Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Summer Solstice

 

 

Just finished Spring - a chilly start and a HOT finish!  "Now" it feels like Summer!  Crazy stuff...

Prairie Phlox (Phlox pilosa) - photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

The pastures here have been mixed in their forbs, but mostly everything has been a couple weeks later than the average from years past. Just yesterday I realized that the Prairie Phlox just bloomed and the Spiderwort is about finished.  The June Grass was at its peak last week an now maturing quickly along with the Porcupine Grass.

 

I have been playing catch up here in the Studio as usual - I have only been able to get out one morning before sunrise this June...it has been so windy that the small stuff in the pasture hasn't been too willing to hold reasonably still for my camera.  But - the evenings on the "Prairie Schooner" (my old '82 EZ-Go electric golf cart) have been fun...one thing I've been chasing are the Dickcissels, which are more numerous this year.  

We have been hearing Bobolinks "occasionally"...don't know if they are nesting here or not?  We are just holding our breath that the pasture across the road from us "Doesn't" get mowed before the end of June this summer.  Last summer it'd been mowed early and we lost the nesting Bobolinks...a very sad occurrence...very sad.

Our Meadowlark population sounds decent - more calling than last summer...some behind us...we are hopeful there too. 

I'll end this post with a guest blog I wrote on invitation for Bleeding Heartland's "Wildflower Wednesday" - give it a read if you have a moment.  I hope you enjoy it!  Have a good summer - and stay cool out there!

https://www.bleedingheartland.com/2022/06/15/iowa-wildflower-wednesday-a-prairie-home-remnant-in-obrien-county/?fbclid=IwAR1EGI3peIrcO_mOYme0IZVqZQCphEaScnEXHLKqYI-VFYh_kCf2HE5D9oo

 

Saturday, June 4, 2022

Archival Works Friday...ya, I know it's Saturday, what can I say?

 

"Big Bluestem in Bloom" - color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

Archival Works Friday (Yes I Know It's Saturday!)
 
As I mentioned before - I'll post a painting, drawing or serigraph (silkscreen prints) from the "archive" files of years past...and give a little back story on the work. I hope you'll find it interesting! Posting the first Friday of the month...
 
This Archival Works day is a color pencil drawing...my use of this medium dates back to the early 1960's. My first "Side Walk Art Fair" participation in Ft. Dodge, IA had all color pencil drawings; I think I was about 12 years old at the time and I only remember one of
them...probably a "self preservation" mechanism so I won't still be traumatized by how bad they must have been!!!!
 
The subject in the highlighted drawing "Big Bluestem in Bloom" is related to my 2 1/2 decade infatuation with "Prairies". I don't think my love of prairies is a very well kept secret - having been involved in prairie projects from the college level, public entities, and private consulting. Georgie has referred to me as "Prairie Boy" to many folks over the years (Ha!). Ya, well that's sure not where she found me - but yes, stuff happens doesn't it.
 
When we found the acreage here 20 years ago, it was the perfect fit for us...we had a few trees and a small bit of wooded habitat with nice spring ephemerals, and some great hillside gravel slopes with actual native prairie remnants...something that has become less easy to find in Iowa...only less than one half of one percent of this state's original prairies still exist. This little spot may not be on the super quality charts but even places like ours are disappearing much too frequently.
 
Something that I was hoping for in our little spot in the former tallgrass prairie was a place to work and play...it has lived up to my hopes yet has so much further to go. But we all have a lifespan...we're just making the best of what this "gift" of time has presented us. I always wanted to just walk out the door in the morning...or heck "anytime", and wander with the camera or paint brush, and record native prairie plant communities and the fauna
 
found there. It has been a wonderful gift! Every day here is a blessing! I found myself not just photographing forbs (wildflowers) and grasses, but also painting and drawing them.
 
When I'm out and about on the pastures, I often video tape things as I'm photographing them...video is just a side hobby now...I used to do video taping and editing for educational institutions, government agencies and non-profits, for part of my living, but no longer - it's simply something fun to do now.
 
The drawing in question...
 
