Saturday, March 12, 2022

Winter's Last Breath? (Crossing Fingers!)

"Frosty Morning Light - Hay Rake" - oil painting - ©Bruce A. Morrison    

Is it Spring yet?!!!  One below zero Fahrenheit this a.m., but above freezing this afternoon...a good southwest wind bringing up the warm air - welcome!  This is the beginning of several warm days in the 40's to 60's, so looking forward to it!

I've been cranking out winter themed work the past month...had to get them out of my system before work outside on the acreage presents itself.  I don't do loads of winter artwork, but had these in my memory file; if I don't get them down I can lose them.  I just have so much memory available in this old hard drive (my brain)...if something new or memorable comes by - something has to go.  I find my brain deleting memories a lot these days...hey, it happens to all of us eventually.

The oil painting above is of my favorite acreage "prop"...I wish I had one or two more different types of old farm machinery that I could place here or there on the pastures, but this one is just perfect.  The old John Deere hay rake came from an artist friend's family farm - he even remembers using it each summer, then bailing afterwards.  It was his Grandfather's, then his Father's...his Dad just passed away about a month ago.  Although it wasn't the purpose of the painting, I suppose you could think of it as a tribute to his Father and Grandfather, representing their farming heritage and years now finished.

"Litka's Winter Bales" - color pencil drawing - ©Bruce A. Morrison

 The next artwork is a color pencil drawing that about finished off a couple pencils...especially the blue one...lots of shades of blue in there!  This was a winter scene about 4 miles down the road from us...on a piece of property that the owner has let me walk for years.

We have not had much snow this winter...what we did get was fairly fleeting.  So both works were done from older photo files I had to dig up from my system folders.  Winter images aren't the best sellers for me but I'll admit that I'm not all about supporting this habit anymore.  Life is too short and doing what makes me happy has become more pleasing and important for my well being.  And if something "does" strike someone and goes to a new home - that's a double good thing! 

As I mentioned, the winter has been a dry one...we did a pasture inventory yesterday afternoon and it is obvious we cannot burn this spring unless things turn around and the rain comes.  We keep mowed paths between the paddocks, and along property boundaries for fire breaks...these are usually very green once the snow melts and the spring comes.  Any burning we do is helpfully controlled by the green/short mowed barriers.  These "barriers" are toast brown and tinder dry this Spring.  Even with "all hands on deck" (my wife and I) there is no safe and secure way to burn right now.  If the rain comes, maybe a late spring burn will be possible?  

We did do a couple limited fall burns last November though...I did an Elm sapling/volunteer killing campaign for some weeks in September and October.  There were too many for me to keep up with so I went back to a woody herbicide I used many years ago for poison ivy...Garlon 4.  I'm not fond of herbicides but I found myself completely at the mercy of the Elms - they multiplied exponentially over the past several years, and just plain got past me.  The Elms on the neighbor's grounds are still supplying seed - even though they're all in stages of decline.  

The Garlon 4 is sprayed on, so quiet mornings with no breeze is perfect as long as the volunteers have green foliage to take it in (although I believe epidermal absorption still factors in).  Several trips of spot spraying over a few weeks was necessary because there are always those plants that eluded me and some volunteers that needed multiple hits.  Once the pasture was speckled with dead reddish brown leaves and no green, then I set about with seeding plans for the late fall.

It was a busy fall in 2021 for seed gathering...mostly from our own ditches and the north pasture.  It wasn't as much as I needed but seed purchases are off the radar here in these times of limited income.  I was able to seed maybe 60% of the northwest pasture with what I had - I seeded on December 15th as there was a winter snowstorm coming in the next day.  Well...the next day we got snow...horizontal snow...our first ever recorded "Winter Derecho" - very high straight line winds.  I'm sarcastically guessing that ALL of my seeding was stripped from the NW pasture, as NO snow stuck to that pasture - it was as clean as a whistle after the storm...oh well - I tried.

We had a lot of limbs down after that storm but thankfully nothing serious.  We lost part of our sheep barn's roof but nothing we can't fix this spring.  In that effect we were very fortunate here!

We'll see down the road if any pleasant surprises still come about from the seeding I did.  I'm not holding my breath though.

But Spring is coming!  And we're looking forward to it!

Have a Blessed Spring out many will not, especially in the Ukraine and possibly the Baltics...praying for peace in this world with all my heart.

Please be good to one another.


Friday, March 4, 2022

Archived Works Friday No.6!


