The Work of Abbey Rosko

I’m a painter living in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania. I have been making art for over a decade, and drawing for as long as I can remember. After graduating in 2015 from Moravian College, I have exhibited my paintings throughout the region, including Brooklyn, NY as a member of NYC Crit Club. I’m proud to have pieces included in several private collections, as well as the permanent collection at The Ugly Art Room in Corvallis, Oregon. Recently, I was awarded the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grant.

Carousel. Watercolor and oil on oil paper. 10 x 8 in. 2015.
On Painting:

My watercolor transfers and monotype prints respond to the antiquated style of American movie musicals, such as Ziegfeld Follies (1947) and The Harvey Girls (1946). Gently lifting pigment with damp sheets of paper,and then pressing wet oil paint onto the dried transfer, causes the colors to bleed and fade rendering the image blurry and weathered. My disintegrating pictures distance the viewer from their original source material. The figures are quieted by the dissolution of paint, and settings open up to vague and dreamy landscapes or interiors.

End of the line. Oil on canvas. 28 x 35 in. 2016.

The same concept lies behind my oil monotype prints on canvas. Utilizing just specific scenes that show a group of peripheral characters focused on one single person, whom I often omit. Scenes emphasize a situation in which, one overarching voice, leads the group. I use subdued, light analogous color schemes for the prints to create murky low-contrast images. Two-tone visages seem to emerge and submerge simultaneously from dull, misty color fields. Silhouettes with shrouded eyes and open lips seem to be quietly searching or speaking among themselves without hierarchy.

Interview. Acrylic and oil on oil paper. 22 x 30 in. 2018.

Recently, I expanded upon my typical source material. After stumbling upon a screen test for East of Eden (1955), where James Dean and Julie Harris rehearse their onscreen chemistry, I created double portraits catching the actors dipping in and out of acting and losing awareness of the camera. I have also begun to paint from more current films from the seventies, eighties and nineties, like The Shining (1980), and Fargo (1996). I have given myself permission to return to a traditional style of painting. Where my other techniques attempted to remove my hand from the image-making process, looking as though something had happened to the canvas. Now I am more interested in rendering my subjects into being. Using loose brushstrokes with tightly rendered and refined areas, I pull the viewer away from the movie and nearer to my painting.

At the cabin. Oil on canvas. 11 x 14 in. 2020.

Bedroom. Oil on oil paper. 22 x 30 in. 2018.

To sum up my technique and philosophy: Solitude and isolation are at the forefront of my work. My paintings evoke nostalgia for an imagined, and inaccessible past, while exploring my own relationship to the American ideals these films represent. I use experimental as well as traditional techniques to render with detail while also allowing areas to dissolve into abstraction. While featuring an illustrative undercurrent adopted from my affinity for the old movie posters from long ago. I interrupt the source material by subtracting characters, leaving some visages in the dark or overexposed, creating a little suspense in my mostly quiet, but melancholy pictures.


Pilgrimage to Boozetown. Oil on panel. 12 x 16 in. 2019
On Getting Your Work Out There:

“Gaining traction” and “entering the art-world” are vague expressions. You have to ask yourself what those things mean for you. The options are virtually endless in terms of the art you can make and show, especially since social media has given us ever-popular, highly democratic platforms for sharing and viewing art. My first bit of advice for gaining "traction" is to put time into your craft. Figure out a schedule where you can do your thing on a regular basis. Equally as important, be sure to show your work. Growth happens when feedback happens. From personal experience, abandoning and hiding work prevents you from ever finding out what you’ve accomplished in others' eyes.

My next tip: research the art you are crazy about, and immerse yourself in it, but don't be afraid to reach beyond your comfort zone of artists. Look through contemporary art editorials that focus on your medium. Become an expert of art history. Pay extra attention to the work you notice yourself avoiding, or detesting. Most importantly, meeting people is essential to getting exposure. The more social and open you are about describing yourself and your work, the more memorable you become. Stick to our gut instincts about the work you want to make, but be open and receptive to feedback about your art. It is always time to try new things. You will learn from those experiences which will enhance the work you already make. I was very fortunate to have supportive parents and the private art institution I attended awarded merit scholarships which allowed students, like me, to take additional classes.

If you’re in high school, check with your art teacher and see if there are local organizations that offer tuition waivers or scholarships. If you’re out of school, research grants and prizes online. In my case, a grant from the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation not only helped pay for my art education, it allowed me to follow my vision.

As an artist, you have to cut your own paths to reach your goals. Have commitment to your aspirations, and follow through. It doesn’t matter what it is, just be resilient, and dare to be true to yourself.

All aboard. Oil on panel. 16 x 20 in. 2019

You can find me on Instagram and Facebook (@abbeyrosko) where I share current things I’m working on. I would love to hear from you! I also maintain a personal website:


All images copyright © Abbey Rosko 2020. Thank you for your contribution to the Young Artist's Magazine!

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