Sunday, August 31, 2008

Still on holiday

I'll make this short and sweet, because we just
got in from Windsor, and it's a long drive
with a healing ankle. But what a great trip.
Windsor was just fine. Sam's room in residence
although predictably awful, was all right once we'd
made his bed with his new comforter and
sheets, and helped him unpack. You
wince at the price tag for such sub-mediocrity,
curtains in the window with the hems coming
down -- but hey!

Our view of Detroit from the Hilton

We stayed overnight in the Hilton and had an
amazing view of the St. Clair River and Detroit.
I cried a few times thinking about leaving
Sam, who is a complete sweetheart. But
I was so surprised that on the way home I
felt -- great! On the spur of the
moment Steven and I decided to get off the
401 and check out Port Stanley on Lake Erie.

Me & Suzie's serves local produce -- Yum.

We bought lush tomatoes and corn for tomorrow's
supper at a rural fruit and vegetable market,
then whipped into Port Stanley in time to catch
the great antique store still open, and take
a look around. Dinner of locally caught fish
at the Me and Susie restaurant was fine, and
we actually went to the beach. -- an event
of high excitement for me. As Steven said it wasn't
Nova Scotia -- way too busy, but it sure was pretty
and I love the sound of seagulls arguing.

My first beach of the summer

Wow! We listened to the book Blink all the
way to Windsor and all the way home. I highly recommend it.

Portrait in progress

Here's a painting I'm working on.

Have a blink-don't think-night.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Last days of summer

Toronto by

Hi everyone,
We're taking a little trip to get my youngest off to
university. It's strange to me that both of my guys
chose to go to school in the town where I was born.
I left Windsor, Ontario when I was 4 years old.

I hopped on a plane with my mother and brother,
and flew to Ottawa. I never looked back. I spent
my childhood in Ottawa, and my teenage days in
Toronto -- each move taking me to a larger, and
larger city. From my present perspective
I think my parents may have timed things
perfectly, although you never think that as a child.
My memories of Windsor, though hazy are all
of gardens and playing with friends on my street.

Ottawa had a fantastic education system, way
ahead of other cities in Ontario when I was in
public school, and I had a few amazing teachers.
And Toronto? Despite it's bad reputation -- Toronto
is cool. In Toronto I was exposed to great music,
great art and a city constantly revising its culture.
Toronto was pretty conservative when I moved
here at 13. By now it's the most diverse city in the
world -- which means it's mega cool -- for art,
for food, for music -- there's always something

I'll be back with more art tomorrow.

Have a happy-to-let-your-kids-go-day.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Baby boy is growing up

Sam playing trains on the real
engine at the Ottawa Science Center

Mothers are a sorry lot. Not really -- but we love our children,
and according to experts some of us love them too much.
I am not a religious person, which doesn't mean I'm not
spiritual, but I am always moved by the tenderness in
pictures of mothers and children. These images, whether
they're the Renaissance Madonnas or the wonderful paintings
by Mary Cassatt get to me, because I can feel the emotion
coming through the paint.

In case you're out there wanting your portrait done, let it
be known I'd love to paint a mother and her children,
and this fall is a good time for it. Why? Because my
last baby other than my cats and dog, is going off to
university. It seems such a short time since he was
a bouncing baby, a funny and serious little boy who
loved trains, a terrific speaker in middle school, and an
all round wonderful student, musician, and actor in
high school.

Sam posing for one of my

Mothers love their children, and that's why they
encourage them to have dreams and follow them.
I know that a life in art is hard, but I also know how
rewarding it can be. That's why when my youngest
decided he wanted to get an acting degree we said yes.

Detail from Shorelines Beaches Spring Break
featuring Sam
Tomorrow he goes off to university. He has been
a treat to raise, and I'm looking forward to hearing
all about his new adventure.

Grown up Sam buying flowers for his girlfriend

Have a grateful-for-the-children-in-your-life day.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Watching politics unfold

Tonight I've been watching the Democrat's convention in the
United States, and seeing Barack Obama make history.
Whatever your politics, or country, the fact that Obama
has become the Democrat's candidate to be
the next president of the United States will send a
profound message of change around the world.
I am glad that we were witnesses to that change.

