Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Those Pleasant Distractions of Spring

American Toad climbing out for some sun
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Are distractions really a symptom of procrastination?  I think in my case that may have more than a bit of truth to it, but distractions can make you smile or even take some time to just mellow out a bit.  When spring comes - everything is a distraction!

Around here it can be as simple as the first butterfly of spring, a bird returning on its way through on migration, or the Pasque Flowers in bloom on the prairie.  

This morning Georgie saw our first two Chipping Sparrows of the season!  I haven't seen them yet so I'm a bit distracted looking out the window hoping to see them after such a long break as winter.  

A while ago Georgie came in a said she'd accidentally dug up a Toad in the Spinach bed...now "that's" a good distraction!  I went out and admired the beautiful spinach she sowed in the fall; we had some of it in our salad last week...that's a good distraction too!  The Toad was caked with dirt and was sunning itself on the pea gravel garden path, it later climbed back into the Spinach bed.

After a short while Georgie came into the studio to tell me another Toad had appeared, this one climbed up out of the leaf mulch in the Garlic bed!  And there was our first butterfly of the season on the radish bed's headboard!  Now that's a good distraction -  I had to see this!

The American Toad looked as if it had actually sprouted out of the Garlic bed's leaf litter and really made a nice image on my camera (above)...not what I'd consider a warm day (actually had a little rain mixed with snow yesterday) but the sun was evidently very appreciated by this Toad - a great distraction indeed!

Right now I'm typing this blog instead of working at the easel, hmmm I'm almost done, what distraction can I find now?  Ah its Spring...now that's the mother of distractions!


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ahead of Myself?

 "American Goldfinch (male) - Portrait"
color pencil - © Bruce A. Morrison

  "American Goldfinch (female) - Portrait"
color pencil - © Bruce A. Morrison

I have been somewhat obsessed with small bird portraits all winter here at the studio; my most recent portraits have been a pair of Goldfinches...I hadn't done a female American Goldfinch and as I was working on one I thought why not do a male to pair the birds up!  I've since framed them together in one frame and think they look great together!

 © Bruce A. Morrison

  "Gray Catbird - Portrait"
color pencil - © Bruce A. Morrison

One bird from the mimic family I really like hanging around the acreage here is the Gray Catbird; its a challenge in color pencil because its really just a slate gray with a dark cap on its head.  It does have chestnut brown undertail coverts but that wouldn't show in a head and shoulder portrait like this.

The American Goldfinches are here in high numbers all season long but they have yet to turn the spring plumage colors shown in the pencil drawings...right now they are getting a bit splotchy but you can see hints of the full spring color coming along.

We won't see the Gray Catbirds until later in April most likely but we'll probably hear their "mewing" cat-like call before we spot them.

Either way I may be getting a little ahead of myself but still looking forward to them all!

Spring is just a couple days away!

Friday, February 24, 2017

What do you do in a Blizzard?

"American Robin (male) - Portrait"
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

What do you do in a blizzard?  Well, plow the acreage, shovel the walks and access to the feeders, have a nice bowl of Pazole (hope I spelled that right?) and then take a nap!  Then realize you haven't posted your latest drawings on your blog!

"American Robin (female) - Portrait"
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

 I had been working on these small life-size color pencil portraits for some time - trying to get them done before the first robins showed for the year...but they beat me to it last week; oh well.  Never-the-less they were fun working on...I especially got a kick out of doing the scruffy immature bird!

"American Robin (immature) - Portrait"
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

These are birds that just about everyone can identify with; probably our most familiar bird of the yard and lawns.  Most people probably don't wonder what kind of habitat this bird favored before we messed up the landscape and introduced lawns.

I have an audio recording I did many years ago of an American Robin in the north woods of Ontario, Canada, along a wilderness river. The familiar song of an American Robin takes on a whole new meaning reverberating down the pine and spruce corridors of the Canadian Shield!  Talk about "Wild"!  It was ghostly and beautiful; its a good bet our tame(ish) lawn birds were not so social before we came along...did we make couch potatoes out of our birds?  OK, that's taking it a bit far but we certainly did have an influence on the natural balance of things.  

Thinking about spring and these so familiar birds, as well as the wildness that still exists in them and their brethren - I guess that's what I do in a blizzard (after all the work is done anyway!).   

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Getting Closer!

