Thursday, February 13, 2020

A Roller Coaster of Fun!

Its been a real roller coaster winter.  Really not nearly a bad as winters in the past...I remember some very limb numbing, frost biting ones and this particular one isn't really all that bad.  But its up and down, up and down...I suppose a lot of us just want to get of and rest up for spring anyway!

Winter in the valley here has been fairly quiet but pleasant - we have been waking up to Coyotes running through the pasture and yipping up a chorus to locate their buddies...and the Great Horned Owl pair that nest nearby each winter/spring have been hooting up a chorus together as well, but these are pleasant interruptions to our winter sleep...even becoming parts of dreams and making things really interesting.

The Bald Eagles have been fairly prevalent.  Seeing them along the roads on unfortunate raccoons that stepped in front of someone, or waiting near confinements...hoping for some free bacon I guess!  The river and creeks have had open spots for fishing but the up and down temps have closed and opened them enough to frustrate fishing somewhat I'd guess(?).

American Bald Eagle in the neighborhood.
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
The character above is what I'm guessing is a male (do to a slightly smaller stature) that was hanging out near a farm yard north of us, on a fairly nice Sunday afternoon.

I am finally starting to get back to the easel and other artwork in the studio.  I've have a few birds I've been wanting to get back to for the oil based color pencils and since I have a case of spring fever and looking through customer requests, decided to do another Baltimore Oriole.  I'm fortunate here that we get great populations of orioles through the spring and summer, so I have a lot of files I can refer to and draw from.
"Baltimore Oriole - male Portrait"
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison
Here is my latest drawing and am pretty happy with the way it came out!  I started doing these more true to life size and working more for head and bust rather than just head and shoulders.  I have been giving more thought to complete birds and activities in color pencil but have yet to work up the courage...I have done some in the past at much smaller than life size in color pencil but not life size birds in their habitat.

It is actually only about 5 weeks till spring!  Isn't that amazing!  Time just keeps dripping through my fingers like a sieve...I need to find a way to slow its flow...I'd like spring and summer to last much, much longer!!!

Have a Happy Valentine's Day tomorrow - hope to see you on the Tallgrass!!!

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Catching Up Again...

 "House Finch in Snowfall"
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

Well now...we're nearly in the middle of January!  Things have been mostly digging out of the piles I left for later, these past couple of years, while I worked to put together the solo showing this past fall and winter at the Pearson Lakes Art Center. 

And the pile has been substantial!  

I have always had a slight issue with "putting things off"...especially when I have other things on my mind.  That's not so unusual is it?  I think a lot of us have the same problem.  My neglected work just happened to be a couple years or more worth of image files that had yet to be processed and filed.  That may not sound like a lot but believe me it is a real "time killer"!  I am now down to my last 30 folders of thousands of shots of birds, prairie plants, landscapes and other images I've taken in the past year.  I'm slowly making progress, I think...

But its a good time to take care of these things isn't it?  I mean its really crappy outside right now - bitterly cold and really not that visually interesting..."here" any way!  But while I sit here doing my computer house cleaning, I keep coming across files that really stop me and get me thinking...gee, that would make a great drawing or painting...or maybe that file should be marked for more work as a photograph?!  It's aggravating to not readily afford to take time out to just do these things!  If I did, I'd still be back in my 2017-2018 folders and putting off the inevitable!

So in the meantime I have rehung the gallery here, am finding work for clients searching for that something special they were looking for, practically nailed to my seat in front of the computer, and constantly being distracted by things outside my office window...doesn't really seem like much has changed!!!!!!!  Ha!

Well enough said.  If you wonder where I'm at - I'm here "catching up"!

Have a great winter and stay safe and warm out there, and we'll see you on the Tallgrass! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Where'd it go? Did you get it?!!