I know some of my friends in America will not
be voting for Barack. But if what he said about
the United States has meaning politically, it
has even more meaning in the artistic community.
We are united no matter which political party we vote for
-- this is as true in Canada as in the United States.
Our party is the party of creativity, and all of us belong

More than half of my relatives live in the United States,
in California, and I was thinking about them tonight.
The rest of my closest family lives in or near Ottawa,
our nation's capital -- the center of Canadian

The view through the trees
Chelsea, Québec

Let's take a break from painting tonight. I've been
painting all day, but nothing's ready. Instead
here's a shot taken from my brother's back
deck a few weeks ago, looking over the Gatineau
River. Let this picture, be what Oprah would
call a breathing space.

Have a space-to-breathe night.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Experimenting like crazy

In the past few days I've done more work that I couldn't keep
than work I will show. I've been working on a big
commission, and in between I've been trying out new
things (for me) and learning. Very tame results so

It was the first day of school today -- so learning
seems appropriate. I met some of the students I'll
be teaching this fall, and felt the excitement I always
feel about going back to school. The people on the team
I work with are fantastic, and I have so many dynamic,
and incredibly funny colleagues.

Nasturtiums in my garden
Gardeners forgive the weeds.
One of the gardeners has
been out of commission

Inspired by the positive feeling at Seneca, I came
home and picked nasturtiums in the garden, then
set out to paint them using a palette knife -- and brushes.
I've painted one other painting with a palette
knife, and that was a large canvas. In that case
I isolated the techniques using a large palette
knife, more like a plasterers tool on one area,
and a fairly flat paint technique in another.

Nasturtiums in a small jug
acrylic on canvas
7" x 9 "
Not finished

This little painting is not complete. I'll finish
it tomorrow. The palette knife gets the
butterfly feeling of the blooms nicely. The
painting is too centered, and I think it needs
more dark, darks as my old teacher
Americo Del Col would say.

The main thing is I had fun doing it.

Have an absolute riot doing whatever you're doing today.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Why draw when you can paint?

Sometimes in the endless thinking about painting, drawing
is a way to relax. The first drawing I'm showing you tonight
I found in one of my sketchbooks. Toph Schink says he
doesn't draw, he just paints, but he does draw while he's
painting, the way all the rest of us do. He just doesn't
separate drawing from painting.

Sketchbook study Marty's Mom

I did master classical drawing long ago in art school,
but painting in watercolour and acrylic changed me.
Today I'm trying to be myself in paint to the extent that
that's possible.

The first drawing is really a colour study I did
when I was doing a portrait of my friend Marty's
Mom. A wonderful woman, warm, intelligent
and very pretty.

Marty's Mom
acrylic on canvas
24" x 36"
Barbara Muir © 2004

In university I had a friend who drew
with everything, leaves, grass, sticks,
pizza. Nothing was safe from experiments in
line and form when he was around. I loved
that wild way of working -- although I'm far
from wild -- but sometimes I try something
just for memory's sake. In my case, bits of
fruit or flower don't produce great art, but
the process is fun. Here's one done with
purple flower petals.

Sketchbook drawing of a table top grouping
in either purple Iris petal, or pansy petal

And of course I draw to fill in time, divert my mind,
capture a moment, and practice. Before my son, Christopher
left for Korea, I drew endlessly in the pub restaurant where he worked.
I had no intention of turning the drawings into paintings, I just wanted
to stop my mind from running ahead to missing my little boy, who has
grown up into such and amazing man. Drawing anchored
me in the present -- the noise, gestures, enjoyment, serious
conversations people were having in the pub. It helped me
stop my emotions from swamping me. Artists are secret
scientists. In a way every drawing that isn't expected to be
great art, is an equation waiting to happen. Coloured pencil
on heavy watercolour paper -- maybe not. Ink on bond -- not

Sketchbook study Fionn MacCool's Toronto
Never completed because dinner arrived

Have a noticing-and-enjoying-everything day.

