May 22nd, 2011
I just finished a small painting in the studio this afternoon ("Late July Mid Afternoon" oil on canvas - 9X12); it was of a summer day Georgie and I went exploring along the Little Sioux River down in Cherokee County, south of us. I remember it being a fairly hot and humid day...a typical "dog days of summer" kind of day. Those were the days I remember most as a kid out of school for the summer. Loved those times!
The area depicted was down near the Silver Sioux Recreation Area...a pretty neat place. This exact location was nearby in the Stiles Woodland ...I believe it is a private preserve overseen by a nonprofit group...could be mistaken about that but it is open to casual visitors at times...there is signage there at its entrance giving information about it.
What I remember about the preserve is the high sun of the day creating stark contrast and shadow...the distant hillside looked hazy in the mid day humidity. These impressions give me fodder later on when working from the memory of the place and photos I took. I have heard the saying from many sources that the greens of spring and summer are the most difficult to paint. Since these are the times of year I really enjoy, I have to tackle these issues head on. Keeping interest and movement or flow through a painting can be challenging with so much green! There was a small barn along a small creek there that I painted red (it was no longer showing paint) to add a complimentary color, giving relief and a focal point. I knew the barn would help visually when I spotted it there that afternoon.
Studio work is getting difficult! It is finally trying to be spring out there and all that comes with it make for more time outside. Hope you're enjoying some outside time as well!
May 22nd, 2011
Studio time is getting shorter and harder to accommodate these days...the days are finally getting longer and finally getting warmer! I'm putting the emphasis on "finally" only out of frustration with the cold/dark April we've been experiencing this year. I do think I'm getting more patient with some things as the years pass by but "feeling and enjoying" spring is one part of life I cannot abide by getting skimped on!
When the weather outside isn't cooperating, I do get more studio time I guess...maybe that's the only saving grace here for the time being. I've been doing a good deal of framing and catching up on several things put on the back burner this past fall and winter.
One thing I finally worked through was another small color pencil study that will perhaps take on new life as a larger painting some day. This pencil is of an area north of us that still looks fairly much like it may have a couple hundred years ago...well, that's the way I drew it anyway. The distant shoreline is dotted with houses and docks; I removed them. They did not contribute to the emotional affect the location had on me - so as the Queen of Hearts so frequently stated in Alice In Wonderland "Off with their heads!" :)
I'd become stuck on this piece for some time. The sky was really creating problems in retaining a visual "feel" for the light and carefree clouds. The wax medium of the prismacolor pencil was fighting me on this. I came upon another type of pencil that I'd read about and gave them a try. They are Lyra brand pencils that are oil based rather than wax. It's the wax build up that often throws cogs in the wheels of progress when drawing difficult/stubborn passages in a piece. Working over the already lain down wax pencil gave me some pause but things worked out alright I think.
Angler's Bay is on Spirit Lake's northeast corner, adjacent to Hales Slough (an old favorite wetland of mine). This area was part of an intense conservation/preservation effort about 5-6 years ago...it was the final remaining rush bed left on Spirit and an important spawning and nesting area. The Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation led a hard sought campaign to secure the property for our grand children's heritage. This would not have been possible without the landowners seeing the need for this property's preservation!
Thankfully there will be no future marinas or private houses and docks dotting this fragile/final remaining wetland. We ALL get to enjoy this place for generations to come!
March 20th, 2011
Spring starts "officially" today, but it's presence was obvious and in your face all week. Love it!
There's been flock after flock of Canada Geese flying through and over the valley the past couple weeks. Each morning brings the sounds of "music" everywhere from the valley to the yard. This morning the dawn chorus was exceptional.
The Waterman Creek Great Blue Heron Rookery is filling up with returning pairs from past years. The first birds came in two days ago...there were five individuals. This morning there were over 30 birds and more showing up! It's really quite a sight but the rookery is about an eighth of a mile from the road so binoculars are helpful! This is the time of the year the heron "traffic" begins and its a blast to sit outside and watch the flight patterns flow - over the house and pasture and all around us during the morning, noon and evenings!
Spring is really here!
March 4th, 2011
I feel fortunate that there are so many things in the "neighborhood" that interest me. The features of the landscape and the landscape's entirety as well. Waterman Creek flows past our place in the valley here and is a prairie stream with so much natural and cultural heritage going for it. It keeps our focus during the winter months with the wildlife traffic following this "trail" up and downstream during all times of the day.
The past couple weeks have been filled with Bald Eagles flying upstream in the morning and back downstream during the evenings. We've found them congregating upstream along the creek and couple miles from here.
