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 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 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 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 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'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 :(