Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year's Eve




As preparations are underway for this year's New Year's Eve party, here's
a picture of the gang last year. We are so lucky to have such great
friends. Happy, Happy New Year -- talk to you tomorrow.

Have an astonishing first day of 2009

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A wonderful year

What a lot has happened since last year. I'm not big
on change -- although in my work I'm probably
a change agent. But this year -- whew.




Baby Fiona
A gift in our lives

Just over a year ago we lost our beloved Simone.
She was a kind and loving Siamese blue point
cat. She died in surgery, and it was terribly
hard on us. My only answer to the grief was
another Siamese. So we got Fiona as a very small
kitten.

She has been a delight from day one. She definitely
helped us all recover. Admittedly Timbah -- our
black cat has taken it the hardest.

Christmas last year was lovely -- we had Christopher and Megan
staying over. It was all the more special, because they
were hoping to go and teach in Korea, and we knew
they probably wouldn't be home for Christmas this year. In
fact that lucky pair are vacationing on a beach in Thailand.



Steven and me
Christmas 2007
Christopher had us laughing uncontrollably



Snow, snow and more snow
The winter of 2008




Megan and Christopher
get set to depart for England --
one of two trips they took
before heading out to Korea
to teach English

I was so nervous about them going, but I think their
work in Korea as teachers has been really great for
them -- letting them see and travel and work in
a completely different part of the world, and in turn
pulling that experience into our lives, and teaching
us about what they are seeing, thinking, learning.

This summer, we were so looking forward to our
trip to Nova Scotia. We were dreaming about our
1909 schoolhouse there that turns 100 in the new
year. But that wasn't to be. I broke my ankle one
week before we were due to leave -- and we just
couldn't figure out how to manage at a rustic old
building with an outhouse as a facility with me
on crutches.


Me on crutches
Six long weeks

The upshot of that was that we stayed home, and
I made many new friends through the blog. That
was a blessing I cannot even measure -- it has been
a priceless gift to me, connecting with all of you.


Steven saying goodbye to Sam
as he starts university --
and great new time in Sam's life

Then this fall Sam started university. Sam had been
such a wonderful child to live with, helpful, kind,
funny and hardworking. I was really dreading his
departure. Suddenly we were alone again. We
discovered that although we missed our kids, we
can still enjoy ourselves without them.

My fall show with ArtWalk went very well, and part
of it was because of the blog!

In terms of art, I don't think I've ever produced as
much work as I have this year. Reading other
people's blogs has made me feel immersed in the
subject in an exciting new way.

Most of what has been happening, you've read
with me all along. But I just want to say
thanks once again, to all of you, and to the
universe for the joyous bounty you've
brought into my life this year. Because of
you, and my family and friends everywhere
I will always remember 2008 as a special
year.

In some ways everything has changed in
our lives, but what remains is our love
for each other, for our family, extended
family and friends, and for life -- and
that is what my art is all about.

Happy New Year !

Monday, December 29, 2008

Getting back into the groove

This week we're going to have a New Year's Eve party,
as I've probably said. But the coming new year also
signals a time to try and get the loose ends of our
lives tied up. There are so many little errands and
chores that pile up at the end of a school term,
especially when the end of school slams right into
Christmas, and all the exciting preparations that
demands.

So today we've been out picking up packages, and
running errands. Tonight I settled down to draw
Steven as he and Fiona watched a movie on TV.
I could not tell you anything about the film
except that it was about soldiers who are asked
to go back to Iraq after their tours of duty are
over. Other than that the movie was background
noise to the job of trying to capture Steven and
Fiona before they moved. This is how far I got.



Watching TV
marker on watercolour paper

Have a loving-one-another day.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The quiet before the next -- party

Today we spent a civilized Sunday visiting the newly
recreated Art Gallery of Ontario. We loved it, and
felt a kind of silly pride in knowing our city had
this super space to offer. So if you come to visit from
other parts, there's a place I want to take you to
right away.

The building itself is amazing -- there's a long walkway
under a high ribbed structure, like the bones of a canoe
with glass in between instead of wood. It's dramatic,
inspiring and fitting for a province filled with lakes and
rivers where people still actually canoe.
http://www.ago.net/new-building-photo-gallery

My friend Suzanne gave Steven and me a one year
family membership for our birthday, and we were
entranced today. Next to painting, I love looking at
paintings best.

When we got home after climbing the glorious winding
staircase to the top of the building, we were exhausted.



Steven, Timbah and Fiona
sleeping in the studio chair
black marker on watercolour paper

Here's a little sketch I did of Steven and the cats sleeping
in my portrait chair. I am always amazed at how quickly men can
fall asleep almost anywhere. He's still marking the page in his book
sound asleep!

Have an isn't-life-amazing-and-wonderful day.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

French songs on the radio


Tonight CBC Radio is playing French songs. I understand
just enough to enjoy the love songs, and the voices are
beautiful. I was raised for part of my childhood in Ottawa,
and we started French in school early. Most of my
understanding has disappeared through lack of use in
English Toronto. And in recent years friends speak
more Italian and German to me, than French. But the
roots of the language linger in my baby girl unconscious.
I was probably five going on six when I first learned
some French words.

