Wednesday, November 16, 2016

All Hail November!

 "Autumn Near Dog Creek's Mouth - preliminary study"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

You just can't beat this November's weather...I am hard pressed to remember a November this mild or warm!  Now word is out that we may get some wet/slightly white weather in a day or two...well that's bound to happen - it is November after all!

After this nice Autumn color and weather, I've been working on ideas for art work and printing some images as open edition photographic prints.  I finished a small oil painting a few days back - this small painting was worked up as a guide to work from for a larger painting that I'll hopefully get to yet this fall before winter sets in. The location is on some county land in SE O'Brien County...its of Dog Creek just a few yards before it dumps into the Little Sioux River.  This little creeks runs through some pretty territory for a very small stream - a neat unassuming little stream.

With the Holiday season now approaching, there are a couple art exhibits and shows coming up that I'm taking part in!  One is currently at Arts on Grand in Spencer, Iowa - their "Christmas in the Gallery", which is currently running and goes through December 27th; a lot of really nice Christmas related gifts and seasonal artwork!

Also, there is the "Holiday Open House" coming up in Peterson, Iowa!  This yearly event will be taking place at Barb McGee's Gallery in downtown Peterson.  A great little town in a picturesque setting - a great gallery and a top notch assortment of artists!  Enjoy some good treats and good conversation and great art!  That's on Saturday December 3rd from 9am - 5pm!

Happy Thanksgiving coming up next week - enjoy November!

Monday, October 31, 2016

Part of the Process

"Little Sioux River Valley Autumn Bales No.1"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

I have been stuck in the studio "processing" all the image files from a week and a half ago; that was a busy and productive week for autumn in our "area".  Most folks don't realize all the post production work there is when working from "Raw" files...most of us shoot RAW, not JPG or TIFF...doing so preserves all the information that a file has to offer.  But a RAW file doesn't usually present the image as you would print it or use for a blog such as this or for publication, so some computer "darkroom" work is in order.

I spent many years in the darkroom professionally, way before digital imaging was even a flicker on the horizon; actually working mostly in B&W, then doing color printing and transparency film processing for roughly 30 years before I took the leap early into the digital fray. 

"Back in the day" darkroom work was inevitable - no way around it!  But even now, with digital imaging on the professional level, image processing is a necessary part of the process from exposing the image to print or publication. 

It's been overcast, damp and windy here the past 4 days, so its perfect "darkroom" time.  I would prefer to see a blue sky again soon though as I'm feeling couped up!   

A good side effect during this inside time is I get many ideas for future artwork while going through image files...paintings and drawing ideas come to me and get me even more excited!  Lets hope I can get some Autumn artwork ideas to get me through part of the Winter ahead!  

Oooh, did I just say the "W" word??!!!  Oh well, it's all part of the process! 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Autumn Is Good!

 "Autumn on Yellow Avenue in SE O'Brien County, IA"
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

The days are shortening and the color is good...the air is crisp, yet the sun is warm; this is a neat time of year and as with the harvest, there is much to be thankful for.  

 "High Water Color on the Des Moines in northern Webster County, IA"
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

We don't live in New England or where colors are breathtaking with reds, yellows and oranges shared among hardwoods like hard maples, but we can occasionally get lucky with autumn when all the cards fall just right, and this was such a year!

 "Electric Blues on the North Raccoon in southern Sac County, IA"
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

 Georgie and I drove the back roads here and in this corner of the state. taking in the transient scenery - a chance to get away from the daily tasks and reflect.

 "Below the Rapids on the North Raccoon in northern Sac County, IA"
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

We miss the river roads and streams of past journeys - they were dressed in colorful attire, preparing for a good rest from the past year.

 "Quiet Color near the Washta Access in southern Cherokee County, IA"
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

Some places were bright and noisily passing the day away, while others more somber and reflective.  It's been another year of new experiences, of life's sorrows and joy; it's now a time to rest and regain one's bearings, and to be grateful for those blessings that have come our way

Have a great Autumn season and be good to one another!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Coming This Weekend!

