Saturday, February 28, 2009

Thanks to my father

Today was my father's birthday. He's been dead for more than
20 years but flickers of memory came in and out of my
consciousness all day, and I realized I was grateful to him
for everything, including my life. If my father were alive
we'd toast him with a glass of sherry before dinner. My
mother would make a fine dinner and all of us would sit
around the big dining room table in my mother's house
letting my father regale us with story after story.

A strict parent to little children, my father grew into the
role, and was much kinder, friendlier and a better father
with older children. I miss him plain and simple.

So what did he give me other than life? I think he had
a fine ironic sense of humour, and all of his children
love to laugh -- almost above all else. He was artistic, and
I think he loved a party -- so I get those abilities from
him. He was a social being although he spent a great
deal of time alone. He liked the casual gathering of
neighbours around his pool, or friends dropping by
for a drink at the end of a hot summer's day -- everyone
pulling up the big lawn chairs and sharing the
spectacular view.

Some of the potted tulips blooming in the
kitchen today. They're at the height
of their glory -- huge and magnificent.

He also loved flowers and taught me to put cut roses in
"the hottest water your hand can stand." He had a lovely
voice, a great laugh, and a warm cashmere covered shoulder
to cry on when times were tough. I miss him.

Christopher at work
black marker on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches

Today I drew a line drawing of my son Christopher at
work. I think he's right that his lips, though generous,
are too big in this sketch. I still like it, because we were
talking on Skype, and he put the sunglasses on to be funny.

Have a loving-your-family day.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Scene stealers

Of course in a house of humans, cats and dogs are scene
stealers. But behind the scenes in the portraits I paint
are young models, frequently young women dressed up
in evening dresses, with their feet comfortably encased
in giant socks or running shoes. One extremely elegant
client came to my house for each session during a hot, hot
summer dressed in a see-through lace, formal, with puffy white
socks and sneakers on her feet. I've always wanted to
do a series of studio paintings. The models' comfortable
feet are the scene stealers I don't put in the scene. The
other day I did a little cartoon-like sketch of a model,
then painted it in watercolour, pastel, and acrylic.

When I think of all the things I was taught as a kid at
art school I know that I am gradually unlearning some
of the rules that towered above us like Gods of art. It
was a lot easier to ditch the writing rules taught in
university English than to break the "one medium at
a time" commandment. The rule of watercolour,
or pastel, or acrylic, or pen and ink was much harder
to defy. I have used pen and ink to draw for acrylic
paintings before, but I admit I have rarely before now
combined as many media.

Studio scene
marker, watercolour, acrylic and pastel
on watercolour paper,
7 x 9 inches

Skip Lawrence taught us in a class I attended years ago
that," it isn't the medium, it's the painting that matters.
Use whatever tools and techniques you need to to make
it work." But I resisted. I was fearful of being found out.
In this little sketch I had fun throwing everything on the tiny page.
The result is almost comical, but it makes me happy.

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

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Red Lyn Green

When I was at art college we were told never to paint paintings
featuring red and green together. "Those colours fight and they
don't work, and all you'll get is an eye popping mess," our teachers
said. But just down the hall in another studio class we were asked
to, "please create a series of paintings using just red and green. Those
colours create exciting examples of colour pop and will give you
dynamic artwork you'll treasure forever."

As students newly out of high school where all of the rules
were rigid (I was 16 when I started art college) we quickly
became consumed with humour and guilt knowing that
either someone was pulling our legs, or that both aesthetic
appraisals of these powerful Christmas colours were right,
or wrong, or....we should make our own rules. The more
chemically experimental among us discovered that this
combination of colours was even more exciting if enhanced
by a party atmosphere.

When I come across a drawing in red, or red and green
I remember that for a few years after I dropped out of art
college early, I did quite a few red and green drawings and
paintings. I still use bright colours, but I'd forgotten my art
school quandary until I found this drawing that I like of my
friend Lyn Green tonight, and wondered for a minute why
I'd drawn her in red.

Sketchbook drawing of Lyn Green
red marker on bond paper

Be careful what you tell people. Tomorrow I'll probably
go to school and contradict what another teacher has
taught my students the day before, even if we're all
trying to teach "from the same page."

Have an it's-fun-to-be-aesthetically-defiant day.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Just journaling

I'm never short on ideas, just the time to turn them into
reality -- paintings, writing, letters to friends, you name
it. Tonight I have no work to show you because I've spent
the whole day marking and tidying our house to show to
an assessor tomorrow. I could spend another 100 days and
about 20,000 dollars and the place would be presentable, but
we've done what we could on short notice.

So I was thinking about journaling. I read an artist on another
blog talking about The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron, a pivotal
book on journaling. But so is Natalie Goldberg's Wild Mind, and
that's what really got me into daily writing.

When I teach writing I ask my students to write in a journal
every day and the practice transforms their lives, and their
writing. Last year for a few months I tried to write in my
journal and draw something to accompany the words every day.
But it was too much, so I quit. The drawings weren't spectacular,
and I really like to whine away in my journal writing without
thinking about making it look pretty.

