Monday, August 31, 2009

Blogging creates an actual community

Nectarines on a pressed glass cake plate
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(new photo)

You read a lot of opinions on blogging and what
the blog world can and can't do. I am always
amazed at what it does do. The case of Julie who
wrote about Julia Child is only one example.
But real friendships are created through cyberspace.
I know it. I have met people blogging who I know
I would be delighted to meet in person, and who
would like to meet me, and many who I count as
real life friends.

This summer when we were at our schoolhouse
in Pugwash, Nova Scotia we were treated to a day of
fun with our friends Flora Doehler and Larry Knox who
moved to Bear River, Nova Scotia from Toronto, Ontario
a couple of years ago.

Flora loved a blog written by our friend, Greg
Smiley who owns The Chatterbox Café in
Pugwash with his wife, the phenomenal painter
and writer, Norene. And Greg followed Flora's
blog about how the work on the big 100 plus year-old
farmhouse she and Larry are renovating was going.
When we took Flora and Larry to the Chatterbox for
lunch, a heartwarming meeting of two bloggers took
place. Greg and Flora talked for about an hour, and
they had so much to talk about. Why? Because they
were already friends from the blog world.

Flora marvelled at Norene's art which graces
the walls of the café, and Greg met Larry, who he'd
seen frequently, whenever he had time to go to
Flora's blog, in both pictures and videos of the
progress on the house.

Me, Flora Doehler and Greg Smiley at
the Chatterbox Café in Pugwash, Nova Scotia in August

In a way blogging is a lot like having a penpal,
the difference being immediacy. Plus with Skype
and email, blogging opens the door to the
possibility of truly great friendships.

My painting tonight is of Ontario nectarines on
a pressed glass cake plate. Nectarines here are small,
and quite dark red like plums, but perfect juicy
peach coloured inside and absolutely delicious.

Have an enjoying-the-fruits-of-your-labour day.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Loved the movie

Cat on an office chair
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(New photo taken in daylight.)

The original charcoal sketch on the canvas ground
done while Fiona, our Tortie-point Siamese
cat was sleeping. I used the large
charcoal sticks my friend Noreen Smiley
in Pugwash prefers. They were great
for indicating value.

I went to see Julie & Julia last night with Steven and our
friends and loved the movie. The movie chronicles
the real life story of a woman writing a blog about cooking
through Julia Child's first cookbook, Mastering the
Art of
French Cooking. It felt a bit personal. True
the New York Times hasn't come knocking on my door,
but I have had the more than thrilling experience of
drawing Oprah in a live taping, and all of the media
interest since has been phenomenal. Let's face it,
all of that happened because of my blog. I've said this
before, but it's true.

I feel almost exactly the way the character in the movie
did -- grateful, surprised and delighted. In my case
I was encouraged to begin blogging by my dear friend
Flora Doehler in Bear River Nova Scotia, and launched
into the practice by my wonderful son, Christopher,
who is a technical wizard (I so am not). I don't think
I've ever had a melt down over the blog, but my husband
has suffered me typing the thing, and entering my
photos late at night when he's trying to sleep in the
bedroom which doubles as my office.

Like the character in the movie, I have the most
wonderful and supportive husband, and friends.
And like that character I am making new friends
through the blog world all the time. Unlike her,
I have no intention of stopping, because I am
committed to the daily blog, and trying to produce
art daily too -- which I admit gets to be a smoother
exercise as time goes on.
Toronto is being swarmed by
wasps. This is normal at this time of
year, but a bit worse because of the
garbage strike. If you put out dishes
of sugar in water, they go to the sugar water
and leave you alone. Be warned they
drink that sugar water like it's
champagne at a wedding, so you need
to replace it frequently if you want to sit outside.
Yes that's our back porch, and yes it needs
sanding and painting. We have not had time.
I hope we do before the snow flies.

Reviews from friends and family on the movie are
mixed. Check out the Vanity Fair piece on Julia
Child too, because her love story with her husband
is the stuff that movies are made of.

Have a loving-the-blog-world day.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Yes you can!

acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(I photographed this last night
inside and it didn't work.
I woke up in the middle
of the night telling myself
to go outside this morning
and do it again. This is much,
much better. Hope you like it.)

Part of the brilliance of Obama's slogan "Yes We
is that it played on the hearts and minds of
the millions of people in America, and around the
world who are part of the positive thinking
movement. You might have guessed, or read that
I have been part of that ideology for a long time.
And it's stood me in good stead, as we Scots like
to say. I've been "open and receptive to the
bounty of the universe" since Louise Hay used
that as part of her meditations, and I have
received that bounty big time.

