Friday, February 18, 2022

Archived Works friday - No.4!

Post No. 4! The next post for "Archived Works Friday” comes as a pair from the mid 1980's. As I mentioned before - I'll post a painting, drawing or serigraph (silkscreen prints) from the "archive" files of years past...and give a little back story on the work. I hope you'll find it interesting!
Back in the 1980's I experimented with floating bird blinds; the kind you take pictures from. I took my first one out to a favorite marsh. it was a floating "bass buddy"...maybe I'm not getting the name right but it was essentially a nylon zippered slip cover that fit over an inner-tube, with a seat sewn in for the "occupant". It made a "bobber" out of the wearer! It was actually made for a fisherman to wade and float around on small ponds and fish from it...I guess the idea was to make you more mobile and get you out to where the fish were without a boat.
I got the brilliant idea that I could use it as a floating bird photography blind. I made a dome of chicken wire mesh and covered it in cattails which I tied to it - trying to imitate a muskrat hut. Great idea huh!???? I wore chest high waders and walked the blind out until I lost contact with the bottom, then just kind of bobbed around and "paddled" with my feet...took some getting used to but eventually made my way to a clump of reeds and anchored my feet around them to try and hold still.
It was kind of hit and miss that first try out on the marsh...muskrats would swim by and look at me like "what on earth!?". Thankfully none tried to “enter” the hut!!! An occasional Yellow-headed Blackbird would land on top of me - where I couldn't get its picture of course! The neatest encounter this first trip in the blind was an American Bittern - I had never been so close to one before! It was up clinging to the rushes trying to get a better look at this "thing" (my blind) - it was probably thinking "This wasn't here earlier!?". I did my best to get shots with the camera but it was difficult with the blind bobbing with every move I'd make.
This was back way before digital cameras. I didn't even have auto focus back then and shooting Ektachrome E-6 film that I'd process myself. The photos didn't turn out too bad. The Bittern's body was somewhat hidden by the reeds as it climbed along. As I looked at several of the slides I picked some out and created a composition from them - trying to portray the bird among the rushes without it's features being so obscured from view.
I first did a detailed pencil sketch, and was fairly pleased with it...but I was looking for something a bit more "graphic" in presentation and decided to do a serigraph (silk screen print) of it. I won't get into the details of that process this time, as its very lengthy. I had been accepted into the international "Birds in Art" exhibition the year before with a pencil drawing and thought I'd try entering again with a serigraph...I wanted to prove to myself that the acceptance the year before was not just a "flash in the pan".
The design was drawn directly on separate screens from the original pencil composition and broken down into solid colors...the exhibition deadline was fast approaching and I was having great difficulty registering colors and getting everything to look like I wanted. I finally managed to get one that I liked and hurriedly got it entered in time for the deadline.
It was accepted! I was over the moon and beside myself... once again being included in the prestigious international Bird Art exhibition "Birds in Art". Rubbing shoulders with artists from every continent was very humbling - I could see how far I had to go to even measure up to what work I was seeing.
As a side note on my maiden voyage on the marsh - when I had been out on the water, the wind had come up from the south and soon I had white caps! I was a good 100-150 yards out from shore and the wind was taking me to the other side of the marsh! It took all of an hour, or more to fight my way back to the landing. Completely played out, I drug myself into the car and turned on the radio - it was giving high winds/watercraft warnings for the day! NO KIDDING!!???
I revised my "floating blind" design - used marine plywood with foam filled pontoons, a lighter camo covered chicken wire frame that sat on top, and a platform for a tripod "head" to affix the camera and much better! (and safer) Still have it today...hanging out in the studio shed. Just need the time and "energy" to take it out again into the marshes...sounds like "The Old Man and the Sea" revisited to me!
"Rush Lake, American Bittern - Study" - pencil drawing - ©Bruce A. Morrison (from an Iowa private collection)
"Rush Lake, American Bittern" - serigraph - ©Bruce A. Morrison (from the Permanent Collection of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau, WI)
(These and other archived artwork can be viewed at - )

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