So I now I divide these activities most of the time. But I enjoyed
the use of art and words in the movie He's Just Not That Into You.
One large painting -- just said, "Should, Should, Should" in various
sizes of type. That made me laugh. I'm good at shoulding all over myself.
And of course the woman thought she should get married.

Here's a sad little sample from my Dec. 28/07 journal. It does
what I tell my students to do --" just ramble on it doesn't have
to be great prose." It isn't!

A genuine page from
the thrilling life of yours truly
sick even -- pathetic -- but
luckily not the norm.

Have a writing-it-all-down day.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Terrific Tuesday

Tuesdays for me are jam packed with activity from dawn until Wednesday morning.
 I leave the house early in the morning, and spend the day either on my feet teaching,
or consulting with students in the minutes between classes. It's great work if you can
get it, and I really love my job, but I admit at the end of the day any teacher could
forgive herself for watching everything and anything on TV. Not me. I dash in, eat
a fast supper, and drive to my art group. Every week I argue with myself as soon as
 I'm home about whether I'm too tired to go out again. You are what propels me out
 the door into the freezing night. I want to show you the work I've done, so I have to
 do work. A simple formula. It was worth it tonight. The model was gorgeous -- a
gracious, lovely woman who held the exact pose all night, and got right back into
pose after each break. She wore a fantastic piece of fabric draped over one shoulder.
 I felt happy I'd made the trip the minute I saw her.
Art class sketch 
acrylic on canvas 
16 x 20 inches
So that's all for today. No deep thoughts. Just a delightful painting
experience. I'm not happy with the photo. The painting is still wet,
but I'll replace the image tomorrow.
Have an I-always-do-what-I-love-to-do day.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The littlest painting

I did not paint today -- but I feel the day was filled with
artistry. So here's a little painting I did a couple of years
ago. I love the look of the house, and the colours needless
to say are my favorites. It is very, very small. I really
enjoy painting in the whole range of available sizes,
although the biggest I've done so far is 6' x 4'. I have
absolutely no problem painting big. Give me the Sistine
Chapel ceiling and I'd probably just get one person on it and still
leave out part of the head (no I don't think I'm Michelangelo, and
I'm not a muralist) -- but painting small is a whole
other problem -- tiny brushes, no space to manoeuvre, and yet
a good feeling to have done one -- big or small.

The Blue House
acrylic on canvas
2 x 5 inches

The artistry? Tidying, marking and planning my life --
running around doing silly errands, but handling them
with a modicum of joy. Cleaning, and cleaning and
cleaning for a possible inspection of the house in a
couple of days. Artistry was the dinner of fried
Jerk salmon, reheated left over brown rice and
maximumly delicious salad -- fresh greens, juicy,
happy tomatoes and the most luscious red pepper
in a homemade vinaigrette. Yum beyond yum.

The artistry? -- talking to an artist friend and
reveling in technology.

The painting next to a pot of
tulips to give you an idea
of the scale -- tiny!
All in all a satisfactory day. Now I have to haul
these bones off to bed -- a humongous day tomorrow.

Have a treating-yourself-well day.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pulling the house together

One of the things I love about the weekend is the
time to dawdle and read my book. Steven,
who has to be the sweetest man on earth on the
weekend, brings me coffee in bed on Saturday and
Sunday, and then comes back with the pot of coffee
in one hand and the milk in the other to refill my cup.
His ritual demands that he stand at the door and ask
if I want another coffee while he hides the
pot beyond my view. It's quite the ceremony and he's
accompanied by the dog and the two cats, who are
excited and frisky in the hopes that there
may be food involved.

This morning we hurried through this routine to
get Sam off to his bus. On the way home we picked up
flowers, and I cleaned the kitchen while putting out
pots of red tulips, plus pitchers and vases of roses.
A big antique wash jug of yellow lilies graces the side
table in the studio. Suddenly this little house has
grace on its side again.

I started a painting of an interior today -- struck as
I was by the way the afternoon sun lit my upstairs
hallway (which incidentally is painted one of my
favorite colours a light seaside turquoise). I was
thinking of Milind Mulick
and how gorgeous his interiors are. I put a ground
coat on a small canvas and began, but it will
take a while to do.

Blowing out the candles
black marker on watercolour paper
12 x 9 inches

After supper I went shopping with Steven and our
son Christopher,who was suffering from shock at the prices
here (a full cart of groceries in Korea was 70 dollars).
Back home I did a quick, little, random sketch
of Sam's 11th birthday party. All of these kids are
so grown up now. I hope you were watching the
Oscars. I turned them on, but just didn't have
time to stay.

Have a you're-the-one-in-the-spotlight day.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Too much excitement

Sometimes I get so tired when things are going well
that I don't even know I'm exhausted. Today was that
kind of day. It's crazy how I struggle against my
inclination to give up and just do nothing. I tried
marking, I did some painting, I talked to my kids,
and tidied, and all the while I should have just
gone back to bed. Most of the time I'm so cheerful,
that my family and friends really notice when I'm
not. Today I was about as lackluster as the grey
and snowing day outside.

Never mind -- by supper time I picked myself up
again, and Steven and I went to He's Just Not That
Into You. I really enjoyed the movie -- it's not
superb, but it was a treat, and a good way to get
back to my normal self. Now I'm taking that tired
self to bed.

