Asa’s first week storm

Some fantastic convention popped up in the sky to celebrate the birth of my son this past week! Haven’t had storm viewing in the Grand Island, Nebraska, area like this in a couple of years.


Intentional Observation: Prairie grass

I walked through the prairie this past week for the day job, taking photographs for an ad. It’s a 2+ acre site west of Grand Island where the ruts (swales) of multiple wagon trains can still be seen. This lovely piece of vegetation caught my eye as I paced the prairie.

The Chocolate Bar

This will be a beautiful thing for downtown Grand Island, Nebraska.

The Chocolate Bar has been a long time in the making, a project of one of my brother’s good friends. My sister (JRN Designs) worked on the interior design with them. They seem to have a really strong business model so I’m hoping the place will stick around for a long time!


I often refer to myself as a wannabe storm chaser, but a more accurate description would probably be that I’m an aspiring storm-gazer.

When a person here’s the term “storm chaser” they automatically think of someone, in this era of cable TV, who is trying to get as close to a tornado as they can without dying. I don’t need to see a tornado to feel as though I’ve had a successful outing storm-gazing, although tornadic storms are often the most picturesque. In fact, in most cased I’d rather be miles away from the storm, looking back at the supercell in full. I want structure such as the updraft, anvil and mammatus to be clearly visible so I can sketch or photograph them and put them into clay.

I’d like to be able to chase storm-gazing opportunities, and have made very mild attempts at doing so a couple of times the past couple of years. Storm-gazing from home, from Grand Island, has been very poor so far this season. We’ve had a few storms roll by, but it’s either been at night or while it was overcast to begin with.

Yesterday evening a nice little supercell formed just south of Grand Island, and in my unfortunate hurries I somehow missed its birth until it was more or less just a gray anvil overhead. The rear flank was visible to the west, but it wasn’t photogenic with the bright, late afternoon sun still bearing down on it, aiding in the storm’s development.

A couple of hours later some of the structure was quite nice, though, as the cell slowly floated north over Grand Island. An acquaintance from high school posted this stellar capture to Facebook, and I stitched together the following panorama taken from my driveway with DoubleTake.

Another affirmation of the Great Plains

Cody Jean Carson Brown's Migration

One of the things that makes central Nebraska really unique is the Spring migration of the Sandhill Cranes. All sorts of events go on during the month of March in response to the roughly 500,000 cranes descending on the Platte River Valley. Earlier this week my wife and I enjoyed the opening reception of Stuhr Museum’s annual Wings Over the Platte exhibit.

It’s quite a good show, worth seeing if you’re in the area. I was glad to see acquaintance Doug Johnson getting Best of Show. His recent work is going in a creative and wonderfully unexpected direction, which is sometimes lacking in Midwestern art shows. Another fascinating piece was the mixed media (but mostly ceramic) wall sculpture by Cody Jean Carson Brown pictured to the right.

However, the most interesting thing at the exhibit was not visual. It was the bio/artist statement from featured artist Jason Jilg.

Born and raised in Broken Bow, [Nebraska], Jason could not leave the Great Plains fast enough. The world pulled with all its exotic lands and cultures, so Jason joined the Navy and traveled the world to see these locations . . .

. . . If I were given the choice of traveling Europe or some location in the American Plains, I’d probably pick the Plains . . . This part of America that is “in between.” In between the American West, American South and the very different American Midwest in terms of not only geography, but also time, place and memory.

This is interesting to me, if you haven’t figured it out yet, as yet another validation of the plains, the prairie: Lampooned by so much of America, loved by so many that have taken the time to observe it.

Jason’s photography is some of the better photography I’ve seen in recent memory. The exhibit wasn’t perfect; it lacked a focal point as a whole and some of the prints were pushed a little too far — a la Ansel Adams. But it’s obvious Jilg possesses the necessary skills to excel at the craft. He’s careful about choosing and composing his subject matter and uses the frame very well. His sense of scale shooting on the prairie as a subject is also very acute. I’m looking forward to seeing more of his images in the near future.

Storms of 2010

At the left is a recap of my favorite stormy photographs from 2010 (Props to the DoubleTake photo stitching tool for Mac.). Most of the interesting cloud formations around Grand Island were mammatus — from storm systems that were more than 100 miles away, usually to the south in Kansas. Hopefully there will be a little more variety in 2011.

