With Patience and Persistence, Art Prevails: Illustrator Greg Rosewall Has Faith in What’s to Come

By VICTORIA FORD | Nov 20, 2019
Photo by: Victoria Ford Greg Rosewall has built a world of fantasy and adventure from his imagination.

Little Egg Harbor — Most creative types can relate: There are never enough hours in the day to get caught up on projects and pursue new ideas. Artist Greg Rosewall of Tavistock in Little Egg Harbor Township “always had the idea that I would do different stuff,” he said, since his love of art has never been limited to any one field.

Years ago he started a children’s book, A Bear in the Deli, a sweet misadventure involving a big bear feeling out of place in the big city. He has a complete story and an outline of dynamic illustrations that hark back to the style of Andrew Wyeth.

He also has a well-developed set of original illustrations for a fantasy plot – a sort of ashcan comic book – based on an adventurous heroine and a band of unruly goblins.

“My collection’s odd,” Rosewall said, rummaging through rows of books on a shelf in his studio. “I’m not what’s called a ‘fanboy’ – If I had a comic book, I’d keep it so I could learn from it,” he explained.

He’s currently trying to land a mural gig at the Walmart store in Little Egg Harbor; the referral came from the local library, where he has work hanging in the children’s section from a SAIL (Service and Achievement in the Library) program years ago in which he collaborated with kids to paint large canvases with aquatic animals, e.g. fish, jellyfish, penguins.

For the Walmart proposal he has submitted two different sketches that incorporate important landmarks and lifestyles of the area.

He enjoys projects that allow him to highlight culture and history. He has won awards for his paintings of Tuckerton buildings and scenes. Elsewhere locally, he has created a mural of Tuscan rooftops on the side of a home in Mystic Island.

The artist is a self-described “quiet loner.” He works in the privacy of a spare room in the townhome he shares with his mother, June.

As his education, experience and life in the traditions of fine art have proved, learning and creating the old-fashioned way is slow-going – but “that’s part of the journey of the art,” he said. “If it was easy, I wouldn’t want to do it, I guess.” The tools and shortcuts available today save time, he said, but at the expense of refining skills.

In addition to his artistic gifts, Rosewall has a natural talent for world building. As a kid he and his friends were into Dungeons and Dragons cosplay. A whole day could be spent traveling by bus to a comic shop in New York City to get lost in the alternate universes contained within their visually intriguing covers, or sitting in a shopping mall and sketching passersby.

He grew up in Fairfield, Essex County, near Paterson. His original discipline of choice was sculpture. In high school he got more into the two-dimensional media of drawing and painting. He was influenced by the science-fiction and fantasy comics in Richard Corben’s Heavy Metal and Marvel’s Epic Illustrated magazines. His art teacher introduced him to oils, which he has loved ever since, for the vibrancy of the colors.

And somehow, along the way, the kid who was “king of the nerds” in grammar school became senior class president.

As a young man he attended Ridgewood Art Institute (he fondly recalls classes held in a barn on Route 17 in Mahwah, with instructors from The Cooper Union and Pratt Institute in New York City) and Newark School of Fine and Industrial Art. He also went into the Army and got out on medical discharge after 3½ years.

For a while he followed the comic book calling – inspired by Adam Warren’s Dirty Pair and Empowered, as well as the Japanese manga series Appleseed – and that path led him out to California with a couple of friends “doing Marvel/DC stuff,” designing backgrounds, in the heyday when every book was a collaboration among writer, editor, penciler, inker and colorist. The few-years period after the first “Batman” movie was released at the end of 1993 was a superboom for comics, he said.

While out on the West Coast, Rosewall started learning PhotoShop. But then he was unexpectedly called home to help care for his father, and the art career got put on hold.

For several years he worked for Borders Books and Music in Wayne, where he got to do a ceiling mural that proved challenging (“I would attach a paintbrush to the end of a long stick”) – not that he shies from a challenge, since he feels “problem solving is part of the fun of it.”

Currently he does seasonal work at Sea Oaks Golf Club across town, and takes care of his 87-year-old mother. He’s still waiting for the time to be right for him to explore his career in fine art, to pick up where he left off or perhaps to venture in a totally new direction.

“Life throws you curveballs, and you deal with what you have,” he said. His que será será attitude comes from his religious faith, which gives him the quiet assurance that “God’s going to lead me.”

victoria@thesandpaper.net

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