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Life As an Itinerant Artist - Redux

Grizzly Bear Creek -- Hidden Waterfall Hike

July 08, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

A Little Drop of WaterA Little Drop of WaterGrizzly Bear Creek, Black Hills National Forest My friend Eric and I were talking about Grizzly Bear Creek the other evening. We used to hike from Mt. Rushmore down to Grizzly Bear Falls, where a lush plunge pool awaited the intrepid hiker. It's a steep walk to get from the parking area down to the creek, and then some foraging is required to get upstream to the falls themselves. But this post is about the lower part of the creek, a part that I had never walked.

From Mt. Rushmore (16A), follow the Iron Mountain Road south maybe a mile. There's a campground, with a couple of day use parking spots at the very back of the campground. It's $4 to park and probably worth it. Find the campground host and pay them for a parking permit. The trail itself starts between two horizontal parking barriers, and heads south towards the creek, which you can hear from the campground. You'll cross the creek almost immediately after getting into the forest. There is no bridge, so be prepared to wade the shallow creek. A walking stick is useful, if you need a little extra support for balance. There are four more fords after this one before you reach the hidden waterfalls, and you will get your feet wet if the water is running high.

Grizzly Bear Falls 1Grizzly Bear Falls 1One of several small cascades along Grizzly Bear Creek The trail winds around, mostly following the course of the creek upstream. There is thick undergrowth, pine and evergreens, and in a wet year, lots of poison ivy. Be on the lookout for it, and wear long pants with socks and hiking boots, rather than shorts and sandals, if you are at all susceptible. Fording the creek does help to wash off the poison ivy, but be cautious.

Dreamy FallsDreamy FallsThis falls is easy to get close too, if you are willing to scramble down the bank a few feet After about a mile, you'll cross the creek, and can hear the rush of the first of two slightly larger waterfalls. Big boulders dot the stream, and it takes a bit of a scramble to get the best view. Another falls cascades over the boulders about 100 yards upstream. It may be possible to follow the stream all the way to it's junction with the stream coming down from the big Grizzly Bear Falls, which is marked on the USGS topo.

Double FllaDouble FallsTo get this shot, I had to scramble up a ten foot boulder along a dead tree conveniently lying in a stagnant pool of water. It's impossible to see both streams at once otherwiser. If you'd like to explore this trail yourself, drive through Keystone towards Mt. Rushmore on 16A. Take the Iron Mountain Road instead of heading up to Mt. Rushmore, and drive about a mile. When you see the Grizzly Creek Campground, turn in, and find a place to park. Or camp.

This link will take you to the GAIA Pro map route, which shows distance and elevation. I spent a lot of time making pictures, so your hiking time is likely to be much less, unless you stop to swim or bask in the sun.

Length: 1.1 miles to the second waterfall, about 1 hour each way.

Effort: Easy

Notes: Poison Ivy. Wear long pants.

Stolen Trailer Update

June 07, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

In April, 2011, our art show trailer was parked at the Marriot Towne Place Suites in downtown Fort Worth. We were participating in the Main Street Fort Worth Art Festival. On Thursday night, the first day of the show, we came back to the hotel to find our trailer, “Artan” (short for Artanic), missing from the parking lot at the hotel. The trailer was reported to the police, we carried on and had a successful show, and on Sunday the trailer had not been located. The Fort Worth police said that in all likelihood the trailer had been transported to Mexico for resale. We were sad.

Artan ChiricahuasArtan ChiricahuasPace American AeroSport and Toyota Tundra, sunset, Chiricahuas, Arizona April 2008 I rented a U-Haul and we took our tent, display panels and artwork back to Michigan. I filed a claim with State Farm, ordered a new trailer, made new artwork, and carried on. I never heard anything from the Fort Worth police about the trailer, and the claim was processed by our insurance company, checks were cut, and we were mostly whole again.

Fast forward to June 4. I am on my way back from a show in St. Louis, and I get a voicemail from a police officer in Texas.  After seven years, the trailer has been located. I kid you not. It was in Texas the whole time. I had a good conversation with the officer. Evidently the trailer was being towed by a man who claimed to have bought it for $2000. The VIN numbers had been removed, as well as all of the identifying manufacturer’s marks. The man claimed it was a “home-made” trailer, but the police, part of a Grand Theft Auto Task Force, knew better. In Texas, you don’t need a title transfer to register a trailer plate, but you do need VIN numbers. It’s illegal to remove them from a vehicle. So they confiscated the trailer, and then did some legwork. The office who called me found a partial VIN number, traced it back to the Fort Worth police report from April, 2011, and gave me a call. I corroborated some details about the trailer I had owned, and verified that it was the trailer they had in their possession.

