Love of birds

Having never had any formal training, artist Joseph Rosselli worked as an artist for various companies and has published two books featuring his love of birds.
Rosselli grew up on a farm in Wilkesboro and left at the age of 20 to pursue his creativity. He explained that he went to church with someone that worked with an architect, who was looking for someone to draw floor plans. Although Rosselli had no training, he started his first job with the architect company around 1962.
Later, after he and his wife, Connie, were married, they moved to Long Island, New York to live with his brother who told him he could make a better living there. While living in an upstairs apartment, Rosselli went to work for ISC telephonics, an electronics company.
“It was the same type of thing – I told them I’d never worked with electronics before. Everywhere I went, I had to learn something new,” he said, noting that he worked there for about three years doing schematics. “At that time, the Bowing 747 jumbo jet had just come off of the assembly line out west and the facility I was working at wanted us to do the entertainment system for the jet.”
While Rosselli had a good job, he and Connie got homesick for NC. After finding a job with Western Electric, they relocated to Winston-Salem, where he drew Bell Telephones and other things related to the Bell telephone system. Rosselli was there for about two years when a fellow co-worked told him about a possible art position with Bowman Gray School of Medicine.
“I called ahead and got an interview with the supervisor in the art department and took some samples of my artwork. He only had one other artist in his department at the time – himself and a young girl under him,” he said.
The job was to draw different parts of the body for medical books and journals, but since Rosselli didn’t have any training in that sort of thing, the supervisor said he would hire Rosselli under the stipulation that he take a whole year of classes in order to learn about the different parts of the body. Rosselli mentioned that along with taking classes, he also used the many resources available at the school’s library
“My drawings didn’t have to have real explicit detail, but they had to be accurate,” he said.
After working for the Bowman Gray School of Medicine’s art department for 24 years, Rosselli retired in 1999 and now continues to do artwork for pleasure.
He explained that he has always enjoyed birds and decided to begin drawing them. One day while at the bank, he said one of the tellers asked him to draw her 12 different owls.
“That’s what got me started drawing birds,” he said.
From there, Rosselli began drawing chickadees, bluebirds, Blue Jays, and all types of North American birds that one might find in their backyard.
“One day, my wife said, ‘Why don’t you have all those pictures put together in a book,’” he shared, noting that was his first book on birds.
Rosselli mentioned that after completing the book, which is all sketches of North American birds in black and white, he wanted to do birds in color. After picking his granddaughter up from school one day, he said he got an idea.
“We picked our granddaughter up from school one day and she said they were learning about South America. That gave me an idea because that’s where all the colorful birds are,” he said, as he shared that he began researching birds in the tropics of Africa, Australia, South America and Central America. “I started looking at all the countries in the climates that are warm around the world.”
Rosselli said this is where his second book came from, which he finished a little over a year ago.
While he enjoys painting and drawing birds, Rosselli said he also enjoys drawing and painting landscapes, flowers and recently started drawing seashells.
“I love seashells and have collected them for years,” he said.
Rosselli noted that he has never had any formal art lessons and recalled his first memory of drawing.
“When I was small, I used to love to draw. My mother had a small collection of Collier Encyclopedias in her bookcase,” he said. “I was always looking for a blank page and used to pull those books out and draw on the first and last pages, which were blank. I don’t ever remember getting scolded for drawing in them. I’d draw on anything that had a blank page.”
Rosselli said he also remembered his mom, who lived to be 101, told him that when he was two years old in a high chair, he drew a bird.
“And, I do have one fragile finger painting that I did in kindergarten that I still have. It’s a scene with a big ole’ rabbit in the corner,” he said.
Of all the artwork he has done, Rosselli said his favorite piece is a snow scene of an old farm house he did in oil in the 1980s. And while he did that with oil paint, Rosselli said he usually paints in watercolor.
He added that he once taught adult watercolor classes through AC Moore, as well.
“I’ve been doing watercolor painting since I was a kid when my mom got me a little tin paint box,” he said.
Just as he has used his talent to the best of his ability over the years, Rosselli said he feels everyone should use their talents.
“The Good Lord has given us all some kind of talent. Whatever it may be, use it to the best of your ability and it will not only be good for you, but also for others,” he said.
Rosselli and Connie have three daughters, Trudy, Cathy and Maria, as well as numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.
If interested in a copy of one of Rosselli’s bird books, contact him at 336-776-8454.

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