Saturday, May 31, 2008

Leaving room to breathe



It's time for bed now. Here's one of the
first portraits I did in acrylic. I love
the energy, which comes from my dear
friend Susan, who is a vibrant, brilliant
and kind person. I like the fact that she
looks like she wants to jump out of the
chair and rush off somewhere.

In 2004 when this was done I got so
excited about my new lease on life
in art, as a painter in acrylics,
after 10 years doing watercolour,
that I entered every show imaginable.
It was a great learning experience,
but I found out that if I don't have
the energy to be wildly enthusiastic
about everything I'm doing, I'm probably
overdoing it and need to cut back.

Artists, like everyone else need to find a balance between, work, life
family, friends, love, laughter, reading, sleeping, eating. Most of us
have to do other work to support our art habit, even if paintings
are selling well. So... I learned to pick and choose. I learned to
make enjoying everything I do my number one priority. Of
course that's not always possible, but it's a great goal.

There are hundreds of sites on the net that give you relaxation
techniques. Here's one:

http://www.drweil.com/drw/u/id/ART00521

Have a time-to-breathe-freely day.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Finishing touches





Turns out I did think about recording the process
before I began the Elizabeth portrait progress
photos I showed you here recently.

Here are two photos of the portrait of her sister, Madeline. One is taken a few days before the other one, and in that time
I completed the painting. The silver is real silver leaf -- lovely
stuff to work with, but be sure
to glaze it, or it goes black.

Madeline, was the center of the triptych featuring Sean, her brother, Madeline and
Elizabeth. She was 10 when I began the
work, and an astonishingly sunny child.
Her happy nature and the easy confidence
of a well loved little girl, made the painting
almost effortless.

Right now it's late at night and thundering.
I'm waiting for my son to get home from
his Prom, and to bed, because we have
to drive him to the camp bus for 8 a.m.
So I'm going to sign off.

Have a calm-after-the-storm day.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I'm still sketching





Some artists say that they never draw. I know I can draw well --
I was trained in the classical method, although I don't draw
that way anymore, but more and more lately I've been
using sketching like knitting, as a happy distraction
whenever I know I'll have to sit and wait. When you
sketch in public everything changes every few seconds.
I like the challenge that poses. After awhile you realize
you can't get it, that man won't turn around and go
back to the pose, the woman who had her arm around him,
and kissed his cheek suddenly left in a huff.

Furniture is better. It behaves. But people push and pull
at wooden subjects too, moving the chair you've almost
nailed. When I paint in the kitchen, for a still life
painting, I cover the kitchen table with sheets of plain
bond, masking taped together, then outline the objects
I'm painting so I can take my set up off the table for
supper, and put it back afterwards without disturbing
my family.

Your family, like mine, may not like you spreading
your paints all over the house, but they are
pretty good sketching subjects. First of all they're
used to you. You are always there, in fact you may
bore them so thoroughly that after
awhile they don't even notice you.

My favorite sketch in this little sample is the one
of Steven sleeping, complete with the ear plugs
and eye mask he wears while his insomniac wife
reads. The next one is Steven fixing a slide
projector in our attic room at the schoolhouse.
That's Zoey the dog on the floor.
Next comes the view from our room in Anaheim,
California last April, looking out over Disneyland,
which we never visited. And the last sketch
was done quickly in the pub where my son
worked. The big man is a bouncer watching the
crowd very carefully.

It's time to draw the line around this day.

Have a thankful Friday.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Seeing a painting whole

Different people will give you varying viewpoints
on how to check a work for flaws. At art school
we were taught to draw and paint aerobically --
work up close, move back, take a good look, move
in. John Sargent apparently felt he'd
walked miles with each portrait -- and the evidence
is there -- the best of portraiture.

Here's a painting that I absolutely loved when I
was painting it in the studio. I don't have a decent
photo of it, so the straight lines are curved, forgive me.
But, looking at the photograph, is another great way
to see what still needs work.

I put this painting, The Poem, in a show in March,
and I felt proud of it. It's 4'high and 2' wide. I still
like the colour, mood, expression on the girl's face,
the feeling of mystery, and the dress. But I'd like to
refine certain elements.

