Wednesday, December 21, 2011


"Along Red Mountain Pass" - oil on canvas
© Bruce A. Morrison

I have been buried, literally, in work this month - as I'm sure many of you are experiencing as well!  But being extremely busy can be a positive thing - at least that's the way I'm going to take it!

Today is the winter solstice!  And here we are...brown, only a smidge of snow left here and there in the shadows!  I had a client come over the other evening to pick up a framed piece; they said, "Brown Christmas - White Easter."  I can live with that.  However it does seem out of character for a brown Christmas here...I only remember one brown Christmas in NW Iowa in 61 years...its just not normal!

I had used the painting above in a blog last winter sometime...Its what I used this Christmas on my cards sent out to family, friends and clients, so I'll use it here as a "wish" for you.

I would like to wish you the very best this Christmas - and the best possible new year in 2012.  God Bless and thank you for your support over the years for my work...I hope to keep it up!

See you next year!

Friday, December 2, 2011


Wow, when did December sneak in??!!  Did it catch you by surprise too?  I knew in the back of my mind it was coming, but I'm somehow behind in my work here and was hoping I could beat its arrival with some jobs I'm working on.

One thing that has snuck up on me is the December 3rd Open House for Peterson area artists...I guess they consider me one of the group!

I'll be at McGee's Gallery on main street in Peterson Iowa tomorrow, December 3rd, from 9a.m through 6p.m.  We'll have lots of treats and things to see and discuss!

Be sure and stop by if you get a chance to enjoy our "almost winter" festivities!

And if you're part of the Noon Kiwanis in Spencer, Iowa, I hope to see you Monday for your monthly program...I'll be introducing the good folks there to the studio and the work I'm involved in throughout the year!

Also I just want to give another plug for your Christmas shopping - I do have a lot of very nice new paintings, drawings, prints and photographs for your hard to buy for significant "other", parent, grand parent, spouse or sibling! Give us a call and stop by anytime!  Buy "made in the USA" this year!

All our best!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Valley Fare

"Morning Light on Waterman"
12X16" oil on mounted canvas - SOLD
© Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

Its not winter here yet...which is unusual for this time of year.  Well, it was 5 degrees above zero (Fahrenheit) when I started this morning, and the trees had a neat little coating of ice glistening in the morning sun - but still no snow.  This is somewhat unusual for here...yesterday I was reading a report about how our area is experiencing its second driest season on record.  Yesterday's ice was the result of about .01" of wind driven mist...that's about as good as the moisture "machine" can do around here right now.

But I've been working on warmer themes in the studio anyway, no matter what it decides to do in the valley outside.  This was a piece I've been working on for some time and depicts the Waterman Creek below us as it flows just south of here.  The morning I was there experiencing this actual scene, it was still and pleasant with the morning sun burning through the trees, trying to awaken the sleeping stream still tucked away in dawn's shadow.

Portraying an image like this is very can one be "objective" about an emotional/personal experience such as this?!  There is some symbolism here and it is personal for me...I do that sometimes but do not usually talk about it; I want the art work to stand on its own and for others to have their own experience within it.  I have said it before - I do like an image I can drift through; I think I have given the opportunity here.

Thanksgiving is coming up very soon!  I'm supporting Small Business Saturday this year, instead of Black Friday!  As a small business, I provide things that cannot be found on typical Black Friday fare.  But I want to put a call out there for all artists - studios and galleries...we do what we can to provide beauty and substance to the world out there.  Support your local artists and galleries! 

Happy Thanksgiving out there next week!!!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Got the Blues...

Great Lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica)
color pencil drawing -  © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 

My mother's favorite color was blue.  I remember all the things she decorated with; many things throughout the house favored blue. I think of her during the year when the few blue flowers of the prairie bloom.  In the spring it's Blue-eyed Grass, in the late summer its some of the asters, (like Sky Blue Aster) the early fall, for me its Great Lobelia!

I came across a large group of Great Lobelia this past September on a hillside seepage.  I took several photographs of the plants but none seemed to do them justice, like I feel they I decided to make it a fall project to do a small color pencil of them instead.  I should probably title this piece something like "Great Lobelia Blues".