We're gearing up - its coming!  The Artisans Road Trip weekend studio tour event will be here this weekend - Saturday October 8th and Sunday October 9th!

 (Morrison's Studio at Prairie Hill Farm)

This is the 13th annual weekend A.R.T. event and it should be a great Autumn weekend! Saturday (October 8) kicks off at 9 a.m. and runs through 5 p.m., and Sunday (October 9) starts at 12 Noon and runs through 5 p.m.  

We've been working toward this weekend all year with many new original works of art such as drawings and paintings, many new open edition/signed photographs and several new Note Card boxed collections as well as new Greeting Cards - did you know we have the largest variety and collection of boxed note cards and greeting cards of NW Iowa found anywhere?!!!  Come and see for yourself!

But don't neglect the view from the studio deck and even take in a walk on our mowed native pasture trails...or just relax with some refreshments here in the studio!  Have any questions - please ask, we'd love to talk with you...this is a great place for conversation as well as browsing or purchasing artwork, or just taking in some of the valley's crisp Autumn air!

Hope to see you this weekend!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Too Fast!

 "Anvil Across the Valley" 
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

Too Fast!  Time...that's what.  It just turned summer and we're already into August!  Frustrating isn't it.  I'm blaming deadlines, appointments and other inevitable things that make time blow by like it didn't even happen.

I've been trying very hard to balance time in the studio with everything else and although it hasn't been easy, have managed to finish a couple things.

The top image was something with some years behind it...first as a panoramic photograph about 6-7 years ago - then a small oil pastel "study" 2 or 3 years, finally I've done a larger completed oil painting version of the scene!  This is looking due east from our acreage and across the valley in front of us.  A late May/early June evening  with the light casting long shadows and the stubble out front still showing through a new emerging crop.  The anvil of a distant late spring thunderstorm dramatically lit by the late sun...a beautiful sight!

I had a beautiful dark expresso stained plein air style frame custom made and handcarved for it - it's perfect!

"Showy Tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense)"
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

The color pencil drawing of the Showy Tick-trefoil was inspired this spring when I was out in our pasture photographing new plants coming up - these guys are always a treat to see new and I couldn't resist trying to depict one arching back and supporting new blossoms...the leaf structure teamed with the budding flowers was very attractive!  These flowers are easy to procure seed from later in the summer - just walk through a stand of them with a sweatshirt on and the seeds stick tight to the clothing...then sit and watch TV while you pull them off and save in a paper bag for fall planting!  They are very easy germinators as well and the plants can be very beautiful in mass!  

So much more to get done this summer - but its flying by, literally.  If something doesn't change around here, I'll be staring at the late summer and fall asters soon! 

Hang on before its gone!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Summer on the Tallgrass

photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
I've been trying to document the native plants on the pasture; spring has gone by so quickly and the spring forb (wildflower) blooming has zipped by too quickly! 

Two evening ago I was out after the wind finally got manageable for photographing and was shooting some video and trying to get still shots when I could.  There was a Monarch flying around quickly here and there but I didn't try chasing was just to animated and would hold still for me.  When I was packing it up and heading back to the studio I walked past a Viceroy nectaring on, of all things, Brome grass!

Well I wished it'd been a Monarch but it was so cooperative I took several shots and did some video of it as well.  I hate admitting there is brome in the pasture but there isn't a prairie that hasn't struggled against that common/nasty cool season (Eurasian) grass the farmers embrace for grazing/haying.

You can almost always tell a Viceroy from a Monarch by its size - its about a third smaller than a Monarch.  Also the Viceroy's hind wing has a line that intersects horizontally through the vertical veins - not seen with Monarchs...the resemblance is remarkable though, and even I have to stop a look more closely when they show up here...they're fairly common here every summer.

I was taken a bit by surprise with a butterfly this size nectaring on a grass in flower...maybe its not uncommon, it is just something I haven't seen before.  I have seen small Skippers and those small Blues, along with Hover flies and such nectar on grass florets but this was new for me!

