Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hey Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween Pumpkin

Today is my birthday, my second birthday on the blog.
What a super year this has been, and I can only hope
the coming year will be even better (hard to imagine!).
My day started off with breakfast in bed, French toast
with fruit artfully designed on it, a small white pitcher
of Canadian Maple syrup, a little Japanese anemone
(there are still a few left in a tiny glass) and coffee served
by my sweet husband, Steven. Yum.

Our pumpkins lined up for me for a group
shot. They were adorable.

My family started calling, my mother, sister, brother and
brother to sing Happy Birthday to me. Friends called
from across the country, email cards started coming in.
My son at university emailed me Happy Birthday and I
phoned him to hear him sing. My husband went out and
came home with armloads of my favorite peach pink
gorgeous roses. My sister turned up looking like a fashion
model carrying a pile of wonderful presents.

Stop I need to catch my breath. Then we carved the pumpkins.
Children came to the door as they always do, and we
handed out candy as if our lives depended on it. I love
seeing the kids, little kids dressed as bunnies and lions, and
princesses and older kids as Goths, Vampires, characters from
movies. Then the 12 and 13-year-olds who don't dress up
at all and just stand at the door not knowing what to say.

Halloween candy waits for Trick or Treaters
This year's costumes were fantastic

My son and his fiancée Megan came over for dinner and
helped hand out the candy. My mother-in-law called from
Ottawa. My family in California called to sing to me. More
presents arrived until I started to feel like the Queen of Canada
or something. Then friends dropped by and we had champagne
-- Veuve Cliquot -- what seemed like gallons of it, or should I say
flagons, delicious chocolate cake and coffee. I am still flying high
on my broomstick. Amazing. Before I settle down to watch a
movie, my art tonight is just the pumpkins. I did draw them
and carve one, and Steven cut out my designs on the others.
I do not like any of the scary parts of Halloween, but I love the
chocolate, presents, and children. And friends. And champagne.

Have a loving-each-new-year day.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Watch me on HGTV on Tuesday, November 10!

Portrait of a designer
charcoal on watercolour paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Hi everyone,

In case I forget to tell you in the rush of school starting again
and all the painting work I have to do in the next few
weeks, I will be the featured artist on HGTV's Pure
Design on Tuesday, November the 10th at 9 p.m.
The show's host Samantha Pynn will come to my studio
to talk about a painting I did for a room featured
on the segment. I'll tell you more about the whole
delightful experience, after it airs. I have no idea
how long the piece about me will be, (probably
a minute or two at most) because it fits into the
entire show, which is about decorating a room
in a young couple's house.

And of course I can't post the painting, until after
the show has aired. Let me just say that I'm really
pleased with the result, and it was a lot of fun. So
program this into your iCal please.

Today's charcoal sketch is of my neighbour
Davide Tonizzo, who lives across the street.
It isn't a completely faithful sketch of Davide,
who I think has more character than this portrays,
but I still like the drawing. You can watch Davide's
new videos about his fabulous designs for
everything from trucks, to furniture, even
tableware by clicking the link on his name.
We joke a lot about the Cherryhooders, because
there are quite a few creative people on our street.

Have a very Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Down the lane

Autumn in the alleyway
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

The little painting I'm working on tonight is a scene
of the lane way my dog and I turn into, just before we
cross the main road and walk to the park
entrance. I've turned down this alleyway hundreds
of times, and I always love the look of the colours.
The sheds and garages, especially the older ones,
without the zippy automatic remote doors, are painted
in bright contrasting colours, and at the end of the lane
a huge spectacular maple dominates the view in all
seasons. I turn the corner and the view hits me.
I'm trying to use a bigger brush and stay loose like
my friend Liza Hirst suggested.

Have a loving-where-you-live day.

Quick Update more to follow

Dear blog friends,

Thanks to Cold FX I am all better today! There is so much
talk of sickness in this city, that you could get sick
just from hearing it. I am fine. I'll post again
later tonight after I get some artwork done. In the meantime
here's where I'll be -- maybe one day I'll paint this.

Trees in my local park

Have a guess-what-I'm-fine day.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The happiness conundrum

Field poppies. My all time favorite flower in a jumble of weeds.
(I am fighting off a cold/flu -- not H1N1 today and
only got out of bed to get Cold FX and write
the blog -- more painting tomorrow when I'll feel
much better no doubt. My apologies.)

I teach a course that tries to help students figure out
who they are, and what they want out of life. Naturally
our primary goal is helping students to improve
their marks -- the program succeeds on that front.
But we also want them to learn how to be happy.
This is not a mindless, smiley face, emoticon
happiness, but the rich vein of choices that inspires
a life with joy at its core.

