Monday, August 8, 2016

Too Fast!

 "Anvil Across the Valley" 
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

Too Fast!  Time...that's what.  It just turned summer and we're already into August!  Frustrating isn't it.  I'm blaming deadlines, appointments and other inevitable things that make time blow by like it didn't even happen.

I've been trying very hard to balance time in the studio with everything else and although it hasn't been easy, have managed to finish a couple things.

The top image was something with some years behind it...first as a panoramic photograph about 6-7 years ago - then a small oil pastel "study" 2 or 3 years back...now, finally I've done a larger completed oil painting version of the scene!  This is looking due east from our acreage and across the valley in front of us.  A late May/early June evening  with the light casting long shadows and the stubble out front still showing through a new emerging crop.  The anvil of a distant late spring thunderstorm dramatically lit by the late sun...a beautiful sight!

I had a beautiful dark expresso stained plein air style frame custom made and handcarved for it - it's perfect!

"Showy Tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense)"
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

The color pencil drawing of the Showy Tick-trefoil was inspired this spring when I was out in our pasture photographing new plants coming up - these guys are always a treat to see new and I couldn't resist trying to depict one arching back and supporting new blossoms...the leaf structure teamed with the budding flowers was very attractive!  These flowers are easy to procure seed from later in the summer - just walk through a stand of them with a sweatshirt on and the seeds stick tight to the clothing...then sit and watch TV while you pull them off and save in a paper bag for fall planting!  They are very easy germinators as well and the plants can be very beautiful in mass!  

So much more to get done this summer - but its flying by, literally.  If something doesn't change around here, I'll be staring at the late summer and fall asters soon! 

Hang on before its gone!
 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer on the Tallgrass

"Viceroy"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
I've been trying to document the native plants on the pasture; spring has gone by so quickly and the spring forb (wildflower) blooming has zipped by too quickly! 

Two evening ago I was out after the wind finally got manageable for photographing and was shooting some video and trying to get still shots when I could.  There was a Monarch flying around quickly here and there but I didn't try chasing it...it was just to animated and would hold still for me.  When I was packing it up and heading back to the studio I walked past a Viceroy nectaring on, of all things, Brome grass!

Well I wished it'd been a Monarch but it was so cooperative I took several shots and did some video of it as well.  I hate admitting there is brome in the pasture but there isn't a prairie that hasn't struggled against that common/nasty cool season (Eurasian) grass the farmers embrace for grazing/haying.

You can almost always tell a Viceroy from a Monarch by its size - its about a third smaller than a Monarch.  Also the Viceroy's hind wing has a line that intersects horizontally through the vertical veins - not seen with Monarchs...the resemblance is remarkable though, and even I have to stop a look more closely when they show up here...they're fairly common here every summer.

I was taken a bit by surprise with a butterfly this size nectaring on a grass in flower...maybe its not uncommon, it is just something I haven't seen before.  I have seen small Skippers and those small Blues, along with Hover flies and such nectar on grass florets but this was new for me!


I'll insert a video of this Viceroy (The link is on You Tube at - https://youtu.be/v4K3v9Zrl_U if this blog doesn't show it for you) 
 
Have a great summer out there and stay cool!!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Late Spring on the Prairie!

"Passing Prairie Showers"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
June never seems to let us off out here on the prairie.  We sure appreciate the rain but high winds, lightning and hail are the things that keep us on our toes.  As I type this blog entry a good thunderstorm with high winds is passing through the valley.  A few areas of tornado activity are forming NW and NE of us - nobody needs that!
 
But this painting I just finished really depicts the "normal" passing showers that are so common out here in that great openness of the Tallgrass Prairie.  I used our south pasture as the "model" and borrowed some patches of Golden Alexander in bloom, from the north pasture to place in the shadow cast in the foreground during the late afternoon.
 
Late Spring and Summer paintings can be difficult because of the overwhelming greens out there so I like to take some artistic license and warm up the image with the late afternoon sunshine and neutralize it a bit with foreground shadows.  It was a bit warm the day I laid this idea out but even hotter (mid-upper nineties) while I painted in the studio - thank goodness for air-conditioning!
 
Hope you're staying safe and keeping cool out there!
 
 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Bulbs and Blooms - A Floral Show" at the Summerwind Gallery with Fellow A.R.T. Artists and Others!

Five artists from the 2016 Artisans Road Trip at the Summerwind Gallery's
"Bulbs to Blooms - A Flora Show".   Upper left - clockwise as follows:
Linda Hopkins, Roberta Williams, Judy Thompson, Bruce Morrison and Pam Harp.
(All artwork copyright property of the respective artists.)
 
I do the Blog Posts for the Artisans Road Trip each year (that and their web site), and thought I'd re-post an A.R.T. Blog I put up yesterday.  I've been extremely busy putting up other blogs and working on other obligations that I thought I'd better tend to my own! 
 
The newly opened Summerwind Gallery in Arnolds Park, Iowa will be featuring a showing of several artists  - five of which are artists from the 2016 Artisans Road Trip!  The exhibit will  feature "Bulbs to Blooms - A Floral Show", and will open on Tuesday May 17th and run through May 31st.

Featured Artisans Road Trip artists include Pam Harp (watercolor), Linda Hopkins (acrylic), Bruce Morrison (oils and color pencil), Judy Thompson (watercolor batik) and Roberta Williams (watercolor batik).  Other artists will be featured as well!

The Summerwind Gallery, owned and operated by artist Roberta Williams, carries artwork from across Iowa and is a unique addition to the Iowa Great Lakes - a "must see" destination!