Art group painting sketch
acrylic on canvas
12 x 16 inches

The picture tonight is a painting from my
art group Tuesday night gathering.

Have a letting-yourself-rest-and-relax day.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Super fun Friday!

Sam my youngest came up to school with me today.
He was bound and determined that he would sit at
the back of the class and stay silent. First of all -- he's
his mother's son, so staying silent is not one of his
best traits. But he hadn't expected the lively, funny,
joyous, and serious discussions in my class. So
he joined in immediately, and it was fun for everyone.

The last time Sam came to school with me he was 12, or
13. Even then he challenged my writing class, and wrote
a journal entry that made the other students sit up and
take notice. Today at 19 he is completely in sync
with the other students, and he had a great time.

Tonight our older guy, Christopher took us all out for
dinner at the Golden Thai restaurant downtown.
He was in Thailand at Christmas, so he told us that
the big mural at the back of the restaurant made him
sad, because Thailand was so beautiful, and it looked exactly
like that. I was glad that he thought the food was
as good as the food in Thailand, and it was a
wonderful dinner. I'd almost forgotten how funny
my gang of men are when they're all together.

Remember this charcoal sketch of my friend
Flora Doehler in Nova Scotia.

Here's the little painting I've been
working on from the sketch
of Flora
8 x 8 inches
acrylic on canvas

I'm working on a little painting, based on the
charcoal sketch from Skype I did a while back.
It's interesting to see how it moves the
sketch into colour. I'll take a better photo of it
tomorrow, but so far I'm happy with it.

Have a yippee-it's-the-weekend day.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Family of Four -- make that seven

My sons are both home. Christopher had a long, long
wait at the baggage ramp tonight. But it was so
exciting to see him every time the doors opened.
At one point an older man, who was a minister out
of the collar, told me we could just walk through,
so I did, but naturally we were stopped by security.
Christopher, who has grown a beard, which I guess
makes him look suspicious, was searched by security
three times in the 15 hour trip home from Seoul
Korea, to Toronto. Boy it was nice to hug him, and
to drive home with all 4 of us in the car. At home Zoey,
Timbah and Fiona were very excited to see Christopher too.

Christopher showing Steven his
passport -- In less than a year
he's been to the U.S.,
England, Korea, Thailand and
Taiwan. Not bad!

Thanks for your good wishes everyone. A friend at
school said we were going to have crowded nest
syndrome, and if that's what we've got I'm happy
we've got it. I'm going to go and watch the footage
of Obama's visit to Canada. I think he socked it to
Harper, our prime minister about the environmental
provisions of NAFTA.

After a day of teaching and a long wait at the airport,
I'm too tired for art tonight. I hope you are
painting wildly.

Have a welcoming-your-family-and-friends day.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The most beautiful flowers

If I'm making up a list of reasons why Toronto is such
a great place to live -- one of the things at the top of
the list is beautiful flowers. The place is teaming with
flower shops. For next to nothing you can fill your house
with roses, tulips lilies or whatever strikes your fancy.
For Valentine's Day last year Steven promised me flowers
every week all year, and he stayed true to his word.

We are a funny pair entering the shop we love and saying
Hi to Lyn or Annie. He buys me roses -- usually white or
pink, and I buy him either roses or lilies, or tulips. In
the summer when the garden is full of flowers I take
a break, but he keeps getting my Saturday or Sunday
bouquet. Walking away we hand the flowers in their
paper wrappers to one another, say, "Happy
Valentine's Day" and laugh.

Some of the flowers in the house this week.
A Valentine's gift.

Today I've been running around trying to get storage
drawers (plastic and inexpensive) for the studio.
Also we're all excited because tomorrow my older son
comes home from Korea. Wow! It's been a long time since
I've seen that face. It's so nice that Sam's home this
week, so we can all be there to greet Christopher when he
gets off the plane.

I tried a sketch in pastels tonight, and understand
(again) why I don't like doing that. The dry, dusty,
smudgy quality of the medium gets me down. I
do like some liquid movement in my colours. So
I won't be showing you that effort.

Have a getting-ready-to-jump-for-joy day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Enjoying the live long day

Tuesday is my longest day. Long, long, long. I love all of it.
Oddly enough my students at the end of the day are every
bit as vibrant and engaged as the people who start my
morning. So it's a lot of fun.

At the end of the day I've been going home, having
dinner, grabbing my gear and taking off again to
paint with my art group. Tonight dinner was leftovers
from last night. I prepared a canvas, got ready to dash
off, and realized I was just too darn tired.

But I was thinking about all of the blogs I've read
lately about the energy artists are getting from
painting every day, and decided to work on my
little sunset scene.

It's not finished yet, but I'm much happier about
how the colour is working. The challenge of course
is the brilliant light of the setting sun, set against
the moody blue light of the backyards. In real life
the combination is absolutely breathtaking. I
stand in total awe staring out my back window
on the rare occasion when I'm around to see this

Backyard blues at sunset
acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Not finished quite yet

Here's how far I got today. It was pure pleasure
working in my own studio, without having to
start up the car and drive when I was simply
too tired to manage it. After all I teach my students
to take care of themselves. I need to heed my own
advice. I hope you are taking care of yourself too.

