Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Wanted to take a moment and send out our wishes for a wonderful Christmas to every one out there!

We hope you can be with friends and family, take some time away from the distractions of your busy lives, and truly enjoy your time this season!

God Bless and Merry Christmas...


(Image is "Frost In The Oaks" - oil on mounted canvas - 12X16)

Saturday, December 20, 2008


The Winter Solstice comes tomorrow (Sunday the 21st) and now it definitely looks and feels the part even more than my last post. We've had around 15-16 inches of snow this past week and now the NWesters are bucking up and it's feeling like we're in it for the long haul!

Yesterday after blowing out the drives and paths (3 hours worth) I was walking some mail down to the box and a flock of Canada Geese at least a half mile long (I kid not!) came over the farm at that height you hear the wing beats...it was totally cool! I felt you could hold a conversation with them - they were so low and the air so still. The birds weren't in their characteristic "V" but one long string until near the very end they began to break off into a couple separate formations. I usually think of Canada Geese as autumn birds...but hey it was still autumn yesterday after all.

I've done Canada Geese in my work before but not in winter settings. Most of my winter work, whether photography or artwork, has served as Christmas card material over the past 40 some years. In early years I did pen and ink, transparent wash, or lino cuts for cards, but gradually graduated to serigraphs (silkscreen prints), photographs and paintings.

I should have opted for a photograph this year because my time has been too tied up, but I got this ...well, for a lack of a better word "idea", that I thought would make a nice winter painting so started one about 2 weeks ago. It wasn't till I was about half way through the piece that Georgie said to me something about how close to the "deadline" I was working. I pondered her warning and then realized, good grief - Christmas was somehow sneaking up on me! How did this happen?!

The Black-capped Chickadee header for this blog was a simpler "illustrative" card from 1984. I believe it was a ink/wash drawing. I did many more ink drawings than any other medium early on, in fact my first "sale" in the early 60's was an ink drawing.

The next year's design got a little more involved, it was a 6 color serigraph. One thing about silk screening is the "error factor" when you have miss-registrations, ink "accidents", and mixed colors running out before they were supposed to. On this piece I ran out of the two rabbit colors (the highlight base and the top color) before I wanted, so I had a lot of prints with no rabbit - just tree!

In recent years, I've done a few more color pencil pieces but I think the first one to be done specifically for a Christmas card design was this one done in 2001 (titled "Winter in Iowa"). I really enjoy color pencil work but have not done many recently...it's a time thing...dang time!

Yesterday I finished printing, writing, and sending out the last of my Christmas cards for the year. "Time" really got in my face this year...I'll have to start this process around Halloween next year maybe?

Keep warm out there!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Before the Solstice

I think the eastern 2/3's of the country is thinking the solstice must have come and gone already...we're definitely in the "winter" mode for the duration now!

Our hearts go out to the eastern part of the country that are still feeling the effects of the ice storm last week - many still do not have their electricity...that'd be disastrous here as our heat is electric...pipes would freeze and break the first 24 hours!

We got to 10 below this morning, which isn't so unusual for NW Iowa, it just came so quickly that we feel the affects more I think. The 35-40 mph winds and snow maybe helped it sting a bit more too. I hope we're up to it but they're telling us 4-6 inches of snow and colder still tomorrow.

I used to really get into winter...didn't phase me one iota. That changes with the years; get ready for it if you're a kid!

I do enjoy one thing about winter still though. The visual sense of it is quite engaging. As I blogged last year around this time, I have done my own Christmas cards since the mid 1960's. I am still at it, and maybe if I can find some time around here I'll post some more past examples. But time is the enemy right now...after all I'm working on the 2008 Christmas card as we speak. Maybe I'll show it around a day or two before Christmas - after all I don't want to spoil it for anyone that is on my mailing list!

The real solstice is this coming Sunday (21st); keep warm out there!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Till Spring

"Woodchuck" - graphite on bristol board
(private collection)

I had some difficulty putting a title to this post...nothing really makes sense descriptively, but I'll go on.

When we first moved here in the fall of 2002 we found Woodchucks nearly everywhere here on Prairie Hill Farm. Heads would pop up out of holes in the storage shed dirt floor whenever I'd walk in to get the mower or find a shovel. A head even popped up between my feet one day in the crib lean-to when I sat down to do some welding. (that was a little disconcerting)

I'd had plenty of exposure to Woodchucks growing up. Woodchucks (Ground Hogs to some) were something we marveled at - once we caught one in a cage trap and totted it home for a "pet". The snarling and gnashing of teeth made us decide it wasn't the "best" candidate for a "pet", so we carried it back and let it go. (Mom did have something to say about it)

I've taken a few photos of Woodchucks through the years...they're fun to watch in grassy meadows or wood lots where they readily climb trees. The young ones are really fun to photograph as are just about any small mammal, but I'm afraid the "fun" had run out on Woodchucks here in the yard and buildings some time ago.

I've repaired many doors on the out buildings here...all Woodchuck damaged, they love chewing through wood doors to get into any building. I've had to fill in huge tunnels under supporting walls and big holes in the middle of floors. I even caught one trying to tunnel under the house!

One day Georgie and I were sitting at the breakfast table looking out toward the barn and saw a Woodchuck up on the barn roof running around. What the heck!? Well, sure enough there was a new hole chewed through the barn roof! They love to climb into the hay loft, and chewing through the wood shingles and roofing planks to gain access to a roof frolic was not beyond these guys.

Since that day Woodchucks were no longer "cute" or "fun" here...the neighbors probably just shook their heads and thought "I could'a told you that!" Funny how it takes large doses of reality to look at something in a different way.

