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Paints and Plants: Finding Rosemaling Inspiration Along Lake Superior's North Shore

In her newest blog post, rosemaler Tara Austin writes about the connection between plants and painting, and the never-ending inspiration found in Minnesota's boreal forest. 

Posted on January 9, 2024
by Tara Austin

I find it serendipitous that I have found myself back at ‘home turf’ on the beautiful shores of Lake Superior. Grand Marais is an iconic artist community, and I am very thankful to reconnect with the jagged beauty of its shores, mysterious dark woods, and symbolic bodies of water.

Years have passed, but these places in nature seem mostly unchanged. I believe my younger years in the boreal forest provoked in me a spiritual connection with nature. If I am starting a new series of work or in the ‘writers block’ of creative thought, I often seek refuge in the woods, greenhouse, or any green space. When I was studying at UW Madison, I spent ample time in the gorgeous greenhouses on campus. I seriously considered getting an additional degree in Ethnobotany, or the study of relationships between people and plants.

In my opinion, the somewhat spiritual relationship to nature seems quite evident in rosemaling. There is often talk of gardening in the classroom and if the weather is permitting during the warm months, I like to take my rosemaling class for a walk through the beautiful gardens at North House Folk School. Having spent intimate time with plants on some level could be a prerequisite for a first-time rosemaler. Understanding how stems fold to the weight of a flower or the dichotomy between the front and back of a leaf would be ideal.

I believe gardens show us that with patience, many things can grow into beautiful surprises. Any beginner rosemaler should know they aren’t going to walk away from class being a fantastic rosemaler! But with patience and practice, hopefully that class planted the rosemaling seed in your heart.  Even if it doesn’t flourish into a hobby, my hope is that you’ll remember its glimmer when visiting your favorite Scandinavian shop or stopping to smell the roses of a nearby garden. 

This summer and fall, Tara will be teaching several rosemaling courses at North House, including Rosemaling Plants from the Boreal Forest. Registration opens February 29, 2024. Request a catalog to see all upcoming rosemaling courses