Every year we go to Quebec city on our way to Nova
Scotia, and on our way back home to Toronto. I know
enough French to know that I wish I knew French, and
I steel myself for the embarrassment of not knowing enough
to speak even haltingly anymore. At night in my hotel room
before I venture into the lovely city, I rehearse how
to say some inadequate sentence to explain my impossible
lack of skill.

In Europe children easily learn five or six languages, but
the English in Canada have been somewhat reluctant
to learn even one other language. Some people place
their children in French immersion schools, but that
is only highly successful if the children's parents
speak French too.



Sketchbook drawing of Clown Cat
marker on Bond paper
As a complete non sequitur It's time for us to head out
to a movie with our friends. Christmas seems to make us
nostalgic. We were talking today about the great animals
we've owned and loved. Here's a drawing I did
of Clown the cat. Indirectly Clown brought Steven and me
together. He took care of the cat for me when I was away
on a trip, because his sister asked him to, and that's how
we met.

So I guess this story may loop back, because without Clown,
I wouldn't have met Steven, and without Steven I wouldn't
own a place in Nova Scotia, and without the place in Nova
Scotia, I wouldn't go to Quebec City twice a year, and stumble
through my poor French.

Have a loving language day.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Time to think

Now that Christmas is over, and the house looks amazing,
we can really relax. We've got turkey to eat for a couple
of days, nowhere to go, and nothing much to do.
I sat in my transformed studio, remembering the
days when it was just a living room -- not a sometimes
living room. After a few minutes I realized that my
mind was enjoying something that's been a rare
commodity lately -- space to think. Sam was out,
Steven walking the dog. The lights from the tree
sparkled in the room. The garlands on the fireplace
and over the dining room door gave off a lovely pine
smell - like the woods on our little property in Nova
Scotia.

All of the papers and radio stations manically do a
round up of the year at this point. I am concentrating
on facing forward. We have faced illness, and broken
bones in this corner of the woods -- and all is well now.
So though I'm more Celt/pagan than religious -- I do
thank the universe and all who have given us help,
kindness and laughter this year. And now it's forward,
forward, with happy hearts and minds.

Tomorrow I'll take the table cloth off the dining room
table, cover it back over with the plastic I use to protect
the table from my creeping acrylics, and think about what
I want to paint.



sketchbook drawing of my
friend Lyn Green relaxing
marker on Bond paper


For today...happiness, love and friendship are all that
I need to feel more joy than I can ever express.

Thank you all. Happy Holiday.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Merry, Merry Christmas

Here's a little drawing I did in my sketchbook of our
fireplace mantle, the stockings, (two of them) and
the pine, cedar, spruce garland. The tops of the
roses from the coffee table show at the bottom.
if you were into colouring books, you could print
it off and colour it in yourself.



Sketchbook drawing of our fireplace mantle and stockings
red Sharpie on Bond

It's been a wonderful day with lovely gifts,
a delicious meal, sweet family and kind friends.

Have a very Happy Holiday. Please be careful
in the holiday sales, and don't push. I am
curling up with my book and my cats, and
enjoying the peace that passeth all understanding --
a day off.


Zoey and Fiona relax in front of the heating vent
in the kitchen on Christmas morning.

Enjoy!

Happy Boxing Day, and Happy Holiday to you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Our crazy family on Christmas Eve!

I was talking to my brother about the poem
The Night Before Christmas, and we
were wondering what kind of people live
in a house where "not a creature was
stirring, not even a mouse." on Christmas
Eve. Our house is madness. We bought
garlands that were supposed to cost $100
today for $5 each, and have decorated
the fireplace, the entrance to the dining room
and the stairs.



Me and Sam posing with Fiona the cat and Zoey the dog
The animals say it's bedtime

We've finished wrapping -- because there
are just three of us, but now we're waiting
for Santa Claus, who does come when we're
sleeping. So we'd better get to sleep.



Steven, Fiona, Sam and Zoey

Have a lovely Christmas day. I know we will.

The living room and dining room are my
studio -- so there's been a mad dash to get
as much of my equipment as possible out of
there before we set the table for Christmas
dinner. It's always exciting to see the rooms
transformed, and great to have them switch
back again to regular life. Both are super.

Thanks for being my wonderful friends,
you have made this a great year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Glad to be in my own home

It is snowing like you would not believe here --
and has been for three days. People standing in the
long Christmas lines are disgruntled, but Steven and
I are content. We found lights to give to one another --
ostensibly for our bedroom, but when we got them
home they are huge and swamp our tiny bedside tables.
Too funny. We haven't decided what to do about it yet,
but that's our main Christmas presents for each other,
and this makes us happy.



