Sunday, January 31, 2010

My thoughts on an old saw

Hi there everyone,

To continue my explorations of the world of video, I am
posting my second video tonight -- a brief discussion
of art from the photo, versus art from life. Which is better?
I shake my head. Neither is better. So much depends on
the day, the subject, how vivid it is in real life, how
vivid in the photo.

When I paint portraits ideally I'd prefer to have the
person sitting for me. That's why Skype is so cool,
because when you combine photos and Skype interviews
you get an experience close to the best of both worlds
-- the live subject, and if you snap some pictures with
Grab on a Mac, the photo record to refine your work.

Please forgive my red nose (it is cold in this office!,
and the paper clip holding my studio glasses together.)
This video was alla prima, no editing, and one small

Have a hey-this-is-what-works-for-me-day.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

"It was a sunny day, not a cloud was in the sky, not a negative word was heard by the people passing by."

The garage of a house of the same colour
that I've always loved.
(These photos were taken through the car
windows as we drove by -- forgive the quality.)

People skating north of the city -- a beautiful sight.

These are the words of the Paul Simon song, playing in my head
as I climbed the narrow stairs in my cold, dark house to sit in
front of the computer in the coldest room in the place to write
to you. But it was a sunny day earlier today, not a cloud
in the sky, and we took a drive in the country to see landscape,
and snow which is completely absent in the city on this 30th
day of January.

It's been a strange winter so far. It isn't warm, but there is
no snow. It makes me nervous to say that, because I am so
not fond of driving in snow, but at the same time I worry
about the plant life that needs that big snow cover, and the
changes in the world's ecosystem.

It's been a great Saturday, but I haven't worked on painting
because Steven and I took advantage of the sunlight (it feels
like it has been grey for a long, long time), to spend time
together going for a drive, having a great supper,
and heading out to a romantic movie. It was just perfect.

Have an enjoying-the-sunshine-of-your-life day

Friday, January 29, 2010

For Africa in a Heartbeat

Reading with Heart
Step one
painting in the orange/brown ground,
sketching in the drawing in charcoal
Barbara Muir © 2010

I've told many of you that I have an exercise I started
doing that I call the "whoop" exercise. When my classes
get to know one another better we do it in class. I learned
it from a Mile Dooley tape, and it's simply about envisioning
wonderful things happening, and acting like you just
got the most amazing good news. If nothing else the
exercise makes your mind think you're having a great time,
and I can tell you that when many over the top superb
events happened in the past year, I whooped exactly as
Mike Dooley had instructed, without any prompting

Reading with Heart
Step two
Making colour decisions
laying in underpainting
Barbara Muir © 2010

But in another exercise we do we say what we would do if
we had no barriers, all the money, all the will, whatever
we needed to accomplish one great thing. I usually tell
my students that I would help solve the problem of AIDS
in Africa, and I talk to them about the time I heard
Stephen Lewis, who was the United Nations AIDS ambassador
to Africa, give a talk at Convocation Hall at the University of

Well a few weeks ago I got a call from a volunteer working
for a special art show Heartbeats for Africa, to raise money
for Stephen Lewis's charitable organization,
The Stephen Lewis Foundation. And tonight I'm
showing you the first couple of steps. I am a huge fan of
Stephen Lewis and the wonderful work he does, so I am
delighted to be able to help with my art.

I started the painting with a brownish orange ground. Then
drew a rough drawing of my image on with charcoal. Next
I began to block in both my underpainting and parts of the
painting. This is how far I'm going tonight. So there will
be more tomorrow. I've painted a smaller version of this
painting, and perhaps someday will paint it in a large
format. The model is a super young woman.

Have a feeling-good-about-contributing day.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Clearing out the past and remembering

A Boy and his dog
watercolour on watercolour paper
12 x 14 inches
Painted in 2003
Barbara Muir © 2010

As part of my "starting the new year off fresh" campaign
I've been work for a few hours a couple of times a week
attempting to throw out things I don't use anymore.
For someone who is hopelessly sentimental, this is a
challenge to put it mildly. In the course of today's
purge, I found this very nice little painting in a rather
horrible frame, and thought I'd share it with you.

I will also get it reframed and keep it, because I like the
style, something I don't do anymore, and the subject matter --
my youngest when he was a boy at the schoolhouse, whiling
away a rainy afternoon, with his faithful companion Zoey
by his side, and his ever present Gameboy.

A more surprising thing happened when I replanned my
phone service and found out I'd lose all my saved voicemail.
This may seem trivial, but there are messages
there about wildly important events in recent years,
and my son's kindergarten class in Korea singing
We Wish You a Merry Christmas. I felt heartbroken at
the thought of not being able to hear some of those
messages (as it turns out I'd saved 10), so Steven
helped me figure out how to record them
forever, something I should have done all along.

I am working very hard at paring down my nostalgic
side to prepare for the new, and to make way for
awesome creativity. The new year seems like a watershed
time, and I've never had more of a desire for order than
I do now.

