Friday, July 31, 2009

Packing art

Suzanne in Paris
black marker on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(My friend Suzanne gave me this picture
a few years ago when she came back from
Paris. It's one of my favorite photographs
because I haven't quite captured the look
on her face, but she looks almost
smugly content. I love how her hair
is blowing around in the wind. But the
main thing is that she is a busy person
with a highly demanding job, and
she looks so relaxed and happy in the photo.
This is how I will be feeling in a couple of
days, or maybe even tomorrow. Count on it!)

Every year (except the nightmare of last year) when we
drive out to Nova Scotia, I haul along practically my whole
studio. Easels, paint, brushes, canvasses, and usually
bring all of it back with zero result in productivity.

I find that walking along the beach by the ocean empties
my mind of the desire to produce. In fact it clears my
city-clogged brain of every kind of city urge. Instead
of talking on the phone, I read, instead of shopping I
gather shells, instead of walking the dog in the park, I
walk along a beach so long and vast, that I could walk
for miles without seeing another human, and listen to
that glorious push, pull of the waves and seagulls whirling

I'm not religious, or a church goer, but this is my church --
the beach. It is fulfilling just to be there.

That said, this year I plan (fingers crossed) to continue my
daily blog, continue to produce images, and continue to
do my work. One reason is that I have a lot of work to
do, and the other is that I'm determined to keep my blog
going on a daily basis.

But...if I don't respond right away to your comments, please
understand that I may be in a car crawling across 785 miles,
or 1263 kilometers to get to a schoolhouse with no running
water and an outhouse. I really want to return your comments
every day. So please know that. But for the next couple of
weeks, I may have a little trouble being prompt with my replies.

Have a loving-the-journey-of-life day.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Mom and Dad go on their honeymoon
8 1/2 x 11
watercolour and black marker on Arches hot press paper
Barbara Muir © 2009
( another sketch for a commission. This time
Mom's a bit off, and Dad is much better.
But I love the mood. I was working on it
with such intensity, that I forgot to get away. Oh well
it's the mood I really wanted to get, and I did)

People are leery of chirpy, and I understand that if the person
who is chirpy in public, is a right meanie in private life.
But I love chirpy. I always write the word cheerful on the
board when I teach, because that's something I want all
of us to aspire to. This isn't always easy as I've said
many times before. Bad economies, sick friends and loved
ones, even the horrific news, or actual tragedies in life
make this a hard slog sometimes. But trying to go
against the urge to sink under the mire and succumb
to a great joyless blank, is part of what I think we need
to do as brave humans, and need to help others do to.

Does this matter? You bet. It matters. It matters as
much as art, love, and at least as much as money.
Chirpy. My husband has a little sparrow that sits
in our apple tree and talks to him when he has his
morning coffee on the back porch on weekends. Some
people might think that my husband is crazy to think
so, but I think the sparrow is genuinely chirpy, and
may even know that we are on his side, and helped
to save his baby. And I also think the sparrow likes
these weekend conversations.

If our cats can tell us that it's six o'clock (dinner time),
(My black cat, Timbah stands up and sharpens his
claws on my jeans to let me know the time)
and the dog can tell us that it's time for a walk, why
can't a sparrow have a friendly chat with Steven?

Turns out that chirpy people even live longer. I
am definitely going to work on it. I assure you that
doesn't mean I'm mindless. It just means that my
ultimate goal, is, and I think always has been having
fun, and chirpy is about a million times more fun that

Have a it's-good-to-be-chirpy day.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Learning about love

Mom and Dad in love
watercolour and black marker on Arches hot press paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(A drawing in watercolour. I don't have the
father's face right yet. His expression is
not the one of devotion he has in every
picture with his wife. The mother isn't
accurate either, but I'm getting to know her
face after drawing it quite a few times.
Photo reference for the Mom is better
because Dad was always taking the pictures.)

One of the exciting things about portrait painting is finding
out the reason people want a portrait. Love is the most
common and wonderful motivator. Today I'm showing
you a little watercolour painting I did to study the
features of a couple whose children are deeply
moved by their parents' love story and cherish
the images of the two of them together. Looking at the
reference photos I can feel that love coming through.

In fact there is so much emotion in the photos, that
I need to do the drawings, so I don't get swept up in
the feeling and forget to paint.

My brother was telling me today that a long term
Harvard study of men discovered that the most
important factor contributing to a happy life
was love. In that case these two are definitely
enjoying a happy life in my painting.

Truth is most people who commission a portrait
are doing it because they love the person in the
portrait, or love the image of their family it will
create, or even as a gesture of loving themselves.

While I'm painting I like to concentrate on that
loving feeling. It makes my working life a very
happy one.

Have an understanding-the-importance-of-love day.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Prepping with gusto

In the spotlight
Prep sketch for a big painting
black marker and watercolour on Arches Hot Press paper
8 1/2 x 11
Barbara Muir © 2009
(Sketching this young woman is
helping me study her features.
Her mouth is a bit too big here, but
on the second try the rest is becoming
more accurate.)

Part of an artist's life is prepping, whether it's prepping
for an interview with a prospective client,
prepping the studio so people can enjoy the experience
of sitting in it, prepping the kitchen stocks so you
can offer clients a cookie, and excellent coffee,
or prepping for a project by practicing drawings
of the subjects -- it all falls under the same
"getting ready" category.

Yes -- it's been that kind of day. In some ways
it's been that kind of spring and summer. A
happy thought. Always getting ready for
something new. I remember the president
on the TV show, West Wing used to say after a big event,
or a major problem was resolved "What's Next?".
At the time I loved Martin Sheen as president
almost as much as I love the real president,
Barack Obama now. And I'm with the
TV President Jed Bartlet on how we artists live our
lives -- What's Next?!