I've not had success getting this wildflower to grow in our pasture because we're fairly gravely here, and this flower really favors a wet location.  Now I have a small bouquet of them "growing" in a frame in my studio...a nice way to remember my mother, and a late September morning on the prairie.


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tough Job but...

 "Autumn Along Jordan Creek"
8.5X12" - color pencil drawing - art work © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

Autumn was different here this year.  We had early, but not complete leaf drop.  Poor color, mostly brown due to the warm and dry weather.  Then by the last week of October, what was left around here did turn color.  Never been colors to this extent, this late...not that I can remember any way.  Now the leaves are passing and dropping.

I'm not sure I'm ready for this!  The bare landscape I mean...well, also the cold weather.  It does keep me inside and working though, maybe that's a good thing.

I just finished another color pencil piece, this one a little larger than usual for me.  I was discussing work time with someone on color pencil pieces like this yesterday and they asked me how long this piece was taking.  I'm not on the clock so much except in my head and I just guessed 7-9 weeks.  Well, I was off some, it took 6 instead. It just seemed so long!

"Autumn Along Jordan Creek" is from the "neighborhood" again.  This scene is actually about 4 miles southwest of the studio.  Jordan creek is very small in stature and eventually runs into the Waterman about 4-5 miles from this spot.  Its the kind of creek you could jump across in spots when you were a kid, and maybe just get your shoes muddy in trying to do so.  Its also the kind of creek you could still enjoy exploring, wading and catching frogs.  Its a cool little creek.

They weren't doing so the day I stopped by, but the small stunted Ash trees are assuredly the preferred shade for the local grazing herd of cattle during the hot oppressive days of summer.  In fact I took shelter in shade much like this and waded little creeks like this for hot summer afternoon relief many, many years ago and that's the kind of artwork I like to spend long hours on.  Hey, its a tough job but somebody has gotta do it!

Come by the studio some time this winter when you long for some cooling shade and a wade down the creek!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Indian Summer

"Mid October Along Waterman"
photograph © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 

I've visited Indian Summer in past blogs, its such a bitter sweet time of the year (as memories of Indian Summers past are as well).  I can't get over the transformation the landscape undergoes at this time either.  Here, its been very dry, not like drought stricken areas in the south and southwest but dry for "here"; nearly no rain of consequence since July...none measurable here at Prairie Hill Farm since August or early September.

I looked forward to walking the Waterman when fall took hold in the valley here, but it was so dry and windy for an extended period that the leaves simply dried up, turned brown and dropped!  That is when the landscape takes on a new character and visually becomes more elusive for "me".  

I like this time of the year.  I enjoy time in the warm sun with a cool/crisp air about, making things very pleasant.  A good hike doesn't seem as taxing in the fall...the usual tormenting entourage of insects have "mostly" abated.  Birds are moving through; the music is different but contemplative.  

On the day this image was taken, the banks and sand bars were hopping with small Eastern Chorus Frogs out sunning themselves, basking in the warmth of an Indian Summer day.  I haven't seen that in many years...what good fortune for me!  

Eastern Bluebirds lined the fence lines when I come up upon a field; their sweet understated conversations were relayed down the line from post to post, wire to wire.  What pleasantry!  

A Beaver dam came into view and I walked around and above it...there laid the cache, or beginnings of one for their winter storage.  It wasn't a high dam but the pool behind was substantial...I'd watched two Beaver downstream from here about 3 weeks earlier, I'm sure this is their lair. 

I followed all kinds of tracks along the creek all the way back to the road, a section of ground away; its been a long walk...I hope its not too long before the next one!
Happy Indian Summer, may there be many more days to enjoy before the snow flies!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Real Fun of It!

 "September Morning on the Waterman"
photograph © Bruce A. Morrison

I'm going to do something I haven't done before now - post the same blog 3 times!  I do 2 blogs for the Artisans Road Trip and I think I want to say the same thing for my own studio blog as well.

Thank you to everyone who took in the 2011 Artisans Road Trip weekend on 9/30/11 through 10/2/11! It was a win-win for everyone out there! The "road trippers" had a very nice weekend of things to do and see, and the artists received some support for their efforts, got to meet new people and had fun showing off their wares and works!

And I'm no exception - I really enjoy showing off the studio here along the Waterman Creek valley south of B40.  Its a beautiful scenic location and so many new visitors are very surprised its here and they never knew about it!  That's the real fun of A.R.T.!