Have a letting-the-unimportant-go-and-keeping-what-matters day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Aspiring to inspire

Starting a big one
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir 2010
(not quite finished -- working on it)

I raised the word aspire in class last week, and
this has lead to a mass purchase of dictionaries,
which is a very good thing. My point was that
you need to be aspiring, reaching for something
to be able to be inspired. I might not be right and
I'd be happy if you want to debate this with me.
Come to think of it, I'll debate it with myself too.
If you are inspired, you may be so turned on that
you begin to aspire to something.

Very deep thoughts. As you can see we have a lot
of fun at school -- but the need to be inspired
is a huge one for artists, students and all of
us. Huge canvasses definitely inspire me. But now
so do tiny ones as I've expanded my range thanks
to the blog community, especially the European
daily painters who turn out magnificent works on
boards or canvasses just slightly under 6 x 6 inches.

I've been listening to an awe inspiring program on
time, part of the Ideas series on CBC Radio, our
national station. Now I'm getting ready for a very
early morning tomorrow. My head is swimming with
ideas -- mine and those I heard on the program.
Fascinating, post Einstein thoughts on "now". See
it's not all fluff inside this head.

While I listened I did more work on my small painting
of me starting a big painting in the studio, which
is the living room and dining room, and has a square
archway between the rooms. The canvas disappears
behind the wall on the right where the living room
and dining room meet. Awkward, but definitely
the source of many large paintings.

The painting is almost done. Need to a bit of work on the
top blue part, maybe the odd dark spot here and there
and then snip snap. All done. I'm reading a British novel
and it's making me think in British. My apologies to
all and sundry (now you know I'm not kidding.)

Have an aspiring-to-be-inspired day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Quirks of art

Portrait of the Artist
acrylic on canvas
24 x 30
painted in 2004
Barbara Muir © 2010

One of the funniest and most fun stories of my
art career in recent years was the time I won the
award for Best Portrait at my club's Juried
Spring Show. The judge, who I never saw again
completely surprised me by picking an odd
self portrait I'd done of myself painting the other
painting I'd entered in the show.

He said one of the best things I've ever heard about
my work, and that was that he'd just been visiting
England, and been to a portrait show at the Tate,
in London and my painting would hold up with anything there!
There was a loud "woo!" from the crowd, and as
I was absorbing this miraculous moment, my friend's
friend ran to the front desk and bought the painting!

Ironically I had lowballed the price thinking that I'd
be taking it home. Not so! Is there a moral to the
story? Yes -- it's have fun, because you never know
what's going to happen. And secondly enjoy what

Have a delighting-in-the-amusing-world-of-art day.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Trying to be subtle

January on Cherrywood
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Photographed this outside today.
Turns out it's quite different looking than
the image I posted last night. I have
to remember that phenomenon.)

I do not have much a reputation for subtlety
in my paintings, but the view out my window
these days is frequently pretty dark and grey.
Not being a fan of grey I've avoided even
looking at that view, preferring my bright yellow,
red and turquoise walls (yep -- the colours I
usually paint with.) But I wondered what it would
be like to paint the street as seen from my window
where I write this blog. So tonight I rolled up
my sleeves, pulled out my grey and dug in.

Now of course the orange ground leaps through,
and I couldn't stay entirely true to the colour.
Looking closely at the reference photo I took
to help me, I see that our neighbourhood trees
are going crazy. In fact it's been a bit too warm,
and they may be getting ready to bud. Slow
down trees!

So here's the result. A bit drear, but not quite
as gloomy as it really appears.

Have a painting-what-you-see day.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Try something different

Tomatoes grown by children
watercolour, watercolour crayon,
and acrylic on watercolour paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(This is the one I worked on tonight)

Children's garden tomatoes in a glass bowl
acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(This is the one I did a few years later.
much more verve and style). It is sold.

I took a course seven years ago now with Skip Lawrence
and Toph Schink in California. I think it changed my
life, but I didn't know it then. I was just rattled by their
ideas, and worried about my own. Don't get me wrong
I was crazy about those guys, they were great teachers,
and thinkers. They were funny, kind and soooo

Of course what they taught me sunk in. But only bit
by bit. And if they saw the piece of work I am posting
tonight they'd question that. But here's what they said
that I found hard to take at the time, "You're not a
watercolourist, a colourist, an acrylic painter, or a
drafts person, you're an artist and the most important
thing is what you make, not how you make it!" I
think 15 watercolour people in that class probably
fainted dead away after that idea, and even though
I'd moved on to acrylics, I would never, and I mean
never think of combining those different media.

They were opposed to the use of white, and I was
a floater -- sit an object on a white space. They
were so radical for me at the time, that I hardly
painted for two months. I just despaired. But of
course, being a painter, I emerged much stronger
than before I'd met them.

Going through my art drawers I found a sad little
watercolour of tomatoes. I recognized the cake plate
they sat on, because I've painted it many times,
but I didn't recognize the work as mine. I think it
was a vestige of my life right before that course.
Tonight I took a go at it. I know it still doesn't
work. It would be best to start over, or just to
forget it. But I learned a lot from trying to beef
its pale surface up (no pun intended those are
not beefsteak tomatoes). Those are organic vintage
tomatoes grown by a group of school children in
a park near me.