What's hard about all this is that if your friends
believe in the same positive outlook you don't
get to whine. That's all good, but sometimes
you might want to. I was complaining today
to a friend about all I had to do, and she
demanded that I change my tune. It made me
realize, artists are lucky. The truth is that unless
they can't earn enough to eat and have shelter, they
are a privileged lot, because they have the nerve
to do, what the rest of the world would like to do.
Scratch any art buyer and just beneath the surface
is someone who would like to paint or draw "but
I can't draw a straight line." Explaining that art
isn't (for the most part) about drawing straight
lines, helps. But even better, you create something
beautiful that they feel they need, and splash your wonder
on their walls with the work you are so lucky to

Alyson Stanfield emphasizes the importance
of not whining. Most buyers want to buy
beautiful and joyous art from happy people.
So staying happy is about as important as
painting. Okay I'm working on it. It has
been a great day. Here's a little plein air
painting of my neighbours' front doors
across the street. I had fun painting it, and
like the results.

Have a feeling-just-terrific day.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The myth of upside down

Summer day
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
You know the idea. You can't figure out the angle,
the details, the way things work together? Turn the
painting upside down. One problem. It has to work
right side up again, if that's what you want. I was
painting this small portrait, and I love the mood,
colour and the small reference face I'm using, but
the final image has some problems.

But hey it's Friday night, and I've been working solid on
commissions. If I fix it after I show it to you, I promise
to show you what I did. Meanwhile I like the quirky
not-quite-rightness of the face.

Have an enjoying-distorted-reality day

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Going large

Step 3 -- a rough drawing in charcoal
charcoal on acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(this series of photos shows the very
beginnings of the work on canvas
for a large double portrait.)

Step 2
spreading the paint to make the ground

Step 1
Colour is squeezed right on the canvas
to start creating the orange ground I prefer.

I've started a big painting that I've been doing studies for
for awhile. It's a 4' x 3' painting on the vertical. Tonight
I had models in the studio playing the characters. Luckily
I have a beautiful vintage dress that is perfect for the woman,
and the man wore a jacket and tie. Few men are as formal as the
husband in this painting would have been going out on a date
a few decades ago.

The models looked great and were completely inspiring.
I did a quick sketch, so you could see how the couple
are going to be placed on the canvas. Then I'll be working
from the photos I have of the actual couple and the photos I have
of my models posing as the couple. These two had the
right attitude -- they seem pretty crazy about each
other, and the couple I'm painting were deeply in love.

I really enjoy painting love, and people in formal dress, so this
is a delightful assignment. Plus I love painting big.

Have a getting-ready-to-go-somewhere-special day.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Cherryhood

Late afternoon Cherrywood
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Davide Tonizzo who lives across the street from me
is a designer, who designed an environmentally
friendly van, that was featured in a photo op with
Obama recently. Davide calls our street the "Cherryhood"
and we trade stories about what's up in our
creative lives, and cheer one another on in emails
when something great happens.

I sat on my front porch waiting for a friend to visit,
and drew my neighbour's house (not Davide's) onto
a canvas. The rest is partially memory, and partially
fantasy. Only the shapes are more or less real. I love
painting houses from time to time. This one has been
attacked by horrible renovators, but salvaged by my
neighbour's lush and well tended garden, with its
masses of flowers, and lovely bushes and trees, which
pretty much cover up past owners' (4 or five owners back)
less attractive decisions.

Have a loving-what-flowers-can-do day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ten things I learned on vacation

Port Howe Bakery Cranberry/Orange Loaf
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(This loaf, really a very heavy cake
is worth gaining 100, even
200 pounds. It's that good. I
painted it, so I wouldn't eat it,
and gave this very plate with the two
scrumptious pieces to my son to eat. He
was suitably grateful. This little painting illustrates
lesson #7.)

