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!