Monday, August 25, 2008

After the dance

When an artist friend asked me if I'd stop the dance series,
I thought about it and said no. I love the look of people dressed up.
In fact for a jeansian kind of person, I'm fond of the look of
anything dressed up, (People, houses, -- take Versailles
for instance, cities). Lately I've been dancing around the
Internet looking at so many wonderful paintings, that it's
mind blowing. But what beautiful dressed up, ready for the
big party of life, and of vision paintings I've seen -- landscapes
that are delicious, still life that just sings, portraits that
go way beyond getting the image down. I've seen exciting
use of colour, point of view, technique -- stunning stuff.
So I'm including a little after the dance painting from a
few years ago. These girls look worn out, the way I
feel when I've spent too long whirling around the
dance floor of the art universe on line.

After the Dance
acrylic on canvas
16" x 20"
The painting is pretty loose, so I was amazed that not
only did it sell when I exhibited it, but I had one of
the strangest experiences of my career. A client
asked if I could do a second one. This, ladies and
gentlemen, feels like a trap when you hear the question.

Luckily I did the original painting from a photograph
I took of my models relaxing. My first Before The Dance
painting was 6' x 4' and you can see it in my first blog
in February '08. I spent quite a while on it, and
got to know the girls (daughters of my friends) well.
But the the little painting was just for fun, and I knew I couldn't
make an identical painting. So I agreed to do
another painting of the same image, on the
clear understanding that it wouldn't be the same.

I've since seen many series by reputable artists
clearly done from the same reference, so I don't
know what I was worried about.

Speaking of dancing, today my friend
Suzanne and I decided to play hooky and
we caught an afternoon showing of Mamma
Mia. The movie was panned ferociously by
Toronto critics, but it was so much fun and
the setting -- a little Greek island -- was
absolutely breathtaking. Meryl Streep is
fantastic -- and the colour and humour were
just what an artist, who's been shut in for
7 weeks needs. And the dancing was
incredibly joyous. The whole movie was both funny
and silly, beautiful and over the top. We
loved it.

Have a fun-with-friends day.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Getting out in the rain

For the six weeks I had my cast on it rained every day. I'm
glad we didn't get the heat we're finally getting now at the
end of August, but rain is hazardous for people on crutches,
so I didn't get out much.

Nasturtiums in the rain

Today it rained and I was so excited, because I could safely
go into the garden anyway. I have my walking cast, but it's
waterproof. I just started taking some pictures
of my flowers, and poof -- the rain stopped.

This small flower painting from a few years back expresses
the sheer joy I feel every year, when the snow leaves us,
the mud season is over and flowers start appearing everywhere.
We always have flowers in the house, but it's a whole different
thing to see their colour decorating every front yard.

Flowers at play
5" x 7"
acrylic on watercolour paper

Have a flower-filled day.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Light leads the way

Here's a little painting from a few years ago. At the time
I was doing many small paintings in acrylic on watercolour
paper. I didn't know about the daily painters, and I hadn't
heard of blogs, but I did know that visitors to our shows
liked to buy something, and the prices of smaller
paintings made that possible.

Tulips in sunlight
acrylic on watercolour paper
5" x 7"
I remember how much fun I had painting this
picture of my beautiful red tulips in the wonderful
vase that Carolee Cain gave me that year for my
birthday. That feeling of happiness made it easy to
catch the light coming in my kitchen window and
glowing as it splashed on the little scene. The lit
candle and the pink spoon, are just supporting
cast, adding a bit of story to what was a very small
work for me.

Have an especially well lit day.

Highly susceptible to humour

My first serious portrait when I switched to acrylics from
watercolour was a painting of Sandra Martin, a superb
writer and columnist with the Globe and Mail, one of
Canada's most respected newspapers. The painting took
months to finish, and one of the reasons was that
Sandra is so funny. I enjoyed talking to her so much,
that I had trouble disciplining myself to pay attention
and concentrate on her features. Plus she had to
be quiet so that I could paint her, and I loved
talking to her. The portrait wasn't a commission,
so we weren't confined to a deadline.