A House in London
Pentel marker on bond paper

Here's a drawing I did long ago of a house I lived in
in London Ontario, just after I finished university.
It is probably the grandest house I ever lived in, but
the poor thing was chopped into a bunch of low-rent
student apartments, and I don't have great memories
of it.

I like the drawing though -- it languishes in an old
sketchbook -- and is a great example of the kind of
drawing we were taught to do, in pen and ink mind
you at O.C.A.D.

Have a wonderful holiday. We are still not finished,
but getting close and then -- poof it's over.

Enjoy.

Have a-wow-are-we-ever-lucky day.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Party time -- excellent!

After a year that was great in so many ways, and also
hard in some, it feels wonderful to be going to holiday
parties. But it's hard to have the fun I know we
deserve and manage to finish preparations for
Christmas too.

Tonight my son and his girlfriend decorated the
tree while Steven and I went to our neighbour's
delightful party. We had great discussions about
politics and movies, comedians -- you name it --
the kind of party discussions that keep you
laughing, arguing and generally having a
great time.

So... forgive me, but I have not painted today.
The tree went into my studio. I must get
back to a couple of things, and I can't now.
I did buy art supplies for a commission I'm
doing in a couple of weeks. So I was in an
art store, dazzled as always by all of the
options, which seem especially tantalizing
at this time of year.

Here is a photo of an amaryllis. The flowers
are almost as abundant here at Christmas
as poinsettias. We haven't got them yet
this year -- but tomorrow we will. We have
the tree, and it's decorated. When I wasn't
out at the stores today getting supplies,
I was baking dozens and dozens of cookies.

So far, they haven't all been eaten by the
local tasters.

Have an-enjoying-it-all-even-lineups-and-traffic day.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

We've got a tree!!! Wheeee!!!

All right. If you've been following the story of the errant van Schaik
Muirs and their pre-Christmas saga, you know that for the
first time ever we went out to get a tree yesterday and came
home empty handed. What no tree? That's right.



Sam with the chosen tree

Today -- we didn't hear from Sunny who had our number
in case the Fraser fir came in. On the way to his display
we wandered off the beaten track and low and behold
saw the perfect tree, chose it, had it bagged, stuffed in the
car, and now we have Christmas.


The men at the lot carry the tree while Steven directs them to
the car, and Sam looks on

True -- the tree is still on the back porch, and won't come
in until tomorrow. True I'll have to relinquish full control
of my studio so we can decorate and have Christmas dinner.
Plus we didn't get the front door wreathe yet. But you
know what we have a lovely red cherry wreathe on the door
year round, which will stand in until we pick one up tomorrow.

In the middle of all of this a package arrived from my dear
friend Paula in Nova Scotia -- blueberry scones. When I
saw who the box was from I laughed out loud, because
I knew right away it was the scones. Every summer we
eat ourselves up about three sizes on Paula's scones, which
are always there when we stop in for a tea or coffee on the
way to or from the beach. She felt sorry for us missing
getting out to Nova Scotia, and was right to suspect that
we sorely missed her scones. As soon as Sam got home
from work today he wolfed down a few, and some of the
fabulous fudge she sent. What a darling.



The farmhouse
watercolour
16 x 20 inches

I'm showing you a watercolour from my watercolour
days. I like the painting because it looks like the
farmhouse near Seneca College where we go to
pick our pumpkins every year. I did it in a class
with the renowned Americo del Col and it is more
like his style than mine. The people in my
painting group would wonder where the turquoise
is. In Americo's class we worked a lot with burnt
sienna and ultramarine blue.

Have a putting-the-pieces-of-your-holiday-together day.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

No tree yet

We have a thing for Fraser Firs. These trees don't lose
their needles until weeks, maybe even months after
you put them outside held up by a snow bank, to
be an extra roost for the birds. So we are picky -- and
late. With the pressure of the end of school and working
on art comittments we're very late on all the Christmas
trimmings. Still writing cards, still have no gifts. Late.



One of my models
posing in the studio with
the '06 Fraser Fir in the background

We buy our Fraser fir each year from a guy called Sunny
who works at a lot just north of the big Honest Ed's store
on Bloor Street near Bathurst. So we jumped into the car
today, and headed out with the snow floating down
in a picture perfect winter snow fall to buy our tree.
But Whoa there girl. Sunny didn't have any Fraser Firs.
Well sir, we up and climbed back in the car and went
home without that tree. It's Fraser Fir - er what? We've
got to have a tree. The plan is to head out tomorrow and
find one. What's good about them? They're pretty,
they're durable, they're strong and hold a whole collection
of angel ornaments brought back from my mother's trips
to Italy -- they're good trees.



Last year's tree is the backdrop to the family photo
Left to right: Me holding Fiona, Sam, Christopher and Megan

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

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snowpocalypse

After last winter we shouldn't be surprised by snow. As I
write this it's very late at night. I can hear the sound of a
car spinning its tires and getting nowhere in the night.
It's been snowing heavily since this morning, and the city
is transformed. My youngest is supposed to be getting on
the all night bus, and coming home for Christmas. But
I'm afraid he may have to wait a day.