Have a prepping-for-happiness day.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Peaches please.

First Peaches
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(not quite finished)

I didn't quite finish the little peach painting I started
this morning done, because it's been a busy day with
other commissioned work. I don't usually paint fruit,
but I like to when it's in season. In Toronto
winter is so snowy, that the thought of fruit trees is
almost too luxurious to contemplate in the midst of
January. But now, with every tree heavily laden with
apples, peaches, plums -- my oh my, it's
exciting. I hope that excitement translates into my
little paintings. And just like Julie Davis cruising
down the highway deciding to stop for peaches,
everyone living where fruit ripens in late July,
early August can almost yearns for that fresh
fruit taste. Yum.

Have an eating-the-fruits-of-the-land day.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Getting a glow

In the summer wind
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

No this isn't a beauty product ad. I just wanted
to tell those of you out there who use acrylics that
the "open acrylics" are a pleasure to use when you're
painting skin. They flow, and stay ready to blend
for much longer than regular acrylics, and when
you blend them with other acrylics they dry
a little bit slower than normal. I don't want to
bore you with discussions of technique, when that
is not my focus, but they're great. The portrait
I'm showing today was done with a combination
of regular and open acrylics. The open acrylics
really help to create that healthy skin glow. I like the
flow and fluidity of the paint.

It's been a very busy day here. We are still planting
parts of our garden! Plus we're trying to
clean up, make some decisions and plan our
vacation. So every bit of help in the painting
part of my life is an enormous benefit.

Have a loving-the-paints-you-use day.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

admiration versus envy

Thank my lucky stars
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(This is a little sketch portrait
illustrating the idea "the best
things in life are free" like the
stars over our schoolhouse in
Nova Scotia. The model doesn't
look certain about the idea.)

I was thinking about art and life today and this topic
came up in my mind. I've mentioned Louise Hay before
and I remember listening years ago to a tape of
hers that cautioned never to envy another's good.
The idea -- and I think it's a sound one -- is that if
someone you know, does well, is happy, gets
rich, gets excellent work, it is almost as if that had
happened to you too. She suggested driving by,
(or walking, or cycling) by beautiful houses, and
looking at things of beauty you want, and saying
"that's for me!, that's for me!"

I live near a very beautiful neighbourhood (and I
thoroughly enjoy my own neighbourhood),
with big trees, grand houses, and wonderful gardens.
I get to drive or walk by those houses every day. And as
Louise says, none of us can really own anything, so
we all own the pleasure in seeing houses or whatever
it is we like.

Of course if you're hungry, or have no shelter, none
of this applies. But if everything is really fine in your
world, envy has no place in it.

But admiration is a wholly different and wonderful
thing. With friends all over the world, in gracious
climates, lovely homes, and who produce
overwhelmingly beautiful art work, I am in a state
of elevated admiration every single day.
My world and work hums with the vibrancy of loving
so much that my friends do and have. That way I enjoy
what pleases them. I can't imagine feeling jealous
of someone because they earn more than I do,
know more than I do, do anything that I don't do.
My feeling is that if I decide to learn something I
will, and the whole world is there to teach me.
If I decide to want a certain lifestyle, I'll go for it.

So I don't mean that I'm so content that I have
no drive. What I do mean, is that I love my
life. Thanks for sharing so many wonderful
experiences, images, videos, even music with
me. You definitely deserve my sincere and
profound admiration.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Shake it up baby -- twist and shout!

Baby Sam
8 1/2 x 11 inches
black marker on bond paper
Barbara Muir © 2009

Lately in my portrait commission business there
has been a run on babies. It makes me think of a
song I overheard as a child. (That's right watch out
little children have ...ears.) "Today's the day we give
babies away for half a pound of tea, so if you
know any ladies who want any babies, just send
them on to me!" Where would I have heard that?
But it does make me laugh. Well no wonder
babies are popular subject material, they are
so incredibly beautiful. The challenge, as I've
said before, but I hope not so often that your
nodding into your tea now, is giving the baby
oomph, a feeling of personality, and staying in
step with your artist self.

As a bold colour, strong image artist, I worry
about overpowering the baby with intensity that
doesn't work with that baby softness.
Tonight I worked on a little portrait of one
of my own sons when he was a baby, just to
limber up for the next baby portrait.

Have a loving-the-big-and-little-babies-in-your-life day.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Could my mother be right?

Drawing of a random man
(I did this drawing from a tiny
photograph in a magazine
while I was talking
to my brother in Ottawa
this morning. I was
trying to teach myself to be
more observant. It's got a kind
of caricature quality, but I don't
mind that.)
black marker on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Perhaps my mother is right. For some reason my
daily blogging bugs her. In fact it makes her downright
cranky. Blogging and the meaninglessness of the task
has become one of her pet peeves in our almost daily
conversations. Hmmm? Her big concern? Aren't
I wasting time with this daily blogging? And why does
it have to happen every day? I can't explain it to her.
The truth may be that it's an addiction -- an obsessive
compulsive urge to contribute to my own small column on a
constant basis. Adding Facebook and Twitter into the
mix has really upped the ante to an overwhelming point,
and I am not too good at keeping up with those
activities. So if you want to talk to me, this is probably
the best place, or the email address above.

But is she right? Should I stop? I ponder that question
for about a nanosecond (no point "wasting my time"
over it) and decide "NO!" Here's a good reason to continue --
I like blogging every day. I enjoy it! How about that?
Yes -- I am having fun blogging every day, and trying
to do art every day, and seeing what my friends are
producing, and making friends and learning every day.

