Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Turkey!

November is slowly transitioning back to where it usually is now, but I don't see anyone complaining about having those three good weeks of weather after that rotten September/October stretch! What I'm really confused and frustrated about is how we got here so fast!

But Thanksgiving is a great time around here...the house and studio smell so good...Georgie cooks in the house and we feast out here where we have more room! We can seat around 20 out here (in the studio) with the majority around the same table, and we use the framing counter as the food service area.

It's been raining steady for the past day here and the farmers are stuck waiting till December now to complete harvest. It sounds like snow tonight and maybe tomorrow but we hope it's nothing to deter guests from arriving safely tomorrow and Thursday.

A couple days back when I was walking over to the studio I was noticing quite a ruckus in our north grove. Our year-round resident Red-headed Woodpecker was throwing such a hissy fit that Mudd (our resident farm cat/best buddy) even went over to see what all the fuss was about. She returned to the deck after a few minutes and I decided that maybe something was worth a look.

I saw nothing obvious - sometimes there will be a crow or hawk or owl around and the residents get a little agitated. We have been seeing a gray phase Eastern Screech Owl in the west grove Wood Duck box and I thought maybe it was outside snoozing and was attracting some attention, so I started looking in the conifers for it.

Eastern Screech Owl

The denser trees are good spots for these little guys and I found the "suspect" in one - buried back next to the trunk...don't know what all the fuss was about, he seemed perfectly content to stay tucked in until nightfall. After I went and got my camera it did give me some "looks", kind of like "Don't make me come out there"! type of looks or scowls. I couldn't get any more of the little owl than just a face shot because of the dense cover so I left it alone to nap the rest of the afternoon through.

I'd like to wish everyone out there a nice Thanksgiving with family, friends, or by yourself if it works out that way. Stay warm with good food and Love!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Autumns Past

Prairie Autumn Stream
7X14" Prismacolor (color pencil drawing)

It's still autumn here in the valley, but it's the time of fall when all color has drained from the landscape, save the sky. The sun still lends a beautiful yet subtle magenta veil to the hill sides and high tree branches when it nears it's last breath in the late afternoon.

Autumn was once (maybe still is in many ways) my favorite time of year. I used to spend fall days walking the edges of the Des Moines River in Fort Dodge (Iowa), or even wading to Duck Island...or wading Lizard Creek for Smallmouth Bass. There is nothing quite like fishing in-stream with a pair of waders on; you feel the stream, sense it's rhythm, and smell that fall air. It's easy to lose your balance and take a chilly bath if you get caught up in your surroundings and not pay attention to what you're doing. Sometimes I felt waders were just foreplay with the stream.

The image above is from the past 3 weeks with my color pencils and blenders. It was inspired by what I have just reminisced. When you get to my age, a lot of what directs or moves you is past experiences like that. How could someone paint, draw or write about something they have not experienced, dreamnt or reminisced?!

The material for this effort was garnered far from our last Watchable Wildlife trip down to Sac County in late October. It was very windy that day...30mph and higher, not a great photography day. But, as I described back then, the landscape was wonderful. I may have one or two salvageable images from that day to use as photos down the road...I just have not had the time to process/edit yet. But the material from my files were perfect to order for a painting or drawing, and I chose the later.

It could pass for Lizard Creek, or even the Little Sioux, and even (after a stretch) - Waterman Creek, here across the valley...but it's still a prairie stream.

Drift down your stream, if just in your mind and memory...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Clive Road Trip

Road trips for Georgie and I usually consist of exploring new or old sites for future artwork material or photo destinations, or just to get out and rejuvenate and get the cobwebs out of our heads after being immersed in work all the time.

This past Thursday, however, was an exception as we went to an invitational Art Gala down near Des Moines in Clive, Iowa. The event was being put on for the clients of DeWaay Capital Management and the public. Georgie and I don't usually participate in art "fairs" as we only exhibit and sell through galleries and art centers/museums but this event was somewhat different and it never hurts to meet new potential collectors.

25 artists from all over Iowa were invited to exhibit and sell their works in the building of DeWaay Capital Management...panels were furnished for the artists to use and wine bars were situated throughout the building's 3 levels. A string quartet played through the evening as clients of DeWaay and the public got to view and purchase artwork, and partake in the wonderful food bar and chocolate bar as well...all of which were complimentary and simply wonderful. The chocolate was nothing short of amazing :) !

I had many good conversations and contacts during the evening and sold a few prints and a painting...it is a very good feeling for any artist when people express their love for a particular piece of work.

The Business end of art is one I don't generally discuss but if an artist is to continue in their discipline, be it as a painter, musician, performer, or whatever - they have to consider their avenues of selling or getting work. Occasionally a road trip comes along that is all business, and it is a good thing to make new acquaintances and renew some old ones. (We were also able to visit a couple artists we hadn't seen in twenty years...that was great too.)

