prairie

Dream (again).

She and I were counting rings on an old Oak stump on a prairie plot in Northern Illinois. As the sunset below the Compass plant, we lost count at 200 and something.

When I woke up I wrote myself a note on this piece of plywood to help me remember.

Advertisements

Hawks and flowers.

My father and I share bird reports regularly, he’s been sharing sightings of sharp-shinned hawks diving for birds at his feeders and in the field next door in Illinois.  That’s had me wanting to work one into a pen drawing for a while. The prairie piece was the perfect fit.

sharpshinnedfinalwords.jpg

The compass Plant is finished too, I ran some numbers and there are roughly 10,000 lines in the large bloom alone.  Drawing Illinois plants in a room 2,300 miles west.

compsspenfinal.jpg

He not busy being born is busy dying….

My prairie restoration project

 

compassplantflower.jpg

The pen brings clarity to the flower and I. My Compass Plant flower that grew under light of the drawing lamps. Across from it on a branch sits an American Kestrel. A small and swift raptor of the prairie and open woodlands.

There is a Kestrel that hangs out by where I like to ride my mountain bike. Last week one hovered just 20 feet from where I sat. It has helped me a lot with illustrating to be able to watch them in the wild. Raptors aren’t easy to observe in detail. This local Kestrel did me a service in getting close for me to notice its face markings. A blessed encounter.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel

I put in two hours tonight, I’m sure there’s another half dozen to go. My sister tells me that the prairie plants back in Illinois have begun to push through the soil and make their way towards the sun to later make flower. At that rate, I’m ahead of schedule.

Working my way up the page.

Working my way up the page.

 

 

My Illinois

My Illinois has grown into a place it couldn’t be until I left it. I was too preoccupied with plotting my escape to truly sink into its beauty. That’s not to say I didn’t look for it before I left. In the plots of restored prairie around Kane county Illinois I found the greatest beauty, and came to fall in love with grasslands.
My first large paintings were of mountain ranges, rather cartoon like, they captured the image of where I was heading. I painted them on the walls of my room (to my mother’s delight).
That feeling when you’re driving in towards Denver from Nebraska. To put the grasslands and corn in your rearview mirror and the mountains right on ahead. I was making a break for it, running for my life, cool and calm doing 65mph on Highway 76.
Illinois out the basement window.

Illinois out the basement window.

 

It was to just be another summer job at a kids camp in Tahoe and then return. Though that wasn’t to be the case at all. Here I am 6 years later, I’m putting my eyes on the rearview mirror and revisiting some old familiar plants and animals. All the while sitting on a chair in California drawing birds.
milkweedsketch.jpg
I wanted to do a page called “Raptors of the Illinois Prairie”.  I chose the American Kestrel and Sharp-shinned Hawk. And after sketching a few old friends from the plots of Kane County. I went with one of my top three favorite plants, the Compass Plant. They stand a good 6-8 feet tall and their roots go almost twice as deep. Part of my love for the flowers they put out is tied to the roots they send so deep. Escaping the full wrath of the fires that recycled the prairie.
I will put a good many more hours into this drawing. To explore it further in pencil and pen, before coloring with watercolor.
prairieproject.jpg
I remember it well standing in the driveway saying goodbye to my Dad that May morning. The dogwood was blooming.  I was sad to leave home I told him. “Home is where ever you go” he told me. Those words put a smile on my face whenever my heart grows heavy.
He knew I wasn’t coming right back to Illinois before I did.

Mantis in the tall grass.

mantis.jpg

I was working in a prairie restoration project one day in the summer. 06 or 05, it was a typical humid July day and I don’t remember what seed I was after that day but in a stand of teasel I found a large (4″-6″) Praying Mantis. It looked at me with giant reddish eyes. Then before I had a chance to think it jumped at me and flew on wing inches over the top of my head. I fell over backwards startled and landed in a thistle patch. But I got a good look at her first and years later made this drawing.

Nobody told me those things can fly. They can.

Antelope of sorts

Antelope of sorts

Drawn from memory after looking through pictures of different deer, antelope, and bison skulls. Antelope make me think of grasslands. I spent a few good summers working on prairie restoration projects around Kane county, IL. There really is nothing like the grasslands, the soundtrack of millions of birds and insects. It really buries you especially when the grass grows 8 feet tall. No Antelopes on my Illinois prairies, but this drawing takes me there anyway.