In the meantime, could someone get my mother a
Mac and help her start a blog? I think she'd really
love the experience. She might be a skeptic like I
was (I wonder where I get that from?), but she'd
probably change her mind like so many Luddites
before her. In any case it would keep her busier
than she already is taking care of an acre of land,
and trying to grow beans and tomatoes despite the
best efforts of marauding deer.

Have a loving-your-mother day.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Happiness -- another anniversary

First steps
Green apples in a white bowl
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(This is the start of a little painting of
today's produce -- small apples
from our tree. Some are actually yellow,
the colour the ripe apples should be -- they're
cooking apples. Tomorrow I'll polish it up a bit.
(pardon the pun).

These silly photo booth snaps from that first couple of
weeks we were together say it all
This one had obviously spent some time in
one of our wallets before making it into an
official album.

Something I really love about my husband is that he is
a hopeless romantic. He gets a tear in his eye when the
loving couple in a romantic movie get together. That's
why every month since we've met we wish one another
Happy Monthiversary, and after we married we had
two monthiversaries per month.

Today is the anniversary of our first date, which I
remember very well. If the scientists I heard on the radio
are right and there's no such thing as time, but just a
stack of cards, all of them now, then this was an important
now. (By the way that time theory is quantum theory, the
idea Einstein introduced, and I am just a simple painter
who was trying to understand the program!)

On that date I had a boy cut hairdo -- short, short, was
wearing a bright pink halter top, black cotton pants
from Le Chateau,a black corduroy jacket, and flat Chinese
shoes with straps from China town. We went to a local
very classy bar in a super restaurant, where one of my girlfriends
worked. It boasted a wonderful dance floor, and we drank
Singapore Slings, danced and flirted all night. My husband
was and is tall, dark and handsome. He is mostly Dutch with
some exotic Indonesian thrown in (his grandfather on his
mother's side) and the result is a very handsome man, who
tans deeply in the summer sun. He was tanned that night,
wearing a white polo shirt, tight fitting as they were back
then, a lovely suede baseball jacket, jeans and cowboy boots.
(He thought of himself as a secret Texan, or Albertan in

Looking at this photo I see how crazy
in love I was. I feel the same way
today. Yes. I wasn't always blonde.

We were, and are smitten. I remember walking home hand
in hand and talking. I had never felt so crazy about a man
before. Now looking back on the life we've had I feel we are
so lucky. We have two lovely sons, both kind and gentle,
creative, funny men, have a happy, vibrant (if not at all tidy)
home, loving family on both sides, and a circle of kind, witty,
creative, loving friends. When I met Steven I had a feeling
that it would be a long term relationship, looking back I
feel extremely blessed that I was right.

Have a loving-the-people-you-love day.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New, new, new

Flower sketch
watercolour, acrylic and black marker on
Arches watercolour paper
Barbara Muir © 2009

In North America we are obsessed with new, which is why
13 year old girls get modelling jobs in glossy fashion
magazines. They are new -- barely hatched. What I
loved about Europe when we visited England, Sweden and
Germany a couple of years ago was this deep sense
of history -- a very hard feeling to acquire in a country
that is only officially 142 years old (Canada).

I think art has always moved forward ineluctably,
because artists have to live with themselves and
work by themselves. Corragio (courage) is a
requisite job definition. New matters. The
dilemma is balancing the need for new, with
the need for meaning. Some new art like the
thirteen year old with the glossy face, is
immature. The adolescent model will
grow up, maybe use her wonderful money to
study medicine, etymology or even art. In the
case of superficial "fashionable" art, a worse
fate may be waiting. That of the dumpster. But
that gets us into a whole other question.

Do you paint with the hope of an artistic legacy, or to
satisfy your desire to make something today?
I love what Edward B. Gordon, the prolific and
wonderful blog painter said. He paints to
improve his craft, not to be a great artist.
His craft grabs the viewer immediately. His
paintings resonate, delight and satisfy. They
are both new, and steeped in practice over
time -- he's long past the 900 days of new paintings
in a row point, and still painting something glorious
every day. So I say -- new maybe -- but
craft -- Yes!

Have an enjoying-learning-your-craft day.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mixing it up

Apples on a fancy dish
watercolour on Arches watercolour paper
with black marker
Barbara Muir © 2009
(once again I'm getting yellow bounce
light on the paper from our yellow walls.
The drawing
is far from perfect, but it makes
me happy.)

I've taught change management in the past, and when I teach
college courses they are all about change -- changing the way
people feel about life, school, reading, helping students get
with the program. But in my own life I find change is
difficult. Juggling more than one style, or project, or
even medium is not my normal way to go. It's true
that we change anyway whether we want to or not --
every cell in our body replenishes itself, so that in a way
we are always new. I feel the force of that statement this
year. I feel new because of my friendships
on the blog, and the marvels that the technology has brought
into my life.

Where am I going with this? Downstairs to finish the little
watercolour I'm posting. I feel very happy, because after a couple
of months of worry about a portrait project I want to do, I've
begun it. Sometimes the worry may just be a thought process, as
though a painting cooks in your head before you can get
it out on the canvas. In that case, my whole new self of today
seems ready to take it on. Lots of self talk, and the distraction
of mixing it up with this little watercolour did the trick.
Thanks for your belief in me, your wonderful art, and
your praise which is always a boost to my brand new today

Have an enjoying-your-own-new-self day.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Trees, cherries and sparrows -- the saga continues

Peach branches in water
watercolour on watercolour paper with black marker
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(I'll try photographing this again in daylight.
My kitchen gives the white paper a yellow tone.)

