Thursday, December 21, 2017

Wishes During the Winter Solstice!

Here we are in the shortest day of the year!  Its all downhill from here!  With this late fall and early winter season being so unusually pleasant, we're all pinching ourselves and less distracted from the Holiday Season approaching.

In the spirit of this season we would personally like to wish each and every one of you and your families a very Merry Christmas and the Best of New Years!  God Bless -  hope to see you next year!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Two Months!?!!

"Mountain Bluebird - Portrait"
color pencil drawing
© Bruce A. Morrison

2 months!?!!  Two months since my last post!?  That's just crazy...that thing called "time" is definitely on its own a nasty bug, it infects all of us and erases days, weeks and months!  Where was I?  Well...I was still here, honestly!   

I guess I've just been enjoying myself.  Since the Artisans Road Trip event in October I've been taking some time off and just being a bit more laid back than is probably normal for me.  This was the last year I'll be participating in the Artisans Road Trip and when I resigned from the board I think I've begun to just spend time on other things instead.  

But life didn't stop or anything like that - I've been filling orders here in the studio both from the Artisans Road Trip event and from requests and customer commissions.  One example being the little "Mountain Bluebird - Portrait" color pencil drawing illustrated above.  And I am enjoying a "hobby" for a change...not that I don't have other birding and prairie restoration and antiquing...I guess they could be hobbies. But a more latent interest raised it's head about 2-3 years ago and I'm enjoying it ever so much more now with the help of a mentor...more on that some other time.

The fall bird traffic seemed early but then maybe that was the weather?  We had a cold damp autumn early on in October.  Not bad really, just a bit nippier than usual.  Our very first day of Indian Summer (any day reaching into the 60's after a hard freeze) wasn't until November 24th!  That is VERY unusual here...October is normally full of them!  We had just 3 days this fall now that qualified, but all-in-all it hasn't been too bad - we're usually blanketed with snow and in the deep freeze for the winter by now and we're not.

Sharp-shinned Hawk
© Bruce A. Morrison

But we've had great fall visitors here, like this sub-adult (transitioning) Sharp-shinned Hawk.  This guy was doing the "Veloci-raptor" moves with the birds around the feeder - running around on the ground chasing down it's quarry - fun to watch!  
We've also had the usual sparrow migrants go through, this year hanging onto a few Tree Sparrows and some Juncos hanging around as well.  Cedar Waxwings already giving our viburnums a taste test, a great flock of Blue Jays have moved in for the winter too - 15-20 birds at a time, quite a show!  And loads of the usual variety of woodpeckers and looks like the winter residents have now set up shop.

I hope your Fall season has been going well and that the Holiday season will be what it should - full of Loved Ones and Good Cheer!

Till next time...and who knows when that'll be!!!???  All my best!

Friday, October 13, 2017

This Is It!

The 14th Annual Artisans Road Trip is about to begin!  Saturday October 14th from 9am through 5pm and also Sunday from Noon through 5pm!  And we're ready here at Morrison's Studio on Prairie Hill Farm!  Ready with a warm place out of the weather if needed, great treats, hot cider, and always a great view and artwork!

Come and see a working studio and art gallery perched on the hillside above the Waterman Creek Valley.  In 2004 the Artisans Road Trip began with regional artists opening their studios and galleries to the public.  We originally had to show our work out in the corn crib of all places and it was a bit chilly out there to put it mildly!

Well in 2008 we completed a remodel of our out building that formerly served as a sheep barn until the mid 1990's and as a brooding house (chicken coup) prior to the mid 1950's and now have a nice cozy indoor studio and gallery to host our work and visitors - with a great view from our deck!  Come in and sit in comfort, have a nice warm beverage and look through our paintings, drawings and photographs of the region in which we live!

Rain or shine don't miss out on traveling through the NW Iowa countryside for a great view and experience - thank you for supporting the local arts and artists and bring something home to cherish for a life time, whether it simply be the experience or a beautiful piece of artwork to cherish!

For more information on this great weekend - visit the 2017 Artisans Road Trip web site at!  Check out the artists on the Galleries page or go to the Map page and plan a weekend area artisans road trip!

Enjoy the weekend - hope to see you!!!

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Autumnal Equinox Is Sneaking Up On Us!

It's the first day of Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere!  It's also around 90 degrees out right now - sounds like it's still summer to me!  We do still have a few Monarchs lingering here in our pastures.  There's been a couple days of 30mph winds from the south and east so butterfly migration is a bit difficult at the moment.