One morning in mid summer I was out early on the pasture photographing things in the first light of the day. The flowers and grasses, insects and birds...the usual.  Later I was in the studio downloading files and editing images and sorting through the morning's video footage. As I was watching footage I came to a frame that I'd only recorded - a lot of times I'm easily distracted and forget to take stills (photographs) also (and vice versa). There was an image from the video that grabbed me - "That'd make a great color pencil drawing!".
 
"Big Bluestem in Bloom" - color pencil drawing was born from a still frame in the video footage.
 
I have since been inspired many times in a like manner from other footage as well in past years...some landscapes, some flora and fauna.
 
If you've followed me this far and haven't nodded off or just plain zoned out and left, I'm going to leave a link here for a video I edited together 9 years back...it's of a walk down Waterman Creek about 5 miles south of the studio. During this walk I was inspired to paint two landscapes from the footage you'll watch. The video is here -
 
After you watch this video, go to my web site at the following link, it will take you to my Archived Works page. There are two oil paintings there that were inspired from footage in the video. The link is here -
 
(I'm really making this too easy!)
 
The first person that gives me the name of one of the 2 paintings inspired by footage in this video, will win a free signed print of that painting.  Just the first person, responding  to this story...just give me "one" of the painting titles and you win!
 
Thanks for hanging in there and good luck! (See you next month!)

Friday, May 6, 2022

Archival Works Friday - N0. 8!


"Archival Works Friday" No. 8!

The next post for "Archival Works Friday" hearkens back 12 and then 7 years ago.

As I mentioned before - I'll post a painting, drawing or serigraph (silkscreen print) from the archive files of years past...and give a little back story on the work. I hope you'll find it interesting!

This post involves acceptance and rejection. Acceptance - something every artist craves...heck, something every human being craves! And rejection - something we are all familiar with at some time in our lives, unless amnesia's involved.

As far as art is concerned, I first became acquainted with these "rival aspects" back in art school. I remember so well, the class critiques...your work was put up for display in front of the class and sometimes other students were respectful and kind (or sympathetic) and then there were times you'd wished you overslept and missed class!!!! The most dreaded critiques were from visiting professors; you could seriously doubt your choice of career after one of those. But being critiqued wasn't just a learning experience, it was also character building - you sure learned what other artists thought about your work! Ha! It got pretty hairy at times - a lot of fragile egos out in the art world!

It takes many years for some of us to find ourselves...to really start to believe in oneself and create your own "look" or niche. But you also realize that your work is not for everyone. That can be a form of rejection to some, but hey you can't please them all and that's just the way it should be. Wouldn't it be boring if everyone liked the same thing! I could rattle off some very "commercially" successful artist's names that I wouldn't want on my walls - its all personal taste right?! But to have someone like your work enough to "invest" in it is something that makes all those years of plying yourself worthwhile.

Acceptance and rejection are always a fact of life for artists - even for old ones! I'll share a story of acceptance - then rejection - Then overwhelming acceptance. It was neat...then disappointing...then very gratifying.
 
"July in the Valley" - plein air oil painting
(6X8")
 
The example in question began with a small 6X8 plein air painting of the valley out in front of the house and studio one July 12 years ago The sky was just amazing to watch, as it so often is out here. I titled the small painting "July in the Valley" and was very pleased with it. Plein air painting (sometimes termed "pochades") are paintings done outside at the actual location, and are often done just as "studies"...sometimes to "test the water" for a larger painting maybe to be done later on.

This small painting was spotted on the studio gallery wall and purchased by another artist from eastern Iowa, a retired architect. I was very pleased this person was so taken by this small painting! Acceptance is good!
 