I spent a good part of the day today dealing with
trees. The cherry tree just will not give up and we
have had pie twice! This is not good. So Steven
put the tall ladder up the center of the tree about
a week ago and today he worked at the top, while I picked
away lower down. The fruit is so ripe now that my hands
and arms were covered in juice, but it was a great
feeling. We tried to get every cherry off that tree,
but of course, that's a completely impossible task, and
I felt like I was in the middle of a life lesson from the
universe. Every time I decided I'd picked this section
of the tree, I'd turn an inch or so in a different direction
and see 100 more.

After that we climbed on the garage roof and picked another
pie's worth. Our running joke is "well that's it, there are
no more cherries," meanwhile the tree is still bright red
against the green leaves. Fruit, fruit, fruit. Then we
carefully trimmed all the branches from our own and
neighbours' trees lying on our garage roof. The picture
tonight is a watercolour of some branches (complete with
tiny peaches) trimmed from my next door neighbour's tree.

Remember the sparrow story? Today I was drinking my
coffee and reading my novel when Steven opened the
kitchen door, and told me to"get downstairs right away!"
I ran down wondering what could be worth interrupting
my Sunday morning ritual, and Steven was sitting
on the back porch holding a baby sparrow which seemed
to have one lame leg, in his hands.
I persuaded him to put it on the grass in the yard, and
he spent a few tense hours watching it, putting birdseed
out, watching the parents feed it. He talked about
building it a shelter, bringing it in -- right -- to our two
waiting cats who would succeed in eating it for sure.
I could not watch him, having suffered this same
desperate sadness (no doubt with the same bird) just
a little while ago. How does the story end? Steven went
inside for one minute and the bird disappeared. We
couldn't find it anywhere. So we've decided it flew away.
It was almost ready. Let's hold that thought.

Mmmmm. I smell cherry pie. It's hard to stay anything
resembling fit in this house, but what a treat!

Have an amused-by-small-events day.

Footnote: That sour cherry pie is the most
delicious thing I have every tasted -- sooo
incredibly good.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Still wonderful anyway

Art group sketch of a pregnant woman
acrylic on canvas
36 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Let me see. It was a great day. The cat was sick for
the second time. But we picked more apples
from our very productive tree. We went out to
a wonderful café for lunch, and it didn't rain...then.
We bought flowers and went to check out a mall
we used to go to that is now supposed to be upscale.
It wasn't, and we walked so much that I got blisters on
my feet, which reminded me of a Beatles song.
I made fried salmon fillets for dinner, and burned
myself in the process, but the meal was delicious
and we went out to see the movie The Hangover.
If you don't mind rude language, guy humour, and
liked Something About Mary, it is a non-stop
laugh. If you don't like rude, give it a wide berth,
Steven and I laughed all the way through, and kept
laughing on the drive home.

The image tonight is an art group sketch. It was
very rushed, but even though it needs at least one more
one hour session with the model, which will not happen
for obvious reasons, it caught my feeling of
tenderness towards the young woman.

Have an enjoying-the-ups-and-downs-of-life day.

Friday, July 17, 2009


The red shed
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(This little painting describes the
quirky arrangements of elements
you sometimes see on a drive
through the country. City
people, squeezed for space,
expect everything to line up and make sense,
but sometimes a country yard will have
what this one does -- a shed in the middle
of nowhere. I liked that. I'll straighten the fence
a bit tomorrow.)
Are artists blessed with an overactive sense of wonder?
I wonder (I do sorry). I don't mean to be on a theme here,
but my garden is a bit worse than the mess under my
bed. I can see the neighbours looking into my yard and
thinking why don't they do something? The why has been
about time -- neither of the two less-than-stellar gardeners
in this family has had the time to weed, plant, decide,
contemplate, even water that sad little patch at the back
of the house. Thank goodness for the cherry tree and
the apple tree, doing their best to make it look

But how could I have overlooked the field poppies -- my
all time favorite flower. Okay -- I love many types of
flowers, I was a flower painter for ten years.
There they were -- brilliant red (one of my top colours),
delicate pink, peach, mauve, and I almost didn't see them,
although in this season of neglect they are absolutely
thriving. They are a wild sort of flower, used to blooming
in fields in France. The other night I looked down into the
center of a huge red bloom and noticed that all the stamens
were a deep indigo, grey blue. A colour so unusual that I
can't even describe it, and I thought --'what is your problem?
Okay there are weeds -- someday you'll have time to pull
them out, but look at this incredible beauty and feast your
eyes!' Did I feel better? Yes. I was back in the land of wonder
where artists belong.

And when I take a break I'm doing a bit of weeding.

Have a seeing-what-is-there-in-front-of-you day.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Under the bed

Yellow farmhouse
Road trip from Ottawa to Kingston
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(I'm pretty close to finished with this one -- a great
delight to do. Of course the farm house was
not yellow, but beige, but despite the colour
changes this scene reminds me of that
route and I know I've seen this house
many, many times. So I'm grateful
for Steven's fast little camera
that let me catch it as we sped by).

The other day I was doing crunches so I vacuumed
the rug in my bedroom. Down on the floor I looked
under the bed and decided it was high time that
space, packed with storage boxes (like every space
in a tiny house) and thick with dust from the lives
of the three animals who grace our house, got a cleaning.

It's hard enough for me to let go of old things (I even
feel sentimental about receipts from the years
I no longer have to hold onto for tax purposes) so
I made an art connection. As an artist I think one
of the true bonuses of the blog world is learning
about different approaches that push my work
in new directions, and teach me new techniques.

