Monday, November 2, 2009

The tradition of abstraction

Late night Skype chat
black marker on bond
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Yesterday -- which seems a thousand years ago
at this time of night, I popped into our large and
beautiful Art Gallery of Ontario. We didn't venture
far, and spent time in a gallery devoted mostly to
the Flemish painters realists today try to emulate.

Up close and personal as I was scouring the paintings
with my eyes, I noticed something interesting. The hands
-- which from afar looked so true and vividly alive,
were dashed on with fast, loose, almost -- no -- yes --
abstract lines. On closer inspection, the lace collar on
the 16th century portrait was drawn in with quick,
sketch-like lines. The mouths were imperfect, I wondered what
was going on. And it hit me.

Art. These were the revered artists of the day, and
are still adored now, and they played with their paint,
had fun, slapped it on, made mistakes and it was
about the paint, not about perfection.

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

My drawings tonight are Skype drawings of my son,
Christopher a reluctant model. As soon as he realized
I was drawing him, he withdrew into his hoodie.
Et voila.

Have an-understanding-that-what-you-do-now-matters day.


LeSan said...

ah, the hoodie. That explains it. LOL
It is sometimes a bit of a shock when you look at paintings up close isn't it? The willingness of the eye to fill in the details is a powerful thing.
I often accuse my husband of the same thing. LOL

Christopher M. said...

Ah! So rude.
I'll get you back. One day....

Catherine Jeffrey said...

Hi Barbara
So typical. My son skulks around in his cave (back room) and prefers not to be seen or heard!
I love analyzing those old paintings. Have you read David Hockney's book "Secret Knowledge, Rediscovering the lost Techniques of the Old Masters. It is absolutely fascinating reading. It is his theory on how the masters from the 1400's used lenses and mirrors to draw and paint "photographic" likenesses. We know that Vermeer probably did it, but his idea is that the method goes further back and he provides proof. It was artists like Matisse who rebelled against the need to use science to draw.
Happy belated Birthday!

Barbara Muir said...

Hi LeSan,

Yes the hoodie. It's not a bad shock, just a reassuring moment, when you get that you right now are the artist who matters. You LeSan, are Monet, van Gogh, Matisse, Lynn Donoghue, whoever you want to be as an artist -- but you are the one who counts.

By the way I wish you would show us your artwork.

Take care,


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Criff,

I think you already have -- more than once. Let's let bygones be bygones. You do make me laugh. Sorry. I needed some work for the blog, and you were there. Wait! Isn't that how this whole thing started?


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Catherine,

Well Science can be helpful though. I do love Matisse. That line is so
jubilant. Love him. Thanks for the birthday wishes. I did have a super day. I don't know Hockney's book, but I love his work, and I'll look for it. It makes perfect sense that all of us have been trying to figure out how to do this art gig properly forever. What's funny is the changes in the definitions of what is good and what is bad.

My son is not a sulker, but I was talking to him on Skype late at night, and I cheated and drew him without his permission. He doesn't live at home.

Take care,


Christopher M. said...

So there!

Barbara Muir said...

Hi C.J.

What is up?


eldon warren said...

Hi Barbara, nice sketches as per usual.
I think I read somewhere a long time ago that the beauty of something lies in the distortion. Perfection may lie in something that's something less than perfect.
Whadda ya think? Might even apply, I guess, to about everything now that I think about it.

Liza Hirst said...

Hi Barbara,
Happy belated Birthday from me,too! Wish, I had known...
That's what fascinates me when I see paintings, I really admire - the seemingly easy and loose handling of the brushwork creating a striking likeness with the "real" thing!
I envy you for being able to go to that gallery and see such wonderful art!! Thank you for sharing.
Love your drawings, as always!

Elizabeth Seaver said...

Love these, Barbara!

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Eldon,

You always get me thinking. Yes and one person's perfection, is definitely not another's as we know.
I am leaning towards the abstract. I can't go there. Maybe it's those forced exercises with squares and lines when I was at art college, but I really admire other artists who are loosening up big time.

Take care,


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Liza,

I am really lucky in my family and friends. The smallest group of us can make a party with some cake and champagne and lots and lots of laughter. I've realized at this stage in my life (not a big change, but I used to worry that I wasn't serious enough) I enjoy laughter to an almost ridiculous extent. Which is why I love teaching because my fellow profs are so funny, and of
course young people corner the market on humour.

You are totally right about the paintings. I admire that too. In my own work it seems to happen when I am completely unconscious of what I'm doing. All of those teachers who tell us to think about what we're doing before we paint, do not work for me.


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Elizabeth,

Thanks so much. Love your Christmas cards. The mouse with the tree made of cheese is super! Do you sell your cards? I could definitely see myself sending those out. Funny.

Take care,


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!