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Charlotte Rose: The Accidental Artist

We meet the model, artist and star of Saint and Sofia’s newest campaign

By Chloe Lawrance

Charlotte Rose never planned on being an artist. To say she fell into the career would be something an understatement – rather, she was thrown into it, full force, when the world shut down in March 2020. As the Covid-19 pandemic took hold, Rose’s day job as a successful model slowed significantly, and she found herself locked down, with little else to occupy her time but her paint brush.

Fast forward 12 months, and Rose’s lockdown hobby has turned into a successful career, one which she juggles around modelling gigs. Her unique style – most recognisably, her vast cigarette boxes scrawled with arresting quotes from literary greats – has seen her amass an impressive Instagram following. Now, she’s preparing for her very first exhibition.

“When Coronavirus hit, I just started painting,” she explains. “I live with my boyfriend, who’s also an artist, and he encouraged me to be more creative with all this free time I suddenly had. I’ve painted before, but never to a large scale or with a great deal of thought until then.” What began as a way to pass the long days in those early pandemic months soon offered a form of creative therapy, a way to beat the quarantine blues and anxieties. “It provided some necessary structure” Rose adds.

Of course, Rose’s lockdown was defined by the familiar pastimes the rest of us were relying on too – plenty of TV (“I watched the first season of True Detective. I’m probably the last person to discover that show!) and even more reading. As an english literature graduate, the influence of the literary canon is clear throughout Rose’s work: quotes from the likes of poet Charles Bukowski (“It has been a beautiful fight. Still is.”) and novelist Kurt Vonnegut (“So it goes.”) adorn her eye-catching cigarette box canvases. These are more than just neat phrases. Rose meticulously plans each and every one of her cigarette box pieces – down to the colour of spray paint used to graffiti her chosen quote onto the canvas.“I’ll start with a brainstorming session, during which I write down potential quotes, to see if they tie in with the context of the cigarette box branding,” she says.

But why the cigarette boxes? Well, it all comes down to one simple, alluring idea: power.

“People are so dedicated to their cigarette brand of choice, and these boxes have been designed to sell you a kind of dream,” she explains, “Take the Marlboro boxes for instance: ‘Veni Vidi Vici’ is written on the side, which means ‘I came, I saw, I conquered.’ That branding is all about power. I want to use that, and combine it with the quotes I choose to create a story around the ideas of desire, death and royalty.”

Not all of Rose’s work is so rigidly thought out. Experimentation is her solution to getting out of a creative rut – and that includes making use of her body as a tool. What began as a bit of fun one hot summer’s day in her flat-cum-studio soon birthed a whole new style for Rose, one which sees her cover her limbs in colourful paint and print them onto the canvas. “It’s really freeing,’ she says, “I guess it’s like the extreme version of finger painting – almost like cave painting.” 

While Rose never imagined herself as an artist – she grew up wanting to be a writer in the vein of JK Rowling, who she read often as a child – creativity is in her blood.

“My mum’s an artist, and so are her parents, so I grew up around art and creativity,” she explains. “My mum does these incredible botanical paintings, and I have memories of her staying up all night painting to meet deadlines. I actually did a project about her for school when I was little; I was always really proud of her.”

Beyond her work, Rose’s creativity and flair for the experimental rears its head in her wardrobe too. Her edgy yet almost-elfin looks lend themselves to a style that is distinctly rock and roll – taking influence from the quirky style of ‘70s French icon like Bridget Bardot and Jane Birkin. “That was an amazing era for fashion. I have these vintage 1970s Go Go boots that I’m in love with. They go with everything. I throw them on and they instantly make me feel more sassy.”

So, what’s next for Rose? With a flourishing modelling career – when we meet she’s on set for her first solo campaign with Saint and Sofia, ‘The Artist’ – and her art gaining increasing momentum, she’s not so sure.

“I’m just focusing on, you know, doing it. I think the best thing for me to do right now is just to create as much as I can. Create – and don’t stop.”