Spotted in Jewish DC: Visual Artist Rose Jaffe

by Allison Friedman / April 13, 2021

Rose Jaffe is a visual artist, with mediums spanning ceramics, printmaking, and digital illustration – and has painted over 30 murals nationally and internationally (including 20+ in DC!). She is passionate about artwork that creates conversation, spiritual grounding, and social change. Rose shares her advice for those looking to chart their own creative career path and how the pandemic has shifted her work.

Her latest show, Natural Connections, opens up Friday, April 16th at the Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Hyattsville.

Allie: We featured you in 2017 as our Jewish Artist of the Week, but a lot has happened in the world since then. How has your career evolved in the past four years? 

Rose: Right now, I’m doing a residency at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center in Hyattsville and work out of my art studio in DC most days. This space serves as both an art studio and, prior to the pandemic, hosted some events, gallery shows and art classes. Having a hybrid space like this has really solidified the importance of the work that I do as an artist. Art is a part of the fabric of community in DC and I’m committed to sustaining art and artistic spaces here.

Allie: Wow, that’s amazing. How would you say the pandemic this past year has shifted or evolved your art? 

I have made a lot more work about nature because I’m spending more time outside. Also, I’m a very social person and love being in community with lots of people. This past year, I’ve been spending my time with select people in a more deeply connected space. So that has been a shift that has influenced my art. 

I’ve been making art that is full of color, full of joy, full of nature, because I find that’s what I need personally. In general, though, I’ve just been making a ton of art this past year. I think a lot of people have felt paralyzed in their practice this year and I totally respect that. And for me, I feel like I’ve needed this moment of quiet more than ever to just come and make art without interruption. 

Allie: I saw on your website that you’re offering online classes. Is that new given the past year?

Rose: Yes, I was offering in-person classes here in the art studio and then I started doing some online classes as well. I have one consistent class that I’m doing online. In many ways, the pandemic was a check on what I’m doing and the level at which I’m operating. I feel like I’ve shifted down a few gears in terms of having so much on my plate and now I’m trying to do less more intentionally.

Allie: Yes, we could all do a little more of that. Speaking of having a lot on your plate, you work with so many different mediums of art. Do you have a favorite? 

Rose: I’m really fascinated with printmaking right now. I had never really done much printmaking before, but I’m really enjoying it at the moment. 

I bounce around because I get excited about trying new mediums. I will be working on paintings for a while, and then I’ll move on to carving, and then ceramics, and then sculptures. I love the act of making art so much that I want to be doing it all day every day, but sometimes I get a little bored with what I’m doing at that very moment, so I’ll switch it up. 

I also have these different styles within my printmaking work. Some are very realistic etched portraits. At a point, though, that will feel constricting, so I will switch to working on loose color blocks and shapes. 

Sometimes people say to me “What are you doing? There is no consistent style!” But I really enjoy and need both styles to balance each other out. 

Allie: You also do a lot of murals around the city. How do you get into mural painting and what is that process like? 

Rose: So, murals are how I make most of my living. I have been doing murals for a while and it’s probably what I’m best known for. It started when I painted a wall outside of The Fridge Gallery for a solo-show that I had there in 2014, and I just got hooked on painting big outside. That led me to start applying for grants to do more murals. Then, the more that I painted, the more commissions I got. Today, I do a combination of public-private grant work and, at this point, people tend to approach me for my murals which is really great.

Allie: Do you have a favorite mural or one you are most proud of? 

Rose: The Ruth Bader Ginsburg mural on U Street is probably the most popular. I do really love that piece.

I have been doing more and more at elementary schools through the DC Department of General Services (DGS), which has an amazing program called Percent for Arts. I did one mural at Maury Elementary School that’s three stories on both sides. That one took me about a month to paint and it was really fun, so that one might be my favorite. 

Allie: How do you even get started with something like that? I just can’t even imagine painting something that big! 

Rose: I create a version digitally on my iPad first then essentially project the line work and fill it in! Another way I’ll do it is to use a grid, if I don’t have access to a projector. But, you know, once you can paint small, it’s really just a practice of working at that scale. You can really get good at anything you practice.

Allie: I noticed on your Instagram that you do a lot of yoga. Do you see an intersection between yoga and your art? 

Rose: Spirituality has become an important part of my life and my artwork over the years. I’ve found spirituality to be an answer to a lot of questions that you can’t find the answers to in other places. 

