Portrait Artist

My Photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at: barbara.muir@sympatico.ca
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Missed sixth anniversary and catching up!

Untitled (works in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
60 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
I can't believe I missed my blog anniversary on
February 18, 2008!  I've been blogging for six years!!!
Wow!  That time sped by in a flash and has been
 filled with exciting and incredibly enriching artistic
 experiences.  Thank you to everyone.

I think it is fitting that the day before my annual
bloganniversary I was was in Ottawa selling one of my
favorite paintings ever.  So I was on the art beat, just
not focused on this important occasion.

What a fantastic ride it's been!  New friends, super art to
read about, and to create, wonderful travels to great art
sites and friends, TV shows! Woo Hoo as some of my
friends say.  And now as Alyson Stanfield would
remind me -- it's time to get back into the studio.
But do this for me first.  Have a glass of whatever it
is you like to drink, and toast to blogging, to our friendship,
to art, and -- if you like -- to me. And I'll do the same --
I'll toast to you!  Thank you for everything.  It's been six
awesome years.

And if you like come on the blog, add a comment, and
I will write you back. Woo Hoo!

 No time for painting today, but I plan to polish these
two paintings tomorrow.  Today I wanted to show
you how they go together.  They are part of the
ocean series that I started in 2010.  Going back
to an older theme is fascinating, because my "eye"
or artistic thinking has changed quite a bit.
 To give you an idea of the scale -- 
Here are the paintings on the kitchen cabinet.
Happy Bloganniversary to you!

Monday, April 7, 2014


Untitled (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
I know it's hard for non-artists to understand,
but sometimes it's hard for artists to go into the
studio -- to get down to work, to face whatever
current project we've dreamed up for ourselves.

I am sure there are rare cases of compulsive
nine-to-five, or seven am. -to-eleven p.m. art
makers, but by and large we do the job because
we want to have fun.  And when we don't feel like it
we need to trick ourselves.

So the seduction I'm speaking of isn't the kind
you're thinking of.  It is the kind voice of a
parent offering a trade.  Do this for one hour
and you can have -- a cup of hot chocolate,
a walk, 20 minutes with your novel.
Working on it -- also on the easel
Moving along (slowly)
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
For me the starting stage of a painting is
exciting, but very quickly I am in the thick
of it, and perhaps the seduction is giving
myself permission to work in a different order,
or start on the smile, or eyes, or detail in the
hair, which makes no sense.

But like the wise parent with a reluctant child
doing the dishes, or like the teacher with
a distracted student, I allow myself to think
that every step is a step, whether logical
or not.
Untitled Stage One (work in progress)
On the easel -- drawing and starting the 
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
The top photo shows where I've got to
on this one so far.

Have a seducing-yourself-into-work day.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Fast Answers versus slow reflection

 Untitled (Probably going to be Water Image #4
Work in Progress
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
Sometimes a painting requires a kind of back
and forth, working, escaping, looking, thinking,
sleeping on it -- process that a high demand instant
 production schedule won't permit.  'Stand back!'
they say in art class.  And they are right.

So with this painting -- part of my water series --
Water Image #4 (the name may change -- I need time.
 I'm standing back-- trying to get the answers.

On the surface you could say -- what's the deal?  It's
a face.  But to a portrait painter -- that is the deal.  There
on the canvas for all to see, is the face of someone who
has caught the painter's attention.  For me that translates
into a desire to really convey who I am painting -- to
get it right.  It isn't about perfection in look so much,
as capturing the feeling.  Faces are what we love, and
loving them well in paint is the job.

The answers don't come together like a daily horoscope
-- "Oh that's the kind of day it's going to be."  But
forgive us for looking for signs.

Here's where I am with this one.  I am enjoying the process.
I admire this wonderful woman -- a novelist -- very
much indeed. And I will be content when she is
100% there for me on the canvas.  She is coming
along.  Almost there.

Have an honouring-your-subjects day.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Modern day nobility

 Alessandro (art group sketch)
Acrylic on canvas
16 x 20
Barbara Muir © 2014
With just over an hour to capture a likeness,
I was delighted when I walked into my art
group tonight to see this model.  Dressed
in a sweatshirt and wool hat (a toque in Canada),
pulled down over long hair curling around
his shoulders, he had the air of a Renaissance,
Florentine prince.

