Monday, January 16, 2017

Jealousy -- what is the point?

Paris Anemones
black marker on Moleskine paper
8 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
I'm reading a novel about life in Washington D.C. (Ironically
appropriate this hard week), and it seems the world there is rife
with jealousy.  I find that a hard emotion to understand.  I am not
jealous.  When I was young -- in my teens I had a very rich boyfriend,
and some extremely wealthy friends. I found out then, what I know
for a fact now.  Wealth doesn't make you happy, neither does fame,
fancy clothes, the best car. That boyfriend has grown up to be a
super fellow, and is I believe happy.

Happiness -- and aside from love, I value happiness above all --
is an inside job.  You could have the biggest studio in the world,
and though I know I'd enjoy that.  I would not be jealous.

If I were jealous I'd work on being jealous of the people I know
who live in Paris -- one of my favourite places in the world.  But
I'm not.  I revel in every word they ever write about the place.
But I'm not jealous. I will visit again, and enjoy every minute.
 I don't want a title, a fancy car, a big house (bigger
maybe), I just want to be an artist, and sell my work, and teach,
and travel, and love my family and friends.  And I'm doing that.

More money?  Yes that would be nice.  I won't say no.  But I
would just travel more,  give better gifts.

The drawing tonight is of the tangled flowers and leaves of a
bouquet of anemones -- which in Paris are huge -- a flower we
see almost in miniature in comparison here in Toronto.  So far
it's a line drawing.  Colour would really tell the story better.  Maybe

Meanwhile - Have a-I-don't-have-time-for-jealousy day.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Miraculous specificity -- the seasons

Untitled (yes another one)
Work almost finished
Acrylic on birch panel
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

We humans can get pretty puffed up with our importance.
But nature can shoot us down on this in a nano second.
As much as we force her, mess with her, try to change
her -- there are things she knows better than we do --
like time, and the "to everything there is a season" rule.

Facebook pulled up a painting I posted exactly 3 years ago
today. And yesterday these beautiful oranges were in the
grocery store!  We didn't used to be able to buy them in Canada
with the leaves still on -- and the sight thrills me.  It
reminds me of Italy, where these gorgeous fruits were
common in the Florence market, and of my first visit to
California, seeing lemon trees thick with lemons.

Thank you nature, and this painter is grateful to you in
every season -- even winter.  By the way this is supposed
to be the most depressing day of the year!  Really?  I
hope it isn't for you.  But if so I recommend getting
a great book, going for a walk even in the cold we're
enjoying in Canada, and listening to happy music.

Have an enjoying-nature day.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Favourite stop -- a great start

Untitled (Work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

Here's a painting I've been working on -- another landscape --
a bit different because it's at a favourite place to stop on the
way to Nova Scotia, on the St. Lawrence River in Québec.
The feeling of peace, and the light when we pull into this
park is unparalleled.  I want to stay, but there is a long
journey ahead of us, and we have no idea where to eat nearby.
(Sure to be a place -- because Quebécers care passionately about
food -- but we don't know where it is and when we get to this
place we have two provinces to go.)

I've been thinking about gratitude today all day -- to the market
farmers who take my order via email, and save the best eggs,
a quiche, carrots, potatoes and greens for me every Saturday,
even while they're packing up because they know I'll arrive
late in the day.  And I am so grateful to the flower store, that
knows what I like to buy, and what I'd like to paint, and give to
clients.  And of course to you

Have a dreaming-of-somewhere-peaceful day.

Friday, January 13, 2017

10 more reasons to be happy.

Untitled (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

When I taught college positive psychology, (happiness)
which I secretly work into any subject I teach, one of the
exercises I used at the beginning of each class was 10 reasons
to be happy.  10 students would come to the front of the class
and say why they were happy.  It was a college course, and
many students had no idea how to be happy.

The experience was quite moving.  One girl I remember
went to the front of the class, looked down as if she might
cry, then lifted her face and said in a small voice,
"I'm happy because I'm alive." Every time someone said
why they were happy, the class clapped.

The result?  Everyone in the class began to get happier.
Amazingly.  It helped.  They made friends with each other,
they started to study, they got good marks, and that one
exercise out of many had a huge impact.

I will never forget seeing that same sad girl 6 months later,
skipping down the hallway, her hair in pigtails, tied with
bright wool, her clothes a vibrant pink, the smile on her
face radiant.  She stopped me because I didn't recognize her
from the depressed person she'd been, and said.  "Thank you!
and hugged me."

So.... Let me take some of my own medicine.  I've spent
the afternoon in a hospital with a dear family member.