Well these guys were no longer welcome in the yard or buildings and the "enforcement" of this curfew has held pretty well over the past few years.

Last week I went out to the shop behind the studio to use the table saw...the shop is a metal lean-to attached to the back of the studio...its unheated with a sliding door and has a dirt floor. Right next to the table saw was a "big" hole in the floor with a lot of dirt piled around it. I guess someone snuck in for last minute winter quarters...

It's too late to do anything about squatters at this point. Woodchucks hibernate non-stop till early spring. I don't blame them...I understand. So I threw a door over the den entrance...no need to give skunks or coons the idea I'm running a bed and breakfast for them as well! Come spring, I'll notice if our stow-away is up and about, then I'll put out the unwelcome sign again.

We're having great sunshine for Thanksgiving this year. We're not going to complain about the weather as all the snow has melted once again and that's just the tip of the ice berg as to what we have to be thankful for!

I do want to stop and take a moment to wish all of you out there a great Thanksgiving as well...God Bless!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bald Eagles in the Valley

Something we always look forward to in the late fall is the return of Bald Eagles to the Waterman Creek Valley here in NW Iowa. We are not the Eagle magnet like the Missouri or Mississippi River areas that bring them in by the dozens or hundreds, but we can usually count on a small number on any given day. The Prairie Heritage Center had over 50 eagles during their Eagle Watch last winter....now I grew up along the Des Moines River valley back in the 50's and 60's and my first Bald Eagle sighting there was around the time I was 15 years old...it was quite a sight back then!

On Monday Georgie and I were at the Prairie Heritage Center south of here and watched 4 Bald Eagles (2 sub adults and 2 adults) settling into the eagle roosting area just off Waterman Creek and the Little Sioux River. This is a fun thing to see and it's heartening to have the eagles come back in this state and the lower 48 as a whole during the past 40 years! I believe there was an estimate of less that 600 Bald Eagles in the lower 48 states back in 1960!

I had posted ( http://prairiepainter.blogspot.com/2007/12/december-studio.html ) on local Bald Eagles almost a year ago, but they are something we'll never grow complacent or bored with, and it's really neat to have them back again.

Wenasaga Bald Eagle - Oil on canvas
(private collection)

We used to have to go north to Georgie's folk's Ontario retreat along the Wenasaga River to see Bald Eagles and nests. I did an oil painting years back of the sight of an adult Bald Eagle catching a thermal high above the Wenasaga River, just upstream from the cabin Georgie and I honeymooned in 38 years ago.

It's a neat bird and it's a fortunate thing to still be able to hold a sight such as this so dearly in our hearts.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Indian Summer

In the mid 70's in November...doesn't get much better than that! Love Indian Summer!

I looked up the meaning of Indian Summer and I must say we sure make things complicated. I think the term Indian Summer is much more personal than the "strict" requirements thrown about from various sources.

We have experienced at least 3 hard freezes since mid October, and it was in the mid 70's today; whether or not that qualifies it, that doesn't concern me - I'll still call it Indian Summer.

I've been working in the studio on a long project, entering lengthy information in an html document. Needing some respite and fresh air, Georgie and I went on a long walk out back together. It's a half mile to the back of the back pasture, it's a real nice walk along the ridge of a prairie remnant.

When we returned we sat on the studio's front deck and watched the harvest down in the valley out front. The neighbors driving by frequently pulling their wagons full of corn...a lot more traffic than we usually get here.

The air is crisp and the sun is warm...most trees have dropped their leaves but there's still a few stubborn ones around. As the afternoon light lengthens behind us, a wonderful magenta casts itself on the upper tree branches and the valley takes on a wonderful glow.
Two bucks follow a doe and it's two offspring of last summer along Waterman Creek and the east ridge...one a 10 pointer, the other smaller. A crescent moon - waxing, rides lower in the SW and the breeze is now a more pleasant tempo.

This is Indian Summer to us; we'll cherish it and replay the sense of it, the smells and sight of it, during long winter nights ahead...

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Road Trip!

Georgie and I packed our bags for a road trip this weekend...it was short but long deserved as far as I was concerned! Too much work makes Bruce a dull boy. I needed some winter painting material too and hadn't been down the Loess Hills in Western Iowa for some years, so that's where we headed.

Even though the color of autumn was fading, the hills are usually good for nice pockets here and there plus the landscape has much physical character. You can always count on the prairie ridges (the grasses) for color though - without fail!

One area we always go through when we're in the Loess Hills is the area of Preparation Canyon and further north. It was very windy when we went through on Saturday but not nearly as bad as today! (Gale force winds sustained at 40mph and gusting a lot higher)

With real windy weather I rarely come up with publishable images, but they give fodder to work with on long winter days and nights in the studio. Winter - yikes, lets hope for a "long" fall first!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Past and Present

It's been a while since my last entry; we have been so inundated with work and shows and other commitments that we don't know whether we're coming or going.

Last weekend we were in Ft Dodge at Iowa Central Community College at their very first artist alumni showing. The reception was held Sunday (Oct 12) and was held in honor of my first college level art instructor - Mr. Robert Halm. It was a wonderful day...I think I must have still been smiling Monday morning. Mr. Halm was my favorite art teacher in college, and I had a lot of them later on (Uof I School of Art)...he left the most lasting impression on me of anyone and was that way for many if not all of his students. And interestingly enough, it was "Mrs." Halm who was my High School art teacher. Mrs. Halm passed away about 5 years ago...God Bless 'em both.

