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!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Never nothing going on

Reading the dessert menu
waercolour, and black marker on 
watercolour paper
9 x 12 1/8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
Yes.  It's a double negative.  A complete no no!
(Another double negative.)  But it's true, in an
artist's life, there is never 'nothing going on.'
We might fake that -- pretend boredom, answer
the question, "what's up?" with "nothing much."
But trust me, we're not telling the truth when we
say that.  We're attempting normalcy, we're trying
to blend in.

The truth is that our eyes and brains, and at best our
hands are at work full time.  As long as we're awake,
and even when we're sound asleep we are like full
time movie cameras recording measuring, trying to
hold onto and remember all that we see.  For the
most part we don't need to drink, or do any mind
altering drugs, because our minds are always on
high.  That's why we get so tired, and have to lie
down -- and then there are dreams!

I say we're lucky.  But if you ask an artist what's
happening, and hear a pat answer meant to
escape the spotlight, just say "oh" and move on,
maybe it's best if we all pretend artists aren't
different.  But here's another thing -- every single
one of us is an artist in one way or another.  Like
the guard at the art gallery yesterday who told me
she wasn't an artist.  When I asked her what kind
of artistic thing she did, she said embroidery, and
then, she started talking tools, the kind of cloth,
the kind of embroidery thread she uses.  Definitely
an artist.

Have a nothing-going-on day.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Could this be my favorite day?

Reading the dessert menu
preparatory sketch
red pencil, and black marker on 
watercolour paper
9 x 12 1/8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
(Looking at Colville's work
gave me the idea to do a preparatory
sketch in pencil, then the marker,
and tomorrow the paint! Alex
Colville was big on preparing.
I thought I'd try it.)

I'm big on loving life as it unfolds, and I do
enjoy most days, but how I love Saturday, especially
when like today it can just happen --  no fixed agenda,
no one needing anything, no work appointments
for me or Steven.  That is incredibly rare.  In fact
it's been three months since that happened!

So out we went, happy as clams, listening to
Christmas carols on a CD from Starbucks in the
car, and singing.  Imagine!  Well actually we sing
together a lot.  We went to the market, and
snatched up two delicious loaves of home baked
bread.  Then decided on the spur of the moment
to go to the Art Gallery of Ontario, for lunch,
and see the Alex Colville show (for the second
time for me).  I knew Steven would be moved
because Colville's landscapes are all familiar to
us, part of our second home in the Maritimes.

 Plus I ran into a former boss who I think of
as a friend, and we made friends with a fellow
as astounded by Colville's work as we were, who
turned out to have a summer home near Lunenburg,
one of our favorite places in Nova Scotia.  What
an excellent day.  I bought my roses at the flower
shop that shows my work.  Hugs all 'round, and
headed home to write to you.

Thank you to the universe, to the art world, to
the AGO, to Colville, and to you for an excellent
day.  It just happens to be the month-a-versary of
when Steven and I met, so it was appropriate to be
moved by the love story of Alex Colville and his wife --
a marriage that lasted 70 years!

Have a loving-your-dearest-loves day.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Deep thought -- the benefit of meditation

Missing you -- write again
watercolour and black marker on 
watercolour paper
9 x 12 1/8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013/2014

It was a gorgeous day today -- the kind
you want to record and keep for all time.
North of the city it's a winter wonderland,
but warm temperatures are predicted
for next week.

I wanted to post even though time was
limited, so actually made the 20 minutes
work by using a drawing I'd done a few
years back and popping a watercolour wash
over it.  I'm sure it could use longer, and
I may do more another day.

I love her pose.  She was a superb model,
but grew up and got too busy with her work.
Her thoughtful posture, and contemplation
holding a letter, made me think of meditation.

I was feeling sad today, news of a relative's
illness, and a friend's work situation.  Then
I remembered how great I felt when I was
meditating every day to support a friend in
California with a meditation challenge.  

Ten minutes later the world changed, just
from the act of breathing and listening to
a great guided mediation.  Not bad, plus
I was astounded that 10 minutes passed so
quickly.  Have a great weekend.

Have a having-a-deep-thought day.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The joy of the everyday world

 Kitchen portrait sketch
Watercolour on watercolour paper
9 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
(Anothe 20 minute challenge -- not
20 minutes,  a bit more, and maybe I
should have stopped at 20)
I love New York City.  When I'm there the
sound of the taxis and sirens, and the fast pace
makes me so happy.  But reading about Alex
Colville at his show at the Art Gallery of Ontario
last night, I agreed with what he said about
artists not needing special stimulation.  The
life of a family, the objects we live with, our
pets -- are all visual treats for us.