1. I am happy because I have a loving husband.
2. I am happy because I have a loving family.
3.  I am happy because I have kind, funny friends around
the world.
4.  I am happy because I'm an artist, and I love making art.
5. I'm happy that I get to teach and meet amazing people
every year in that job -- even with one night a week.
6. I'm happy that I live in Canada -- never happier about that.
7. I'm happy that I've learned how to be happy, and am
still learning, and think I will learn more and more for the
rest of my life. And I'm grateful for all that you've
taught me on the subject
8. I'm happy that I've learned to love myself enough to
choose only to be with kind and happy people.
9. I'm happy that I don't believe in horoscopes, superstition
or most dogma.
10.  I'm happy that I love to read and I have a wonderful
Oh no.  I could go on.  I'm happy that my artist friend
Janet Vanderhoof got me to meditate, which has been
a wonderful gift.

I have a million more reasons, but I'll save some for another day.

Have a thinking-about-10-reasons-to-be-happy day.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Heroes make me happy

The artist thinking
charcoal on bond paper
14 x 15 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Being happy and understanding how to stay that way is
an obsession of mine.  I am lucky to know, and work with
funny, kind and happy people here and across the planet.

So today I did a little charcoal study of one of my happiness
heroes in art -- Veronica Funk.  I think I have her permission
to try and do a portrait, and Veronica if you're reading this,
I could do more work on this -- or proceed to painting you,
as you have done portraits of so many fantastic women heroes
of your own.  You are one of mine.

Veronica paints the brightest, most exuberant, paintings full
of colour pattern, and themes -- one of which is great women
in history.  

Another conversation that made me laugh and pleased me
no end was with a colleague at the college where I teach
writing one night a week.  We had been joking about 
beginning the course with Chaucer, the great English
writer from the Middle Ages. I studied
Chaucer in university and have a large hard cover text
I can barely carry -- all Chaucer.  The other night because
of this idea I started reading the great writer -- just
picking a random page and despite the old English,
enjoyed his delicious turn of phrase and humour.
But he would be the wrong writer for an essay
writing class. 
marker on bond paper
8 x 5 inches
Barbara Muir 
Et voila a small sketch of the man for you based on
a photo of an actor called Phil Boardman portraying
Chaucer in 2000 as part of the Chautaugua  series
in L.A.

Have a picking-heroes-that-make-you-happy day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why I started to paint

 New in pink
Acrylic on birch panel
5 x 7 inches 
Barbara Muir © 2014
(One of my favourite paintings.
Small but exactly right.)
As a little girl I hated school.  The reason?  My mother
was way more fun, and a stay-at-home Mom.  She loved
reading books, singing songs, reciting poems, and made
delicious bread and brownies. Plus most of the time she
was kind and nice.  And she made me a big fan of the CBC.

School was different. It felt like we had military police for
kindergarten teachers.  Why I don't know.  My
first teacher Mrs. Jordan was always nervous and shrill.
Except when we were painting -- and I'd never painted
before.  Then she was a strangely spontaneous, happy
being.  At every other massively organized point in
the half day, she seemed to dislike children.

Looking back I think it was sweet of her to write on the
back of our paintings what they were about.  I wish I
still had the one of my mother holding baby me on her knee,
and eating cake at her wedding, and my father
looking on.  That one made my parents laugh
because I was their third child, and they were firmly
married before any of us came into the world.
Fresh from the garden
Watercolour on Arches paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
That military order continued in school. Opportunities for
art were rare, but always worth it, always a great change
from the normal rote.  And in grade 7 and 8 I had the most
amazing art teacher.  We made life size wire and papier maché
sculptures of the characters from Alice in Wonderland.  And we
painted and dressed them!  The best.

That teacher, whose name I forget, got me really entranced
with art.  She was happy, and beautiful, in love with
her subject, and enjoyed her students.  The way teachers should be.
I have to thank art, and my middle school art teacher, for
giving me a fantastic life, and super friends in art.
To Miranda Brouwers in the Netherlands who is teaching art as
I write this.  You are bringing joy into your students' lives.
What could be better?

Have a bringing-joy-into-people's-lives day.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail

Art Group Sketch
16 x 20 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Be determined.  A good motto.  I saw in an email that my
art group was meeting tonight, and not again for 6 weeks.
I thought I absolutely must go and paint from the model.
My complicated schedule meant I had an hour and a half
at the most to be there.

So I parked.  It was snowing for most of the day today,
but when I hauled my supplies out of the car I stepped
in a 6 inch deep puddle.  It was raining like crazy.  Slush,
ice, slippery sidewalks.  And the normal door into the class
 was blocked! Yikes!.

A kind lady from the adjoining library funneled me through
the warmth of the library, and ran down the two flights of
steep stairs to check that the group was there was there.
 I saw the stairs and froze. (knees) But the librarian ran up,
grabbed my bags and ran back down.  Done. I was in.

The model was lovely a woman with a Masters in acting,
who now teaches private lessons in English to grade school
children in China via Skype.  I'll call this rushed.  (I
know -- don't answer that question -- but it is a sketch --
maybe 3/4 of an hour, but I don't think so.)

Have a working-on-being-determined day.

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:
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!