There's a lot of discussion about the folly of pursuing
happiness now, but I continue to be on the side
of up. Positive thinking. Trying to stay sane and
to enjoy life. Some people suggest that this point
of view imposes cheer on the cheerless -- walks into
a room of deservedly sad people and asks for
smiles. Maybe I am doing that at school, but I
don't think so.

My thinking is that finding out what makes you happy,
and doing it with all of your brain power, talent and
energy leads to a deep sense of satisfaction, and I
want every kid I teach to have that option. Sometimes
that may mean giving up the sadness that lurks in
the cracks in the sidewalk, that comes to us from
frightening events all over the world, that is just
one side of the facts of our existence here. We can't
all be happy, we can't always be happy, but we
can try to figure out what makes us enjoy life, and
spread that enthusiasm. It's like a hymn I used to have to sing at
Sunday school. Forgive me because I am no longer
following a religion, but the hymn was about light,
something I've always enjoyed, and the message
was something to do with the positive effect we can
have -- as painters I think this is especially true --
"you in your small corner, and I in mine."

As a side note, Beyond The Fringe, a British
Comedy Group my parents loved, did a very
funny bit about a minister and a banal sermon
that rambled on and... If you want to hear the
routine, hit the link. (Spoiler alert. This bit
is sound only with still photos -- there was
a time before video -- shocking as that may be!)

Have a finding-your-own-route-to-happiness day

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Working on a change in direction

At the dance in the moonlight
acrylic on canvas
36 inches x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Here's a photo of one of the paintings I'm working
on right now. It's very close to finished. And that
has been a process involving almost miraculous
faith and love, and constancy on my part and
the client's. The man in the couple has changed
massively since you last saw him. The face
was lovely, but it was the wrong face. This
face has been approved, and I am just refining
the face, adding in some detail, and moonlight
on the water.

The photo does not do the work justice because
I need to photograph it outside. I'll do that
tomorrow, and hope to finish it up. When I
do I'll show you the final image. This is a very
large painting, done exclusively from very small
snapshot references. I am feeling very happy
with the result at this point. When I finish
the water in the background you will be amazed.

Have a loving-the-work-you're-doing day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

MIssing my boys

Sketch, Sam and me
marker on bond
Barbara Muir

I worked on a little drawing tonight, but I am powerfully
distracted because I'm putting documents together
for an international show I'm taking part in and I didn't
finish it. It's my first time shipping large works, and filling
in customs forms, and so on for my work. The task seems
endless and in fact I've been working on it on and off for
more than a month! So...tomorrow a big chunk of it will
be completed and I'll feel like I can breathe. It's all
learning, and it will be really exciting when it comes

My son went back to school today, and I was working
hard when he left. I know I'll see him soon, but I
miss him, and our cat Timbah is sitting in a box
looking a bit bereft. Where is Sam?

Timbah in the box
waiting for Sam to play a game.
Sam's gone back to university
out of town.

Tonight's drawing is a little partly done sketch I found
of Sam and me in front of our schoolhouse.
Tradition has it that we take photographs in front
of the door before we leave each summer. Those
photos over the years show a progression of the
boys growing up. I always cry when one of the boys
leaves to go away. I know I'm fine, but there's a catch
in my throat when we say goodbye. Today I had to
get right back to work.

Have a-loving-your-family-big-time day.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fall visual feast

My son is home from university and we took the
opportunity to take a little country walk to see
the leaves. There will be no painting today -- it's a
family day all day. Some of my friends from the balmy south,
who don't see fall colours have been asking me to put some
photos on the blog.


Steven, Sam, Zoey and I took a little
walk in an old growth forest to
see the last of the autumn leaves

Zoey, Steven and Sam walk along the path

Zoey and I played hide and seek in this corn field.
She thought that was hilariously funny
(You do know that dogs have a great
sense of humour don't you?)

Then we went home, tired and happy.

Have an enjoying the beauty all around you day.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cake art and learning

Sam's birthday cake portrait
from Grade 8
icing on cake
Barbara Muir
The image tonight is of a birthday cake I made
for Sam's 13th birthday. I found this photo
when I was cleaning out my bookshelves in the
office yesterday. Many years later I see that even
in icing I did have a likeness of my boy then. True the
smarties forming the eyes seem to have slipped, and
his skin never had so much texture. It was the last of
his cakes decorated by me. That had been quite the tradition for
his 'school' cakes, and these bits of simple art
in icing were a big hit. Our secret in the early
days, was cake mix cakes, which I cut into the shapes
of Pokemon, or the current superhero. But
when the call came for Harry Potter flying on his
broom stick I graduated to slab cakes from the
excellent bakery at the local supermarket. Un-iced
these were the ideal canvas for icing art, and
required no baking.

