Monday, March 31, 2008

The Monday papers



Luckily for me this blog is posted in West Coast time, so I made it under
the wire for March 31. Bye-bye March, you big old month you. As the Beatles said,
"I've got nothing to say, but it's O.K., good morning, good morning, good morning."

I taught all day today, so I have pretty well used up my words. I hope you had a good start to the week. It was incredibly foggy
here, and raining softly most of the day. At Seneca I love how the dark, wet trees loom out of a thick swirl of pale grey fog on a day like today. The whole world was wet and mysterious, and excited seagulls filled the sky, backed up with trilling red-wing blackbirds. The bird kingdom seemed to think it was a good day.

On the Allen snow mountain is still there, but
smaller, and covered in brown earth from the roads.
It's a good thing it's melting slowly.

This is an image of a small Bear River painting
from the latest show. I think it's 12"x12".

Have a enchanting evening.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Earth Morning


Hi,

Well we celebrated "Earth Hour"
-- for a planet as old as ours that seems
like short shrift, and enjoyed the
semi-dark. Here's a blurry image
of our kitchen lilies by candlelight
The street lamps kept the city lit
unfortunately, but on the
back porch the stars were definitely
brighter. One or two neighbours
kept their lights on -- parents of young
babies I think, or people suffering
illnesses that keep them out of the loop.
For the most part though the lights
were off. Zoey and I took a walk to
the park hoping for more stars, but
even there street lights were on.

Back home we kept the lights off
all night, like most of our neighbours.
When I did turn a light back on I was
shocked at how bright one little
electric light can be after candles, and we
had dozens of candles lit in the kitchen.

Well Earth -- it was an experiment.
I looked up the dreaded mercury, bad lighting
"alternative bulbs" and discovered something good.
An alternative to those bulbs is the new LED bulbs.
The one problem is the expense, but they don't contain mercury
-- which shouldn't be used in any household item,
and they do last for a long time and give a clean
light. If I bought one every three months, I'd change
the four or five tungsten lights I have in just over
a year. Hmmm. You learn something every day.

Maybe you wonder why I'm going on about this.
But do the math of 30 plus million Canadians,
and 275 million Americans switching to the "green"
mercury bulb. Even if they last a long time, think
of the mercury pollution. That doesn't even touch
on the aesthetic disaster provided by the nasty light
coming from those bulbs.

Some facts about lightbulbs:
http://www.maxmon.com/1878ad.htm

http://www.enn.com/business/article/28932

Have a brilliant day.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Angel


Hi,

If you're reading this between 8 and 9 p.m.
wherever you are, watch out because the
light/appliance police might come and get you.
It would be nice if governments cared as much about the
earth as we the people do. I'd like to see an end to nuclear
power, an end to mercury filled "alternative" bandaid
lightbulbs, and the associated piles of mercury tailings in
places like China. I'd like to see Hummers outlawed, and
grants to help hybrid cars become cheaper and safer. I'd
like to see stores like Loblaws (Atlantic Superstore)
really go green and all organic.

As an artist I know that my work tries
to beautify the planet. I compost, I recycle.
I do most of my dishwashing and clothes
washing late at night. In summer I use the clothesline to dry
most of my laundry. I've owned some of my clothing
for more than 20 years. I buy as many antiques as I can
afford. But I also know that all of our efforts count for
nothing if wars continue to pollute land, water and air.

I think I'll turn out my lights and look to the stars for
the answers. I just wish there were more environmental
stars down here. Then we wouldn't need an "earth hour."
Meanwhile I'll snuggle in with my earth angels here at
home and just be happy I can turn those lovely lights
back on when it's over. There are many countries in the
world who only have electricity between certain hours of
the day -- every day.

Stop. Isn't this supposed to be about art? Yes. But light
is art.
The picture is of Christopher on his 21st birthday. It's
one of the few night shots I have.
http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/26/business/safety.php

Have a dark and cheerful night.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Late night


A long, long and wonderful day today.
I went to the McMichael Canadian
Collection to be a resource for my
English class. My students are all doing
essays related to a work in our text,
Elegy in Stone by Stephen Heighton.
The essay is about Vimy Ridge and talks
about art in relation to the Canadian psyche.
So each student had to pick a work by
a Group of Seven artist. Then I counseled
each person on how the piece tied in
with the essay. It was fascinating to see
which paintings they gravitated to.