Sandra Martin
24" x 36"
acrylic on canvas

When I hunted through our photo files last night to
find an image of the result, I was happy because it captures
a real impression of Sandra. She is extremely
intelligent, witty, urban, stylish and beautiful.
Plus the painting is very painterly -- colour
and brushwork are almost as important as
the likeness. I'm not aiming for a reproduction
of a photograph in my work, even if the
only resource for a painting is photographic.

At the time when I painted her in 2003/04 she
had brilliant blue hair, and wore a gorgeous
blue shawl spotted with gold for our sittings.
There's an indefinable regal quality to
Sandra's bearing, and she has elegant hands.
Not many people can pull off blue hair with
equanimity -- but Sandra did.

We started the sittings before Christmas, and
finished the last details just before a spring
show. It will always be one of my favorite works.

Have a deeply gratifying day.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rainbow over a perfect day

Summer 2008

I've been saving this rainbow for you for a Friday night
when I wanted to give you that good summer feeling.
One day when we were out on a drive north of Toronto
a couple of weeks ago, we were racing the rain home when
we saw this, and laughed. In a summer of almost constant
rain, that was one perfect country drive -- it rained
everywhere else, but not on us! When that happens,
a rainbow is just an extra bonus.

This was ours, over a very Oklahoman looking cornfield.

Have a magically lit day!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Sparkling Susan and Simone

I've finally finished the painting of Susan and Simone. I like
the humour in the painting, which has been bumped up
with more detail. I can't completely understand why cats
love to climb on people who aren't fond of animals.
I think maybe sometimes they know better. Simone
was certainly determined. Simone was
a lovely cat, and Susan a beautiful woman, so perhaps
the cat just believed they belonged together.

Susan and Simone
Not Done
12" x 12"
acrylic on canvas
(the colour on this photo is more accurate than the final)

And Susan did circulate the improbable photo
of the cat resting on her shoulders to all her friends.
I've sharpened up the cat, and added some detail to
the background which is loosely based on Cape Smokey
in Cape Breton, one of Susan's favorite places.

Susan and Simone finished
12" x 12"
acrylic on canvas
I'll take a day time photo and get better colour

The final touch was real gold leaf on Susan's earring. But
it sparkles so much in the light, that I had to take a
detail shot for you with the flash off so you could see
the gold, which I applied over yellow paint this time.

Detail earring Susan and Simone

Have a sparkling and joyous day!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The best peaches ever

I am almost finished my little one foot square painting of
peaches in one of my antique glass footed bowls. I thought
I was completely done, but the photograph shows me
one small change I want to make.

The main thing is it is pleasing to me now. It captures
the lush colour and festive feeling of this summer's
peaches. I just had to celebrate them in paint.
Last year the peaches were hard as rocks -- it
seems the fruit loves rain, because this stormy
summer has produced the most delicious peaches
in years.

Peach party
12" x 12"
acrylic on canvas
Almost done

I rarely paint people so that they fit the page, and I'm
a bit surprised that I almost fit the whole bowl onto
the small canvas -- I love to paint large paintings -- but
even then my subjects usually won't be contained
on the canvas. This bowl breaks one of my painting
rules, because even though it's old, and a bit off center
in shape, I put it right in the middle of the canvas.

I've had quite a time changing the balance. Here's what
I tried today. I cut a sprig off a peach tree
that trails over my garage roof, and tried to paint that
into the painting. No good. I filled a small antique glass
creamer with milk, and thought I'd call it peaches and
cream. Worse than the branch. Then I hit on the
solution -- two more peaches. Hurray.

I've painted all day today, working on paintings which
aren't finished yet. My small peach study is almost
there, so I'm showing you the results tonight.