That's the case with all facets and artists of A.R.T. - there's a pleasant surprise around every corner!  Unique studios and galleries, one of a kind works and memorable travels around our beautiful corner of the state!

Thank you for supporting the Arts in NW Iowa!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bluebird Morning

"Waterman Sunrise"
photograph © Bruce A. Morrison

Someone coined days like this morning as a "Bluebird Morning".  I think the still clear air and a beautiful sunrise make the grade as a Bluebird Morning!

They didn't pose for me but as I was shooting this landscape, a couple Beavers were swimming in the pool of the creek, in front of the foreground tree.  And a hundred or so Canada Geese flew over calling all along the way and into the distance...a Bluebird Morning must be a good thing!

The 2011 Artisans Road Trip is in just 5 days!  See photographs like this from the "neighborhood" here and many other paintings and drawings here in the studio at Prairie Hill Farm.   

A.R.T. is next Friday (September 30), from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday (October 1 and 2), from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Hope to see you then!!!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Way Back When

"Cattle Crossing"
color pencil drawing  © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 

Way back when I was a kid, I used to spend a great deal of time walking the farm country west of our town where I grew up in NW Iowa.  I had (still have) a good friend whose family had a large farming operation and a good herd of what I believe were Angus cattle back then.  Well maybe they were Limosins or some other breed of predominately black cows, I don't know, but I got quite used to walking their paths and occasionally walking through the herds.  

Lately I've been walking several places in the "neighborhood", and really the only kind of surroundings I care to traverse are pasture and woodland, but mostly the river and creek bottoms...great place for an interesting stroll with the cameras. 

One thing about cows, they seem to know the best stream crossings, and I usually trust them.  Some time back I was walking along with a scattered herd, along Waterman Creek near here; it was a wonderful little stretch of stream mostly uninterrupted by fence lines.  While taking photographs along the creek bottom I noticed this great old Ash tree casting shade along a sandy bar in the bend of the creek.  It was early morning and the cast shadow and early sunlight were making for a really nice image.

I don't always think "photograph" when shooting scenes like this...I often get an idea or feeling for the scene and just go with it.  Later when I'm back in the studio processing files on the computer, the image itself decides whether or not something "stays" as a photograph or gets used as material to do a painting or drawing from.

As you can see, I ended up doing a small color pencil drawing of the "Cattle Crossing" there along the creek...and yes, I did cross there :)

There isn't much time for anything but studio work here right now - the 2011 Artisans Road Trip is coming up fast!!!   I do hope you'll set aside the weekend of September 30 (Friday from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.), and October 1st and 2nd (Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)!  It should be a beautiful weekend and we're really looking forward to it!

Hope to see you here at the studio!!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Painting Summer

"Summer Evening on Waterman"
oil on mounted canvas - 9X12"
© Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

Just finished a small oil painting here in the studio over the weekend. This painting is of our favorite creek and at a location we pass nearly every week, all year around.  Its one of those scenes that has screamed to be painted and this late evening light, with the long shadows and bright passages of the last bright sun light was finally perfect last week.  Its not a scene I'd care to try plein air...for two reasons - I don't believe I'd do it justice in these last fleeting moments, and this scene is only visible as you cross over a small rural bridge in our "neighborhood"...I don't like the idea of standing on a little bridge when a tractor or wagon has to come by and cross!

I hated having to work inside as it was glorious weather out there!  But time is closing in on the 2011 Artisans Road Trip and I've been working on new works for the studio/gallery here for visitors to see when they stop in over that weekend.

The Artisans Road Trip is a great time for everyone to get out and travel the roads "less traveled" and visit artists in their studios, and get to know them a little better!  The 2011 A.R.T. event is the very end of this month - and the first Saturday/Sunday in October!  The exact times and dates are - Friday September 30th from 4 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday - October 1st and 2nd, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  If you'd like more information on the 2011 A.R.T., check out the web site and visit the artists listing there...check out individual artists by clicking their names and even check out the regional maps for their locations (the "Maps" link on the home page).