I hope they enjoyed the experience as
much as I did. It's hard not to be moved
by the place. You have to approach the
gallery on foot down a path bordered on either side
by tall pines. The physical setting echoes the images in
the works inside. After spending the day with
those magnificent painted landscapes every cloud
and tree I saw on my drive home seemed lifted
from a Group of Seven painting.

Then... we had the last little evening of our group
show at the library. In a way it was more festive than
our first opening, because afterwards ten of us met at
Finn McCools at St. Clair and Yonge and had
dinner together. The musician tonight was wonderful,
and played every kind of music beautifully. All of us
had a bit of wine and sang with great abandon. Josephine
had just lost her mother, we had just taken down the show,
Peter and Caroline love to sing, and so does our son, Sam.
Helena was there and she loves singing too. The musician
warmed to us and started doing longer and longer segments.
It was just wonderful. Such a great and upbeat ending to a
pretty special day.

Here's to great art, great friends and great music.

The photo is a detail from a painting
called Before the dance in the red dress.

Have a song-filled day tomorrow.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Next up?


I hurried home from school today
because I thought I had a portrait
client coming. So I vacuumed and
washed the kitchen floor and the hall
floor as fast as I could. I had my
lunch, tidied the studio -- put
out my paint and 2 o'clock rolled
around and... Nothing. I double checked my agenda and wrong week. Whew!
Because we're having another
little opening "meet the artists" tomorrow before
we take the show down and now I can bake cookies,
buy flowers, make calls, get fruit, pack up and be ready.

Here's another painting of a mother I admire. She fits
nicely into my Dance series. I like the ironic touch and
pop of colour from the book. She looks like she's
saying, "Oh are we ready to go now? I was just reading."
Like me, Ann is always reading unless it's time to get
active. I just hope she's writing too.

Meanwhile the painting I'm working on now does call
me -- and the lush colours sitting in my egg cartons.
I just got Bob Burridge's newsletter today, which has a
great idea on how to store large quantities of paint.
I'll let him tell you. Check out Bob Burridge
and sign up for his newsletter at:
http://www.robertburridge.com/

Have an bountiful day.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Missing Pugwash


I'm too tired to write much tonight.
I'm marking to get ready for my
class tomorrow, but I found this picture of Claudia walking along my favorite strip of beach
in Nova Scotia, near Pugwash. The photo was the backdrop for my computer's desktop for three or four years. It isn't a particularly good image, and it doesn't show the beach at it's best -- (at low tide it's spectacular), but it brought back one particular summer vividly. So I kept it for sentimental reasons. It seems fitting today. Claudia and her cousin Veronica
made everyone cry at their grandmother's funeral this morning, when they choked up doing
the readings.

These two cousins are like very close sisters. They stood
together comforting each other in their loss, and walked
back to their families holding hands. They were honest
and moving in their grief.

Back to the beach... it's too bad Nova Scotia is so far away.

Have a summer thoughts day.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Mother love




I've been thinking about mothering all day. Impossible to avoid the topic because my friend Josephine's mother, Maria, died on Easter Sunday, and
the visitation was today. I dropped into the funeral home briefly to pay
my respects. Her four daughters were all there. I thought surely if their mother were alive to see them she'd be proud of them -- these four good daughters, dressed in perfect black suits, looking elegant and sad
in the very tasteful setting. People clearly
loved Maria, who was lying laid out in the casket,
surrounded by an entire florist shop of flowers
in reds and pinks, which must have been her
favorite colours.

I never painted Josephine's mother, although I've
painted Josephine and her daughter, Claudia,
numerous times. But I've painted mothers before,
sometimes for very serious reasons -- because the
mother is sick, or because she is not expected to live.
And of course the most important reason is that
people love their mothers.