Have a finishing-touches-day tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Casting off

Red sand at low tide
North Shore park
Pugwash, Nova Scotia

Casting off in knitting means creating a finished
edge, so it's appropriate that casting off in my
case, means my bone's broken edges are
finished enough to lose the cast. Now I have an
air cast, a construction made of black
fleece that closes with many Velcro closures,
and then a hard plastic shell, that straps over
top. This is a walking cast, and I'll hobble
around with it, and my crutches if necessary for
the next three weeks.

When the doctor took my hand, after a technician
named Dominic sawed the cast off, and asked
me to walk, it felt biblical. I almost wept.
When I got in my car for the first time in
six weeks and went with my son to buy
groceries, I felt so thrilled to be free. My husband
stood on our front porch and watched me sail away
car giving me an thumbs up.

Today I'm including two photographs of what
I missed this summer: the sand under foot on
the beach we love in Pugwash, and the sight of
my tall, younger son playing in the ocean,
with children visiting my friend, Diane.

Now that I can take the air cast off and on,
I have stood in my bare feet, and know
how much both feet miss the feel of that
hard sand, designed into thousands, of
patterns by the retreating tide. Low
tide is when we walk on the beach, loving
the feeling of small rivers pulling the water off
the expanding shore.

Sam (right) and friends

I have not painted today, but I will tomorrow.
It was my turn to make dinner -- the first turn
in six weeks. Today deserved a separate space.
I'm going to toast my freedom with a little Veuve

Have a three-cheers-to-the-good-life day.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Charming children

Celine before the dance
36" x 24"
acrylic on canvas

This painting of Céline is another example of a
painting that whipped along. At 12 Céline was an
accomplished artist herself. She was a sweet,
utterly confident little girl, and knew that we
were rushing to deadline. It had taken me
three months to paint her brother, and we
had at the most one month to finish her portrait
-- which meant with her busy schedule, after
school classes, her own drawing and painting,
homework, and family obligations -- I'd be lucky to
see her for six sessions, when I normally
need between 10 and 12, two hour sessions.

Her mother and Céline chose the dress
before we started, her brother's finished
portrait established the background, so we began.
On our second session she brought a
thick sketchbook of drawings she was
going to hand in for art. She was
so talented I was afraid she'd be
hard to please.

As it turned out she loved the painting.
We were working to the deadline of a show
opening. The idea was to surprise her father
on his birthday with these two portraits.
The paintings were his birthday gift
from his wife. I didn't meet the Dad
until the opening, although his
children had been coming to see me
all winter. All through the process --
which was arduous, his mother kept the secret
of this gift.

Rémi before the dance
36" x 24"
acrylic on canvas

Rémi broke his leg in the
middle of our time together, but gamely
put the broken leg over the chair arm as
we had posed him that way originally.

When the Dad walked up the stairs into
the gallery and saw his children's
portraits on the wall he was clearly
overwhelmed. His wife beamed at him,
and it was one of the happiest moments in
my career. As their grandparents looked on
the children and their parents hugged laughing.

Have a making-people-happy day.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Inspiring children

36" x 24"
acrylic on canvas
Sometimes when I'm working on a portrait it
comes together so quickly that I amaze
myself. I've tried analyzing why this happens
and can't give you any concrete answers.
It's not simply about connection, because
some of the portraits that have taken the
longest time to do were of people I loved.

This portrait of Sean was a complete surprise,
because it developed with such ease.
Sean is a fantastic human -- when I painted him
he was verging on 15. He was polite, incredibly
funny, loved his family, was devoted to board
sports, and liked school. We seemed to click
instantly, and every portrait session was a
pleasure. He liked eating cookies and talking
in the breaks; he enjoyed the cats, and
happily wore my son's white shirt for every

His was the third in a series of three images
that would hang together on a wall at his
parents' place. The paintings had to work
individually, and when hung together had
to appear to be one big work. I
completed the series last summer, and
it is definitely one of the best things I've done.

Group Portrait
Sean, Madeline and Elizabeth
36" x 6'
acrylic on canvas
Despite all our training, practice, knowledge,
and understanding painting is a chemical
or alchemical process. Sometimes it is
so easy we feel with every brush stroke that
we were born to paint, sometimes every
decision is painfully deliberate -- and the
results can be exactly the same, giving
off the same feeling of delighted ease,
whether we had a great, or difficult time
producing the image.