Today I went to something that I've been interested in for as long as I can remember...had nothing to do with painting or photography...area archeology nearby at the Prairie Heritage Center. Always been interested in the cultures that lived on the Tallgrass so many years ago...the oldest known cornfield in Iowa (around 900 A.D.) is only a couple miles from our home! I finished doing part of a permanent archeological display for the nature center a few weeks back and find the whole story and heritage so intriging!

This weekend we are showing work at some good friends north of here that are having an open house. Dwight and Bev Rutter at the Prairie Flower, a native plant nursery. Pay us a visit if you're out and about through Sunday afternoon!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Thank You!

I wanted to take a moment after the Artisans Road Trip weekend to thank all of you for helping to make it a success in the new Studio/Gallery here at Prairie Hill Farm. It was a pleasure to see so many familiar faces and getting to know new ones - many from the "neighborhood"!

Thank you for supporting Local Artists - have a great fall!

...Bruce and Georgie

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Take A Road Trip!

The NW Iowa Artisans Road Trip begins this weekend! Oct 4th and 5th - Saturday 9am - 5pm and Sunday Noon- 5pm. 42 artists from 8 counties will have their studios open for visitors; artists of many disciplines and in many interesting nooks up in this corner of the state.

The weather's been great, the scenery is turning to autumn...take a road trip!

Hope to see ya!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tallgrass Autumn

The "back 80" behind Prairie Hill Farm

It's no longer summer! Well, it still feels like summer...except it's beginning to get dark a lot earlier than I'd gotten used to. The trees are beginning to turn here and there too, but not quite dramatic enough yet.

Probably the biggest giveaway here in NW Iowa is the crops. The soybeans are really turning yellow and then amber as they drop their leaves - this can be quite dramatic when the light is fleeting as cloud shadows dance across the larger landscape.

My favorite autumn effect here however is the prairie. The forbs and grasses here never fail to satisfy; I can't remember a fall without the grasses and the wildflower "plants" turning wonderful vibrant color. We don't have the benefit of the amazing autumn landscapes of the NE United States, nor the wonderful north woods transformation we've witnessed on the north shore of Lake Superior, but we've got something very special in it's own right.

Indian grass and New Enland Aster

Autumn here also means the last flowers of the season - mainly the asters, sunflowers, and gentians. The asters here on our prairie remnant are a real joy to behold. Tuck these great fall forbs between Indian grass, or Big or Little bluestem and they're even more beautiful and vibrant.

Ya the autumnal equinox has arrived and passed here on the tallgrass...this is definitely a time to enjoy, as we did last summer!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Short Note

Just a short note for those who may subscribe to this blog. The video link I gave on the blog yesterday seems to only show on the blog site itself and not on the emailed version for subscribers.

To see the blog exactly as it's formatted originally, just click on the header that is on the emailed version (if you subscribe) and it'll take you to the blog site's original blog.

Thank you!


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Late Summer Migration

Monarch on Stiff Goldenrod (Solidago rigida)

Mid September and it's still barely summer; the mornings and evenings are now sweatshirt or light jacket affairs out here in the countryside! One thing Georgie and I really enjoy watching is the Monarch Butterfly migration. You really know it's taking place when the acreage trees begins to fill with dozens, then hundreds of Monarchs each evening. The pasture is always full of lots of butterflies in the late summer, but when the Monarchs pass through, the numbers really swell!

I videotaped the migration in the yard this year. If you have a decent connection speed, try giving the video a watch here (above)...there's a lot happening now at this time of the year, be sure and drop what you're doing on occasion and go out and look...and enjoy!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Late Summer on the Tallgrass

I may not be alone in this - I do like fall, but I sure hate seeing summer coming to it's end for the year. I also think I've developed this feeling over the years, it's not something I've felt strongly about all along.

With all the work I've been wading through these weeks, I've had to remind myself (or Georgie has) that I need to stop and take a breather outside every now and then.

Dotted liatris

I've been taking breaks out on our prairie remnant lately, trying to glimpse the last plants to celebrate the year. Among what I love the most are the Dotted liatris and the Prairie onions; I'd hate to miss out on theses beautiful magenta prairie flowers.

Prairie Onion

It's a good thing, to stand down during your day and take in the natural world; I hope you're finding a moment during your day to do the same. It'll be fall soon and, hey, it'll be a great time to enjoy as well!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Where's August Gone to?!

What is happening here?! It's the last week of August and it should still be mid July! Youch!

When I was a kid I used to hear the "grown ups" say something about how time flies. It didn't make any sense to me because it was always taking too long to get to summer vacation, or to Christmas, or to the first day of school, or to my birthday. Time just seemed to drag along at a snail's pace.

Well what happened? I guess I got old when I wasn't paying attention and now time is careening down a mountain slope at break neck speed! It can be unnerving at times!

Anyway, summer is approaching it's end soon (well, technically in late September) and I'm still completely buried in work and behind the 8 ball. I take my first couple pieces to an exhibit this week and have 4 more exhibits in the next 3 weeks to be ready for. It's a real squeeze.

I did finish another plein air painting last week, this one was smaller...I got smart. Well I didn't get smart per say, I just didn't have as much time (that thing I just ranted about).

Georgie and I scouted out a few scenes of bales a week or so back and one place that really caught my eye had great late afternoon light...it also had two wagons of rectangular bales and some rounds back in the edge of a grove behind the wagons. It looked like a cool scene. I went back the next day and the wagon in front was already emptied...but still good possibilities. A smaller canvas would have to do - they might come and empty the other wagon before I got done!

"Behind the Grove" is a 6X8" oil on mounted canvas.

I can do one more oil for the plein air invitational but I cannot see any light at the end of that "time starved" tunnel this late summer. I have much other business to take care of...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Studio

We've been making constant improvements to the studio all summer long. They've ranged from small or fairly insignificant to really good for my work flow.