Some of my favorite paintings are of mothers
and their children. Mary Cassatt comes to mind
as one of the best at this art. But Sargent did some lovely large
canvasses of families and Alistair Adams of the Royal Portrait
Society in England does great family pictures.
http://www.eyesonstalks.com/group/group-gallery3.htm

In portraits mood is everything. I usually try to capture,
even impose, a sunny mood because that's what I like.
After working on an art magazine and seeing some
"real" and terrifying depictions of life's horrors,
I opted to create beauty. That may seem facile,
but I've found that beauty, outer and inner is one
of the great comforts in this world.

A TV monitor on the wall in the funeral home
showed photographs of Maria at different stages in
her life with her family around her. She was at the center
of so many family parties. Enfin, it looked like a good life.

Here are some pictures of mothers I've painted.

Have a nurturing day.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Going to the McMichael



Sometimes when I can combine my school life --
teaching English and School Success (motivational
psych), I do. One assignment that's worked really well in recent years has been going to the Art Gallery of Ontario, and
writing about a painting in the Canadian Gallery. The
students moan and groan about the idea at first, then
meet on the night the gallery is free, and run around
claiming paintings, before anyone else can ask me,
"Is this painting taken?" The contrast between their
initial misgivings (many students live north of Toronto
and the Art Gallery is right downtown), and their
excitement when they've chosen a painting, is both
endearing and funny.

This year the gallery is closed for renovations, but
I wanted to give my current class the experience, so
we're going to the McMichael Canadian Collection
on Friday. Today they did an exercise brainstorming art terms
in teams and raced to the blackboard to try and beat each other
with the longest list. I don't remember having a more enthusiastic
class than my current English class. The class runs from
4:15 - 6:00 p.m. and comes at the end of a long day for me,
but their lively humour and energy lasts right to the end of
the period. So we're going to see the Group of Seven and
whatever else is on offer. It's one of my days off, but I'll be
in Kleinburg for the whole day, talking about the paintings.

Here's a sketch of mine from a few years ago done at my
Tuesday night class with the Don Valley Art Club. I was
trying out gold paint with red. I do love that combo. The
painting ended up looking a lot like my next door neighbour
-- sometimes I channel images unconsciously.

Have an appreciative day.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

No rest for the bunny


Hi everyone,

We had a wonderful Easter meal with Christopher and Megan and
Sam. Then we had the hunt, which was pretty funny. Steven and
I were so tired that we just left huge clusters of eggs all over the main
floor out in the open. Some were hidden, but it was pretty easy to get an impressive stash. We have to be really careful because of the dog. She once got very sick eating Christopher's chocolate.

On a sad note, my friend's mother died this morning.
She'd been quite sick for about a week, but had such
a strong personality that I was hoping she'd pull through
on will alone. I've been thinking of her all day as we went
through our family rituals -- silly as they may be. She
was such a presence in her family -- at every party,
giving kisses to her daughters and grandchildren. She always
cared about her appearance, and would be wearing a dress,
and maybe a special pin, and earrings. As she lived in the
neighbourhood I saw her more often than I've been able to
see my own mother in recent years. These mothers matter --
the mothers of friends. They are in a way shared, as we all
are in all of our motherly, or fatherly roles. I better go and work.
School is on again tomorrow.

Have a loving day.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Getting Ready for Rabbits



Today was a busy day getting the rabbit part of Easter together.
My kids are addicted to the chocolate egg. Since they were
little boys we have had extended egg hunts -- sometimes
two hours long. And they still want the ritual. So we have been
rushing around all day, and tonight we sat in the kitchen
making new Easter eggs. Steven blew the egg out of the shells,
and his crew decorated the eggs. Another festivity in prep
mode, then I think we're good until May 24 aren't we? All we'll
do tomorrow is the egg hunt, a turkey dinner, then it's
back to work, and back to art on Monday.

Here are the finished eggs and a study group of former
Easter bunnies -- now they want to go back to school
and pick up a trade.

