Former Lansing engineering technician blossoms as an artist

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As an engineering technician for the City of Lansing for more than three decades, Bob Rose’s life revolved primarily around numbers and hard data. Now, he’s spending his retirement exploring his artistic side. 

Rose, 62, first caught the art bug in his early 40s. 

“I don’t know what happened, or what triggered the switch. But I gave myself permission to draw outside of the lines,” Rose said. “We all think we have to make the perfect painting. But you can just throw some paint down and enjoy it. Don’t overcomplicate it, keep at it and enjoy it.”

Heeding his own advice, Rose kept at it. Now, he’s working on his first mural commission at a local restaurant, Harry’s Place. Rose is making the bathrooms of the bar and grill much more vibrant, as he blankets the walls with different figments of his own unique vision. One of the individual pieces gives a patron angel wings if they take a selfie using the mirror. 

“I started watching muralists on YouTube, and if they see something they don’t like, they paint over it and start again,” Rose said. “Which is great. It’s the Bob Ross thing — there’s a lot of ‘happy mistakes.’ It’s a blast to do this kind of stuff.”

Larger projects such as murals are Rose’s primary infatuation at the moment, as they don’t require him to fill his home with piles of smaller canvases. 

“I can do canvases ‘til the sun goes down. But then I’m stuck with a bunch of canvases. My preference right now is to do murals of different styles outside and inside buildings.”

Rose is known to brighten the days of his friends by painting exquisite portraits of their pets. 

“I have no training in art at all. I’ve never taken a class; I just have a desire to do it. I started doing kind of abstract stuff but, as I went along, I wanted something more realistic. Pet portraits fell into my lap, and it was an interesting challenge. I had never done anything like that before.”

Rose’s first pet portrait commission was of a friend’s chocolate labrador retriever. Upon finishing the painting, Rose was more than satisfied by the quality of his work, so he rolled with the concept and painted several more of his friends’ pets. One of Rose’s favorites in this series is that of a lizard, as the sheen of its scales presented a unique challenge.  

Despite his friends being enamored with Rose’s paintings of their furry — and scaly — friends, he says pet portraits aren’t his main schtick. “I love doing ‘em, but if I got an art show coming up, I gotta focus on the creative aspects of that,” Rose said.  

Rose hopes to do more commissions, whether it's something small like a painting of a friend’s dog, or something larger like a mural gig. “If somebody wants me to paint their wall — I’ll do it,” Rose said.

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