Hope to see you there in the first weeks of Autumn!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Working the Summer Landscape

"Late Afternoon on Dog Creek"
photograph © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

The landscape is the staple of my winter work here at the studio, and the summer has not stood still while I spent the last several weeks putting the finishing touches on the "From the Tallgrass" exhibit - so I've been out hiking around the "neighborhood" trying to catch those last summer days before autumn throws too many hints around.
The past couple summers here have been a major bust with area streams...flooding creeks and rivers.  But after about a 23 month trend, we've gone through a decent dry spell and I've tried to revisit the creeks in the familiar haunts nearby.  Now, I'll admit I've been searching for ideas for future painting projects - not photographs...but things have not been going that way!
I've spoken of this quandary to a small degree in a recent issue of my studio newsletter...I like to gather information in the field for future artwork ideas.  I compile this information (files of photographs) for later reference material to work from - usually during the winter months when I'm in the studio almost all the time.
But I've been coming up with photographs I like as "photographs"!  Why bother redoing something that works as it "is"?  I don't like the idea of reworking something that already works!    The above image of Dog Creek, a few miles south of here, is a good example.  I found the late afternoon back-lit subject shouting for attention; the small creek quietly meandering in its narrow channel, catching the light in an almost elegant manner...the open shadows inviting the eye into the scene, embraced by the canopy of branches.  What a nice painting idea!
The quandary arises once I'm back at the studio "processing" image files from the day's explorations...dang it!  It works so well on its own, and I like it!  That's important too right?!  OK, another nice photograph of a small prairie stream may soon find its way to the studio's gallery wall.  The idea of a painting lost...well at least for now; no need to redo something that works quite nicely already...there'll be another painting down the road eventually!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Mid (to late?) Summer at Prairie Hill Farm

Big Bluestem in flower at the Prairie Hill Farm Prairie
image © Bruce A. Morrison

Its really past what I'd consider "mid" summer here on the prairie now, but there is about a month of summer left to enjoy yet!  We had one nasty storm just two days ago and were very fortunate that we only lost a couple trees and gained a mess in the landscape with shredded leaves and plants...didn't do the gardens any good either.

I don't think the small prairie here will look too great the rest of the summer but think that "close-up" you may not be too disappointed.  I decided to put together an 8 minute video (long for me) of the prairie here before the storm (some footage the day before), much of which was compiled "mid" summer. 

(If you get this blog via e-mail subscription, you may not see the embedded video and will have to follow the link to view.)

I'm hoping to make this video part of the "From the Tallgrass" exhibit at Arts on Grand - at the Artist's Reception tonight!  One last plug!  :)  5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. - hope to see you there!  The exhibit runs through September 25th so if you can't make the reception, you'll have nearly the "rest of the summer" to make it!

You can go online and view "Mid Summer at Prairie Hill Farm" here - (the HD version is much more fun to watch on you tube any way!)...

Have a great "late" summer!


Friday, August 12, 2011

From the Tallgrass - the First Exhibition

Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) at the Prairie Hill Farm Prairie
Photograph © Bruce A. Morrison

"From the Tallgrass", an exhibit of paintings, drawings and photography of the Tallgrass Prairie opens on Tuesday, August 16th next week!  I'm both excited and nervous but I think that comes from spending all your time in the tallgrass and not enough around other homo sapiens!  OK, thats a bit tongue-in-cheek, but it has been a long time since I went solo in an exhibit.  Most of the last few weeks has been completely devoted to framing, re-framing, and all the other things that figure into something like this...there is so much more to it than meets the eye.

The prairie is the subject matter of course, and the prairie has been going great guns this summer - very hard to keep up!!!  I think once we get the show hung in a few days, I need to step back onto the prairie and see what I've been missing these past weeks!!!

The Exhibit "From the Tallgrass" runs through September 25th.  There will be an artist's reception on August 25th from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.  The exhibit is at Arts on Grand in Spencer, Iowa.  You can always give them a call, should you have any questions, at (712) 262-4307; they're open Tuesday through Saturday!

Hope to get to see and talk with you at the reception on the 25th (last Thursday in August)!  If not, please try and get over to Arts on Grand to see the show!