One of my favorite teachers suffered from a
compulsive
need to fix works when they were in an exhibition,
to such an extent that his watercolours
had little 4 inch squares on certain corners,
on top of the actual painting, in sections of the
painting he was still reworking. Rumours circulated
around the art school that he had frequently gone into
galleries, taken a painting down, removed the frame,
and begun reworking the watercolour on the spot.
That must have driven his dealers mad.

In my case, the urge to change a work is usually
reasonable.

Right now the reasonable thing to do is to go to
bed. In the morning I'll see everything in my
studio in a whole new light.

Have reflective night.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fine tuned Tuesday




Well friends,

We have sure been busy around here today. Just clicking away
at life. It was nice and cool -- my favorite spring
weather. I wrote my list of things to manage last night and got through most of them.

What I didn't do was try and weed the masses of forget-me-nots out of my garden. Apparently it was once thought that if your sweetheart wore these flowers near his heart, he
wouldn't forget you. Mine would look odd leading a seminar in Calgary with a little bouquet of these delicate blue beauties tucked in his dress shirt pocket. So I trust that I'm not that easy to forget. Yes the plant is invasive, determined, but undeniably way beyond pretty in its sapphire dominion over our yard. I plunked
a bunch in an old enamel jug.

I'm also sprouting morning glory seeds, pictured
here beside a vase of the perfect roses Steven buys me
each week to ensure my memory stays sharp.

Tonight I got to class with about 40 minutes left. The
voluptuous model had glowing skin, and a mane of long
curly chestnut hair, so I set to work. I'd pre-painted the
canvas with a red ground, ideally suited to her skin tone.
I'm training myself to see what I want to focus on quickly,
because I rarely have more than an hour to paint in class.
So here's my sketch.

Have an Elysian day!

Monday, May 26, 2008

When the cat's away -- wait a minute?





Today is unusual because Steven's in Calgary. The house seems
quiet even though there are still five of us in it. The cats
immediately snuggled down on our bed, something they
never do, and slept deeply and peacefully. Normally Fiona
is not allowed on the bed, and rarely in the bedroom because
she's too rambunctious. Timbah broke my bedroom shutters
last year climbing on them to see a bird outside the window.
So he's not allowed in unsupervised either. Today they were
pretending to be little angels.

I've been paying bills, cleaning off my desk, and finally -- after
weeding, doing laundry and making dinner, -- painting. I'm
working on a little painting that I'll show you, but I know it still
needs more work. Right now it's gone overboard with a riot of
vegetation theme. Easy to get into with the entire backyard
garden a sea of blue forget-me-nots.

Did I mention that I'm reading an amazing novel? I did
yesterday. It's late now, and I'm calling it a night.

Have a good travelling day.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Who do you love?




I admit it -- I'm not painting today. I'm just hanging out with my
family. Steven and I went for a long walk in the beautiful park near
our house. I cooked up some salmon steaks for dinner, and we
watched a T.V. movie afterwards. I'm reading a delicious book
by the author of Chocolat, so I'm sure the movie deviated
wildly from the book. Five Quarters of the Orange, is a wonderful read so far, -- witty, biting, incisive -- set in part in France during the Nazi occupation. It paints a terrifying picture, without ever resorting to a tirade. I'm having trouble putting it down.
http://www.joanne-harris.co.uk/pages/news.html

Oh and we went to buy the flowers that have become a weekend
ritual. Steven bought me fine white roses, as part of my year-long
Valentine present, and gave me a perfect white wooden planter, he'd
built and painted, complete with an amazing planting of red white
and blue flowers. It sits at the bottom of our back porch stairs,
gracing the yard, and embarrassing the rest of the untended garden.

Not to be completely outdone I bought a huge bouquet of
lilacs for Steven-- the perfume is filling the kitchen.

I meant to write about all the painters I love, Diebenkorn,
Lucian Freud, Bob Burridge, Monet, Mary Cassatt, plus a
forbiddingly long list, but it's the weekend, and I'll get
back to painting tomorrow. Here's an hour- long sketch
I did in class recently. I like the light, and the expression.
There's almost nothing on the canvas, but the model's
personality shines through. I admired her great good
humour as two of the artists in the room had an intense,
loud debate on the subject of whether the model's
neck was long, or short. The model stayed in pose with just
the slightest smile, and ultimately settled the argument
--"long," she said.