The second painting is one I did a few years
later of the same subject, and you can probably
see what I learned.

But here's what I did to the one I worked on
today. I darkened the tomatoes and the glass work
with watercolour crayon acrylic and watercolour,
I painted the "table" the glass plate sits on with
black acrylic. I divided the background and painted
in the blue and the yellow. I painted the area that
should be the table with two or three blues.

For now that's it. The painting doesn't have enough
zip for me to continue, but it taught me a lot about
what I've learned and I'm grateful to everyone who's
given me formal lessons, and who has taught me
informally by just posting their work on the net.
Thanks bloggers.

Have a noticing-what-you've-learned day.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Spent the day protesting

At the Canadians Against Proroguing Parliament Rally
black marker on bond
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

This may not have much to do with art, but our
prime minister in Canada, Stephen Harper
decided to prorogue our parliament. To check
out what this means follow this link.

My friend Suzanne and I went down to the local
Toronto rally to march with people who feel
the way we do that it isn't right that parliament
is not in session. Canada is a democracy and should
be governed by a democratically elected government
in session in our House of Commons. Right now no
bills can be passed, none of the work of government
can be done. And that affects every part of society,
as was evident today in who came out to march.

I did a fast drawing tonight of one of my photos from
the day. I haven't marched to protest anything since
my oldest was a baby. This was a very civilized group.
Luckily we marched at a very slow pace, and Suzanne
was there to help me if it was too much for my ankle.
But it was all worth it.

Have a keeping-your-government-democratic day.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Hope in hard times

At the meeting
black marker on bond
9 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

I am so moved tonight by watching the TV campaigns
for Haiti. Our art club, the Don Valley Art Club held and
emergency meeting tonight, because it looks like
the club's dependable schedule, which has been a great
pleasure for so many people may be disrupted. Art means
a lot more to people who have sorrow in their lives
than just making lines, or painting. It is a connection
with other artists that brings hope. That is true here
on the blog, true at our small art club, and true around
the world when artists band together to give what they
can give to urge other people to help out. For the painter
the thing you can give is art, for the singer songs. What
beautiful songs tonight.

There is something profoundly moving about people
getting together for a cause. I think the internet has done
amazing things in that regard. In Canada now two hundred
and eight thousand people have banded together through
Facebook to join in wanting the government to get back
to work. Our Prime Minister has prorogued the government,
which means that there will be no parliament until
March. But all across the country people are communicating
with one another through the internet and planning to march
tomorrow to say we want a fair democracy, an active

My drawing tonight is of one of the people in our club, listening
at the club meeting. She had a beautiful and serious face.
This club is much more to people than a place to make
art. It is a social meeting place for people who share a passion
for art. And that is huge. People of all ages, many very
long time members have had so many wonderful times
together. I feel hopeful that whatever happens to our
current building, that spirit will continue, and the social
fabric of the club will live on.

Have a joining-with-the-world day.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Here's my excuse. A long, long day

Before you watch my tiny video excuse, please
understand that I started my day at 5:30 and
that is almost 20 hours ago. What a packed day!
I taught very early, and was impressed with my students.
Then whipped home to clean before my client arrived.
I made some changes to a portrait commission,
while my client drank her tea and talked to me about
Italy (swoon -- I'm still hopelessly in love with
Italy), then after she left I worked on chucking out
more of our excess stuff to start the new year, (already
almost 1/12 gone) on a cleaner note. After that I ran out to buy
dinner, (I wish I could say I literally ran, I actually
drove with my dear Steven.) Then whew, I made dinner
ate it with my sweetie by candlelight, and wowser.
Now it is late my friend.

This is honey bunch's first little video on her blog and
it's an excuse. This is my 722nd blog in a row, and I feel
pretty happy about that, and I'm incredibly happy
that I figured out how to upload a video
(one of my 2009 goals!) Ya Momma! We are rocking.

Have an enjoying-new-technology day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Quick -- Draw!

So much fun talking
Skype drawing
HB pencil on bond paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir 2010

Hi everyone,

I had a great afternoon at school today, but
I am super zonked tonight. So... I am trying
to take my own advice and get to bed on time
to get up for my very early class. In honour of
that idea I did this little drawing for you of
a friend talking to me on Skype. I must
admit that's a cool medium. What you see
is what I could see on my screen.

Have a very Happy Thursday.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Who are you when you paint?

The serious model
18 x 24 inches
acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir 2010

I thought of this question this morning getting ready
to go to work, and was both surprised and delighted
that an unusually deep thought had flitted through
my otherwise dependably shallow brain. In Europe
at the Florence Biennale there was a lot of talk about
meaning, and I was at pains to invent some serious
meaning to give myself depth and cred (credibility --
very in word with the younger set).

But I think in spirit I'm much more like P.K. Page,
the poet who died last week. Interviews with her
have been broadcast on our national radio station,
and she said that she couldn't think when she was
painting, only when she was writing. Her paintings
are owned by the top galleries here, and I was relieved
to hear her say that.