Have a great day whatever and however you're celebrating!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Doggers have the day

































Living in a multicultural city, in a multicultural neighbourhood can be
dicey conversationally on a day that's a holiday because of
one religion -- like today for instance. I love how doggers
approach the problem. They don't. As a dogger myself (someone
who lives with and walks with) a dog, I can tell you a few things.
We are not usually easily offended by dogs. Very few of us resent
being called the dog's "Mommy" or "Daddy," and those who do
are more uptight than the average dogger. We usually know each
other, not by our proper names -- unless we are already friends, but
by the dog's name. So I would be Zoey's Mom to a dogger I meet
occasionally -- because people can customarily remember the
dogs they've met, but not necessarily the owners. And on a day like
today there is one thing we know about each other -- that we're
doggers having a walk on a beautiful spring day, in one of the most
delightful parks in the world. So the day is about the dogs, about the
sugary snow, about the woodpecker we saw in a tall tree chirping
like an angry squirrel. I rarely run into an mean dogger, or a violent
dog. But in every kind of weather I meet and walk with people
of all backgrounds who smile at me in understanding because we
share one thing -- we love our dogs. The cats would like me to
add -- "and our cats." I agree.
For the best dog walking parks in Toronto, and a list of people
who take care of cats and dogs go to:
http://www.torontodogs.com/parks.htm
Zoey asked me to tell you that she thinks the best dog trainers
are Diana and Astrid Fischer. If you want a dog as lovely
and well behaved as Zoey check out their website at:
http://www.englishnanniesfordogs.com/

The first image is of Zoey the dog après walk, resting with the
cats (Timbah on the left and Fiona on the right) in their kitty
train. The second picture is of the cats in their kitty train.
Timbah and Steven started the whole train concept because
Timbah loves boxes and hockey skate laces. Steven tied the
laces onto a sturdy orange box, and voilà --a train. Then a couple
of summers ago I was painting a wonderful little girl named
Madeline, and she felt it was unfair not to have two boxes for
the two cats -- so we attached a second box for our
former Siamese, Simone, and the train was born. Fiona has
not yet learned to ride in the train, but she does love boxes
and hockey laces (much to Timbah's chagrin).

Have a dogger day.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sprouting spring

Outside the March winds are howling. Inside, in a bread pan that was headed for the Sally Ann, in reused soil saved from last month's tulip bulbs, I am growing poppies in a plastic lettuce container greenhouse. I put the ground pepper sized seeds in the pots on Monday night and presto. The trouble with poppies is that they hate to be transplanted, so I will have to thin them, then take the soil and carefully lower it into a new and larger pot. The results in Steven's lush photos taken in our little garden are worth it. Next I think I'll start on Morning Glories. Ya Mama. Mike Dooley says,"Think Big!" I say "Think Big Pleasure!

Have a growing day!



Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The call of the mild


Yesterday taking a break from marking I went
for a long walk in our local park. Spurred on by
my goal of 10,000 steps a day, I walked from one end
of the park to the other, looped up through the woods,
and then climbed the steep staircase up to cross the
bridge and home.

What a treat! A fine misty rain fell and the sky was
leaden. Each dark tree branch in the ravine was trimmed
with a row of raindrops. What surprised me was the colour.
I suppose I was plodding along deep in my own thoughts
when I saw a lime-ochre coating on one older tree. Then
colour seemed to pop out of the dull landscape everywhere.
The youngest saplings, right out of a Tom Thompson, were
a warm caramel colour, while up on the rise their older
sisters wore a vivid purply burgundy. In the marsh slashes of
bullrushes bent down by the winter were a tan yellow, and
seemed to have been whipped onto the surrounding snow
canvas with a palette knife.

In a large tree-sized sumach, about ten robins were happily
enjoying afternoon tea. Zoey and I got thoroughly soaked
and were righteously happy (for getting the 10,000 of course).
Spring is coming. Bring it on.
Here's a true spring day Steven captured a few years
ago in Rosedale -- a dream at this stage in the game.