Have a do-what-you-love- to-do day!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Animals and art


Mike Dooley who is part of The Secret and a wonderful guy, says that if you want to get along with other people, you should try letting them be "other people".
http://www.tut.com/
I have a massive urge to advise my friends, students, people
I meet in grocery stores, and anyone else who will listen --
like you for instance. But some of the most influential
characters in my life aren't people, and I've learned a great
deal, and had some of my happiest moments with them.
Our family animals are great stress relievers, great sleepers,
great eaters and they love a walk and a game more
than any people I know.

Our two cats, Timbah and Fiona, and Zoey the dog, rank
playing right up there as a life enhancer. After sleeping,
eating, and cuddling, play's the thing.

In the first picture you can see that Fiona won Steven's
heart over from day one. In the second picture she
is insanely jealous of the attention Steven is giving
to Zoey (on his lap). Fiona must be number one,
so here's her strategy for removing animals in her
way -- bug them. 'I know,' she thinks, 'I'll play with Zoey's
tail, and she'll get off Steven's lap!'

This is blog 101 for me, so I should either sign up
for Psych 101, or Watch 101 Dalmatians,
http://disney.go.com/disneyvideos/animatedfilms/101dalmatians/
in honour of Zoey who is 50% Dalmatian, 50% Border Collie/Lab,
and a delightful combo.

Have a playful day!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Getting it on the wall




One way to get over the fear of showing, cut costs, and get your
name known is to join up with
friends whose work you admire
and exhibit with them.

If we believe what housing
magazines and critics tell us,
the world needs art -- badly.
So joining a small group of
artists broadens your chances
of exhibiting in an accessible,
and reasonable space, and
moving your art from your
walls to someone else's for
a small fee. The truth, in
my little in-house studio at least, is that you simply can't hold onto year, after year
of work -- your work needs to leave you and grace other spaces.

For the past four years my friends and I have exhibited
whenever possible at the Skylight Gallery in the
Northern District Library in Toronto. The library
staff are always gracious and helpful. The wall
space is large and well lit, especially in daylight, and we've
always had good turnout there, because the library is close
to movies, shops, fine restaurants and a couple of decent pubs.

Art shows are by nature intimidating for people who don't
paint. Do I have to buy something, is it okay
to dash in and dash out? What do I say if I don't like
anything? Artists have to try and understand their
public's kind curiosity and unease in the face of
unknown expectations.

So if at all possible I like to show where we can
serve wine, to make an exhibit more like a party.
Music is a welcome addition, and not overly highbrow
classical, but something unobtrusively joyful.
Food is a really good idea. At the library this
March we were given a separate room for food
and drinks. At first we were worried
that people wouldn't like that arrangement, but
in fact they did, and wandered back and forth,
getting food, having conversations, looking at
the paintings and going back for more food.

This is an aerial photo of our recent opening
just before closing time. Afterwards we went
for supper and drinks and that was a lot of fun.

By the way, this is my 100th blog. Flourish
of trumpets.

More images of school fireworks for the
Queen's real birthday tomorrow.


Have a wonderful Friday night.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Out of the notebook, onto the canvas






My art class now doesn't have
the rarified atmosphere of an
official art school, it even deviates
from time to time from the requisite
"classical" music. Those of us who like to paint what's in front of us feel a bit out of step with nature.

Art school taught me to have a passion for drawing, but I didn't always stick to the rules. For instance we were taught that it was a "sin" to draw in marker, because it wouldn't last.

Some artists I've studied
with recently never draw, they
just paint, and I get it. The two
disciplines, though frequently combined are very different when you
separate them.

The first four images here are self-portraits from an art school vintage sketchbook. You can see that I tried a number of styles and
different drawing materials.
I still sketch whenever I get the
chance. When my older son
worked in a local bar/restaurant
I always carried my sketchbook
and tried to capture the
atmosphere.

Last week in art class I whipped
up this little painted sketch in an
hour -- a discipline I'm trying to
teach myself. I'm still incredibly
slow with portrait commissions.
But they also need to be much more
finished paintings.