One thing we've really needed is "signage". We've had people drive right past us more than once before finally realizing we were the place they were looking for. We've toyed with all kinds of ideas...material, design, etc. Finally we decided on laser cut metal, they won't fade with outside exposure, and if they rust, so what...that'd look cool too!

We were going to put one down by the driveway entrance, and another up on the studio building itself - I figured if someone drove up, how would they know where to go from there?

The larger driveway sign was finished and we put it up on a split rail section down near the road, close enough to read. The building sign hasn't been finished yet but we're pretty happy with how things are looking.

Another thing that's been looking real nice is the small planting we did around the front of the building's deck. We used several native plants as well as some xeric types (drought tolerant). Its a real pleasure sitting out there in the late afternoon or evening. We even went out there last night well after dark and stared awestruck at the sky...the Milky Way was incredibly vivid and Jupiter was the brightest object in the sky.

Last week we put in cabinets and a counter top where a 30 year old work bench had been. It now functions as a frame assembly surface and storage...great storage!

Great place to work! Oh yeah, better do some of that...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Valley View

In the last blog "August Bales" I forgot to insert a photograph I took as the baling process was rapidly finishing up across the road from us.

We have a wonderful view of the valley and the storms are almost mesmerizing! I actually was getting some good lightning strikes near by as I was on our open prairie hillside with a tall tripod and camera (i.e. "lightning rod")! Unfortunately I couldn't time the lightning bolts with the shutter! Fortunately I wasn't struck!! :)

You can pick out a few of the bales in the valley...most are behind the trees and further north (left).

I spend more time on our small plot of land taking cloud pictures than anything else...looking back at the image I have no trouble understanding why.

Keep looking up (and duck if you feel a need to!)...

Monday, August 18, 2008

August Bales (hope for more!)

What great weather we've been blessed with recently...quite unlike August, more September-like I'd say.

Tonight Georgie and I went "bale spotting" and hit some mother loads! It's amazing that so much hay cutting is going on this late in the summer; but that's OK by us.

Last week we had a real cool storm pass to our east, across the valley and I took a few photographs as the day ended, while an area farmer, renting the pasture across the road from us, baled as fast as he could trying to beat the storm. He didn't need to worry because we just plain got missed.

August Bales - 9X12" Oil on mounted canvas

The next day I started another plein air piece of a couple of the bales across the road. I got carried away - should have done a smaller piece, but could not finish the same day. The farmer came and began taking bales...! Luckily he had too many for one trip and had started too late into the afternoon to finish so I was able to finish up the next day.

I'm hoping some of the places we spotted tonight will have too much to do for a while and they'll leave some landscape opportunities behind!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

High Summer Sky

The Pearson Lakes Art Center notified me they are having their 2008 Plein Air Invitational Painting Exhibition beginning on September 19th. The show runs through November 8th. I have to have up to 4 painting done by September 16th and am feeling a little pressure here with so much going on. The paintings are to be done outside on location and within a 60 mile radius of the lakes area...that's a help for me as I'd like to have more choices as to what to paint.


I've finished my first plein air piece of the summer and am hoping to get to at least one more. Time is a nagging issue this summer and I regret that part...would like to get out and do more!

I call this piece (a 9X12" oil) "High Summer Sky". Its of a low wetland area near Hwy 9 north of here about 30 minutes.The sky is my focal point - the thing that stops me along the road and begs for long looks and admiration for creation itself.

The prairie and wetlands have the sky as their "mountain" backdrop, only they have the advantage for a changing view every hour of each day.

The hayfield across the road from us is being bailed this very moment, so I'm hoping they don't cart them off before I can get down there to take advantage of the landscape possibilities...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hang'n In There

We had a nice 3 days with our daughter's girls this past weekend. The weather's been just great for being outdoors and having a good time.

We decided to go up around the lakes on Saturday and just take things as they came, and after a good afternoon we headed up to a lake in the area that is in the process of being drawn down - creating mud flats and good shore birding opportunities. Just before we got there, Lexi spotted a funnel cloud hanging in the distance! It was fairly far off...maybe 10 miles(?) but I figured you don't see that every day and stopped the truck and got out and took a few photographs.

The image is nothing spectacular but at least a curiosity. The funnel went back up within about 2 minutes; lucky for those below! On our way home about 20 minutes later we saw another funnel hanging down in the far distance...this one much shorter than the first but definitely the real deal. Turned out there were several more in the region that afternoon, but none evidently touched down.

Hang in there and enjoy the rest of this quickly passing summer!

Monday, August 4, 2008

High Summer

August is here and it feels like it. The humidity is like a curtain of water and the heat has been as I remember as a kid during summer. I used to spend all my free time during the summer exploring the countryside along the Des Moines river valley in NW Iowa looking for critters to take pictures of with my camera. I guess the only thing that's really changed is now I drive and don't have as much to carry at one time...oh, and I'm not nearly in as good of shape as I once was :)

I've always been attracted to scenes that evoked some sense of place or of unique design. Agricultural related scenes are always interesting. I've been trying to find some locations in the area to do some plein air paintings of for an upcoming plein air invitational, and one scene I'm really searching out is of summer bales. I'm a sucker for hay bales...not sure why. I was never very good at throwing bales onto the wagon as a kid. It was good short term money for doing it though and I did enjoy climbing around in haylofts! Most bales today are the "big" round ones and not so much like the old familiar rectangle bales I remember best.

July Bales, Evening Light - photograph
34X8" images size

I got lucky a couple summers back and saw the perfect picture of a baling scene as I was driving home from the prairie south of here. It's pictured above. It reminded me so much of 40 some years ago, it was a great moment to find and a pleasure to revisit.