Have an energetic day.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Erin Go Bragh






Hi,

I hope you had a great St. Patrick's Day. I got teased a bit at school (aw) because
I was wearing green, and my Irish connections are
somewhat suspect. My mother thinks that the Poindexters
were Huguenots, who fled France for Ireland, and then
fled Ireland for Canada. By that time they were Pounders.
They lived in exciting times, if you liked persecution and famine.
At any rate their descendants (moi et my famille) love St. Patrick's Day.
The menu was far from fancy as I had a late day at school, and
it's a one hour drive away in optimal traffic. I stopped into
Loblaws on the way home, picked up a Movenpick roasted
chicken, and a pre-made (ouch I know) salad. Never fear I know
Barb who works at the salad bar, and I trust her. Of course
I added grape tomatoes (a passion of mine), a red pepper,
and an avocado, plus Steven made the dressing. I also bought a small,
scrumptious, mocha cake iced in a thin layer of chocolate, and
a tiny bottle of Veuve Cliquot. Josephine and I toasted the
Emerald Isle with champagne greened slightly with food
colouring... Steven, Sam and Nata had Sprite with Lime Cordial.
I got home to find Steven decking the kitchen
with more shamrock garlands and St. Patrick's Day banners
than we've ever had. He was in a very festive mood. We enjoyed
a delightful supper -- the animals were so excited that the cats
insisted on attacking the tablecloth and jumping on our laps,
so we had to keep banishing them to the basement. Of
course as the night wore on all three beasts got more than their
fair share of the chicken and went to bed singing Irish songs -- but
not "Danny Boy," because Timbah insisted that's not a real
Irish song. http://a.abcnews.com/US/story?id=4424077&page=1
But is Timbah right?
http://www.standingstones.com/dannyboy.html

The pictures? Sam and Nata with Timbah trying to get in the picture.
Fiona wearing a dollar store St. Pat's garland.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Taking St. Patrick's Day seriously


St. Patrick's Day is one of our family's favorite celebrations. It started
when the boys were little kids -- and anyone with children will
tell you, that if you do something once, you have to do it every year.
I was working downtown, and my oldest was in daycare. There was
an excellent card and decoration store near my work, and I bought
a St. Patrick's Day garland, green bags, and a few green candies.
After that it grew each year. Green hoola hoops, sparklers in the snow,
funny hats, calling my mother to ask, "what are the words to When Irish Eyes Are Smiling?" The kids loved it, and so did we. Green champagne,
green Sprite for the kids, green food of some sort -- natural because
Christopher was allergic to food colouring. The whole thing was pretty
funny because my thin Irish roots are really French, and Steven is Dutch
and Indonesian. But hey!

Photos later, but here's Fiona trying to decide how to get up high enough
to attack the green shamrock garland.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday is for reading


Reading is one of my critical pleasures and I've just finished reading the best novel I've read in a long time.
Coffee and the Saturday Globe are essential Saturday and Sunday morning pleasures, and on Sunday I like to get in at least an hour of straight reading. Libby Creelman's The Darren Effect, is a Canadian novel missing the requisite incest and sheer despair. True she
deals with grief and loss, but also gives us love and redemption. It's set on the east coast and is amazing in its honest depiction of feeling, and how women think. Most novels about women seem to miss the point for me. Creelman is that rare bird, an exquisite writer of moving prose. Now I'm reading The Dissident, by Nell Freudenberger -- a New York Times, Notable Book. It's
about Yuan Zhao, a Chinese performance artist, who accepts an artist in residence position at a private girl's school in
Los Angeles. I think it's going to be good. I know that if Fiona could read, she
would. Meanwhile she just likes being a fashion model.

