Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

2010 is on it's last legs here.  As I write this entry we're in a unusual weather event...instead of a blizzard, it's pouring rain and sleet; soon to be just snow.  Weird stuff for the last day of the year to be sure!

I've been holed up in front of the easel for the past few weeks on commissioned work, and hoping to be back into work for the gallery here in the next 2-3 weeks.  There are some small color pencil pieces and studies evolving on the sidelines too, but "work for hire" is still the name of the game...and that ain't all bad!  :)

The video at the top of this blog is a scene taken out one of the studio windows...kind of a "snow globe"  gift to you.  If you are an email subscriber to this blog, the video won't show can either go directly to the blog ( or visit this link on You Tube -

I want to take a moment to thank all of you out there who have shown an interest in my work, a prosperous and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

See you in 2011!!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas!

"Winter Along Bluebird Road"
Photograph © Bruce A. Morrison

Well the solstice is past us now...the days will start to get longer!  OK, not by much at first but it's the thought that counts!  Hope you had a chance to view the total lunar eclipse on the solstice!  That will never happen again in our life time.  I had all my camera gear set and ready to go but when I got up at 1:30 a.m. to check it out here, the sky was still overcast and not any sign of even where the moon was.  Luck of the draw I guess.

The native pasture here is now pretty much buried in snow since the last blizzard a week and a half ago.  I've been plastered to the easel and doing framing work and orders.  

The Christmas cards have all been printed, written in, and mailed!  That's quite a job, one I've been doing now for 46 years I believe.  I didn't do a painting this year as I am working on commissioned work their right now, so I printed cards with the header image above.

Georgie and I wanted to take a moment to wish everyone a great Christmas, holiday season, and a wonderful and prosperous New Year in 2011!  It's hard to believe this year is almost history but that's what happens to you when you're busy I guess!  But it will be Spring again before we know it, so enjoy your holiday season and Winter while you can!

See you next year in the studio!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

OK - Uncle!

 Blizzard view from the studio door

OK, I give up!  No leaving the premises today!  Anyone in the region knows what I mean; the blizzard did materialize and at this time the image above is what it looks like from the studio door (opened for a couple seconds)!  I cannot even make out a teeny bit of the house, which is only 75-80 feet away! 
Needless to say, the Holiday Open Studio was canceled this morning (Duh!).

But I'm taking this lemon and making lemonade!  Painting all weekend now...the wind is hitting 45-50 mph, so I don't even know when we'll start trying to dig out...let the fun begin!

Keep warm, stay safe!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Open Studios and a Blizzard!

"Prairie Skies" © Bruce A. Morrison
9X12" - Oil on panel - available at McGee's Gallery in downtown Peterson, Iowa

"Holiday Open Studios" and a blizzard...all on the same day!!!  How's that for mother nature cooperating with us!

Yes - you too can enjoy a good old NW Iowa blizzard while attending Holiday Open Studios in NW Iowa!  :)

I'm actually showing at a friend's studio and gallery tomorrow...Saturday the 11th - McGee's Gallery in downtown Peterson, Iowa.  But the laid plans ya know...oh well, Barb has promised me homemade beef vegetable soup for lunch and you should see the things Georgie had fixed for me to take down there!  Also, I made (ya me!) my favorite treat for this time of year, coconut joys...dark chocolate in coconut.  

We may not see a lot of shoppers in our "Holiday Open Studios", but I think there's enough to stoke up on to keep warm while the snow's flying!   :)

It's raining pretty good right now, just got back from Hartley a few minutes ago...the forecast is this rain will start freezing sometime tonight and then the snow begins.  Then while it snows tomorrow the wind is supposed to kick up to 30-40 mph.  High winds, snow, ice underneath...I think I'll be eating more than selling paintings.

By Sunday morning I'm hearing we'll be below zero Fahrenheit, so I guess winter is starting before the solstice as usual.  Winter on the Tallgrass, gotta love it!  (What else can you do?)

Stay safe - see ya on the Tallgrass!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Tallgrass Year

Cope's Gray Tree Frog at Prairie Hill farm
Photograph © Bruce A. Morrison

Thank you to those folks who came to the Prairie Heritage Center for the Prairie program Thursday evening...although my voice gave out early on, you hung in there!

If you weren't able to make it to the center, I'm going to post the first part of the program which was a media program, recorded with images and audio from our prairie here at Prairie Hill Farm.  I should state "most" of the images were from here; they were all shot within a 35 mile radius of here but at least 90% were here on our property.  The music soundtrack was licensed through CSS Music, Inc.

The web address for "A Tallgrass Year" is -

We're very busy here at the studio, with the Christmas season upon us, but if you're in the area and want to stop by, please feel free!

Stay warm!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Prairie On My Mind

 Joe Pye Weed with Painted Lady
Photo © Bruce A. Morrison

I've mentioned the Prairie Heritage Center is a gem in the extreme SE corner of our county (O'Brien).  There is an exhibit of the tallgrass prairie at the center, running now and through January 6, 2011.  The exhibit is a state traveling exhibit entitled "Tallgrass Prairie - Past, Present, and Future", and is a great exhibit for all ages to see, enjoy and walk through!