I wonder how Monet would have painted rectangular or round bales today, versus hay stacks?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Making Best

I tried to walk with Georgie last night down on the prairie pasture here. My steps are picking up but its hard to walk a couple hundred yards bent over, even with a cane. I had to stop frequently to regather myself...I had the distinct feeling I was going to topple over onto my face eventually!

Georgie wanted me to see the Compass Plants in their glory...they're in their peak form right now and look amazing...most would be taller than me even if I could straighten up...one plant has to be over 7 feet tall! Just beautiful. I really appreciated seeing them but not being really capable of photographing them right now was a little frustrating.

Making the best of a sore situation is what you do when you're all hunched over in the studio. I'd been working on website work all morning long and you can get lost in the tedium, and veer from the path easily after too long some days. I decided to try going miniature again for the exhibit coming up in a few weeks.

I'd looked for more information on miniature painting/drawing the other day and it varies widely. An Australian site gave information for different regions in Australia, and Great Britain, Canada, and the United States. Sizes allowed vary, frame sizes vary, life size ratios vary...it can't really be pinned down unless you're exhibiting with a particular group. The one thing I know would knock me right out of "wanting" to bother with working miniature - detail. Judging takes place with magnifying glasses...dust, minute scrapping, scratches, lack of "clear" detail, all would knock you out of contention.

The one thing I'm finding fun about the exhibit coming up soon is the distraction of drawing something smaller that usual...hang the detail...they "look" detailed with these tired eyes anyway. I'm forcing myself to stay tight, resharpen the wax leads constantly, and using solvent blender sticks as well as wax blending sticks. I even have to go back in with a sharp razor blade constantly to clean up "misses" and "crumbs" of broken and chipped lead pigment. (Using prismacolor pencils again)

I wanted to do a prairie forb (wild flower) and chose a Turk's Cap Lily (Michigan Lily). I figured if I was going small I should pick something that would stand out in color and shape.

The finished size is 1.25" W X 1.75" H (4X5cm)...small enough for me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Taking the Bad with the Good

Keeping on top of things is always a challenge, but when jobs are picking up and the days are beautiful, it's OK. I always count my blessings and thank the Lord for each day...that hasn't changed. What has (changed) is a herniated disk in my lower back. I am now seeing what its like to have great difficulty standing, sitting, and lying down...walking is extremely slow and not fun. I really appreciate those friends who have extended their thoughts and prayers to me - that does help!

But all is not dreary and downcast, I do have work ahead of me to keep me busy, I've been finishing up a website I began work on this time last year. I've mentioned it before and we're just adding the educational components for K-12 to it now. This is a REAP grant project for NW Iowa and is showing to be very popular! Watchable Wildlife of NW Iowa is well worth your time to visit for "local" natural and cultural heritage...what better way to spend less on gas than to experience great things closer to home!

I've also been finishing up work on a wall display for the Prairie Heritage Center south of here in the Waterman Creek and Little Sioux River valley. This display is to help illustrate the Mill Creek Culture that lived along Waterman Creek and the Little Sioux River back around a thousand years ago. The display is sitting here in the studio, waiting for my back's rehabilitation to advance far enough along so I can manage to put it up!

Another project I'm just beginning is a website for a favorite magazine publication "Midwest Woodlands & Prairies" - a journal dedicated to the wise management of natural resources. I can't remember how I first found out about this publication but I first subscribed about 3 years ago...its in it's 5th year so I've missed 2 years...my loss! The subscription is just $15 a year and it is published quarterly. For a former woodland, and now, prairie buff, I find it worth way more for an ad free well illustrated magazine! (PO Box 713, Monona, IA 52159 if you're interested)

Just this week I was asked to do a one man exhibit at the Foyer Gallery at William Penn University in
Oskaloosa, Iowa. The exhibit is scheduled for February of 2009, so I have some work to look forward to that exhibit, as well as the nearly constant preparation for this October's Artisans Road Trip here at the studio/gallery.

I'll paint when I can and when I'm able, and in the mean time I'll try to behave and be a good patient. I'm still counting my blessings.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

One of Those Days

It's an incredibly beautiful day today, the kind that reminds me of another place and time with all the amenities thrown in. This was a perfect day for the camera...would have been great to walk on the prairie and admire the Milk Vetch and the Butterfly Milkweed.
I started the day taking care of some chores while Georgie put in more time on the root ball of the Ash that fell over the fence and into the prairie pasture. When I finished chores I went over to the tree and tightened the chain on the saw while Georgie worked.
It had been 8 days since we worked on the tree last...I had done a terrible thing that time around. I had tried to move a log that was twice the size that I should have even considered. To make a long story short I was in a rather bad way for a few days and stayed away from anything remotely strenuous.
Today though, I'd been feeling really good for 2-3 days, maybe longer, and we were about to dive into tree removal again.
After tightening the chain saw I was looking around through the area of the pasture that tree had flattened and saw some Mare's Tail that needed pulling...Georgie was still working on the root ball so I walked over and began pulling weeds.

Georgie heard me make a noise and said "Don't hurt your back.", but it was too late...

What does a person do when they've screwed up twice in just over a week and they can't straighten up or be decent company??? They go back to the studio and wallow in self pity with an ice pack!

 "June Rains Past" - color pencil - © Bruce A. Morrison

I "wallowed" with some prismacolor pencils and a block of hard pressed watercolor paper...there is a miniature show coming up sometime soon at the Sanford Museum in Cherokee (IA) and I haven't had any time to even give it thought. Well I felt there was an opening here after my stunt outside so I got busy. I had a couple ideas but after some reflection I thought of a piece I saw in the southern sky from Prairie Hill Farm back in late June. There was a thunderstorm many, many miles away and someone was getting lucky (we were needing to water the gardens by hand at that time). Thunderstorms out on the prairie are features worthy of admiration from a distance!