The yellow room
marker and acrylic paint on Bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches

I've been painting up a Skype drawing I did of my son
Christopher. The angle of the drawing is so bizarre that
I probably should have stuck to markers. Somehow the
markers read with strange angles and odd perspective.
I still like it, because I like the serious look on my
son's face.


He's my brother
8 1/2 x 11
marker drawing

I'm also including a fast sketch I did of my brother
when I was talking to him on Skype last night. He
lives in Ottawa. His face is one of the faces stuck
in my iconic library. I know it. I see it, and the
familiar lines are second nature to me. He was
excited by the Skype discovery.

It's very late and I must call it a day.

Have a what-do-you-mean?-I-think-snow-is-fun! day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Getting to you

I know there's a book out there called Getting to Yes,
by Roger Fisher and soon there will be a Jim Carrey
movie on the same topic. But in art, as in life, the hard thing
it seems to me is getting to you, or me, if you are
me. Not to be too complicated -- what do I mean?
In every art group or class I've been in there are
artists who are admired greatly -- frequently for
their technical prowess. New artists, and people
who have taken up art again after a long stretch
of absence flock to these people like birds to
the best bird feed. Then -- and this is where the
problems begin -- they try to copy them. I say
try because they can never get it right -- and it
drives them crazy. Sometimes they so want to
paint like Jane or Bob, that they give up after
a few months and stop in despair.



Art class study
conté pencil and acrylic on bond paper

I do know artists who can successfully copy
another's style. Theresa Rankin can produce
a convincing Sargent. But she has her own
fully developed style and did so for teaching
purposes. Most people cannot be another artist.
I know there are forgers who make a living
from that skill -- but for the rest of us, the
thing that matters is finding our own style,
our own method, our own colours, our own
brushstrokes -- what makes us different from
the thousands of artists out there.

To that end I have tried so hard to be different
without putting motors on pine cones, or
sticking pigeons in a cage and making them
play music. To me that is not art but some
science experiment gone awry. Sometimes
I go too far. I found this drawing tonight that
I did with my art group, and wondered at
first why there was paint smeared erratically
across the model's face. Then I remembered
that I was "into" finding the model's form
with paint on a paper towel. I'd drag it in
broad strokes across the page then begin to paint.
And the result is here. A very conventional
drawing with some smeared turquoise.
I like it anyway. The mood appeals to
me, and the warm almost classical colour.

Have a you-are-just-fine-as-you day.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Colour for drama

I do like dramatic colour -- there is no question.
It's funny too because I'm very plain in my
choice of clothing most of the time. I found this
sketch I did a few years ago in my drawing group
and thought I'd post it tonight. I have been so consumed
with holiday running around that I haven't had time
to paint today. A great pity, because I am eager to
get to it, and know I will tomorrow at some point.



Class sketch on blue ground
acrylic on watercolour paper

This little painting made me remember how
experimental I used to be. I'm not a big fan of
colour wheels, and I am not crazy about rules.
I'm what my students would call a visual
learner -- so I've learned to figure out colour
by trial and error. This painting was from my
blue period. In class with my art group they
always tease me asking, "where's the turquoise?",
because I love a certain colour of turquoise blue
-- and use it in many of my paintings. But at
this stage I was trying it out as an underpainting.

This model's expression was annoyed, so maybe
that evoked the blue. I guess my point is that
although it did create drama, it isn't the kindest
colour as an underpainting for skin. Any colour
in the warm range does a better job. Plus I've
never been moody enough to go through a
blue period. I'm more of a primary colour
person -- you can usually find red, yellow and
blue in almost everything I do.

Have a you-are-the-drama-that-matters day.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A super night at art class

Tonight we had a beautiful model at art class. I was
at a marks meeting all day, and drove home thinking
about my students and wishing them a great future.
I walked into art class, and knew I was going to paint
the model's face. She had absolutely lovely skin,
hair and eyes, and a wonderful, soulful vibration.




In the light
acrylic on canvas
16 x 20 inches

Once I'd settled in I thought about what Theresa's
been saying about form, reinforcing everything I
learned in art school long ago. Just see shapes.
I did, and the overtone of light and emotion
captivated me. I was painting on a canvas that had
many paintings on it, so the only sad thing is the
bumps that don't enhance her face. But the under
painting did add to the feeling.

On the break I talked to my friends Frank and George.
Frank and I marvelled at the way Vermeer used dots
of light, and Frank talked about Rembrandt. From
Frank's point of view Rembrandt appeals because
in The Night Watch he put the paint on like
butter. It's a treat to talk to these artists about
their passion for art. It feels like breathing, like
talking to you out there.

There was something in the movie Australia that
I liked -- not because I liked the movie -- I didn't.
What I liked was the reference, although presented
in a corny, overblown way to the aboriginal song
lines. Now talking to you, I feel these lines
crisscrossing the planet, connecting us through
our art and the shared pieces of our lives, and
it feels like song lines. Like I could follow
the lines between our geographical locations and
find my friends thousands of miles away. I love
that thought.

