Rosemaling coloring book filled with 40 years of love

CHARLENE CORSON SELBEE/SPRING GROVE HERALD Betty Dowe demonstrates rosemaling brush strokes on a CD turned Christmas ornament.
By : 
Charlene Corson Selbee
Spring Grove Herald

Rosemaling artist Betty Dowe spent the last 40 years perfecting her painting skills and is now sharing her treasure of rosemaling patterns with others in her first book, “Strokes of Love.”  

"Use this book to relax. Enjoy as you create your piece of rosemaling with color pencils, watercolor crayons, or paints," Dowe said. "As an artist, you can use this book for ideas to design your patterns to rosemale on wood, glass, paper, or anything."

“Strokes of Love” features 33 rosemaling images suitable for any age and skill level. Thumbing through the pages, it is clear that “Strokes of Love” is much more than a coloring book of rosemaling patterns. It is a book filled with love that educates and supports anyone who picks up the book. Included in the book are tips and techniques as well as examples of rosemaling strokes and colors and information on the origins of rosemaling. Dowe has included color photographs of her work to motivate the artist in you.

“Strokes of Love” is dedicated to Dowe's biggest supporter, late husband Don, who encouraged her to take a rosemaling class. Dowe originally signed up for a stain-glass class through Decorah’s adult education program. Due to a lack of students, the instructor canceled the class, and Dowe signed up for her first rosemaling class. Decorah resident and Vesterheim gold medalist Ruth Green woke Dowe’s dormant artistic gene during that first class. Dowe went home and practiced the skills she learned in that first class by painting Christmas ornaments for her family that year. Forty years later, she continues to paint ornaments. 

“Use it or lose it,” stresses Dowe. It’s her mantra that she shares daily with family, friends and students.

Two years after that first class, Dowe was teaching the adult education beginner rosemaling class in Decorah. Since then, Dowe has taught rosemaling in Iowa, Florida and Minnesota, including classes at the Giants of the Earth Heritage Center in Spring Grove. Dowe served as editor of the "Vesterheim Rosemaling Letter" for eight years and published Vesterheim's "Rosemalers' Recipes" cookbook. Her designs and articles have appeared in various magazines and books, including "Norwegian Rosemaling in America," Vesterheim's "Rosemaling Christmas Ornaments," and “Rosemaling Coast to Coast” patterns. 

Giants of the Earth Heritage Center and the Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum gift shop both carry the coloring book. The coloring book is available online at

Dowe’s artistic journey unknowingly began during her childhood when she and her brother, Tom, would watch their dad paint with oils. Though Dowe was not interested at that time, she loved watching her father paint with oils on canvas. He also did murals, plus he enjoyed drawing caricatures of people. Her father’s work can be found in Dowe’s home in Harmony as well as in the home of her children. 

The artistic gene has passed down to Dowe’s children and grandchildren. Son D.J. is a professional photographer and owned a photography studio in Stillwater, Minnesota, and daughter, Marsha, rosemales, and enjoys taking pictures. Dowe’s grandchildren spend time with their grandmother, learning to rosemale. 

Dowe continues to share her love of rosemaling with family, friends, and her students by designing and painting custom rosemaled pieces and continues to teach classes in Florida for Sons of Norway, and plans are in the works to offer a rosemaling class in Spring Grove this year.  

She is the founder and director of Golden Happenings Senior Group in Harmony, where she is responsible for programming and writing grants. She also finds time to teach rosemaling classes to the group's members; thus, another way of how Betty continues to share her rosemaling passion.