Artists need to have the courage to come out of
the notebook and onto the canvas. Drawing is an
important art on its own, but the drawings need to see
the light. I know so many artists who worry
about materials, the expense of a full sheet of watercolour
paper, or of canvasses. In class you can use the same canvas
over and over if you're painting in acrylic.
If you haven't allowed yourself to put your art on a
wall lately. Start with your own walls. Then ask
someone to display your work in a public space -- and
Ta Da, you're on your way.

Have a showy day.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Big decisions, small paintings


It's the end of the school year, and the
end of high school for Sam. Today Sam is in the enviable position of having too many choices as he goes
forward in school.

He's loved his high school years, and choosing a university is a big step.

Here's a little painting I got
working on at night, after everyone
had stopped debating which was
the most intelligent choice, and gone to bed. I think I'll call it night kettle. Our electric kettle is modeled on the shape of the old kettles you used to boil on the stove. As you can see this is a tiny work. I'm trying to break out of my primary colour bias and use
grey. I can't say that I've got it
working yet, but here are the
first two stages.

I drew the image with a Sharpie
black pen on a small, gessoed canvas.
Then I began with a yellow and
light robin's egg blue ground. In
the second photo I'm beginning to
introduce a pale, and a darker grey
mixed with a deep Prussian blue for
a dark dark. Now I think I'll resort to my usual palette and bring
in some brights, and sparkling highlights.

Have a neutral day.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The pleasures of summer

May is disappearing at an alarming clip. There's so much to do and so much to plan. Each year at this time
we need to plan both our garden and
our vacation. For the past few years
we've just planted what passes for a garden in furious night plantings two
or three days before we leave for
vacation, and the person who assumes
the care of the garden takes over.

We've been lucky to know a series
of wonderful girls in the neighbourhood who water the garden
faithfully, stake up the tall cleome,
pinch off the dried blooms, and keep the garden thriving.

When we return to Toronto after
weeks on the ocean, our now lush
garden is what soothes us back
into city life. So we are more than grateful.

This little 12" square painting is of tomatoes
grown at our local children's garden in Cedarvale park.
Towards the end of the summer the children sell their
vegetables every week in the early evening, and last
summer they grew a wonderful variety of small tomatoes.
The weekly sale was managed by an efficient seven-year-old
with assistance from both the adult teacher, parents and
very small boys and girls of two and three who ran back and
forth looking like cartoons by Earnest H. Shepard,
http://www.just-pooh.com/shepard.html
carrying one carrot, or one large leafed vegetable,
seriously entranced with the high level importance of
the job. I can still see one tiny curly headed boy running in massive
rubber boots breathless when he arrived with a brown paper bag
for the zucchini.

My joyous memories of buying vegetables from these urban
agribabies shows in the painting. I set the tomatoes in an antique
cut glass bowl, sitting on a 40s French looking cotton table cloth
-- and I like the results.

Sold to the lady with the red hair.

Have a bounteous day.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Queen's Birthday



The 24th of May is the Queen's
Birthday. Here's an image from
our local school ground's
impromptu fireworks tonight.
In Canada we're celebrating
the occasion today, because Victoria's actual birthday is on a Saturday and
that would mean no long weekend. Or at least that's the theory.
But this is the real Queen in our house -- Queen Fiona,
whose name is nouveau Celt.

We encouraged a festive mood by
giving our reigning monarch extra
crunchies, which she seemed to
appreciate. Friends from afar (Flora
and Larry from Nova Scotia) dropped in, and we had a lovely visit. I was sorry that the house was a tip, the
fridge empty, and the stores closed, but delighted to see those two fellow
artists. Flora is one amazing painter,
and Larry creates in silver and precious stones, making objects so beautiful, that they are truly fit for a queen.

Have a regal day!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

At last my painting is done

Hi,

I know -- if you've been tracking the progress of this
work you see that the face changes quite a bit as I go
along. True and that's another reason to keep it away from the client's understandably curious eyes until it "feels",finished. It isn't completely ready until the client says so, but I like to invited scrutiny when the work is so close that the client will more than likely approve it when it's unveiled (pulled out of the plastic bag.) In almost every case so far when I've done a portrait the clients have turned and hugged me with joy. I'm pretty sure they weren't faking that emotion. But I have to feel happy first. I have to think, "you know what, this is pretty wonderful. I am good!" And that certainty doesn't come too easily to me.

