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's...it 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 vegetation...it 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)