I know artists who have stuck to one method, style,
colour range for 15 or 20 years, produce beautiful
work, but are decidedly unhappy with what they
do. Maybe the reason is that it's time to clean
out the mess under the bed. Maybe it's time to
let some things go, and realize that there are no
monsters waiting to pounce on you, when you put
your feet down and walk with confidence. You get
my point. We are here. We are the net under your
trapeze. We are the nightlight when you feel you
can't see properly. If it's time to change, you
have the whole world on your side.

Now I'm going to go and clean out the space under
the dresser.

Have an I-will-be-released-into-joyous-creation day.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A New Blog Award

Speeding Landscape
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(An almost finished painting. I
may take out some of the underpainting orange.
This is a scene I snapped from the car on our
trip from Ottawa to Kingston a few weeks ago.)

Gwen Bell has given me the Bella Sinclair award,
and I am greatly honoured. I think these pay it
forward awards are a lovely part of blogging.
Please go and check out Gwen's work right away
if you don't know it. She's a wonderful painter,
confident and sure with great colour and design
in her work. She's also very funny, a quality the
world needs. This award is strictly for women,
so although there are many artists on the blog who
are men, who have been kind friends and had a
terrific influence on my work, I can't give them
this award.

The Bella Sinclair Award is given for "Friendship,
Sisterhood, Sharing and Caring." I think you are
supposed to give the award to six women artist
bloggers who make a difference in my artistic life.

They are in order of getting to know them:

1. Flora Doehler, a Nova Scotia artist,
who introduced me to the whole blog world,
is an astoundingly good artist, and has
two blogs running full tilt, with art, photos,
movies and writing. A transplant to the maritimes
from Toronto, Flora is a kind and wonderful
friend. We've had several shows together and
enjoy one another's work immensely.

2. Belinda del Pescoe was one of the first people
to comment on my blog. She is a fantastic
watercolour painter, printmaker, inventive
spirit and daily painter. I love the variety
of approaches she tries, and how she always
documents her process so we can learn.

3. Theresa Rankin, gave me the first
award I ever won The Brillante Weblog,
and the second A Passion for Painting
award. She is a superb artist in the classical style,
a wonderful writer, and a kind friend. She also
has one of the best laughs on the planet.

4. Liza Hirst, is a fabulous artist, who ranges
from almost classical portraiture, to wildly
experimental abstract art, and everything in
between. She can paint whatever she turns her
hand to, and has painted a wide variety of subjects.
She is a constant inspiration and a kind, good
and sweet friend.

4. Laurel Daniel is a superb Texas landscape
painter. I have never seen a painting by her
that wasn't exquisite, didn't take my breath away,
didn't make me stare and stare to analyze it.
She is also a very kind art blog friend, who
writes delightful comments, and I treasure
her friendship.

6. Susan Carlin, also Texan, raises the bar in
portraiture on a constant basis. She can whip out a
perfect and accurate oil painting portrait
in the time it takes me to set up my paints.
Her work ranges from very traditional to
high key colour exploration, and she is my friend.

7. Melinda Esparza, in one of the most exciting
landscape painters I know. Her work is
thoroughly unconventional in both style and
colour, and she has also done portrait work
that dazzles in its complexity and intellectual
content. She is a wonderful friend and a
constant support to me.

8. Laura Starrett is a watercolour artist, with
no idea how superb her work is. Her
delicious, loose watercolours are exactly what
watercolour should be. They are bright,
imaginative, lyrical. She also uses poetry
on her blog, which adds a poignant note to
many of her entries. I am delighted to be
getting to know her.

9. Julie Davis is also a Texas painter (that
is an arty state), who paints mostly landscape,
although I was first captured by a painting
she did of pansies! Julie gave me the Kreative
Blogger award, and I was delighted that she did.
She recently did a series of paintings on a Florida
vacation that blew me away every day she posted
them. She gave me an award, and I bless
her for it.

I have got to stop there because I'm supposed
to stop at six and I could keep going all day.
What an exciting group of women these
people are. I have met some through Skype
and the telephone, and I really hope I get
to meet everyone in person one day. In
fact I'd love to have them all to a big art
party. Let's think about that for next year!

(Please note that because I have two slide
shows I had to choose between a blog list
of artists I care about, and my awards as
gadgets -- so I chose the blog list -- if you
know a way around this problem please
contact me and I'll showcase my awards

Have an it's-an-honour-to-be-an-artist day.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Quick study

acrylic on canvas
art group painting sketch
16 x 20 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(The photo is a bit shiny, I'll post
a better one tomorrow).

It's got to be a quick one, because it's late.
I went to my art group tonight for the first time in
weeks and had a wonderful time. I painted this
portrait in about an hour, maybe less because of
the breaks. The model was just great, holding
the pose easily. And he was a terrific looking
young man. I arrived with my canvas prepared
with a light peachy ground and that worked
very well. I would have liked more time, and
I should have had a more dramatic range of colour
with me, but I was happy.

A shout out to Gwen Bell for giving me the Bella
Sinclair Award. I'll talk more about that

Have a working-on-painting-comes-naturally-to-me day.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Process and Palette people

Palette sketches -- the meeting
Palette people
charcoal and acrylic on bond paper
3 x 4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Painting intensely teaches me more about how to
paint, and about what it means to be a painter.
Sometimes I am working out of a core of industry
that I can't even understand once the work is done
and on the easel in front of me. Understanding my
own process helps me do the work I need to do.
So I'm thinking about it now.