Have a singing-your-friends-and-family-home-day!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Cookies and cards

Hi everyone,

Now that the marking is done it's time to organize cards
for all the people at school. I also bake cookies for both
of the main offices, and this year I'm giving packages
of my own art cards to everyone I know at work.



Nanny Muir's Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here's the recipe which I gave to my students when Christopher, my
oldest and I taught an after school cooking class at our local public
school.

Nanny Muir’s Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

* Ingredients: 1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup wheat germ (if you don't have wheatgerm, rolled
oats work just as well.)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup raisins
(Note: if you’re allergic to chocolate
use caramel chips as a substitute)

1. In a mixing bowl blend the butter and sugars.

2. Add egg and vanilla and beat the mixture well.

3. Sift flour, soda and salt together and stir into the cookie
dough, with wheat germ.

4. Add chocolate chips, (or caramel chips) and raisins.

5. Using two spoons, spoon mixture onto greased cookie sheets.

7. Bake 10 - 12 minutes until golden brown in a preheated
375º F. Oven. Note: place the oven racks in the middle of
the oven for baking.

8. Let cool, put on a plate and serve with a glass of milk.

When we taught I was asked to include the Manners Tips
and Nutrition Tips for the children, so here they are:

Manners tip: If you are the team captain, host or hostess,
always serve your friends or guests first. Take the cookie closest
to you on the plate; don’t reach for the biggest, or the one with
the most chips. That’s rude and we want to be polite.
Nutrition tips: Raisins are another “feel good food” releasing
a form of sugar that causes tryptophan to rush to the brain
and create the relaxing chemical serotonin. Raisins and grapes
also fight against gum disease. Wheat germ is a good source of
B vitamins, Vitamin E and fiber. The B vitamins nourish your
nervous system countering depression, stress and fatigue.
Vitamin E increases your energy and stamina by enabling the
body’s muscles to function with less oxygen.


So it's been a busy day and I'm heading off to bed.

Nanny Muir is my mother -- her grandchildren call her
Nanny.



White poinsettias in the hallway

I have just about nothing done for Christmas, but I always feel
better when we get the white poinsettias for the front hall
table.

Have a running-around-like-a-happy-kid day

Sunday, December 14, 2008

100 percent too cheerful

Hi Everyone,

I promise to post a painting tomorrow. Tonight
I'm just giving you a silly little picture of Steven and me
and our cat, Fiona looking as happy as I feel tonight.
After weeks of intense work my marks are in. I have
one more meeting and the semester is over. It's
been a great time, with good people, and I am
happy it went well. Now it's time to paint like
crazy and celebrate.


Fiona the cat, Steven and me

Have a wonderful holiday. I'm going to work on some
paintings that need fixing. We went to a great party
tonight with live singing. What a treat.

Have a can't-stop-singing day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The light in my life

I started painting in watercolour to try and capture the
vibrancy and lush colour of flowers. For about 10 years
flowers were my thing. Just looking at the white roses
on my kitchen table today I completely understand why.

Then I was captivated by landscape. I grew up spending
my summers on a lake in Ontario. Living near water
has always fascinated me, and I wanted to learn how
to paint that light. During the process I actually
recorded the lives of my children playing near or in the
water. And that lead me back to my original passion in
art -- painting faces, and people.

Since the dawn of this century (doesn't that sound
funny now) I have been painting people. I am a people person.
I love watching how people interact -- studying their
mannerisms, their expressions. I especially love their
capacity for love and growth and their humour.



Feeding the birds
watercolour
14 x 20 inches

Tonight I'm including a watercolour painting
done around the time my oldest was 14 or 15.
We spent a day on a beach on Lake Simcoe
north of Toronto -- because we couldn't get
to the Atlantic Ocean -- and our favorite beach,
and we needed to see water. One of the things
I love about the ocean, is all the birds. And I am
perhaps one of the few people who loves seagulls.
This quirky painting has it all, my boy, birds,
beach and water.

Have a day filled with sunny thoughts.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Learning Process

I've been talking to my son who's at university tonight about
his courses. I know from the students I teach that
changing how well you are doing is greatly affected
by belief. It's very hard for young people to make
the connection between being positive, and
getting results. So I did what mothers do -- gave him
a pre-exam pep talk. My mother used to send
care packages filled with vitamin B rich foods. I
should do that too.

At the beginning of the evening I was looking at a
pile of exams that seemed to me to be about a mile
high. I kept marking, and marking and marking,
and the pile stayed exactly the same size. Of
course that was an optical illusion -- but if I kept
saying to myself that I'd never get through it -- I
wouldn't be writing to you now with every exam
marked in that pile, every word read and considered.