With this exhibit, the host organization is responsible for putting on a program in conjunction with the exhibit theme.  I was asked if I'd be willing to do so and agreed...prairie is near and very dear to my heart and I'm always happy to speak on this subject!

The Prairie Heritage Center is calling the program "Colors of the Prairie".  I've put together a short media program which will be followed by "colors of the prairie" and a discussion of my experiences and personal viewpoint of the Tallgrass Prairie.  The program will take place at the Prairie Heritage Center on December 2nd at 7 p.m - that's this coming Thursday night, so if you have an opportunity to get away for a short evening event - be sure and stop by!

For those of you who may not have been to the Prairie Heritage Center, directions are "east" of Sutherland, Iowa on HY 10, or "west" of Peterson, Iowa on Hwy 10...or 4931 Yellow Avenue, Peterson, Iowa.  You can also call for more information at (712) 295-7200!

See you on the Tallgrass!

Friday, November 19, 2010

In The Neighborhood

"Little Sioux Autumn Sunrise"
5X16" color pencil rendering © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image to see a larger view)

Chilly gray November days have kept me in the studio, and that's a good thing as I've been busy with several projects and some commissioned works.

One piece I've been working on was just finished and framed this week; its another color pencil and is in a panoramic format.  Not a large piece, but slightly bigger than most of my recent color pencil pieces - approximately 5X16". All my color pencil work is done from my own photographs, and its not hard to see that photographic influence on these pieces.  I do "edit" in my head while working on these pieces, but the original influence is still evident.  This is an early autumn landscape; the corn is still in the fields and the trees are only just beginning to turn.  The view is "in the neighborhood", as I like to say...probably 10 miles from the studio "as the Crow flies".

As I've said in the past, I see many things out here on the prairie in panoramic's not hard, most landscapes out here are sweeping. I could isolate the elements that make up these vistas, and often times I do; this is part of a view I enjoy again and again, and has much significance to it.

The vantage point I am standing on for this scene is on the old "O'Brien No.1" site.  In the early 1940's, state botanist Ada Hayden was given a grant of $100 to travel the state and find existing prairie remnants "of importance".  This location, now part of the Waterman Prairie complex, was one such location Ada recommended for preservation; she designated it as O'Brien No.1.  The site was finally preserved in the mid 1990's; took long enough (!) but thankfully we finally got it right!

This view is also of geological significance.  This is the view from above a 10-15 thousand year old remnant "Hanging Valley", the former river bed of the river flowing below (Little Sioux River). 

The area was also home to the Mill Creek Culture, which inhabited the valley as late as around 1150 AD; there are over 80 village sites along this valley and up to where our studio is!

AND this is also the location of our earliest settler (pioneer) homesteads...a lot of natural, cultural and geological heritage happening here!

This original piece is hanging in the studio here and can be viewed any time I'm here...just give me a call or stop by and chance your luck of me being around!  All my information, address and phone number can be found on our web site at .

Tallgrass prairie, glaciers, native americans and pioneers - does it get any better than this?!?!  Gotta' love it!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Winter Fare

Sharp-shinned Hawk (adult)
photograph © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

Had our first winter storm yesterday...well it's not really winter yet, we've got a few weeks before the solstice arrives.  Had high winds and around 4-5 inches of snow.  This kind of weather makes for good studio time...or a good book and a cup of hot soup!  

The neighborhood song birds really come in to the feeders at this time of the year, and become regular guests until spring.  Other birds come "visiting" for the guests, which really can make for some shorts bursts of excitement.  This morning Georgie was over in the studio with me and alerted me to some wild activity out front...a Sharp-shinned Hawk was chasing the Goldfinches and Juncos around the front yard!

The bird landed in the Silver Maple out front and I grabbed the small camera and took a couple shots of it before it launched off into a chase after finches over and past the corn crib, the last we saw of it for now.

"Sharpies" are real cool little hawks, they're the smallest member of the accipiter family in North America.  The bird we hosted this morning was an adult and appeared to be a female.  Females birds of prey are larger than the males...their plumage is the same though.  This adult is recognized by the slate gray back and wing tops, the orange barring on the breast and their red iris.  An immature bird would be brown on back with a streaked brown/buff breast.  If you know your accipiters you'd recognize this bird as a female because the size is basically the same as a male Cooper's Hawk - the next accipiter up the size chart.  The easiest way to determine whether a bird is a female Sharp-shinned Hawk or a male Cooper's Hawk, is to look at the tail of the bird in flight or perched.  The Sharpie has a "squared off" or "notched" effect on the end of it's tail while a Cooper's tail end has a "rounded" effect...they can be a hard call unless you have more time to observe and make a distinction.

I noticed a slight blood stained tinge on this bird's talons and foot pad; I'm assuming it already had break fast and was working on lunch!  

Hawks are one of the reasons I grew to like birds as a kid and they still fascinate me very first commissioned art work (india ink) was of a hawk (Red-tailed), when I was a teenager.  Couldn't imagine a better way to earn a living!  Imagine doing what you like and getting paid for it!  Blew me away.  It's not as easy as that of course, but I feel fortunate to be here and doing and seeing what we have here each day and season!

