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!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Thinking about my father and 9/11

Stopping for clouds along the highway
Acrylic on birch panel
5 x7 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
Today is the anniversary of my father's death,
a day that sticks in my heart year after year.
He died years before 9/11, so the day is
doubly resonant because of all it means.
I remember the day so clearly because my
father managed to say goodbye to all of
us the evening before he died, holding my
hand and calling me "beautiful."
This as he gasped for air under his oxygen
mask.  He was dying of lung cancer --
probably the direct result of being exposed
to radiation in the navy. His bravery inspired
me, and his determination to be strong was
a gift to all of us. 

Thinking about him today I wish he could
see how my life has turned out, how
art is at the center of my days, how his two
grandsons have grown into wonderful,
loving young men, both exhibiting his way
with words, and his artistic leanings.

As for 9/11, I never go to New York
that I don't think of it, of the courage
of that city, and of how valiantly it
has recovered its vitality and moved on.
Speaking of art, creativity and theater,
New York is really where it's at.  How I would
have loved to have gone there with my
Dad.

The painting tonight is another cloud scene
from Nova Scotia.  Looking at the reference
photos I have, I keep thinking I don't know how
Nova Scotians ever get anything done
when the skies are so achingly beautiful every day
that all I wanted to do was stare.

Have a loving-the-clouds-in-your-life day.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The lessons of older work -- and wonderful friends


 
 For the lily
Pen and ink and coloured pencil
on art paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir ©
We put our crazy dog in the car today and
headed out to Hamilton.  It was a gorgeous day
and we walked along the waterfront with our
friends Marcia and David.
View of the waterfront in Hamilton
Back at their lovely, spacious house I noticed
a drawing by the front door, and realized it
was mine from long ago.  Woo Hoo I thought.
I sure could draw!  I was a big fan of a number
of botanical artists, and for a while when my
oldest was a baby made my money from
this work -- pen and ink drawings coloured
in coloured pencil.  Looking at this I was
astonished at the detail, pleased even, but
glad that I have moved on from that.
I still like precision, and I am happy with the
movement in this drawing, but it made me
crave a big brush and a big canvas.

 David
Ciment fondu sculpture
Marcia Labelle ©
I asked Marcia if I could include one of her
pieces in my blog.  She pointed to this
superb sculpture of her husband David.
She probably did this at about the same
time as I did the drawing.  It shows off
both her incredible skill as a sculptor,
and the love she felt for David, then and now.
You can check out more of her work here.

Have a learning-from-your-old-work day. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Blue paint on my foot -- and loving "my" beach


 
 Tide coming in by the farm
Acrylic on birch panel
5 x 7 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
I had to dress up yesterday in a dress and stockings
to go and teach a class.  And that's when I noticed
dark blue paint in a splashy stripe on my foot.
Not a big deal in the current environment.  Everyone
has body paint and tattoos.  But a happy symbol
to me of being back in my Toronto studio where
space is tight and my concentration so intense when
I paint that I forgot a brush fell on my foot.

Tonight's painting is another view of the beach
and coastline, where I have spent part of my summers
for 20 years.  This landscape is part of my psyche.
It belongs to me.  In the words of one of the
characters in the Joshilyn Jackson novels we
listened to full time in the car out east. "Mine!"  She
even writes about a baby who wants the ocean in
A Grown Up Kind of Pretty.

On one of my old Louise Hay audiobooks,
(I don't know which one), she talked about
enjoying other people's good fortune, beautiful
houses, every kind of luxury, and she said,
"we never really own anything, it is only on
loan to us."  I loved that idea, because of course
it's true.

You are not allowed to claim the beach in
 front of your cottage as private in Nova
Scotia where we walk on the beach.
My school house is a 25 minute car ride
from the beach. I don't own that beach,
but my eyes, heart, memory and spirit own
 it inside out.
Market flowers, and peaches.
Starting to prep for the long winter.
I miss it but love Toronto too.  We went to the
market today, and came home laden with
peaches and flowers.  I thought of my friend
Flora, in Bear River, who grows a huge garden,
cans and freezes endless amounts of veggies and
fruits and paints giant, gorgeous paintings.  My
admiration for all that energy knows no bounds.

Have a loving-the-places-you-own day.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Homesick and a friend's gift


 Clouds over the bay
Acrylic on archival canvas board
6 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
Our first week back in Toronto is always
a rough one.  It's hard not to miss the Maritimes,
and even the drive from Pugwash to Toronto
through Fredericton, Quebec City and Montreal.
Canada you are beautiful, and if you've never
been here, this is a drive that will dazzle you.

A few months ago a friend I met through
FaceBook asked for someone to write her
each day saying that they had meditated.
I agreed without thinking -- my motive
being to "help out with a project."  Ha!
I committed to 5 minutes a day, for one
month.  We reported faithfully to one
another daily for 3 months.  The result is
that I am doing guided meditations from the
Internet for between 15 and 25 minutes a
day.

The formal reporting is over, but during the
process I have gained a wonderful friendship,
and a habit that is changing my life.

Here's the list of benefits of meditating I
sent to her.

1.  I can now relax with greater ease, much more
 quickly than I could before.

2.  I've always believed in the power of the
mind, but I've been blown away by the power
of the breath to calm the body and the mind.