A couple days ago Georgie and I were watching a pair of Red-tailed Hawks flying low along the fenceline across Waterman Creek. We have resident pairs in the valley here each year and really love watching them catching thermals during the summer or sitting along the road or even in the grove here at Prairie Hill Farm. The pair I mentioned stopped together and copulated on an old wooden fence post as we watched...we were very excited to see this because it's pretty convincing we'll have a pair nesting here in the valley again this spring! Now if we were to see a pair of eagles mate out here in our "neighborhood", we'd have huge cause for excitement!
The color pencil drawing posted at the head of this blog is of our favorite creek - the Waterman. The drawing is a small study of the creek's mouth where it flows into the Little Sioux River just a few miles south of the studio here. There is no extreme drama here, in fact I was mentally processing the scene when I first walked in to it and thought, "Huh, so this is how it ends." I suppose that could be a metaphor for a lot of us!!
A life is complex, interspersed with drama...ups and downs; witness to events, experiences...out of control and sedate. Think of what this small little creek has seen! No, I think it's a pretty cool character myself.
The studio newsletter is off and running and it's certainly not too late to subscribe...gain some insight to the work! You can subscribe at -
See you in the neighborhood!
February 25th, 2011
I'm still here plugging away in the studio! I finally finished a piece that is about the third attempt to an idea I first got 6-7 years ago. The "star" of the show is a male Dickcissel belting out it's name, in song form, among the Tallgrass Prairie in bloom. The bird is taken from a study I did, which is now in the permanent "drawing collection" of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau, Wisconsin. I have been trying to find a "home" for my study and this is my first "finished" attempt to see if I have! The foreground is a mix of forbs in a prairie remnant near us that Georgie and I often explore. The Echinacea (purple coneflowers) are of our county's true native population - Echinacea angustifolia, or "Narrow-leaved Purple Coneflower". The male Dickcissel is proudly belting out it's name, the call from which the bird was named (virtually sounds like Dick, Dick, cissel). This is a larger piece for me with color pencil...I find the medium can be exasperating at times and generally stick with small studies instead...but I persevered and finished it this week.
My first "Morrison's Studio Newsletter" (Vol.1, No.1) went out today! If you'd like to sign up for it, there's a link to the form right along the sidebar to this blog...if you get this blog via e-mail you can go directly to the form by way of this link -
Hope your work has been going well this winter! Stay safe!
February 10th, 2011
We're in the middle of many things here at the studio and Prairie Hill Farm - winter for one! A couple days ago our digital thermometer went offline...it stops at 19 below zero fahrenheit. It popped back on again at 19 below a little after 8 a.m. I'd been out in the yard filling feeders for the birds and squirrels...it can get a little oppressive for them, out in the open in this weather.
I stopped before going into the studio and took just a quick shot of the sun dogs across the valley...nothing elaborate, just using my small camera. I've often wished I could find the perfect landscape "nearby" to photograph sun dogs!
We've also been in the middle of a lot of snow removal lately...that happens at this time of year! I remember a neighbor speaking to me about the winter snow issues in the valley here a few years back. He eluded to the fact that since we moved here, we hadn't had a bad winter...I took all the credit with a grin! :) Well, that ended last year and we've since gotten pretty good at moving snow on our own.
I'm hoping that this is the break in our winter weather for the duration ahead, a nice weekend appears to be a reality! Any day in the 20's or 30's (faherenheit) is great winter weather! (I know the birds would appreciate it too!)
I've been in the middle of painting and drawing projects as well. Some have been extremely taxing...I hate to move onto something else when a piece is unfinished but that is a reality at times. Sometimes a fresh "face" can help recover from painters block. Oh ya...it happens. :P
I've also been in the middle of marketing and business planning. This is not something I relish but a necessity for any artist that is working out there as a freelancer - a full-time studio. I am planning on beginning a newsletter in the near future...this is for my collectors and other clients that have purchased work here at the studio or other galleries I sell through. If you are someone that would be interested in being included as a studio newsletter subscriber, watch for future news about this.
"In the Middle" is a time of transition or just a place you find yourself often as you move through life. Here's hoping you're in the middle of something very good!
February 1st, 2011
I've been delving in the prairie vicariously through my drawing lately. If you can't go to the prairie "physically", then why not mentally or on the tactile surface of the paper in front of you?!
My subject matter (a 5X7" color pencil piece) is likely one of the most common forbs (flowers) from the prairie, and can be found anywhere that allows it a seed bed. But I love this plant, no matter how common place it may be. And I look forward to gathering it's seed every fall...man what an amazing smell from a handful of seed! I'll not try and describe it - just try it for yourself some fall.