Here's to the season, and more drama in your life!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Out and About

 Negus's Bales
photograph © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

This time of year here in NW Iowa tends to transition from the appearance of a landscape having come to fruition, to one becoming increasingly barren and monochromatic.  But one thing I always find is it's the light that speaks through any landscape...and it's also the perspective or personal interest, if-you-will, that keeps things interesting or fresh in your self awareness and appreciation.

I recently ventured out into the "neighborhood" before sunrise, on a quest to fulfill a commission to photograph an agricultural landscape.  I passed by the image you see at the top of this blog and thought "Wow", I have to come back here on my way home!

Thankfully the light was still great, and the wind hadn't come roaring up as it seems to have this year each time sunrise comes around.  I stopped and took a few images until the sun climbed higher and the color changed slightly.

The mornings are getting crisp; it was around 20 degrees Fahrenheit and my attire wasn't quite up to snuff, so I was happy to climb back into the pickup where it was cozy.  Soon the frost and snow will become the landscape's veil!

I like this makes me happy; isn't that important??!!  I'm very tempted to try a painting of this scene sometime this winter when the frigid wind keeps me in the studio.

Times flies when you're having fun!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Digging Back In

"After the Storm Passed - Study"
2 1/2 X 3 1/2" (6.4 cm X 8.9 cm) color pencil (sold) © Bruce A. Morrison
(Click on image for larger than life size image)

It's been a time of digging back in here at the studio; the hours being spent printing up jobs and framing for clients is winding down from the aftermath of the Artisans Road Trip in early October.  Now it's November!  (How does that happen so quickly - someone please explain it to me!!!)

Now I am mustering up the mental stage to get back into creating new work.  This is the time (that comes along almost any time all year long) for me to go through my jointed and disjointed thoughts and begin new pieces.  How this comes about varies wildly here!  It either hits me like a 2x4, or I go back through recent and past "studies", like the small color pencil image under this blog's title...or I spend hours perusing through image files on the hard drives or the film file drawers until something talks back to me.
I'll be frank...this can be a frustrating process!

In the meantime we're at no loss for work around Prairie Hill Farm; we just finished patching cedar shingles in the barn roof, picking seed on the farm's native pasture, trimming down broken trees from the year's storms, and putting gardens to bed for the coming winter.  Never a dull moment!
Bald Eagle along the valley here below the Prairie Hill Farm Studio
© Bruce A. Morrison
(Click on image for larger view) 
The wildlife around the farm has been changing from summer to winter residents also...this makes things more interesting.  Certain yard birds become more numerous and our winter residents return; like the Bald Eagles in the valley here.  We've now had eagles for the past couple weeks.  It's pretty cool when a bird flies over your head when you're out and about the place, or when one passes by the living room window when your going about business in the house!

It can be pretty inspiring stuff!  Guess I should get busy!

Friday, October 22, 2010


 "Arches Mulie"
color pencil rendering - 5.25X7"
(click on image above to view as a larger size)

Just finished another small color pencil piece I've been working on for some time; this one being done for a specific purpose that I may go into down the road.  But it's not my typical subject and not a regional piece this time.  Occasionally I do stray off the tallgrass, and revisit places we've visited or spent reoccurring time.  This piece is from the memory/photo bank of a visit by Georgie and I to the's been a few years, but this particular trip was memorable for both of us.

Arches National Park was one destination of ours that was pretty amazing for the senses.  Going from NW Iowa to the grand and amazing geological formations of the high desert left an impression!  The colors of the high desert, the flora and fauna, and even the feeling of the place were almost magical; kind of like visiting a different planet!  We camped out there in the winter - yet had no snow, also with comfortable days...a place we could spend more time in without qualms!

There are many more places in our memory banks I try and revisit in my photographs and artwork.  In the meantime I hope you enjoy this "snippet" from a great time and place!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Processing, Processing, Processing...

"M12 Fall Bales"
(photograph - click on to view a larger image)

I Love the Fall!  It's wonderful out after a few frosts have calmed the summer's mosquitoes and other biting bugs.  But it's really the sky, the air and the sun I enjoy...along with fall colors, the crops being harvested, even the early evening light.

But sometimes things catch up with me...I am trying to work on the many image files I downloaded onto the hard drives.  I have processing to do.  A lot of processing to do.

Years back I would always look so forward to going through batches of film, either after I processed it or had it sent out instead.  I shot transparency film, so spent a lot of time over the light table peering through a loupe , checking for film scratches, sharpness and what were "keepers".  When this film returned from a processor, it was almost like Christmas...I'd eagerly open each box in anticipation!  When I processed it myself (E-3, then E4, then E-6 processing), I still got excited about what I was seeing but the work load would temper this enthusiasm somewhat. 