1. Two weeks is too short for a vacation (especially
it it's been two years since your last one.)

2. It's hard to beat the feeling of warm sand, and
the sound of ocean waves.

3. Eat locally, especially if locally means seafood,
seafood, seafood.

4. Don't sleep on the third floor of a hotel beside
a highway (higher is quieter.)

5. If you aren't in a hurry take time to enjoy some of the
cultural highlights of the towns where you
stop for
the night.
(The Beaverbrook Art Gallery
in Frederiction, New Brunswick has an amazing
collection -- and the Beaverbrooks in England are
claiming that Lord Beaverbrook didn't mean to donate
his collection in perpetuity (forever). Fredericton is a small
and lovely town, with great art, and an art scandal
locals are delighted to discuss. (Seems the current
Beaverbrook heirs need money, and casting their
eyes on a great art collection seems like a superb
solution. This means half the paintings in the
gallery have the words "under dispute" on their

6. Collecting sea glass is a delightful way to spend your
time on the beach.
Steven and I walk along like strange
birds looking, peering in the small
pebbles that wash up in a line above the sand looking
for sea glass. The most coveted is the elusive blue,
which used to be much easier to find.

I need my glasses to search for sea glass in
the Gulf Shore pebbles and rocks. It's a
thoroughly absorbing and delightful task.

7. The Port Howe Bakery outside of Pugwash,
Nova Scotia makes baked goods so unfathomably
delectable that it's worth any amount of weight you pack on eating their goodies. (Look for the
bakery across from the large farmhouse with a red
roof that's been for sale for more than a year).

8. It's hard having good friends half way across
country when you only get to see them once a year.
(I love my Nova Scotia friends, but we can't spend
the time together that I would certainly love to have!)

9. A good holiday is like a party -- good food,
good friends,
good ice cream, good wine, long sleeps,
and more of the same
all over again, then back home
exhausted to start work.

10. You can paint on vacation, enjoy yourself, and
superb, even though you're working on art.
You can also have great conversations about art while your
mate eats lunch, or checks his email.

I might have to continue this because I learned so many
other lessons. But that's enough for now. I'm super
tired. Sam has caught a horrible cold, and Steven and
I are trying our hardest not to get it. More TV cameras
tomorrow, so I need to sleep and be cheery.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Near and far

Happy Face
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(this really doesn't look
like my friend, so I'll probably
do another one in the future. Still
I like the face that's emerged, which
has the essence of her happy energy.

My family parodies the Celine Dion song from
the movie Titanic as: "near, far, I'm driving my
car." Don't we like the song? Well it isn't that.
We don't like movies about drowning, but we
are sentimental fools, and could probably shed
a tear listening if we didn't send it up. I am the
biggest sucker in the family for the sentimental
song. A check out woman at my local supermarket
started singing today, and I had to run my buggy
out of there so I wouldn't cry. My family has a list
of tear jerkers they'll sing to get me going. I am
a completely happy person, but I sure can cry.

Near/far tonight is about painting close up, and
painting in the distance. Most of the time I like
to be closer than close. In fact I should do massive
heads, on giant canvasses, or cups of coffee so
big you could float a family of porpoises in them.

But each day when I think about what to paint,
something different attracts me. So much of what
I'm painting has to be kept from you until I can
show it to the world, so this daily painting helps me
do the larger work, which is almost always portraits.

This little painting today is based loosely on my favorite
photo of one of my friends. She hates the photo, but I
love her grin. So that's it for tonight. I am dog
tired, and had a lovely walk with some friends and our
dogs this evening. The dogs were delighted.

Have a contemplating near, far day.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Keep on loving yourself

Looking for starfish at low tide
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(Not quite finished. I need to do a little
more work on the Mom and the child,
and make the seaweed more subtle. Then it's
done. I like how absorbed the characters
are. This is my shore experience. Watching a
hermit crab, or looking for starfish is the only thing
that matters in the world. These people are
completely in the moment.)

Artists are brave people. They take part in a strange
activity, and occasionally run into people who don't
understand their artwork, but feel compelled to comment.
Some of my artist friends recently have been exposed
to what seems like mean-spirited remarks. But one friend
came up with a great solution. If someone says that your
work is ...pick the detracting comment... agree and say
that's what you were trying to do, so thank you!

How funny! The critic may switch gears in front of you,
and will think you are an amazingly positive personality, whatever
he/she thinks of your art. Alyson Stanfield has made it
clear, our goal is to sell our art, and make enough money
to do this super job for a living. We need to be role models
of how to be a joyous spirit. I have seen for myself how
acting this way, even when it takes an effort, spreads a
kind influence, and makes living as an artist, much more

So why the title today? Ultimately you have to keep loving
yourself. You are not an idiot for choosing the wrong blue,
wrong paint, canvas, subject, style, or whatever else you dislike
about yourself and your work. You are a maker of miracles,
a person who is adding something unique to the mix of
culture in the world. You are a brave and courageous
human, and everyone here thinks you are terrific. Lighten
up and go and make something. I think I'll take my own
advice. The answer is yes.

