Finding artistic inspiration in Norway

You don’t have to be an expert painter to immortalize Norway in meaningful works of art

Patricia Barry
Hopewell Junction, N.Y.

Although I have taken art lessons for over three years, I consider myself a novice, not an accomplished artist. However, I have two things in my favor that are not afforded to most people and that make painting personally rewarding—a wonderful and skilled art teacher and inspiration from my travels to Norway.

My teacher
Grace Barna, founder and director of GrayBarn Art Studio in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., has been an art instructor for 25 years. Grace is both a talented, award-winning artist and an exceptional teacher whose studio has produced an impressive body of artwork under her instruction. I call her a miracle worker! In small classes of up to six adults, Grace teaches us painting techniques. Rather than teaching us to paint as she does, she allows us the freedom to choose our own subjects and media and develop our own style. She nurtures our individual creativity.

My inspiration
That creative freedom presents a challenge—what should I paint? That is always a major decision. It is important to me to choose subjects that have personal meaning. While searching, I find myself repeatedly drawn to the experiences of my many trips to Norway. Thus, many of my paintings have Norwegian inspiration. I describe some of those paintings here.

“Ferja til Sekken på 17. Mai” or “Ferry to Sekken on the 17th of May”
This painting takes me to a happy place—a beautiful and unusually warm May 17th on a ferry from Molde to the island of Sekken in Romsdalsfjord. The water was tranquil and the ferry ride among the skerries calm and peaceful, with the snowcapped Romsdal Alps providing the backdrop. In the painting only the flags indicate the special nature of this day, but for me I will always see this painting as a reminder of the special experience of being here on May 17th.

When I awoke in Molde that day, I could just tell it was a special day. Cannons were booming. Excitement was in the air. After seeing part of the parade in Molde, we took this ferry to Sekken, where my son was to lead the Sekken skolekorps in Sekken’s parade. This painting tries to capture the serenity of the ferry ride—an interlude between celebrations in Molde and Sekken—with the flags being a reminder of the significance of the day.

Last summer we travelled through Helgeland and stayed for a couple days on the island of Lovund. Though within sight of the coast, Lovund feels like it is far out in the Atlantic. It is known for its colony of puffins that spend winters at sea and return to Lovund every April to nest.

This painting represents the first time I saw puffins. It also conveys to me the feeling of remoteness I felt on the island, with thousands of birds but very few people. Others, I hope, will see this as a painting of a couple cute puffins.

“Blåtimen” or “Blue Hour”
The striking scene that inspired this painting was captured in a photo taken by my son, who hiked into the hills above Molde on a snowy November day. The photo was taken about one hour after sunset, with the clouds and snowfall having just moved away from the fjord. While I was not there at that moment, the scene reminds me of the unique blåtimen (“blue hour”) that I had a chance to experience in Molde on a winter solstice, and the beautiful view of Molde and Moldefjord, where I have hiked.

I love the many blues, the lights from Molde, and the glow of the moon and its reflection in the fjord. Perhaps not surprisingly, very little white paint was used in this snowy picture. The blue light makes everything look blue, including the snow and clouds.

Patricia Barry holds a computer science degree from Cornell and worked at IBM. She has written a family memoir and has extensive experience with newsletter editing. Though not of Norwegian descent, her family has developed a life-long love of Norway that began when hosting an exchange student through Youth for Understanding. She enjoys writing about her travels to Norway, where she visits her former exchange student and family and also her son who resides in Molde. She lives in New York State.

This article originally appeared in the May 5, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.