Post No. 6! The next post for "Archived Works Friday” comes from just over a decade ago. 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! 
I also want to mention, starting this month I will limit "Archival Works Friday" posts to the first Friday of the month...I don't want you tiring too quickly with my ranting! 
This was a pencil drawing done in the early 1980' is a bit personal but maybe more on that before I close.
I always loved walking creeks...some of you who knew me well may have even accompanied me back "in the day". A person sees things a bit differently from "in" the creek, river, pond; I know, I could have easily grown webbed feet as a kid! But on this particular day I wasn't frogging, seining or fishing...just decked out in waders carrying a pack, tripod and camera. 
The stream was Prairie Creek. If you're familiar with Dolliver State Park in north central Iowa - this is the creek you had to drive through to go from one end of the park to the other. Kids could always be found wading or playing in the water between sparse traffic on hot summer days. The road has since been re-routed for water "sensitive" drivers. 
Prairie Creek has somewhat attractive features downstream before it empties in the Des Moines River, but on this early spring morning I chose to walk north to the west park boundary, since it would be new to me...besides the other direction was typically busy with park goers and I liked the idea of being by myself. 
It was a fun walk. Once past the Copperas Beds trail head and sounds of activity from the nearby group campground cabins, it got very secluded and beautiful. Accompanied by the occasional warbler and sweet spring bird songs, I found unaltered woodland and was like I walked into a different world. I still remember this walk nearly 40 years ago. 
I didn't get too many photographs of the landscape. I did photograph some ferns, mosses and wildflowers. But one landscape image I did make was one I felt compelled to draw instead of process a print. I knew my photography and the darkroom well - it had been my profession already over a decade at this time. I was seeing the scene so differently in my mind than on the 4X5 large format color transparency that I processed from this morning walk. 
The subject had a clump of Basswood in early leaf, surrounded with a thicket of scouring rush. The bank hung heavy over the creek and I noticed a set of mink tracks heading under the bank...always on the hunt for crayfish and frogs. I've watched mink fish in and along streams and marshes before - they're pretty good at it! 
Prairie Creek is a name likely given it because that's where it originated - way before it entered the sandstone walled ravines leading into the timber. And here the stream resembles those that traverse through woodlands...stones litter the flowage, decorating the water and defining patterns on the surface. This stream had poetry within it's banks and I wanted this to show.
I worked on this piece exclusively for several months - I had a daytime job at the time. Little by little I gained ground. To keep from smearing lead already placed where I wanted - I drew from the top down...never leaving a mark unfinished. Seemed counter intuitive to not put the "foundation" down first, but that's how I always worked with graphite pencil leads; making mistakes with pencil, even with an eraser handy, makes it extremely frustrating to hide the "error". (Of course something like india ink would be impossible to erase an error!)
I only used one grade of lead – a very soft grade of Eberhard Faber – Ebony Jet Black – Extra Smooth (6325)...every light touch of the pencil equaled fine lines...heavy touches made for darks that you could get lost in. I try and draw on acid free paper. The last few years I switched to quality hot press watercolor blocks and use that for the color pencils as well now.
My Mother was dying from bone cancer at this time...years earlier it started as breast cancer; she had a 5 year reprieve and they declared her cancer free. As suddenly as we all celebrated, it was back, but in her bones. In her last weeks I worked frantically on this drawing. I wanted her to see it finished. My Mom always supported my artistic endeavors and trials. She was actually a good artist herself but was a practical person who had grown up during the great depression...providing for her family, along with our Father, was “her” focus and she did little for herself in comparison. 
One day, when I was around 13-14 years old, Mom showed me something she had done as a teenager. If you are my age or close you'll know what I'm referring to – it was a magazine ad...”Draw Me” from Art Instruction Schools in Minneapolis...I had done the same thing without knowing she had years before. She and Dad agreed I could enroll. It was a mail order type art school and the lessons were good for me...made me focus and think things through. But I always thought back on this and wished my Mother had the circumstances she and my Father now provided me.
Mother never got to see “An Iowa Spring, Prairie Creek” finished. I was just reaching the water beneath the overhanging bank in the drawing when she last saw my progress...she passed shortly after. But I did it for her and I think of her every time I look at this drawing...its my visual song to my Mother; a poem to her memory.
“An Iowa Spring, Prairie Creek” - pencil drawing - ©Bruce A. Morrison
(from the collection of the artist)