Have a making-your-vision-come-true day.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What is it worth?

Before I begin let me say that I agree with whatever method you
use. The whole discussion of fees for art is charged I know. But
let me reassure you that I know as many people who never exhibit,
or sell their work, as I do people who charge a wide variety of
prices for their artwork. Still every time I have to price a painting
I am at a loss. I try to go by a cost per size basis, but some things
that are small --12 x 12 inches say, take as much time as some larger works.
In the paper this week there was a story about a guy who's
decided to charge by the hour. I can see the look of shocked
outrage on the faces of some of my artists friends at that one.
I know lots of artists who think you sell your soul when you
paint for money, but I disagree. When Vermeer painted all
his master works, that many artists are trying desperately to
replicate today, being an artist was considered a trade, not some
other worldly craft that didn't require financial recognition.

Jan Vermeer
The Girl with the Red Hat
c. 1665-67
oil on panel
22.8 x 18 cm.
The National Gallery of Art, Washington

An interview with Maurice Sevigny that Edgar on Arty Fice published
on his blog this week, made me think about all the people who raise their
eyebrows when an artist charges a decent price for a painting.
People will readily pay thousands of dollars for a sink they'll replace
in five years, so why should the art that will grace their homes
and perhaps generations of homes for years be free? I've heard
artists in this town say that artists who paint to make a living
are somehow baser than artists who toil without thought of
earning something for their beautiful ideas.

Yet some of the best artists I know earn excellent money producing
their work. I have friends who are just too shy to either exhibit,
or sell their work, but some of the people I know
who don't worry about making money from their paintings --
don't have to because they have a great job, or they've got
family money, or a spouse who foots the bill.

The blog world is filled with people who paint at least five days
a week, and sell five days a week. I raise a glass to those artists.
The good thing about the need to produce is obvious -- you
produce. But I also realize that some larger, or more complicated
work can't just pop out like a piece of bread out of the toaster
on demand. But in answer to Edgar's question, I don't think
there's anything wrong with demand. As a portrait painter,
I get my work from people who see what I do and want it.
I don't take direction from my clients, but I do try to please
them. I try to learn as much as possible about them, and create
a painting that will reflect their character and inner spirit as
well as their appearance -- but I do it in my own artistic language.
I can't do otherwise. How do we keep our integrity as artists and
sell our work? How do we keep our integrity and do any of the
jobs we do? -- we have a passion for our subject matter, we develop
our ever changing personal mark, and we continue to learn.

My huge thanks go out to Edgar for making me think. His interviews
with Sevigny have been great -- incisive, wide ranging in ideas
and really, really good.

While we're on the topic of money a painting of Vermeer's sold
for 40 million dollars Canadian in 2004. Too bad he didn't see
that money in his lifetime. He died poor at 43 and left the world
the richness of his vision.

Have a loving-what-you're-worth day.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mealed Trip

Yesterday on Valentine's Day we were in a take
it easy mood. We read our books, puttered around
the house, I painted and worked on my blog.
Instead of heading out to dinner we settled down
to take out Thai from our favorite restaurant at
the kitchen table by candlelight. True we put
up the heart garland over the kitchen hutch that
will stay there until St. Patrick's Day, and we
stretched the string of shiny dollar store cupids
across the kitchen.

Steven brought me two dozen red and yellow tulips,
and was proud of himself for giving me roses every
weekend so that Valentine's Day really does last all
year. I did head out in the afternoon to bring
home some gifts for him too.

Steven takes a look at the boats.
Port Stanley is a working port on Lake Erie.

But today we were much more ambitious. Waking up
to a strikingly sunny day we decided to head to Port
Stanley for a later lunch at a restaurant there we adore --
Me and Suzie's. We set off in buoyant spirits, driving
towards London, Ontario -- about a two and a half hour sprint away.
With great music on the car stereo, we were singing and
laughing, enjoying the beautiful drive, hardly noticing
that the sunlight at first a brilliant, sparkling blanket over
a landscape heading for spring -- snow melting, birds
singing, patches of green grass here and there -- turned
first into spotlights shining through silvery clouds, and
then dimmed and was finally eclipsed by an all out
snow storm!

The building in the background houses
a delightful antique store on the entire
ground floor -- china, silver, tables,
chairs, anything you could want
from very old to 50's and 60's -- wonderful!

On drove the valiant diners. We popped a book on
CD into the stereo, refueled with coffee from the
Guelph Tim Horton's and stayed happy. Reaching
Port Stanley on a very grey, overcast afternoon
we headed straight for a large, wonderful
antique store near the water, bought a little jug and a couple of
spoons, wandered down the street to another lovely
store, bought some milk glasses from France, and
then hurried to the restaurant.

What a superb meal we had. Locally caught perch,
roasted organic, carrots, red peppers and potatoes
done to perfection, served with delightful local
Pinot Grigio, and topped off by Chocolate Creme
Brulée for desert with coffee. So incredibly good.

I did this little drawing of Steven in my sketchbook
while we ate. We arrived at about 4:30, so ate
before the crush at 6. Then we drove home happy
as clams.