Our Barn Swallows left last weekend, along with our last Baltimore Oriole and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.  They could easily have stuck around for this temperature!

"Tree Swallow - Portrait"
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

Although our Tree Swallows left a couple weeks back, I had been meaning to find the time to sit down and do one of these guys as part of my "Bird Portrait" series.  These are one of my spring and summer favorites around the pasture - probably one of the friendliest birds here.  The first to make a bee-line for the Bluebird houses in the pasture, but that's OK, we'll share with them and still get a Bluebird family or two nesting here as well.  I struggled to get a hint of the iridescence in the color of these bird's feathers, They really are quite beautiful up close!

There are leaves and crops showing that hint of Autumn out there; the nights have been great for sleeping - also for the Katydids and Crickets, the Coyotes and neighborhood Great Horned Owls - all have been serenading us each night and we LOVE it!

 "Nearly September"
from the original plein air oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

Been spending much time here preparing for the 14th Artisans Road Trip - this year on Saturday and Sunday October 14th and 15th.  Along with my usual new paintings, drawings and photographs, this year I am doing something a bit new - I will be offering reproductions of paintings printed on canvas, hand varnished by the artist and framed in a choice plein air frame - like the original painting at framed print prices! These 'jewels" have to be seen - a few choice paintings available - just vibrant! Above and below are some examples!

"Behind the Grove"
from the original plein air oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

"Lone Bale at First Light"
from the original plein air oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison

This will be our last year participating in the Artisans Road Trip. I have been a part of this great organization of artists since the beginning in 2004 and have appreciated the quality of artwork and professionalism this great group has represented itself with! I have been the organization's web master and social media person for 14 years and it is now time for me to make a change - at least for now; if sometime down the road I feel a need to rejoin A.R.T. as a regular member I certainly will.

So! This will be your last chance to visit Prairie Hill Farm and our studio "for the Artisans Road Trip"! BUT NOT for any other visit - we will still be here and I will still be working as an artist!

I am taking this time to work more toward building a new body of work. There comes a time in many an artist's life that we need to step back and start anew. I am taking somewhat of a hiatus from "producing sales" to producing work that compels and draws me to it...maybe I'm getting a bit old and set in my ways but life is too short for pursuing any goal other than a feeling of accomplishing something important to one's "self" and less for commissions and distractions. I am not stepping off the face of the earth or anything crazy like that; I will still be out here on the prairie - working in the studio when the urge moves me, walking in the prairie when I need time with God's creation or maybe actually going somewhere for a fresh experience or just time away! Like I said - life is too short!

Enjoy your time on this earth - get out and have a great Autumn!



Monday, September 11, 2017

More Movement for the Monarch Migration Here

The big push has now gone through - for the fall Monarch Butterfly migration...they're still trickling through but not in the high numbers of a week back.  We had over a hundred at our highest one evening and morning.  This was nothing like 15 years ago when that number was over a thousand and more, but it is a slight improvement over just a couple years ago when a dozen was not attainable.
 Monarchs in the prairie pasture goldenrod here
Photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 Monarchs in the prairie pasture New England Aster here
Photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Monarchs resting on the Gray-headed Coneflower seed heads
in the prairie pasture here
Photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Monarchs roosting in the grove here
Photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Monarchs roosting in the grove here
Photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Now its up to the rest of their journey and the winter ahead in Mexico...I wish them the best of luck!

Monday, August 28, 2017

It's Begun!

Monarch on Joe Pye
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison) 
click on image for a larger view

Late yesterday afternoon I was taking a photograph of this female Monarch butterfly on the Joe Pye weed next to the studio deck...somewhere in the back of my mind was the question - "When will the migration begin?  I believe it must be getting close."

"Valley Shadows and Clouds"
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison) 
click on image for a larger view

A bit later I noticed the clouds moving in with an intermittent breeze.  It felt like a front moving through.  I was distracted and spent some time looking skyward and photographing the landscape out front.  On my way back into the studio I noticed several Monarchs in the yard acting as if they were "gathering"; was a roost in the making?!!!

"The Roost Begins!"
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison) 
click on image for a larger view 
We actually had a roost in the yard - it wasn't a record breaker, like back in 2005 but it was a good first roost especially looking back the past 5 years here.
"A Small Roost"
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison) 
click on image for a larger view 

I could count 46 individuals; there were a few moving around so there certainly could have been more...tough counting these guys when they aren't totally settled in.
It's begun!  Lets hope for a good year for Monarchs in North America - and a safe winter ahead!


