Painting with light, color, and rhythm 

Jana Peterson brings Nordic scenes to Norway House

jana pederson

“Ambush,” acrylic on canvas 12 inches x 32 inches, employs a traditional Viking motif, filled with nuanced light, icy blue colors, and dramatic rhythm.

Carstens Smith
Education Coordinator
Norway House

When talking with Jana Peterson about her career as a painter and a jewelry-maker, her conversational style belies her other artistic love, dance. Her comments are short, percussive, and enthusiastic—much like the rhythms of the Nordic folk dances and the flamenco styles she performs.

I called Jana on a sunny afternoon to ask her about her upcoming exhibition and classes at Norway House in October. She had classical music playing in the background, as she was working on a commissioned painting of a farmstead in Norway.

“I always paint to music,” Jana says. “It never fails to move me.” She set aside her paintbrush to talk with me to discuss her exhibition, which coincides with the Leif Eriksson International Festival at Mindekirken. Her paintings will be in the Torgerson Vestibule and Atrium from Oct. 7 to Oct. 14. She will be teaching Wine and Painting classes in the Norway House gallery on Oct. 12, 13, and 14.

jana pederson

“Lofoten Dreams,” 24 inches x 36 inches, acrylic on canvas, captures a magical winter scene from the Lofoten Islands in northern Norway.

“The uniting theme of the paintings is celebrating Leif Eriksson’s discovery of Greenland. Sea themes; Viking ships; all projecting a sense of adventure,” says Jana. “Artistically, I am a colorist. I’m someone who focuses on color and design. I want my work to knock people’s socks off. It’s not subtle. It’s strong. These Viking ships are coming right at you. I paint images that are powerful. I want them to be the focal point of a room.”

Jana developed her love of color from her mother, who was an art teacher, and her father, who was a professor of architecture. She grew up in a home filled with bright, wild colors and throughout her life, she continued to fill her homes, and paintings, with color.

“Lenge Osberg,” 24 inches x 8 inches, available in acrylic or giclee, depicts an ancient fjord scene.

“If I am going to paint something, it is jaw dropping in its hues,” she says.

Years earlier,  Jana received commissions from Norwegian-American friends who wanted art with heritage themes. The commissions quickly took off and she had found her niche. While she paints for a variety of clients in a variety of styles, Nordic themes are close to her heart. “Norwegians have pride in their country and that attitude has stayed with Norwegian Americans.”

People who want to work with bold colors and Viking themes can join Jana for one of her Wine and Painting classes during the week of the exhibition. There are three separate classes at Norway House on Oct. 12, 13, and 14 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

“I enjoy teaching. My hope is to spread some joy and have some fun. In past classes at Norway House, we had a lot of fun. I want to do that again,” says Jana.

Besides Jana’s degrees in dance and interior design, she has a master’s degree in arts education from Arizona State University in Phoenix. She is well equipped to teach the concepts, and she has the vibrant personality to make the evening entertaining. The class is for painters of all levels, including people who haven’t picked up a brush before.

“I’m not expecting professional work. I want people to do the best they can so they are happy with the end result and want to hang it in their homes,” she says.

Jana’s Viking-theme silver jewelry will be available at Also Ingebretsen’s at Norway House during regular Norway House hours.

To register for Wine and Painting, please visit norwayhouse.org

Visit Jana’s website at sites.google.com/view/jana-peterson-designs.

All images courtesy of Jana Peterson

This article originally appeared in the October 2023 issue of The Norwegian American.

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Carstens Smith

Carstens Smith is the class and education coordinator at Norway House in Minneapolis. She also works a freelance writer, instructional designer, and ESL instructor, and she has published numerous nonfiction magazine and web articles. You can email Carstens at classes@norwayhouse.org.