"July in the Valley" - studio painting
(12X16")
 
A couple years after this sale was made I had another visitor to the studio. This was a local/area person that had been to the studio before and a former customer. (I'll keep this customer "vague" so as not to shine a light on anyone.) The visitor remembered the small plein air painting that had been sold to the artist I mentioned, and the visitor knew I was thinking of doing a larger painting in the studio of this same scene. I told the visitor that I would alert them when the painting was finished and that they had first dibs if they wanted it. Well some time passed and I finally got to the painting, eventually finished it, and notified the potential client. The potential client came out to the studio and I showed them the painting, the painting was accepted and was purchased. Now it would be normal and nice if things ended here. But several weeks later the client called and asked if they could return the painting...they sounded uneasy but I graciously accepted the return and refunded the purchase price. I felt bad but could tell the client was embarrassed...I won't go into their reason but it was a bit "out there". But that's life right?! Rejection is not fun.

Rejection can often cause a person to question things...is the painting a good work? Am I missing something? But I've learned over the years to not get too rattled when things don't come out quite like I expected.

The studio painting took it's place on the studio wall, right along with other paintings - for the next couple years.

Down the road I submitted this painting, along with two others, to EMC Insurance Corporate office in Des Moines for consideration for their Corporate Art Collection of Iowa Artists. EMC has a neat way of adding artist's works to their collection - they let their employees vote on their choice! After the works submitted for their collection had gone through several EMC employee committees to narrow down the choices - I was notified that "All 3" of my paintings had been over whelming accepted!! Again - acceptance is good!!!

It felt like a win for me, especially since multiple people and committees had "wanted" this painting...sure, one person thought it wasn't right for them personally after a while, but now it was a favorite of many, over and above a lot of other artists that had submitted work! And, oh ya - they also wanted my other two paintings as well...that was REAL acceptance!

So now my studio painting "July in the Valley", and the two others, are part of the EMC Insurance Corporation's EMC Art Collection (as well as one other from 3 years earlier), and I still plug along and strive to do my best. But I know that whatever I do...painting, drawing serigraph or even my photography - aren't everyone's cup of tea, nor do I expect them to be. And I also know that having work purchased by clients is a very good feeling, one that will never grow old.

Thank You, all of my past and present friends and clients, for giving something from my life a good home!

Friday, April 1, 2022

Archival Works Friday - No.7!

 

As I mentioned before - I'll post a painting, drawing or serigraph (silkscreen prints) from the "archive" files of years past...and give a little back story on the work. I hope you'll find it interesting!

These posts are now on the first Friday of the month – lo and behold this one happens on April Fools Day! Ha! Well it may fit the circumstances somewhat – there were some big goofs on my part with this painting!

I really appreciate the opportunity offered by folks in our area, to allow me to have access and walk their properties. I'm not as big of a hiker as I once was but I still try when the opportunity arises. This property is one I'd hiked several times between 2008-2012. I still drive by there quite often and have done photography and artwork from the 'edges' on occasion.

This particular painting almost never saw the light of day. It was a beautiful and still summer morning...probably late August or very early September...judging by the vegetation I portrayed along the roadside edges. I remember there was a lot of ragweed present and that's how I painted it.

But as I said – it nearly never became a painting. Why? Well, even though I break my own rules sometimes, in general I don't usually paint a scene if my mind is set on recording it as a photograph from the beginning. I found myself on this small one lane dirt road at the SW corner of the owner's property and the sun was about to rise. I was in my old beater S10 pickup and climbed into the bed, as I often do – to gain a bit of elevation and perspective.

I had just bought a new camera...not a really expensive one but I had needed to replace my old Nikon D1X. The D1X was the flagship 'digital' Nikon that came out around 1999-2000. It had an “amazing” capability of 5.6 MP if my memory serves me correctly. Boy did things advance quickly after that! But I was still making calendar and magazine sales with that camera – it was top notch at the time. But 10-11 years later it was having issues and I had no choice but to become a camera consumer again...this new camera had 12MP, which was well over twice the old one...but nowhere near the head of the pack with all that were available then – but it was fine for me.

My new camera had good auto-focus capabilities and I was looking forward to that...these old eyes need any help they can get. Well, back to the pickup bed. I was setting up the tripod with my new camera and suddenly realized – I had totally forgotten my glasses! For crying out loud! I never had much trouble with 'distance', but closeup...looking through a lens or at the digital back screen – I was flying blind...big time Mr. Magoo...Then I though “Hey, this camera can be totally auto-focus, not to worry”!