(Pasture Sunrise - © Bruce A. Morrison)

OK...maybe the heading is over doing it, but what happened to Indian summer this fall???  I have never seen or been through an autumn season without an Indian Summer day.  Did you get lucky?  If you live south, east or west of us you likely did - I hope so!  What a sad state of Indian Summer day this year.  

In case you don't observe these things or think about them...I've always considered a day, after the first killing frost, that reaches above 60 degrees F an Indian Summer day.  Never made it this year and I'm not being too optimistic that it will happen yet.  (I'm saying this out loud to "dare" it to happen!!!)

Its been about 6 weeks or so since my solo Exhibit "Of Moment and Place"  opened at the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa (You can read more about it here in the Discover Magazine article - "Of Moment and Place") and I am finally back on the ground here at the studio - trying to catch up with everything that sat by the way side for the past year and a half while I was trying to put this exhibit together!  

It was an over whelming experience...I have found that I can write better about how things affect me more so than I can verbalize!  Again, I was just over whelmed by it all and although the exhibit runs through into the first week of January, I'm relieved the opening night reception has passed! But it was an amazing experience and I want to thank everyone who came...I met some really nice new people as well as all my friends and collectors who came as well!

I was very honored that the Pearson Lakes Art Center also purchased a couple paintings for their permanent collection - this painting above "Mid Day Summer on Diamond Lake" and the painting below "Windrows in Cloud Shadow".  Thank you so much to the PLAC for having the confidence in me, not just for allowing me to exhibit there for 3 months but to include a couple of my paintings in their own collection!

I would also like to thank the many collectors for allowing me to borrow works back to help make this a truly cohesive collection for people to see all together.  I am in your debt and appreciate your gesture (and confidence in me) more than I can express!

Here are just a few more images of the show. As I mentioned before - the show runs till January 4th, 2020 - so if you missed it you still do have time to take it in!

Thank you for visiting the blog as well - and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone out there if I don't see you before then - have a Blessed time with your family and/or friends!

Thursday, September 5, 2019


The roosting has begun - they are on the move!  Actually its been a few days now, just getting the time to get around to reporting it.  But WOW we're having a fun time here with the show in the pasture each day and in the yard in the evening and morning!

(I partially blurred the number so our Florida
friend wouldn't get too many phone calls!)

This morning we had a "late" roost...they're usually out and dispersed/feeding by mid morning but today they were still roosting and clustering here and there out of the brisk wind.  It was 10:50 am when Georgie came and got me to look, as she'd been out doing chores and was seeing lots of action.

I brought the camera out and was watching all the roosts and amazed they hadn't dispersed when I saw a tag!  I photographed this on one of the soft maples on the north side of our grove, out of the wind...just sitting and resting.  And no wonder!

I called the tag number and spoke with a gentleman from Florida who was staying in Wisconsin, visiting his daughter.  He took the tag number and his daughter looked it up and found she had tagged "this very" Monarch individual on August 20th in Franksville, Wisconsin - north of Milwaukee about 10 miles - along Lake Michigan.

I don't want to name the person without his permission but he has been doing research on Monarchs for the past 10 years and started his research in Florida.  Florida Monarchs are unique in that they don't migrate - they are a resident population.  There is a parasite that Florida Monarchs are experiencing and they have been tagging these Monarchs and taking small samples from their abdomens (doesn't harm them) to check for the parasite...he referred to it as the "OE" parasite.  They do this work through the University of Georgia and have 160 volunteers in Florida doing the work.  Now his daughter is also tagging and checking the Monarchs (our migratory Monarchs bound for Mexico) and this one was tagged there in Wisconsin August 20th - very cool!!!

So far this Monarch has been flying due west of where it was tagged!  Maybe it heard we have loads of flowers here for nectaring (tongue-in-cheek)!?!  No wonder this poor critter was just intent to rest this morning...that's a long flight over the past 16 days!

I hope this Monarch makes it's way all the way to Mexico and we can hear from it again...wouldn't that be the greatest story!!!