He was nice enough to send me some pictures of the trailer. Artan is in good shape for having been sold into slavery for seven years. The trailer still had the rack in the back that we used to store ProPanels; the tape from art show parking permits on the front; and the hooks for the weight-balancing rig we used with it, when we towed it with a Jeep Cherokee. It appears to have had a forklift driven through the front diamond plate, and it looks like it has a new tongue jack, but other than that, it’s pretty much the same. 

Since the claim was processed by the insurance company, the trailer now belongs to them. They may auction it off to recoup some of their money, or they may not. I am amazed that it turned up after 7 years. 

Framing Information

December 03, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Beyond Basic Black

While I carry several different styles in stock, that doesn't mean that your choices are limited. Please give me a call for a personal consultation to discuss your particular design needs. I work with several large national frame moulding distributors on a regular basis, and can provide custom framing services from a simple gift to a whole office project.  Call or email, and I can provide corner samples, and more images of frame projects.

Classic Frames

The corner chart illustrates the main frames that I stock and hang on my art show walls. Click on any picture to see it larger in the frame information gallery.

Frame Styles
  Redwood and Cherry3" Redwood paired with Brazilian Cherry cap Solid Walnut Frame3" Walnut frame with hand-carved v-groove and walnut cap Basic Black Laminate Frame3/4 Black Frame -- perfect for smaller groupings 1 1/2" Black Wood LaminateWider Black Laminate frame suitable for larger work Palladio Hand-waxed frameBlack/brown Palladio frame with hand-rubbed beeswax finish
  Redwood/Cherry Solid Walnut Basic Black Wide Black Palladio Hand-waxed


My favorite frame for the moment is Palladio, in black/brown. It's a mildly distressed wood frame with a beeswax finish. The dark tones complement most of the "Dakota Montana" and "Stories Told in Things Left Behind" series. I pair it with TruVue's Conservation Reflection Control glass (CRC), which pairs a diffusion layer to keep glare down, with a UV protective coating on the back. Frames are finished on the back with sturdy hangers, plastic coated wire which won't rust or stain your walls, and a black Tyvek® dust-cover.

Peaceful Easy Feelin'Peaceful Easy Feelin'Horses and corral, working ranch near Hot Springs South Dakota   River ViewRiver ViewRuins of the settlement at Lee's Ferry, this window looks toward the landing. Limited edition of 250, signed and numbered.

26 x 20" Palladio Frames with Conservation Reflection Control Glass


The Gallery Frame

Another old standard is the black wood gallery frame. On the larger pieces, (20x26 and above), it's a 1 1/2" matte black style, with simple square lines. For smaller pieces, a variation of this frame in a 3/4" molding is used. And as a third option, I offer a metal frame with a brushed "Florentine" finish, also in black.

Typically with the gallery frame, I use TruVue's Conservation Clear glass, which is offers less expensive UV protection, without the reflection control. Larger pieces (up to 30x40) can be framed and glassed, either in the Palladio style, or in a black gallery frame. On occasion, I also use acrylic glazing to keep the weight down for a more traditional presentation in a frame.

Medium width black frame 8411"Door, Unopened", 16x20 showing proportion of mat and frame. Special Order only.    Thin black gallery frame AF104"Door, Unopened" in thinner black wood gallery frame with conservation glass


Glassless Styles

I've also begun producing larger prints in several glassless configurations. A canvas photograph is laminated to a backing board (GatorBoard) and then framed. The backs are finished with heavy-duty hangers, plastic coated wire and a black Tyvek dustcover.

These laminated pieces also look great in my new custom barnwood frames. You can get these in a number of styles, including the Western style barnwood frame; a redwood / Brazilian cherry combination; and a solid walnut composite. Each frame is crafted by hand, one at a time. Four types of hand-made reclaimed wood frames are available to you, in sizes 16x24 on up to 6 feet wide. 

Redwood/Brazilian Cherry

Redwood and Brazilian Cherry Frame"Watering Hole" 48x32 in a custom made redwood and cherry frame.