Friday, August 5, 2011

A Prairie Cantabile

"Prairie Cantabile"  Painted Violin 
(casein on applied canvas)
© Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

Not many folks have seen the painted violin I did several years ago, for a fund raiser to benefit the NW Iowa Symphony Orchestra.  I have a solo exhibit coming up at Arts on Grand in Spencer, Iowa, in a couple weeks and this piece will be there.  The buyers have agreed to let me show the piece once again and I will honestly say I am still taken aback by it...I can't believe how nice is looks, I'm extremely proud of this piece!  It was my first attempt with Casein as a painting medium...casein is extremely permanent...I believe it is one of the earliest painting medias in use today.

"Cantabile" is from the Italian meaning "worthy to be sung".  I sing praises of the prairie in all my works; what more aptly fits than this title for this work?!!  The back of the violin depicts the prairie as a landscape, the front of the piece celebrates the prairie "up front" and close-up.

From the Tallgrass" is the title of this solo exhibit.  It opens August 16 and runs through September 25th.  There will be an "Artist's Reception" on Thursday the 25th, from 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.  Please come and enjoy this exhibit devoted to our region's natural and cultural heritage!

I'll be referring to "From the Tallgrass" a few more times this month...hope you can make it to Spencer during the show! 

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Odonata Summer

Twelve Spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) - male
on Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya)
(click on image for a larger view)

Its dragonfly and damselfly time on the prairie...they've been around for a few weeks but "now" they're coming on in real abundance and variety.  And about time!  These guys are good "mosquito hawks" and really help in that regard!  Besides they are really cool to watch.  

I like to follow the bloom here on the prairie pasture for good examples of flowers to use in my work...if I get out early enough there is less of a breeze and the chances of getting good photographs of things like the dragonflies improves.  I can often find them covered with a coating of dew and they're more at the mercy of the camera because they can't fly.

The Twelve Spotted Skimmer, pictured above, is a fairly common one all over the region but is still a very showy insect, especially when hanging out on a tall liatris above its prairie surroundings!

The Twelve Spotted Skimmer was here out at our place, but I found the Widow Skimmer shown below at an area preserve that had been recently acquired through the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. I may blog separartely on that in the Tallgrass Journal blog if I get a chance.

Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) - female
(click on image for a larger view)

 The Widow Skimmer was still covered with dew when I found her in a new addition to Waterman Prairie south of us.  One thing you'll find with odonates is the sexes are marked differently and often differing colors too...kinda like song birds often are.  Go ahead and click on each of these photos for a closeup of real cool insects!

For some reason my blogs blinked out "photo-wise" for 2-3 days or so but I have them back online gremlins!  :(  Sorry for the inconvenience if you happened to log on then, but we're up and running again!

Hope you're having a great summer!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Monarch Summer

Monarch with a caterpillar tattered Heliopsis helianthoides
(click on image for a larger view)

This is going to be a double post this time, both here and on the Tallgrass Journal blog as well...the prairie is an important theme in my work and my interests elsewhere. 

 Have you been seeing many Monarch butterflies out there this summer?  We've had a good number here on the remnant prairie pasture here at the studio...but the question is also academic, I guess you could say.  The Monarch Butterfly is probably one of our best know insects in North America, yet is one with many issues regarding its health and future in our world.

Journey North, an educational project through The Annenberg Foundation, is asking the question, and has been asking it for several years now.  Journey North is "A global study of wildlife migration and seasonal change."  It is also described as a "free citizen science project for students across North America".  Although this was intentionally set up as a K-12 curriculum, it is open to anyone's participation, and frankly benefits from that.  To learn more about the Monarch and Journey North go to their page at

I like to send in reports as they transform here at the prairie, it contributes to a better understanding of the Monarch and keeps tabs on issues of their population health and the environment around them...they are quite like the proverbial "canary in the coal mine".

Monarch Watch is much the same...Monarch Watch is part of the Biological Survey through the University of Kansas.  Monarch Watch is about the same business as Journey North - the health and status of this North American icon butterfly.  Monarch Watch also takes on the promotion of "habitat for Monarchs".  And because I like to watch and photograph (and draw and paint) Monarchs, habitat "is" important.  

If you are ever interested in growing thing for Monarchs, the following might be helpful.

