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“Tish-ah!” said the grass … “Tish-ah, tish-ah!” … Never had it said anything else – never would it say anything else.” – O.E. Rolvaag, Giants in the Earth

Hands down, the best opening lines in any book I’ve read. The novel follows a young 19th century Norwegian couple, Per Hansa and his wife Beret, as they travel across the  American Tallgrass prairie to settle on the Great Plains. Beret grows more and more homesick for Norway. Her melancholy grows into “prairie madness”, a condition many settlers experienced from the extreme levels of isolation on the vast, open prairie.

I’ve had this subject in the back of my mind ever since I read the books (it’s actually a trilogy) about 10 years ago. I was reminded of Beret about two years ago from a photo my wife took. At the beginning of this year I started doing preliminary drawings and last week I started the final painting. The working title of the painting is “Melancholia” based on one of the four temperaments. I know I geeked out a little by having a backstory for this painting, but it really helps to make it more meaningful to me. Below are the steps to painting Beret’s hair.

Progress for Beret's hair.

Progress of Beret’s hair for painting “Melancholia”.