Saturday, June 20, 2009


A sketchbook drawing,
black marker ad pencil on bond
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

If you paint a lot you know that you're walking the intellectual
tightrope between detailed enough, and lacking in detail.
I had a teacher once who would take a superb watercolour
and go that one step too far in detail, moving the painting
from the sublime, to a step below it. Frequently it was a stop
sign in the distance with a clearly worded "stop" on it. That
word was like a mantra to me. Stop putting in detail, because
from that distance you wouldn't see the word, just the colour,
and even so. But we all want to be like Google Earth, and
zoom in on the subject so that it's there with crystal clarity.

I'm working on some pieces right now that are just at the
edge of that dilemma and ready to step over. Too much
detail hurts a painting. Not enough makes the viewer
equally uncomfortable. Striking that balance? It's
all about standing back and seeing the whole work, not
its ...details.

Playing on the sand
sketchbook drawing
black marker on bond
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

I can't show you any paintings today. All in states of
needing work. But here are a couple of drawings.

Have a perfectly detailed day.


Laurel Daniel said...

OH, YES, I so know that awful shift into too much information!!! Not "overstating" is an art in itself. Be careful! :)

Great drawings as usual - the top one is very Matisse-like. Love it! XOXOX

Gwen Bell said...

Great post. Knowing when to stop is a slippery slope. Let me know if you figure it out! Love these little sketches and the one below of Zoey.

Sounds like you are having a nice break. The photos are lovely!

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Laurel,

Yes. In fact if there's enough time the painting can go back to less information. Always a good move.

What do they say? If you can't be good be careful, and if you can't be careful... Have fun!


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Gwen,

I did have a nice break. I didn't paint for two days. It felt like a month. So luxurious. Now I'm back hard at it and enjoying myself immensely -- my eyes filled with images.

I have not figured out the slippery slope. It's all about feeling right. Some things are more detailed than others. Maybe rightly so.

Take care,


Portrait Artist

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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!