The piece is only 7X3.5". The miniature show requires no framed image to exceed 5X7", so I'll be mounting the piece onto some surface that'll be self hanging for the show...after the show I think I'll put it in a proper frame..I kinda like it and it'd look good in a nice frame.

The piece is titled "June Rain Missed" and for my intentions, at this time, is going to be a painting sometime in the future (I hope). Time will tell if I revisit on the easel.

In the meantime enjoy these beautiful days outside, and - watch your back!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Morrison's Studio and Gallery at Prairie Hill Farm

Over the years a person looks for ways to promote their work, whether a visual artist or whatever their focus. I think you need to look in many directions - for instance what type of area promotion is available to you? Can you tie into local economic development in any way? Is area tourism being supported somehow?

Tourism in our area is being supported more and more during recent years. There's O'Brien County Tourism, the Western Iowa Tourism Region, the state in general (Iowa), and there are other local attractions that can support you in one way or another - even if it just means getting the word out about you. Then there's the local media - newspaper, radio, television (not necessarily in that order).

Networking with other artists is a great way to spread names around, and one good tool in NW Iowa is an event like the Artisans Road Trip which is an open studio/gallery event during one weekend. The A.R.T. website and published booklets help advertise/promote area artists. Anything that helps is good!

I have many interests that intertwine with my artwork, I don't know many other artists or photographers that are any different. I met the prairie years back and that became my passion. If you were to visit Prairie Hill Farm in the summer and fall months, this would become obvious to you! I have been involved in prairie and prairie organizations, prairie restoration and reconstruction (both public and private) for many years now. It's in my blood and it focuses my work in many ways.

Prairie Hill Farm is located along the Waterman Creek valley, in the Little Sioux River watershed in NW Iowa. This area has become extremely important in the last 15 years as a last stronghold in Iowa for remaining prairie remnants of significance. The Iowa DNR has worked to regain native Tallgrass habitat nearby us (Waterman Prairie). The County of O'Brien has worked to establish the Prairie Heritage Center to promote education and appreciation of our natural heritage here - the Tallgrass Prairie.

Prairie Hill Farm was a Godsend to us in hard times, a refuge and source of inspiration. The gravel hillside upon which we sit has a wonderful remnant of prairie grasses and forbs (native wildflowers) that escaped modern agricultural practices because of the terrain. But Prairie Hill Farm also has a heritage of agriculture...the last farm family here made a living off the land for 50 years.

Our renovation of the Sheep Barn/Poultry Barn this past 9 months has embraced this heritage as well! We feel this is the best of both worlds and a very good use of the agricultural heritage in partnership with the natural heritage of this land.

I hope you can visit us sometime and enjoy the senses of this place, walk along the prairie paths, and rest in the shade for some conversation.

In the meantime, if you have a decent connection, take a few minutes and view our video above!

Enjoy the summer while you can...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Get Away

Georgie and I haven't had a real vacation in some years...its my fault, I know...what can I say - I do like taking some time off though, really!

A good friend of ours, Julie, took us away last weekend from this terrible gorgeous place to another in NW Wisconsin, at her brother's place on County Line Lake near Birchwood. This lake is a pleasant small private lake in a heavily glacially potted area, with lakes virtually over each rise. The nicest thing about this lake is the "no motors"
stipulation...makes for a "very" pleasant place for everyone around this little piece of paradise.

The biggest boon to me was brought about by the "no motor reg" - we were given the use of a small boat and electric trolling motor. The lake has an Osprey nest on the extreme end and a nearby bay has an active Loon nest. The Loon nest is off limits (good plan) so no one disturbs it. Georgie and I just poked around exploring the shoreline, trying to photograph lily pads from the boat, and eventually photographing one of the resident Loons, one of the Ospreys, and a Coyote running through the shoreline timber.

I would never recommend shooting anything from a small boat...I'm a serious tripod person. Getting a sharp image is important; it also gives the photographer pause for reflection and time to explore options. A boat is more of a "quick shoot!" experience - which was certainly true of the Coyote images I got. But I found the Osprey and Loon were very use to quiet small craft and didn't seem to mind us being near for several minutes at a time.

Our short vacation was full of walks along the road and through woodland trails, doing some bird watching and looking along the forest floor at many old familiar plants.

Georgie and I are familiar with the north country, we had our own small getaway in NE Minnesota, on the north shore of Lake Superior for 18 years, and we'd honeymooned and stayed many times at her folk's place in NW Ontario. But we hadn't been away from the acreage and prairie for some years...it was very nice.

Thank you Julie!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Second Day

It's the second day with the tree. We've managed to lop all the leaf branches and haul to the burn pile...it's amazing how many small branches a big tree has! The pile's over 10 feet high and 20 feet in diameter, and that's with heavy branches weighing things down.

Tomorrow the chain saw and firewood. Likely the root ball will be a summer issue...they don't just disappear unfortunately.

I need to get back into the studio! But we're grateful for the small extent of damage to the house (busted up gutters from falling/flying limbs) and just a bunch of clean up time spent. Iowa, as a whole, hasn't been so fortunate this summer. God Bless 'em.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

First Come, First Serve!

Going to the first taker! Beautiful full grown ash tree with root ball and attached bird house! Fresh stock - acquired this morning at 4:45 a.m.! Sorry, can't let you have the hail...melted :(


Monday, June 16, 2008

After Father's Day

It was a busy day on Father's Day at the Studio here, we had 20 family members over for a great meal and a walk-about around the place...it was a glorious day to share with everyone. The week before we had all four grandkids here with us - what a time that was!