I called this plant "prairie coneflower" for years, until I was corrected one day, being told it was a "Gray-headed Coneflower" I had the scientific name correct - Ratibida pinnata, but was never keen on gray-headed...just doesn't sound appealing does it? Well several months ago I got my new edition of "Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie" by Runkel and Roosa and the name given it there is "Yellow Coneflower"...I can live with that! :) So I'm titling the drawing at the beginning of this blog Entry "Yellow Coneflowers" and I'll throw in the Ratibida pinnata to boot, making it official and correct.
I may do a drawing of "Prairie Coneflowers" one of these days...that's Ratibida columnifera to you sticklers out there! :) They grow in our pasture as well, occurring naturally in this SE corner of O'Brien County.
Been working on this piece and others off and on since Thanksgiving...may plant a few more forbs on paper...or a landscape to wander through. In the meantime I'm still finishing commissioned painting work...but a walk through the prairie in my mind is still a refreshing respite!
Hope you agree!
March 27th, 2010
Forgive my "slang" spelling but I'm really enjoy'n it! The weather...you know - spring! And the birds...woke up to one of the yard robins singing it's dawn chorus piece yesterday morning, haven't heard that since maybe last July!
The Great Blue Herons are returning to the rookery across Waterman Creek, and the Song Sparrows have returned and are serenading in the south pasture.
The "glaciers" are rapidly melting away in the yard and pastures...there's still a couple 18-36" deep, but virtually the entire driveway and neighboring areas are free! Now the bees from the hives south of the barn are out searching high and low for pollen...poor guys...it'll be a while before we can help out there.
I just finished another small piece that's actually been on my back burner for several years. It was out on the south section of the Waterman Prairie complex south of here...actually a few years before we bought this property we now call Prairie Hill Farm.
Georgie and I visited the south section of Waterman Prairie the year that the ground was purchased for the state. It was an area I revisited many times in the first few years and I photographed the landscape around it whenever the light was good. This was a view I really took to; at first I wasn't sure what it was about it, but I believe the light and the graphic qualities in the image were the "hook" for me.
I'll readily admit I do many pieces for reasons that are my "weakness" per se. I cannot shake emotional attachments. Once I fall in love with a place...for a moment, or for whatever reason...it becomes a part of my being. I wonder what exactly goes on but suffice it to say - I have to revisit it, even if it has changed. Revisit just to regain that feeling or emotion I felt at the time there. This piece is no exception.
If I had taken a photograph that met my expectations, I would have very likely stopped right there. But I did not. It was good enough to serve as a springboard for this small rendering, but I didn't feel it was enough to stand alone. I find sometimes I can recreate the memory in the way "I want to remember it"...I think it worked for me in that way, and I'm happy with it.
I prefer color pencils be small, larger pieces and attempts in the past have met with mixed results, they are also extremely time consuming. My first college art professor once told me that you should charge the same for a painting or other artwork that a plumber charges for their services (by the hour). Ha! I'll never forget that! But...the plumber could have redone the entire house during the time spent on this piece (and most other small color pencils I've done). Guess we just have to live with our limitations don't we???
But I'll treat this piece as a study, possibly...maybe someday down the road it'll morph into a new life as a larger painting?
One never knows...
January 27th, 2010
I finally finished another autumn color pencil piece I started way back before Christmas. I'm glad it's over; it wrestled me most of the way. I will offer this piece for sale as all originals I do...just have to set up a page on my business website for it first...in the meantime, if you are interested just email me and I can give you the particulars.
As in my mid November post, this image also came from the same trip Georgie and I made down into Sac County, Iowa while working on the Watchable Wildlife project. The day was horribly windy and very little came out of the trip as publishable photographs but it was beautiful and I used the image files to draw from to try and recapture that valley along the Raccoon River.
Back lit scenes are a favorite of mine, but I'm going to take a rest from them for a bit and try to get onto some other images burned into some lost corner of my brain.
January 27th, 2010
Been working on some image processing with Watchable Wildlife website work and a photo workshop coming up in the next month. I came across this file of the valley out in front of the studio here at Prairie Hill Farm and thought - I remember when it used to look like that!
What a mixed bag we've had this month! 32 below zero (fahrenheit) to mid 30's above this past week...over 60 degrees difference! Whoa! The heavy snow cover has shrunk some with "rainfall" yesterday, but I still sink up above my knees!
Now the 100 yard uphill driveway is frozen ice...I like the idea of the image at this blog's header - ignore it, maybe it'll go away!!!
(Stay warm and upright!)