Tutorial on painting freehand Telemark Rosemaling

Norwegian Rosemaling

This weekend marks the 140th anniversary of a Scandinavian Association or club in this state. To mark the occasion, there is a street festival tomorrow and I have been given charge of a stall. Being primarily a painter, I have been busy preparing some items for sale and I decided to share the development of a Telemark Rosemaling project with you.

Rosemaling plate Oils/acrylics Rules and Telemark Technique
Telemark Rosemaling scrolls

Telemark Rosemaling is but one of the various styles of traditional decorative painting of Norway. This art form reached its zenith in the early 20th Century, shortly after Norwegian independence, when a revivalist movement popularised everything that was Norwegian. It’s actual origins date back to the Renaissance baroque art forms and the acanthus leaf seen in religious art. In the geographic isolation of the Norwegian valleys and rural areas,rosemaling as a new art form slowly developed into individual styles that differed  from each other, according to the valley or regions from whence it came. Examples include: Telemark, Rogaland, Hallingdal styles, but be aware that there was much overlapping of ideas and influences from valley to valley as itinerant painters travelled from place to place.

Rogaland Rosemaling
Rogaland Rosemaling

Telemark Rosemaling was characterised by free flowing, dynamic scroll work, and asymmetrical designs, whilst painting in the Rogaland area was of a symmetrical nature, whilst Gudbrandsdal  featured a predominant acanthus leaf design.

Beginners can also find a free pattern and project, to download, on the following website: www.forestwood.webs.com

I painted a wooden box for this tutorial in Acrylics but you may wish to try the technique with oil paints.  I will include a small tutorial on painting and designing freehand.

Telemark Rosemaling Tutorial

* some photos have been removed due to people infringing copyright and using my photos on their own website.

You will need the following colours in Acrylic paint:

Prussian Blue, Smoked Pearl, Warm White

Filbert or flat brush, about 1/4- 1/2″

Good liner brush, say size 1 or a Quill liner

Sandpaper #400 – #600

Wooden piece of your choice

Palette: I make mine a disposable, suitable for acrylics, by wetting some ordinary kitchen paper towel and squeezing it so it is damp, and then wrapping grease-proof paper around it, but feel free to use a commercial style palette if you have one.

Step 1.  Base paint your  piece in a chosen colour scheme. I picked Jo Sonja’s Prussian blue and lightened it down with a creamy colour: (JoSonja acrylics Smoked Pearl)  Cover it well giving the piece two coats, sanding between layers. Allow to dry.

Step 2. With non- powdery chalk or chalk pencil, chalk in some guiding points, like the root of the design and outside border. If you don’t want to paint freehand, you could chalk in the main scroll lines and use a outline for the flowers or use transfer paper to outline the design. Once you get the hang of the shape of the flowers, and what your brush can do, then you can simply mark an x for where the flower will go and its orientation.

You will find a short video on designing Telemark here: http://forestwoodfolk.blogspot.com.au/2012/09/telemark-rosemaling-tutorial.html

N.B. Design: When designing, keep in mind Balance of shape, size and element. If you divide the design in quarters, there should  be a part of the major elements in each. Each quarter should have an equal measure of positive and negative space. Look at the design upside down to distract your left brain from interpreting, giving you a fresh eyes to see any design faults.

Step 3. Load a filbert, (flat with rounded tip,) or flat brush in size appropriate to the width you want the scroll to be in darkest value, on ONE EDGE ONLY. In this case: Prussian blue. On the opposite edge, load Warm white or your lightest value. Flatten the brush on the palette so that the colours mix. Repeat.

Step 4.  Begin painting the scroll from the top down, applying pressure as you go, so the brush widens, and releasing pressure as you near the end of the scroll, as this will narrow the stroke at the design root.

Step 5.  Repeat the stroke if needed, and add extra shade ( the darkest value) on the outside of the scroll, to enhance the contrast. Be careful: Acrylics dry quickly and you may need to use a retarder medium to slow the drying time, giving you more time to play with the design.

Step 6. Paint remaining scrolls in same manner.  Try to have them all merging towards the root point.

Step 7. Begin to block in the flowers using shape following strokes, comma, or leaf shape ( S and C strokes) as appropriate. These can be quite casual and double load your brush again with light value on one side and dark value on the other to give your project a natural blended look. Don’t worry too much about shaggy edges here, as the liner work will tidy that up.
This is also a free style of painting, it is not Fine Art, and the peasants that originally painted these pieces had little or no training in artistic techniques. So don’t stress trying to make it perfect when it is not meant to be so.

Try to achieve a balance of colour as you go. If the brush has blended really well and the light value is lost, add some extra warm white to your dirty brush (ie. don’t rinse it clean in water, just wipe on paper towel to remove excess colour.)

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Once you have blocked in the flowers, and are happy with the distribution of colour, you can begin the liner work.

Warning: Liner work is very addictive, and it is easy to get carried away with the embellishments and make the design too busy. Beware! You can always add an extra stroke, later, but rubbing out can ruin a design.

You may also like to try adding a flow medium to your paint to make liner work a little easier. This will help a beginner. Practise on scraps of wood or paper first to get the hang of the brush.

Step 8. Scroll Details

Begin by adding enough water to your paint puddle to ensure an inky consistency. Load the brush in the paint and pull it through twisting it gently a little before you lift it from your palette. Place tip on project and gradually increase the pressure allowing the brush to widen the stroke, then release the pressure as you direct the brush tip towards you.
N.B. For best results, liner work should vary in thickness. The last thing you want is for all the outlines to be the same thickness. Variation creates interest in the design.

Outline all the scrolls in a casual manner. Try to move your arm as opposed to just your hand. This helps to create a sense of movement. Be confident. You can clean up any errors, carefully with a cotton bud or Q-tip.

Step 10. Flower details

Outline flowers in same technique with your liner brush. Be individual and don’t follow the same outline each time.

Step 11. Embellishments

Add some small detail strokes with a quill or liner brush. They are completed similar to a reverse comma. Starting off with very light pressure and pressing fully down on the completion of the stroke. I double loaded this brush in the picture here, first loading in blue and then dipping the tip of the brush in white. This gives a white stroke with a blue tip. This stroke is very typical of what you see in traditional rosemaling works. Know when to stop. Overdoing it can make a design look too busy!!

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Step 11.   Borders

Now you have it! Almost all Rosemaling pieces have a border design, which can be as individual as you like. I used ‘s’ strokes around the edges of my box.

All you need to do is allow time for the paint to dry – which can be anything from 2 days to a week depending on weather conditions, oils can take up to 6 weeks to fully dry.

Rub off any guidelines and 2 coats of water based varnish will seal the deal! If you are wondering what type of varnish to use, that is a can of worms to ponder about. Experiment with  a few brands and types to see what works. I like to use a matte or a gloss spray varnish for speed. But equally good are the brush on varieties, or even final coat, which is a wipe on polymer. Oil based paints require oil based ( non yellowing ) varnishes.

If you have any questions, I am happy to guide you. I hope Rosemaling will be something you ponder about.



10 thoughts on “Tutorial on painting freehand Telemark Rosemaling

  1. Great article! I remember my sister taking rose painting lessons and I was always envious that she learned how to do it… We have several chests and bowls at home with the rosemaling pattern, nothing looks more Norwegian!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reblogged this on Something to Ponder About and commented:

    This was my second top post for the year. The top post was a photography theme I posted just the other day so I thought it better to re-post No.#2. There are a few people out there wanting to learn these old traditional painting methods, or so it seems. Was my tutorial helpful?
    Something to ponder about.

    Liked by 1 person

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