Have a yes-I-do-create-fantastic-art day.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Frenzied flowers

August's flowers
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

I have Edward Gordon to credit for helping me get
over my antipathy to green. I know I've talked about
this before, but it applies tonight, because I had
white flowers in the house I thought, and a closer
look revealed that some of them are actually almost Not a flower colour I would
ever choose intentionally, but I admit they are very
pretty. (Edward, by the way, one day (out of the more
than 1,000 that he's produced a new painting), said
that he no longer had a favorite colour. He likes every
colour.) Then I realized I hadn't given green a fair

So...the flowers were harder for me to paint than if
they'd been just about any other colour. Still they
were lovely. So many small decisions make up a
painting. Abstract/realistic, thick paint/thin paint.

Where to go with this one? I wanted thick paint, a
loose style and a feeling of joy. I worked away.
An hour ago, I took it into the kitchen where I
usually photograph my work, and said to myself --
it's fine. That's good.

Friends invited us out for a delicious dinner tonight,
and that was great fun. I hope my little green
flowers, turned mostly yellow, with red friends giving them
a hand, make you feel as happy as I've been on this
day. My son's fiancée arrived home from her year teaching
in Korea yesterday, and I saw her for a brief visit this
morning. She looks great and she and Christopher have
so many stories to tell. I can't wait to hear more of them.

Have a loving-your-wonderful-friends-and-family day.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Painting to abstraction

Low tide Gulf Shore Beach
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

It's been a exceptionally beautiful day here in Toronto.
The sky was the purest blue -- a Nova Scotia colour,
cicadas were singing, it seemed like all of the animals
were celebrating living through a storm that has
streets closed off, and really did severe damage north
of the city. One of my Greek neighbours up the street leaned into
the car as I went out to buy canvas, to tell me with a joyous
chuckle that she'd spent two months in Greece and
it was wonderful -- "They are wild!" she said, and winked.

A dear friend came and worked for me sorting
through my office work and paper debris, and I felt my feet
slowly settling on Toronto soil. Oh goodness. Everything
Steven said is true. I have moved back. But not unchanged.
Don't worry.

In the late afternoon I walked the dog slowly through
the long, golden light, and a handsome man pulled up
beside us, parked his car, and got out to join us. The
dog seemed even more thrilled than I was. Well, I
tried not to mind -- Steven is her first love. I am
working on a couple of things. The little painting
I'm showing you is a kind of abstraction of the ocean,
beach and tide pools in Nova Scotia. We are
blessed with red sand. This picture is based on a
photo taken when friends were visiting on a very hot
day. By now those colours are stamped in my heart
and I can pull them out at will.

Maybe that's how abstraction happens -- deep
familiarity. Or maybe love lets it take place.

Have a loving-the-world-to-abstraction day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Life giving lemons

Lively lemons
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

I love the shape of lemons, they are perfect somehow.
The colour is always joyous, and their curves are
compelling. I was so excited to land in California, my
first time in a long time in a southern climate and
to see lemons growing on trees!

My son taught me to put lemons out in bowls when
I'm looking for a centerpiece and don't have
flowers. (Where did he learn that?) But I've been
using them in conjunction with flowers for a few
years since he taught me to do so. That son arrived
home today from Vietnam, and the day has been a
wild swing of emotions. At the last minute I realized
he hadn't given me the flight, number or airline he
was flying on and he was in the air! Pearson airport
is huge, and I had no idea which of the vast terminal
buildings he'd land at. My friend helped
me think it through rationally this morning, and by
some perhaps intuitive logic I ended up at Terminal
1. Terminal 3, the other possibility is a complex
labyrinth of highways away from Terminal 1. So
this decision mattered.

I waited, and waited and phoned my husband, and
waited, and called my son's cell, and left a message
on my phone, and by some miracle after I'd even
had him paged at the other terminal, he arrived and
called my cell. He was on a totally different airline
than I'd imagined, and coming in from a different
city. But when I saw his face, I was so overcome with
joy that we'd somehow found each other despite
every possibility that we wouldn't.