48x32 "Watering Hole" in a Redwood/Brazilian Cherry custom frame. Overall size approx. 60" x 42


"Driftwood in the Moonlight" 36 x 24" Redwood and Brazilian Cherry custom made frame

36x24 "Driftwood In the Moonlight", in Redwood/Brazilian Cherry. Overall size approx. 46" x 34"


Leave A Light in the Window framed in walnutWalnut capped frame with hand scribed v-groove 48 x 32

48x32 "Leave A Light in the Window" framed in 3" solid walnut frame with walnut cap. Overall size 58" x 42"


Western Style Frame

You can also choose a simpler barn wood style, the Western Style frame. Constructed of simple aged wood, it frames a traditional image perfectly at an affordable cost. 

36x24 Gray Barnwood "Western" style frameDry Well in classic Western style frame 36x24

36x24 "Dry Well" in Western style gray barn wood frame


Panoramic Photos

In the Shadow of the Bear, custom barn wood frameHandmade frame, 48x20 image

48x20 Panorama "In the Shadow of the Bear" - custom made from reclaimed barnwood


Traditional canvas frames with liner

For a more traditional look, I use a dark-toned 2" square frame with a 1" linen liner, as well as a wider 3" rustic frame paired with a 2.5" liner. These are lightweight, and avoid the obvious issues of shipping and hanging a larger piece of glass.

48 x 20 In the Shadow of the BearTraditional 2"Black frame with 1" natural linen liner

48x20 Panorama "In the Shadow of the Bear" - traditional black frame with 1" natural linen liner


"Roll Out the Barrels" in a traditional frame with liner3" Brown scoop frame with 2" natural linen liner

48x32 "Roll Out the Barrels" framed in 3" Brown Scoop with 2" natural linen liner


Linen Liner Styles

The two styles with liners can be configured with different width liners. I carry three liner widths, in a natural linen: 1", 2" and 3". See the chart below for a comparison of how each looks.

Linen Liner Styles
Liner Width 1" 2" 3"
2" Antique Black Frame 2BLK 1L2" Black frame with 1" Natural Liner 2BLK L22" Black frame with 2" natural linen liner BLK2 L32" Black frame with 3" natural linen liner
3" Brown Scoop Frame 3BRN L13" Brown Scoop frame with 1" natural liner 3BRN 2L3" Brown scoop frame with 2" natural linen liner 3BRN 3L3" Brown scoop frame with 3" natural linen liner

The styles shown are by no means the only frames available to you. Please feel free to give me a call or drop me an email with your requirements. I can also post alternate ideas modelled after your room. Contact me for details on how that can be accomplished. I look forward to working with you on your next decorating project! 

Fair to Midland

November 18, 2017  •  1 Comment

One summer ago, I met a lovely family from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, at the Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff in St. Joseph, Michigan. She had grown up in West Central South Dakota, and we had a great conversation about the farm country. As it turned out, her grandfather had built one of the grain elevators in town, and I volunteered to make a photograph of it for her.

Moonset, BadlandsMoonset, BadlandsSage Creek Campground, Badlands National Monument, SD

Later that summer, I had the chance to make a quick trip out to Midland. It's a long drive from our ranch near Hill City, so I camped in the Badlands the night before to get a head start on the morning. Camping is free at the Sage Creek Campground, if a bit spare in the accommodations. I did a bit of a hike the evening before, saw the buffalo herd from a great distance and almost stepped on one of the prevalent rattlesnakes.

Midland ElevatorMidland ElevatorDakota Grain, Midland SD The next morning, I hopped in the truck and made tracks for Midland. There are three elevators in town, a big concrete structure now owned by Dakota Mill & Grain. Down the tracks there are a number of grain bins and right in town, there is an ancient wooden elevator that no longer appears to be operating.

Rarin' to GoRarin' to GoMidland, SD

Kathy had given me some ideas on other places in the area to photograph. After the sun got a bit higher in the sky, I headed down Bad River Road, towards Capa and Van Metre. Along the way, handmade signs indicating the presence of a historical Indian trail popped up along the fence line. 

Indians This Way CameIndians This Way CameBad River Rd, Midland SD

The RoostThe RoostCapa, SD Before reaching Capa proper, this old homestead  stands proud along a weedy reservoir. The remains of a toothpaste display sit in the living room, showing that perhaps this building was also used as a store. Capa itself consists of a church where the front and back wall still stand, but the roof and center has collapsed. The school and several houses surrounding it are mostly locked up. I was working my way through the field and making pictures in the backyard of the most central house, when I noticed that the electric meter on one house was actually spinning! The front door was open, and I could hear a fan blowing. Later I learned that this is the last remaining resident of Capa. I probably should have knocked on his door and made friendly conversation, but I had miles to go before finishing this particular assignment. 