I still look forward to going through images on the computer monitor, the old feeling of anticipation is still there but one thing I have noticed the past 10 years (I've been shooting digital since 2000) is the work load actually gets more cumbersome!  Why?  Well, when I shot film there was a "finite" number of exposures I could'd have to be made of money for that not to be true! With digital I found I was freed up a great deal and did much more experimentation...also I took many more photos of what I'd call "idea" shots...these "ideas" pile up fast!  Soon I have more "ideas" than I can manage - on my hard drive or in my own head!  But I keep recording these ideas...and they need "Processing"...they have to be sorted and filed somehow so I don't forget them or loose track of where they're at.  

Georgie knows how "organized" I am...uh...OK - "disorganized"  :)  But I still plug away.

The "M12 Fall Bales" photo at the top of this post was forgotten...but I only took it 5 days ago!!!  Uh...I also saw numerous...too many to count images that I forgot about, and they've only been taken the past 2-3 weeks!  I think I need to do a dump on my hard drive most people call a "head"!  I seem to be hobbled as to how much can actually go up there and still be retrieved without too much difficulty!

The "M12 Fall Bales" image is something I like to do; panorama shots are becoming more common...I've been doing them since around the time I shifted to digital film, and they were less common then.  There is now a myriad of software and cameras out there that automatically pull these shots together (stitch them) but I am still stubbornly plodding away - doing them the "old" way...stitching frames "by hand"...well, still with the computer, but without the automated programs.  (This shot is made from 4 individual frames.) This takes a while, but it still feels right to me.  Maybe someday the "processing" will get to me and I'll relent and go "auto" (?)...we'll see.

For now I'll still go through all these images that I shot just last week and had forgotten, or will uncover that great moment I remembered from last summer or spring - but tucked away so well I forgot where it was!  

Never a dull moment back to processing...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Studio Autumn

 We can count on the Raccoons here to get themselves into trouble!

Been a lot of activity around here...the critters especially!  Hasn't been a night recently we haven't been serenaded with the Coyotes in the valley, and the night time visitors (Raccoons) to the yard are getting into mischief  here and there.  During the day we are watching the old familiar birds of summer leave us and old familiar friends, such as the Blue Jays, are becoming more and more vocal around the yard.

 Georgie counted 15 Blue Jays in the yard this morning - it's a "party"!
(No, really - that's what a flock of Blue Jays is called...they can also be called a "riot"!)

It's been a busy time digging out from under the A.R.T. weekend too.  Still working on framing orders and commissioned work and watching the neighbors take out their crops - everyone is busy around here right now!

It's been a very warm fall here so far.  We have had a couple frosts but it gets right back up into the 80's and the air's full of all the biting/pesty insects you could ever shake a stick at!  Yesterday Georgie and I finally saw a few clouds in the sky (the past couple weeks have been clear) so we decided to take a Sunday afternoon drive down along the Glacial Trail Scenic Byway south of us, since we hadn't been along it since summer.  There's a temporary web site for the trail run through the Iowa Lakes RC&D at - if you're interested in where it's at...the DOT is putting together a final site that'll be finished sometime in the future.

The Iowa DOT (dept of transportation) has been working to revamp signage and revitalize the byways in the state.  This includes showcasing various places and events in the region and just the natural scenic aspects of the byway area as well.  I freelance throughout the year and last spring got a contract to shoot the landscapes and activities along this byway.

The autumn colors in the NW corner of the state here this fall are not as good as in years past.  Georgie and I found ourselves trying hard to find color compositions along the know things are not good when it becomes work to find fall photographs!  The reds, burgundies, and oranges are not present along the road ways here this year...the yellows are spotty in small numbers.  

Fall color in the trees of NW Iowa are sometimes very hit and miss...sometimes it's just the luck of the draw.  I think the best autumn color this year is in the prairies! Check out this past blog showing Indian grass and New England asters for striking colors - then imagine it "en masse"!  Very satisfying color out on the NW Iowa tallgrass prairies right now!

Hope you're enjoying it!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Thank You!

"Little Sioux Valley Autumn"
photo © Bruce A. Morrison

It was a beautiful weekend during the Artisans Road Trip...the fields here were busy with the harvest and those who were able to get out into the country side enjoyed the clear fall air and warm sunshine.

Here at the Prairie Hill Farm Studio we had many new visitors, which is a good thing!  I like showing work to folks that have never been here - and people that haven't been to the farm or studio are always amazed at the beauty of our location and the studio itself.  It's great to see first impressions in people's eyes!  :)

I'm happy to say that there were several original works that found new homes this year, and I'm always glad to see pieces go to a good home...warms my heart!  You'll notice a few "Sold Signs" at the Studio's web site.  I also have some commissioned work this year which I think is great as well!  In fact I was out and about this morning gathering field material for a commissioned oil painting...autumn is my favorite time of the year to be outside.

I'd like to take a moment to say "Thank You" to everyone who stopped by Prairie Hill Farm Studio to see us.  Thank you for your patronage, interest and support!

Have a great Autumn!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Autumn Begins!

Yes, this evening at 10:09 pm (central time) is the Autumnal Equinox.  And I just learned it's also the Harvest Moon!  I think I remember the first full moon after fall begins is the harvest moon, and by coincidence the moon is full tonight - that hasn't happened in 19 years!  Pretty cool!