I loved the composition of the scene before me, and the early light was great...the colors were just singing a song I couldn't get enough of! I wanted to catch the sun just as it broke the horizon and waited for it.

I set the tripod head to swivel the camera for 4 frames – I was visualizing a panorama and one frame just wouldn't do it. I could go heavy wide angle and get the panoramic view...but I'd have to crop a lot of stuff in the image to get what I was 'seeing' – and the size I wanted to output to (print) would have required too much enlargement of the small file to look decent. This is a camera technique I still use to this day – stitching several frames together can achieve a higher resolution for more demanding work.

But back to the camera...since my glasses were apparently still at home, I trusted the auto focus to do it's thing. It had worked at home the day before when I tried it out so I wasn't concerned...just still a bit disappointed in my dumb move. It was a great image – I was sure of it!

Well, I took the camera off and set the tripod over the side of the pickup bed and walked to the edge of the tail gate and hopped off onto the ground.

I remember just totally losing my vision to a bright flash of pain, then everything as quickly went black -it is hard to adequately describe. I came around and found myself on all fours just screaming in my head. “I shouldn't have done that.” went through my mind. Its like a traffic accident. You spend way too much time thinking back...trying to stop what had just happened. Needless to say – I didn't take any more pictures that morning.

The chiropractor saw dollar signs I'm sure when I limped with a cane into the office that afternoon. In all fairness I'm being facetious, but it was 2-3 appointments a week for a while and at least 6 months before I felt I had finally gotten through my injury.

But back to the pictures I took. To add insult to injury, when I brought the image files up on the computer – EVERYTHING was out of focus...fuzzy beyond salvation! OMG...in my nearsighted blindness, I just could not make out the small print on the camera controls – I was sure I had selected “auto-focus” but apparently had disabled it instead. Aaccck!!!!!!!

I was a mess to put it mildly...no one should ever be seen by another human being when they get like this. Poor Georgie!!! (She sure puts up with a lot, let me tell you!)

Its bad enough losing a productive day, but losing nearly 6 months to rehab on top of it makes it grimmer. I don't remember how much time passed, but one day when I was about to dump all the files from that morning, I thought “If I could just work through the out of focus mess – this would make a beautiful painting!”

I really do not remember how long it took to have this epiphany, or how long I kept tossing this idea back and forth in my mind, before I committed to trying – but I eventually tried. I started the painting in January of 2012...I figured if the Mayan calendar was right and the world was about to end – then, hey why not. (Ya, that was really a 'thing'.)

It took a bit of work re-imagining the 'near' objects – they were just 'blobs' of shapes; the back ground was a bit easier but still no cake walk...the color was still there and the tonal range of the image was very helpful. I hacked my way through and finished the painting the first week of February – I was sooooo happy with what was brought back from a total loss and very pleased how well it was carried out.

I should never have let go of this painting – I regretted it the minute I spent the check! Seller's remorse – we've all experienced it. But it went to a great home – an appreciative home...and made for a very nice share of return business from this first-time client from out-of-state. There's several silver linings – and complete flops in this one painting!

"Southwest Corner Fence Line Along the Jordan" - oil painting © Bruce A. Morrison

(from a private Vermont collection)

Saturday, March 12, 2022

Winter's Last Breath? (Crossing Fingers!)

"Frosty Morning Light - Hay Rake" - oil painting - ©Bruce A. Morrison    
 

Is it Spring yet?!!!  One below zero Fahrenheit this a.m., but above freezing this afternoon...a good southwest wind bringing up the warm air - welcome!  This is the beginning of several warm days in the 40's to 60's, so looking forward to it!

I've been cranking out winter themed work the past month...had to get them out of my system before work outside on the acreage presents itself.  I don't do loads of winter artwork, but had these in my memory file; if I don't get them down I can lose them.  I just have so much memory available in this old hard drive (my brain)...if something new or memorable comes by - something has to go.  I find my brain deleting memories a lot these days...hey, it happens to all of us eventually.