 "American Robin - male"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

It's beginning to get kind of exciting here - our first flock of robins showed this past week and the air has been full of Canada Geese and today, Snow Geese.  As I type - small groups and pairs of Bald Eagles are catching updrafts over the acreage and valley.  Huge flocks of Red-wing Blackbirds are noisily accosting the valley as well, sending White-tail Deer running here and there, being disrupted from their sunny afternoon naps.
"Rose-breasted Grosbeak - female"
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

I'm also still working on the birds that I'm longing to see here again in a few weeks...this sketch being a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  This is one bird I really admire up close, for they are a pretty unassuming songbird that seem to really like our bird feeders each spring and summer.  She was a pretty lady and was a fun challenge to capture it's subtle tonality and personality...not easy!

Spring - it's Getting closer! 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Happy Groundhog Day!

pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

It's Groundhog Day!  Wow did that ever get here fast!  I'd go for an early spring, but it feels really like early February here this a.m., around 10 degrees Fahrenheit out there - the sun is shining bright so I guess it'll see its shadow and we're out of luck!  Oh well, business as usual.

 "Brown Thrasher - Portrait"
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

I'm still working on small Bird portraits, just finishing one that was a bit trickier for me...too much small work! But I'm still happy with how it came out - a Brown Thrasher...one of our first larger songbirds returning in the spring! These are low nesters (usually in low thick brush or bushes) and found in our yard and grove all spring and summer - Great Singers! One of the Mimic-Thrushes (from the family Mimidae)...very fun to listen too all spring and summer long! 

Keep your spirits up - enjoy the winter days and look forward to spring and all it brings.  That old Woodchuck will just have to go back to bed - see him in March!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Winter Musing

"Baltimore Oriole (male)"
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison
I haven't blogged personally for quite some time - what's with that?!   Well, you know that old saying about "life" catching up with you...that's about the best I can do.
Its been a mixed winter here at the studio...started out with snow, snow melted, got cold for "a" day (27 below zero with 30 mph winds), then moderated, got nice, had freezing rains, moderated, had 10 inches of snow...and now here we are!  
Not a typical NW Iowa winter at all.  I do remember winters of my youth where we'd occasionally get a January thaw - that we got.  Otherwise very mixed up.  We did follow last year's trend where the final weeks of autumn were much warmer than usual, so when winter started it was not very typical.

Enough weather dissertation.  What does one do when the days are short and the temps chilly?  Take their mind off it and think Spring!  

I've been working on some more small bird portraits in color pencil...actually they are nearly life size, but these birds are small "in hand".  I'd been meaning to do a Baltimore Oriole male; these incredibly brightly colored birds are never tiresome to watch through mid spring and summer - their voices every bit as bright and arresting!

They usually arrive "here" in early May and stay through much of September.  We look for their hanging basket nest around the yard and often find them very near the house, where we can sit and watch their brood rearing each day.  If we can't locate the nests (which was the case this past summer), they always show up after the leaves fall.

These are fun birds to watch at the bird feeders - they love grape jelly!  Many people think they need an orange to attract oriole but really a plain plastic orange colored bowl and a good helping of grape jelly is all that's needed. They do like drinking out of the hummingbird feeders too.

I don't want to wish the weeks away but I am looking forward to May and the oriole's return!


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

All Hail November!

 "Autumn Near Dog Creek's Mouth - preliminary study"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

You just can't beat this November's weather...I am hard pressed to remember a November this mild or warm!  Now word is out that we may get some wet/slightly white weather in a day or two...well that's bound to happen - it is November after all!

After this nice Autumn color and weather, I've been working on ideas for art work and printing some images as open edition photographic prints.  I finished a small oil painting a few days back - this small painting was worked up as a guide to work from for a larger painting that I'll hopefully get to yet this fall before winter sets in. The location is on some county land in SE O'Brien County...its of Dog Creek just a few yards before it dumps into the Little Sioux River.  This little creeks runs through some pretty territory for a very small stream - a neat unassuming little stream.

With the Holiday season now approaching, there are a couple art exhibits and shows coming up that I'm taking part in!  One is currently at Arts on Grand in Spencer, Iowa - their "Christmas in the Gallery", which is currently running and goes through December 27th; a lot of really nice Christmas related gifts and seasonal artwork!

Also, there is the "Holiday Open House" coming up in Peterson, Iowa!  This yearly event will be taking place at Barb McGee's Gallery in downtown Peterson.  A great little town in a picturesque setting - a great gallery and a top notch assortment of artists!  Enjoy some good treats and good conversation and great art!  That's on Saturday December 3rd from 9am - 5pm!

Happy Thanksgiving coming up next week - enjoy November!