John Rose was born in Virginia and graduated from James Madison University in 1986 with a bachelor of fine arts degree in art and art history. After his studies, he started drawing freelance sport cartoons for newspapers in Manassas, Virginia. Rose's cartoons have won awards from the National Newspaper Association and the Virginia Press Association. They have also been distributed by the Scripps Howards News Service. In 1996, Pelican Publishing Company published a collection of his editorial cartoons, entitled 'Cartoons That Fit the Bill: An Editorial Cartoon Collection About Washington and Beyond'.
Since mid-1998, John Rose inked Fred Lasswell's daily and Sunday 'Barney Google and Snuffy Smith' strips. After Lasswell's death in March 2001, Rose took over the comic completely.