Meet the artist: EJ Rose

Current Hometown: Minot

Tell us a little about yourself.

Came to Minot in 1995. Was a visual / theater arts major in Massachusetts. Before joining the Air Force. Stayed in Minot to raise family.

What kind of art/arts do you practice?

Many forms of visual art, primarily drawing and painting. Painting on glasswork has been a popular request (vases, wine glasses, etc), but this will highlight theater art.

How did you get started?

Always had the artistic/creative bug since before I was potty trained. In high school, I did a lot of pencil and ink drawings, was into comic book art. I’ve occasionally practiced painting, but didn’t really get going with that until I started experimenting with colors into my drawings. Then I really took to the colors and began painting more. I even did some murals in the Air Force here in Minot.

What influenced your pursuit of this art?

For theater, it began with a chance encounter when the then-president of MASK (Make A Scene Kids) Theater ordered a Christmas wreathe from my son for Cub Scouts. That led to my son enrolling in MASK Theater class and getting a part in last years production of “BusyTown.” Picking him up from rehearsal one night, I noticed they were painting for the set and asked if they needed some help painting. In two days, I had a key to the theater and did some touch up work and created the centerpiece for the set. They mentioned their next show was in the summer – Alice in Wonderland, which can be very visual, so when pre-production started, they connected me with their director, Kena Davidson, and we opened up a lot of eyes within the Minot theater environment, including Dr. Ali Smith of Minot State University, (Kena’s sister), who brought me on for my first project with MSU’s “God Of Carnage.” I’ve since been connected into other productions, including Mouse River Players and Minot High School.

Where might we have seen/heard/experenced your work?

For theater – “BusyTow” was last spring, “Alice in Wonderland” was an all sold-out show at MSU Summer Theater last June, and “God Of Carnage” was at MSU. I also had Carnage art used for the following MSU show, “Dinner Theater,” directed by Conrad Davidson. I did the scenic art for this past November’s “Christmas Carol” at Mouse River Players, directed by Ashley Nilsen. I just recently finished with MSU’s “Independence,” directed by Angela Schnaible. I also painted the stage for Minot High’s fall showing of “The Addams Family” and did some illustrative advertising/promotional work for that for Kena.

How would you describe your style?

I try to create an identity for each show, try to be very visual, add what I can to the show that combines creative thinking with something the directors can feel comfortable with. There is no trademark style (yet) other than I sign all of my work, including the theater work, so my signature will be found in the right bottom corner each time. “BusyTown” was cartoony and it was based off of a book, so I made a large book with the logo popping out, “Alice in Wonderland” was produced by MASK, and sponsored by MSU Summer Theater, pitting a children’s production in the middle of experienced theater productions in the heart of summer was an unknown at the time, so Kena and I wanted to really make an impression, my part was the visuals, I think we accomplished our own identity well, including a massive backdrop of an enchanted forest full of purple trees. “God of Carnage” was very abstract and had a very specific look and color scheme. I painted a few versions/options and Ali chose the combination she felt fit best. “A Christmas Carol” really got me back to my illustrative style, I was very much in my element there, coming up with how to paint a cobblestone road under a bridge was creative and the end result was good. “Independence “was a little more basic, as that was what the set needed to fit the script, but transforming a completely black room (Black Box Theater) into something else was rewarding. So my style is based on the show. But I would say one common theme is that I tend to paint in a more “R” mode style, which is very curvy and wavy, which will likely show in the next two shows as well.

What do you feel has been your greatest artistic achievement?

In theater, I would say “Alice In Wonderland” on a personal level. The massive scale of that show was easily the biggest accomplishment I’ve had. I really questioned if I could paint something that big in three days time when Kena told me what she was wanting, but I’m glad she challenged me with that. (I can’t take all the credit, I had some help, too). But it wasn’t just the backdrop, it was also the stage, the props, and the set pieces that I did that felt rewarding when it all came together to add to the show. My personal favorite on a visual scale is the Queen of Hearts Rose Garden scene, with my last name as Rose, you can bet I stayed up really late making sure those roses were painted as best I could! That was my first set as a ‘pro,’ I was a ‘rookie’ and many people could not believe that this was my first time doing that. (I couldn’t either). On a theatrical level, my best accomplishment thus far was earning recognition with a Certificate of Merit for Scenic Art representing MSU Theater by the Kennedy Center American Theater Festival for “God Of Carnage.” So my first two scenes ever made big waves, I try to be humble, but that really did feel rewarding, it felt like I contributed my part well. “A Christmas Carol” was very well received as well, so I really felt I achieved my part.

What do you most enjoy about the creative process?

The process itself can be stressful because of time. This is done on my spare time, and with rehearsals, I sometimes must paint later into the nights. “Alice in Wonderland” was very long nights, luckily I had great support at home (Shout out to Nikki Rose for the support on that!). But I really enjoy the experience and the final outcome, working with different directors – coming up with concepts and making decisions, and then trying to create it all on a large scale.

What projects do you currently have underway or will you soon have underway?

Upcoming projects will be MSU’s “Much Ado About Nothing” (Ali Smith) and then June’s Summer Theater “The Jungle Book,” another collaboration between MASK & MSU, directed by Kena Davidson. We have big ambitions for “Jungle Book” as I am currently working on five different concepts on canvas that we will choose from. After the success of “Alice in Wonderland” last year, how do we explore topping that?