Keep an eye out and enjoy the sight, soon they will depart...

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Getting Ready

 Out paint'n the Barn!

Its been a very busy summer here - all the usual summer work aside.  August has now exited and I'm still struggling to get caught up, to get ready - for my solo exhibit in 4 weeks!!! (Panic setting in...)

"Shed Gate Corner of the Old Stucco Barn"
(plein air oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison)

The exhibit will be at the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa...with the reception and exhibit opening on Thursday, October 3rd, from 5-7pm.  The public is 

"Summer Afternoon Along the Old Field Road"
(plein air oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison)

Back in August, just a couple weeks ago, I participated in the Pearson Lakes Art Center's Plein Air exhibit.  We had to bring in some canvases and get their backs stamped/signed and had 6 days to go out and paint outdoor landscapes on them.  I painted 2 scenes here on the acreage and one I had scouted out south of us in the valley.

I entered 3 paintings - the painting above "Summer Afternoon Along the Old Field Road" was awarded the Juror's Award...2 of the painting sold the night of the reception and the folks that purchased the Barn painting stopped out at the studio the next day and bought another painting to go with it!  Good experience!
"Summer Afternoon on the NW Pasture" 
(plein air oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison)

Now it's back inside the studio - the solo exhibit is just 4 weeks away - busy getting ready.

Hope to see you there!!!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Dog Days...

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

August has should still be June as far as I'm concerned but then what I think won't change things so that's that.  I am looking forward to some time...maybe by mid Autumn, that my time will not be tied to deadlines so much and I can once again slow down...take a guiltless nap every once and a while...just stroll around the pasture or down the road with no goal in mind - just chill out and relax.  Boy that actually sounds good!

In the mean time I'm still prepping for a solo showing in early October at the Pearson's Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa...I'll throw out more information closer to the date though.  

I've been really struggling with a landscape here in the studio that did a number on me...but I haven't removed it from the easel yet...maybe I haven't given up on it yet?  That happens; I'm sure I'm not the only person that has run into this dilemma and it won't be my last either I know.
 Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
One thing comes about out here when August rolls around - things are visibly transitioning.  The early to mid summer flowers are finishing up...the Compass plants and Cup Plants are all in flower and maturing, goldenrods are starting to bloom, the liatris are beginning to move along too, the prairie clovers are about done, and the warm season grasses are in flower or early stages of putting on seed.  It's still mid summer (I don't want to rush things) and the prairie is "Pollinator Heaven" right now...and of course the hotter it gets out there - the happier the pollinators seem to be!
Many types of Bumble Bees are busy pollinating 
the Culver's Root (Veronicastrum virginicum) blossoms
photographs - © Bruce A. Morrison
A member of the Bacchini sub-family
of Hover Flies (family Syrphidae)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
A member of the Hover Flies family (Syrphidae)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 Painted Lady pollinating a Wild Bergamot
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
The Culver's Root here was a big hit one evening down on the pasture...we had lost a good clump to the new septic fields we had installed but thankfully there are still enough to go around here.  We had everything from wasps to Bumble Bees to all kinds of Hover Flies...many of which are quite different looking!

photographs - © Bruce A. Morrison
When you have a lot of pollinators out and about you also get some predator activity, and August is a particularly good time to see all types of spiders out working their webs - especially great to see in the early morning dew.

Pale Touch-Me-Not (Impatiens pallida)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
We also have a couple mid summer woodland types of native flowers blooming here in the north grove right now.  One plant I've seen repeatedly each summer and never caught it in bloom is really putting on a good show right now, and certainly welcomed by the local pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds nesting in the yard!  They are commonly referred to as "Jewel Weed"; the type we have here are the Pale Touch-Me-Not - a fun plant to show kids when the seed's ready to disperse!  Just touch a ripe seed pod and "POP" the sheath snaps open and the seed goes flying! This is a fun plant to collect seed from.
White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
Our other mid summer woodland bloomer is the White Snakeroot (Ageratina altissima), a fairly common plant even in disturbed areas...which doesn't surprise me seeing it in the old grove remnant here. Its a great plant for pollinators and lasts well into Fall.