I’ve been practicing yoga for about 14 years, but my yoga practice has unfortunately fallen off since the pandemic started. But I do meditate everyday and my meditation practice is so important. It keeps me grounded and allows me mental clarity to focus on the work that I want to make and gives me peace of mind which I don’t think I would have without that practice. 

I have a big solo show coming up at Pyramid Atlantic called Natural Connections and it’s all about our connection to nature. There is the climate change piece of how we build empathy and compassion for nature and how do we save it; and there is the spirituality component about the oneness that we are the environment. If nature is sick, we are sick. I think a lot about what we are leaving our children and there is a lot of spirituality imbued into this show. It’s definitely more and more a part of my work and I’m very curious about how art and feeling connect in that way. 

Allie: I love that. I meditate almost every morning and it makes such a big difference in my headspace. 

Rose: It is amazing what a big difference meditation can make. I realized through my meditation practice that it can have a big effect and that it’s not something external that you have to do, but it’s internal. It’s powerful what I can do with simple breathwork, and just sitting and breathing for five minutes each day. 

We live in such a distracted world. All we can do to quiet that mindspace is better

Allie: What advice would you give to someone considering a full-time career as an artist who might be afraid to take that leap? 

Rose: The path looks different for everyone. I decided after working a variety of different, unfulfilling jobs after college, I wanted to work as hard as I could at being a full time artist. I saved money, hustled with every type of art gig you may imagine, and finally made the leap to start my business. I found painting murals to be generally lucrative, and so refined that skill and seeked those types of jobs. All the while, I continued to build my own art practice and to be honest – I think I am very lucky that people like the work I make, and buy it! 

Making art for a living is a great privilege. I would not be here without tons of support from my family, community and so on. I learned a ton from other artists and small business and am still learning every single day. 

If you want to make a career of being an artist, it may not the be the easiest road – but is absolutely doable. Life is short so I say go for it! Stay focused and stick with it. 

Allie: What is the biggest challenge and the biggest benefit to do this work full-time?

Rose: The biggest benefit that I see is that I love being my own boss – I really wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s not for everyone to be a full-time solo-preneur; it’s a total give-and-take relationship. You have to make your own schedule, find work, make work and everything in between. The flipside is that I can wake up when I want, go to bed when I want, schedule my days how I want, and all of that is priceless to me. But I also have to work hard to have that. 

I like to demystify the finances of being an artist. In art school, we really don’t learn what we need to about how to run a business. If you’re going to go into any kind of creative field or you just want to start your own business, it’s challenging. You’re charting your own path and there is no workbook for how to do that. But I think people are more and more interested in that life. I see that people are increasingly disillusioned by the corporate world and showing up for a 9-5 job. We need to have more infrastructure to support people to do what they want and get paid for it.

Allie: That’s great advice. The idea of being a solo-preneur must take so much tenacity and grit. You can’t be someone who wants to glide through. 

Rose: Yes. And I also think it’s absolutely fine and great if you want to show up for your job, do your work, and then come home to the rest of your life. I talk to a lot of young people who share their dreams with me and I encourage them to pursue whatever they want and also remind them to be realistic about what it takes.

Allie: What goals do you have for yourself and the future of your art career?

Rose: Oh, I love goals. I am always shifting and changing what I want though. I know that I want to grow my business and have more studio assistants or maybe an employee to allocate more resources to other emerging artists. 

I don’t just want to put pretty things out into the world (even though I think that is great!) I am dedicated to community building, healing, and of taking care of the environment. Art is a powerful tool to reimagine new futures. One where capitalism doesn’t drive everything that we do, and we can collectively come to terms with the traumatic past of this country and begin to heal together. 

Last year, I worked a lot even though it felt like the whole world was closed. This year, I hope to travel, connect with nature, spend quality time with people I love, and continue to work in dismantling oppressive systems. 

Allie: That sounds great. Honestly, you had me at travel! 

Rose: I know, I can’t wait to travel and I think that’s finally on tap! I’m excited to get the chance to do some hiking out west later this year.

Allie: Where can people find you work? 

Rose: You can follow me on Instagram @rose_inks. You can sign up for my newsletter on my website and check out more of my work there. Finally, my show Natural Connections opens up this Friday, April 16th at the Pyramid Atlantic

I’m really here for the journey and hope to inspire people along the way! 

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