I'd been busy in the studio a couple weeks back, trying to start another painting. I often work from things that have sat too long in my head. A problem that arises from this "storage" is my original idea becomes changed by time and when I finally can get down to fleshing it out, I'm not sure I'm finding the original message!

 "Late Summer Day - Bur Oak (The Wolf Tree)"
Oil Painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

I think this piece is looking like I originally envisioned it. It's of a "Wolf Tree", a Bur Oak in this instance, one we came across in "Southwood" a state wildlife area down in southern Woodbury County, Iowa - in the Loess Hills.

Wolf trees characteristically have broad, spreading crowns that dominate the area of ground lying within their shade. They monopolize the available light, water and nutrients for their own use to the detriment of other nearby trees thus allowing them to dominate. Old dominating Bur Oaks survived countless prairie fires with the help of their thick cork-like bark and stand as a testimony to their perseverance through many, many years on the tallgrass priairie.

Bur Oaks are probably my favorite tree but extremely slow growing. We tried starting many here on our prairie remnant and have failed a few times due to the rabbits and deer ending early attempts. We now have one caged in the back yard and another persistent seedling in the north pasture. We'll never live long enough to see them in their glory, but someone will and that's important too.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Artisans Road Trip 2008 - Preview Exhibit

"Summer Pasture" Oil on Canvas, one of the pieces at the A.R.T. Witter Exhibit

An exhibit featuring the 2008 Artisans Road Trip artists is being hung this weekend at the Witter Gallery in Storm Lake, IA. Artists participating in the 2008 A.R.T. were to select 2 pieces of work from their collections to take to the Witter show.

A.R.T has been ongoing since 2004 I believe...I've been in all except last year's when we were into our studio building project. The weekend of the showing last October was the same weekend we had the entire roof off of the building and it was raining! That was actually the first rainy weekend of A.R.T., it has usually experienced some pretty weather.

The Witter Gallery is a very nice place to view artwork of regional/area artists...I believe the first year I exhibited down there was back in the 1980's.

The A.R.T. exhibit runs from June 3 -27, and admission is free to the public. The exhibit is being sponsored by Paxton's Jewelry of Storm Lake.

The gallery hours are -

Tuesday/Wednesday/Friday - 1:00 p.m.- 5:00 p.m.
Thursday - 1:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. (Summer hrs.)
Saturday - 10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m

Take it in if you have a chance!

Saturday, May 24, 2008


I finally got to my first painting in the new studio this week...ya I know, it's about time. I guess I've just been too busy finishing up old projects and paying bills.

I haven't even thought of a title yet...and it may not even be fully complete, I'm just not sure. But it certainly feels good getting back into the "studio" and not just the office!

The subject matter is one I've had an idea for some time, and one I've tread on before - a large sky of summertime clouds with a Red-tailed Hawk banking into the scene. I've fixated on Red-tails before, in fact I've fixated on them since I was 10 or 11 years old. I used to spend summer vacation afternoons out along the hills west of Fort Dodge along the Lizard Creek valley, lying on my back in someone's hillside pasture watching the clouds form and the Red-tails catching thermals and become tiny specks in the sky. Those were the days!

Fall migration was also a favorite time to watch hawks, and the other raptors pass over head. The pencil above (Fall Migration, Red-tails") was of an area near here that experiences wonderful episodes of hawks, falcons and eagles each autumn.

Well now that I have the paint out I'd better keep with it...I'm feeling rusty after the long winter of construction!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Help it's Spring and I Can't Keep Up!

I'm sure anyone can relate to the sentiments of the title for today's blog! Ugh...so much to do, so little time!

Every year I say, next spring I've got to do this, get there, see these, take this photo, do this painting, and on and on. The problem is I'm not getting any younger and "next spring" opportunities should be taken less and less for granted.

I managed to get a small start on one item on the list this morning...I've been so distracted by the American Wild Plums about the place here and in the valley. The scent waifing through the air around here is almost intoxicating and the wonderfully flowered trees have been as well.

The venture out this morning was quite different than some photography work I do, I'm concentrating on "examples". I need to do a "Plum Painting", and if there's one thing that never lasts long enough in the spring, it's the plum blossoms - they fade and are history before you know it (it seems).

At the moment I'm taking a short break from some website work I'm behind on - to write this blog. As I look out the window I see Georgie working hard in the gardens, she just finished tilling them all! I do believe I'd better keep the plums in the back of my mind for the time being and get back to work!

Hmmm, that smell...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dusk Chorus

My last post was the Dawn Chorus - I'm heading to the opposite time of the day here!

If you remember my post from a few days back "Little Friends", this is my little friends in the valley here singing it up and lulling us to sleep at night. The American Toads start singing when the water starts warming into the 60's and that has just begun this week here.

I've recorded nature audio since the mid 1980's and often run the tracks while I'm working in the studio. I do it mostly in the winter when I need a pick-me-up from the short days and cold nights. I also listen to them because they are a wonderful music from our creator!

If you haven't got a connection any faster than dial up, I'm afraid you'll likely want to skip this, but it is a short piece I just added to the NW Iowa Watchable Wildlife site on the videos afield page if you can visit later with a better connection.

Enjoy creation, its a gift!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Dawn Chorus

One thing I look forward to so much in the spring is the dawn chorus. And it is also the first thing I feel a bit sad to hear come to an end.

I once did a piece to celebrate the dawn chorus, it was an American Robin singing from an old neighbor's tree. I did the image first as a pencil rendering, then transfered it to several (25 actually) screens and printed a small edition of 60 prints as a serigraph.

