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!

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

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
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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Skylight Diner -- and the last strawberry

 Breakfast at the Skylight Diner, NYC
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
In May this year in New York City I had a
romantic breakfast with my husband at
The Skylight Diner.  We might have spent
an hour in the restaurant, eating this fabulous
meal, drinking cups of coffee planning the day.
Which is where painting captures the real zen
of time.  Because it has taken me the better part
of a month to paint that moment.

I've been thinking about why, and I think it
has to do with love.  I usually paint people,
but when I paint still life or landscapes,
you can bet people made that vision stay
bound in my heart and brain, and determined
to hold it.  And that was a day when I loved
my husband, the meal, New York City, exhibiting
there, and our long taxi ride from the diner to
The Cloisters.

I am sure I've painted strawberries before.
I don't care if you've seen 100 movies
about art and obsession -- you
don't get it, until you sit down in front
of a painting that is maybe an hour away
from done, and you must finish.

Now that's when the creative spirit needs
to call on determination and grit to come
to the studio party.  Can I go for a break?
Yes!  On the clock -- five minutes, maybe
ten and then you get back in here.  That's
willpower talking, and logic. 

These strawberries decided to be center
stage, as they so often are, and that required
focus.  They aren't the whole story, but they
are delicious.  On the spring morning in New
York City when I ate them I was as happy as
can be.  Now hold onto that feeling -- ahhh.
That's it.  Here's your picture -- strawberries
and all.

Have a finishing-the-berries-on-your-plate day.
P.S.  I may change something minor tomorrow,
but I could not go to bed without sharing this
with you.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The happy place of art

 Miriam's parents
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30
Barbara Muir © 2005
(To see a clearer version of this --
I took it with my phone --
click here.)
Today I had coffee with some friends in my
neighbourhood.  We are for the most part
the mothers (and some fathers) of children who
long ago were in a school called Cherrywood.
That school was an alternative school in the
school across the street from my house.

I love getting together with these people I've
known since my oldest was in kindergarten.
As Christopher (my older son) is happily
married now and making a living as
a cinematographer, that's quite a while.  We share each
others joys and sorrows, and help and encourage
one another.  Pretty wonderful.  Plus many people
in the community come to my shows and own my

So it was a great pleasure to see my painting of
my friend's parents on the wall, and to be pleased
with the tender love that it expresses.
Roberta and Miriam's garden
Outside the garden was spectacular, especially happy
with our cold winter and very temperate summer (not
at all like Toronto which is normally roasting at this
time of year.) A happy, happy morning.

Have a loving-your-friends day.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Accidents and romance

 Now that was good!
Black marker on notebook paper
6 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
The sketch today started because my iPad
wouldn't work. When I tried to get my book
(on the device) it kept going to Google.  I
followed the rules, turned it off, turned it
on.  Afraid to hope for my book again on
Overdrive I opened my photos, and this sketch
was born.

That's the accident part (cyber).  The romance?
I think that there are few things more romantic
than a room service hotel breakfast for people
in love.  You almost have to be in love to want
to linger in your room, to have a lovely meal
wheeled in on a trolley covered in a linen
tablecloth, with cloth napkins.

One of the best hotel breakfasts I've enjoyed
was in the Quebec City Hilton.  Two waiters wheeled
the cart in and fussed over the design of the cloths
on the table! They carefully lifted the hot plates out
of the cabinet, and with a flourish took off the lids
revealing meals as perfectly arranged as the china,
coffee pots and napkins.  There might even have been

Dear hotels, please don't eliminate room service --
your happy couples love it.  This rare treat -- especially
breakfast -- sets off the day.  Chances are excellent that
a morning begun with a sumptuous breakfast, continues
to be special.  Your guests will fondly remember the
occasion, and be eager to hurry back and stay
with you again.

Have an enjoying-the-feast-of-the-day day.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

For fruits' sake

For fruits' sake
Acrylic on birch panel
5 x 7 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
We had a great dinner tonight with friends.
Lots of animated discussion about art. I
understood vividly that when you're making art
you think very differently about it, than
when you are a collector.

This small study of nectarines and one
lemon in a glass bowl, helped me relax
 because I am working on something so
slow and painstaking that I needed the
freedom of a small painting.

Plus I want to eat a nectarine, and made
a deal with myself.  I could eat one, when
I finished the painting.  So I did this
painting for fruits' sake.

Have a loving-the-summer day.