Saturday, August 29, 2009

If I Could Only...

Pilot Creek meets the Des Moines River - Pocahontas County

Georgie and I spent the past couple days working on traveling and filming sites in 3 counties for the Watchable Wildlife project. As we traveled around and explored these sites, we'd also check out other places in the areas we visit.

I find myself overwhelmed as new and renewed discoveries (for us) continually mount up. If I could only live long enough to act upon all the images and ideas rolling around in my head! Oh what a quandary to find yourself in!

One place we visited and filmed was east of Rolfe in Pocahontas County (Iowa). The site was south of Pilot Creek and west of the Des Moines River by a few hundred yards. It was the site of the last battle in Iowa between different Indian this case the Winnebago and the Sioux.

The Winnebago were camped and settled in for the night, with a man stationed in a nearby Walnut tree. The Sioux were sneaking up to take the other tribe's cache and to claim their trapping/trading grounds. The scout in the tree spotted the Sioux's movement in time to sound a warning and although lives were lost, the Winnebago kept their territorial interests against their rivals.

It all conjures up some cool stories doesn't it!

After visiting this site we headed over to the nearby river and I took the image above of where Pilot Creek enters the Des Moines River.

The rivers, streams and other bodies of water are literally books of stories of many kinds! Oh what wonderful stories of adventure, struggle, celebration and sorrow they must hold! I can't wait to paint another river!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Yesterday's Effort

"Little Sioux Sand Bar"
oil on mounted canvas, 9X12"

Yesterday was a new painting day and the Little Sioux River over by Linn Grove (Iowa) was the location of choice. This area is below the dam there and there are many spots to walk along or even park on both sides, but this view was from the north side looking across stream.

I think I'm trying to do things I'm comfortable with because I feel out of touch and "shape" with the canvas at the present time - having spent so many months in front of my monitor working on websites and educational presentations, and such. I spent so much time on the rivers and creeks when I was growing up that I find them both mentally and physically intriguing and well as relaxing and visually exciting. It's a bit less of a stretch, I guess, to make an image of a stream look inviting.

The painting wasn't finished until this morning though...I just had to work on the water more; fine tune things if-you-will.

Enjoy this October "like" weather while it lasts!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Back At It...

Sand Bar Slough - July Skies
Oil on mounted canvas - 12X16

Finally...back to the easel! I firmly believe that - yes, once you learn to ride a bike you can always get back on and do it after years have passed. BUT - I also believe you'd do fairly poorly if you don't get in any practice!

This is true of anything of course...musicians need to practice or they'll get rusty; doctors need to practice or they may do more harm than good; artists need to work or they'll find they have a lot of "brushing" up to do!

So I'm back at it once more...not because I "have" to, but because I want to...I need to; it's definitely a need and I get cranky the longer I can't get back to it!

I wasn't able to swing a plein air piece yesterday but took some reference material from a trip up to the lakes with some of the grand kids in July. Love summer skies up around the marshes and prairie potholes! The painting is of Sand Bar Slough, just off the NE tip of Spirit Lake in Dickinson County, here in NW Iowa. I believe Sand Bar Slough is privately owned but is just off the east grade of the highway and there is a little spot on the grade you can pull over on in a small vehicle. I'm not sure one could get away with doing a plein air piece there since you're not likely parked legally and I'd certainly be there a while if I tried!

I'm lucky the opportunity arose to get some time in the "other side" of the studio!

I'm also very lucky to be celebrating a great day with my great lady Georgie today, it's our 39th anniversary today! What a girl! I love her more than I can express!

Do something with someone you love this weekend!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

OK, It's Back!

Verbena hastata at Stiles Woodland Preserve, Cherokee County

OK...summer's back for sure now! Dewpoints in the 70's and temps in the 90's (thankfully not higher!). I'll admit right here that I'm not real fond of high heat and humidity, but I got real lucky this summer with a couple month reprieve so I'm not going to complain (just melt).

Georgie and I spent the afternoon and evening yesterday doing more NW Iowa Watchable Wildlife work, visiting areas in Cherokee and Buena Vista counties south of us here at Prairie Hill Farm. We really found some pretty nice locations and I'm wishing it'd be possible to revisit some of these places more often!

One place I was really taken with wasn't one of our assigned locations - Stiles Woodland Preserve. It's identified as a preserve under the ownership of a group called "Friends of Conservation", and is an area of heavy woodland bordered by lowland/wetland and prairie remnant. It would be a great place to bird and we were serenaded by Eastern Towhees singing "Drink your tea!" all the while we were along the remnant hillside and meadow area. I didn't do any video taping in this area but did record the bird's phrases for a short bit...I'll have to add it to my website audio page when I can manage the time.

"Bull's Eye, Bison"

I'm to the crunch stage with a lot of things right's just 8 weeks till the Artisans Road Trip the 2, 3, 4 of October and am in two exhibits at the moment also. "Horizontal Grandeur 2009" at the Stevens County Historical Museum in Morris, Minnesota...this exhibit runs clear through the end of October. I have a couple pieces in this show, one of which, shown above, is of a Bison Bull up close and personal.

I also have many pieces (Giclees) at the Grimes Farm Nature Center near Marshalltown, Iowa for a solo exhibit through the end of September.

The Artisans Road Trip also has a sample exhibit going at the Sanford Museum in Cherokee, Iowa. Be sure and take in any shows in your area - support your local artists!!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


Whoa! Now where's this coming from? I'm definitely not ready for August but I must say I'll take today's weather (and most of July's) any day, any where! Love this...we'll think back on it fondly once the heat and humidity returns.

Song Sparrow

This weather really reminds me of the summers we used to spend at our small place in NE fact this weather has been giving me pangs of pleasant memories there. If I were to close my eyes I'd swear we were there once more, sitting on Lake Superior's north shore listening to the Song Sparrows serenading along the shoreline Tag Alders. I remember the local Song Sparrows there and the birds here in NW Iowa had a distinct difference in their songs; oh it was the same song for sure but you could hear there was something like a regional accent coloring one area's song from another.

Common Yellowthroats (female top - male bottom)

Our Prairie Hill Farm Song Sparrows have been very vocal the past 2-3 weeks, as have our prairie remnant's small population of Common Yellowthroats. The Yellowthroat's calls aren't as melodic as the Song Sparrows but still nice music to the ears. These little guys are a little more on the "pretty" least the "males" are. Georgie likes to call them "little bandits" because of the black mask across the male's face. The female is much more non-descript than the male...more of an olive green/yellow plumage with no real obvious markings. You hear these little birds more than you see them; you have to get into their habitat and seek them out when they sing their "witchy, witchy, witchy, witch" call.

Better get back to work here, but the distractions and the weather are great!