Steven deciding what to order in Me & Suzie's
a look of total bliss on his face.

Tomorrow is Family Day in Ontario, so the party

Happy Family Day!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Loving art friends -- Happy Valentine's Day

My friend Pam is a true art academic. What do I mean?
I mean she probably takes more courses, and goes to
more gallery shows in a year, than I will take in my
lifetime. We met at a workshop in California on my
first trip there. We were both at a water media course
put on by two of my art heroes -- Skip Lawrence and
Christopher Schink. I'm not even sure how we started
talking -- because it was a big class, but we did. The
group ate lunch together and dinner was at a local
restaurant each night. Pam and I hit it off. We liked
each other's work, treatment of colour and many
other things.

by Pam Brown
acrylic on canvas
40 x 30 inches
Part of a series

We talk on the phone fairly frequently, and when
Steven went to California two years ago in April,
we spent an entire day going around Los Angeles
together looking at art schools, art galleries, art,
art, art. I'm thinking about her today oddly enough,
because she has so much knowledge that I've
learned a lot from her. But I was grateful to her
today for a pretty simple reason. Pam taught me
that rubbing alcohol takes acrylic off -- your
painting, your floor -- and bonus of bonuses your
dry crusty with acrylic, left out of water too long
brushes. So I was using rubbing alcohol to throw on my
painting, (see Bob Burridge's latest newsletter)
and decided to clean my brushes at the same time.

acrylic on canvas
by Pam Brown
30 x 40 inches

Put the rubbing alcohol in a plastic container, swish
your brushes in the liquid, dry them off with a paper
towel. Clean!!! and Saved!!!! Before I knew this
technique I was constantly throwing out my ruined

I went a bit far on the painting, and will have to put some
paint back on where it went down to the canvas, but I
don't mind.

The Promise
I apologize for the photo
it's Valentine's Day

Detail of the area behind the head.
My friend Suzanne (my colour advisor) did not
like the unrelieved dark area.
I added lighter paint, laid it down
flat (it's 4' x 6') and dribbled
rubbing alcohol onto the wet acrylic --
this creates a cool mottled effect.
Where the alcohol went down to the canvas
I added the yellow lights -- and now I'm happy --
thanks Pam and Bob Burridge for the
heads up on rubbing alcohol.

Pam is an experimenter -- something else I enjoy about
her -- she is always trying new media, new ideas, new
methods. Because she spends a good deal of time looking
at art in galleries -- she is aware of the directions art
is going, and loves art from all over the world. She
wants to be contemporary, not bound by out of date, old
ideas, but she appreciates art from all of the past eras
as I found out when we visited galleries ranging from the
Renaissance to 20th century Japanese printmaking.

by Pam Brown
acrylic on canvas
30 x 40 inches

Have a loving-the-whole-world day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The excitement of colour

I love colour and constantly need to know more and more
about how it works. Trial and error seems to be vital.
Yesterday and today I've been working on a little cityscape
of my backyard at sunset. I took a photo a few weeks ago
of this scene just as the sun was sinking. And it's tricky to
paint. The sky is feverish, all yellows, reds and oranges,
fading up into an almost white creamy colour, then a
pale robin's egg blue. But the snow decorating the roofs
and yards is a magnificent colour of blue.

Starting the painting
Laying in a multi-coloured ground

So I'll work on it a bit more tomorrow -- Valentine's
Day. I took Steven out to see the movie Shopaholic tonight.
I loved the books, they're a light, satirical escape -- and
so British. The movie with a mostly American cast is not
exactly like the books, but still funny. I missed all the British
expressions. But we enjoyed it.

Drawing in the basic design with charcoal
over the initial ground

I remember when I went to see Sex and the City with a friend,
there was the same cheery vibe in the theater. I didn't
watch the TV show, but I did love the colour and costumes in
the movie. Shopaholic didn't have as many sumptuously
dressed characters, but it was fun, and even though it's been
panned, the audience loved it, including Steven. I'm
sure he was afraid he'd been hauled to the worst girl movie
ever. I know my friends in professional theater would
rail at my enjoyment, and probably hate every minute but
I deal in "deep" most of the time at work, I do get really
craving some shallow. This movie delivered.

Have an enjoying-being-deeply-romantic-day

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Goals and the subconscious

I used to listen to hypnosis tapes by Dr. Lee Pulos, the
only motivational type person my mother could believe
in, so I still have a copy of his Deep Relaxation tape,
which is fantastic. Here's a link to an interview with Dr. Pulos:

What was, and perhaps is ( yep -- he's still out there)
great for artists about his creative visualizations was
that they were absolutely beautiful.
He'd walk you down a hill in your favorite park,
or down a set of stairs in a gorgeous villa (ahhh -- you'd
start to see it right away). Of course going down the
stairs, or the hill was the induction, and at the bottom
when he asked you to put all your worries in a huge,
magnificent jar you were willing, your eyes were closed,
and you were ready to walk between high rose-covered
hedges, and lie down on one of the earth's power spots.
Hey, if you are an artist you "see" all of that and are
delighted to enjoy it.