Well...we won't be seeing the moon tonight here because we're  having our last stormy day and night of the summer (remember it's still summer till after 10 pm tonight!).  We've been squeezed between some big boomers most of the afternoon...either slipping past us to the east or north.  Hearing that they've been dropping walnut sized hail and larger, we weren't disappointed to be missed! (knock on wood)

Addendum:  well we just got nearly an inch of rain and marble to quarter size hail...all in about 10 minutes...still "feels" like summer!

 "Rain Shaft"
2 1/2 X 3 1/2" (6.4 cm X 8.9 cm) miniature color pencil rendering © Bruce A. Morrison
(Click on image for larger than life size image) 

In honor of the last day of summer I've done a miniature piece entitled "Rain Shaft"   the piece is a color pencil on hot press paper and will be part of a few miniature pieces here for sale during the 2010 Artisans Road Trip coming a week from this Friday (Oct 1st, 2nd and 3rd).

I like doing these small miniatures but I also like doing pieces that can be a spring board for larger works down the road and I think "Rain Shaft" would lend itself wonderfully for an oil or larger color pencil rendering.  That's the way storms look from Prairie Hill Farm during the spring and summer - they can be quite impressive and larger than life!

Like to own your own original work?!  Hey, miniatures are in everyone's budget...and I throw in the easel to boot  :)

Stay safe in the storms and enjoy the fall to come!

Hope to see you here at the studio during A.R.T.!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Nearing the Equinox

 "Night Pasture - Great Horned Owl"
8X24" color pencil rendering - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for larger view)

Summer is just about a memory now.  I'm sure we'll still have plenty of nice days to come "hinting" at what we selectively remember fondly of the past season...but autumn is in the air and the Monarchs have left their roost here at Prairie Hill Farm (see "A Tallgrass Journal" blog) and are well on their way to Mexico!

We're still enjoying the invertebrates of this season though - minus the mosquitoes, black flies and the soon to come hoards of Asian Lady Bird Beetles.  It's a philosophical exercise in "justifying" those bugs that torment us!  But this is the season of goldenrods and asters...and there are still many butterflies, "friendly" wasps, bees, and spiders to see on the prairie!  

We've been enjoying the sounds of the season here very much.  Each night has been bringing the late summer insect serenades, the neighborhood Great Horned Owl has been hooting from the yard by the house around 3-4 a.m. each morning and the Coyotes in the valley have "sung" numerous times for us this month!

I'm going to share our Great Horned Owl, serenading insects and one lone (distant) Coyote calling for it's friends, with you.  I posted this audio snippet with friends on Face Book and I'll share it here on the Prairie Hill Farm blog too.  If you are an e-mail subscriber to this blog you'll need to visit the physical blog or my Studio Face Book page to view/listen!

"Night Noises" - © Bruce A. Morrison

Since Google's blogspot doesn't have a really easy way to post simple audio files, I'll share it as a video file.  The image used on the video is a small "detail" of the image posted at the beginning of this I shared about 3 years back on this very blog.  It is of the pasture across the road from us, depicted at night in late summer - a moon lit landscape with a Great Horned Owl passing through in flight...maybe (?) on it's way up to Prairie Hill Farm to spook a rabbit or skunk out of cover for it's dinner!

This artwork original sold at the Artisans Road Trip back in 2008 but I do have signed open edition prints of this work for sale at the 2010 A.R.T. event this year.  I also have many new works (photographs, drawings and paintings) this year and would love to share them with you at the 2010 Artisans Road Trip coming up in just 2 weeks!  We'll share a lot of mouth watering treats from Georgie's kitchen as well!

Why not go on a early autumn road trip the 1st, 2nd or 3rd of October and stop by the studio here at Prairie Hill Farm?!!!  Even take a walk through the late Tallgrass Prairie here too and enjoy that air we all remember in the fall!

Enjoy the "Night Sounds" audio video and stop in for some day time memories if you're in the neighborhood!!!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nearly September

 "Nearly September"
8X6" oil on mounted canvas
© Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

If  you subscribe to this blog, the title will seem "late"'ll likely receive it "in" September!!  The last hours of August are upon us and we sit and wonder when time will slow...but it was fun while it lasted (I think) and the mosquitoes are getting closer to being zapped away by the eventual first hard frost!  Ya, OK I'm getting too far ahead of myself!  Let's enjoy September now and not look too far ahead.

The small plein air painting I'm posting was done several days back; I'm even late posting it. It was named appropriately (at the time) "Nearly September".  This was one of the last summer skies we had in August, and the goldenrods and sunflowers were beginning to overtake the prairie, bringing the rust and yellow hues of late summer to the grasses of native pasture ground.

I'm very far behind on everything, in the studio and in the field.  I actually missed the peak on our own summer liatris bloom here.  That's just sad!  But we gotta do what we gotta do and that's that.  More framing and printing ahead through September to reach the Artisans Road Trip deadline.  Looking forward to a very nice autumn ahead!  Hope to see you here at the studio in a few weeks!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dry Spell?