How does your process work? Do you shoot out of
bed in the morning, and right to the canvas? That
is not me. I need down time before I begin. I need
coffee, and preferably a novel to read for about an
hour, so when time is tight I get up earlier to have
the time. A lot of painting happens in my head.

Writing teachers always tell you to quit keeping
the ideas in your head and start to write
your thoughts on paper. With painting I'm sure
that writing helps, and drawing does too. To
"keep your hand moving" as Natalie Goldberg
says in Wild Mind, a book on writing, really
does keep your brain clicking over new ideas, and gives
you mental and physical confidence.

Palette people -- two figures in red cloaks
walking their dog.
acrylic and charcoal on bond paper
Barbara Muir © 2009

As for my process. I paint the ground, draw my
image in charcoal usually, and then begin with
the highlights if that's my mood. I work from light
to dark, and the ground is usually the mid tone.
My process involves telling myself I can do it,
then starting. As soon as I start I am in process,
and unconscious of what I'm doing, just
happily aware that I am doing my work.

Palette sketches -- boy in baseball cap,
boy in blue sweater, and fashion girl
acrylic and charcoal on bond
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

After a painting is done I sometimes draw figures in
the last piece of paper I used as a type of palette,
for trying colours out and mixing them before they
went on the canvas. Today I'm showing you some of
these silly drawings on the blobs of paint left on my
paper. It's like finding figures in clouds, with the
distinct advantage of colour. And no I won't be turning
these into big paintings. It's just play.

Have an enjoying-your-own-process day.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Perfect Sunday

Flora in sunlight
Skype drawing
black marker on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

We had a great day today. I read my book -- Run,
by Ann Patchett
. Then we went down to see what
Salsa on St. Clair is like -- It was about a two block walk
away, and they'd closed off the street for the event.
We watched Salsa dancers demonstrating, took in the
crowds enjoying the music, came home and pitted
enough cherries for at least two more pies, then had
dinner on the back porch, and shared Steven's fresh
baked cherry pie with friends.

I remember the chores of my childhood included
pitting cherries. It seemed like all summer
long we picked blueberries, blackberries, currants,
even wild strawberries in the little woods across the
street from our house. I wish I'd known then --
complaining of the heat and the time away from
my friends -- how blessed I was to be living with
a mother who wanted us to enjoy these treats
and the wonderful jam and pies she made.

The weather is totally unusual for July, which can be
so stifling you can't go outdoors. It was perfect
today, and is going down to 12 degrees Celsius tonight
(that's just over 53 Fahrenheit), which is typically late
August weather. Lucky for us, because we're having
a garbage strike in Toronto, and high heat could make
it untenable.

I'm showing you a Skype drawing I did today of my
friend Flora, in Nova Scotia. I'm thinking about her
because she's moving into a dream, 100 year old
farmhouse this weekend. The place is just gorgeous.

Have a loving-the-summer day.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Beautiful Saturday

Yellow lilies in sunlight on the kitchen table

This has been a wonderful day! I hope it was for
you too. I finished the baby, and delivered her
to the client. I will probably still tweak the portrait
a bit, but it is done.

It's been a warm, sunny day, and I painted all day,
then drove home after the Baby was finished, grabbed
dinner and we went to see The Proposal, which I
really enjoyed. Steven and I have had maybe three
complete nights off together in three months,
so this was lovely. The writing in the movie was
good, and it's a love story -- our favorite kind of

acrylic on canvas
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Now I'm going to dry out my brushes until tomorrow,
breathe and watch a late night movie. Big thanks
to my artist friend for telling me to follow my
heart today, and thanks to all of my friends for
being there and encouraging me. I ended up
giving the baby a Teddy so she wouldn't be
lonely and some leaves behind her (shaped like
hearts because I saw a tree like that yesterday and
I wanted to give her love and summer in the same
image). I am very fond of this baby and almost
hated to see her go.

Have a loving-your-life day.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Final decisions

acrylic canvas
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(today I worked on the dress,
hands, feet and thinking about the
background -- tomorrow I'll finish it.
The charcoal outline of a teddy
is a thought only at this point.)

This little girl is going home tomorrow. Now I am
making some final decisions. Will I put in the toy --
a teddy bear, or leave it out? I don't want the painting
to be maudlin, but it is a painting of a baby, and she
looks a bit lonely sitting in this space. I may also
put in a smaller pillow, and the suggestion of another one
on the other side.

Then there is the space behind her head. Window?
Trees? I am thinking some suggestion of greenery
would be a good thing, and I'll figure that out in the
morning. So no we're not quite there, but close.

Notebook Sketch in The Indigo Starbucks--Yorkdale
black marker on bond
5 x 7 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
Today I had a two hour wait while I got my winter
tires changed for summer ones! Funny, but I
have hardly been out of the house except to buy
art supplies and meet clients in the last two months!
Plus -- the true irony is that this was our first hot
day all summer. By this evening when I walked
the dog, chilly again.

Notebook Sketch in The Indigo Starbucks--Yorkdale
black marker on bond
5 x 7 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Here are some sketches I did in Starbucks while I waited.
I'd like to get a lot faster at that skill.

Notebook Sketch in The Indigo Starbucks--Yorkdale
black marker on bond
5 x 7 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Have a making-decisions-easily-and-happily day.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Get away from it

acrylic on canvas
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(Here's the next few baby steps (couldn't
resist -- you get a bit crazy doing this as you know).
It's been a day of adjusting the size and colour
of many things in the painting. Among other things
the dress colour changed. Now it's much better.
And now for pattern on the dress, perhaps
a toy, and the background once the hands are done.)