Friday, August 18, 2017

Plein Air Exhibition at The Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji

 "Lone Bale at First Light"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison
(Given the "PA Brown Best In Show" Award)

I guess I'd better update the results of the plein air painting exhibition I participated in during the last week - I will admit that I was extremely nervous about doing this and a bit overwhelmed with the results at the exhibition opening reception last night!

 "Wooded Lane No.1"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison
(Given the "Judge's Choice Award")
I was very pleased/surprised to be awarded "Best of Show" and also one of the three "Judge's Choice" Awards.  My favorite painting of the two had already been purchased when Georgie and I arrived about 10 minutes after the start of the evening!  A double bonus right!!!  Can't complain about that :)
My favorite of the two was the "Wooded Lane No.1", this is a newer Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation area purchase not too far from the studio...maybe about 10 miles as-the-crow-flies.  When I made the decision to enter the exhibit I knew where my first destination would be!  This was a first for me...I usually do farmscapes or at least somewhat more open or expansive landscapes.  This was really an intimate piece - I can still hear the birds while I was there; no people to distract me - very calm and beautiful.

The second painting was a morning work (the first an afternoon time frame) and surprise, surprise - a hay bale!! Ha!  OK, about 20 percent pf my paintings and photos seem to have hay bales in them...I can't help myself! :)  I created this early morning - as soon as the fog lifted and the sun appeared - then the work began.

These are not easy for me.  I once was at a dinner with world class artists and an old "hero" bird artist of mine, Roger Tory Peterson was speaking.  One statement he said surprised me...I was young and naive...he said he always felt like he was sweating blood - stressed when creating a painting.  I couldn't see it but I've come to understand now.

I can't work magic but if I plan and work hard, I can at least be satisfied...well "some of the time"!  Hey, life's a crap shoot at best some times, right?!  Just do the best you can...if you don't care about what you're doing - drop it and move on to something you can get passionate about.

Thank you for stopping by - have a great total eclipse!!!


Thursday, August 17, 2017

Mid August Already?!!

"Valley Anvil" - oil painting
© Bruce A. Morrison
OK, this is really getting ridiculous!  It can't already possibly be mid August; someone greased the skids and we're just not slowing down!
I had a small canvas on the easel since late July and kept getting called away from it.  Well I finally finished the piece "Valley Anvil" last week and have gone on to other business calling my attention.  The small painting (I nearly always work smaller 6X8", 9X12" and 12X16") because I'm not getting any younger and my attention span is showing it!
The past few days I tried desperately to find time to squeeze in a couple plein air paintings for an exhibit tonight at the Pearson Lakes Art Center at Okoboji, IA.  I did the first painting at an area recently purchased by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation, that I hadn't been to before - and really liked it!  I'll have to go again...make it a frequent location if I can.  
The second painting was my perennial favorite subject (hay bales)...thankfully a few farmers out there are pretty busy this time of the year and you can almost always find bales that have yet to be picked up and taken away!  I singled out a lone bale and made a morning of painting it.

I'll post these plein air pieces when I can after the exhibit's opening tonight.

Thank you for checking in; I'll do my best to be a bit more punctual the remainder of the summer and coming fall...but if things would just slow down!

Monday, August 7, 2017

July Was Good...On To August!

 Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

I've been pressed to keep up with the progression of plants in the prairie pasture.  I know I've missed things, life gets in the way, but here are a few things from July.

 Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Culver's Root  (Veronicastrum virginicum)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Showy tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense)  
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Big Bluestem in Morning Dew
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Canada Milk Vetch (Astragalus canadensis)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 False Gromwell (Onosmodium molle)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Narrow-leafed Purple Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison 

There is change in the prairie here...nothing new, its just that we're seeing the end seasons approaching...the mid summer prairie plants, though still offering pollen to many interested bees and butterflies, are passing their peak "glory" and most are now forming seed heads.  

Last night I found the very first Dotted Liatris, Prairie Onion and False Boneset blooms of this new season; things will be progressing more quickly than I'd like now - the prairie bloom periods never last long enough for me!