Winter scene
watercolour
14 x 20 inches

Tonight I'm posting an image I did in a landscape
watercolour class with an excellent teacher. Right
away I can see what would bother him about the
painting -- the grasses -- and right away I see all
kinds of qualities I like, despite the grasses. At
the time I was trying to paint like my teacher,
Americo del Col, and like Skip Lawrence who was
my ultimate painting hero.

When I had mastered being like both of them,
I took a course with Skip and he had done the
unforgivable -- changed. White space? What
white space -- he painted with watercolour
direct from the tube onto the paper. Everything
was covered, much of the paper was painted
in opaque colour. He broke every watercolour
rule and turned out magnificent work.

Today I don't paint like either of them -- I
am actually developing a style and look of my
own. I don't think anything has changed except
absolutely everything about me. I've learned
(not completely I have lots of bad, hard times)
to enjoy my work, and trust creating what I
like -- and I've learned to believe in me, and
in my own taste most of the time. I work
on being positive, and have been lucky to
succeed more often than not.

Now I'm not a watercolour painter anymore,
but I have infinite appreciation for people
who are, like my friend Gill Cameron who
works magic with those tiny tubes.

Have a why-not-be-happy? day.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

An interest in sketching

Hi everyone,

Lately the sketches I do when I'm on Skype with my kids and friends
have garnered some attention in the wider world of the Internet.
You know I am a painter -- and I love painting, but I have always
been interested in sketching. Sketchbooks crowd my bookshelves.
At art college we weren't even allowed to use colour for some of
our classes, until we worked in grey scale for a year. I've
probably talked about that before -- because it drove me right
up the (white) walls.

Drawing was considered almost more "important" than painting.
Oh I know structure -- the gift of line -- I know why. The point
is that all of that went in, and I am someone who draws her life.
I said that on the video interview with Howard Wolinsky
that you can watch on You Tube by Googling Barbara Muir Skype.



Sketchbook self portrait
the girl fascinated by musicians

Tonight I was looking for a photograph of a friend that I stuck
in one of my old sketchbooks, and came across some drawings
that document my brief life as a musician's girlfriend. I really
wasn't cut out for the insecurity of life on the road, or the rock
musicians' obsession with equipment. The life was too harsh
and lived close to what seemed like a precipice to me.



A base player

But for the few months that I let myself get swept up in that
world, I'm really glad I documented it.



The drummer gets the spotlight

The funny thing is that both of my sons are very musical.


Have a moving forward day.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Crunching along to the end of the semester


Hi everyone,

I don't know if I put this image in before, but it's of a painting that
I really love. I was talking to Theresa Rankin about painting
the other day, and she said, you don't paint people, or
landscapes or fruit, you paint form. That may not be her exact
words, but I said that I paint light and emotion. The emotion in
this painting means a lot to me, because it captured my
nephew's love for his girlfriend. He did not want her to move
to another city for work. This is an occupational hazard that many
people in love face every day, especially now. So I'm glad I captured that feeling in
this piece. If you've seen it before, forgive me. I'm up to my ears
in marking, and I'll be much more coherent on Monday, after the
marks go in.



Please Don't Go
acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches

Have a seeing-the-hope-in-every-situation day.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Still wet

I just got home from art class and the painting
is still wet. The model didn't come tonight
and one of the men in our group kindly posed
for us.


class sketch
Yellow chair
acrylic on canvas
(still wet)
16 x 20 inches

This morning I left for work at 6 a.m.,
so it's been a long, very good day. I will
have more to say tomorrow.

Have a warming-the-world-with-your-smile day.

Monday, December 8, 2008

In the key of happiness

I am having a bit too much fun perhaps. I was at party
after party all weekend, then a Christmas concert (we
call them holiday concerts here) and another one
tonight. Both concerts were to support housing for
battered women, and the homeless. It's moving to
hear so many great singers and musicians put their
talents together to inspired the audience -- and all
for a vital cause.



The guitar lesson
acrylic and pencil on Bond paper
18 x 24 inches

In light of that I found this old unfinished sketch of
my brother teaching my son Christopher, who is three,
in the picture, how to play the guitar. The drawing
needs infinite work. But I like it because Christopher
is concentrating so intently. And because as a grown
up he can play any instrument he touches, and has an
excellent voice too.

I have to go because I sit a very early exam tomorrow
morning an hour north of town.

Have a singing-at-every-opportunity day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Fond memories

This is my 300th blog. Hard to believe I've been at it that long.
The blog has brought me nothing but joy and I thank every one
of you for supporting me, and teaching me so much.

It has been a celebratory day. My girlfriend and I went to
get our makeup done early this morning-- something I've
never experienced. The makeup artist worked just like a
painter, adjusting colours and changing brushes. So when
we showed up for Josephine's surprise birthday lunch
she was looking dynamite.

Tonight we went to hear my son's girlfriend's sister's concert.
She sings with a group called Cantores Fabularum, and the
choir's Christmas concert is just glorious.

I'm writing a short one tonight because it's late and I'm
tired.



