Nancy's Boys

Hello again and Happy Mother's Day to all you lovely ladies out there!  This time on Nancy's World, we're going to turn the tables a little bit and chat with Nancy's three sons: Sam, Leo, and Ben. 

Leo, Nancy, Ben, and Sam!

Leo, Nancy, Ben, and Sam!

I chatted with each Rosen boy individually and asked them questions about their Mom.  I got some wonderful responses and some hilarious stories. The three interviews are posted below. Enjoy!

Sam Rosen and his daughter Lily.

Sam Rosen and his daughter Lily.

First, I talked with Nancy's oldest boy, Sam, who makes websites and is a Co-founder of One Design Company among other business ventures.  


OB: What was it like being raised by an artist in a creative environment?

SR:That’s an interesting question to answer because I don’t have anything to compare it to.
I am deeply connected to this idea that I grew up in an artist’s studio.  It’s probably had an impact on what I’ve ended up doing in my life and career so far.  I feel very lucky to have been raised by two parents that were very creative and passionate and entrepreneurial.  It was always fun and never boring.

OB: Do you have any specific stories about being a ‘Studio baby’?

SR:  There’s this great Chicago Reader Article from like the eighties that features my mother and her studio (Nancy Cohn Painted Fabrics). One of the things that I can really recall the article saying was that I was in my, like, baby-proofed area and I was picking up the phone like a receptionist would. I don’t know, growing up in an environment where both of my parents had their own businesses made me want to have my own business or lots of little businesses. I had a book of beat poetry that I sold at independent bookstores when I was 12 years-old. I had a roller-blade messenger delivery service, you know, my parents were always up to something so I was always up to something.  

OB: Is there anything specific you remember about your childhood home?

SR:  Our house was always very colorful and bright and my mom always came home covered in paint.  She stills does.  Everywhere she would go, if she was going out, she would always find paint on in her hair or on her fingers.  We came from a very, colorful, messy, home.

OB: How else would you describe your mother ?

SR: My mother is the most, passionate, honest, artist that I know and I am fortunate to live my life surrounded by mainly creative people that identify as artists.  My mom has always had this quiet, limitless discipline and practice that I have known my entire life. She is a painter because she has to paint.  All these other painters or artists that I know make work to share it and I really don’t think that’s where her motivation lies. My mom’s motivation is in the making of her work. To consistently be devoted to a practice every day for so long has been really, really inspiring. It’s taught me that there really is no substitution to the time that you put into work.  I can’t even imagine how many hours my mom has painted in her life.  



Leo Rosen

Leo Rosen

Leo is Nancy's second oldest son.  He is the founder of Shiner Photo. Here's what we talked about:

OB: What was it like being raised by an artist in a creative environment?

LR: Well it's never been much of a thought for me. Since I’ve always been in it. my mom told me that days after my bris I was brought to her studio to work. There is photo of me on her fabric cutting table as a newborn. Art has always been around. In school people called me artistic and good at art but I didn't really understand. It has a deep subconscious effect on me. Shit’s in my bones.

OB: In what ways did Nancy influence or inspire the work you currently do?

LR: Ohhhhh, mannnnn. My mom is a production master. When she paints she is in production mode. assembly lines are her favorite thing. She loves repetitive tasks she always has. If some activity can be turned into a repetitive game ... she’s in. We used to count change just because we wanted too. My mom is also a finisher. She likes to finish things to the very last itty bitty drop. Both of those principles are engrained on me. My current work involves creating thousands of thousands of the same thing .... and I love it. Also, her general composition and eye are just in my genetics I think. I work hard and I don’t give up easily.

OB: What are your earliest memories of your Mom's art?

LR: I can remember her painting large swaths of fabric when she worked out of her mom’s basement doing Nancy Cohn Painted Fabric (production). Hand painted patterns on cloths are so cool. Also,  when my mom was the art mom at school she used to do “Art on Parade" and come in and teach all the kids some art project. That was great.

OB: Were you and your brothers interested in art at all as kids?

LR: We were always around it. My mom always liked to shove art supplies in our hands and watch us go.  All my brothers and I have been to a bunch of art galleries before we even really knew what we were doing.

OB: In your eyes, how has your mother's work transformed over the years?

LR: It has changed a ton. I’ve photographed all of her art through the years. there is a clear path in her work- an evolution of ideas and techniques. It’s really fun to look back. She is just more refined and elegant now, I think. She is so prolific there is a ton of changes to see. I just like her work more and more. I think it’s just getting better and better and better. If you do anything as consistently and with as much love as my mom does you get really fucking good.

OB: Do you have any specific stories about Nancy that you'd like to share?

LR: Art is a huge part of my mom’s life, it's not just something she does. Her sons are like pieces of art. So when I accidentally run over her gorgeous painting in the garage....and I come to her with a horrible face on... she already knows what happened and she loves the beautiful tire mark I’ve skillfully added. Saying that it's all apart of it! That mark her son made is not a mistake ... it is apart of the art now. My mom knows that everything is sacred, so in a way nothing is.

Ben Rosen

Ben Rosen

Ben is Nancy's youngest son. He is a College Wrestling Coach at Doane University in Nebraska. Here's our phone conversation:

OB: Tell us about your mom's artistic influence on you.

BR: My mom being an artist influenced everything. For the longest time I never noticed it. It's funny because I am the jockand the youngest in the family andwhen you're young you think that you can't push art and sports together.  As I got older, I found myself picking things artistically, like, clothes and other detailed things.

When I was young she would take us to art shows and I hated them because I thought they wereboring. Now that I'm older I appreciate the exposure to art because I feel more cultured and I enjoy making art, too.  Igot a studio art minor and enjoyed taking art history, too. 

OB: What do you find in common with your mother?

BR: We're both very fiery and passionate about what we do. I am a coach and she teaches art. that's where we apply our passion, through sharing and teaching others.

OB:Do you have any specific memories about your mom's art from early on in your life?

BR: I remember my mom painted the sets for our middle school plays for free by herself. I remember she would be there for hours and hours painting these sets. My mom can't half-ass anything. She would come paint these sets after she had been painting in her studio all day. She'd do this every day for, like, three months. She did that for around ten years and we weren't even IN any of the plays!!

OB: What have you seen in your mom's work ethic that you admire?

BR: She has this compulsion for creating. She has to do it. When you go into her studio you can see it-  the oil bar marks on the walls and just the sheer volume of work that she has built up over the years.

OB: Do you have any other stories about your mom that you would like to share?

BR: Here's one: There was this one time that I was in her garden. I was trying to critique her- to try and ruffle her feathers because I thought it was funny, I guess. So, I started suggesting some poppy colors- her garden has a lot of green tones- she has these weird mossy plants that weaves through everything. I suggested some pinks or oranges would look nice and she looked at me, horrified, and said "Why would you think that would be a good idea?!". It was very funny how she reacted to such a suggestion.  She's a color expert, you know.


Alright. Well, that's all from the boys. We'll be back soon with more stories and chats from Nancy's World!