Colville's portraits of the various pets he had throughout
his life are magnificent -- accurate and
powerful like the rest of his work.  And the
deep love he had for his wife, and their life
together is an undercurrent throughout the
extensive show.

Colville was a war artist in World War II and
I'm sure that made him appreciate the quiet

Have a revelling-in-the everyday day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Square bowls and the 20 minute challenge

Breakfast squared
watercolour on Arches watercolour paper
9 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
As a china freak since I was first fed on good
china, I do not get the square bowl, or in fact
square plates.  There is something so elegant
and natural about the circle.  But square is
in, and this hotel breakfast was served by the
most genial server.  We stayed in a lovely and
reasonable hotel in Ottawa (Canada) last summer,
 more than once. The server got to know that I
was an artist, and liked to paint breakfasts, so
she made a special effort to deliver a pretty meal.

I came upon some watercolours today done in
response to Laura of laura's watercolors's
description of doing fast painting sketches.
There was a lovely one of my son Christopher
as a younger boy, and I thought I'd give the
process a try again.  It turns out this breakfast
took a bit longer than that to cook, but I enjoyed
 the challenge of trying to get it down in watercolour
without an ink sketch first. (I did sketch the scene in
red pencil).

Tonight I went to see the Alex Colville show
at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, and
found it very moving.  I have always loved
his work, and it was wonderful to see so many
pieces I marvel at in one place.  It is a glorious
show, and if you like Colville's work, you should see

Meanwhile my show with Anette Walther is on
at Studio Vogue Gallery.  Please check it out.  You
can see it from Wednesday to Saturday from 11 -
6 p.m. until November 29.

Have a loving-what-you-see day.                                                                           

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A place to speak

Market flowers rock out (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas board
6 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
(I could not get a clear photo of this.
I'll try again tomorrow. ;-)
I'm super tired after a 17 1/2 hour day, but found this
post I wrote last summer, and liked what it had to say.  I've
spent most of my teaching life whether in art talks,
private art lessons, or teaching English or Psychology,
encouraging people to find their voices.  In this one
short life, I think that's part of the job, and the joy
in living. So here's what I was thinking:

"I've had laryngitis today -- most uncomfortable.
I confess I'm a talker.  I love conversation.  Funnily
enough in the midst of this difficulty, I had phone
calls from some pretty funny people.  There have
been sad stories too today, and in both cases, a
voice would have been useful.

It made me realize that we take our given gifts
for granted (or I do). Voice -- vocal,  visual and
written is an incredible gift.  I listened to an
audio meditation today on gratitude.  (One of
the things you can do really well with laryngitis
is listen ;-)

I now realize that I'd like to be grateful for the
knowledge that being able to speak your mind
about whatever delights, inspires, even about
what terrifies and angers you -- is a huge gift,
and not one that many people in the world

So thank you again to blog land, to this place
to speak about my work, my day, and about
art and artists.  As a younger person it was my
dream to have a column.  Today I have it, and
even if my physical voice is on strike, I still
am thrilled to be able to talk to you.

Have a loving-your-voice day."

Monday, November 17, 2014

No it's not what it is

 Sandra Martin
Acrylic and gold leaf on canvas
36 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2004
Here's the thing about art -- it defies that overblown
cliché, "it is what it is."  It isn't.  It can look
like it is what it is, but in fact it is colour, light,
design, harmony, planning and pleasure, hard
work and excitement, bundled up to make
an image, or images, that are something new.
For instance this portrait of Sandra Martin,
the Toronto writer, is not an exact photographic
replica of Sandra, but it captures the mood,
the sparkle in her eyes, her vivid intelligence.
It was painted from life.  No her hands aren't that
big, but they impressed me as I painted her,
probably because those are the hands that
capture her wonderful work for her on the computer.
They deserve to be honoured. (By the way, at the
time her hair was blue.)

"It is what it is," is a sentence that drives me
mad.  It's a perfect phrase for people giving
up on something.  Art is made by people who
don't give up, they keep on going.
Lecture finished.

I stood laughing in a light snowfall Sunday
with an artist who has so much gusto and
drive it isn't funny.  I was visiting
Kim Rempel at the  Christmas Handmade
Market at the Honsberger Estate Winery
in Jordan, Ontario.  Traffic was manic because
of the snow and the Santa Claus parade in Toronto.
So we arrived just as the event was closing, but on
time to see Kim. She was as usual, kind, buoyant and
happy to see us even at that late hour.

I am working on something, but can't show it to
you today.  For those of you living in the snow belt,
try to stay positive, and drive carefully.

If you live in southern (warm) climates.  Enjoy.
We are working hard on not being jealous.

Have an enjoying-each-day day.