Have a great reading day.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spring cleaning




Fiona is tired because we've
been working hard today.
These are some of this week's
beautiful roses from Steven in
a brilliant blue vase I picked up at a garage sale last May.
I don't think of myself as the spring cleaning type, but perhaps the warm weather means that one thing leads to another. To take the paintings to the show, I had to empty out
my little Mazda 3, which was filled with boxes destined
for the Sally Ann (Salvation Army). The boxes must have
been in my trunk and back seat for six months. So we put
them in the front hall, and there were more in the living room and dining
room (otherwise known as my studio). Today we carried those boxes
plus six more that we filled with things we simply aren't using out
to the car, and over to the Sally Ann. There was a brand new food
processor, and two of those things you use to shred vegetables.
Apparently we don't do that. We wrapped up china, and boxed
up clothes and felt really virtuous...until we got home and saw
that we could easily fill at least six more boxes. But ultimately
there is a bit more space in all the lower kitchen cabinets.
Some sad CDs have gone to a new home. Even the studio--
which is always a bit chaotic is looking tidier. But then nobody's
painted anything today, but a Happy St. Patrick's Day sign.

Have a "make way for the new" day.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Snow banks melting


Hi,

It's been the most amazingly wonderful day here.
Suzanne and I went to Yorkdale for a mall walk.
It's the last official day off for March Break, and
the parking lot was packed. Teenagers in love strolled through the mall wearing exotic mixtures of clothing, and we walked loop after loop through the shopping center trying to get our 10,000 steps. It was so hot out that on the way back to the car we abandoned our thin jackets and rolled up our sleeves. Then we heard on the radio that it
was just 5 Celsius, and we laughed at how summery it felt.

I urged Steven to photograph me on top of Mount Cherrywood, our own personal snow mountain, because if the weather stays warm, this stuff is gone. It's already down by about a foot today.

After a whole winter, of what seemed like snow every day, that will be strange indeed. I planted the Canadian
flag on top of the mountain, and climbed back down.
The workers creating a much larger version of our little
summit, beside the Allen, have planted a flag at the top, about 75 feet up.
That pile covers at least an acre of land, and probably more. I can't
imagine how much water will flood the highway when that structure
melts. And there are similar mountains all over the city.

Have a springy day.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Salad days






I often think that I've been extremely lucky in my life. I love my family and friends. Our animals are funny and strange. We get a lot of entertainment just from watching them.


I live in a vibrant international city, and teach in the
country just north of town.

I also think that noticing what works in your life is a
choice every day. So why the salad? My son Christopher
has Timbah the cat perched on his shoulder. Timbah
is even stranger since we got the Siamese cat, Fiona.
There's Sam carrying the flowers he bought for his
girlfriend's birthday. The lady in the flower store arranged
them to perfection for him. And the salad? Why the salad?
That's been part of dinner for the past two years, and delicious.
My friend Flora puts great food shots on her blog, and Lina's
blog is about food -- so here's a variant on
Nanny Muir's salad.
4 tbsp. good olive oil
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, pressed
Salt -- a shake or two
Pepper, a grind or two
A baby fingernail size pinch of Keen's dry mustard
A shot of Worchestershire sauce
Blend together in a large bowl.
Add -- two cups of grape tomatoes (ripe)
A tomato or two if you have some
One large red pepper, sliced (throw out the seeds and core)
One avocado (ripe) cut into pieces (throw out the peel)
Any other salad vegetable you like
A large colander's worth of salad greens, rinsed and spun

Toss -- Eat -- Yum.

So -- two fine sons, a sweet husband, two lovely insane cats, a
faithful dog, a warm extended family, good friends, great work,
wonderful bosses, engaging work friends, super students, a car
that runs, a warm house, wonderful chances to produce
and sell art, great art clients, and a super community,
and salad. That is the good life my friends!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

No school at all



Hi,

I was at school
again today
and got out late.
I handed back the
first serious essay
in one course,
and my students
lined up after class
to ask questions. On the way home I started thinking about
Richard Diebenkorn. The photo above is of Diebenkorn's
"Interior with view." I never enjoyed the stretch of the Allen
Road that runs by a string of industrial warehouses on Dufferin,
until a friend turned me on to Diebenkorn's paintings.
Since that day I've been thinking about how to make a landscape
more abstract, and realizing that Toronto's flat warehouse
buildings would be perfect subject matter. This may seem
a strange preoccupation for a portrait painter. But,
it's all form and it's all painting. There's a long list of
painters I admire, and they don't conform to one
type, or one school. Check out more Diebenkorn at:
http://www.artcyclopedia.com/gallery/diebenkorn_richard.html