Sam took this cake to school in Grade 8, and his
teacher made a cute remark about who would
want the lips. These were the kind of comments
that made us (Sam's parents) find the teacher
difficult to talk to. But the kids loved that guy,
and one of my son's friends said tonight that
he had changed her life. 13-year-olds are not
always easy to decipher, and clearly this teacher
got through to my son and his friend in a lasting
way. His friend said he was one of two teachers
who made a big difference.

Later tonight another friend and I discussed
what helps us to learn. In art I've noticed that
encouragement makes me flourish. That has
been the delight of the blog world for me -- the
encouragement of wonderful painters, and the
stimulating exchange of ideas. But
some teachers feel that it's better to prevent artists
from thinking that art's an easy ride. You know
develop your mettle, get a thick skin, pull up your socks.
And be realistic about how many artists ever "make it."
Does that work?

Or are all the artists I know who hide in their houses, and
are afraid even to doodle when they're on hold on
the phone, people who were squished by an over
eager fan from the "dash-your-hopes" school of
art? I suspect that's at least partially the case.
My point? Thanks to everyone who comments on
my work when they can, and who leaves me to
figure it out when they can't. Not a new theme
I realize, but still important.

Have a coddling-your-inner-artist day.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Keep on painting

Starlight II
acrylic on canvas
12 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
I wish I'd known what I know now when I was younger.
How many times do we think that in one day? What
I know now is that when times are tough, when the
world is sad, when hard things happen, keep painting.
It was a very sad beginning to the day today, with Mitch's
funeral. But it was also beautiful in a way. The rabbi didn't
pretend it was okay for a very young man with two
young daughters to die. He said it straight. No one
could give a good explanation about why a great
young man like Mitch should get cancer.

And at the grave site, there was no fake grass, just
a simple coffin lowered into the cold, wet mud, and
his wife and daughters shoveling in the first earth.
It was raining and freezing cold today. Tonight I
decided to work on a painting that has challenged me
for a couple of years, and I think I'm getting a lot
closer. This is what I do. Or one of the things I do,
and maybe one of the more important ones. I
paint. I don't mean to be morbid, and if you read
my blog consistently, you know I'm not. But looking
into that cold wet hole, and watching the mourners
holding their umbrellas and shoveling the dirt in
over Mitch was sobering. It is time to get on with
it. I am not immediate family, or even in the close
circle of friends Mitch had, I am one of the 400
friends in that synagogue, and his message would
be the same -- love your family and friends, and
do the thing you do.

Have an honouring-what-you-do day.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Filled with memories

Fiona in the Forget-me-nots
marker on bond paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

We heard yesterday that a friend of ours, Mitchell Goldbloom,
had lost his brave fight against cancer. We met Mitch almost
10 years ago when our dogs were puppies and a bunch
of us walked together in the park. He was a kind, funny
and loving young man, and it was exciting for us when his
wife, Dana was pregnant with their first daughter, Thalia
who is eight years old. Mitch was a doting father. With
the birth of their second daughter, Jordon, their family
was complete. Mitch and Dana were especially close to my
friend, Josephine and often he and Dana would be at
Josephine's parties with the two little girls in their party
dresses. Mitch absolutely enjoyed every minute he was
with those little girls. The couple were successful, thriving,
happy with their careers, Mitchell as a lawyer, and Dana
as a doctor, and they loved one another deeply.

My mind is filled with bits and pieces of memory tonight.
I've tried unsuccessfully all night to draw Mitch's portrait.
Instead I'm putting in a quick sketch of my cat, Fiona out
in the garden last spring.

Have a loving-your-family day.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

And it was late in the evening and all the music seeping through

My great love
black marker on bond
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

The title is a line from a Paul Simon song. My son and
I were discussing the lyrics tonight and how super
the writing is. It was a wonderful day today because
I got enough sleep last night to get through 10 hours
at school, and 13 hours between getting up and getting home. Whew.
Outside it was warm and raining in the misty fall
day. Inside my classes were great -- and my teacher
friends predictably funny and engaging in the
break between the morning and afternoon courses.

My drawing tonight is of one of my all time perfect
models. In fact I liked drawing him so much, that
I ended up marrying him. So I've been lucky. I get
to stare at him and take in his beauty whenever I want.

Have an enjoying-every-minute-with-the-people-you-love day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fast talk

Tonight's art group sketch
acrylic on canvas
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(I intended to put some colour over
the black, but I don't have time.)

I have to be quick tonight because I'm running to
get to bed on time for getting up very early
Wednesday when I have a 9 hour day at school.
Now that is a little tiring.
Luckily every hysterically funny teacher I know
will be there tomorrow. So I also have to rest
up so I can hold my own in the break.

A whole lot of painting is going on behind the
blog scene. I can't always show you my commissions
until they're done, so please be patient.