Trip Two

But that wasn't it!!!! His luggage had been lost. We
just got home (a 45 minute drive) and he called to
learn it had been found, so we jumped back in the car
and drove back, heading into one of the worst storms
I've witnessed in southern Ontario. We just got into
the airport and were told to wait when the storm hit
with a fury. The lights in the huge building flickered,
the sky outside turned green. Then the people at
United said that the luggage had been sent to our house!
I am afraid of lightning. But this was no ordinary
thunder storm. I refused to leave the terminal, and
learned that tornadoes had hit north of the city, the
city of Toronto was under a tornado watch, and police
cars had been ordered off the road. I drove home
when it seemed the storm was calming down, and
gripped the wheel in terror the whole way.

Hey! We are all safe, dinner was excellent. We
laughed with both of our sons, and I did a little
painting of lemons to commemorate the day, and
celebrate having our family together.

Have a loving-life-and-lemons day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Paula's scones

Paula's blueberry scones
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
The quilt of influences that makes up my heritage
includes enough Scots to make the lure of the scone
almost unbearable. Each year when I go to
Nova Scotia, my dear friend Paula, whips up a
batch of blueberry, or raspberry, or sometimes
strawberry scones, and I am done for. I find
these fresh baked beauties -- half way between
bread and cake, heavy with fruit, smashing with
tea or coffee, irresistible. " Paula!," I want to say --
"I can't eat these," but they practically crawl into
my mouth, and I do.

This year, she also baked a huge batch for us
to take home on the long drive. And once again
we gobbled them -- but saved some for Sam.
Paramount in Sam's disappointment of not being
able to come to Nova Scotia this year (he needed
to work because he's in university) was not being able
to eat the many baked goods Paula offers him,
and sends back to the schoolhouse with him,
every time we stop by for tea.

I put a few on a lovely plate, and thought maybe
instead of eating them, I should paint them.
Here is the painting so far. I may go further
with the china, or I may just say. " Here they
are" -- bizarre to paint, but almost as
much fun as eating them.

I spent the morning today with a TV crew
talking about my art. They were such
delightful people that I felt completely at
ease. It was fantastic, but I can't tell you
more until I find out the details -- maybe
in a few weeks. Then I'll let you know what
to look for. Exciting!!!

Have an eating-your-favorite-goodies day.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Home and heading to bed

Our own apples
revised somewhat
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
Hi my friends,
We drove for 14 hours, for two days in a row to get home,
and we're a bit tired. It was good to be away, and even
though it's horribly hot and humid here, good to be home.
But I have a TV crew showing up here tomorrow morning,
so I have to try and get my beauty sleep. More about that
much later on when I know when the show will air. In
the meantime here's an update on the little painting of
the baby apples from our tree. I don't know if I'll do more.
A full grown one was suspended like something from a
fairy tale when we came home to this blazing heat and smog.
It is pale gold and huge, and looks like a symbol, or the
proper gift for a lord, or something like that.

We've been listening to books set in medieval times for
the whole trip, and I renewed one at the library today that
has 37 discs. When you get out of the car you hardly know
what planet you're on. So good.

Have a sleeping-to-be-creative day.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Québec encore

Looking at the St. Lawrence River
from the boardwalk in Québec City

I love Québec City, with almost as much fervour as I
love our little schoolhouse in Nova Scotia. The city is
endlessly beautiful. The lovely old buildings and
cafés are graced with the most lush flowering window
boxes I've ever seen in the world. Québecers care about
how buildings look. So the doors and trim are painted
in bright colours, and there are flowers everywhere
you look!!!

If you haven't been you must go. We visit twice
a year when we head out to Nova Scotia and when we
head back. Even fast food is beyond delicious there
because the people also care passionately about food. So what
else is there? Ah wine. I am usually there late at
night, and for breakfast, and maybe lunch, but one
day we must savour a marvellous dinner and enjoy
the wine.

Have a dreaming-of-Québec-City day.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

10 More reasons to be happy

The schoolhouse -- a perfect house shape

Okay! I've been thinking about the schoolhouse and trying
to figure out why I love it. It is really the simplest
of structures -- a child's drawing of a house in shape --
as so many houses in our area of Nova Scotia are. But
if you drive across the distance between Toronto
and Nova Scotia, to the Pugwash area, you'll realize
that many neighbourhoods along the way attempt
this shape, but in Nova Scotia they succeed. The box
part of the house, and the roof peak have to be in perfect
proportion, and that's something the fine wood builders
of the province understand and have since the
wooden ship days when they created some of the most
beautiful sailing ships in the world.