They're well know for their dependence on milkweeds.  We have 4 species of Asclepiadaceae (milkweed family) here at Prairie Hill Farm - Common (A. syriaca), Butterfly Milkweed (A. tuberosa), Swamp Milkweed (A. incarnata) and Whorled Milkweed (A. verticillata)...the latter, Whorled, is the only one that seems to be more of a "pest" plant here...I've never encouraged it but it is definitely the "bully" milkweed!  Which seems somewhat humorous because its also the smallest in stature...but I also see it as the milkweed of preference for the Monarchs here...oh, they love the Butterfly Milkweed, but mostly the seed pods!  Which I try and save to use for future propagation.  You'll often see me picking Monarch caterpillars off of the A. tuberosa and repositioning them onto the A. verticillata plants!  

But Monarchs, in the butterfly stage, love to feed on just about any nectar, so any wildflower you can find out here on the prairie is a great food source for Monarchs!  If I were to vote on what the butterflies like "here", I'd say mid summer favorites are the Heliopsis helianthoides like in the post photo above (sometimes called Ox-eye sunflower, but it isn't really a sunflower), Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), Gray-headed Coneflowers (Ratibida pinnata), Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum) and of course, flowers of all the milkweeds.  Later on in the summer the Liatris family and all the Goldenrods and all the Asters are butterfly magnets!  "Here" the Stiff Goldenrods (Solidago rigida) are the Monarch champs...they are very aggressive forbs too so they aren't necessarily "my" favorites!  

A side benefit here is our grove bordering the north and west side of our acreage.  We tend to be a migration stop-over in September here...its great seeing the 1-2-3 hundred or more Monarchs gather together in the evening, and disperse again in the morning!  What a great circle for the season to complete...I recommend keeping your proverbial door open for the Monarch each year...we need them and they need us!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Work'n the Summer

Late July Mid Afternoon (reworked)
9X12" - oil painting on mounted canvas
© Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

 July has been busy and like I remembered it as a kid - Hot!  Well it may not seem hot to my friends in Arizona or California, but we have some fairly messy dewpoint levels here (humidity)!  I can always take the heat but add a 75 degree dewpoint to it and I think climate change means we are the new Panama!!  :)

I have my first solo exhibit in decades coming up next month and I am really hustling to get everything ready for it.  The exhibit will be at Arts on Grand in Spencer, Iowa.  The show opens on August 16th and runs through September 24th.  There will be an opening evening event (I think they call it a "gallery talk") on August 25th, a Thursday begins around 5:30 p.m.   This is a good time to talk with me about anything and have refreshments and hors d'oeuvres.  And it would be a really great time getting to meet some of my blog friends if we haven't already done so!

When preparing for something like this, a great deal of time is spent matting and framing, varnishing, and even reworking paintings.  Any artist will tell you that sometimes knowing when something is really finished isn't s easy as you'd think!  The above painting was presented in this blog earlier (Here), but there was something about it that did not look "finished" to me...something was missing and I was fairly sure from the moment I had the thought, as to what it was needing!  A visual threshold; you know, like when you enter a room or space and "step" into it.  This painting was too flat for a visual "entrance"...had no weight to its foundation...I could think of several more metaphors but you may get the drift.  I think it now has that foundation and a threshold to enter over and into the space. 

 Late July Mid Afternoon (unfinished version)

(You can compare with the previous version here and see what I mean.)

I am also still at the easel and working in the field each day I can manage.  The early morning hikes with the camera equipment have been invigorating and I'm finding I'll be a long while editing through all the material I come up with!  Is that what "winters" around here are for??

Valley Plum Thicket Study
6X8" - oil painting on mounted canvas
© Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

Here is a small study I did just recently...the plums and spring are long past but we had some freakish weather here during the Wild Plum got very hot and windy for a couple days straight and the bloom was on and over in just 2-3 days.  Pretty disappointing because I look forward to it each year!  I did this study from some photos of past blooms here in the valley, to make up for missing them this year.

Well, back to work here in the studio.  I do hope I'll get to see you at my exhibit opening evening in August!  I'll be posting about it some more in the coming weeks.

Stay cool and enjoy July!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Slow Down!

July 1st Thunderhead in the valley
Photograph © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

July, what ever happened to June!??  Things really have to slow down here, I'm just way too far behind in my work!

I couldn't resist posting another thunderhead off over the valley here...this one is fresh off the camera, just 45 minutes ago!  Things develop, change and move on all the time in nature...shouldn't expect anything different here!

