Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Thinking of Grasses

"Big Bluestem in Bloom"
(Andropogon gerardii)
color pencil drawing © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view
This is a partial re-post from my studio blog; often they are separate, following different themes, but recently I have been working on exclusively "prairie" related subject matter and this is certainly related to the tallgrass :) 
Just finished another color pencil drawing for this summer's exhibit at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City, Iowa.

I've never drawn grasses before, except "implied" as a background form or shape.  And since this summer's solo exhibit will be at a national "Tallgrass Prairie" type refuge, I thought it'd be very appropriate to try to do some small studies of prairie grasses as well.

Of course Big Bluestem is the Tallgrass icon for grasses, so what better subject to start with!?  I am drawing many of these small studies as "close-up" drawings; to bring the subject matter into a more personal/true experience type of presentation.  The grasses depicted here were in "bloom", which is actually surprising to some people; many do not equate grass with having flowers...sometimes referred to as "florets".  Bloom time is usually around early to late July "here", depending on the season's conditions.

This drawing was done from some video footage taken here on our native pasture in 2011.  When I started working on this summer's solo exhibit I garnered many images from the video work I've been doing over the past several years...they came in handy for reference material "and" inspiration, during this past winter!

I found a very good source of videos from last year's Iowa Prairie Conference that I thought I'd pass on to you; back in the "journal" days I would lay out several sources of good information for readers.  I haven't been as good at that since the "blog" version of the journal started, but will try and slip information in if I can.

The videos are of several topics given in 2013; the Tallgrass Prairie & Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium has produced these - "Protecting Land, Protecting the Unknown (Especially Insects)", "Introduction of Management of Prairie Butterflies and Moths", "Prescribed Grazing, Are Herbivores the 'Natural' Choice?", "What Good is a Hill Prairie? Economic, Cultural, and Ecological Benefits", and "Driftless Area Stream Prairie and Savanna Restoration".

The videos can be accessed and viewed at the following link: https://vimeo.com/channels/646940

Well, back to work here - have a great week out there and hope to see you on the Tallgrass!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Still Waiting...

"Prairie Lily"  
(Lilium philadelphicum) 
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison 
(click on image for a larger view)

Still waiting in the wings for spring!  Aren't we all?!  But there is hope in the air with predictions of day time highs above freezing toward the end of the week! 

A year ago we were only days away from seeing our Great Blue Herons returning to the rookery across the valley and were seeing the area Bald Eagles sitting tight on their nest.   The Great Horned Owls are apparently incubating/hatching nearby...we see the top of the "sitter's" head when we pass by and crane our necks.  And the numbers of Mourning Doves is stretching a bit here on the acreage...we haven't seen huge flocks of Red-wing Blackbirds yet but a few individuals have been on the feeders in the yard.

But I've been working on early summer on the drawing board; another prairie forb  has grown to fruition.  I chose a lily that is native to my county (O'Brien) and still exists in a state remnant nearby.  I won't disclose its location as there are a meager few left and I don't want them stressed any more than they already are. 

I first came upon "Lilium philadelphicum" on the north shore of Lake Superior and in the adjacent forests, where it is locally known as the "Wood Lily".  I was quite surprised to find this beautiful small lily back in the mid 1990's here in O'Brien County when the state acquired a wonderful native prairie remnant; we walked the remnant the year prior to its public disclosure and found the "Wood" Lily on the prairie there!  I discovered the "Lilium philadelphicum" was one and the same as on NE Minnesota's "Arrowhead" region, and was pleased to call it "Prairie Lily" for the first time! 

I drew this color pencil drawing from that very same "first" Prairie Lily here...from a slide I took of the plant in bloom that morning of discovery. Hmmm, "slides", that's something I haven't worked from in a long while!

Its been cathartic doing these prairie plant drawings, getting that winter "thing" purged from my system!  I do hope to do more when I can.

I have an exhibit on the prairie coming up in July-August this summer, down at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City, Iowa.  Neal Smith has a large and quite nice visitor center and the exhibit will be at the J. N. "Ding" Darling Gallery there.  The exhibit will follow my past "From the Tallgrass" theme, relating wholly to the Tallgrass Prairie.  I'll follow up more in a future blog on the details.

Still waiting and trying to be patient!