One way that I know a painting is almost ready, is that
I start to talk to the image as if the person is really in
the room with me. No. I'm not crazy, but although I'm
not going for a high realism look in my portraits, I do
want the painting to say -- I am ________ fill in the
name. In Elizabeth's case I was very lucky because her
parents own a lot of paintings, her dad is an accomplished
artist himself, and they love paint, they love individuality,
and wanted what I do. That made me feel much more confident
and free when I began to work.

It's Sunday. I've been away all week, and I'm tired. We're
going to take our boy to dinner, or order in takeout,
and watch movies. I hope you have similarly enjoyable
plans.

Have a congenial day!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Amazing place



Hi,

We just got back this evening from an inspiring trip
to Ottawa and Gatineau QC. Wow! What gorgeous cities and the surrounding countryside is lovely. I
was up there for work, and the meeting went extremely well, but I also enjoyed fun filled visits with my mother and my brother. Both of them live on rivers and enjoy magnificent views. The city of Ottawa is intelligently designed to highlight its rivers, with lush parkland, stunning flowering trees in huge plantings, so you see wide, wide swaths of the deep rose crab apples at this time of year, massive beds
of daffodils, running up hillsides of bright green grass, and public gardens filled with tulips everywhere. I was dazzled and felt like celebrating every time I had to drive anywhere, and filled with grateful joy every time I looked out a window.

Today we made our way back to Toronto, via Smith Falls and
Kingston and finally to Toronto. The entire drive was
breathtaking. The light held until 9:15, a sure sign that summer is
coming. As the sun slipped behind the trees along the highway
we drove past long vistas of black silhouettes of barns, farm
houses and spring trees set against a brilliant yellow/peach
coloured sky that deepened to a manganese blue cut with
ultramarine as we rolled into town.
Beautiful.

This is the painting of Elizabeth almost finished. Steven
photographed it in the kitchen, away from the easel,
in this image I'm touching it up. I don't usually use small
brushes until the end of a painting, because I like the
way a larger brush forces me to paint. You can see that
I've painted in her necklace and gilded it with sterling
silver leaf. If you use the silver leaf, which adds a luxurious
touch, be sure to glaze it over with a protective
coating of gel medium, to keep it from oxidizing and
turning black! Not a great surprise for your clients a
couple of months later.

Well I'm tired now. I love travelling, and meeting
new people, I had a marvelous four days, and I'm
glad to be home.

Have a day off!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Elegant spring




We've been on the road through the countryside of Ontario in one of the loveliest springs I can remember. After what we lived through in the winter, (the winter shot was taken
December 16 at the very beginning
of the season. You can still see our tree) it's not much wonder that people are anxious to
see the heat climb.


The instant the snow melted people were out
buying plants and sticking them into the garden.

Luckily the spring hasn't moved into summer
as quickly as it does some years, so the blooming
trees are coming out and lasting just a touch
longer. They are striking.

Awhile ago I talked in the blog about Angela
my neighbour, and how her tree made me
think of her. This is her tree, a glorious
memorial that will be unacknowledged when
we leave our house, but stirs my memory
now.

Back to spring I don't think I've ever seen
people appreciate the season so much.
They may be rushing the shorts, but big deal --
There's a sea of blue forget-me-nots in the
garden.

This is the next in the series of Elizabeth
pictures. At this point the painting is
getting close to finished. I overexposed
the image, and some of the colour's
vibrancy was lost. More tomorrow.

Have a revelling day!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Catching personality

This little photo of the Elizabeth painting in
progress was done with the painting on the
easel and cropped from the wildly careening
image, all crazy where it should have been a
nice rectangle. Thanks to iphoto it is looking
a bit better. Looking at it reminds me of what
was going on at that time with the work.
Young teenagers change almost daily, inside
and outside. Plus you can know the look
of a beautiful girl, without knowing the
person. I think good portraits let the
sitter's personality come through. It shows
in many ways, in their posture, choice of
pose, jewellery, and expression. But there
is also a deeper quality that I think more
painterly portraits capture. That's what
I try to get. I like the painting at this stage.
But as you'll see, it's not finished.