But back to the question. If we are all one, then I am
every artist whose work I've ever seen when I paint,
or I am just me. But when I ate my breakfast far too
early for myself this morning, my deep thought was that
I am art. I'm just art doing its job, whatever that may be.
On a good day art is pretty good, on other days
it is present and accounted for. So that's who I am.
A rep rep representative for the art of art. Who are you?

Have a loving-who-you-are day.

P.S. My group at the art club I belong to got the news
tonight that we may lose the right to use the city
building we meet in. This is devastating news to all
of us, and we couldn't stop talking. I have never drawn
a model in my whole life (with many models) who
told the artists to be quiet, or she wouldn't pose. But that
happened tonight. Very strange. So we politely obeyed,
but it was unusual. Maybe some of her imperious
moodiness came out in my painting. I tried to stick
with my original idea, pure, quiet beauty, but... I hope
I represented art well in this one.

Monday, January 18, 2010

More of the studio

The big painting
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Not quite finished)

It was actually beautiful when I left school
this evening, a luxurious dark blue slinking
over the snow filled meadows. I came home
and worked on this painting of my studio.

I am not quite finished I don't think. This is
loosely based on a photo of me working on a
big 6 foot by 4 foot painting. The canvas actually
disappears behind the opening between the rooms.

But school is very early tomorrow morning, so
I have to stop now.

Have a working-on-making-it-all-happen day.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The dark

Studio lights
acrylic on canvas
6 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(The colour doesn't seem quite
right. I may photograph it again
tomorrow if I have time.)

At this time of year Toronto is bathed in a bleak grey
during the day for many days, and those days
are short. In a way the night is almost prettier
than the day, because streetlights, store lights and
house lights cast a warm glow. I am planning to
paint a painting of houses at night again, because
I love the look of glowing golden windows against
the black house silhouettes.

But today inspired by Liza Hirst's recent paintings of her
things I thought I'd try to paint my painting lamps.
The taller one was given to me by my son, and the
shorter one was my father's. I am hopelessly
sentimental about my father's light, even though it's
stuck together with masking tape, and should not still
be here. My father loved to paint too, and I feel it's
more than a light, more like a connecting thread
between us. I don't believe in ghosts, but I do believe
that love lasts in the living at least. That love shines
bright in my heart for my father, and his light shines
in my studio.

I've been happy to see in recent decorating articles
that this studio type lamp is now all the rage for
regular living rooms, which I think is funny. Here
I am again, so out of it, that I'm all the rage, with
my studio in my living and dining room, and my studio
lamps all ready for the next onslaught of big art.

We took down the Christmas tree today, so I will
soon start some bigger projects. I can't wait, and these
two lovely lights will guide me. I need another one, and
perhaps this year I'll get one.

Thanks for being the bright lights in my artistic life.

Have a shining-a-light-on-your-world day

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My grandmother's chair

Grandmother's chair
acrylic on canvas
6 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

If you knew me well you'd know I have a thing
for chairs. When I see them at the side of the
road abandoned I almost always want them,
even if they're chairs I wouldn't look at in a store --
bad Lazy boys, old brown and chrome kitchen
chairs, even sagging sofas get my attention.

This can be good, and it can be terrible. I'd really
like to replace some of the clunkers I've bought at
garage sales, or rescued and get lovely new ones,
elegant velvet covered arm chairs with curving
wooden arms and legs. Pricey antiques -- but
they haven't been our top priority of late.

A few years ago I inherited four dining chairs from
my sister, that used to belong to my grandmother who
has been dead for a long time now. I feel badly that
I didn't get to know my grandmother very well and
I only remember a few meals sitting in her pretty
dining room. Now her chairs, which have
been banged up and gone through rough times in one
young family after another, sit around my kitchen
table begging me to do them right.

My sister recovered the seats with a pretty navy
Laura Ashley cotton years ago, and those look
a bit worn now. When the chairs venture into
the studio they get bits of extra colour on their
former mahogany elegance, blues, oranges, reds,
and yellows. Poor chairs.

Our decor decisions and improvements are
sporadic and rare. We can ride along with splattered
chairs in need of recovering for years. My grandmother,
on the other hand experienced considerable
wealth in her lifetime, and would have had these
beauties dressed in rich silk stripes, and polished to
a bright shine.

The lives of women have improved a great deal since
her day. We can decide to make our studios in the
living room and dining room, not know how to serve
a formal dinner, get paint all over the house, and
still feel adequate, strong, talented even sometimes.
My mother says that my grandmother could be a lot
of fun. I do remember her laughing when she visited
our family. I hope wherever she is she is having a
wonderful time.

Have an honouring-your-grandmother day.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Getting a new start

January Tulips
marker and coloured pencil on watercolour paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Today I began the serious job of getting ready for
the coming year. Alyson Stanfield who writes the Art
Biz Blog recommends getting organized now at the
beginning of the year, and I know she's right. With
considerable help I have somewhat streamlined my
office, filling box after box for the Sally Ann, which
Steven then takes down to the car, and off to be
deposited. Some books will go to the local library,
magazines to friends...but I know myself. As soon
as a space is created, more books, more magazines,
more sketchbooks will fill it. Still for now all is on the
up and up.