I hope to get out more, not fuss so much about what's taunting me on the easel, and enjoy what summer we still have to enjoy...the bugs aren't so bad right now too so what better reason to get out there!

Thank you for stopping by and visiting the blog - be sure and click on any of the photos for a larger view - Have a Great Summer and see you on the Tallgrass!!!

Monday, July 1, 2019


 Been a tough May and June for bugs!

Rats, let June go by without an entry...had a lot I could have written, just too many interruptions, projects and head in the wrong place I guess...oh ya and Bugs!!!

"Red-bellied Woodpecker (male)- Portrait"
(color pencil drawing -  © Bruce A. Morrison)

Finished a couple small pieces since the last entry...had a great songbird spring and now a lot going on in the pasture here...uh more than usual, more on that later.
Did a nice little life size portrait of a Red-bellied Woodpecker a few weeks is just slightly larger than those in the past..I wanted a more-to-life-size presentation, where I felt many of those in the past were a bit under sized.  The Red-bellieds are here year around and are really quite attractive up close, especially the males - as was this color pencil drawing.

"Windrows in Cloud Shadow"
(oil painting -  © Bruce A. Morrison)

Just finished a small oil painting of a pasture down the road about 3-4 miles...It was a great cloud shadow afternoon; I love those days in the a kid I used to race them across open fields of a friend's farm.  I added some windrows in the foreground shadow and spot lit the middle distant ground field pattern and bales.  I had issues and hurdles with this one...firstly not getting the foreground dark enough to appear as in cloud shadow - then the middle ground not brightly lit enough to suit me...I spent about 3 weeks glazing the foreground to deepen and cool down the cloud shadowed windrows and foreground trees...then scumbling the middle ground area to make the sunlit pasture and landscape appear warmer and more brightly lit.  In the middle of all this I had cataract surgery in both eyes - wow did that add some issues!!!  In fact the cataracts kept me indoors much of the time, much much too bright outside now, which is improving every day now.

 Male Bobolink in the south pasture
(photographs - © Bruce A. Morrison)

I did try and chase a male Bobolink around the south pasture in dark glasses right after the surgery - didn't want to wait as they're finishing up their nesting and will be gone very soon.  I know I've talked about Bobolinks before more than once; after they finish nesting they will flock up and move around to other areas and parts unknown...will have to wait till next year to see them again.  Anyway - thank goodness for auto focus telephoto lenses, its not easy focusing through dark glasses!

 "White Wild Indigo (Baptisia alba)"
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison)

Been loving the pastures this summer, so much blooming and each ear a surprise.  About 6 years or so ago I found leaves of a plant tat hadn't shown itself there before...I recognized it as a Baptisia.  The next year I lost track of it, then actually forgot about it.  A couple years ago I saw it again and then remembered the first sighting.  Its gotten bigger each year and this year went into bloom!  A gorgeous plant and blossoms, a Wild White Indigo (Baptisia alba).

(click to enlarge)

The pasture is going through a "bit" of a transition right necessary but still more of a change than I'd like.  The process hasn't been finished yet because of the extreme heat we're experiencing right now (mid and upper nineties with dew points of 78-79) - not a good condition to be working outside.  The "process" is a new septic tank and fields...the fields being in the pasture.  Right now it appears we'll have about I/10th of an acre to rehabilitate when all is said and done.  Losing a few good clumps of Culver's Root and some other desirable plants but hopefully no more than that!
Trying to get on to my next painting - with a solo exhibit approaching faster each week, I'm starting to feel a bit of anxiety!  I hope the summer temps cool down a bit and maybe actually get some outside time with the camera too!

Hope you have a safe and pleasant summer out there...see you on the Tallgrass!