Everyday we pass by some form of art and oftentimes don’t give it a second thought. Then there are those times when we see a piece of artwork that really grabs our attention – the kind of artwork that causes you to take a moment and just simply smile. Recently I had one of those experiences that I’d like to share with you. First, I’ll give you just a little bit of background about my story so it can help you better understand why the piece of art I came across moved me so deeply.
In 2015 I lost my older sister, Sally. She passed away in my arms inside of my mothers living room. In 2018, I lost my 21 year old nephew, Jason to suicide. He was my sister’s only child. In 2021, both my mother and stepfather got covid and landed in the hospital for three weeks. My mother ended up passing away, and my stepfather followed her just three days later. A few months later, also in 2021, my aunt who was like a second mother to me, ended up passing away unexpectedly.
During one of my last conversations I had with my sister before she died, I cried to her and expressed how lonely I was going to be without her. She promised me that when she passed, she would send me yellow butterflies. She said, “Whenever you see a yellow butterfly, I want you to think of me and know that I am still with you.”
Since her passing, I’ve seen yellow butterflies during the most random times. When my nephew Jason passed away, I noticed blue butterflies flying around. When my mother was in the hospital, she told me to watch for monarch butterflies after she passed away. Sure enough, I started noticing monarch butterflies flying around my home. Needless to say, butterflies are very special to me and I cherish each moment I see them, especially during the moments I need it the most.
Late one evening, I was sitting in my living room just pondering about all of the loss I’ve had. I was so overcome with sadness and just sat on my couch and started to cry. I felt so alone in my grief. After gathering my emotions, I went on Facebook and the first thing I saw was a piece of artwork that I have never seen before. It caused me to take a moment and it put a big smile on my face. It was of a painting called “Butterfly Child” by local Utah artist Rosemarie Grames Dunn.
I was instantly drawn to the vibrant butterflies surrounding the girl in the painting. The biggest butterfly was yellow, and was followed by butterflies with hues of blue as well as a beautiful monarch butterfly. The girl in the painting had such bright green eyes that reminded me of the August birthstone green peridot, which just happens to be my sister’s. I knew I had been led to this beautiful piece of art not by chance, and it gave me such comfort. I was now very intrigued by who the artist was and I longed to see more. I immediately clicked on Rosemarie’s website and started looking at all of her amazing artwork. I was completely taken back by her unique talent and fun imagination. It’s not everyday that you see teacups floating through the sky, a disgruntled monkey playing a triangle solo, or gnomes living on top of turtles.
Another one of my favorites of Rosemarie’s pieces is a painting called “ Bloom where you’re planted.” I could tell there was a story behind each piece of art from all of the emotion that was drawn into each of her characters’ eyes. This wasn’t just your average artist. This was a woman who I knew was different from the rest. Her art made me feel joy, it made me feel like a child again. Her art took me to a different world filled with vibrant colors that I didn’t want to leave, and I knew I had to meet her!
When Rosemarie agreed to let me interview her, I was thrilled! She invited me to her home and allowed me the privilege to hear her story. The first thing I noticed about Rosemarie was how pretty she is. Not only is she really pretty, but she is so down to earth and kind! Meeting her for the first time was so comfortable. It was like talking with an old friend who I haven’t seen in a long time. We sat and talked about her upbringing and what led her to become an artist.
In my conversation with Rosemarie, I learned that she didn’t have a happy childhood, and used art as a way to escape her reality. When she was a little girl, she would sit and daydream of being able to have wings and fly away to a better far off place – a place that would bring her joy and deliver her from her sadness. She wanted to be somewhere that was anywhere but where she was, which is why she is so drawn to fantasy. Many of her pieces involve flying and traveling away to somewhere wonderful. When she was telling this to me, it made me think of the song “Somewhere over the rainbow” by Judy Garland.
After graduating high school, Rosemarie immediately left home for good and enrolled herself in cosmetology school. After graduating, the hair school she attended decided to hire her to work in their professional salon. This gave her the chance to work on her art in between clients.