In Toronto the second Christmas trees start hitting
the curbs, tulips in pots pop up in the flower shops.
I love tulips -- especially the red ones, which are
available it seems right up until the time we start
planting outside.

I started this little drawing last night. It was a line
drawing of one of the pots of tulips I have in my
kitchen right now. They are almost done, but still
so graceful. On the weekend we'll get new ones,
put these in a dry spot, and plant them for next
year's outside show. Today after cleaning I was
surprisingly tired. Steven and I seem to be
sharing a cold/flu thing, and when one of us gets
better, the other gets it back. It tried to resurface
again today, but I took it really easy after my
sorting frenzy and worked on giving the drawing
a bit more zip.

I haven't worked in coloured pencil since
before my youngest was born. When Christopher was
a new baby, I made my living for about half a year
drawing flowers with coloured pencil. I sold those
drawings for a ridiculously low rate, and did them while
the baby gurgled and drooled and teethed and learned
to sit, stand, and walk. It probably established my
erratic way of working, because I could interrupt
myself as often as I had to, to keep that boy occupied,
and happy and that was quite frequently. Drawing
this drawing today reminded me of that time, and made
me happy that my children are long past the stage when
I'd have to worry about them eating my paints. More power
to the artists who continue to create superb work with
young families.

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

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Big News!

White Amaryllis in the kitchen
Hi everyone,

Today I officially signed on with the Amsterdam Whitney
Gallery in New York City, and I'm going to be in a
group show that opens on May 6. Once again I am
over the top with excitement. The people I've talked
to at the gallery are wonderful, and Henriette Sonne,
who I met at the Florence Biennale, my friend, and a
wonderful artist, has been represented by
the Amsterdam Whitney for the past five years, and
has only good things to say about the curator and staff.

So you can whoop with me, because believe me there's
a whole lot of whooping going on.

I had fully intended to get painting tonight
but if no art makes its way on here, I'll post a photo.

It occurs to me that May is not at all that far off.

Have a dreaming-up-some-wonderful-art day.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The secret to 8 o'clocks

The artist thinking
black marker on bond paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Last semester I discovered that the secret
to eight o'clock classes is to get to bed. I have
one tomorrow. I need to get up somewhere
in the 5:30 a.m. range, and I'm very bad at
that. So I'm heading to bed right now, and
I can continue my exciting list tomorrow.
I did a fast little sketch of one of my favorite
artists tonight. I won't say who. I found
out something fascinating, and that is if I
sit right in front of my computer and draw
in a small sketchbook I elongate faces. I
may have done that here, but as I like the
person, I like the sketch and will try again
at another more auspicious time.

For now. I'm obeying my own rule.

Have a getting-to-bed-at-the-right-time day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Where was I?

Portrait of Henriette Sonne
Skype sketch
6 x 9 inches
black marker on bond paper
Barbara Muir © 2010

Dear people,

Please forgive me for halting my list mid-stride, but I'll continue now.
So much is happening every day this week, with great doings
on the art front (be patient I'll tell you), and school, and
super conversations with artist friends I met at the Biennale,
that I am behind on this crazy list.

I actually started the list of influence because of Nicki Ault,
who did something similar on her blog, and I thought what
a good idea. But the problem for me is that I could spend
weeks explaining and listing all the people who inspire me,
and I would still have it muddled.

Laura Starett is a watercolour painter whose work just
dazzles me. She frequently posts poetry along with a
gorgeous, watery, fluid, brilliant, light filled painting,
and leaves me absolutely astounded. I think she
is sailing in the Virgin Islands now, and we can expect
magnificent results.

Karen Bruson has not posted any work since the summer,
and I hope this just means that she is busy with other
work. I absolutely love her use of colour, her ability
to capture light, her abstract style. Her work is
wonderful and has definitely inspired me on many

Gwen Bell can paint anything with ease and grace.
She is wonderful with portraits, magical with glass,
and super with animals. She brings spirit and
joy to her subjects. I consider her a fine, kind
blogger friend.

R. Garriott is a wonderful painter. R.'s
paintings of flowers, kitchen arrangements,
still life sing with colour and light. R. is
a master at design, and high almost
ultra realism. R.'s work is superb. From
time to time R. posts highly instructive
pieces on various art issues.

Sheila Vaughan creates landscapes
and townscapes in lush abstraction.
I long to be able to abstract as scene
the way she does. Her colour is
subtle and true to the landscape
in Stalybridge, Cheshire, England
that she loves.

I started noticing Julie Davis's work
in the past year, and have been
blown away by her wonderful
landscapes and still life. She has
a passion for trees that shows every
time she paints them. She has been
an encouraging and inspiring blog
friend, and I'm so glad that she
is out there.