At the Cottage
watercolour
14 x 18 inches

Here's a watercolour I did of my son Christopher and Megan
based on a photo taken of them a few years ago. There
are a lot of things about the painting I'd change now, but
I like the emotion it captured -- that kind of new love, sweet
aw shucks feeling.

Have a falling-in-love-again-today day.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Practice for pleasure

Here's a sketch I did to practice drawing the characters in the
poster on the wall in my son's room in Korea. It's always
behind him when we talk. I don't know if he knows what
it says -- but some of the characters are in Chinese and some
in Korean. If either of these languages is yours, please
don't be upset at my fast rendering in markers. I know
it would take me years to get it right. Still I like the feeling
in this fast sketch. I'll do a more polished one soon and
include the characters in that one too.




Sketch from the computer
markers and coloured pencil
8 1/2 x 11 inches

Have a learning-something-new-and-loving-it day.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Fantastic Friday

What a whirlwind of a day it's been. This morning the U.S.
Skype blog writer, journalist, Howard Wolinsky,
interviewed me on Skype video. The subject? The
drawings I do when I talk to my sons and my
friends on Skype. Howard saw my sketch of Flora Doehler
on the blog, and asked if he could do a piece on me.

During our conversations I found out quite a bit about Howard,
too. In addition to being a top American journalist, he is an
excellent photographer. When I get his permission I'll link
you in to his photos, and I know you'll be impressed.
Howard put the video he shot on You Tube, so it's there
for the world to see.

The interview write up is at:
http://share.skype.com/sites/us/2008/12/sketching_with_skype_a_toronto.html
and you can watch the interview at:
http://share.skype.com/sites/us/2008/12/part_ii_sketching_with_skype.html

I taught my last class of the semester at school this
afternoon, and I'll really miss those people. They
put on impromptu presentations reviewing for the
exam, and were happy to let the class run past its
time at the end of the day on a Friday afternoon.

Tonight I got to see the design a wonderful fellow,
Richard Teitelbaum is creating for my web site, which
should be up in a few weeks. It was just lovely -- simple,
and elegant, exactly what I'd been hoping for.

So it's time for me to call it a day -- I call it an incredibly
great day.



Sam in his residence room
Sharpie markers, and highlighters
on bond
8 1/2 x 11 inches

I'm including one of the sketches I did on Skype while
talking to my son, Sam. I may do more work on it, but
I'm not sure. I like the kind of comic book quality I
get drawing with markers.

Have an absolutely fabulous day!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Painting brings them closer

Although I am a very happy person, and really enjoy my life,
I must admit I miss my children. Lately when
I talk to them on the computer (write me and I'll
tell you how) I also draw them. Today one of
those drawings turned into this little painting of
my son. Being able to talk to Christopher when he's
on the other side of the world, has been an
incredible pleasure.



The blue sweatshirt
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches

Got to go to bed early, I'll have more to say tomorrow.

Have a spectacular day.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

An awesome finish

Sometimes I am so absolutely moved by the young
people I teach. This semester is ending, and I
will miss my students. You know I'll say that
next semester too. But I do want to record
it here, that I feel so privileged to love my
work -- painting and teaching. What a great
life.


The artist
6 x 6 inches
acrylic on canvas

I worked for a short time tonight on a very
small portrait of my friend Flora, begun while
we were talking over the computer. I could see
her, and she could see me. It's far from done, and
probably wet, but I like the wonky perspective the
computer gives me, and the ironic bemused look
on her face.

The painting began with a red, then a burnt sienna,
then a red ground. On the wall on the left I scratched
the paint a bit, because Flora draws into liquid paint
sometimes. The two paintings on the wall behind
her are watercolour scenes. She is in Nova Scotia
and I miss her great face.

I'll work on painting some more tomorrow, and show
you the finished product.

Have a looking-at-life-differently day.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Immersed in marking

I have been marking all day. My students' essays are good, and
a treat to read really, but my hand hurts from using it
so intensely. I don't have much to say because I don't
have time. It's the end of semester crunch, and that's
a fact.



The flower stall at the Organic Farmers' Market
at the Brick Works

Here's a photo that I may paint when school settles
down. It's the Organic Farmers' Market in September.
At the school where I teach north of the city, the snow
is about 6 inches deep. Here this morning we had an
icing sugar dusting of snow.

Have a working hard happily day.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Well here it is -- December!

Hi everyone,

The month of snow, presents, trees, and parties
has launched. The more I think about December,
the more I think the strategy of all those holidays in
every culture this month with feasts and presents,
and singing makes absolute sense. By the time it's all over, you
are so ready for quiet and the beginning of a new year.

But I will miss my current crop of students. They have been
a complete treat to work with. So I don't want to bore you,
but for the next week or so, marking their work is going to
be my main job.

