Thursday, February 21, 2008
Living for visual pleasure
These are the crocuses on my kitchen table. This is an image of the park near my home.
Today it's incredibly cold - 5 Celsius, but sunny -- and sun has been a rarity this winter.
One of my survival techniques is flowers. Whenever I can afford it, I fill the house with roses, tulips, whatever is available in abundance -- flowers seem especially vital in the kitchen, where we eat our dinner every night by candlelight. The flowers add an extra level of pleasure, and help us get through the dark months. Right now we have tulips, and for a few weeks now I've been planting a lovely old antique dish my sister gave me with crocuses topped with shells. They last about a week, and for about $6 (Canadian) that's a great deal. Candles on the kitchen table make the early winter evenings seem intentional. The moment even a breath of warm weather comes we eat every meal on our back porch. The roof protects us from most of the elements, and we've been known to eat outside in November wearing ski jackets.
The clouds today are magnificent again. I was teaching at Seneca this morning. Outside the window in our classroom a high, sunlit snow bank drew a brilliant line of light against the blue sky. When I'm teaching, I am always in a rush . There's so much to do to prepare, and plan. Each student needs attention, and I usually think about who needs extra help, and my lesson plan while I'm walking from the parking lot to my office, or to class. I run through a long checklist in my head, rehearsing how to keep the class interested -- how to teach and engage them at the same time.
But when I do let myself notice the landscape at King Campus, it is so magnificent. Today the trees on the far horizon were a deep mauve, blue against the snow. Stands of willow preparing for spring are turning a vivid ochre, the perfect compliment to the indigo backdrop. Along the highway near the campus, plantings of trees made curved, striped lush sapphire blue patterns on the sloping snow drifts. There is always more to see than I can hold in my mind. I think that's what separates artists and people who "see" from those who don't. The word "bored" is a word we barely register. We are not bored. Tired, sad sometimes, overwhelmed, but here on earth with a mission -- at least one clear mission among others -- to see, and be ecstatic about what we see, and to try and produce work that in some way captures that ecstasy.
I once read that when Vermeer was alive being an "artist" was a humble trade -- not something rare, but an important job, like baker, or construction worker. I'm sure that was true, but looking at Vermeer's work it's hard to deny the incredible joy he must have felt portraying his world. His colour is so rich, his lighting vibrant -- each gesture perfectly described.
That's what I'm trying to do with my paintings I think, aside from just loving the feel of paint on canvas.
Today I'm hoping to finish a still life for our upcoming show opening March 9 at the Northern District Library. I'll tell you more about that later.
- Barbara Muir
- 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: email@example.com
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!