Alyson Stanfield's Art Biz Blog has been
more than helpful to me. I frequently feel
inspired to kick it up a notch after I
read her blog, and always feel that I have
so much to learn. Alyson was one of the
first people I called when I was appearing
on the Oprah Winfrey Show, and believe
me I think her consultation service is
fantastic. Beyond that I consider Alyson
to be a wonderful friend to all blogging
artists, and to me.

Nicki Ault is a relatively new blogger, who
taught me to use phthalo blue and solved a
serious problem I was having with a
commission this year. Nicki's work is
astoundingly beautiful. She can paint
water better than almost anyone I know.
Her paintings of ripples in water are
beyond wonderful, and not too surprisingly
her show featuring these paintings sold
like crazy. I am always touched when Nicki
takes the time to visit my blog.

My friend Marcia Labelle just started a
superb blog on her sculptures and
drawings. She is an absolutely over the
top wonderful artist and writer too. She's
only been blogging for month and already
people are sad if she doesn't visit them for
a couple of days.

If I forgot about you please don't think I
don't care. I guess I'll keep doing this as
the days go on from time to time. It makes
me feel so happy just to think of the people
I've met who have encouraged me, and who I
hope feel encouraged by my comments.

My drawing tonight is of a new friend,
Henriette Sonne, who I met at the Florence
Biennale. We talked on Skype today and I
drew her. I tried to draw her
using as little definition as possible. Her
hair is spectacular and not blonde, but
I did not want to get too carried away in
detail. She is a very beautiful, funny
and excellent artist. She also puts the lie
to the idea that you can "burn out" by
doing too much. Right now she is
juggling raising two infants with
projects in Norway, where she lives,
and shows in New York and London,
England. If she can, we can. Power to
the people!

Have a we-can-do-it-all day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

First day

January roses
coloured pencil on bond
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Steven buys me roses almost
every weekend -- my ongoing
Valentine's Day gift for nearly
two years now. In these
cold temperatures just getting them
home safely is an issue. Keeping them
happy with the furnace heat and
chilly drafts is also a challenge.
This is a quick sketch of some of
the current beauties.)

I always feel so high voltage on the first day of class.
It's far from true today. The grim cold we caught
in Florence resurfaced last weekend and mowed
us down physically, if not psychologically. But
standing in front of a new class I feel ridiculously
happy and strong. Soon the feeling will pass. Each
class will become a group, and I will take a back
seat to their stories -- but at first it is all me -- all
that talk, all those ideas, and all that advice.

Then when I get home -- serious exhaustion. My
classes today were delightful. Now it's time to
prepare for tomorrow -- one of my two morning
classes and shut down for the night.

I'll continue my list of influences on my art
in the past year tomorrow. Tonight I do not have
time. Have patience. I know you're out there,
you know I care.

Have a staying-happy-and-strong day.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Looking forward

Looking out the window
black marker on bond paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(This is a little drawing I did of Steven
holding Christopher up to see the birds
at our kitchen window when Christopher was
a baby. I found the sketch in a little
notebook today as I was cleaning up my office.
I love the look on Steven's face, a serious
pride in his baby.)

Hi everyone.

Tomorrow is the first day of school, and I've spent the day
organizing my room in preparation for that shock.

I've been thinking about a lot of things I'd like to
say, but it seems critical to get to bed earlier than the
2 a.m. which has been my normal bed time for the

One of the things I hope to write about in depth one
of these days is about all that you've taught me
during the past year. When I do, and I may start
now, I will write at random, as the names come into
my head, and that doesn't mean that I don't care about
you, if you're regularly in my world, as much as someone
else I mention. It just means that my brain is turning
things over and hasn't reached you yet. Please be
patient. Our unwanted friend the Florence cold, as
resurfaced this weekend with a vengeance, and although
my spirit remains cheerful, my brain is fogged.

Flora Doehler: Forgive me Flora for not putting you
on here yesterday when I began this post. You are
like the sun and the moon of my blogging world.
Without you I would never have considered blogging,
or had such a knowledgeable and kind guide. Flora
is one of my favorite artists in the world, and a very
great friend. We have shared so many art shows
together, we share a love of colour, and a love of the
Canadian province of Nova Scotia and the ocean.
I didn't forget you. I assumed that everyone already
knew all of this. Plus Flora writes, photographs for,
and takes movies for one of the best blogs out there.

Aaron Lifferth. Aaron was the first artist I really
noticed in the blog world. I absolutely loved his
style and light, and the way he took ordinary objects
and abstracted them. In 2009 Aaron decided that
he wanted to become a doctor. He applied to medical
school, and his wonderful almost daily blog came to a halt
to my great regret. Aaron could make a saltshaker look
significant. I wish him every success in his new studies
and hope he continues to paint and blog as time allows.

Belinda Del Pescoe: I may have found Belinda through
Aaron, or the other way around. But as a beginning
blogger, Belinda taught me (indirectly) to experiment.
She moved from prints, to watercolour, to drawings
with great facility, switched sizes, and above all seemed
to be having fun, while producing a lot of beautiful

Laurel Daniel: I found Laurel through Aaron, and
have admired her gorgeous landscapes every since. She
seems to never miss a step in her work -- it is always
beautiful -- perfect light, perfect brushstrokes and
just the exact right amount of abstraction. Laurel
is a super blog friend.