Tonight's painting is a little portrait I did in class.
I went to class! So great to see everyone, but a lot
of discussion about being tidy, and putting
furniture in order. It seems like I've been away
too long. (You know I do not have an orderly
influence on my friends there.) So nice to
see everyone's wonderful work, and the model
was lovely. I wish I'd had more time.

Have a having-the-time-you-need day.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Having a talk

Mother and daughter chat
black marker on bond
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Just a quick sketch tonight of my friend having a
chat with her daughter at our kitchen table. Our
table is always so crammed with candles (we eat
by candlelight every night as soon as it gets so
cold that we have to eat inside), flowers, Victorian
sugar bowls, and fruit, that you don't ever have
to deliberately set up a still life.

I always admired the deliberate way my friend would
instruct her daughter. I've known the pair since the girl
was five or six and in my son's grade one class, and feel like
an honorary aunt, so I've watched them discuss
ideas and problems many times. My friend is one
of the best debaters I know. With my own children
I tended to just blunder into whatever issues need
to be covered, but my friend was more strategic, and
infinitely more logical. Both styles seem to work out.
Children grow up. Mine are great young men, hers
is a lovely, creative and kind young woman.

Have a loving-the-chats-with-your-children day.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Calm down

black marker on bond
10 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

I've been having one of those delicious days when
I throw out useless junk messing up my desk,
my studio and my house. I could use about three
months of similar effort, but when I chuck a
shirt I've disliked since I bought it into the
Salvation Army box, or shuffled a few pounds of
paper off my desk into the recycle bin, I feel
renewed. Now I can see my desk, my cupboard
is a bit less clogged and I am calming down.

When I'm working on a painting that presents
one or two challenges, and many paintings do --
there's a parallel in my mental sorting. My
biggest job, and maybe that's true of most of
us, is to let myself calm down, and realize, not
only that I can do what needs to be done, but
that I've solved similar problems hundreds of
times before.

Talking to that sometimes shy inner artist, and
conning her back to the canvas requires skill and
diplomacy. My friends in the art world certainly
help. Their constant reassurance buoys me up
when I feel overwhelmed. As soon as I decide
that it's easy, and there's no problem, that
becomes true. Besides it's a glorious day. I've
just solved some nagging painting issues, and
it's time to calm down and get back to work.
See you.

The model today is a young woman I've painted
many times. I love how she can adopt a mood
in a minute, and understands exactly what I'm
trying to do. She has posed for several of the
paintings in my Dance series, and is the model
for my two Poem paintings.

Have a feeling-in-charge-and-serene day.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Free minutes

Bright day
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

It's true my life is busy. My house needs a cleaning
specialist. All that aside I find the time to paint.
My husband and I were going to watch a late movie.
We've had a lovely evening out to dinner with friends,
and were just going to settle down with the cats and the
dog to watch some TV, then go to bed. Steven said
you started painting so I thought you didn't want to
watch a movie. I said every time you turn your back
I'm painting. That's what I do.

I think that's the advantage of a home studio. When no
one needs me, or while the rice cooks, or while the kettle
boils, or the coffee drips into the cup, I can be painting.
Since teaching time management -- hysterically funny
given my strong desire to loll with a good book -- I've
realized that these minutes here and there add up.
That doesn't mean I don't spend concentrated time
painting, it means that in between everything else,
I'm also painting. So Steven turned his back on me in
the studio, and I thought he was staring at a painting,
but he was teasing me. I didn't get it, because I'd
started painting again. What a hoot! I was both kidding
and serious. And his experiment proved it. He turned his
back, and what do you know, I was at it again. It seems to be
true these days. Painting is my life.

Many of my artist friends are trying to paint in a more
relaxed, loose style. This little painting tonight is my
attempt to loosen up.

Have a using-each-free-minute day.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Pie with a passion

Let them eat blueberry pie
charcoal on manila paper
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

My blueberry pie drawing may not win at any
fall fairs, but I'll tell you why it's here. Soon
I hope I'll do a little painting of this same delicious
piece of pie.

Steven and I were having dinner at our friends'
house. All of a sudden a perfect piece of blueberry
pie was placed in front of me on a strangely square,
turquoise plate, with a starkly modern, stainless steel
fork. The rounded cornered, square plate in turquoise blue
sang on a brilliant red corded place mat.
In other words homemade pie gone urbane --
modern. I didn't want to eat it (the point of the pie
from the host's point of view) until I photographed

My friends were shocked, but got a camera, and
indulged me. The shots didn't work.
Days passed and I moved on to other baked goods.
Then my friends took more photos of a subsequent pie,
and those were clear and true, just waiting for this moment.

I almost forgot. The pie our friend David baked was
absolutely scrumptious. Steven and David started
discussing pie recipes, and how to make a perfect
crust, and we two women looked on with great pride
in, and affection for our men.