What has happened is that the face is
beginning, the shapes are more
refined, the dress seems to have a person
inside it. This is all good. When you read this I am probably en route to our
nation's capital. Thanks to everyone holding down the home front, and keeping
Miss Fiona, Max, Zoey, and Sam happy.

Have a refined day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Little by little


It's funny that Robert Genn's latest newsletter
talks about the importance of taking a break from
what you're painting. You can get so close to a work, and so frustrated with a flaw in a certain area, that your brain freezes.

I think I'm blessed by the need to escape. When I'm working on commissions, I need frequent breaks to rethink, not think, and get back to my original vision. Sometimes I need to revise that vision every five minutes, but on occasion I'm lucky enough to know what I want to do, and do exactly that. Bliss.

On the other hand (I am part Libra -- we do weigh and balance) I love the happy accidents that happen in painting, when I brush on the wrong colour and in wiping it off, see that the small remaining traces make the paint beneath what should have been a mistake, sing.

Here's the second picture of the Elizabeth
painting. At this stage I'm pulling in background, starting the beautiful gauzy dress,
thinking about colour relationships.

Have a bright day.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Portrait step one

Before I painted Elizabeth, it didn't occur to me
to document my process. My clients usually
come for two hours at a time. The younger
they are, the longer the breaks in between
10-15 minute painting sessions. During those
breaks I give my subjects cookies in my
kitchen, and don't look at the canvas until
the client is back in the pose. Elizabeth was
almost 14 when I began her portrait. She
was beautiful, artistic and shy. Her portrait
had to connect on the left side (her right)
to the completed one of her sister, Madeline.
So before I began I created the join. This
image makes it clear why I don't show
clients the work in progress. It is a long way
away from the finished work. I spent my time
establishing the proper position, roughing in
the outline in charcoal, which can be washed
off once the acrylic paint is dry, and starting
on the highlights.

The more time I spend looking at the subject the
better.

Over the next few days, I'll take you through
the steps to the finished Elizabeth.

Have a self-directed day.

Monday, May 12, 2008

An Honourable record



Last spring I had the distinct honour of painting my first Order of Canada. Judge Ann Northcote is a citizenship judge, and a spirited joyful woman. You could not imagine a fairer person for the role of citizenship judge, or a more passionate Canadian citizen. She embodies the best of what being Canadian means, and uses her office to join with others. She is warm, kind and has spent her life serving good causes.
http://www.cic.gc.ca/ENGLISH/department/
commission/cit-judges.asp#northcote

Bruce, her husband, was an accountant, and is now
retired. His current passions are his garden and
travelling. The Northcotes wanted me to put their
beloved swimming pool in their portraits. The
paintings don't join, but the background links them.

Thinking that the paintings would be displayed on the
same wall, I portrayed them facing each other. Bruce is
devoted to his wife, and her champion. She feels
the same way about him, which is always touching
to see.

Although Ann is wearing her Order of Canada pin, she
did not want to be painted in her official court robes.
Bruce is a sharp dresser and showed up the first day
in a lovely red tie. He is a quiet, somewhat shy man,
and a few sessions into the painting, added the red pocket
handkerchief. He'd noticed that I like red. True.

I was very fond of both of them. One difficulty of being
a portrait painter, is saying goodbye to your subjects
when the process is completed.

Have an honourable day.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day


I hope you had a great day, whether
you're a mother, father, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, friend. I had a lovely day and even worked on a small painting. (Not ready yet).

I'm a mother of two young men, and
couldn't be prouder. They have always been and continue to be two
of the kindest, warmest, funniest,
most intelligent people in the world.
Art matters to me, there's no question about it. But on a day like this I realize that my biggest dream as a little girl came true when I held my oldest son, Christopher in my arms for the first time,
and I felt my family was complete when Sam was born.