Liza Hirst:
When I first discovered Liza's blog I
was astounded at the volume of work she produced,
and the many blogs she created to feature her work.
Liza too showed her fellow bloggers that she could
do portraits, still life, interiors, landscapes -- whatever
struck her fancy -- all with the same vibrancy and
grace. I consider Liza a friend and a very important
influence on my life and art. She is a great, intelligent,
beautiful and funny person.

Edward B. Gordon: Through Liza I learned about
Edward. Observing Edward's determination
to produce a new piece of art seven days a week has
built my confidence, given me purpose, even made
me competitive sometimes, and greatly increased my
output. Plus I have learned things about light and
colour from observing his work that I did not know
at all before. I admire Edward's zest for life, his use
of flashes of bright colour, his understanding of
anatomy and the way he creates mood with light.

Theresa Rankin became a blog friend the summer
before last when I broke my ankle. Our styles are very
different, but I greatly admire Theresa's skill, her
joie de vivre, her professionalism and beautiful work.
She is also a superbly vivid writer, and could and should
write a book.

Eldon Warren and I became friends that same summer.
Not long after I started commenting on his blog, he
sent me a wonderful book about the Colorado Boys
Club, an organization that had encourage his painting
skill when he was a troubled child. Eldon is a fantastic
landscape painter in a classic somewhat impressionist style.
He is a warm, kind and thoughtful human being and
a cracker jack writer too.

David Lobenberg: I think I found David Lobenberg
through Theresa Rankin. David is great at portraits,
cityscapes and huge mural commissions. He paints
with gusto and writes with passion and humour, and
is a constant inspiration.

Susan Carlin: is primarily a portrait artist and known
for her classic portraiture style. She is incredibly generous
with her time, doing regular portrait painting demonstrations
on line. I learned an important trick from her. Well I've
learned so much, but I learned that in a line drawing, and
it works in painting too, if you're not sure of the line
of a cheek, or any line, you can put a small dot, or series
of faint dots along the curve and connect them. No one will
be the wiser and you'll have a great line.

Melinda Esparza:
Melinda captures the feeling and tone of
the landscape around Tucson in a way that is completely
unique -- powerful, emotional, abstract, fantastic. Her
work is vividly alive like she is. But that's not all, she
can paint a portrait that would leave most painters in the
dust. Her skill is astounding. She is a warm and considerate
blogger, kind friend and a writer with a keen eye and heart.

Edgar Schrock: Edgar not only paints beautiful, and
thoughtful paintings of the Arizona landscape near
Tucson, he writes evocative and thoughtful blog
posts about issues in art. When I read his entries
I am both moved and challenged. Edgar gets me to

That's it for tonight. I am moving in the direction from
early to later. So I am including the people I discovered
first and then going through my memory.

I'll continue my praise for you tomorrow. Thank you to
everyone who has ever commented on my blog. You have
made a huge impression on me, kept me thinking and
painting, and have given me the priceless experience
of being friends with people all over the world.

Have a thankful-for-your-life day.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Slow down New Year

Laughing with the girls
Skype sketch
conté and charcoal on bond paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

I said Happy New Year to someone yesterday and I might
as well have been wearing white pumps in January. (Our
tour guide in Siena in December wore white pumps,
black tights, a white ski jacket coat, black cinch belt, and
a black scarf, topped with a grey fake lamb fur hat. She
looked great!) But anyway I get the point and feel it in
my bones. The year is racing away.

Today I began undoing the Christmas greenery, and drew
this little sketch of my niece. She's the bigger girl, and so
beautiful in real life that I never adequately capture her
beauty. Her skin is radiant and transparent at the same
time -- luminous.

Some day I'll get her to come here (She lives in L.A.) and
pose, and then we'll really have a gorgeous painting.

Have a loving-your-family-near-and-far day.

Friday, January 8, 2010

In the Skype mood going through the door

Leaning in on the joke
Skype sketch
charcoal and conté on bond paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

School and my commissions all begin next week,
so I have needed this time to think about what
I want to do with my own work independent
of all that. I am leaning heavily towards
producing very large Skype paintings. Going
through my reference shots from Skype
tonight I found a super shot of a friend of mine
in Nova Scotia leaning into the frame the way
you sometimes do on Skype, and thought I'd
draw him.

I've done big faces before, and I really love the look.
So watch out. Is the computer screen like the new
frame? I am thinking about that too. How to
present my beauties. Anyway this friend has been
using a metaphor for artistic progress with me
for a few years --"going through the door."
Every time something exciting happens to me
he laughs like he is in this picture and says,
"I told you you were going through the door,".
So maybe envisioning these large portraits I am
once again putting my foot out into the wider world.
I think that's what he means. I always laugh when
he says it, even though I'm not entirely sure what
he means. He's just funny because he lives in the
Maritimes soaking in all of that clean air.