3. I care about being positive, but meditation has
helped me tap into the well of positive
thought I have inside me, and to stay in the positive,
even when circumstances or people are hard.

4.  I've learned the importance of daily dedication
 to my own peace of mind.

5. I've re-affirmed the importance of a concerned
 and encouraging friend when starting a new activity.
My friend's interest, suggestions, and dedication,
and strength of purpose have meant the world to me.

6. I've been so impressed with how a small amount
 of time -- anywhere between 5 and 30 minutes can
 change the tenor of a day, increase my energy.

7. I've connected with the infinite possibilities available,
when I do want to meditate.  Understanding that I could
never explore all of the wonderful guided meditations,
audio meditations and meditation scripts available through
 the internet has given me a clear and impressive
example of the bounty of the universe.

8. Words have always mattered to me.  I have
written guided visualization scripts, and shared
them with groups of people,  but I am hyperconscious
of the destructive nature of negative words right now.
That doesn't mean I don't think and speak negatively,
it means that I instantly recognize that I want to stop
when I do now.  Plus I can move away from other
people's negative words more easily now -- just
deciding that that's their issue, not mine.

9. I am lighter in spirit, even more connected to
the beauty of the planet, than ever before.

10. I have always been a happy person, but I am
 easily 1,000 times happier than ever before.

So thank you so much.

Maybe your life is idyllic and you don't need
meditation.  But I think it's good for artists to be
able to unwind. Our job involves the potential
for over the moon excitement, coupled with
stage fright and anxiety.  I am endlessly
grateful to my friend for inspiring me to take
this on, and make it part of my day.

Have a thanking-a-friend-day.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Visiting Bear River and Annapolis Royal -- plus Give Out Love

 
 With Flora Doehler in her studio in Bear River
This has been a meaningful year for me.  My
mother's death last October seems to have
taught me so much.  One thing I realized is
that the whole of life is very short, and
altogether there is not a lot of time to give
out love.  This idea lodged in my brain and
my heart, and I know in some ways it has
always been part of my belief system.

We were in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia,
on the weekend.  This way of living -- being kind,
thoughtful and caring about other people -- seems
 integral to how Nova Scotians live.
Flora with one of her favorite paintings
not named yet.  It is 36 x 48 inches.
Our friends Flora Doehler and Larry Knox
have a place in Bear River, not far from
Annapolis Royal, and when we
are in Nova Scotia we make a point of
visiting them, and seeing the work they're
doing in their studio.  Kindness could be
the Doehler/Knox's middle name, and
Saturday we were treated to a studio tour,
a superb lunch, and delicious dinner.  Plus
they are funny, and fun and we had a
great time.
Larry Knox with some of his jewelry.
Larry and Flora share the studio on their
land in Bear River.
Artists are extremely lucky it seems to me,
because they work in response to strong
emotion.  What gives them pleasure goes
from the landscape, still life, or people
right onto the canvas, or paper, or sculpture
or film. Flora's canvasses and Larry's jewelry
express a love of life that is infectious.
Giving out love is a big part of what they
make.

Have a giving-out-love day.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Watch out for fruit in the studio!


 
 Studio cherries
Acrylic on cradled birch panel
5 x 7 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
Fruit in the studio can seem like a good
idea.  You want a snack, you want to be
healthy.  You've been working on this
large, important painting for some time.
Fair enough.

But be wary.  To an artist fruit is one of
the most attractive subjects possible.  It
is dazzling, seems so perfect, simple -- why
not paint it?  And there you are -- distracted
and entranced, and before you know it you
are starting a painting, photographing the
fruit (because you do end up eating it), and
fruit has won again.  Another case of trick
the artist.

You might want to think of unattractive snacks.
I can't think of one right off the top, but give it
a try.

We are in Nova Scotia, in the large school house
studio.  I wish you could see the views we see
every day, just driving around.  Speaking of
distractions, Nova Scotia offers nothing but.
The people are lovely and kind, and funny.
The views are breathtaking, and the food
wonderful.
Clouds over farmland
Near Pugwash, Nova Scotia
Barbara Muir © 2014

Have a watching-out-for-and-then-eating-fruit day.

Friday, August 15, 2014

On the road and still painting


 Summer welcome bouquet
Acrylic on birch panel
5 x 7 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014

We're in the Nova Scotia studio now, and have
been under the weather literally and figuratively
for a week.  It's a thousand mile journey, and
not only did it rain the whole way, but Steven
and I were also sick with a horrific cold and
cough.  We had two doctors visit the house
a few days apart before we left to make sure
we were good to go, although we felt like
pure garbage (you know the organic kind).
Essentially both doctors said, "Merp," or
"Meh" -- meaning not impressive illness
and sure we could travel.

So here we are.  A little worse for wear, but
valiant.  Nothing that two weeks of solid
sleep wouldn't cure.  Instead I worked on this
little painting today.  My dear friend Paula
up the road left a beautiful bouquet from
her garden as a welcome. Arriving late at
night in the dark after a long day in the car,
tired to the bone, seeing these pretty
flowers on the table cheered me up so much.
Paula is one of the kindest and most
thoughtful people I know.

Have a thanking-the-people-who-care
-about-you day