How wonderful!  I started painting making an
outline in white (just for a change) and although
I could work on it a bit more now, I am happy with
how quickly it came together.

As it turned out Alessandro has trained in media
studies, and so he will end up being modern
day nobility -- the people who know how to
make the images we so desire in our everyday,
techie world.  On top of that Alessandro was
a wonderful person, with a warm personality,
and everyone in the art group enjoyed talking
to him.

Have an enjoying-who-you're-painting day.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Blitz and bliss

 Water Image (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
It's very late and I must go to bed.  I am working
on a blitz/bliss plan at the moment.  I have so much
to do that I dream in lists, listing what has to get
done, or what is worrying me, and then brilliantly
coming up with solutions, all in my dreams.  I
wake up in the morning with the dream messages
still crystal clear in my mind (something
I've rarely experienced in my life.)

This morning it was this blitz/bliss message.  The
idea was to blitz (work hard on) one type of work,
 switch to another, then pick a part of my life
that is pure bliss, and spend time on that, then start
all over again.

Brilliant I thought and have tried it out today.  My
bliss today was in five minute snatches of reading
my novel, and in having dinner with my husband and

So this painting in progress is part of the blitz.
I'm back to my ocean series and this is the first
of this set.  It is a work in progress, not very far along.
 Water Image work in progress
(Where it started today)
Acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2014
Expect changes in tomorrow's blitz.

Have a getting things done day.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Down to basics -- the gray scale.

Marker and watercolour on watercolour paper
6 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
I'm working on the idea for a series now.  At the
thinking stage I dream about what I want to be
doing, and that lead me back to my ocean
series and my dream of one day having a whole
room filled with those paintings. 

When I don't have time to blog, I feel that something is
definitely missing in my life.  So today I was
inspired.  I thought about David Lobenberg
and all of his wonderful studies in grey scale.
(The spelling of "grey" is Canadian.)

In fact I went over to David's blog, and scanned
through past entries (which I've been reading
faithfully since I found David's work).  David is
one of the most exciting watercolour portrait
painters I know.  Always an inspiration.  His
portraits in colour are wildy charged, highly
experimental, and gorgeous.  I am a big fan. 
But David also stresses the importance of grey
 scale painting, and that's a fun change, and
an excellent warm up.

I decided to do a fast grey scale watercolour
sketch as a precursor to my next big painting.
I've also been working incredibly slowly on
a still life that is gradually coming together.

Tomorrow I hope to catch up on your blogs.

Have a planning and then doing day.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Working slowly and speaking at my art group

Untitled (Work in progress),  Stages 3, 4 and 5
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches (3 x 4 feet)
Barbara Muir © 2014

On Friday, February 28, I spoke at the Don Valley
Art Club about getting back to work after a serious
loss.  The theme combined my writing as a guest
blogger on Alyson Stanfield's Art Biz Blog with my
belief that one of the great motivators for making
art is a feeling of joy or happiness.  During the
evening I spoke about how hard it is to get that
feeling back after one of life's hard knocks, but
how it is vital to try. Thank you to everyone who
came out and who shared their moving stories
with me.  It was a deeply rewarding and meaningful
evening for me.

As well as fighting a terrific cold I am slowly working on a
new big painting -- an enormous change from the small
wood panels I've been painting so far this winter.

The model was a gift as I explained in my last post.
And as I keep painting more and more ideas come in.
The temptation of course is to put everything in.  But so
far it's just the mother, the baby, a grove of peach trees
and a hill or mountain up behind her.

At this point I think she's in Italy, maybe Tuscany,
because I'd love to be there, but we'll see, although
that's given me another idea. (Aha! moment).

Normally I work in a fairly ordered way, but this
time I'm using the "I'd like to" method.
That means that when I come into my studio hot
lemon drink in hand and look at the painting, I allow
myself to work on whatever appeals to me at the time.
This way it will get finished, but I won't feel

It is still in the deep development stage, and I am
happy so far.

Have an enjoying-what-you're-working on day.
Thanks to everyone at the Don Valley Art Club
last Friday.