As a little girl I hauled around a baby doll wherever I went.
Of course it was societal indoctrination, but for me it
was much more than that. I knew I loved babies. What
I didn't know until I started raising my sons, was that
I would love every age of my children, and they would
be a huge part of why I am so happy with my life.
Thank you boys, and thank you Steven for making my
dreams come true.

Love the people of the world today.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Thinking outside the box



One of the challenges artists face is moving out of safe
ground. It’s heartbreaking to me to see people
with talent who won’t take the smallest
risk. They won’t use a different colour, or size
of canvas or paper, they “can’t” paint big, or small.
They feel stuck, but can’t see that the answer is
right in front of them. Choose blue instead of grey,
or red instead of green – do something you’ve thought
about doing. No matter how skilled we are, we need to
change some element each time we paint, to look for the new
idea in every work. We can't always succeed, I know I don’t,
but it helps if it's a conscious goal.

These two paintings are called Gill Left, and
Gill Right. They are portraits of my friend and
fellow artist, Gill, from her left side, and her
right. Gill didn't have time to pose because we
were preparing for a show, but I took a raft of
photos of her one day as she sat in one of her
favorite chairs, wearing a black velvet dress.

When I got the photos home I realized that
her entire look changed depending on the
camera's viewpoint. The difference was so
dramatic that I decided to do two paintings
capturing both looks and then hang them
facing each other. Once again they look
more yellow here than they are. I haven't
yet been commissioned to paint someone
from more than one angle, but it would
be fun.

Sorry I realize that these pictures are
both yellow, and grainy. Enjoy
anyway.

Have a radical evening

Friday, May 9, 2008

What's out there

I spent some time today looking at artists' blogs. There are wildly creative people in the world,
and one of the things I love about the Internet
is that you can get to see their work, even
study their methods without going anywhere.

My paintings are influenced by everything
I see, and then by my own creative spirit.
The Dance Series began because I teach
part time at a community college. Seeing
my students in every type of casual wear,
from jeans, to cut-offs, to track pants with
T-shirts and even pajamas on occasion
made me want to create an idealized
picture of young people. I started with one big painting, and the series
grew and grew.
It turns out that most people look wonderful
in more formal dress.

Tia used to live across the street from me and
she's an ideal model. She is brilliant and has a great laugh.
I've had this habit of cutting my model's heads off at the top.
My friend Pam, a superb painter in California says
I need to give the model's head breathing space, but
sometimes (often) I can't fit the model on the canvas,
and I can't paint huge canvasses all the time. This image
doesn't really look like this. It was photographed in
very yellow light. In real life the colours are much brighter,
less yellowed.

Today I've been blown away by some people who paint
little canvasses every day. Of course the king of that is Bob
Burridge, who paints about 10 little paintings
every day before he starts to paint, but here's a list of
other sites you might enjoy.

http://aaronlifferth.blogspot.com/

http://belindadelpesco.blogspot.com/

http://web.mac.com/kjurick/iWeb/ZemArt/Welcome.html

Have an intuitive day!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The joyous dance series


Nobody could embody the best just-before- a-party mood better than Louisa. I did this
little painting from reference photos a few
years ago. Louisa has a great natural
confidence, looks terrific in a dress, has superb
long legs and knows it. The painting was
meant to be a sketch for a larger portrait,
but Louisa has been so busy it's been hard
to make a time. One day though I will, and
I know the larger, more finished portrait
will have all the pizazz she brought to this
little one.

I thought of the painting today because I've
been walking so much, but not taking my
dog. I feel a bit guilty about it, but I am
walking for serious exercise, and dogs walk
just for fun. This is my dog Zoey, who fell
in love, as everyone does, with Louisa.

I donated the painting to a fund-raiser
for my son's school band trip to Vienna a couple of years ago.
I frequently run into the lady who now owns it at school functions;
she's very happy with the piece.

Have a party day!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Toronto's great walks


I'm including a painting tonight that I did from reference based
on a walk on the beach in The Beaches in Toronto one March break
a few years ago. I liked the snapshot and the painting followed.
The painting reminds me of the lovely end of day light we walked
in that afternoon in March, when suddenly it was a bit warmer, and
people opened their coats. Very young teenagers of course couldn't
even wear coats in the terrific heat of a 4 degree Celsius day -- and
thus the sweatshirt. I just love the casual, captured goofiness of young
people, which I think I got. Many people have told me that this is my
best painting, but I'd argue that. It's a bit too high realist for me. I love
the colour, and I almost accomplished what I was trying to do, but
I want a looser feeling most of the time.