Okay. So Dr. Pulos said on every tape "your
unconscious mind is very powerful," which
is the segue into tonight. I was painting a
little landscape -- pictures to follow if it works --
and while I was waiting for areas to dry, I started
a painting of my cat Simone. I was painting away
happily, when I realized that it was either Simone's
birthday, or her birthday week. Strange and cool.
I've been planning a very little painting of her
for months -- probably six, but tonight on her
birthday week I did it. Simone has been dead for
a year and four months.

We mourned that cat so severely -- you would
have thought she was flesh and blood -- not
from the cat family. I had to get a new Siamese
(the beautiful Fiona) almost immediately so
I could get up in the morning. Thank goodness
I did, because Fiona is one of the complete
gifts in my life too. But tonight Simone
called to my powerful subconscious mind.

Simone -- the wonderful cat
acrylic on canvas
2 1/2 x 5 inches

How do goals fit in here? I was reading articles about
goals tonight, because I'm teaching my students
about goal setting. One of mine is to try to paint
more often, even on teaching days, when I come
home longing to crawl into bed with a book and
a mug of hot milk. So I did paint tonight, and my
conscious goal was to paint a landscape, while
my subconscious gave you the painting you see.

Have a loving-the-cats-in-the-world day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

At the heart of a new year in blogging

Hi everyone,

Today marks the beginning of a new year in blogging. So it was
fitting that Steven and I went out to the Art Gallery of Ontario
in the pouring rain to see the preview of the Holman Hunt
exhibition. And what a magnificent show it was. I found a
site that shows some of the paintings we saw tonight.
I know that many of my friends, who delight in high realism would agree
with me that the man could paint fabric, faces, skin, and emotion
impressively. His story is riveting too. After his first wife died
in childbirth, which broke his heart, he married her sister. That
was illegal in England at the time, so the couple had to flee to

If you happen to come to Toronto you must check out both the
gallery and this exhibition.

My own work today is on a lighter note. I've been working on
making a Valentine's card for my mother. I'll show you the

Last time I showed you the piece
of watercolour paper
with paintings on both sides.
Here's how the paper looks folded for the card.

Here's the front of the card
decorated with bits cut out of
magazines, and an old photo
printed on plain paper because
that's easier to work with.
The heart at the top is gold, but
it reflects the red light so you
can't tell.

The inside of the card is a collage
of red hearts cut out of
pieces of red found in magazines,
a gold heart on your left,
plus an old photo printed
on plain paper.

The back of the card is a collage
of a magazine image,
hearts cut from magazine paper red,
and an old photo printed on plain paper.
All three areas are beefed up with
watercolour crayon.

Once the images were glued on, and the design was set I added
my personal messages for my Mother in fine black marker,
following the design of the card. I hope it gets to her on time,
and that she likes it. I think she will.

So the Valentine's festivities continue, but I have to wrap
this up for the night. I'm not sure this year if I'll keep blogging
every day, but I might. It's been a wonderful experience
getting to know all of you, so I may continue the daily blog,
because now it's part of my life.

Have a putting-your-heart-into-it day.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Aiming for two -- My 365th entry -- Yay!!!

Tonight at our art group I stood beside Frank, and behind
Peter -- two magnificent artists. As a matter of fact
the room was packed with talent this evening. But it's
the painters who challenge me the most. I got there late
because I taught all day, and it was my night to make dinner.
Still I decided to try getting two paintings done. It
wasn't a bad plan -- sort of like the right brain and
the left brain.

Painting Group sketch
acrylic on canvas
16 x 20 inches

Each pose is 20 - 25 minutes. I think I was there for
three or four. So I'd put one painting up for half of the pose,
and the other one on the easel until the timer went off.
Effort number two is looser, and more like the style I'm
aiming for -- so I'll show it to you. I know it's not perfect.
the eyes are not right, the mouth got blurred a little on
the way home, and it's slightly wet. Still I like it, and I
felt very content bringing home two painted sketches.

Have a you-know-what?-I'm-happy day.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Getting ready for Valentine's Day

In our house celebrations are big. Valentine's Day
has been a big deal to Steven and me since we met
years ago. I used to hand cut and paint paper hearts
and string them all over the house. Now I'm a bit
more restrained.

Side one of the "card" to be
watercolour on watercolour paper

A couple of years ago I was teaching a seminar
called Art Bypass that I developed to help artists who
hadn't painted for awhile, and wanted to get
back into it, but were afraid. One exercise I thought
of, which I've talked to you about in an earlier post
was the watercolour background collage.

Even the cats are excited about Valentine's Day
Maybe we'll have a special meal at home --
salmon or chicken? They're ready
Timbah (in the box) Fiona looking on

This year I'm planning to send my mother a watercolour
collage Valentine's card, so I started the background today.
I'm using 140 pound paper, in a small, block format.

Side two a bit more jazzy
(Don't worry my Mom can't see this --
she doesn't have a computer)

Last Summer
by Nova Scotia artist, Flora Doehler
30 by 36 inches

Last night I dreamt about my friend Flora Doehler's paintings,
which have all the exuberance and more of watercolours.
I absolutely love her work. When she was in Toronto
it was always a creative hit for me to spend some time
with her in her studio. Now that she's in Nova Scotia
I can only appreciate her talent through her images on
her blog. But she is absolutely original. Just Flora.
She loves painting Flowers, and has Bob Burridge's
exciting abandon when it comes to painting.