I've been painting and framing and printing like a maniac in the studio the past few weeks...getting ready for a solo exhibit at Arts on Grand (Spencer, Iowa) in August.  I'll fill in more details in the weeks ahead...but I'll say it right now and again with each post - I sure would love to see ya there in August; I haven't met some of my blog friends yet!  Wouldn't that be great! 

In the meantime - enjoy every bit of July you can...time is not waiting for us!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Summer Days

"Dawn in the Valley"
© Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 

This is a repost from my "A Tallgrass Journal" blog this morning.  Frequently my activities take me through the same avenues in my art work as well as in my interest of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. I've been spending these days exploring prairie remnants, but still along the little creek that flows past our home in the valley.  The tallgrass is entering summer now and there is no holding it back!

One pleasant personal observation this year has been the larger than remembered vocal presence of Dickcissels.  They are even calling from the fences bordering our own yard!  Now this is likely a good opportunity to get more photos of this grassland favorite...but Murphy's Law steps in with cases like this.  If you go out and dig thistle or mow, or pull brome - they sing praises to you!  If you even carry something "looking like" a camera - they leave for the neighbor's pasture!  Little buggers!  But it's nice to hear and see so many here this summer; would be nice if they were actually rebounding a little.  

I'm embedding a very short video here of a male Dickcissel singing from a pasture fence post...many people don't realize what a pretty little bird this is (or don't even recognize what kind of bird it is!)...although the video isn't a "close-up" of the bird, it will give you an idea of how it looks. For a better look at a Dickcissel, you can view a closer shot in a past post in this blog - Here.  If you subscribe to this blog via e-mail the link for the video feed is -  (That link would also allow full screen viewing.)

Enjoy the birds on the prairie this summer!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer Solstice

"Sunrise on McCormack"
photograph © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 

Today, as I write this entry, is the Summer Solstice.  There is something about those words, "summer solstice" that I find almost mystical...mysterious...much like a bank of intangible emotions.  The evenings now have an air of insects and amphibians, carried aloft across the valley and into the yard windows.  It lulls you to sleep and brings pleasant dreams, but not really of this world.  

Does summer take on a more specific meaning or feeling to a person after many decades on this earth?  I have to believe so. The seasons have long been compared to our lives; maybe the summer solstice reminds me of younger days...I don't know.  But it does make me feel motivated somehow.  My motivation is "out there" certainly...out there, outside that yard window, that music in the valley that Georgie and I embrace each morning, afternoon and evening.

If I were to sit upon a twig and float down the creek outside our door, I would eventually pass this place I've photographed here.  It reminds me of the summer solstice...there is that same feeling of fleeting intangibles I'm so desperately trying to put into words.  And now that this moment has passed, the days will very slowly shorten once again, but I am grasping every encounter and savoring and caching them for the rest of the summer and into the final seasons.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Our "Mountains"

Anviled Thunderhead in the Valley
Photograph © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

I get to feeling like a broken record around here in the spring, summer and fall.  The view here is very nice, but add the drama of the morning or evening skies and it can be quite amazing!

I've been working on some landscape photography and painting ideas the past couple weeks in the "neighborhood", and was processing several of the image files I'd taken yesterday afternoon and evening.  Georgie had alerted me to the cloud formations forming out across the road, so I took periodic trips out to the pasture and took some photographs...about every time I'd head back into the studio for more work, I'd look out the window and everything had changed and needed shooting again!  Its hard getting anything done here in the summer, especially in the late afternoon!

This thunderstorm (which I guess was actually in northern Kossuth County and into Minnesota) eventually "anviled" out and was very dramatic across the valley, with a blue sky backdrop and the evening sun lighting its facade!

I do say it a lot, but I'm gong to say it again...the clouds are our mountains out here on the prairie, and they are beautiful and awesome!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

100...From the Cellar to the Fire!

Cope's Gray Tree Frog on Solomon Seal here in the
garden at Prairie Hill Farm
(Click image to view larger size)

Its a windy blustery day here at the studio and acreage...the kind of wind you'd get from a fan placed inside the oven and blowing into your face!  Good grief its only early June and we already hit 100 degrees fahrenheit yesterday!   The yard thermometer said 104 but the official Spencer temp was 100.

