never want to part.You can find more of Roses work at her website www.rosedatocdallfineart.comPhoto of Rose courtesy


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