I'm going to begin offering the work I do here on this blog as well. I'm finding that occasionally someone asks me if I do artwork full time or if it is just a hobby. Art has never been a hobby for me - it's always been my life...what makes me get up each day. If I'm not creating, I'm seeking the seeds of that process so I can begin again to take part in that creative process.

I do have hobbies, things that interest me and are also fun to do...I love the prairie and educating others about it's importance. I love our natural heritage in general...Georgie and I like to go Birding whenever we're out and doing other things...we volunteer for many conservation organizations and activities. These are more like hobbies to me.

My art work usually reflects the natural part of this world. So maybe people find it hard to separate from just an "interest"? But as an artist I find I must do what interests and moves me on an emotional and even an intellectual level, or I will find it difficult to convey or celebrate it in my work.

As my message (or statement) says on my business web site home page "Our natural heritage is so important to me; it's a God given treasure upon the earth for us to use - with sincere respect. I am compelled to celebrate this gift in my work, whether it be a painting in plein-air or in the studio...or in the field through the lens or ground glass of the camera."

I hope you enjoy going through this process with me!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What Fare for a Fair Day!

You could not insist on a day fairer than this...not without a guilt of greed anyway. I'd call it Indian Summer worth repetition many times over!

First thing this morning after breakfast, Georgie and I watched a nice looking 10 point buck following a couple does around the pasture across from us. We've been getting more activity than we like in the yard here (the bucks in rut really rake up the shrubs and small trees).

Later Georgie and I did some walking through the north pasture prairie remnant and picked seed. Things have dried out fairly well and we're trying to get enough prairie grasses and forb seed collected to heal the ditch over next year. The air was so pleasant and the sun warm, with a slight cool breeze out of the south west.  

Sandhill Crane in Center Lake Wetlands Complex, Dickinson County, IA

We were admiring the clouds and the cerulean sky when we caught a hint of sound to the northwest. I mentioned that it sounded a lot like Sandhill Cranes...we kept hearing it for a minute or so and then saw them - a small flock of 7 Sandhill Cranes flying past Prairie Hill farm! They flew south west but circled back a couple times as if trying to make up their minds as where they should go. That's a first for us "here" but we have photographed the cranes along the Platte in Nebraska and even on nearby wetlands in Dickinson County (but they're rare visitors there).

We came over to the deck on the front of the studio and admired the skies, watching the clouds passing over...took a break for a bit and just talked and watched. The White Ash in the backyard still holds it's seed bounty from last summer, it's now turned a deep amber and the contrast against the blue sky is quite striking...no leaves but the seed filled branches are heavily covered and they make a wonderful surrogate.

Redbelly Snake (Storeria occipitomaculat)

We decided to take a walk down the road to stretch the legs and take in some more of the view. After flushing a few pheasants I spotted the tiniest little sprig of brown laying still at my feet. I stopped to look closer and here was a tiny Redbelly Snake (Storeria occipitomaculat)! I've seen them before here at the acreage and south into Waterman Prairie, but they're so small and secretive that you rarely get to see or hold one. They're one snake that doesn't even attempt to bite or fight when handled.

This is one teenie reptile! Awww, ain't it cute!!!
This is one teenie reptile! I doubted the one I held was longer than 5 inches long stretched out. That probably meant it was born this year because adults are 3-4 inches longer; they're born live in small broods of 7 or 8 in late August or early September. Georgie doesn't care for snakes and didn't much appreciate me walking along side her with one so we headed back to the acreage...here I got my camera out and went back out to the prairie remnant pasture and attempted some one handed shots of it in my left hand before releasing it.

This last shot of it gives a good idea how it got it's name! See how big it is compared to my ring! These little snakes are protected in Iowa and illegal to keep or kill so I had to release it, as tempting as it was to keep and try and photograph some more. I got one or two shots of it as it gained it's freedom but these little things move!!! Imagine something the diameter of a que tip post, about 5 inches long, brown on top, and moving real fast through the underbrush! Took less than 5 seconds to completely lose track of it!

Right now as I'm writing, Georgie's out on the studio deck reading and a late Halloween "guest" is flying around in the warm sunlight catching a bonus crop of flying bugs (mostly Asian Lady Bird Beetles) - it's a Bat! Now that's one for our books! Never seen a Bat flying around feeding in broad daylight/mid afternoon in November!!! I'm guessing that the weather's been so cool and wet lately, that the poor little guy hasn't been eating! Guess now he's making up for lost time...well I'm rooting for him! Get those dang bugs!

What fare for a fair day!