Still longing to have wings, and yearning for a place where she could create a different life for herself, she confided in a friend who gave her life changing advice. Her friend told her to “Bloom where you’re planted.” Rosemarie not only took that advice from her friend, but she used that very advice and created one of her most popular paintings and titled it exactly that: “Bloom Where You’re Planted.”
She decided from that moment forward that she would create a life for herself here in Utah and indeed bloom where she was planted. She ended up finding her husband, Gabe and they have now been married for 20 years, and they have four beautiful children together. While busy building her family and creating the life that she wanted and deserved, she took a break from her painting for quite a few years. Life slowly guided her back to her paintbrush and once again she started to create on paper what she longed for as a child.
Finding the time to paint with four small children became quite the challenge, especially when it came to keeping their curious little fingers out of her acrylic paints while drying on the easel. Although there were feelings of discouragement, she did not allow that to deter her. Instead, Rosemarie decided to utilize her time by painting every night once her children were in bed. She often set an unfinished piece in her home so that way she could glance at it as she was going about her day. This would help give her an idea of where she was at in her creation as well as give her time to be inspired on what to paint next. This helped make the most of her time in the evenings because she knew exactly what she wanted to do and could get started right away. She also started using watercolor instead of acrylics and would allow it to dry by placing it on top of her bookshelf overnight. She then would draw over the top of the dried watercolor with her colored pencils and pens. It made it so much easier to create her artwork and solved the worry of little hands smearing her wet paint. Although her children are no longer small, she continues to create her art using watercolors, pencils and pens which sets her apart from a lot of other popular artists who use oils and digital.
I was lucky enough for her to show me around her adorable art studio where she brings to life all of her magical fairy tales she has dreamed up in her mind and brings them to life on paper. She showed me some of her sketches that she does when she wants to get ideas out of her head. She said to me, “They are kind of messy and don’t look like anything special but it’s just a quick sketch of ideas I have.” I just stood there thinking, “She truly doesn’t realize how special and incredible she is!” I was amazed to learn that she will sometimes spend five weeks on just one piece of her artwork. She really puts her time and love into each painting and it truly shows!
Rosemarie wants others who are inspiring artists to know that comparison is a thief of joy. She said, “View others’ work, learn techniques but stop before it makes you feel bad about yourself. Try and push yourself a little more with each new piece. The most important thing is not if others like your work, it matters most if you like it.”
Another bit of advice she has for up and coming artists is to, “draw their pain.” I think this is powerful but I can also see where that may be uncomfortable and intimidating for some. After all, society has taught us to play the role of “all is well” especially on social media. I mean, isn’t that where we typically go to post pictures or make posts portraying our life as perfect?
I walked away from my interview with Rosemarie feeling like a better person having met her. Her story is inspiring yet relatable to so many. We have each faced something in life that has left us wishing we could just grow wings and fly away, even just for a little while. Everyone at some point or another in life has felt either stuck, hopeless, inadequate, heartbroken and longing for something better in life. Perhaps if we could take flight and escape to somewhere more wonderful, we would avoid all of the heartache in the here and now. If we could up and fly away whenever we wanted to, what blessings that we currently have would we have unknowingly given up? What people that we have in our life now would we have passed the chance to meet if we had wings to fly whenever we want or needed? What if each of us were to create in life what we wanted instead of running away from it? What if, just maybe, we were all to bloom where we are planted?
I’m grateful that Rosemarie decided to “Draw her pain” and share it for the world. When we become vulnerable and admit our sorrows, it allows others who may be suffering silently to know they are not alone. Just like I needed the night I stumbled upon Rosemarie’s “Butterfly Child” on Facebook while grieving the death of my family.
‘’If I can shine my light and put a smile on someone’s face, then I can be an influence for good in some way,” Rosemarie said.
Well, I can assure you she has done that. I feel that Rosemarie is a sunshine in this world that is much needed. I’m glad she has bloomed where she was planted because otherwise I would not have had the chance to meet her, as she has left a footprint on my heart that I will never forget.
Rosemarie has had her paintings displayed in Libraries, art shows, art festivals and art expos. She also has all of her artwork displayed on her website rosemariedunn.com. You may also find her on Etsy under RGDDesign, or on Facebook under Rosemarie Dunn Art.
Submitted by Karen Baird.