The oil painting above is of my favorite acreage "prop"...I wish I had one or two more different types of old farm machinery that I could place here or there on the pastures, but this one is just perfect.  The old John Deere hay rake came from an artist friend's family farm - he even remembers using it each summer, then bailing afterwards.  It was his Grandfather's, then his Father's...his Dad just passed away about a month ago.  Although it wasn't the purpose of the painting, I suppose you could think of it as a tribute to his Father and Grandfather, representing their farming heritage and years now finished.

"Litka's Winter Bales" - color pencil drawing - ©Bruce A. Morrison

 The next artwork is a color pencil drawing that about finished off a couple pencils...especially the blue one...lots of shades of blue in there!  This was a winter scene about 4 miles down the road from us...on a piece of property that the owner has let me walk for years.

We have not had much snow this winter...what we did get was fairly fleeting.  So both works were done from older photo files I had to dig up from my system folders.  Winter images aren't the best sellers for me but I'll admit that I'm not all about supporting this habit anymore.  Life is too short and doing what makes me happy has become more pleasing and important for my well being.  And if something "does" strike someone and goes to a new home - that's a double good thing! 

As I mentioned, the winter has been a dry one...we did a pasture inventory yesterday afternoon and it is obvious we cannot burn this spring unless things turn around and the rain comes.  We keep mowed paths between the paddocks, and along property boundaries for fire breaks...these are usually very green once the snow melts and the spring comes.  Any burning we do is helpfully controlled by the green/short mowed barriers.  These "barriers" are toast brown and tinder dry this Spring.  Even with "all hands on deck" (my wife and I) there is no safe and secure way to burn right now.  If the rain comes, maybe a late spring burn will be possible?  

We did do a couple limited fall burns last November though...I did an Elm sapling/volunteer killing campaign for some weeks in September and October.  There were too many for me to keep up with so I went back to a woody herbicide I used many years ago for poison ivy...Garlon 4.  I'm not fond of herbicides but I found myself completely at the mercy of the Elms - they multiplied exponentially over the past several years, and just plain got past me.  The Elms on the neighbor's grounds are still supplying seed - even though they're all in stages of decline.  

The Garlon 4 is sprayed on, so quiet mornings with no breeze is perfect as long as the volunteers have green foliage to take it in (although I believe epidermal absorption still factors in).  Several trips of spot spraying over a few weeks was necessary because there are always those plants that eluded me and some volunteers that needed multiple hits.  Once the pasture was speckled with dead reddish brown leaves and no green, then I set about with seeding plans for the late fall.

It was a busy fall in 2021 for seed gathering...mostly from our own ditches and the north pasture.  It wasn't as much as I needed but seed purchases are off the radar here in these times of limited income.  I was able to seed maybe 60% of the northwest pasture with what I had - I seeded on December 15th as there was a winter snowstorm coming in the next day.  Well...the next day we got snow...horizontal snow...our first ever recorded "Winter Derecho" - very high straight line winds.  I'm sarcastically guessing that ALL of my seeding was stripped from the NW pasture, as NO snow stuck to that pasture - it was as clean as a whistle after the storm...oh well - I tried.

We had a lot of limbs down after that storm but thankfully nothing serious.  We lost part of our sheep barn's roof but nothing we can't fix this spring.  In that effect we were very fortunate here!

We'll see down the road if any pleasant surprises still come about from the seeding I did.  I'm not holding my breath though.

But Spring is coming!  And we're looking forward to it!

Have a Blessed Spring out there...so many will not, especially in the Ukraine and possibly the Baltics...praying for peace in this world with all my heart.

Please be good to one another.

 

Friday, March 4, 2022

Archived Works Friday No.6!

 


Post No. 6! The next post for "Archived Works Friday” comes from just over a decade ago. As I mentioned before - I'll post a painting, drawing or serigraph (silkscreen prints) from the "archive" files of years past...and give a little back story on the work. I hope you'll find it interesting! 
 