This year I've become more obsessed with painting and
drawing than I've ever been. I blame my
blogger friends for consuming me with thoughts
of art -- theirs and mine. Yet what a great obsession.

Have an have-your-pie-and-draw-it-too day

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The source of inspiration

acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Yesterday's couch drawing and my subsequent discovery
of Greg Nordoff's fine couch painting (see the link in
yesterday's blog to his current work), hinted at a a subconscious
wish that I fulfilled today. Sometimes the workload both
in painting and teaching can be overwhelming. I'm not
superwoman. The engine that powers me is pretty simple.
Pleasure. When I feel too rushed, or too stretched, I retreat.

So I spent the day allowing myself to relax between my
chores. I read for awhile, answered calls, wrote emails,
and read the paper. Only when I was feeling completely
refreshed did I get down to painting and planning my
workload for the next few days. Then as a stroke of
genius I decided to ask Steven to go to an early movie
with me, and we saw The Informant with Matt Damon,
a delightful film.

The little painting today is of a lovely young woman, my
friend's daughter. She is dramatic, funny, beautiful and
one of the liveliest girls I've ever met. I took to her
instantly and one day hope to do a full portrait when
she has a day or two of free time.

Japanese Anemones in the garden

I also took a quick photo of my gorgeous Japanese anemones
in the garden because the temperature is hovering around
zero Celsius, and even these brave beauties will not be able
to survive the colder temperatures we're experiencing
for long. I will be incredibly sad to see them go.

Have a taking-time-out-to-let-yourself-breathe day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Couch art

The comfy couch
charcoal on manila paper
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

The staff at the art store where I buy my supplies are a delight --
witty, informed, artists, all working the art store job to support
their art. One of the super artists in there, Greg Nordoff,
is classically trained, and we always talk to one another with
great understanding and humorous sarcasm. I love it when I
see him behind the counter, because I know he's going to take
my incredible anxiety about some major project, and make me
laugh about it.

Greg can draw or paint the human form like Leonardo da Vinci,
so I had to laugh when we had a discussion about galleries
wanting "couch" size art. That would be 36" x 48". Recently as
a joke Greg painted a couch on a couch size canvas. "It was
really good," he says. "But it was a joke too in a way."
"Brilliant!" I said. And I went home and drew my studio couch for you.
I don't think I'll start doing couch paintings, and I'd be delighted
to have my art show up over the couch -- as it does -- in many
art lovers' houses. But I still like Greg's humour. And I was
just wondering what to paint or draw, when this idea popped
into my thoughtscape and I thoroughly enjoyed drawing my couch.
By the way this couch (sofa) was a garage sale find. The quality is great
under the sagging slip covers my animals do their best to
destroy. And it's comfortable. What more could you ask for?

Have a loving-the-couch-your-with day

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A whole lot of marking going on

A boy and his dog
acrylic on canvas
24 x 30
Barbara Muir
Today I just had to catch up on my marking,
to the detriment of any possibility of painting.
Never mind -- a wide avenue of painting hours
opens up now for about a week so it was worth
my teaching/marking stint today.

Here's a portrait commission from a few years
ago which I especially like. I may have shown it
to you before. But it makes me happy that it lives
in a friend's house nearby.

Have a catching-up-and-finding-time-to-create day.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Looking back

Small girl
pastel and conté on bond paper
Barbara Muir
Thanksgiving is a time for reflection. I've spent the day reading
student papers, and cleaning up the house. Tonight I worked
on a painting I started a couple of years ago, but could
not get it to come together. In a musky drawer in the basement I found
this pastel and conté drawing I did in university. I liked the mood.
Plus I was happy to see how well I could draw back then. It seems
fitting when you're looking back over the year to give thanks
for all that happened, to look back on your life too and give thanks
for the fine gifts you've been blessed with in terms of health
and happiness. In my case making art has always been a pleasure,
and I'm grateful to my parents for encouraging me to go to art

Have a reflecting-on-past-and-present-pleasures day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Family feast

The pond behind the Brickworks Market yesterday

Tonight we had our Thanksgiving dinner with our family --
Christopher and Megan, and Sam and his girlfriend, Nata.
On the menu? Turkey with stuffing, roast potatoes with
rosemary, cranberry jelly, gravy, broccoli, green salad
and Steven's homemade pumpkin pie. To drink? White
wine, champagne and coffee with the pie.

Fantastic. Then we watched a wonderful documentary
on crows, and I understood more about why I love those
birds. They are as intelligent as apes apparently, and
that doesn't surprise me. But what the fact that they
can even use tools they make themselves is astounding.