This morning I was watering some things in the vegetable garden and some newer flower beds and planters.  With the wind so high I pulled the "sprinkler" spigot off the watering can and refilled from the rain barrels.  Imagine the humorous surprise when I was watering the peppers and a Tree Frog popped out of the spigot with the water onto the plants!  It looked quite surprised!  At least it was hydrated.   :)
The frog is a Copes' Gray Tree Frog and very common here and its a favorite of ours! (I say that so much for everything but it is what it is.)  Both Georgie and I love the frogs and toads here.

This is the real beginning of the tree frog season here in the valley.  We'll hear them in chorus with the Cricket Frogs for the next 3-4 weeks, then they'll be quiet (for the most part) for the rest of the summer.  But we'll keep finding them here in the yard and around the buildings all summer long.  Gotta love these little guys!

Watch your step and enjoy our small gifts!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Summer Green...Thinking Ahead!

Late July Mid Afternoon 
9X12" - oil painting on mounted canvas
© Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 
I just finished a small painting in the studio this afternoon; it was of a summer day Georgie and I went exploring along the Little Sioux River down in Cherokee County, south of us.  I remember it being a fairly hot and humid day...a typical "dog days of summer" kind of day.  Those were the days I remember most as a kid out of school for the summer.  Loved those times!

The area depicted was down near the Silver Sioux Recreation Area...a pretty neat place.  This exact location was nearby in the Stiles Woodland ...I believe it is a private preserve overseen by a nonprofit group...could be mistaken about that but it is open to casual visitors at times...there is signage there at its entrance giving information about it. 

What I remember about the preserve is the high sun of the day creating stark contrast and shadow...the distant hillside looked hazy in the mid day humidity.  These impressions give me fodder later on when working from the memory of the place and photos I took. I have heard the saying from many sources that the greens of spring and summer are the most difficult to paint.  Since these are the times of year I really enjoy, I have to tackle these issues head on.  Keeping interest and movement or flow through a painting can be challenging with so much green!  There was a small barn along a small creek there that I painted red (it was no longer showing paint) to add a complimentary color, giving relief and a focal point.  I knew the barn would help visually when I spotted it there that afternoon.

Studio work is getting difficult!  It is finally trying to be spring out there and all that comes with it make for more time outside.  Hope you're enjoying some outside time as well!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

New Post - Update

American Goldfinch - male
photograph © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 

I think you could say this is an update on an older blog.  In the "New Post" blog from March 30 I talked about the Goldfinches molting here at the acreage.  Well, they've completed the molt cycle a couple weeks or more back and I thought I'd throw one up for you to see a male American Goldfinch in all its finery :)  I'm showing the back of the bird because it's the showiest profile...the beautiful stark black and white patterns with the bird's bright yellow back and nape and the forehead black again (as well as the accent of the bill coloration).  What a pretty little bird!

Now that the first flush of dandelions has gone to seed, these birds are all over the ground feeding on the seed heads.  It's pretty amazing (and amusing) when you look out on all the beautiful dandelions and suddenly they take flight!  The birds are like flying dandelions!  And they sing too!  What more could you ask?! 

Gotta get some work done!  Hope you're not too distracted like I seem to be!

Sunday, May 15, 2011


Male Baltimore Oriole outside the studio window
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 

It's an invasion! Not of body snatchers or any thing bad, but an invasion of "time snatchers" :)
We've had waves of Orioles, Warblers, Indigo Buntings, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and many other types of birds here and they're eating us out of house and home as well as "snatching" all our time - who can resist watching them all day long??!!
There are also reports across Iowa of Summer Tanagers in high numbers, since the week of high winds from the south and southeast...maybe they blew in?!  We haven't had a Summer Tanager here yet, but Spencer (Iowa) has and they're just 15-16 miles from us "as the crow flies".
Its been an invasion of many things here at the studio acreage...the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are back for the summer and the Monarch Butterflies just showed up last week as well!  Great things to be "invaded" by!  
Put you grape jelly out for the orioles, the sunflower seed out for the Grosbeaks, and the thistle seed out for the Siskins and finches, and the sugar water out for the hummingbirds - and be distracted!  It's fun!