Saturday, April 5, 2014

Short Break from Spring

"Old JD Hay Rake"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 

We woke up yesterday morning to winter again.  April can have surprises; I remember a few from some years back, and last year it even snowed in May!  We got around a half a foot yesterday though, and it is most welcome here!  (We've been so dry since last summer.)

As soon as I got the lane up to the house and studio cleared, I went out and shot a few photos .  I don't like photographing snow under overcast skies, because of the visual "flatness" of the snow...its just too dull.  But I picked a more graphic subject and went from there.

I picked on the old John Deere Hay Rake that sits on the upper slope of our south pasture, near the old sheep barn.  The image above is somewhat understated, but its growing on me.  

Wonder if this will be my last winter photograph until the 2014-15 season?  I kind of hope so - let the short break from spring end and get onto some real springtime weather! 

Don't think I'm alone on that note!

Thursday, March 27, 2014


"Summer Stream Dawn"
oil pastel/oil pencil study
(click on image for a larger view)

I just deviated a "tad" from working on the "From the Tallgrass" exhibit this coming summer at Neal Smith NWR, by doing a small (6X12") oil pastel and oil pencil study of the creek down below us here in the valley.  
I had been searching for "prairie" material while viewing years of video footage I've taken and came across this wonderful section of the Waterman Creek about a mile and a half south of us and was immediately taken with it.  I have found so many things in the past that have interested me as material for future paintings or drawings, and a familiar thing always seems to happen - I either lose interest or grow less "smitten", or even forget!

I am not an organized person...OK, maybe too much information, but everyone has their short-comings...that's at least one of mine.  I've always relied on my memory and its just not holding up as I pile on new thoughts!  The old "hard drive" is finding a need to delete information as more is downloaded!  That's about as concise as I can put it!

But when I saw this footage from 2012, I really was smitten - I knew it had to be squeezed in NOW, or be deleted or forgotten from memory someday.  So as soon as I finished my last drawing (Big Bluestem, color pencil) I started this sketch immediately.

I really want to do a larger oil painting of this scene, now that I see how well this study works for me.  I hope I do not lose interest (another short-coming 'ADD' perhaps?) and never get back to trying a larger studio piece; but I can't think about that now - Too Much To Do!!!

Back to Work!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

"Big Bluestem in Bloom"
(Andropogon gerardii)
color pencil drawing © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view

Just finished another color pencil drawing for this summer's exhibit at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City, Iowa.

I've never drawn grasses before, except "implied" as a background form or shape.  And since this summer's solo exhibit will be at a national "Tallgrass Prairie" type refuge, I thought it'd be very appropriate to try to do some small studies of prairie grasses as well.

Of course Big Bluestem is the Tallgrass icon for grasses, so what better subject to start with!?  I am drawing many of these small studies as "close-up" drawings; to bring the subject matter into a more personal/true experience type of presentation.  The grasses depicted here were in "bloom", which is actually surprising to some people; many do not equate grass with having flowers...sometimes referred to as "florets".  Bloom time is usually around early to late July here, depending on the season's conditions.

This drawing was done from some video footage taken here on our native pasture in 2011.  When I started working on this summer's solo exhibit I garnered many images from the video work I've been doing over the past several years...they came in handy for reference material "and" inspiration, during this past winter!

Spring continues to make inroads here at the studio...rather chilly and breezy today but the yard is full of Red-wing Blackbirds and Robins...and the Great Blue Herons have just started showing up at the rookery across the valley! 

Well, back to work here - have a great week out there!


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Its a Seesaw

Snow geese and the Gibbous Phase Moon
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 

It can be a crazy time of the year, March.  One day is very hopeful for spring thaw and another blankets the ground again.  So it is each year, and this morning was no different when the landscape looked like winter once more, yet this afternoon the landscape's a blank canvas again and sunny.

The thing I like best about March is the sudden movement of the wildlife, with new species appearing, and - the sounds!

Last week it was difficult getting any work done for a couple days.  Every time I'd get in the middle of something, Georgie might show up and say "Have you looked outside"?  I'd stop what I was doing and go out to see clouds of Snow Geese moving was really a fun sight.  Other times during those days, I'd actually hear the geese as they flew lower and over the studio.

White-tail Deer crossing Waterman Creek
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 

The deer herd has shown its true numbers during the afternoon hours the past 3 weeks too.  Each winter, after the deer season has ended, some time seems to need to pass before we can get a good idea of what the spring population will look like.  They all seem so comfortable with daylight again, now that its been some time since the shooting stopped!  It looks like we'd better keep the fencing around the smaller trees in the yard for a few more weeks...each day we have a skiff of snow, we see deer tracks all over the to the house and studio.  Our pussy willow has become a salad bar again; we don't keep it corralled - the pruning doesn't seem to bother that bush too much.

The Robins are back, and the Juncos have returned on their trip north too.  The male Goldfinches are starting to show their molt to bright yellow, and the Cedar Waxwings are taunting me from the bushes each morning I come out...I say "taunting" because they seem to make a game of keeping their distance when I appear with my camera.

Tomorrow is the vernal equinox...the first day of spring, but next week sounds like we'll be getting chilled down a little again.   Its like a seesaw, and like that seesaw was as a kid, its fun!

Friday, March 7, 2014

"Weather Permitting"!

