CRANFORD, NJ — Linda Rosen’s passion for art hearkens back to her childhood.
“I used to draw on the walls when I was 4 years old,” laughs Rosen, the winner of the Union County Arts Outside the Box contest, which attracts talent from throughout Union County.
The year-old county-wide initiative was created to support local artists in the community and to foster an appreciation for the arts.
“The contest was initiated to instill an appreciation of the arts in various towns,” said Rosen. “They wanted something visible to show that the towns are interested in promoting the arts.”
Rosen, a Cranford resident, earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts and received her art teacher’s certification from Kean College.
Rosen’s art has won her many accolades, and she has had many art showings at galleries and art shows throughout her prolific career.
“I’ve always painted,” said Rosen. “I’m addicted to it.”
Rosen taught art to high school students in Edison for nine years. She then started her own art school, which she ran for 15 years.
“I was living in Manalapan at the time,” Rosen recalled. “And I decided to turn my basement into an art studio.”
Rosen said her business grew solely through word of mouth and there was a waiting list.
“The first year, I had 30 students, the next year, 50. The third year, I had 100,” Rosen said. “I had a lot of students.”
Rosen said she found teaching to be extremely rewarding and several of her students went on to pursue successful careers in art.
“I have one student who works as a greeting-card illustrator,” Rosen said. “Two others are now art teachers.”
She recalled with fondness a special-needs student who came into his own through the power of art. “All of his talents came out,” said Rosen. “He developed into an artist and into a new person. That’s the reward in teaching.”
Rosen said she draws much of her inspiration from nature. “I’ll take a subject — maybe a landscape — and paint my own version of it,” said Rosen. “I get my inspiration from just looking, by observing nature.”
Rosen also paints street scenes and portraits. It was a street scene painting, titled, “Corner of Mapes and Bergen,” that was the winning work at the contest.
“My husband actually grew up on the corner of Mapes and Bergen in Newark,” said Rosen with a smile.
Rosen describes her art as expressionistic, taking her inspiration from mid-century expressionist artists such as Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns and Jackson Pollock.
“Most of my work tends to be on the abstract side,” said Rosen.
Rosen is thrilled with her work space, an artist loft at the YMCA in Rahway. According to Rosen, she saw the advertisement for the rental lofts in the refurbished building and was the first to sign up.
“The space was great,” Rosen said. “The light was wonderful, the room was big. It gives me the space to express myself. I must have 50 paintings lining the walls.”
Rosen plans on renting the loft — a large and airy space, with plenty of natural light — for another year.
Rosen says she loves the fact that she can be alone with her craft, and it is very apparent she takes advantage of the time she spends in this unique space.
Dozens of paintings — some in vibrant hues, others in softer pastels — lean against the walls and line the shelves. A brightly colored oil on canvas sits on her easel, a work on which she is currently working.
“It started out as a canopy,” said Rosen, pointing to a crimson splash of color in one corner. “Now it’s starting to look like a road.”
She says, as she paints, she moves along with the flow of the piece. “I let the painting take me where it wants to go.”
Rosen says she strongly believes in the power of art and feels students need some form of the arts. in order to express themselves.
“I think it’s needed in all the schools,” said Rosen, referring to arts programming. “It gives the students a chance to express themselves. The need to create is very important for kids.”
Rosen said, for her, creating art is a truly joyful and satisfying endeavor.
“When I am creating a painting, I get into my own world, my own space,” said Rosen. ”I just love it. It’s an amazing feeling.”