I hope you are enjoying the month so far, that the world economic
crisis is not frightening you too badly. I hope you aren't
shopping all the time, and that if you're a painter, you're
getting time to paint. I keep meeting people who are
members of art clubs, who hope to paint one day, but not
yet. When I listen to their explanations -- always valid
-- I think, 'I wish you'd start painting (or drawing, or sculpting,
or _______ fill in the blank) now. It feels so good to do
something creative, and frequently one artistic work leads
to the next -- and to something infinitely more dangerous,
and tempting -- ideas. Those ideas build, swirl, take over
your sleeping and waking hours and crave expression.



Art group sketch
Acrylic on bond paper
18 x 24 inches

I'm putting another quick drawing from my art group
on the blog tonight. It's much softer than some of
my work, so I thought it might make a nice change.
The model had exquisite hair, and fragile looking skin.

Have a relishing-the-month-ahead day!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Staying up, and drawing

Hi everyone,

Keeping a sense of humour looking at the deluge of marking
I've still got to do, is critical. Drawing helps me do that.
I'm showing you a little drawing of my son Sam, that I
did while talking to him on Skype tonight. The colour is probably
more flashy than I want exactly, but I like the mood.



Sam at his desk
Sharpies,
Enium highlighter, Staples highlighter
Prismacolor coloured pencils
on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches

Sam's microphone on his computer doesn't work, so
he talked on the phone and I drew him. It's exam time,
and he's working away in his dorm room. It's been
a very hard working day for me -- lightened somewhat by both
drawing and Steven's delicious halibut, baby potatoes,
salad and home made applesauce dinner.

Now the day is done, gone the sun.

Have a restful, happy day.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

99 bottles of beer on the wall, 99 bottles of beer

I swear sometimes writing a daily blog is like the old
camp counting song. Get to know me, I really like
to hear people singing -- even the corniest of songs
make me happy, or sad. I could never go to my
chidrens' school concerts without being deeply
moved. In fact whether they were performing in the
band, or in the choir, my sons were the boys straining
their necks to try and see me through the crowd to see
if I'd started weeping -- yet. I was moved by how sweet
they were singing, or playing the Tuba or Trumpet.
The music and the atmosphere with the kids all
dressed up, and the proud parents always caught
me off guard, and profoundly moved.

As for this blog. What I mean I think, is that I committed (to myself)
to writing something every day, and I've kept my
word (to me). One of my blogging friends made it a big
event when she reached 200 blogs, and I'm coming up
on 300. If you have any suggestions of how I should
celebrate -- or how we could celebrate together let
me know. If you have no suggestions be aware that
I will happily toast you with Veuve Cliquot, my favorite
champagne, on that occasion.

I'm putting a picture I painted at my art class on
tonight, because I'm hauling my big "Promise"
painting from a week ago, home tomorrow and
fixing the face, and I'll show you how that goes when it's done.




Class sketch
acrylic on bond paper
18 x 24 inches

This image may be of my friend Peter, although
I painted it a couple of years ago, and I'm not sure.
I used to drive to class with a colour formula in
my head that I wanted to try out. I soon discovered
that blue was rarely a decent ground for a painting.
But it does give the work a certain air of sadness
and pathos. The model, if it is Peter, is actually
a pretty happy person -- a wonderful artist, with
a great family. As you know by now, happy is
she who paints happy. Happy is my life's work.
Being happy, making other people happy, and
recovering my own natural sense of good humour
when seriously horrible life events knock it off kilter.

Have a perfectly joyous day.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sometimes you paint, sometimes you draw

Being a painter with too much to do to paint can
drive you nuts. But lately I've noticed that anything
can make you crazy if you let it. So what's the answer?
I teach a course in creative problem solving.

Coming up with solutions -- I'm good at that.
What I can do is draw -- it fits in nicely between
bouts of marking hundreds of essays and tests. Especially if
I draw people while I talk to them on the picture phone
--known as Skype. I keep thinking of that movie "mother"
with Albert Brooks and Debbie Reynolds. The
obnoxious brother in the movie gives his mother a
"picture phone" and she has trouble making it work.

At any rate. I've been pestering my friends and
relations to let me draw them in my marking breaks.



Christopher in Korea
Drawing 8 1/2 x 11 inches
Bic Marker, Crayola Marker
Sharpie Marker, Staples Highlighter
and Prismacolor coloured pencil
on bond paper

What's strange about portraiture, is that some people
are iconic -- burned into your visual brain. So when
I talk on the computer to my son Christopher I can
draw him really quickly. But other friends take two
or three tries just to get something like a likeness.




My friend Lyn #2
Drawing 8 1/2 x 11 inches
Bic Marker, Crayola Marker
Sharpie Marker, Staples Highlighter
and Prismacolor coloured pencil
on bond paper

It's been an exciting few days. I've met some
wonderful people through the blog, and will have
so much to tell you in a couple of weeks.


My friend Lyn #3
Drawing 8 1/2 x 11 inches
uni-ball Vision marker
on bond paper

But for now it's time for bed, and getting ready for
another day reading what my super students have
produced.

Have a drawing-out-the-best-in-people 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: 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!