Now our schoolhouse is 100 years old. Yes. This year
she's 100. So she has seen some history. The couple
who owned it before us put on a second floor. They had a young
child, and limited time and funds, so it is just a sub
floor really. But I love the smell of the pine they used,
and the wide planks. I love looking out the thin
windows they put in the upper level and seeing the
poplars they planted as tiny saplings, fully grown trees
flickering their leaves in the salt wind. Downstairs is a wide airy
space, with a crude kitchen set up at one end, and tall
windows that let in as much light as a painter would
ever want. She is set on an acre of land, rimmed by
pine and spruce trees, some of which have crashed and
died since we've owned the place. But Steven and I planted
small trees to replace them in among the wild roses and apple
trees, that also sit on the circumference, and they are growing

We have very little furniture, the couch is an old wicker thing
that's seen better days. We plan to toss the orange leatherette
chair which is excruciatingly ugly, but haven't yet because
it's comfortable. The blackboard has notes and drawings on it
from every summer we've been there.

So that's a little bit of why I love the place.

Did I get to 10? You count for me. I can easily keep going.

Have a loving-the-place-you-live-in day.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Laundry trips

Church on the road to Amherst, Nova Scotia

The photo today is not great. It's a little church we pass on the way
to Amherst to do our laundry. A small country road runs behind
it, and I always wish we weren't in a hurry to get back to the
Sandpiper restaurant in time for supper, or out to see friends,
and could meander down that road. But Amherst is about an
hour away from Pugwash, and that's a long drive in our
country life. (In the city it's a typical drive). I took the photo
on the fly as we drove past. This is not a typical Nova Scotia
church in shape, but is in material and colour. It's clapboard
painted white.

A friend was debating what colour to paint her house, and I
answered white. Although in Lunenberg the houses are
multicoloured and just gorgeous. But I love the look of the
bright white houses and churches against the rolling green
fields, the blue of the ocean and red sand.

Footnote: Two years ago we discovered that it costs more
to sit with your laundry and put it through the machines
yourself (a half day gone), than to have it done for you
at the same facility, washed dried, folded and bagged, and
in perfect, beautiful condition! Now we go for that,
and use the time to enjoy life.

Have a loving-what-you-see day.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The thrill of the road

House on highway 6 near Truemanville, Nova Scotia

Riding along the little highways out here in Nova
Scotia we frequently see streams of people on
motorcycles. Steven explains to me that people
like motorcycles for the thrill of the road. But
the thrill of the road for me is a comfortable
car, books on CD and the occasional stop
at favorite spots along the way.

For the next couple of days I won't have time
to paint, so forgive me if I show you some
photos of what I've been looking at instead.

Have a loving-the-thrill-of-the-road day

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fun with pairs

A jumble of pears
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir 2009

Last night we played cribbage with some friends in the
schoolhouse, and of course pairs give you two points.
My husband was very helpful to my friend who'd
forgotten how to play. So there we were two couples
happily thumping down the cards and eating the
divine cakes and tarts from our local bakery. So
that when we stood up after the women triumphed
in the game we were decidedly heavier than when we
sat down.

It was a special night because there were spectacular
meteor showers. They were set to happen after
we were asleep, so looking up at the dark sky with
our guests we were delighted to see the pre-show
showers, zinging across the dark sky. Each day
out here shows us more and more miracles.

My painting today is a pun on pairs, because it
is actually a jumble of pears. I bought the pears
from a cranky woman by the side of the road
near the little town of Oxford.

Have an enjoying-your-time-as-a-pair day

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A growing friendship

Ken's flowers
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir 2009

Ken Lander of of Sunrise Greenhouses is a sweet
person. Now he's living with Maxine who is also
just wonderful. When we're in Pugwash we buy
our flowers from Ken. You probably know by
now that we're addicted to flowers. But we could
never get flowers like those Ken grows in Toronto.
His house looks out on the ocean, and he takes us
around the gardens picking amazing and unusual
blooms that he selects, picking the leaves off antique
roses, talking about his plans, and his life philosophy.
His cat Vanessa is as lovely as the gardens, with
eyes like the best amber, and a ginger and white tabby

We bought a bouquet yesterday and I was inspired to
paint this little painting.

