Painter Joy Roschella reflects on her past and future as a diverse creative

by ROBIN HOWARD / photography by PAULA CLARK

Coast View, oil on board, 12″ x 16″

Mpurpose is to be a painter, to be an artist, to be creative,” artist Joy Roschella says.

“Things are not well right now, and the more beauty you can put in front of people, I think it can help. My voice is quiet; it’s a visual voice, but that’s the message I’m putting out there.”

Roschella, whose art career has spanned nearly 50 years, is in the middle of creating a new body of work. Right now, the details are secret, but she will say that it’s a new medium entirely inspired by nature, including works in oil, pastel, watercolor and acrylic, and is coming from a mystical, impressionistic perspective. Some works are large—5-by-3 feet—and some are smaller at 3-by-3 feet, but we’ll have to wait for the rest.

The artist is one of those people who knew from a very young age she was meant to live a creative life. She attended the Art Institute of Pittsburg and transferred to the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale in 1974, where she focused on painting. Her parents had always worried about her ability to be financially independent as an artist, and she has a practical streak, so she began looking for a way to make a living as a creative.

Red Barn, oil on canvas, 12″ x 16″

It would be decades before words like Photoshop and clip art entered the lexicon, so at the time, ad agencies only used original photographs or artworks in advertising. Roschella attended the renowned Portfolio Center in Atlanta, now the Miami Ad School known as MAD Atlanta, which is known for cultivating forward-thinking creatives. There, she learned how to be an art director and how to work with art directors.

The artist worked in advertising for as long as she could tolerate it. “There came a time when I needed to switch gears,” she says. “I grew up in North Carolina, so I knew the textile industry was big there. I started painting on fabric, creating 36-by-36-inch samples to present to textile manufacturers.” She also began creating hand-painted garments. Demand for her work grew so much that she eventually opened a studio just outside Asheville that employed several people.

Boone Hall Plantation Garden, oil on canvas, 12″ x 24″

The studio was on the second floor of an old building, so Roschella could finally spread out. She built a 5-foot-long table that allowed her team to stretch fabric over huge frames, and from 1982 to 1999, she worked in the space, designing textiles for manufacturers such as Bernhardt and Michael Thomas. It was a busy life that included traveling to showrooms all over the country between designing and painting.

There are art disciplines that take a physical toll, and eventually, Roschella knew she was wearing out her body. “It got to be too much. I wore out my arm, and I was exhausted,” she says. In 1999, she closed shop and returned to a quieter life and her love of painting on canvas. “It was a complete change. I love being outside, so I just started painting landscapes.”

Today, she still paints almost every day, sometimes plein air and sometimes in the studio, but her inspiration and drive are different from those of her design days. “My inspiration comes from nature, the environment, everyone and everything,” she says. “I’m always looking at things differently. I like solitude; it allows me to center and connect to my true self and my true purpose of being an artist.”

Water Lilies, oil on board, 4″ x 48″

Roschella doesn’t hesitate to vary mediums, working on wood, metal, paper, canvas or fabric as the mood strikes. “I have such a versatile interest in art,” she says. “I don’t have one particular genre I want to stay in forever. I like being inspired and inspiring myself by trying new mediums.”

She doesn’t like to talk about work in progress, but Roschella is sitting on a treasure trove of ideas and at least one complete series no one has seen. “One day, I was walking in the woods with my nephew, and he found a tree with markings on it. He told me Native Americans used symbols like that to mark trails. I got very interested, did a lot of research, and created work based on it. I haven’t presented it yet,” she says.

Though Roschella has an esteemed past, she’s always looking to the future, to growth and to finding new ways to bring beauty into the world. *

Robin Howard is a freelance writer in Charleston. See more of her work at robinhowardwrites.com.

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