Here's a shot of the backyard I thought I could simplify into shapes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Favorite work


Some of you may know that I've worked
for many years as a writer/editor. One
of the cardinal rules of writing is to
"kill your darlings," meaning that if
you think a sentence, paragraph, chapter is
especially good -- it isn't. http://everything2.com
/index.pl?node_id=1282093 As an editor I've
chopped and hacked away at some of my clients'
beloved prose, and revealed the good goods
under the shrubbery of excess. There's no time
in a daily blog for the great edit
-- unfortunately. My brother, a writer, who
frequently dissects and improves my prose,
teases me about this fact.

Artists need editors too. The same rule
of "probably not good enough" dogs
artists, sometimes to the point
of paralysis. I say get one friend whose eye you trust,
and if need be pay that person to look things over
and notice what you in your push to keep painting,
or get finished can't see. My friend Suzanne is that
person (although she doesn't charge me). I don't run
everything by her, because she's very busy, but
every problem she's helped me with was
improved by her vision. Here's another picture from
the current show at the Northern District Library.
http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/hou_az_nd.jsp

Have an incisive day.

Monday, March 10, 2008

School of recovery


I was back at school today. Getting out of the driveway
between the high, high, high snowbanks was problematic.
Sam came out in his favorite white, slip-on, fake leather
sneakers and bare feet to dig me out of a deep bank when I
got stuck. Back home now after a very long, but fulfilling day,
I'm going to put the painting aside for the night, to give
my family some attention and mark some papers. This is me trying to snuggle Fiona and Steven at the same time. The photo is so bizarre that it's almost art. With all that snow you might get
tempted to drown yourself in fries. If you need another cooking blog to keep the munchies in the realm of the virtual(other than the fabulous one listed at the bottom of my blog) try this one: http://smittenkitchen.com/

Have an affectionate day.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

A dazzling show




Well the opening was great. A surprising number of people
dug out of the heavy snow we had yesterday and turned
up to tell the four of us how much they liked our work.
It was gloriously sunny in the Skylight Gallery, so named
because it is graced by a huge skylight that beams down brilliant
light onto the art. Many wonderful artists came out to look at the work,
which is always a happy sign. Here are two gallery shots of some
of my work. More to come.

Have a snow-free day.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The view from here

Hi,

here's the view out my window where I write to you. It's from a
day without snow. Not today. Snow like snow is all there is.
Tomorrow is the show, so I'm closing shop. This could be called
the art of sleep. I've been painting all day, so I'm going to try it out.

Have brainstorming day.

Friday, March 7, 2008

The art of enjoyment




Hi there,

We're all tired here. Maybe it's the snow, or the scurrying around to
finish the last details on our show, or the work deadlines layered
over and under art deadlines. But we are. Three coffees later the
mood changes, and a hyper tired, but determined, witty vibe
surfaces. What to do with that? Prepare show handouts? Paint some
more? Mark English papers? Escape? For an artist thick with
paint under her fingernails, dark circles from burning the midnight oil,
and too much to do -- Allure Magazine http://www.allure.com/offers
about the fluffiest escape route possible -- beautiful women teaching
the rest of us how. Maybe the next time I crawl out my front door I can
look like I know how to behave. The magazine offers that hope -- and
in the current world (another snowstorm coming) hope seems to be a
vital commodity.

Here's a glimpse of what I'm working on today.

Have an alluring day!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Hanging in

Well it's been quite the push, but the show's almost ready. To tell you the truth, the animals are sick and tired of all this painting. They want a break. Who cares if the tulips are at the perfect stage. Don't we know that another winter storm is coming? Put away the brushes, snuggle in by the heater, and have a siesta for goodness sake.