To see top professional artwork of the region and state - be sure and take in this wonderful showing!  The gallery is located at 28 Allen Avenue in Arnolds Park, Iowa (the former location of Side Street Art and Framing).  
Gallery hours are Monday - Saturday 11-7 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m. Find more information by contacting the Summerwind via phone at 712 332-5906 or check it out on the web at - www.summerwindgallery.com!
 

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Again, Some of My Favorite Things...

 "Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)" - oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

 As I mentioned in my last blog, I've been thinking and focusing on prairie forbs (wildflowers) and grasses a lot lately.  One of these forbs is found in our native pasture, while the other is not, but is "local" to our area.

This time I've been working in oils and I'm trying to keep these close to "life size", so the painting are small (both 5X7").

The first painting is of a Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum) bloom.  There are many of these plants in our pasture and they are quite the iconic Tallgrass Prairie plant - being anywhere up to 6-7 feet tall!  They also have quite a sturdy stock,  lasting through the winter.  To give you an idea of how sturdy these are, once the snow was out this spring Georgie and I found several of these stocks were used by the local bucks as "rubs" for their antlers!  (Even found a shed out there!)  Its amazing to me that White-tail bucks are using these on their antlers.

 "Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense)" - oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

The next painting is of a Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense) blossom and I actually did a very small drawing of this same plant a few years back I believe the original color pencil was something like a 1.5X2" miniature drawing.  I went for a life size painting from that tiny sketch.

I used to call these Turk's Cap Lilies but that was not proper as that is an entirely different Lily (although similar in looks).  This is a local native Lily, not found in our pasture though...it requires more of a moist mesic environment than our mostly gravel/well drained soil can provide.  I do believe that another local native Lily would have done just fine in our pasture - the Prairie Lily...sometimes referred to as the Wood Lily (Lilium philadelphicum)...I've found them in both moist and dry soils near our acreage.

We just burned about 1/3 of our pasture a week and a half back, and will be burning another 30% in the next weeks if possible...part of our prairie pasture maintenance; this year leaving 40% for the invertebrates and possible other critters like small reptiles and even amphibians.  We've rotated burning for many years now and its always been our hope we're allowing leeway for species needing a break.  But the paddocks burned are always a showcase for flowering plants and produce great crops of seed - very fun to experience!

Its always nice to have something like the prairie to look forward to each year - giving me some of my favorite things!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Some of My Favorite Things...

 "Canada Milk Vetch (Astragalus canadensis)" 
Color Pencil drawing -  © Bruce A. Morrison

I've been working on more drawings of prairie plants (grasses and forbs) and anyone that really knows me realizes I only do this out of a real love for the subject matter.  I guess I've been watching winter so long that I'm drawing for cathartic reasons!  But the subject matter this time around is one from our prairie pasture and that's the Canada Milk Vetch (Astragalus canadensis), sometimes these plants have other common names, I think Rattle Pod is one...these names usually make sense too - the seed pods do rattle when shaken about.  

This plant first showed up on our north pasture hillside over 10 years ago and in a location I had not been doing fall or spring seeding...again last year I found several plants in our south pasture, and again in locations not seeded before, so it may very well have been here before these areas were grazed years back.  Also, like some other plants I can think of, we've had some years intermittently that we could find no Canada Milk Vetch anywhere...2012, 2013 and 2014 were such years, yet last year they were "widespread" and in locations we'd never seen them.  That's very interesting to me but I have no answer to why!

Canada Milk Vetch, to me, has a very visually interesting structure...its almost graphic in quality ...although I chose to draw this plant - it would have made a great serigraph as well!  Or even a wood block!  Its a fairly common and somewhat aggressive plant - not one for the garden, but a great plant for the pasture here...I know the deer and rabbits sure love it!  (A lot of pruning going on through the summer.)

I tried treating the drawing's background a bit differently than in the past (more scribbling and less solvent), but tried being true to this forb's anatomy.  I drew this milk vetch at it's peak - which in the summer heat, lasts a fairly short time unfortunately...its a good thing there's lots of different prairie flowers and grasses out there and that they all have their specific bloom time - you have all summer to enjoy!

Spring is on the doorstep - get out and enjoy it!


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Going Domestic...Sort Of.

"Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea) with European honey bee (Apis mellifera)"
Color Pencil drawing -  © Bruce A. Morrison

I've read that there are around 4000 species of native bees in North America (http://bugguide.net/node/view/8267) - that seems like an awful lot!  I believe I have read that there are around 30-40 species of  Bumble Bees in Iowa...and many many more species of other less conspicuous native bees in addition to that.

But most of us think of the "honey bee" when bees are mentioned.  I remember my grand father bringing us gallon jars of honey when I was a kid...he had a bee keeper keeping their hives on his farm and they'd give him honey for "rent".  I was a honey crazed kid - loved the stuff!  I'm afraid I still do but have to moderate my love for it a bit now.  But the main reason I wanted to have someone keep their honey bees here on our acreage was to help pollinate our berry and fruit tree crops.  Even then, they still get plenty of competition from the native bees and other pollinators.

Our pastures are "native" pastures with plenty of native species of gasses and forbs (wildflowers).  Here is where the native bees seem to really shine...I see many types of Bumble Bees there as well as a small Metallic Green Bee that I particularly enjoy watching - just a gorgeous little bee!

But the European Honey Bees like the wildflowers in the pastures as well, especially when the garden plants have finished flowering or haven't cycled to new blooms yet.  One flower the Honey Bees especially like are the Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea); this forb is also a favorite of Bumble Bees.  When deciding to do a color drawing of the Purple Prairie Clover, I intended just drawing the flower/plant itself but when going through my files for a subject to draw from, I noticed a lot of photos with bees!  So...in tribute to my sweet tooth and love for honey - I included a Honey Bee.

Here's to ALL of our pollinators - may we have a long and ever lasting relationship, and may it always be a good one!