Monday, January 31, 2011

Night Noise

© Bruce A. Morrison

The nights are getting shorter and the days are lengthening; it's still uphill to spring but there are many signs on the horizon!  Now, I'm not really ready for spring yet in the studio...sounds a bit off, but I just have too much work ahead here and studio work is much more productive when spring chores don't get in the way.  I need to make the best of winter yet I'm afraid!

But there are signs of spring never-the-less; we have nesting here in the valley now.  I haven't "witnessed" the nesting, but still know it's going on.  Each night for weeks we've been hearing the valley pair of Great Horned Owls vocalizing in the "neighborhood".  But in recent weeks it has accelerated to hours on end of "love talk" right here in the yard around the house.

I really do not know which bird has the deeper voice, but suspect it is the female, which is the larger bird by a good margin in the bird of prey world.  The other night (and morning) both birds sat around the house here really talking it up...sounding even excited.  Both bird's voices were overlapping one another, kind of like when two people are talking excitedly at the same time.  Around 1:30 a.m. I got up to try and get some audio recording of this banter, only to find out my recorder's battery was dead and the adapter and other battery was out in the studio!  Rats!  Oh well, just listening was fun enough...drifting in and out of sleep for the next 5 hours with the deep, wild rooted serenade outside the windows was pleasant to Georgie and I.

Great Horned Owls nest in late January/early February here.  It's still cold here, in fact I believe the last week of January and the first week of February are statistically our coldest time of winter.  Night time temps below zero Fahrenheit don't seem to matter!  These are tough birds!

I've written about these birds before on past blogs, in fact the blog image this time is from a cropped image I posted 3 years back.  There is some mystic about owls for me and many other's likely the secret lives they lead in the dark I suppose.

It's snowing out fairly good right now and we'll be contending with this storm system for the next day or so...we're definitely in the middle of the winter season now.  But somewhere out there the Waterman Creek valley Great Horned Owls are nesting.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Making Use of Time

"Ocheyedan Evening"
5X7" color pencil rendering
art work © Bruce A. Morrison
It's been cold and dreary in this neck of the prairie lately.  If we haven't been shoveling out the lane and around the buildings, we've been working - a lot!  But what can one do with this time; with temps well below zero fahrenheit and a constant biting wind?!  Why, make good use of it of course!  
While Georgie's been busy with projects in the house, I've been in the studio non-stop. I've finally finished up all commission work and have been busy starting new things and finishing old ones. 
I have a solo exhibit coming up this August at Arts on Grand in Spencer, IA.  The exhibit is to be recent work relating to the habitat and region I hold dear - the Tallgrass Prairie.   So the thrust of my time and aim is the subject matter that fits this goal.  But nothing has changed, that's been my focus for quite some years now anyway!
The piece at the blog's beginning is another small color pencil study; this one depicts a prairie stream in our area - the Ocheyedan River.  It was done from some images I took late one day last summer when Georgie and I were on an evening drive through the country side.  The Ocheyedan is a small river, a true prairie stream, and the evening light colors it almost as if it were still wild and unaffected by  the region's agriculture.
I like doing work I can get pensive about; that's a state of mind I can get into when traversing through a work.  What is around the next bend?  What was it like when the Native Americans first inhabited this place, or when the first settlers arrived?  
I consider this piece a "study" like most of my small works.  It may take on a life of it's own some day as a larger painting, who knows at this point in time?  I really kind of think it would make a nice reference for a painting...we'll see.