All in all it was a perfect day and a perfect evening. I
didn't do a painting, because my studio is our former
dining room, and tonight the room reverted. So instead
I'm showing you a photo of the pond behind the Brickworks
Farmers' market yesterday. It's a little bit of nature in the
middle of a bustling city. The weather has become very cold

I talked to a friend in Arizona today and it's 80 degrees
Fahrenheit there, and 39 degrees here, that's 4 Celsius,
and that's cold. Zero Celsius is freezing.

That my friends is cold. Time to sit around the dining
room table sharing warm food, and funny stories. Hurray
for Canadian Thanksgiving. It's over now in our family,
and tomorrow we'll all try to catch up on our work. The
studio will take off its fancy dress, and get back to work.
So will I. But first to sleep in -- No eight o'clock
class tomorrow -- ahh, what luxury.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving Day tomorrow.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Being Thankful

Flowers for Thanksgiving
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

I feel sorry for the author Barbara Ehrenreich who was interviewed in
today's Globe and Mail about her views on optimism. She thinks the push
for being positive leads to an unbalanced world. In fact she blames
the positive thinking movement for everything including the stock
market crash. I'm well aware that trying to look on the bright side
can rub people the wrong way. They think you're happy because
you're flaky, or in denial, or don't care about the world's problems.
Nothing could be farther from the truth. Some of the bravest people I know smile
as much as possible, despite terrible hardships -- disease,
loss of work, money worries, breakups. This doesn't mean
they don't cry too, or suffer, or that they pretend to be happy
just to be accepted in the world. They believe, and rightly so, that if
they can try to be happy for a few moments a day in the face of
adversity, they may feel better, and that if they feel better it will help
the people around them who are suffering too.

Canadian Thanksgiving is about gratitude for a plentiful
harvest. I like it because it's about food and sharing, not
a specific religion, so everyone can celebrate it. The day
provides an occasion for reflection on what we have to be
thankful for. I owe all my happiness to the people in my
life who have taught me to sing and dance even when life
is hard, and to hold onto the bright light of friendship
and creativity. I'm over the top grateful for
a simply wonderful year. I've met so many fabulous
artists, and learned things about painting that I couldn't have
imagined a year ago. On top of that I am blessed with kind
friends, a happy home, a loving husband, and great kids.

Working on being more positive is not the opposite of
thought. Being happy, I've realized, takes infinite courage.
Spreading happiness is a perfectly laudable goal from my
point of view, and makes life more enjoyable, and suffering
less painful. I know because my blog friends lift my spirits
every day.

My painting today is of the strangely exotic flowers I bought
from PegAn at the market today. It's getting cold, so
garden flowers are becoming scarce. I have never grown, or
purchased many of the flowers in today's bouquet. But I turned
a spotlight on the flowers and painted them against the
dark backdrop. They look like the expensive crewel work
shawl my friend couldn't afford to buy this week.

Have a great Canadian Thanksgiving

Friday, October 9, 2009

Your Maritime painter

Sun on the schoolhouse
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

What a nice surprise I had when I arrived home
tonight, and it seemed somehow fitting. Last
week one of my classes read Garrison Keillor's
essay How to Write a Personal Letter. Keillor
describes the letter as, "such a sweet gift."
There in my email mailbox was a letter from my
friend Flora that made me so happy -- a "sweet
gift" indeed.

Apparently the CBC Maritime Noon show lists me
on their Twitter site as a Maritime artist from Pugwash.
Yippee. In honour of that designation I'm posting a
folk art type painting of my little schoolhouse in
Pugwash, and thinking about it tonight. The
orange slash at the bottom is the highway, (more of a
pink colour in reality -- but gets its colour from
the local red sand) which is that close to the schoolhouse
Schoolhouses were built very close to the road). The brown
thing sticking up on the left is a surveyor's benchmark. Some of
the tall pines in the background (I might make them
a bit darker) have been felled by storms. But tonight
my heart is there, and I couldn't be prouder than to
be acknowledged as the Maritime painter who
painted this.

Have an acknowledging-your-love-of-the-sea day.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Aerial perspective

October's garden anemones
in a glass vase
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

I know that aerial perspective isn't what I really want to talk
about here. I'm thinking of the crow's point of view, as
it flies above my street, my city, the fields and forests,
the mountains and oceans, or the geese, or all the brave
birds who may be making their way from my country
to yours right now. Their view is is the wide view:
they get it.

Sometimes I get so tangled up in the day to day, the "have
to do this", and "have to do that", that I lose sight (ha!) of
the miracle of my life here, and the one I share with you.
So what's the answer? How do we get back to the lofty
point of my favorite bird the crow, or to the geese or the
tiny juncos who now join us from the arctic? The answer
for me seems to be something so simple, and something I'm
not sure migrating birds get much of -- sleep. Eight hours
of sleep is my miracle cure. Just that amazing solid
number of hours of sleep brings my whole vision back,
and I feel delighted with my life.