I found a resting Monarch settling in for the night on some field goldenrod and a skipper feeding on some common milkweed; several small Bumble Bees still taking advantage of the Wild Bergamot's remaining blooms and a male Western Meadowhawk Dragonfly cruising the upper story of grasses and forbs.  I have yet to watch a Robber Fly, a Katydid or an Argiope this summer, and the Argiope spiders have been very scarce for two or three years now...a concern.

This is a bittersweet season, for when it comes and the flaming magenta and riotous yellows wow the senses - it seems to finish as quickly as it started.  Ah, but isn't that the way of things!?  One can never take something so special for granted.

Still...looking forward to what August has to offer! 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Definitely Dog (and Frog?) Days...

 Adult Cope's Gray Tree Frog and tadpoles
in both of the rain barrels.

Mid summer and the heat is on...Dog Days of Summer comes to mind, but frogs have a mind of their own!  We had been having a lot of evening "music" in the yard here and in the valley hearing the frogs sing at night!  Apparently some Cope's Gray Tree Frogs took a real liking to our side rain barrels and laid eggs there, which then gave us a bumper crop of tree frog tadpoles.  Only real drawback has been not being able to use water out of the hasn't rained here in 16 days and the heat is oppressive in the yard and gardens.
 Rain Barrel Hotels
Little Cope's Gray Tree Frog still with a bit of it's
tadpole tail - with a dime for size comparison!
 A drink glass with just a few tadpoles.
 A Little goofing around (I hope!).

The tree frogs have been a fun diversion to the acreage...kind of takes me back to being a kid again!  My Mother would let me keep frogs, toads and turtles in the basement..."Free Range"!  We really were pretty bug free for a few years until I grew out of the menageries!

I actually became pretty good at raising frogs and toads - there were gallon honey jars everywhere (no honey in them of course!) filled with water and vegetation and tadpoles; it was a real blast watching the transformation.  Now-a-days it's just fine sharing a garden path with toads and frogs on occasion as well as enjoying the night music!

Aside from Herps I've been busy with a few Artisan Road Trip exhibits and a small solo showing....A.R.T has had 2 exhibits simultaneously in Minnesota and Iowa one at the Nobles County Art Center in Worthington, Minnesota and one at the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa.  on August 1st we'll also have an exhibit at the Red Rock Art Center in Fairmont, Minnesota too.  On top of all that I have a small exhibit that'll run all summer (though August) at the Lost Island Prairie Wetland Nature Center at Lost Island Lake in Palo Alto County.

"Spring Bobolink"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison
On top of all that I have a small exhibit that'll run all summer (through August) at the Lost Island Prairie Wetland Nature Center at Lost Island Lake in Palo Alto County, north of Ruthven, Iowa.
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

The natural wetland areas around Lost Island are a particular favorite of mine; commingling the wetlands and the tallgrass prairie "is the best of both worlds"!

"Big Bluestem in Bloom"
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

The Lost Island Prairie Wetland Nature Center gives the public an appreciation and basic understanding of the wetlands and offers opportunities to enjoy the beauty of these natural treasures.  One of the goals of the Lost Island Prairie Wetland Nature Center is to give to give visitors the information and skills needed to make wise decisions regarding our natural resources, to become better stewards of the land and to make an impression that will last a lifetime.

Its been a busy summer so far! Catch the showing of select artwork on display July through the end of August - and take in the beauty of our wetlands and prairies while you're at it!  A win -win!
Stay cool out there! 

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Fun to Watch and Do!

"Father's Day Rainbow"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on images for a larger view) 

 Its been a fairly dramatic late spring here with the sky and weather; the clouds across the valley from the studio are beginning to take over my efforts with the camera and the easel.  

"Breaking Clouds Over the Rookery"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on images for a larger view) 

 I've been working with the sky out front on the easel as well - this painting was my first plein air work in quite some is easy to just sit out on the studio deck and paint away...oh I still get distracted constantly but it sure is convenient just outside the studio door!

On the studio deck!
I've looked at the rookery across the valley each spring and summer and always wanted to see if I could paint it in some way.  The breaking clouds one day this spring was the answer and I was lucky enough to be able to take advantage of it! 
"Valley Rain"
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on images for a larger view) 

But its really amazing what the weather will create for the "eyes"!  Whether it was the rainbow I barely caught in time, or the "Valley Rain" system that knocked the rainbow out of the sky and drenched me as I was trying to hide under the eaves of the corn crib!  Whatever and whichever - they were all fun to watch and do!