I also want to mention, starting this month I will limit "Archival Works Friday" posts to the first Friday of the month...I don't want you tiring too quickly with my ranting! 
 
This was a pencil drawing done in the early 1980's...it is a bit personal but maybe more on that before I close.
 
I always loved walking creeks...some of you who knew me well may have even accompanied me back "in the day". A person sees things a bit differently from "in" the creek, river, pond; I know, I could have easily grown webbed feet as a kid! But on this particular day I wasn't frogging, seining or fishing...just decked out in waders carrying a pack, tripod and camera. 
 
The stream was Prairie Creek. If you're familiar with Dolliver State Park in north central Iowa - this is the creek you had to drive through to go from one end of the park to the other. Kids could always be found wading or playing in the water between sparse traffic on hot summer days. The road has since been re-routed for water "sensitive" drivers. 
 
Prairie Creek has somewhat attractive features downstream before it empties in the Des Moines River, but on this early spring morning I chose to walk north to the west park boundary, since it would be new to me...besides the other direction was typically busy with park goers and I liked the idea of being by myself. 
 
It was a fun walk. Once past the Copperas Beds trail head and sounds of activity from the nearby group campground cabins, it got very secluded and beautiful. Accompanied by the occasional warbler and sweet spring bird songs, I found unaltered woodland and vegetation...it was like I walked into a different world. I still remember this walk nearly 40 years ago. 
 
I didn't get too many photographs of the landscape. I did photograph some ferns, mosses and wildflowers. But one landscape image I did make was one I felt compelled to draw instead of process a print. I knew my photography and the darkroom well - it had been my profession already over a decade at this time. I was seeing the scene so differently in my mind than on the 4X5 large format color transparency that I processed from this morning walk. 
 
The subject had a clump of Basswood in early leaf, surrounded with a thicket of scouring rush. The bank hung heavy over the creek and I noticed a set of mink tracks heading under the bank...always on the hunt for crayfish and frogs. I've watched mink fish in and along streams and marshes before - they're pretty good at it! 
 
Prairie Creek is a name likely given it because that's where it originated - way before it entered the sandstone walled ravines leading into the timber. And here the stream resembles those that traverse through woodlands...stones litter the flowage, decorating the water and defining patterns on the surface. This stream had poetry within it's banks and I wanted this to show.
 
I worked on this piece exclusively for several months - I had a daytime job at the time. Little by little I gained ground. To keep from smearing lead already placed where I wanted - I drew from the top down...never leaving a mark unfinished. Seemed counter intuitive to not put the "foundation" down first, but that's how I always worked with graphite pencil leads; making mistakes with pencil, even with an eraser handy, makes it extremely frustrating to hide the "error". (Of course something like india ink would be impossible to erase an error!)
 
I only used one grade of lead – a very soft grade of Eberhard Faber – Ebony Jet Black – Extra Smooth (6325)...every light touch of the pencil equaled fine lines...heavy touches made for darks that you could get lost in. I try and draw on acid free paper. The last few years I switched to quality hot press watercolor blocks and use that for the color pencils as well now.
 
My Mother was dying from bone cancer at this time...years earlier it started as breast cancer; she had a 5 year reprieve and they declared her cancer free. As suddenly as we all celebrated, it was back, but in her bones. In her last weeks I worked frantically on this drawing. I wanted her to see it finished. My Mom always supported my artistic endeavors and trials. She was actually a good artist herself but was a practical person who had grown up during the great depression...providing for her family, along with our Father, was “her” focus and she did little for herself in comparison. 
 
One day, when I was around 13-14 years old, Mom showed me something she had done as a teenager. If you are my age or close you'll know what I'm referring to – it was a magazine ad...”Draw Me” from Art Instruction Schools in Minneapolis...I had done the same thing without knowing she had years before. She and Dad agreed I could enroll. It was a mail order type art school and the lessons were good for me...made me focus and think things through. But I always thought back on this and wished my Mother had the circumstances she and my Father now provided me.
 