Today was a good day.

In fact I painted, marked my papers and remembered
that we'd missed the cats' birthday. In fact it was October 5th,
but we were too busy to notice. So we had a small party
for them tonight -- sardines for the birthday cats, and their
invited guest -- Zoey the dog, who sang a nearly perfect
Happy Birthday to them.

Timbah eyes his cake with suspicion
He is much more interested in
the sardines -- a birthday treat

Like most two-year-olds Fiona
is afraid of the cake and
has to be helped to pose for
her birthday picture.

Fiona the cat is two, and Timbah the cat is four, and
both of them give us so much pleasure. Fiona may be
terrible two, because it was difficult getting her to pose with her
cake (which Steven and I kindly ate to avoid feeding the cats
food that was far too sophisticated and rich for people that young.)

Have a getting-enough-sleep-to-be-creative day.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The luxury of colour

Fall garden riches
8 x 8 inches
acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2009

My day today began with a drive beside fields turning a miraculous
ochre colour touched with edges of orange, or rusty red, or bright
yellow in places. The trees are starting to turn, and although
the growing city is invading every green space with huge
earth movers, pavers, and who knows what to tear down every
tree, enough beauty remains to lift my heart. The supposed
"greenbelt" around Toronto is a complete sham. Developers
are ripping into land that once belonged to food crops, hawks
soaring, every kind of wildlife, and skillfully slipping between
legal loopholes to cover Ontario's prime farmland with shabbily
built large houses.

This makes me a bit sad. But then I'll emerge from one of
these new vast, empty, treeless neighbourhoods, my mind's
eye filled with a vivid image of the farm that was there just
a year ago, and I'll see the trees. Maybe there's just a stand of them,
four or five, but in places a whole wood flames with orange, red,
and burgundy leaves. Then I permit myself to quit my internal rant
against the destruction of my beloved landscape, and just enjoy
the beauty we still have. That beauty is so overwhelming
that it's impossible to understand how anyone could want
to mow it down. And that beauty makes me want to sing,
dance, and paint.

So holding that great rush of happiness on this very windy
day, I had a marvellous day at school, and now I'm painting
again, feeling vigorous and inspired.

I hope I get tonight's painting done. It's another little flower
painting, a tribute to the market lady's garden. I don't even
know what some of the flowers are. Some huge headed pink
thing, looks like civilized milkweed. But that's the story...

It's finished. Thanks for waiting.

Have a loving-the-beauty-in-your-world day.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The worst nightmare

Wasps feeding from the bowls of
sugar water on my back porch in September

Did you ever have a day that was your worst nightmare,
and you kept telling yourself that it was your worst
nightmare all day? Except it wasn't true. It was just a
tiny blip, maybe a hiccup. For me the worst nightmare
now is not getting to paint at all. Not even for a minute.
That feels like torture. But it isn't really. And I paint
with my eyes all the time, and tomorrow at some point
I will paint again, and whew. That will be nice.

The marking saga continues deep into the night. I'm
21 minutes late to get to bed if I want to be rested in
the morning. And I do. Because tomorrow is my longest day.

But in the middle of high stress -- a lovely thing happened.
There I sat mired in papers all over my art table, when a knock
came at the door, and it was someone coming to buy a
painting. Right out of the blue. In the middle of the night!
So much for nightmares, and all that.

The picture today is of wasps, insects I was afraid of until
this year, when I learned how to manage, and even love them
a little bit. I had a one of nature's creatures feeling for the
first time ever.

So real nightmares are much different than overwork -- we
all know what they are. With good health, and some thought
overwork will be managed, and all will be, all is well.

Have a dreaming-peacefully-without-nightmares day.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Art sounds

Going to the beach with a red umbrella
Pugwash, Nova Scotia,
August 2009
Barbara Muir

Art is so visual, at least painting is, that we don't often
step back and think about the sound it makes. Like
the sound of my brain churning tonight because I
started a painting, but didn't get it finished enough to
show you. Or the sound of wind, waves, and bumble
bees in clover in the photograph I'll show you of another
painting I'd like to do, but haven't begun.

I love the thumping drum sound the brush makes when
I start a new, large canvas. Skype drawings and portraits
are married to the sound of the person talking and
laughing as they move in some other part of the world,
or in the studio. There's the sound of the timer, deciding
when my subject and I will go and have tea, the sound of
the tape outlining a client's feet on the floor. Sometimes
when a project is serious the sound of the brush dipping into water,
and then the slurp and slide of paint on canvas seem
incredibly loud -- amplified by intention.