I've been walking like crazy with my friend, Suzanne, trying to
walk off a winter of too much snow for comfortable walks. It
doesn't seem to matter which direction we set off in, we run
into such beauty. Lots of people revile this city for its size,
and ugliness, but I think they're missing the point. If you
get down inside the city, and start walking there are just
so many pretty streets, lovely gardens and parks. I walked for
about an hour and a half on Sunday with my dog, and we
came across a new park about every three minutes. Zoey
was irritated because I was a woman on a mission. I
was walking, not stopping to let the dog sniff the tulips.
http://spacing.ca/wire/?p=1826

Have a great walking day.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now


At this time of year I wish I could quote poetry like my mother.
I think she has a photographic memory, and can still quote
from almost all of the poetry she ever learned, or that made
an impression on her. What sends me hunting for a suitable
poet is wonder that I can't express myself in paint. For instance I have no idea how to paint my beautiful cherry tree. I think the tree may be about 10 years old, and it has given us so much pleasure. It was our first tree and technically we planted it in the wrong place . It's squeezed between our
garage and the neighbour's fence, in a space about six feet wide,
but it's undaunted by all that. Every year since we bought it, it's
produced more cherries than we can handle, and some of the
most delicious memories of early summer. I love picking
the lush fruit with the juice running down my arms, the wonderful
look of the silver colander full of cherries, and the pies.
Steven's bakes amazing sour cherry pies with perfect
latticed toppings.

In late June, early July we pick, and now our neighbours pick
the fruit, until we can't possibly stand to pick anymore, and
then we freeze quantities, try and figure out how to make sauce,
give some away, get out our pitters and pit. The sound of the pits
hitting the bowl is always cause for laughter.

Even in winter, covered with snow, the tree is beautiful.

Here is one of the poems by A.E. Housman that my mother
loved when I was a child:

A. E. Housman (1859–1936). A Shropshire Lad. 1896.

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now


Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide.


Now, of my threescore years and ten, 5
Twenty will not come again,
And take from seventy springs a score,
It only leaves me fifty more.


And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room, 10
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow.



Have a poetic day!
http://www.bartleby.com/123/2.html

Monday, May 5, 2008

Growing up in paint


Some of my favorite models throughout the years have been my family.
My children and husband frolicking at our favorite beach in Nova
Scotia were often featured in my watercolours. Since I switched
to acrylic my son Sam has been a kind model for me, especially
when I teach private acrylic classes. This quick sketch of him is
one of my favorite paintings. Looking at it closely, which I rarely
do, I can see some areas I'd work on if I wanted to spend the time
on it, but I like the rough quality. What I like most of all is the
mood -- the eyes are amusing to an artist mother who has seen
that look so often, and the huge hands, a sign of just how tall
this boy would be. I think he's 6'3" now.

I am immensely grateful to my family for their cooperation. My
own father was a pretty great photographer, so for a certain
period in my life my brother and I, who like Sam, were the
youngest and most available are beautifully captured in all
our moods in black and white 8 x10 prints that my Dad
created in his little darkroom in our basement. Those photos
now are an amazingly vivid record of our young lives,
and strong works of art.

Have a resourceful evening.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Nature's art


Julia Cameron has a great quote about art -- something about pink flowers and God, when I look it up I'll put it in here.

I think the point was that God, or the universe, or whatever you believe in must have wanted us to enjoy the world because he/she/whatever made hundreds of colours of pink flowers.
This is an image of a random poppy that
Steven took a few years ago. I don't know if I have a favorite flower, I
 have flowers in my house all the time, because they please my clients. But the poppy is certainly one of
my favorites. This one grew from the tiniest seed that fell outside
the garden and bloomed in a crack in the concrete in this truly astonishing
colour. If you singe the ends of poppies you can bring them in as cut
flowers, but they only last about a day. In the garden they catch sunlight
and dazzle you with their glory.

Have a nature loving evening!

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!