Rejoicing in Rosemaling: The Traditional Paint Method Makes Colorful Splashes at the Fair – Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD – Tucked away in a building at the fair, a woman meticulously planned each of her brushstrokes explaining each of the different styles of her craft.

The decorative work was rosemaling and represented a region of Norway where the style originated hundreds of years ago.

Getting lost painting at the Crow Wing County Fair on Wednesday August 3rd, at the back of Industrial Building 5 with the Sons of Norway, Barb Morgan was more than happy to talk to anyone who walked by with a question.

Painting with the Sons of Norway at the Crow Wing County Fair on Wednesday August 3, 2022, Barb Morgan uses a Valdres-style rosemaling technique on a t-shirt.

Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

“I lose track of time when I paint,” Morgan said of how she used both “C” and “S” strokes while painting a Valdres-style rosemaling on a T-shirt to a curious passerby.

Painting and drawing since she could hold a pen and pencil, Morgan said she always wanted to be an artist. Then she smiled – that’s exactly what she had done. With her first love of painting horses and deer in the woods, Morgan continued to learn and do more.

“I was hired to paint nightstands at the state hospital in 1970,” Morgan said. “Nothing looks like what I paint now, but I was able to learn and practice different techniques while working there.”

Always eager to learn more about her heritage, Morgan said she found a few books on rosemary at her local craft store, fell in love with its beauty, and started learning how to paint in this style.

Morgan said men were the painters in Norwegian households because they had more time and often painted rosemary in a home’s gathering place or for a celebration, to brighten up the room.

After developing her technique, she began selling her artwork in 1976 and still remembers her favorite piece, a photo of her best friend in high school, Mery Mott.

“She loved it so much and she appreciated me doing this for her,” Morgan said. “She also had a lot of patience to be my role model.”

In 1995, when the senior center was “kitty corner of the post office,” Morgan said she started teaching people how to paint with a group of friends who called themselves GREAT, or Getting Real Enthusiastic Artists Together.

Referring to the fact that Anna Mary Robertson Moses – better known as Grandma Moses, an American folk artist who only started painting when she was 77 – Morgan said he was never too late to learn. She talked about teaching a beginner’s course in rosemaling at the Center in September.


Smithsonian American Art Museum

said Moses began painting as a way “to occupy herself and avoid harm” after her husband’s death and often sold her paintings at county fairs, alongside her award-winning pickles.

Always ready to show off those around her, Morgan pointed out that Shari Nelson, who sat next to her spinning yarn, won a number of blue and purple ribbons at the fair this year for its rosemaling.

“Ah, well, I have a weird story,” Nelson said. “I started 40 years ago when my children were babies. Painted for a few months (then) put away because I paint in oils. And small children and oil paints don’t go very well. well together.

A painted square tray
A Shari Nelson square platter painted in the Viksdal style of rosemaling, a traditional Norwegian painting style, on Wednesday, August 3, 2022, at the Crow Wing County Fair.

Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

Oil painting, Nelson explained, is very different from acrylic painting because they have to be left to dry for days or weeks. It also makes oil painting much more tedious because you have to wait for a coat to dry before continuing to paint. Not easy to do either when little hands grab everything, she says.

Nelson said she would take classes every few years, but after retiring nearly two years ago, she picked up the pace and has been working on her technique and style ever since.

“I think everyone should try to paint, but I would tell people to keep an open mind because they often feel defeated if they try once and they can’t do it perfectly,” Nelson said. “It’s a skill that can be taught and learned, some faster than others. It all depends if you’ve ever held a brush, if you use acrylic like Barb, or if I use oil. They are the same shots but a little different in technique because they feel different.

Using oil to paint because that’s what she was taught, Nelson said the medium is up to the artist. However, she likes the finish achieved when using oils and the colors are easier to blend. Nelson paints at least once a week now and his award-winning technique has shown through in his art. When painting in oils, she prefers to mix them in traditional Norwegian colors which often vary depending on the technique.

One of the most recognizable styles is the Telemark rosemaling, known for its classic asymmetrical look with its varied placement of leaves and flowers.

A painted round plate
A Shari Nelson round plate painted in the Os de rosemaling style, a traditional Norwegian painting style, on Wednesday, August 3, 2022, at the Crow Wing County Fair.

Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

“Bones (style) tend to be more vibrantly colored,” Nelson said. “And if you go to the Palace of Fine Arts, there is a round plate that I painted. It’s Os and you’ll be able to tell the difference in style and colors between it and then there’s a Hallingdal style door wreath. And you will see the difference in my colors.

One of the other projects Nelson presented at the fair was a painting trial in Viksdal’s rosemaling technique. Viksdal has only recently come back into fashion, she said, although one of her favorite styles is Vest Agder with its simple but vibrant floral patterns.

Nelson and Morgan recommend anyone considering learning to paint to have an open mind and remember that everyone’s style and abilities are different. They said it’s never too late to learn something new; take what you can and enjoy.

“If I’m upset about things, I can totally lose myself in what I’m painting,” Morgan said.

TIM SPEIER, editor, can be reached on Twitter


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