August mornings are full of dew covered webs
(click on images for a larger view)

We haven't had rain for almost 2 weeks now!  I'm voicing this as a positive thing, mind you; it is so nice to have a reprieve from constant rain this summer.  One thing it has brought to the region is lush landscapes and record crops though - an amazing change from our normal dry and browning late summer settings.

I'm experiencing a short dry spell in the studio too, was planning on getting some more painting time in but have had several personal and business issues get in the way.  I came to the realization just a couple days ago that I only have 6 weeks to prepare for the Artisans Road Trip on October 1-3! Holy smokes where did the summer go!??! 

The Stiff Goldenrods(Solidago rigida) are bowing over with blossoms 
and the weight of pollinators (Monarchs in this case)!

Well, it (summer) hasn't disappeared yet but it is rocketing toward fall now...what we're seeing on the prairie remnant pasture here is now in the late liatris, prairie onion, goldenrod and sunflower stage.  I had to spend a couple hours in the pasture yesterday clearing the fire break/paths.  The rain has grown monster goldenrods and sunflowers and they've all toppled over each other and onto the paths making mowing impossible.  I had to cut stalks and volunteer trees (we get a lot of mulberry, elm and locust volunteers in the pasture), and wade through a gazillion butterflies, flies, bees and wasps in a feeding frenzy on the blossoms...and mosquitoes on me!

I'm settling in to the studio as best I can to pick up the momentum here now.  But I'm going to have a tough time tearing myself away from the prairie outside the door ...maybe I'll get a chance or two to sneak in a painting yet this summer?!

Friday, August 13, 2010

When it Rains...

Orange and Clouded Sulphurs
(Colias eurytheme and philodice)

As the old adage does pour.  Everything to excess this summer it seems!  Too much rain!  Too much work to wade through (much because of the rain).  But who could ever say too many butterflies?!  Don't look at me!

It has been a busy summer for the Sulphurs...for a couple weeks there they seemed to commit a mass amount of lives to highway traffic.  But on the rural roads and yards every where they are adding a great deal of color.

I'm just stepping off a busy weekend from a bio blitz at Lost Island Lake.  It was a great time to see butterflies, dragonflies, mammals, birds, prairie plants - you name it!  I was in charge of the prairie plant inventory process.  

A Bio Blitz is when a bunch of folks get together in organized groups and methodically walk through specific locations and list species they find.  This is an exciting process but very intense, especially when you are trying to determine species closely related to others or which may be new to you!  I am still going through the listing process but getting closer to the'll be interesting to see what we found as an event!

Get out if you can and enjoy what's going on right's pretty amazing out there!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Night Noise

Sedge Wren singing (during day time!)
from Maximilian Sunflower 
(Helianthus maximlianii) perch

I've been recording the night's recording the night noise, it's mesmerizing.  Painting and photographing the natural world is my avocation...appreciating it is my "hobby" I guess you could say.  A personal interest only for the fun and enjoyment of it.

One thing I've not been totally successful in recording is the Sedge Wren here at Prairie Hill Farm.  They've been elusive to photograph as well, but one special characteristic with the Sedge Wren is one of it's calling habits - it sings nearly all night long!  Well, "singing" is a kind way to describe it.

Sedge Wrens do sing during daylight hours too, but I can't get over how they don't burn themselves out?!  When do they ever sleep?!  I "can" tell you when they don't!  Wake up around here at 1, 2, or 3 a.m. and I'll almost guarantee a Sedge Wren down in the pasture or out back, singing away.

I've been trying to record the nights here this summer...I've done bits and pieces in past years too, but the Sedge Wren's voice doesn't carry loudly enough to record well from the house.  I usually stick a microphone out the upstairs window and then go to bed!  That's the lazy way of recording nature!  I have given thought to taking the equipment out and recording outside...I've done it many times but found out the hard don't let electronics run long outdoors here in the summer at night.  Our dewpoints have been tropical here this the 70's to around 80 degrees.  I fried my parabolic microphone a few years back when I left it outside recording nature sounds.  I got up and went out to turn the tape over in my deck (to record the other side), only to find out the entire set up was covered in a heavy dew...fried everything that was running...a sad state of affairs for a "hobbiest" audio guy, and it took only an hour to do it.  :(

It's wet out there!!!

"Sedge Wren Sunrise"
(oil painting by Bruce A. Morrison)

Sedge Wrens are one of our grassland birds...they prefer tall grass and pasture or prairie or wetland's their cup of tea.  I did a painting of one from a early sunrise encounter one year...the bird singing it's heart out like it was trying to get a few last notes in before the sun over took the landscape.

I'm going to double post this blog onto the "A Tallgrass Journal"'s suitable for both purposes, I'll just tweak it a bit, so if you follow the "A Tallgrass Journal" you'll see the little guy there as well.

Stay up late and give these little guys a of these days I'll possibly be able to post some audio of them for you...good night from the Studio!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

July In The Valley

"July In The Valley"
6X8" oil on mounted canvas
(click on image for a larger view)

July in the valley...I could really get nostalgic about it.  If there were something to hold you through the winter months, one thing would be July in the valley here.