We have been so happy that the evenings have finally warmed enough to sleep with the bedroom windows open. Last night we went to sleep serenaded by Chorus Frogs and American Toads, We haven't slept so well in months! The morning's "dawn chorus" was equally as wonderful of a tonic! Some people complain about all the birds singing so early but we find it soothing, a wonderful comfort, and just great music that lulls one deeper into a restful slumber.

The first birds we usually notice singing are American Robins. They usually start around an hour before sunrise. They are my favorite dawn chorus bird but Mourning Doves can be equally pleasant to listen to.

I've stated more than once in the past that I like using what I've experienced in my work and this piece is no exception. It is something I look forward to throughout a long hard winter and is something we'll cherish here at Prairie Hill Farm until late July/early August when the chorus subsides again to not return till next spring.

Pencils were the study piece for my serigraphs in the past but the pencils could stand on their own merit and sometimes I felt like I shouldn't need to go further. All these pieces are in private collections now, and this particular serigraph edition is nearly sold out now (with only 4 prints left). If anyone was interested in this hand pulled print, it can be purchased online at - http://www.morrisons-studio.com/Springsong.htm or from the new Studio/Gallery here.

The deck is completely finished now and we're working on the really fun and important things for a change!

Crack the window tonight and listen to the music!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Completion Closer?

Georgie and I brought the deck very close to completion on Saturday. It's surprising that the rails would take so much time for a small deck like this but all the leveling and support work were very time consuming.

We still have the rail for the stairs, the door threshold for wheel chair accessibility and some grading, landscaping and planting work to do, but all in all it's ready!

In keeping with the building theme (ag-related) we've enclosed the deck with hog wire. Ya, sounds weird but it works great; I'm not a hog loving person but it definitely fits the theme of agriculture. We've also placed an old watering unit in the corner past the steps...we'll be working on plantings around the deck that will be drought tolerant.

The ramp is on the traffic side of the building and we made it as long as the property's access requirements would allow. We have access and egress requirements for farm machinery to pass by and into the field behind us so had to keep the required clearance between this building and the barn.

We sat out on the deck around 8pm last night to enjoy the late view. It'll be real nice this summer when people stop by for a chat or whatever... hint, hint :)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Check it out...take a side trip

A project I've worked on since last summer has finally come to completion...well not entirely, but at least it is now ready for public use. The project isn't about art per say, but has a lot of photography relating to my favorite subject (natural heritage). I was very fortunate to be asked to create this web site for watchable wildlife in NW Iowa, it got Georgie and I out into the field quite a bit during late summer and early fall and also got me back into video work, which I enjoy doing very much.

The site has 3 themes...it takes each category and discusses it enough to help get your feet wet, then gives you a trail loop to follow to each of the "sites" along that category's loop. The 3 categories are: a "Glacial Trail" loop, a "Prairie Pothole Birding" loop and a "Prairie History" loop.

If you like, you can download a county map of each loop, or you can continue on to the pages giving all the specific sites in each loop and using an embedded Google Map to show you where each site is. Keywords are embedded on the pages that give you photos of certain flora or fauna when you select them. Videos are also embedded on the pages so you can actually visit a particular site for a short stay, or you can download these videos to your mobile device on the trip itself.

Want to take a short trip to Steele Prairie in Cherokee County for example? Here's a glimpse at what you will see and hear -

There are 34 sites included in 9 NW Iowa counties so far, and the web site is designed to show you all the great places to go and things to experience - get you and the family out for an adventure this summer "or" this weekend!

There is a photo gallery page with the intent to include site participant's images in the future. There is a page with helpful wildlife viewing tips, and a link page leading to more videos as well as great sources of information and a little humor if you like.

No it's not about "art" per say, but it did give this artist some material and ideas to work with for some time to come.

Take a trip with Watchable Wildlife in NW Iowa, and enjoy the surprises along the way!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Back to the Workout

I'm spoiled...Georgie's spoiled too because I've been in the studio working and out of her hair the past several weeks. But the frost is out of the ground and the "workout" has to begin once more.

We're putting a deck entry in front of the building. The ground slopes away pretty fast and it's not an easy walk up into the studio without a better entry.

Right now we're just forming the main platform, then we'll put in the steps, and then work on the ramp.

We just got the ledger, Girder and rafters up and are just beginning the deck boards.

It was a little cold starting this morning, had a slight skiff of snow on the ground and the temps were below freezing...but was out of the wind and pleasant enough in the sun.

Need a new body though. Too creaky and stiff after only a day of carpentry work again!

We promise to at least have the place accessible this week, so feel free to drop by!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Little Friends

It finally warmed and dried enough for Georgie to get into the garden yesterday. She always plants the cool season crops early but was behind schedule this year because we still had frost in the ground a week or so earlier.

Georgie likes to get spinach and lettuce planted first and while preparing the ground, came up with a couple toads. This wasn't surprising - it happens every year. In fact she said to me as she headed for the garden, "I'll tell you when the toads show up".

I have a long tie to toads, raised many from tadpoles when I was a kid. My mother let me raise them in the basement and tolerated my little friends hopping all around the basement floor. I always told Mom they'd "eat the bugs"...and I think she latched on to that promise in order to not discourage me. My first "remembered" wild critter when I was around 2-3 years old was a big fat toad staring back at me from it's hole in the grass in the backyard.

I like to draw and photograph the things that mean something to me; that are close to my heart...that covers an awful lot of "things" but these things aren't always embraced by the art loving public. But no-matter...I do it because I enjoy it!

Watch your step outside this spring and summer - you might make new friends if you do!