Here's to a day of effortless creativity.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Late summer thoughts

One of Steven's shots of
St. Clair Avenue
A major Toronto street during
the blackout of August 14, 2003

Five years ago, on August 14, Toronto experienced a
lengthy blackout. I was at my friend Jennifer's place,
and we were drinking a cup of tea, when her husband
Michael told us the power was out in the area.

Thinking nothing of it, I got in my car to go home
and walk the dog, and that's when I found out this
was much bigger than a little foul up in Rosedale.
In fact it was a massive power failure that darkened
Ontario and much of the United States northeast that day.

When I got to Yonge street near Merton, taking my
usual deke route home, trying to avoid the St. Clair
rush hour the problem became real. Thousands of
stranded subway riders were walking home in all
directions. People always say Torontonians are cold,
but I didn't see that. All of the motorists were offering
people rides. Of course traffic was moving at a snail's pace,
but I drove some people home that day.

Pretty Flash in
Cedarvale Park
August 14, 2003

In the park we listened to the rumours running
rampant among dog walkers trying to figure out
what caused the blackout. We had a laugh with
Astrid, who was walking her lovely new Border
Collie, Flash. Then we wandered down to Amato's
on St. Clair, a pizza place that was running its
gas ovens without the electric fans required
by law, and doing a booming business.

The now defunct Amato's pizza took a
safety risk to feed the neighbourhood.

We ran into the whole neighbourhood there,
but especially Joan and Richard, and the four
of us decided to carry our pizza picnic to a nearby
little park and eat under the stars.

Me (left) with Joan and Richard
Everybody's happy.

That was the real miracle, a dark sky studded
with thousands of stars, because there were
no lights, except the candles people lit
cautiously in their houses and on their

Car lights on darkened St. Clair
August 14, 2003.

We visited with friends nearby, and then
walked home to sit on our garden bench
and enjoy the marvel of the night.

More car lights on dark St. Clair
August 14, 2003
by Steven van Schaik

In the morning our friends Cathy and Chris
invited us for breakfast. They were using
their barbecue and had coffee!!! By lunch time
the whole thing was over, but it remains in
our memory as a wonderful time.

That doesn't mean we want it to happen
again. We were lucky that our fridge
full of groceries stayed cool. But it
was a lot of fun at the time.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Great artists abound like peaches in August

Starting Out
A 12" x 12" gessoed canvas is painted
in a combination of acrylic colours to produce "peach"

One bad thing about the Internet in my life is that
I'm already easily distracted, and the visual stimulation
available on the fantastic art blogs I'm discovering
can keep that going full time.

I loosely draw the image in cadmium red.

I read on someone's blog lately that there were
no good art blogs, and I wondered if that
artist had his head in a paper bag. Maybe the
blogger was wearing a sleep mask that day, because I
find the complete opposite to be true. And that's

I fill in a turquoise background with a large
brush to get some depth.

There are so many astoundingly creative, masterful
artists to discover that I could spend my whole
day reading about them, analyzing their work --
learning. But at some point I have to pull myself
back from the readily available, technologically
induced attention disorder and sit down to paint.

I start working on the details, peaches
background, shadows and highlights on the glass
and add a peach. I'm not happy with
the balance, so that's tomorrow's problem.

Two things got me working on the little painting
I'm giving you the step by step on today.
1. was a video on painting a peach by Hall Groat
II, - lfm X9zQA
the second was the amazing peaches we've
been eating this week.

In fact those peaches are so good that I had to
move as fast as possible with the painting, because
my family wants to eat the peaches that are in
my antique glass bowl.

I decide to darken the table, and work on
the shape of the bowl.

The astounding thing about this painting's progress
is that it happened in the middle of a housing
disaster, and I stayed focused on the one task
I could accomplish despite the very bad news
in our house.

I work on refining the bowl, peaches,
shadows and glass and then
the demands of the house took
over. I'll finish it up tomorrow.