Keep busy!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Painting in Thin Air...Vicariously

"Along Red Mountain Pass"
oil on canvas 3.5X5" 
art work © Bruce A. Morrison

Some weeks back I received word I had been juried into the Western Spirit Art Show at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Old West Museum in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  The show opens on March 5th and runs through April 17th.  
When selected as an exhibiting artist, the museum asks artists to also do a "miniature" piece for the show as well.  I decided to do a small oil painting to accompany the original piece selected for the show (a colored pencil piece "Arches Mulie"; blogged here back in October last fall).
I had gone through my film files of Georgie and my trips out west and decided to paint a small painting of the Red Mountain Pass along US Hwy 550.  This is between Silverton and Ouray, Colorado, in the San Juan Mountain Range.
We had just had breakfast in Silverton and were driving north toward Ouray; the morning was cold and mostly overcast, but occasionally  a bit of sunlight and blue sky would expose a mountain or pass.  One such break came south of Ouray along the Red Mountain Pass; we stopped and photographed east toward the Red Mountain peaks (there are 3 peaks here of "Red Mountain").  
It was a very memorable and surreal landscape for us "flat landers"!  Most of the time the peaks were all hidden in clouds, then suddenly they'd be revealed for seconds or a few minutes, then gone again.
The air is a bit thicker here, but I'm feeling about as cold, at the moment, as when we traveled through the Red Mountain Pass years ago!
Keep warm out there!!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter Friends

Harris Sparrow (male)

Just about mid January!  We are certainly into winter big time here, and just about every where else we hear about!  It's been a bit windy and with below zero temps, I've just been sticking to the studio easel.  This is the perfect time of year to try and get ahead of the work - I am just too easily distracted the rest of the year...hopelessly pulled outside and into the prairie pasture here!

I also have outside winter distractions, in fact there's a bird feeder right outside the window by the studio office desk (where I'm typing this entry).  I'm amazed how well the wildlife copes with this weather, but still like to lend a hand where I can...being entertained by them is one side benefit.  Often I'm able to get photographs of good poses from our feeder visitors and use them for my drawings and paintings.

We have many birds here during the winter that do not stay year around.  Tree Sparrows and Harris Sparrows are a couple that come to well as Juncos too.  The Harris Sparrow is one of the largest North American Sparrows, and we actually don't usually keep them all winter, but this year has been an exception so far.  They breed up in the stunted boreal forests of Central Canada and always pass through here for extended visits.  When it stops by during the spring, it injects a wonderful note into the yard and grove, quite like and similar to the White-throated Sparrow's song...the same pitch but not the same "tune".

This particular male, in the photo at the top of the post, was photographed out the library window in our house.

Georgie and I have a shared love for birds, and the winter feeders are a welcomed distraction!

Now...back to work; these paintings aren't finishing themselves, and neither are the framing jobs!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Back to Flora

(Ratibida pinnata)
Color Pencil - 5X7" © Bruce A. Morrison

I've been delving in the prairie vicariously through my drawing lately.  If you can't go to the prairie "physically", then why not mentally or on the tactile surface of the paper in front of you?!  

My subject matter is likely one of the most common forbs (flowers) from the prairie, and can be found anywhere that allows it a seed bed.  But I love this plant, no matter how common place it may be.  And I look forward to gathering it's seed every what an amazing smell from a handful of seed!  I'll not try and describe it - just try it for yourself some fall.

I called this plant "prairie coneflower" for years, until I was corrected one day, being told it was a "Gray-headed Coneflower"  I had the scientific name correct - Ratibida pinnata, but was never keen on gray-headed...just doesn't sound appealing does it?  Well several months ago I got my new edition of  "Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie" by Runkel and Roosa and the name given it there is "Yellow Coneflower"...I can live with that!  :)  So I'm titling the drawing at the beginning of this blog Entry "Yellow Coneflowers" and I'll throw in the Ratibida pinnata to boot, making it official and correct.

I may do a drawing of "Prairie Coneflowers" one of these days...that's Ratibida columnifera to you sticklers out there!  :)  They grow in our pasture as well, occurring naturally in this SE corner of O'Brien County.

Been working on this piece and others off and on since Thanksgiving...may plant a few more forbs on paper...or a landscape to wander through.  In the meantime I'm still finishing commissioned painting work...but a walk through the prairie in my mind is still a refreshing respite!  

Hope you agree!