We all know the rule -- stand back and look at
your painting with a shrewd, appraising eye. Today
I kept standing back with the shrewd appraising
eye and getting nowhere. Went to the copy shop,
broke my baby down into parts and whapped out
big images (okay so they were bitmapping), but
then I stared and stared, I adjusted this, and
that. I set the timer and took it on in small chunks
of time.

Finally at around six I decided to take a reading break
and fell asleep. Then it hit me. Trying to do a pink
dress on a pink baby, even with a dark mauve underpainting
was not working! I dreamt the baby in yellow, then woke
up and went for a very long walk with Steven, came
back and plunged in. Now little baby is starting to look
a whole lot happier, and more like herself.
So if something is troubling you get away. I still have
to do her hands, the detailed print on her dress, and the
background, plus refine her toes, but Baby is coming
together! Hallelujah.

By the way. I think as much as being around all of
you is speeding up my painting ability, have you
noticed you're impatient with work that takes time?
Maybe I'm that way because I want to show everything
to you right away, like a little kid in kindergarten
hoping you'll put it on the fridge. Not yet my
friends. Wait a day or so.

Have a getting-away-to-see-the-light day.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A day in art

Such a lovely day today. Painting and thinking about art
all day. I love a new project, and each new painting starts
a buzz going in my head that's hard to turn off even
when I'm asleep. I see colours and think about line, and
remember the things I've read in books and on other
people's blogs. Woah!

My all time favorite painting of a baby is Mary Cassatt's
Breakfast in Bed.

That's my inspiration. I'd love to be able to paint like her.

If I have time tonight I'll post a drawing. But for now
here's Mary's picture.

Mary Cassatt
Breakfast in Bed
oil on canvas 23x29in
Huntington Library and Art Collection

Have a learning-from-the-greats day.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

My first love

acrylic on canvas
18 x 24 inches
(first steps. I've painted a ground,
drawn the baby, started to paint
her, and figure out the background design.
I think she needs a toy, so I'll ask about
that. I'm happy with her placement,
and love painting her. I have
to stay soft on her, may go
quite light with the dress, and
darken the couch. More tomorrow!)
Barbara Muir © 2009

I am painting a little baby, and you might think how could
someone who loves strong colour handle that assignment.
I even wondered myself. I've studied the baby, drawn
her picture about 10 times, thought about it, and the answer
came in a flash -- an underpainting of very soft, pale pink.
She is a very light pink colour, and is wearing a pale pink dress
in the photos I'm working from.

What you couldn't possibly know is that I've loved babies
since I was a very little girl. I was a major baby doll freak,
and almost had to have my baby doll pried from my hands
at 13 when I was starting grade nine. I more or less
adopted a couple with a beautiful baby boy on the next
block over when I was seven, and was with them as much
as possible until I moved to Toronto from Ottawa
just before my 14th birthday. When I was eleven I babysat
three of their children, and the youngest was two weeks old!

I loved babies, and that's what got me started drawing. So
as I was painting this little girl a whole slew of memories
came flooding back to me, and I realized I started out
drawing exactly this kind of picture. It's rough now, but
I'll refine it, and the whole time I'll get to stare at this
beautiful baby's face. A baby girl in a beautiful pink dress.
Heaven for me, and the seven-year-old artist child within.

The challenge of course is staying simple, and making her
alive. So I'm taking it slowly. Her dress is patterned, and
the client wants to see that. I'll figure that one out.
Meanwhile, my little baby is calling!

Have an-enjoying-the-babies-around-you day.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Picking cherries, finishing portraits, more pie please

At the market
acrylic on canvas
24 x 36 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

The painting of the lady who sells vintage quilts
and fabrics at the market is done. We may change a few
things later in the summer when I glaze it, but for now it's
gone home. Steven and I spent a celebratory hour picking
more cherries, and once they're pitted I think we have
enough for at least two more pies, probably three. I am
certainly up for some sour cherry recipes that don't involve pie
if you have them, although Steven's pies are so magnificent
that I could happily eat nothing else for a week.

The pie ready for the oven

So I'm off to get canvas. Lots more happening. It is
starting to heat up, and we are finally going to plant
our front garden. That's because I can breathe a bit
this week, and I've had time to go outside today. I
think the rest of the city says -- "well summer's over!"
the minute we plant our front garden.

The finished pie, half eaten as soon as
it's out of the oven!

Have a You-know-what?-More-Pie-please! day

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Painting and pie

The Cherry filling

Steven makes the dough

Steven trims the edges

Get to know me -- I am not even a pie eater. But there are
two kinds of pie that I love, and both celebrate a season.
My husband's cherry pie is the penultimate dessert
experience. The cherries are fresh from the tree, pitted
with determination by Sam, and are in the oven, in the
pie now. I am painting wildly to a deadline. Painting
so hard that my hands hurt and my eyes are trying
to burn holes in everything I see. I was watching my
cat wash herself on the window ledge today and I realized
that I couldn't even do that casually.

Timbah visits me in the studio to tell me that
the pie's in the oven. I was looking at
images on the computer and he climbed
up on the back of the chair.

So my contribution to this delicious prospect has been
to harvest as many cherries as a short person can pick
by standing on ladders under the tree, climbing on our garage from a
ladder held by Sam, and reaching on tiptoe from the
bench beside the garage. I have yanked that tree around
something fierce pulling on one branch to make the
next one come close enough. And when we eat this pie,
and are as fat as can be, I've picked almost four more cups for
another. Ach aye (as the Scots say). I'm part Scottish.