Mother never got to see “An Iowa Spring, Prairie Creek” finished. I was just reaching the water beneath the overhanging bank in the drawing when she last saw my progress...she passed shortly after. But I did it for her and I think of her every time I look at this drawing...its my visual song to my Mother; a poem to her memory.
 
“An Iowa Spring, Prairie Creek” - pencil drawing - ©Bruce A. Morrison
(from the collection of the artist)

Friday, February 25, 2022

Archived Works Friday - No. 5!

 


Post No. 5! The next post for "Archived Works Friday” comes from just over a decade ago. As I mentioned before - I'll post a painting, drawing or serigraph (silkscreen prints) from the "archive" files of years past...and give a little back story on the work. I hope you'll find it interesting!

I've done a few commissioned works since my early years...some that were kind of "out there" and some I never expected.  I've forgotten many of them too I'm sure, and I don't even have records or photos of some of these.  But a more recent memorable commission was done for a good friend 11 years back, yet was months in making.  This commission wasn't exactly up my alley either but the story behind it and the "landmark" it entailed got me  interested - commemorating (if-you-will) my friend's Saturday morning trips to a local grain elevator with her father, back when she was a child. 

The elevator is one I was familiar with, have driven past and around it for 40+ years.  What I didn't know were some of the history and stories behind the "Ritter Elevator" - was fun to research and depict the elevator during the early 1950's!  This elevator is located on old highway 60, a few miles north of Sheldon, and just south of Ashton, in NW Iowa.   This was a thriving grain storage facility and I believe still is.  (Although the modernized part of the facility is just south of this depiction.) What surprised me about the Ritter Elevator was that, "back in the day" it also served as a hardware, lumber, and grocery store, as well as a post office and train station. Need to catch a train south to Sheldon, Hospers or even Sioux City?  No problem!  Pretty cool for the rural population of the day.

In the painting, the red IH box truck was my client's father's truck, supplied by an old B&W photo (they described the color of the truck to me).  I added the figure at the rear side of the old IH and declared that it was her father!  I took the rest of the vehicles from the area and other sources - just so they fit the time period.   I consulted a neighbor about what would fit that time period of the early 50's and he was very helpful -  the red tractor is his father's Farmall "M" and their flare-box wagon (that I painted a color to suit the painting).

The house was the elevator's caretaker's home...it had a deck added onto the front when I photographed it...decks weren't a thing here in the early 50's so it had to go.  I did keep the color similar to what it still was...just a call on my part.

As I mentioned - the vehicles were of that period, but the hardest to rectify was the box cars believe it or not.  Georgie and I drove all around rail yards in the area photographing box cars, but none seemed right - they were too new or recent.  Then I spent hours online looking and researching box cars.  I found that there are just no box cars in use today that would have been used back in the early 50's...I found that the rail cars I needed to work from would've been built in the 30's and they had all been virtually scraped and no longer in use.  I combed pages everywhere in all the search engines to no avail - until I hit a "model railroading" site that had highly detailed images and explanations of those box cars from the 30's-50's...amazing I had to draw from hobbyist models to maintain accuracy of the period!  I even talked with a friend, that just recently passed away, who described shoveling grain out of the cars up at the Ritter Elevator, "way back when", after getting into a bit of trouble as a kid - that this was his punishment...quite interesting all the stories that materialize with doing research for just a painting!

After the painting had been finished I made some prints for the client's family members and then even folks from farms nearby; and one who actually grew up living in the care-taker's home.  Really fun conversations were had over this iconic stop along the rail and farm roads of many years gone by.

If my friend had just approached me about "an idea", I doubt I would have taken it on.  But there was so much evidence and even first hand knowledge to gather - and the actual site was still there to visit; it opened the door to possibilities I could visualize.  I will admit it - my inclination is mostly visual...concepts and ideas are invaluable, and I try to incorporate them when I find guiding evidence I can "see".  It is "all" of these considerations that dictate commissioned work in the studio here to this day.
 
"The Ritter Elevator" - oil painting - ©Bruce A. Morrison (from a Minnesota private collection)

(This and other archived artwork can be viewed at - https://morrisons-studio.com/archived-works/ )