Now it's back to the marking. Have a friendly day.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The golden mean





Yesterday I bought some gold leaf to use on the gold jewellry and accents in my
paintings. The real gold leaf comes in very thin sheets, set into a book of thin
orange paper. First I lay down a layer of paint. I use acrylic paint, in this case
metallic gold, then when the paint is slightly tacky to the touch, I apply the gold.
And the close-up image on canvas gives you an idea of what it does when light
hits it. I love both the look and the feel of the gold. No wonder people have
been insane about this precious metal since it was first discovered. You
too can get your hands on some and apply it to things in your house. Some
people decorate cakes with it, and it's completely edible. A bit of a waste I think.

Have an illuminating day.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Joy Train


Steven and I laughing in the living room -- sometimes we dance
like crazy teenagers.

If you know me at all, you know that I am a big fan of soul music
and rhythm and blues. This winter through all the snow,
and cold I've stayed cheery by singing soul music as loud
as possible in my car. Not a new habit, but certainly
intensified by the endless grey days. Check. Today again we
get to appreciate the subtle palette of a Toronto winter. Grey, grey
grey. Inside I'm painting tropical fantasies as I listen to soul.
As James Brown said, "Get up offa that thing,
and dance 'till you feel better."

Have a dancing day.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Art and Sanity


Sometimes painting is the surest route to sanity for me,
but I love the humour involved in language too.
My brother and I got a kick out of the word
"sesquipedalian" applied to William F. Buckley Jr., lately deceased,
which means long-winded. Colbert flagged the word ironically on
The Colbert Report, his fake news program.http://www.comedycentral.com/colbertreport/index.jhtml
I love the Report (pronounced Repor). It's incredibly funny,
and I thoroughly enjoy his gloss on world events, especially
American politics.
This is a photo of a painting I did a few years ago to capture
the awkward moments before a big date. Perhaps
the girl is going to meet the boy's parents for the first time,
but to appear cool she's reading her book while they wait
on his living room couch. Or they could be at her parents' place.
It would be nice to inject more humour into my paintings,
but I seem to opt for colour and form first. The cat is
Simone, who was a wonderful Siamese blue point.
I have to paint, so I'd better go.

Have an uproariously funny day.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The pull of the sea

It's Sunday and I head back to school tomorrow. My mother warns of freezing rain and I hope she's wrong.
Let the weather gods give us a nice clear day with dry roads all the way to King City.
It's a Pieter Brueghel kind of winter day, grey skies, but brilliant light. Here's a little image from my shoreline series. I notice I still need to work on the face. This is the beach in Nova Scotia I spend as much time as possible roaming looking for shells and blue starfish. It's always a pleasure to think of those warm, late afternoons with the tide rolling out, and tide pools emptying into the great, navy blue ocean. We watch hermit crabs scurrying along like creatures out of a fantasy video game, and crows happily squabbling over what variety of seafood to have for dinner. Part of my heart is always there on that strip of red sand, splashing through the warm waves, and throwing shells for the dog to pretend to fetch.

Have a dreamy day.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Pre show buzz





The Swan is Josephine's, the Vacuum cleaner woman, Christopher's
The woman in the black dress, Peter's, and the woman in the white dress, mine.


Hi people,

It's Saturday and the palest suggestion of sun slides along the newly
fallen snow. It's the last weekend of my Reading Week and then
back to school -- which I must admit I miss. Right now the four artists
who are taking part in our show at the Northern District Library are
all getting ready. I am painting as much as possible -- with a number
of things I like almost completed, and a few pieces ready to go from
a former show. Peter Adam is deciding which of his great oil paintings
to include. Christopher has a selection of amazing shots that he'll print
on his giant printer, and Josephine is printing her wonderful images
and framing them this weekend.

If you're in Toronto, I hope you come out. We will be so happy to see you.
The opening with wonderful coffee, home made pizza, cookies,
and other goodies is on

March 9 from 2 -- 4:30 p.m.

At the Northern District Library Skylight Gallery
upstairs at 40 Orchard View Boulevard
(one block north of Yonge and Eglinton)
Featuring paintings and photography
by Peter Adam, Barbara Muir,
Christopher Muir, and Josephine Pica

Have a memorable 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!