A! Magazine for the Arts

'Follow Your Dreams ... Take That Chance'

January 25, 2010

A mural with a literary theme is nearing completion for the Teen Department at the Bristol Public Library. And who better to create the mural than a local teen?

Rozemary Hess
of Bristol has been attending the library's Teen Program since she was 13. Now 18, she has been using her artistic skills to turn a blank wall into something colorful and fun.

The mural features characters from many well-known literary works as well as prominent figures from the past - all reading books. Rozemary says, "Choosing characters I wanted to illustrate was simple. I just thought of generic, easily recognized characters that I figured would represent each type of literature as well as the characters and kinds of books that I wanted to illustrate. Because there was only room for a few figures per category, I added characters' names to made-up titles of books that the illustrated characters are holding."

She chose not to illustrate just her favorite books. She explains, "The characters I included in the mural are symbolic to the multiple different stories I enjoy - and there aren't very many stories or books that I don't enjoy listening to or reading."

The mural subjects represent classic novels and stories (Frankenstein, Medusa, Dracula, and the Big Bad Wolf), books of history (the Statue of Liberty, Abraham Lincoln, an American soldier, and a Pilgrim),
fantasy figures (a mermaid, a wizard, and a genie from a lamp), and how-to guides (a chef, construction worker, physician and housekeeper).

"It being in the Teen Section of a library, I figured it would be interesting for it to have both a teen-like feel to it as well as an overall library theme," Rozemary says, "so I used book characters that I thought would symbolize some of the things that teens read."

It is surprising to learn that this is Rozemary's first mural and that she has no formal art training. "Other than the art I used to do in high school and the art I do at home in my free time, this is the first arts-related activity I've been involved in," she says.

"Agreeing to do the mural wasn't necessarily out of character for me. However, it was taking a chance - diving in - doing something completely new, but with the faith that it would turn out right. It was bigger than anything I'd ever done before - which made it a little scary at first - but it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that would have been crazy to pass up, so I'm glad that I rose to the challenge and took the chance."

She continues, "I am hoping to inspire other teens to do what they love and to not stop because someone tells you it's too hard. I'm not a professional, but I'm following my dreams. Years from now,
I want to look back on my first piece and be glad that I took the chance." Rozemary recalls, "The Teen Section in the new library started out looking rather plain. However, the Teen Librarian, Tonia Totten, kept adding things to the area to make it more interesting. There happened to be a blank wall in the area, so she came up with the idea of having a mural put there. After seeing some of my art throughout the years, she asked me to do it. I was surprised and very excited." Totten says, "What better way to add to our department than to use the resources from one of our very own talented teens?"

When she's not working as a cashier at a grocery store, Rozemary spends as much time as possible at the library - at least two days a week and as many hours as she can. She estimates she has spent approximately 500 hours on the mural since she started working on it in July 2009. The mural started as a draft on a sheet of blank paper. From that, Rozemary drew the mural on the wall with pencil, outlined the sketch with black paint, and is now coloring the images.

Rozemary has four "amusing" brothers and one "loveable" black Labrador "who will always be a pup at heart." She enjoys outdoor activities, art, singing, taking pictures, watching movies and "getting into a good book every once in a while."

When she finishes the mural, what are her plans? Rozemary, who graduated from Bristol Virginia High School, says "I may eventually go to college; then again, I might not. Regardless if I do or not, I'll still always be doing art on the side or in my free time, and I'll be content with that."

** View a slide show of the mural from conception to its current state (as of December 2009), Click HERE.