Words inspired by the backroads of America

Stephen Jones' Dream on the Upper Fox Creek

"Louisa, my love, it's a land where the grass grows so tall that you have to stand in the saddle to see the horizon.  It's a land of milk and honey, of clear water springs and opportunity.  I've heard the rail line has just opened the land for development and we can build our dream from the land itself."
Can't you just hear Stephen Jones trying to convince his wife on the merits of moving from their lucrative cattle ranch in Colorado to the Fox Creek Valley north of Strong City?  It was in the year 1878 and news of the raid by Dull Knife and his band of Cheyenne, south of Fort Dodge, Kansas, was making the news. 

Wandering Down the Road of Life

I’ve heard it said that your first memories can shape the rest of your life.  It seems that mine have done just that.  The earliest memory that I can place is looking out the window of my parents’ old Plymouth at the tree-lined river we were following on our way to my Grandpa Perry’s house.  Now, here I am, fifty-some years later, sitting on my front porch looking at the same Little Arkansas River, just eight blocks away from that quaint, old Craftsman bungalow that housed my Granddad and his collection of Prairie Printmaker prints.  I am now a printmaker myself, illustrating and writing about driving those tree-lined country roads.  My wife and I live in a 1918 home decorated in the Craftsman style with that cherished Prairie Printmaker collection on the walls. 


The theme for 2011 is "Wander".
Unfortunately, that’s a word that is not used much these days.  When it is, it generally takes on a negative connotation, most often associated with aimless or lost.
Wander happens to be one of my favorite words.  To me it has a positive connotation of following your curiosity and having an open mind to truly seeing new surroundings and experiencing new adventures.  It’s turning off of the most direct route and onto the winding backroads to see what you can find out there.   

The Value of Ten Minutes

What is the value of a minute?  Of five minutes?  Can ten minutes make a difference in a day?
Flying along the Kansas Turnpike at the usual 5 mph over the speed limit rush, returning from a doctor’s appointment in Kansas City, we were commenting about the profusion of yellow flowers along the side of the road being bent and shaken by the early fall gusting winds.  Were they Sunflowers?  They looked like they might be, but they seemed smaller and without dark centers.  They didn’t look like Brown-eyed Susans.  And then, some looked like merely yellow background plantings to the tall Bluestem grasses growing unmown in the steep cuts along the highway. 

Adventure on the Art Fair Circuit

We just returned from a month of grand adventure.  Last year we made a commitment to jump into the art fair circuit and were able to participate in a few local shows.  With the addition of hand-tinted color added to the prints in my portfolio over the winter, I was pleased to have been accepted into some large and well-established shows including the 44th Annual Edina, Minnesota Art Fair, the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina, Kansas and the Downtown Omaha Summer Arts Festival.  We will also return to Minneapolis in August for the Uptown Art Fair, an event that ranks second in that state for attendance.  It is eclipsed only by the Minnesota State Fair and ranks in the top 10 art fairs in the country! 

Sunday at the Emma Chase

On a whim we found ourselves seated at the locally famous, old fashioned, down home friendly Emma Chase Café in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas, sipping our iced tea from a large canning jar.  We had ordered our Chicken Finger Dinners from the three blackboard menu selections, fried chicken, chicken fingers and chicken fried steak and had time to look around in the gift shop and study the great historical vignette paintings adorning the walls of the storefront café in the county seat of Chase County, deep in the Flint Hills.  We were reflecting on the great day and weekend we were having.  

South with the Snowbirds

Yesterday I spotted several bunches of Crocus with their bright, sunny yellow and lavender blooms popping up in the neighbor’s yard.  I guess spring is just around the corner!  We’ve been without snow for quite a while, but it’s been cold and grey most of the time.  I think you will agree with me that the weather this winter has been unusually intense, cold and grey, and we’re all ready for some warm spring days.   

On the Edge of the Flint Hills

Gazing out over the rolling hills that fall off into the West Branch of the Fall River Valley, I truly feel like I’m one of the luckiest guys around.  I have designed the perfect job to take advantage of both of my loves.  Wandering the backroads of Butler County, looking for an interesting and creative subject for the Coutts Memorial Art Museum 2010 Gift Print, not only am I able to spend a great day driving the countryside, but then I also get to return to my studio and create an etching that will go out to 125 appreciative art patrons.  Talk about a win-win!  Having an excuse to wander the great outdoors and then come back home and be creative!  I love it! 

My Journey into Creativity (Cont.)

With the weather settling in to the dreary, monotone of grey skies and most of the fall color gone, I have made a commitment to concentrate on new art processes and images for a while.  My goal is to master the product called Solarplate Copper, a photo-sensitive polymer coated plate.  Information about the product can be found in my last journal article.  As with most new products, there is a learning curve as new concepts are explored and processes are worked out.  

My Journey into Creativity

The days have gotten shorter, the wind that now comes unhindered across the plains carries a crisp, dampness that chills the bones and our thoughts now lean toward those projects and gatherings that give us an excuse to stay inside for a while.  We have tailgated and cheered, raked and bagged, driven the backroads and fulfilled our souls with another spectacular fall season of color.  For myself, now it’s time to step back and evaluate the accomplishments of the year and make some decisions and course corrections where needed.  After all, what is life but a journey that requires us to make decisions on the course we will take in order to arrive at our destination of choice.