I'll insert a video of this Viceroy (The link is on You Tube at - if this blog doesn't show it for you) 
Have a great summer out there and stay cool!!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Late Spring on the Prairie!

"Passing Prairie Showers"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison
June never seems to let us off out here on the prairie.  We sure appreciate the rain but high winds, lightning and hail are the things that keep us on our toes.  As I type this blog entry a good thunderstorm with high winds is passing through the valley.  A few areas of tornado activity are forming NW and NE of us - nobody needs that!
But this painting I just finished really depicts the "normal" passing showers that are so common out here in that great openness of the Tallgrass Prairie.  I used our south pasture as the "model" and borrowed some patches of Golden Alexander in bloom, from the north pasture to place in the shadow cast in the foreground during the late afternoon.
Late Spring and Summer paintings can be difficult because of the overwhelming greens out there so I like to take some artistic license and warm up the image with the late afternoon sunshine and neutralize it a bit with foreground shadows.  It was a bit warm the day I laid this idea out but even hotter (mid-upper nineties) while I painted in the studio - thank goodness for air-conditioning!
Hope you're staying safe and keeping cool out there!

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"Bulbs and Blooms - A Floral Show" at the Summerwind Gallery with Fellow A.R.T. Artists and Others!

Five artists from the 2016 Artisans Road Trip at the Summerwind Gallery's
"Bulbs to Blooms - A Flora Show".   Upper left - clockwise as follows:
Linda Hopkins, Roberta Williams, Judy Thompson, Bruce Morrison and Pam Harp.
(All artwork copyright property of the respective artists.)
I do the Blog Posts for the Artisans Road Trip each year (that and their web site), and thought I'd re-post an A.R.T. Blog I put up yesterday.  I've been extremely busy putting up other blogs and working on other obligations that I thought I'd better tend to my own! 
The newly opened Summerwind Gallery in Arnolds Park, Iowa will be featuring a showing of several artists  - five of which are artists from the 2016 Artisans Road Trip!  The exhibit will  feature "Bulbs to Blooms - A Floral Show", and will open on Tuesday May 17th and run through May 31st.

Featured Artisans Road Trip artists include Pam Harp (watercolor), Linda Hopkins (acrylic), Bruce Morrison (oils and color pencil), Judy Thompson (watercolor batik) and Roberta Williams (watercolor batik).  Other artists will be featured as well!

The Summerwind Gallery, owned and operated by artist Roberta Williams, carries artwork from across Iowa and is a unique addition to the Iowa Great Lakes - a "must see" destination!

To see top professional artwork of the region and state - be sure and take in this wonderful showing!  The gallery is located at 28 Allen Avenue in Arnolds Park, Iowa (the former location of Side Street Art and Framing).  
Gallery hours are Monday - Saturday 11-7 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m. Find more information by contacting the Summerwind via phone at 712 332-5906 or check it out on the web at -!

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Again, Some of My Favorite Things...

 "Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)" - oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

 As I mentioned in my last blog, I've been thinking and focusing on prairie forbs (wildflowers) and grasses a lot lately.  One of these forbs is found in our native pasture, while the other is not, but is "local" to our area.

This time I've been working in oils and I'm trying to keep these close to "life size", so the painting are small (both 5X7").

The first painting is of a Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum) bloom.  There are many of these plants in our pasture and they are quite the iconic Tallgrass Prairie plant - being anywhere up to 6-7 feet tall!  They also have quite a sturdy stock,  lasting through the winter.  To give you an idea of how sturdy these are, once the snow was out this spring Georgie and I found several of these stocks were used by the local bucks as "rubs" for their antlers!  (Even found a shed out there!)  Its amazing to me that White-tail bucks are using these on their antlers.

 "Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense)" - oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

The next painting is of a Michigan Lily (Lilium michiganense) blossom and I actually did a very small drawing of this same plant a few years back I believe the original color pencil was something like a 1.5X2" miniature drawing.  I went for a life size painting from that tiny sketch.

