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Monday, July 07, 2014

Iceland: Through an Artist's Eyes part 1 First Impressions of Summer in Iceland

'In the Mountain's Shadow'            5x7         plein air pastel   Iceland          ©Karen Margulis
purchase painting $50

Iceland is a land of extremes. The darks are darker, the lights brighter and the greens are more varied and lush than one can possibly imagine. As an artist I was enthralled. I couldn’t wait to paint the rich fairyland of green grasses and moss. I hoped I had packed the right colors in my pastel box.

'Iceland Extreme'         4x10       plein air pastel somewhere on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula, Iceland  June 2014

In Iceland the earth is raw and dark. It  sometimes feels dark and brooding and sometimes the landscape is filled with a warm and gentle glow from the sun that stays low in the sky for hours on end. Sunset never really came. I arrived on the Summer Solstice and my first night in Iceland I watched the sun do a dance on the horizon. It went down around 12:30 am only to reappear and hour later slightly to the right. The sky remained bright and colorful all night. Even though it was never completely dark during my visit,  I fell into bed pleasantly tired every night. I was never bothered by the never ending daylight.

The Midnight Sun as seen from my bedroom window in Stykkisholmur, Iceland

Iceland’s summer weather followed suit and was also extreme. It went from warm sunny summer days that truly never ended to gray and moody days filled with steady chilling rains. There were days in the 70’s and the sun felt hot on my skin. Then there were the cold and damp days when the high temperature was 50 with a fierce blowing wind. During my two week visit  I experienced everything but snowfall.(though I did touch a glacier)

A sunny day in Stykkisholmur with our red house in the distance. This was 10:00 pm

A gray and moody day in a field of Lupines

The weather in Iceland changed constantly. I learned not to fret about a bad weather forecast. It was likely to change...several times in the course of the day. My new friend from Sweden would tell us there was no such thing as bad weather...only bad clothes. I was prepared with good clothes and that helped. I had packed layers. I had packed everything from a bathing suit to long underwear and a down jacket. I even brought my travel Wellies (rain boots) and wore them often.

Lots of layers to remove or add as necessary. A waterproof layer is important.

Keeping my feet warm and dry

While in Iceland I splurged on my very own Icelandic wool sweater. The Icelandic name for this traditional sweater with a circular pattern on the yoke is "lopapeysa."  "Lopi" is the name of the yarn traditionally used in its making, and "peysa" means sweater. I noticed that it wasn’t just a souvenir for tourists. I saw locals everywhere I traveled wearing their beautiful sometimes well worn sweaters. They seemed to wear them as we wear jackets or sweatshirts. I soon found out for myself how wonderful they are. The wool from the Icelandic sheep is both soft and water repellent. My sweater kept me perfectly warm and cozy on the damp cold days. 

Icelandic sheep are everywhere

The sweaters are available everywhere but I bought mine at the weekly flea market Kolaportid in Reykjavik. I had the chance to chat with the woman who had knitted my sweater. She told me “I looked well” in my new sweater. She also gave me care instructions. Did you know there is no need to really wash the sweater for two years?   It is said that one somehow knows when they find the perfect a wedding dress. It sounds strange but it was true for me. I knew it was the one as soon as I put it on and I will treasure it forever. 

Modeling my new Lopapeysa

I had only been in Iceland for 24 hours when it occurred to me that it was the most amazing place I had ever seen. In 24 hours I had experienced the Mid Atlantic Ridge, volcanos, hot springs, glaciers, countless waterfalls, the midnight sun and a huge treeless landscape that begged to be painted. This was going to be an epic adventure!


steam from geothermal springs

the Mid- Atlantic Ridge comes ashore on Icleand

Moss covered lava fields from distant volcanoes

waterfalls are everywhere

Be sure to return for part two tomorrow!

6 comments: said...

What a wonderful post. Loved the photos, the paintings and the narrative. Thanks for all the details. I'll watch for part 2.

Unknown said...

Thank you for your interesting and very informative post. You make me want to go to Iceland. I am afraid your vivid posts will be as close as I will ever come to Iceland. I love your paintings and your photos are beautiful. So glad you had such a great time!

Hélène said...

Bravo !

Sheila said...

WOW! Gorgeous country! Nice sweater too :)

Unknown said...

Fabulous! Thanks for shaing, I almost feel like I've been there. Can't wait for Part 2.

Unknown said...

What an amazing post, and photos. I love your paintings and your sweater and wellies! Such an insight about the country from your writing and your art. Love the plein air which has sold.