Cold SpellCold SpellCapa, SD School's OutSchool's OutCapa SD His & HersHis & HersSchool Outhouses, Capa, SD

A bit further down the road is the leaning remains of the Capa Hotel, which was distinguished by a small hot spring and spa in the back. This area was well-known for its hot springs, as evidenced by the Inn at Midland, which also advertises Hot Baths. The structure was a bit too decrepit to go into, but picturesque nonetheless.

Capa Hotel and Hot SpaCapa Hotel and Hot SpaCapa SD After leaving Capa, I moseying further eastward. A couple of the bridges on Bad River Road are quite sketchy, but solid. The road almost peters out in a couple of places, even though the GPS indicates a through path. I never did find Van Metre, although I did find this ranch on Van Metre Rd. 

Patriotic ActPatriotic ActNear Van Metre, SD

Eventually I came out on a main North/South route and headed South towards Murdo and I-90. Along the way, I came up on a combine moving slowly along the road, headed towards the next field. He graciously pulled over to allow me to pass. A mile or two later, I spotted some magnificent sunflower fields, and had to stop to make photographs of the sunflowers.

Waiting for the SunWaiting for the SunCentral South Dakota

This crop is catching on in the Dakotas, and South Dakota has been the top sunflower-producing state in the US three years running. While I was shooting, the combine caught up to me and passed. Back on the road, I waited patiently for an opportunity to pass. Luckily for me, he turned off on a field road not too far down the highway.

Long RoadLong RoadLooking towards Murdo SD

After twenty miles slow miles, the road jogs into Murdo, where I joined the interstate, and headed for home. A journey well worth taking. I feel as if I didn't cover all of the photographic possibilities, and one of these days plan to head back to the prairie for another go. If you'd like to see the rest of the pictures, click here for the full gallery.


This is the general area covered -- from Midland to Capa to Murdo, SD.

A Brookside Story

May 02, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

My first show of the month is in Kansas City, MO. A favorite in KC, and a favorite of mine, the Brookside Art Annual takes place on Brookside Plaza just south of 63rd in Kansas City. The last time my wife Karyn and I were there, it was cold. And snowy. We tried to setup on Friday morning to be ready for the evening show, but heavy snow hampered our efforts. The big tent, which many artists are under, collapsed during the afternoon, and forced the cancellation of the Friday evening show. We all came back on Saturday, set up in record time, and had a great show despite the cold. And the best part of this particular show was meeting one particular person. 

Splendor in the GrassSplendor in the GrassMercedes on abandoned homestead, Ardmore, South Dakota.


We had a corner booth outside the main tent, on a soggy plot of grass. It was so wet that show volunteers brought hay bales to soak up the excess snow melt. We constructed a back room as sort of a warming hut, and fired up a portable propane heater to stay warm. On my outside wall, we had this large image of Ardmore, South Dakota. Ardmore is one of those towns that I come back to again and again, to document its decay, and to keep an eye out for changes. [image Splendor]. During the show, a woman and her husband came to the booth, and spent some time standing in front if this picture, admiring it, thinking. Finally, she approached me, and said/asked,"That's Ardmore, isn't it?"

I replied, yes, and gave her some background on how I came to make the shot. She replied," I believed my sister-in-law lived in that house." I was taken aback. We meet lots of people during the course of a show, and often, we share common friends, or geography. But I'd never met someone who had lived in one of the abandoned towns I photograph. Not even a relative. Teresa introduced herself, and her husband Cyrus. We exchanged information, and later that week, she forwarded these images of her sister-in-law, Estelle and her husband Paul Allen, in front of the house. The distance between the vibrant town in the sixties, and an abandoned Mercedes in the 21st century is wide. Note the cut grass, and the sidewalks in the second picture. These two pictures are priceless to me, and I thank the family for letting me display them here.

Paul & Estelle Allen HomePaul & Estelle Allen HomeArdmore, South Dakota
April 1966
Used by permission of the family
Paul and Estelle AllenPaul and Estelle AllenArdmore, South Dakota
April 1966
Used by Permission of the family

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job as a visual historian is meeting folks whose history reflects our common experience. The stories in the photographs are often left to the imagination, and it's heartwarming to run across people who can provide details about the places I visit. In that way, a little bit of history is preserved, and passed down. Perhaps you have a story to tell. Many of my shots were the results of someone's reference or an offhand comment while shooting the bull at a show. Come visit me at this year's Brookside Art Annual, and share your stories. Booth 182, outside the big tent on the south end of the show.

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