Tonight I can't finish my painting. I have too much
marking to do. So please forgive me. This image is of
a future painting. It's my dear friend, Flora standing on
the green, clover filled grass in a park in Nova Scotia,
just before we walked down to the shore and took a leisurely
and hot walk along the sand. The red umbrella was mine --
we needed the shade because it was so hot out. Hard to imagine
now in the chilly Toronto night. Ahh that's the sound of me
relaxing at the memory. It was a perfect day and every
sound was 100% joyous summer.

Have a dreaming-of-the-sound-of-painting day.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

My little wee baby

My son Christopher as a newborn
blue ink on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir

In the garage today Steven unearthed a moving
surprise when he was digging through some boxes,
trying to make room for one of his woodworking
projects. He brought it to me with my coffee, and
completely threw me for a loop. I sat reading the
journal from the year I was pregnant with my first
born, Christopher, and of his first year of life up
until he was about 8 months old. The writing is so
analytical and deep. I was trying hard at that
point to be a writer, but spent more time
agonizing than writing. And the best surprise
was the drawings. Every few pages I found little
sketches, and some like the two I'll show you tonight
are of the best news ever to happen to me twice (with
the birth of my second son) -- I had a healthy, beautiful,
baby boy.

In the hospital bassinet
My son Christopher
Blue ink on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir

Christopher still looks so much like the drawings of him
as a wee baby, that both my husband and I felt
terribly tender, the way you do looking at your
newborn child.

Have a drawings-with-writing-give-you-paths-to-love day.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Blog 600 and to market, to market

October's bouquet
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Hi everyone. I was about to slink off to bed without
fanfare, when I realized it was blog 600 tonight!
Wow! I've been doing this for 600 days straight.
Has it changed my life? More on that tomorrow.
The short and happy answer at the end of a long,
delightful day is -- Yes it has.

We dropped into the Wychwood market to pick up my
painting from the Artwalk Central show this morning,
then headed for the Brickworks market because they allow
dogs on leashes there, and we had Zoey with us.

I picked up these flowers at PegAn's table, and
headed home to paint. This is the little painting I'm
working on now.

It's Saturday night, and it's been a great day of
seeing family and friends, so I am off to bed.

Have a curling-up-with-a-good-book day.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cats and TV

TV with the cat
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
The painting tonight is a little study based on my
husband watching TV with the cat sleeping soundly
using him as a pillow. One thing I love about cats
(and I'm a cat aficionado) is their ability to relax,
and their pure delight in relaxed humans.
When you live in a house with cats, you lie down
alone for a nap and wake up with one or more
cats snuggled against you, enjoying both
your warmth and the fact that you are for once
leaving the cares of the world behind -- not working,
not thinking, not talking, not painting, not doing
anything. Cats love that.

I have a minute now before I call it a day. The cold
weather is setting in and although I find it revitalizing
in the day, at night when the winds are blowing
outside, the urge to sleep is powerful.

So... If you're in Toronto head down to the AGO to
see the show of Steichen fashion photography from
the 1930's. The large collection of Steichen prints
in striking high key black and white are just
gorgeous. I told my friend Jan Marriott the other
day that there's a direct line between Steichen and
me. Of course it's not true, but my father was an
excellent photographer who deeply admired and
tried to emulate that high key style. My mother and
father's wedding photos were taken by Yousuf Karsh,
whose black and white photography was all about
lighting. Before the Dance series features women
in formal dress, frequently vintage, and I think some
of my best paintings are of women in 30s dressed that
I bought incidentally from Jan Marriott. After I made the
connection with Jan we laughed, because of course it isn't
a direct line at all, but I added that because she loves and
sells those old and very beautiful dresses, there's a direct
line from Steichen to her too. I guess what I meant to say
is that I really enjoyed his photographs, and especially
the incredibly dramatic style, and sumptuous fabric
his images showcase.

So that's Steichen. Want some examples from me?

Poem by the Don
acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches (diptych)
Barbara Muir © 2008

The Poem
acrylic on canvas
24 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2008

Both of these paintings depend on dresses from the 1930's
I purchased from Jan Marriott. Yay Jan. In Toronto you can
see Jan at the Brickworks Organic Farmer's Market Saturday,
and at the St. Lawrence Market on Sunday.

Have an enjoying-your-connections-to-art day.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Little green backyard

Into the jolly garden
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Remember the Prince song, Little Red Corvette, somehow
looking at this painting I did plein air today, trying to
capture the final summer party in my garden (painting
in a ski jacket -- hey it's cold here), I thought of the song.
Tomorrow school again, a very early start, so I can't
tell you about the Steichen and Calder shows I saw at
the Art Gallery of Ontario last night. Just fabulous. I
was so happy and wildly excited seeing them.
So let's save that story for the weekend.

Have a loving-what-drives-you 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!