So I began my little watercolour background just
thinking colour. I painted some pretty plain
hearts on one side, which I'll jazz up tomorrow,
and on side two I used some watercolour crayons
to up the oomph. Much of my background will be
covered with images, but it still needs to have some
punch where it shows around those elements.

I hope you're getting ready to dazzle someone you
care about. Or everyone you care about.

Have a thinking-about-the-ones-you-love-and-smiling day.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Steven and I enjoy a rare and lovely sunny, dry day

Here are some pictures Dawn Yaeger took of Steven Zoey and me
in the park a couple of weeks ago when we bumped into each other.
She kindly sent them on to me, and I'll share them. I am the one
in the primary colours (yellow, blue, red with a touch of grey on the hat).
These pictures document my one and only winter walk
because my ankle still hurts when I walk any distance,
and I am frightened of falling on the ice which is everywhere.

Me leaning heavily on Steven
It was chilly people

I hope you had a super day today -- I should have some more
art for you tomorrow.

Zoey says enough talking already -- let's go for a walk!
All three photos were taken by Dawn Yaeger -- thanks Dawn

Have an enjoying-your-feet-and-legs day.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Recharging the batteries

Hi --after the work week Saturday is definitely for recharging.
But this time it's not just a metaphor. The batteries on my
camera were running low the other night. I know I
should be more organized, but I don't like shoulding all
over myself -- so they weren't. Today they are, and whoee
what a difference. Me too. I wrote to/talked to/blogged with
friends and family today and felt a definite lift in my spirits,
already pretty high, but just socked after a big week.

We ended the day today on a magnificent/happy/sad
note. My friend Lisa's father died recently, and his
family and friends organized a memorial service tonight
-- actually a concert put on by the band he played with.
The music was exceptional -- that big band sound and
many wonderful pieces you would know if I knew the
names but I don't. Sam was home for the weekend, and
he went with us. Lisa's dad played the trumpet and so
does Sam, so it was great for him to see such fantastic
musicians play.

I was inspired earlier by my friend, Theresa Rankin,
who is such a magnificent artist and writer, and by
her thoughts on many things. I took myself back to
the canvas I'm working on, and got into the paint
for a couple of hours in a laid back day.

The Promise
acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Not quite finished

I'm not quite done, but here's a much sharper image
of my painting -- The Promise. I hope you like it so far.

Have an I'm-having-fun-want-to-join-me? day

Friday, February 6, 2009

I've quit smoking

I found this picture in my files and loved it so much I
thought I'd share it with you. When did I quit smoking?
I hope my paintings are still "smokin" as Jim Carrey
says in the movie Mask. Before you get all up in arms
about parents who would let their children smoke,
even photograph them in the act -- calm down. When
I was a little girl many people thought smoking was cool.
Luckily my parents didn't, although my father did smoke
when he was in the navy. But...because smoking was
so cool, children could buy chocolate cigarettes in what
looked like cigarette boxes, complete with a tear off
cellophane over the box, and tin foiled paper lining.

Me "smoking" a chocolate cigarette
(That's my brother in the background)
by my father Wallace Muir
black and white photograph
8 x 10 inches

It did feel really cool to "pretend" to smoke. Other
than that -- I had a few puffs in university and early
adult life, when I foolishly thought that a cigarette
would help me stop crying. But I'm not a smoker,
so you could say that if I was eight or nine in this picture
I gave the dirty habit up when I was 13. There were no
chocolate cigarettes anywhere when we moved to Toronto.
Sometimes when I find evidence in childhood photos
of the self I've become it makes me happy. This
shot tells me that I had a sense of humour even as a
little kid, and that my father encouraged that fledgling

Have a finding-out-you're-funny day.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ascending light

What's beautiful? To everyone of us who tries to
capture the answer through art -- light is at
least part of the answer. When I teach in the late
afternoon in winter, I get accustomed to surfacing
out into the great outdoors to face darkness. In
the country (I teach at a college on a nature reserve)
that darkness is the deepest, most gorgeous blue.
But lately when I finally pack up my notes and head
out into the frozen landscape, I feel released -- and I love
teaching. I mean I feel released into the light. It was
actually sunny today during my drive home -- white
light skimmed along the top of brilliant blue snow
banks. Driving along I was in that state of pure
flow -- a oneness with the world that makes everything
all right.

charcoal on watercolour paper
12 x 9 inches

Because it is I'm going to be brief. Here's a sketch I
did of the girl who used to live across the street, and
was a favorite model -- Tia. She is more beautiful than
line and light can say. She has an air of intelligence and
wit that defies record -- by me anyway. But I thoroughly
enjoy trying.

Have a surrounded-by-supremely-funny-people day.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Productive Procrastination

The Promise
acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
I'll take a better picture of it tomorrow.
My battery was dying.