Have a flowers-are-flourishing day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Unqualified abundance

Three in green
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir

Today we're so mesmerized and in love with this
place that we're having our normal nearing-the-end-
of-the-trip talk about moving out here. I would love
to see fields with sheep grazing, and cattle trudging home
to be milked every day. I would love to walk on the
beach by the ocean in all weather, except when the harbour
freezes. I would love to hear the squawk of seagulls, and
to paint in my huge space of a schoolhouse. I would love
to be able to drop into the Chatterbox, to gather shells,
and rocks and pieces of sea glass. To not know what's
going on in the world, to see my friends out here for
much longer than one or two conversations.

But Steven reminds me that when we drive home,
even though my heartsick homesickness for the
Maritimes lasts a couple of weeks, I am so happy to
see my house, my children, my friends and animals,
that when I'm asked if I'd move out here permanently
I sigh and say, "Maybe not...yet." He's right.
I will probably not be making any big changes this

The little painting today is of people in a crowd
in Quebec City watching a one man band. It
was quite the sight. The man had a drum strapped
to his back, and sang Paul Simon songs with a thick
French accent -- delightful.

Have an overcome-with-love-for-where-you-are day.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Travelling shots

At the bus stop in the market
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir 2009

Here's a little painting of a woman at a bus stop in
the market in Ottawa. I like the fact that her
hair is blowing over her face. I also like the
people too tired to stand at the bus stop sitting
down on the steps of a store waiting, while the
mom drinks her coffee.

Have a loving the place you travel to day.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ocean thoughts

On the red sand
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir 2009

(I could not get the colour right in this photo --
it's much better.)

Not a lot to say today. It's Sunday. We had a wonderful dinner
with friends last night, and today are going to visit Ian
and Marilyn in Springhill, home of Canada's songbird,
Ann Murray. Both Ian and Marilyn are folk artists.
Ian does everything from ocean scenes featuring elaborate
tall ships, to quirky carvings of birds. Marilyn loves painting
cats, flowers and lots and lots of pointillist dots on bright
backgrounds. There's always plenty to see at their house,
and no doubt a rousing set of cribbage games.

Have a taking-it-easy-it's-Sunday day

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Bright dreams

Another spoon please
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir 2009

Hi everyone. I don't mean to bother you with descriptions
of our life. Today's painting is an exercise in dreaming.
I love the idea of sitting in a cafe in the morningin Italy
having a cappuccino, or two. I think I should call the painting
"another spoon please?" Maybe I will. In fact we are
living a perfect life, and I wish we had longer, because
I've never felt more inspired by the landscape and
people than I do this year. But the nights already
are a bit chilly, and hinting at fall, and that means
there's a lot of work to do when we get home, which
is great.

Tonight we're having supper with our wonderful
friends Diane and Gary, who have a beautiful
cottage overlooking the beach where we walk every
day. We met through our dogs, and Diane's an
artist, and Gary a writer. Wow! We feel blessed
beyond compare.

See you soon.

Have a dancing-on-Saturday-night day.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Holiday decisions

The Back Door
watercolour on arches watercolour paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir 2009

Hi everyone. It's time to make a major holiday decision.
Here it is. It's raining, so do we go to the beach now
that we've finished lunch at a wonderful cafe, the
Chatterbox, in Pugwash, or go for a drive somewhere, and where
will we have dinner, at home, or at the Sandpiper?

Then when will I paint --now while it rains, or
later when we're home again. I tell you the pressure
to follow through on these nagging problems is
pure agony.

I think I'll finish my ice tea and head out.

Wish you were here.

Have a making-the-right-decisions day.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Still Painting -- despite blogging issues

Nova Scotia Flowers
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir 2009

So...Sorry I didn't have any images for the past few days.
I've been having a serious problem uploading both my
pictures and my blog.

This is a great pity because I'm painting every day,
and the scenery here is something I'd love to share with
you. Plus everyone I know out here is either an artist,
or a writer. It's an idyllic existence.

When we first started coming out here we didn't have
a phone, cell phones looked like books, and we still
don't have TV. Thank goodness. But times have
changed in 14 years and so have we. The blog must
go on.

Have an appreciating-what-you-have day.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The art of conversation and thank you Flora

One of the many things you notice about city versus
country life, and probably one of the main reasons
city people need beaches, warmth and complete
escapes from time to time is the pace. We are so
used to short form. Twitter was invented for us because
we can fit in a bunch of messages to all the people
we need to talk to without spending a long time
crafting our messages.