I used to call these Turk's Cap Lilies but that was not proper as that is an entirely different Lily (although similar in looks).  This is a local native Lily, not found in our pasture requires more of a moist mesic environment than our mostly gravel/well drained soil can provide.  I do believe that another local native Lily would have done just fine in our pasture - the Prairie Lily...sometimes referred to as the Wood Lily (Lilium philadelphicum)...I've found them in both moist and dry soils near our acreage.

We just burned about 1/3 of our pasture a week and a half back, and will be burning another 30% in the next weeks if possible...part of our prairie pasture maintenance; this year leaving 40% for the invertebrates and possible other critters like small reptiles and even amphibians.  We've rotated burning for many years now and its always been our hope we're allowing leeway for species needing a break.  But the paddocks burned are always a showcase for flowering plants and produce great crops of seed - very fun to experience!

Its always nice to have something like the prairie to look forward to each year - giving me some of my favorite things!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Some of My Favorite Things...

 "Canada Milk Vetch (Astragalus canadensis)" 
Color Pencil drawing -  © Bruce A. Morrison

I've been working on more drawings of prairie plants (grasses and forbs) and anyone that really knows me realizes I only do this out of a real love for the subject matter.  I guess I've been watching winter so long that I'm drawing for cathartic reasons!  But the subject matter this time around is one from our prairie pasture and that's the Canada Milk Vetch (Astragalus canadensis), sometimes these plants have other common names, I think Rattle Pod is one...these names usually make sense too - the seed pods do rattle when shaken about.  

This plant first showed up on our north pasture hillside over 10 years ago and in a location I had not been doing fall or spring seeding...again last year I found several plants in our south pasture, and again in locations not seeded before, so it may very well have been here before these areas were grazed years back.  Also, like some other plants I can think of, we've had some years intermittently that we could find no Canada Milk Vetch anywhere...2012, 2013 and 2014 were such years, yet last year they were "widespread" and in locations we'd never seen them.  That's very interesting to me but I have no answer to why!

Canada Milk Vetch, to me, has a very visually interesting structure...its almost graphic in quality ...although I chose to draw this plant - it would have made a great serigraph as well!  Or even a wood block!  Its a fairly common and somewhat aggressive plant - not one for the garden, but a great plant for the pasture here...I know the deer and rabbits sure love it!  (A lot of pruning going on through the summer.)

I tried treating the drawing's background a bit differently than in the past (more scribbling and less solvent), but tried being true to this forb's anatomy.  I drew this milk vetch at it's peak - which in the summer heat, lasts a fairly short time unfortunately...its a good thing there's lots of different prairie flowers and grasses out there and that they all have their specific bloom time - you have all summer to enjoy!

Spring is on the doorstep - get out and enjoy it!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Going Domestic...Sort Of.

"Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea) with European honey bee (Apis mellifera)"
Color Pencil drawing -  © Bruce A. Morrison

I've read that there are around 4000 species of native bees in North America ( - that seems like an awful lot!  I believe I have read that there are around 30-40 species of  Bumble Bees in Iowa...and many many more species of other less conspicuous native bees in addition to that.

But most of us think of the "honey bee" when bees are mentioned.  I remember my grand father bringing us gallon jars of honey when I was a kid...he had a bee keeper keeping their hives on his farm and they'd give him honey for "rent".  I was a honey crazed kid - loved the stuff!  I'm afraid I still do but have to moderate my love for it a bit now.  But the main reason I wanted to have someone keep their honey bees here on our acreage was to help pollinate our berry and fruit tree crops.  Even then, they still get plenty of competition from the native bees and other pollinators.

Our pastures are "native" pastures with plenty of native species of gasses and forbs (wildflowers).  Here is where the native bees seem to really shine...I see many types of Bumble Bees there as well as a small Metallic Green Bee that I particularly enjoy watching - just a gorgeous little bee!