The other great pie is pumpkin of course, but discussions
on that will have to wait. Now back to the painting
I hope you are imagining the smell of cherry pie
baking. Too bad the blog didn't have a scratch and
sniff component. Better yet, teletransportation, so I
could send a piece to all of you, and save myself from

Have a waiting-for-pie-and-painting day

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Baby bird

The baby sparrow that
fell out of a Blue jay's
beak today
black, yellow, and mauve marker,
charcoal and pink coloured pencil on bond paper
4 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Our little backyard was the scene of high drama today
as a blue jay stole a baby sparrow from the nest under
our eaves and ate it. That would have been high drama
enough, but later in the afternoon it came back to steal
another one, and I told the dog to bark at the jay. The thief
dropped the baby all right, and there we were on the horns
of a dilemma. What to do?

My father raised a baby robin, and so did my niece. I wasn't
around for my Dad's childhood, but watching my niece
raise that bird taught me an important lesson. If you know
where the bird comes from, by all means give it back. Otherwise
be ready to feed it either ground up worms or hamburger
puree every hour or so for a couple of months.
So Sam constructed a kind of crib out of the bottom of
a box of tissues, and paper towels, put on my winter gloves,
lifted the baby into the box.

He hauled our two story ladder out of the garage, and I held
it while he scaled up with baby bird, to try and put it
back. At the top, a very long way up, baby kept trying
to get back out. It had little wings, but did not have all
of its feathers. So Sam put it farther in and climbed down.
Whew. We then read on the net that we'd done exactly
the right thing. Good.

I love blue jays, but we'll have to get the marauding one
some peanuts so it can leave the baby birds alone.

Tonight I saw the movie Demons and Angels -- action
packed, but after the incidents with the birds, it seemed tame.

My drawing is an imperfect rendering of what the bird looked
like. I didn't think to take its picture.

Have a taking-care-of-nature day.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Cherries -- Abundance exemplified

Our cherry tree this afternoon
We've almost picked enough
for a pie (4 cups pitted).

I've been painting so hard, that if it weren't for my dog
whimpering every now and then, I might not even get
outside for a whole day. What a pity that would be right
now when the cherry tree is coming into the height of
its glory. True I love it when it's covered with blooms,
but now thick with red, rosy coloured, and still not
ripe yellow cherries, it is so beautiful, I could spend the
day just feasting my eyes on it, and picking its lovely
fruit. The juice runs down your hands and arms as you
pick and its a very sensual experience.

The deep green leaves are so lush. I start thinking
about how stupid we are in this province to cover
up our farm land with cheap housing moving farther and
farther north -- when just this one little fruit tree could
probably yield enough fruit for a whole neighbourhood
to make pie, if we had more people working on it.

Then switching off my political self I imagine paintings of
the leaves and the berries, I can see some old Laura Ashley
fabric I used to own -- a print of cherries and the brilliant
green leaves and wonder where it is. But it's time to get back
to work on my current portrait until the dog hauls me
back out again.

At the Market
acrylic on canvas
24 x 36 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(Almost finished. Remember
we were having a conversation
a few days ago about overdoing detail.
I am actually not finished the detail here,
and I have work to do on the subject's
face and hands. I'll be finished
tomorrow and will show you the changes then.
This lady sells vintage quilts, and whatever
your thoughts the details just have to be there.
Now I need more detail on the face, hands,
glasses, hair, and the fabric in the front,
plus more shadow, and highlights to the
degree possible without taking away
from the design of the fabrics.)

Have a noticing-what's-beautiful day!
Happy 4th of July to all my American friends,
and Happy Birthday Marilyn! We miss you.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Christopher!

The Red Tie
18 x 24 inches
acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2005

It's my son Christopher's birthday and he's travelling so
we can't be together. But I'll be thinking about him all
day and reliving the details of the day he was born
as I have on every birthday since the first one.

He has always been a wonderful person, since day one, and
has grown up to be a funny, kind and talented young man.
Steven and I love him so much. So we're thinking about him
and wishing him well. Christopher is somewhere in South
Asia now, and I know he's having a great time.

Reading the paper after the dance
acrylic on canvas
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2006

In the past year, partially because of his travels, and teaching
in Korea, so much has happened in my life that leads
right back to him. He was the reason I started drawing
on Skype, and he was a major help for me when I was
getting ready to appear on Oprah.

Skype portrait of Christopher
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

So my paintings today are paintings of Christopher. We'll
have a birthday dinner when he's back in August. But for
now I'm just delighted with him, and as always wishing
him another wonderful year, which I know he will have
because he loves life, and people, and that means he's
learned the most important lessons.

Happy Birthday Christopher

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Late night Canada Day!

At the market
Progress Photo
(starting the details on the quilts and
acrylic on canvas
36 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Steven and I have been working so hard that our big thrill
for Canada Day was getting time to take the dog for a walk
in the local park. It was a spectacular day, and everything
looked amazing. We listened to birdsong, observed the
bulrushes in the ravine, now taller than me, and just
enjoyed the chance to talk without the phone ringing.

After supper we both got back to work, and Steven couldn't
even break to cross the street to see the fireworks our
neighbours let off in the school's baseball field. Sam and
I sauntered over for a few minutes and had fun talking to
neighbours and watching some pretty impressive dazzlers.

I'm working now on my market lady. There's a lot to do.
She is almost finished, although I still need to refine her
face, hands and scarf, then there's the quilts, which I've
just begun, the background scene, and the fabrics on the
table. I have my work cut out for me, and I'll show you
my progress.

From here on in I think it will be fun. This is not my
only project, but I'll tell you more about that another day.

Happy Canada 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!