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curtains: in conversation with jess rose

In times of uncertainty and fear such as today, art seems like the only silver lining for many. Jess Rose's art adds greatly to this feeling. There is something magical and distinct about her work, which provides an instant warmth and comfort.

Over the years, Jess has gained an enthusiastic audience, and has been an illustrator for several projects including the book Rafa and the Mist (2017) and Tessa Violet Merchandise (2016).

In the midst of it all, she could continues to grow as an artist, honing her craft and experimenting every day.

In this conversation with Jess Rose, we explore her relationship with death and how it affects her decision-making, how she would like to be remembered, and her ‘art bucket list.’

Push up Daisies: What has your relationship with death always been like, and how do you view it now?

Jess: When I was a kid, there was nothing more daunting and terrifying to me than death. It felt ‘unfair’ that such a big, scary thing would happen to you whether you want it or not. Nowadays, I work towards having a healthier mindset towards death, and when I get to the point when my life will end, I hope to welcome it like an old friend and be at peace with it.

Push up Daisies: Are you spiritual or religious? How do you think your culture/ideals affect your perception of death?

Jess: I wouldn't consider myself very spiritual or religious. I personally don't believe in an afterlife of any kind, but I also acknowledge that no one, including myself, can know that for sure.

Not having a personal belief for what comes after death does make it scary. It makes the whole thing very unknown, but I find comfort in the idea that, hey, who knows– maybe I could be pleasantly surprised! Or not. Either way, I tell myself that's a bridge best crossed when I get to it and that fretting about it now will only do me more harm than good.

Push up Daisies: As a creative, does the fear of death ever drive you to create more?

Jess: I would say so, yes! I have an ‘art bucket list’ of things that I've always dreamed of making in my lifetime. Without a deadline, it can be hard to push myself to get these things done– especially when it comes to larger, more daunting projects or ideas.

I try not to pressure myself too hard with the idea of having a finite amount of time to make a finite amount of things though, I find that this just ends up stressing me out and I end up spending my time stressing instead of spending my time actually creating things.

Push up Daisies: How would you like to be remembered?

Jess: I'm not really sure. I would like to be remembered fondly, for sure. Whether that be because of my art, my actions or my interactions with the people around me. I would hope that people would remember me in a positive light and that maybe even in death, I could make them feel even a little bit of joy.

Push up Daisies: What are you most proud of in your life?

Jess: Making decisions that were hard to make, but that made my life better. When I finally made the decision that it would be best for me personally to leave art school, I was terrified. It was a huge and scary decision but after I made it, I realised it was the right choice. I'm proud of myself for that choice, and for other hard choices that I've made that have ultimately made me happier. Change is scary, and it doesn't always work out for the best and the idea of making a ‘wrong’ decision really scares me, which is why I'm so proud of myself for taking the leap when I do.

Push up Daisies: How does the thought of death affect your every day life? In what ways can it be healthy to contemplate death?

Jess: Death is not something I actively try to think about often, but when I do I try to use it in a more positive light. Sometimes the thought of death will help me make choices because I tend to be a big overthinker. It can help to ground myself and say “hey, life is short, just do that thing you want to do and stop making it such a big deal. Give your chance to experience it before it's too late and you've missed your chance.”

I think in that way, contemplating death and using it to ground myself in times of needless anxiety is healthy for me. Kind of like when you look up at the stars and realise that some of your problems aren't as big and scary as they seem. It can be intimidating, but I mostly find it humbling and comforting.

Push up Daisies: Have you ever seen a film/art piece/read a book revolving around death, that left its mark on you?

Jess: When I was a kid, my Dad read me The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein. When the character of Thorin died at the end of the book, I cried and cried. I told my Dad it was so unfair, why would the world do this to him?

As I grow up, looking back on that story can help me see my progress with coming to terms with death. I can now acknowledge that his character death is sad, but can look at it more as simply ‘the end of his journey’, and know that it was a very special part of the story that still sits with me to this day.

Push up Daisies: Is there something that you would be willing to die for? What would this be?

Jess: My family. They are probably the most important thing in the world to me.

Push up Daisies: What are your ideal and worst ways to die?

Jess: My ideal would be anything quiet or peaceful.

I absolutely hate the idea of drowning and plane crashes, which I'm sure I'm not alone in! I don't think those would be anyone's ideal deaths.


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