But the European Honey Bees like the wildflowers in the pastures as well, especially when the garden plants have finished flowering or haven't cycled to new blooms yet.  One flower the Honey Bees especially like are the Purple Prairie Clover (Dalea purpurea); this forb is also a favorite of Bumble Bees.  When deciding to do a color drawing of the Purple Prairie Clover, I intended just drawing the flower/plant itself but when going through my files for a subject to draw from, I noticed a lot of photos with bees! tribute to my sweet tooth and love for honey - I included a Honey Bee.

Here's to ALL of our pollinators - may we have a long and ever lasting relationship, and may it always be a good one!


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Waiting for the Thaw

"Passing Don's Old Place at First Light - Study"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view
What does a person do around NW Iowa with 2-3 foot drifts still in the garden and throughout the back yard and pasture?  Work inside the studio!  And what kind of work seems best for this cold old duffer while waiting for the thaw?  Summer landscapes! 
This is a gravel road about 4 miles south of us as the crow'd have to be a crow to get there in just 4 miles because the road passing our place stops - hits a "T" intersection 3 miles south of us.  Evidently the valley and creek bottoms there dissuaded road construction straight through back then.

This is actually a small oil painting "study".  I have an idea for a much more elongated painting in the future of this same location but wanted to do a smaller work-up of it to judge just how I'd approach the palette for this piece, and to just see if it might be worthy of a try.

This depicts an old farmstead and home of a gentleman I never met...he was using the small home off behind the trees on the left for a summer residence while, as I understood it, living with a daughter during the winter months.  His family also had a farm and home place a mile north, of which the house no longer stands.  Don passed away 3-4 years back and the small house now belongs to someone else.  
The trees along the road create a nice "tunnel-effect" and one morning last summer I was heading out to another location when I passed through and thought it would make for a nice painting "some day"!  Now I need to find the time to do it!  (The bigger version that is.)

Meanwhile I'm still in the studio - picking up things I meant to be getting to for what seems like a long time...and waiting for the thaw!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Always Interesting

"First Light-Late Summer Beans"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 
One thing about being cold and white out here this winter - it gives a person more time for studio easel work!  At least between the times "moving snow" this weather brings any way!
I like this type of landscape; not that bean fields are the kind of thing I look for - never done one before.  No, its the light and atmosphere, the linear qualities, composition and color...warm colors of summer.
This is an actual scene I came across here in the "neighborhood" just last summer.  It was a nice scene that I thought about just photographing but the more time I gave myself there that morning, the more I liked the idea of painting it instead.  Saving the idea this had given me for colder times helps warm the spirit!
Its always interesting when I pass by a location hundreds of times, but its just this one instance that gave me ordinary scene with a song of its own.  I'm very grateful I heard it!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

No Complaints!

"January Sun Dogs"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

The temps have dropped below zero at nights, the wind is blowing everything into drifts and the creeks are now icing closed...but its January after all - amazing winter so far I'd say!

"Waterman Icing"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 
Its time to stay inside the studio and get down to business.  As long as I don't gaze out the windows and get distracted (and have to grab the camera again) I should make some headway on those jobs I've been putting off!
"Frost Along the Creek - panorama"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 

No complaints here - Stay warm and stay happy!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Winter in January!

 "Along the Shelf Ice"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) many times will I now accidentally write 2015 on checks and such before I finally get it right!?!  I know I'm not alone out there!

We've had a couple snows in the last few days so we look quite like winter again; and the temps are closer to what they normally are this time of the year too.  I usually prefer winter landscapes early in the morning but late afternoon can work nicely as well and yesterday afternoon was a good day outside!
 "January on the Waterman"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 

With Waterman Creek so close by, most of the afternoon was spent up and down the valley searching for those snippets of Waterman "treasure" just waiting for appreciation!

There isn't a lot of shelf ice out there due to high water levels but I did manage to find a vantage point with some ice along a gravel bank - with the additional benefit of tracks in the snow adding to the composition...and the creek itself in the valley a few miles south offered up a bright landscape benefiting from a pure blue sky!  

Pleasant scenes and simple compositions...may your winter days be ever so pleasant too!