This afternoon the clouds were just wonderful...why should I sound surprised- they always are!  I was able to do a small plein air study from the yard - looking east across the valley here.  Nothing spectacular like a mountain vista but just as pretty in my eyes.  Just as moving in my mind.  Just as perfect a day as there ever was.  I'm looking at this study as a larger finished painting sometime down the road.

Georgie and I sat out on the studio deck late this afternoon after I had finished painting and she had finished with a day of garden work and weeding...and enjoyed a couple beers...the view...and July in the valley...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ever Have One?

Late Afternoon Bales"
(6X8" oil on mounted canvas)

Ever have one of those days where you almost lose it?  I'm sure we all have...yesterday was my turn I guess.  Near panic struck when it appeared both backup hard drives had gone south on me.  What are the chances of that?  I didn't care to entertain the thought...just kept trouble shooting the studio system until I figured out that apparently my firewire board was toast instead.  

Whew...that was close!  But after that I had to backup files via USB...and we're talking Gigs of whole last 2 weeks of field and studio work.  Long story short, I spent over 10 hours doing nothing but transferring ones and zeros.

When Georgie came home for lunch she knew something was wrong...I don't like talking about the computers because it makes both of us crazy!  After I told her (I hadn't figured the firewire issue out yet), she suggested I just go back to bed or lock myself safely away so I wouldn't destroy anything else...was tempted but knew I had to face the music.  Boy that's a sick feeling!

Happy ending though; all was saved.

After the tribulation was over Georgie mentioned to me that one of the neighbors was baling hay across the road.  Been waiting to see that...bales are a favorite farm subject of mine.  

Today was a beautiful day...the short heat spell had broken during the night and the humidity was perfect.  After doing chores and other correspondence on jobs and such I figured it'd be a great day to paint some bales!

A small piece, but you never know - they might come and get them before I finish!!!

Today was more like it. Hope you had a good one as well!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Workin' It and Enjoyin' It

"Late Summer Afternoon"
(12X16" oil on mounted canvas)

There is so much going on out on the prairie these days; keeping up is not realistic but taking advantage of just "some" opportunities here is even tough!

I have been very involved in work on one end of the spectrum...just finished another client's website so was able to put in a little painting time again.  We've had so many amazing skies here the past several weeks and I love painting skies...this "Late Summer Afternoon" painting was one that typically presents itself out west of the "back 80" here, however this time I made up the foreground...the back 80 is in soybeans this summer and just not so interesting visually.  Since this was a plein air study, the foreground was actually put in a few days later back at the studio after some "pondering"; but still done with brief  efficiency of brushwork.

I've been making excursions afield when I'm able and have been back logged with image file processing...I'll post more on the summer prairies in the neighborhood when I get more caught up.

Work it and enjoy it!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Bobolink - male
(click on images to enlarge)

I've been persuing field material...gathering if-you-will.  Two birds have been playing tag with me this summer; I'd like to do some small studies of them...then perhaps a larger piece of work...painting or drawing.  They've both been here in the pastures this summer - should make it easier huh!  Not.  For some reason these guys move onto the neighboring crop ground where I can't get close to them...private ground too.  So I've been looking on public prairie areas that are larger in size, so they don't feel so squeezed when I'm nearby.  I find birds will eventually get used to your presence if they have some space.

Bobolink - female

The two birds are the Bobolinks and the Dickcissels.  Both are grassland obligates, or birds that require grassland habitat to survive and nest.  Interestingly the Bobolinks are one of the first grassland birds to complete nesting and leave.  They are in the process of doing so right now!  

I was photographing on a large prairie area last week and noticed the males were bunching of the first signs that the second phase of their summer was about to begin.  Then I noticed immature birds...young that had fledged (left the nest).  Yup, there they go!

Don't misunderstand, these birds will still be around for a few weeks but not in a predictable manner.  They seem to move from one area to the next for the rest of the summer (kind of nomadic) , and they seldom call and display as they have the past several weeks.  I miss them already!

Dickcissel - male

The Dickcissels are still calling here...saying their name and declaring territory or just enjoying themselves!  Dickcissel males are the real singers, the females have an insect like buzz when they're disturbed around the nest or young.

Dickcissel - female

Have some image files to go through but hopefully will find some possibilities I can entertain.  Gathering images and material is fun, now comes the hard part!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Summer Rambling

"Summer Memories"
(12X16" - oil on mounted canvas)
click image for larger view

I've been waffling from the studio to the prairie to "on the road to nearby prairies", the past couple weeks.  I'm being tugged where ever I look.  I'm convinced I had an attention deficit way back in the 1950's and 60's before there was a name for it!  But I'm trying hard to keep up with it all...finally finished a "farm/summer" landscape.  I'm throwing the word "memories" in the piece title because it was not all painted from life and also because the more I worked on the piece the more I remembered the summer weeks my brother and I would spend together on my grand parent's (my mother's folks) farm in central Iowa way back in the 50's and early 60's.  I have to stop thinking so much about these things as I'm getting way too melancholy for my own good!