Where our schoolhouse is near Pugwash is a whole
different situation. Everyone who talks to you about
anything, who helps you, meets you, everyone
enjoys conversation. This means for someone like
me used to making at least part of my living by
talking, this is paradise. Days wash by in a sea
of superb food and talk. We make friends effortlessly
and go home full of plans to be here more often, maybe
forever. It takes us three weeks to unwind out
of this joy and get 100% into that one.

A big thank you to Flora for publishing my blog
for me yesterday when we couldn't get computer

Have a delighting-in-conversation day.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Heading home, always home

They say if you don't have a home in your heart
you will never feel at home. Crossing this country
my eyes feel constantly at home. God this is
a fantastically gorgeous land. In a couple of
days I'll have time to show you what I've seen --
meanwhile just shout out wow, over and over
like you mean it, and you'll get the feeling. If you've
never done the drive from Quebec to Nova Scotia,
you are missing some serious beauty. Landscape
artists get out here!

I drew a little drawing last night in a diner.
I hope you're painting and drawing like fury.
Got to go haul water, and stoke that fire. Kidding.
It's hot today, but won't be kidding tonight when the
cold evening temperatures hit. Figuring out how
to paint with limited water is the next challenge.
Not too bad.

And then of course there's dinner.

Have an enjoying the joys of the day day.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The importance of light

The Promise
acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(I'm posting this again because it has
not ever been shown properly here.)

One of the things I really enjoy about our blogging community
is the way we teach one another how to do things. This
painting is going to be my catalogue work in the Florence
Biennale in December, and the photo I sent in does not do the work
justice. My bad as they say. The other day after reading
peoples' comments on how their photos did not compliment
their work, I took this painting outside to photograph it. It
was a brilliant, sunny day and I propped it up in the shade and
took the shots. Wow! I thought, this is an even better painting
than I knew!

Now come on, you've got to forgive me. Sometimes we have
to enjoy a tiny moment of pride. And I had my fall last year with
the broken ankle if you remember. I do absolutely love this painting,
because it does everything I'd like to accomplish all the time. I love
the colour (which I realized I'd never seen properly because she
was a winter creation, and my house, even with great lighting
cannot compete with a summer's day for light.) So I'm giving her to
you again.

Thanks for all that you're teaching me. It's impossible to
photograph work outside in the winter, or even in the fall and
spring when wind might whip a bigger work like this around
like a sail. But on the perfect summer day, I'll be taking more
of my work out.

Have an enjoying-your-work-in-good-light day.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Blogging Light

Andrew and Lina's dog Tao -- the cutest
Andrew is my brother and Lina, my sister (in law)

Hi everyone. Listened to a fantastic Blues show on CBC on
Saturday night out of Edmonton, Alberta. Try and get it
by googling CBC on Saturday nights. We were driving to
Ottawa and happy as could be.

Today it's Quebec City -- easily one of the most beautiful
cities in the country. So are we happy. Yes. Feel great.

Have a super-going-where-you-want-to day.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The school of blog

Steven and our student, Sam at the Thai restaurant
black marker on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(Sam was drinking a beer, and the hand
was blurry. He looks serious the way
many students do when a new school
year is almost here.)
Whenever August rolls around I start to think about my
students and look forward to seeing their faces again.
There are the new ones some of who will regard my enthusiasm
with suspicion, and be reluctant to listen to what
I have to say for a week or two, and the ones from
previous semesters, most of who will run up to me
and ask for a hug and shout out my name in the
parking lot and hallways. The most exciting thing
is hearing their success stories.

One former student of mine works in a nearby store
and always hugs me when I see him in the food aisles.
He finished his college work and is working two
jobs saving to go to university. He wants to be a social
worker for seniors and is the nicest young man.

Speaking of stores, all across the country now, and
probably all across the continent stores are packed
with back to school stuff -- the lined paper that goes
into the binders, cool calculators and back to school

My students have taught me that the most important
thing I can tell the student in my house is that I love
him and believe in him. School -- especially post-secondary
school is such a privilege, that everyone of us who
gets to participate in any way, whether as a student,
teacher, or parent footing the bill, or administrator,
or government giving out grants -- we are lucky.
In many countries not everyone gets to have the
experience. And that experience is enriching beyond

How does this relate to art? I hold the words, gestures,
images and philosophy of every excellent teacher I
ever encountered in my mind. I am still inspired,
directed, comforted, encouraged and moved by
what they taught me years after my courses with
them. So they actually have a huge impact on my
art and thinking -- and are a chorus working along
with my major teachers now -- the school of blog.

Have an enjoying-learning-and-teaching 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!