In the 300th rain storm of the last
three months, our basement flooded, and now
my husband is trying to clean up with my
son's help, while I make the calls to drain
companies, insurance and the clean up crew.
I have a cast that can't get wet and I'm on
crutches. When in doubt paint.

Have a productive and dry day.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Big Guy

Me and the Crow
Black and white photograph
8" x 10"
by William Wallace Muir

In every child's life fathers and mothers loom large --
a fact you forget sometimes when you're a parent
yourself. Doing your own work, remembering to
buy the right groceries, thinking of something to make for
dinner, solving small day-to-day problems and doling
out as much love as you can each day tends to make
parenting feel only as important as breathing.

But looking back on the huge impact your own
parents had on you shifts your perspective. My
Dad was among other things, an artist. I didn't
appreciate his paintings when I was a kid
entering art school, although I do now.
He started painting seriously about the time
that I did, but for different reasons.
I'd painted all my life. He was inspired by
a little book about painting by Winston Churchill,
his all-time hero.

After supper jokes
Black and white photgraph
8" x 10"
William Wallace Muir

My dad ended up developing a passion for painting that
stuck with him until he died. But before he was a
painter, he was an excellent photographer. I talk about his
work a lot, so today I'll show you a few of the
images I grabbed from the stacks at my
mother's place -- they're of my brother Andrew
and me as children. The spots and imperfections
have happened through damage to the pieces.
Perhaps they weren't meant to be kept. He
matted most of his favorite shots.

Playing Doctor
Black and White photograph
8" x 10"
William Wallace Muir
Have a kids-loving-parents day.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Working from photos

A lot of artists whose work I love paint from photos.
This means that they can hold all the density of
the image in their minds while they are painting,
adding to the details in the photo, and using it
more like an actor learning lines uses a prompter,
than a source to copy detail for detail.

I've used photos myself, and always hope that
something alive and original combines in the
unspoken contract between me and the photo.
We're working together, but the photo is
helping me, I'm not recreating what it says.

The Blue Sweater
acrylic on canvas
24" x 36"

Tonight I'm including a painting I did of
my sister, from a photo that my father
took when she was a teenager. I know I've
used this painting on the blog before, but I
didn't talk about it then, so forgive me.

I find it almost impossible to create a portrait from
photos alone, although I've done it when there was
no other option.

The painting differed greatly in every
way except for the pose and the expression
on my sister's face. She was not sitting on
a yellow chair, there was no table, or
cup and saucer, and the painting in the
background gives the nod to Skip
Lawrence whose work I greatly admire.

But my father's photos were amazing
works of art in and of themselves. They
were beautifully lit, composed, worked
on, both before and after be took the
actual shot. His 8 x 10 black and white
prints piled by the 100s in my mother's
house, are rich in detail, mood, nuance.

My memory of my sister at this age is
strong, but without my father's original
black and white work I couldn't have
done this painting.

So I would say I have much better luck
painting from photos when the
original image is still vivid in my brain,
and when I love the person, landscape,
or still life.

Have a catching it on your camera day.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dancing on one leg

You get, as it happens, better and better at being a person
on crutches. After the initial couple of weeks of fear
and loathing, comes a time of just bloody well carrying
on, and after that -- the realization that all is not lost,
you can still be you.

Today I was listening to the tunes on my computer, and
dancing with one knee (the knee of the cast leg)
supported on a chair, and then the bed. I saw myself
wildly waving my arms in the mirror, and thought two
things: 1. I am happy. and 2. I am dancing! Dancing!!!

Shorelines Spring Break the Beaches

How exciting.

Right away the metaphor of dancing on one leg,
as a true representation of any kind of art
project hit me. We are all -- pros, amateurs,
everyone who attempts to create a visual
image -- dancing on one leg. Why? Because
the joy of creation, is hampered by whatever
part of it we can't do yet, but we still
go for it -- eyes wide open, arms beating time
to the music, filled with inexplicable happiness.

Keep on dancing.

Have an indestructibly creative day

Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at:
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!