I find myself already looking forward to the spring storms on this prairie. This surprises me a little since winter didn’t really get going until January around here. We’ve had a few nice snowfalls now; I hope we see one or two more so I can actually take out a makeshift sled I banged together earlier in January.

All of these panoramas were taken inside Grand Island city limits. A few were taken from the roof of a building downtown, the others from around my house. As I recall all of this set were taken with our Nikon D50 (I use my cameraphone at least as often as the DSLR; my phone is always with me.).

My favorite in this little gallery is the one in the middle, Evening Ceiling. The way that wispy edge spread out over the burnt orange sunset was literally jaw-dropping. The space was positively incredible. I’m not certain I can be objective about the quality of the photograph on account of its connection to that experience.

Designing a . . . board game?

Growing up I played cards. After moving to Arkansas I began to learn board games since that is what my friends played. Some of the titles we challenged each other with include Empire Builder, Acquire, Settlers of Catan, Power Grid and Robo Rally — for starters. Puerto Rico is a more recent favorite. Monopoly is not one that we play.

However, a year or so ago when a new online version of Monopoly was released I gave it a whirl. It had potential the simplistic and random tabletop version lacked. Unfortunately it didn’t deliver, and I ended up trying to fix the game’s problems in my head.

And then on paper. I got the bright idea to create my own game as a way to rectify online Monopoloy’s issues. I started with the same general premise, a game focused on real estate, but took a more literary approach, so-to-speak. I infused a story.

The story of a railroad town. I grew up in railroad towns on the American prairie, grids laid out perpendicular and parallel to the life-giving steel rails that stretched quietly from horizon to horizon. Instead of a community anchored by a town square, the railway station served as the visual nexus for many of these places.

While visiting the in-laws for Thanksgiving, my brother-in-law provided some invaluable help working through some more of this idea. I’d really like to finish the game some day, although it still needs quite a bit of work at this point — cleaning up game-play and then actually designing the many pieces. Creating a strategy game employs a different kind of thought process than playing in some regards, at least for me, and I enjoy it. It’s a different kind of design.

If and when this project gets to a point of completion, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Intentional Observation: Frost on canvas

Sculpture for the Christmas tree

I’ve been getting quite a bit done lately in the artistic department (if you hadn’t noticed by my recent posts), including some work on ornaments.

The wife and I started out with the ornament idea with a specific goal — combining her fiber craft with my clay craft — but it’s ballooned beyond that. The most recent Christmas tree ornaments from my ceramic corner of the house are represented by the following three images.

As I find myself doing more and more often, these were inspired by a texture created with a found object. The object was found in my backyard while playing with the puppy, and couldn’t be more plain. It’s part of a stick, or twig, a very tiny part fallen off of a rotten hackberry branch. Not even as big around as my pinky.

I rolled a slab, used the weathered stick-part to pattern the slab and then cut around the pattern as I saw fit. The resulting texture reminded me of wings so I’ve tentatively titled these “Abstract Angels.”

The red is what I had left of a Duncan underglaze purchased roughly 10 years ago. This is the sad part of this post: I’m now out of this color and I’m not sure Duncan is making it anymore. What I like about this underglaze is that it fires over greenware like a glaze. It comes out glossy and mottled (with a few bubbles from time to time). If Duncan’s quit making the color or changed the recipe, I’m going to have to see if I can formulate it myself. All I know is that it contains cadmium.

I’m very smitten with these 14 abstract angels. I don’t know how many I’ll be able to part with, but a few of them will be for sale in downtown Grand Island at The Milestone Gallery.

Mercantile as art center

Yet another interesting possibility for an art center. Don’t know anything about it, but walk by the building on the north side of downtown Grand Island a couple times a week. Wonder about the building’s history; a mercantile in Grand Island, Nebraska?

Course, we’d still much prefer the location to be a little ways out in the country, per our oft-repeated, Kathleen Norris inspired philosophy of the Plains.

Adding: Some history on the mercantile can be found here in the History of Hall County, thanks to Google Books.

Adding again
: It appears as though the building is used (owned?) by Skagway. I’ve seen their box trucks parked at the loading dock a few times since originally posting this.