I've been preparing to talk about procrastination in my class.
There's a great article called I'll Do It Tomorrow, that I've
been putting off reading, in the December2008/January 2009
issue of Scientific American Mind. What hurts
us most is delaying taking action on things that help us. But I
have a theory. I think you can procrastinate positively by making
a list of everything you have to do, and then deviating wildly
from that list to something you only thought of fleetingly.
Take today as a case in point. I needed to prepare notes,
file papers, paint, and meet my friend for tea. Looking at that
list it's clear that meeting my friend for tea was right up at the top.

So I did meet my friend Susan. The sunlight in the coffee place we
sat in was stunning, making snow blowing off the building look
like magic dust, and rimming my friend in gold. We talked
and laughed, and as the sun set every person in the place was
outlined in brilliant pink. I came home, and placed the leftovers
in the microwave. Steven and I ate supper with candles just
about right at six o'clock, which never happens. And I picked
preparing my notes as top of the list, and crossed that off.
But the big thing was getting back to work on a large
painting I haven't touched since before Christmas when I put
it in a show and felt mortified because the face was all wrong.
I procrastinated some more. I vacuumed
the top floor of the house. I cleaned the bathroom mirrors.
I made a decaf coffee, and read my notes for tomorrow.

Suddenly I could hear Belinda Del Pescoe's voice, even though
we've only talked in print. She said, "go and get some
paint on something." The notes on procrastination say to try
something you're avoiding for just five minutes. I carried the
big painting down to the studio from the bedroom it had been
hiding in. And for five minutes I began. I suddenly thought of
the Susan Jeffers affirmation, "I can handle it," and I started
to enjoy transforming that terrible face on my otherwise
happy painting. Five minutes, then fifty, then a couple of
hours flew by. I'm not quite finished, but I like what's
happening. So I'll show it to you now, and again when
I've got it done.

Have a procrastinating-towards-success day.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday -- a marathon run

Tuesday is my longest day so I won't say too much.
I teach from 9:50 in the morning until 5:10 p.m., then see
students, then drive home, then head out to paint with
my art group. I enjoy every part of the day to the fullest,
but when I get to you close to 11 p.m. my time, I
don't have a lot of juice left for either thought or

Tonight I painted over an old painting, and the underpaint
didn't agree with the over paint. I thoroughly
enjoyed the process, but the product is not worth
putting here.

Instead I'll show you the few changes I've made to the
little kitchen painting, and call it a day. It's not
finished yet, but will be in the next few days. You
know how it is. You keep seeing new things.

Homework at the kitchen table
acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches

Have a ready-for-dynamic-and-exciting-change day.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Skype Interview Number 2

What a day it's been! I knew that Howard Wolinsky was
planning to interview me on video about sketching
with Skype, but as it turned out that was just the first art
event for the day.
No sooner had I gone downstairs to
my studio after the interview, and started to paint,
than an email came in from Susan Carlin, asking me to
phone her in Texas.

She wondered if she could paint me from Skype today
using her streaming video technique. Wow! So
of course I said "yes". Susan is a wonderful portrait
artist I met through my blog, and she has become
a friend in the few months we've been commenting
back and forth on each other's blog entries and artwork.
The weekly workshops she hosts on portrait painting
are fantastic.

Today was the first time I really met her face to face
and that was on Skype. We couldn't stop laughing,
and cracking jokes, and she was really worried about
my ability to stay still for my portrait. She's right that
staying still is not my strong suit (unless I'm reading),
as she pointed out to the people watching her paint.

My portrait of Susan Carlin
quick sketch
charcoal on watercolour paper
12 x 9 inches

So in between a rushed attempt to cook dinner, and
painting I sat for Susan's art group while they watched
her paint me. Check out her lovely painting at:
Here I was in Toronto, getting interviewed
first by Howard in Chicago, and then being painted by
Susan in San Antonio, Texas. Mind blowing.

Meanwhile my friend, Melinda in Tucson, Arizona did
a portrait of me today based on the first You Tube Skype
interview. Whew! It boggles the mind. I absolutely love
the blogging network, and the Skype connections. I can't
say that often enough.

Portrait of Barbara Muir from Skype interview
by Melinda S. Esparza
mixed media

While I was talking to Susan I snapped some fast photos
of her using Capture on my Mac, and I've done a very
speedy charcoal sketch, which hardly does her justice.

Have an experiencing-the-wonders-of-this-world day.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Sunday -- A is for Art Gallery

Today we went down to the Art Gallery of Ontario -- which
opened last fall again after being virtually shut down for
a few years. It was an ideal winter day, blue sky, warm sun,
steam rising from glistening snow banks. What better
time to go and see some art. The dramatic revamp by
architectural genius Frank Gehry, is absolutely magnificent.

The building is designed to be tactile, with lovely wood on the
staircases, and in the arched cathedral-like glassed-in walk on
the street side of the building. Our wonderful
friends Suzanne and David gave us memberships for our
birthday and today we had the pleasure of having tea
with them in the member's lounge, which is the Grange.
What a treat! If you haven't been and you're in Toronto,
Ontario, Canada, be sure to check it out.

Steven sleeping
sketch -- pencil and black marker on Bond paper
5 x 7 inches

Tonight I am really tired, so I'm including a small sketch
done a few years ago of Steven sleeping with his eye mask
on while I read, or sketch into the wee hours.

Have a dreaming-of-great-things 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!