For some people, passion can be a slow burning flame that can shape one’s life. This barely controllable emotion can fuel desire and even transport an individual’s creativity across an ocean. Rosie Tos is a person who is full of passion. You can see it in her eyes and witness it in her art. This passion has existed ever since she held a piece of charcoal taken out of the fireplace of her family’s home and began to draw with it.
Raised on a farm in Azeglio, Italy, Rosie was the youngest of five sisters and always felt as if she were lost in the group. To make herself stand out, she began to draw in-between her chores on the farm. At age six she would hang her pictures in her dad’s workshop, attracting buyers to purchase her artwork even at a young age. When she was 14, she wanted to go to art school, but her parents said no; instead, she was sent to college for accounting and became a secretary at various companies. Though her parents were happy, Rosie was living a life of dissatisfaction, always turning to her art for reinforcement of her self-worth.
From Azeglio, Italy to Santa Monica, California
At age 20 Rosie moved to Milano, securing another position as a secretary. During the next five years, she used her salary to travel across Europe and beyond. Eventually she returned home, but the chaos of family life, combined with the tragic loss of her oldest sister, drove her away from home once more. With only $700 in her pocket, she bought a ticket to America and soon found herself in Santa Monica, California, where she found work as a hostess at an Italian restaurant.
Rosie didn’t forget about her art, though. She continued to paint and draw, completing commissioned work at business offices, private homes, and pieces for friends. After some time she met and started dating Eric Johnson, a Los Angeles City Firefighter assigned to Fire Station 63 in Venice. Visiting the station one day, Rosie saw some members refinishing a bench. With typical LAFD style of the day, Rosie watched as the firefighters set the plain finished bench out in front of the station. Wanting to add her artistic touch to the piece, she offered to paint the station’s mascot, Yosemite Sam, on the bench. They agreed.
Rosie’s Art Across America
From there, the word spread. Small murals with Rosie’s name soon started appearing all over the city. From the east side to the west, the plain walls of different stations took on color and started to tell their individual stories. Racquetball courts were adorned with paintings of mascots, while stations’ kitchen tables were transformed into pieces of art. Rosie’s vision has helped bring life to where there was just obscurity. Her work hasn’t been limited to the Los Angeles area, though. Rosie has also had her work commissioned in states like New York and Orlando and other local municipalities such as Culver City Fire Department, Santa Monica Fire Department, and beyond. Even our own Fire Chief has employed her talents to decorate his downtown office.
So, if you are tired of looking at a blank canvas and want to add some fire department flair to show off your station pride, Rosie just might be the artist for you.
By John Hicks
Read more about Firefighters & Artists