"Valley Storm"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison 
(click on image for a larger view) 

Its nice thinking about weather that isn't necessarily "winter" for a change!  And the new exhibit at Arts on Grand in Spencer, Iowa is full of all kinds of weather - stormy weather, fair weather, warm weather, winter weather, rainfall, fog, snow..."Weather Permitting" an exhibition of "weather"!  

"June Rains Past"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

I have 5 pieces of work juried into the "Weather Permitting" exhibit  (the two here are a sampling of those) and was able to view the showing yesterday afternoon - it is an excellent mix of artists, mediums, and weather!  A fun "must see" exhibit! 

"Weather Permitting" runs from March 4 through April 5th, with a reception on March 13th (5 - 7 p.m.) at Arts on Grand in Spencer.  If you're in the Spencer area during the next few weeks, be sure and stop in Arts on Grand for a fun day of "weather"!


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Still Waiting!

"Prairie Lily"
(Lilium philadelphicum)
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 
Still waiting in the wings for spring!  Aren't we all?!  But there is hope in the air with predictions of day time highs above freezing toward the end of the week! 
A year ago we were only days away from seeing our Great Blue Herons returning to the rookery across the valley and were seeing the area Bald Eagles sitting tight on their nest.   The Great Horned Owls are apparently incubating/hatching nearby...we see the top of the "sitter's" head when we pass by and crane our necks.  And the numbers of Mourning Doves is stretching a bit here on the acreage...we haven't seen huge flocks of Red-wing Blackbirds yet but a few individuals have been on the feeders in the yard.
But I've been working on early summer on the drawing board; another prairie forb (wildflower) has grown to fruition.  I chose a lily that is native to my county (O'Brien) and still exists in a state remnant nearby.  I won't disclose its location as there are a meager few left and I don't want them stressed any more than they already are. 
I first came upon "Lilium philadelphicum" on the north shore of Lake Superior and in the adjacent forests, where it is locally known as the "Wood Lily".  I was quite surprised to find this beautiful small lily back in the mid 1990's here in O'Brien County when the state acquired a wonderful native prairie remnant; we walked the remnant the year prior to its public disclosure and found the "Wood" Lily on the prairie there!  I discovered the "Lilium philadelphicum" was one and the same as on NE Minnesota's "Arrowhead" region, and was pleased to call it "Prairie Lily" for the first time!

I drew this color pencil drawing from that very same "first" Prairie Lily here...from a slide I took of the plant in bloom that morning of discovery. Hmmm, "slides", that's something I haven't worked from in a long while!

Its been cathartic doing these prairie plant drawings, getting that winter "thing" purged from my system!  I do hope to do more when I can.

I have an exhibit on the prairie coming up in July-August this summer, down at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City, Iowa.  Neal Smith has a large and quite nice visitor center and the exhibit will be at the J. N. "Ding" Darling Gallery there.  The exhibit will follow my past "From the Tallgrass" theme, relating wholly to the Tallgrass Prairie.  I'll follow up more in a future blog on the details.

Still waiting and trying to be patient!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Waiting on Spring...

"February Evening, Mammatus Clouds"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 
I'm no different than the next person...I'm being tricked by the nice little breaks in the winter weather here and getting somewhat of a case of spring fever.  Not that I want to give up my studio time yet; I still have too much to do!  
But late in the afternoon yesterday, Georgie came over to the studio to tell me that I'd better get my face peeled off of the monitor and look outside!  It was pretty cool and a real surprise - mammatus clouds in mid February!  That's weird...ya cool too, but not something you'd expect to see!  She caught me just in time too because I only had a couple minutes to get some photographs of the scene before the light was lost to the early evening. The view is right outside the kitchen looking east.
Today is a nice day as well, but the snow, ice and wind is supposed to pick up tonight making tomorrow (Thursday) somewhat unpleasant again; the birthing process for spring can be agonizingly long!
"False Gromwell and Prairie Phlox"
(Onosmodium molle and Phlox pilosa)
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)
I have been forestalling the inevitable onslaught of spring fever by working on spring subject matter here; the spring landscape finished about a week and a half ago (last blog) and the small color pencil piece seen above.  
Over the past couple years or more I've been working on artwork of various prairie forbs (wildflowers) found in our native pasture here.  The "False Gromwell and Prairie Phlox" is the latest color pencil drawing, just finished this week.  These are both fun plants - the False Gromwell is less showy from a distance but quite a "looker" up close...the Bumble Bees love this plant; I'd say an early summer favorite of theirs!  It has some "nicknames" like most wildflowers, one that fits it real well is "marble seed".  It has a small roundish seed that is creamy white when matured, and is as hard as a marble.  A weird charachteristic is - after a rain, the plant can smell like a wet dog or mule!  (All's normal again once it dries out thank goodness!)  You can't tell much from this drawing, but this plant's "structure" is quite beautiful, pretty even when not in bloom.
The Prairie Phlox (some call it "Downy Phlox") is another native plant here I've been doing my best to help proliferate.  It is quite showy from a distance and up close...the issue around here seems to be that the deer and the rabbits love to eat it as soon as it starts blooming...ugh!  I do my best to dissuade them, but its not easy.  Skippers seem to like the phlox about as much as the Bumble Bees do.  These are both early summer bloomers, out before the prairie really goes crazy with color, but once they are out - its like the gate has been swung open for the race to begin, a fun time on the tallgrass prairie!
Think Spring, but don't be too impatient!