"Jack's Bales"
(2 1/2"X3 1/2"color pencil)
click image for larger view

I was also toying with just something fun...something to do with my idle hands when I had no "great" idea boiling in my brain :)  I did this small 2.5X3.5" color pencil rendering from a photograph I took across the road from us about 3 years back.  Just to have a little more fun with it I've put it onto a miniature easel for great fodder for thought but ya gotta keep things less serious sometimes.


Out in our native pasture, the succession of forbs (wildflowers) is moving right along.  We've experienced quite a bit of rain in June here. 14.35" here at our Prairie Hill farm...I don't believe we even had 1 inch here last year during the same was extremely dry then.  Feast or famine!  The mosquitoes have now arrived with all this standing water and a walk through the prairie brings other logistical problems...I've taken to wearing my bug hat and a cotton sweatshirt!  Like a mini sauna...great for a weight loss aid!

Showy tick trefoil
(Desmodium canadense)
click image for larger view

One forb I like collecting seed from is the Showy tick trefoil...I used to collect it's seed when I was a kid - but never knew it...well, I knew it but didn't know what it was and didn't appreciate it!  The seed, sometimes called "beggars tick", sticks to anything...kinda like a predecessor to velcro!  I love it now because you don't need a bag or sack to collect it...just walk through it and it sticks to your clothes!  Then pick it off when you get front of the TV works for me  :)

Hope you can get out, avoid the skeeters, and enjoy the prairie!

Friday, June 25, 2010

After the Solstice

 Prairie Phlox and American Vetch
(Phlox pilosa and Vicia americana)
Summer is truly here to stay and so much is going on that I'd like to run some where and hide for 3 months!  Way too much to see yet so many conflicts and little time to take advantage of things on the prairie.  I'm very fortunate to have some native pasture here to walk through at almost a moments notice...that is my "sanity buffer" I guess!

Our Prairie Phlox is nearly finished here; with the warm (hot) weather, things seem to progress faster. I like it for it's early stark contrast of color against the grasses.  We've never had a lot and that's something I need to work on.  (I'll put it on that very long to-do list.)

 Common Milkweed
(Asclepias syriaca)

One thing we do have plenty of (and so does everyone in the neighborhood) is Common Milkweed.  But I like it.  Although I will thin larger stands, I do not eradicate it because it is a good host plant for Monarchs and Milkweed Tiger Moths.  Last year one evening I also discovered that the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds even feed from the plant's flowers!  Never seen that before so was very surprised!  All the Asclepias family (milkweeds) have amazing flowers...get up close and see for yourself!

Let's see...what's next on that list...?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

On The Tallgrass

 Prairie Coreopsis and Prairie Phlox
(Coreopsis palmata and Phlox pilosa
(click on all images for a larger view)

When I think of the prairie I think of grasses, forbs (wildflowers), birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates (insects).  As an artist, I work on what interests and inspires me...that's what anyone should do.  The tallgrass prairie interests me.

In this blog "Prairie Hill Farm Studio" you'll often see artwork...paintings, drawings, and photographs.  I also might occasionally spend a lot of time just talking about the habitat - the prairie; a preoccupation for this subject should be expected...otherwise, why would I be inspired by it?!

This is a segue of sorts for a journal I published online since 2002 - A Tallgrass Journal.  I'm transitioning this "journal" into a new blog I'll be posting on occasion.  The journal is about the tallgrass prairie and all that relates to it or is affected by it.  It's part commentary, part informative and part also about my personal experiences.

If you find an interest in the prairie - injected here and there in my "ramblings", consider wandering onto the tallgrass on occasion when the mood strikes your fancy.  You'll find out things happening here at Prairie Hill Farm that aren't discussed in the "Studio" blog.  I might share prairie related issues that exist here or region wide; for example I might share informative links on specific things relating to the prairie such as insects, plants, planting, burning, herbicides, and issues relating to these.

If you'd like a walk through the Tallgrass , visit and subscribe, follow or visit!

Yesterday morning was my first opportunity in 2-3 weeks to get out and walk the prairie myself...trying to pay bills is no fun!  But getting out is, and the morning was perfect for the camera...barely a breath of wind makes photographing grasses and forbs simply a pleasure!  

Porcupine grass (Stipa spartea)

I have a couple grasses here in our remnant pasture that are flowering and fruiting and at nearly the same time - one is Porcupine grass (Stipa spartea)...the other is Scribner's panic grass (Panicum oligosanthes).  But these grasses are nothing alike in appearance!  How can a simple grass inspire visually?  Well, much of what inspires can be subjective...subject to the "experience" or "landscape", and maybe that's too difficult to briefly discuss here - but both grasses inspire me for several reasons and I'd just say "come on over" and we'll take a look!  But come over soon as they'll be finished and done for the year soon...these are just a couple of a few cool season native grasses and will give way to the others, and then to the later warm season species here.

 Scribner's panic grass (Panicum oligosanthes)

In the mean time I'd just suggest - stop and take a real close look, even touch or step back and admire as well...there's a lot out there on the Tallgrass!