Have a putting-your-foot-out-the-door day.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A super afternoon

Skype Sketch of Sam
charcoal pencil on bond paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

See! I told you life goes on being exciting after
the holidays are over. Today I was invited to eat
lunch with a friend and client. The meal was to
be English in honour of their British artist friend.
It was Shepherd's Pie -- a dish I'll confess
that I love. So I appeared at the door and was
ushered in to sit by the fire and meet the artist
Peter Maher. Peter is as delightful a person as
my friend and her husband, I discovered.

My friend immediately showed me a lovely little
black and white book of drawings illustrating the ride
around his village in France that Peter takes every
day on his bike. And I hauled out the book of my
work that I had printed to take to the Florence
Biennale. Then lunch was served. Another artist
friend dropped in. Both the meal and the conversation
were hearty, and we retired to the brilliantly sunlit
sunroom for espresso and tea with cookies,
a fitting ending to a great lunch.

At home I was joined by another friend for more
entertaining talk about 2010 plans, and after supper
did this sketch of Sam from a Skype photo I took
last fall. Yes it's a Skype Sketch by your famous --
or infamous Skype Sketcher.

Have a yes-I'd-love-to-come-to-lunch day.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Endings and beginnings

Drawing of a young woman
8 1/2 x 11 inches
black marker on bond
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Whenever I am between projects
or thinking I draw whatever
I can find in my sketchbook. This is
one of those drawings. It's always
a comfort to keep your hand moving,
creating, and soon a bunch of
new ideas form).

The trouble with holidays, if there is one, is that they
lull you into a sense of profound definition in the
daily pattern. It's false really, and helpful at the same
time to an extent. I've always known that all the hustle and
bustle of Christmas was a kind of logical trick to get us
through the first month of winter.

Families get together, presents are purchased, big feasts
happen, and it feels momentous. Then the families
go back to their regular lives, and you could think ...well.
But in truth wham, presents, big festive meals, decorations,
and celebrations are a year long happening. My sweet
son went back to school today, and I didn't stand sobbing
at the bus stop even for a minute. Because I know that
if I miss him too much, we can get in the car and go and
visit him! What a thought.

And every time our family eats together it feels like a party.
And I'll no sooner get the vacuuming
done, and maybe straighten my room up, than there
will be another day to celebrate -- Valentine's Day,
complete with gifts and romance and social whirl.

The New Year has begun. Both my son and I have
gone back to school. I start in earnest next week,
but was there today. The truth is that it is another
week, with the same level of excitement and the
same great feeling of possibility as the last one. It
just takes a rearrangement of the brain, the rooms
(taking down the tree in the studio, moving the
couch back to its place), and a tiny shift of the heart.

Let's all make that shift together. In many ways
this group of blogging artists is just that -- a heart
network. Call it corny if you will, but in my
experience, nothing could be closer to the truth.
Now I need to get painting!

Have a letting-the-great-new-day-start day.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Gilding the tondo

Portrait of a boy
acrylic and 24 karat gold leaf on canvas
6 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(now the painting is gilded. Next?)

Okay so I've been reading up on tondos, (round paintings)
and my little painting wouldn't qualify as a tondo. Why?
It's too small -- they're supposed to be a minimum of
two and a half feet across. Steven had the good idea of
calling mine a tondo piccolo.

Today I spent the afternoon gilding over the red outside
part with 24 karat gold leaf. Tedious but fun. I'm not
quite finished because I should perhaps make a second
inner circle and I'm debating with myself about whether
or not to decorate over the gold.

The gold leaf photographed with a flash

I did some work on the face and the hair, and may
beef up the white in his shirt tomorrow. I know that I
really don't paint anything like Botticelli, and that's
all right. I was going through old reference photos,
and this image was one I couldn't use when I did
this young boy's portrait. I'd just been looking at
a round painting of Mary with eight angels when I
found this, and the angels look like teenage boys.
In fact one of my friend's nephews looks exactly
like one of the boys who posed for angels in that
painting. And my client's son had a slightly
angelic air, but also a fantastic sense of humour.

So here's the next stage -- gilding.

Have a happily-working-on-new-projects day.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Botticelli and me

Tondo of a boy
Stage three
6 x 6 inches
(Before I'm finished I'll gild the
outside red part in gold leaf,
then refine the face a bit)
Barbara Muir © 2010

My sweet son, Christopher and his girlfriend Megan
bought me a huge art book on Botticelli, and gave
it to me on our little second Christmas yesterday.
This was especially touching because when I was
in Florence, I realized I would never be able to see
all of the amazing art there is to see there in two weeks.
So when we went to the Uffizi, I knew I had to
see the Botticellis. I have loved his work since
I first studied him in art history as a girl of 13.

Stage two
I apply black around the face,
which will eventually pop out the blue
Barbara Muir © 2010

What I couldn't know without seeing them, is that
they are delicately touched with gold -- everywhere.
Botticelli could create a line of gold leaf thinner than
the thinnest pen line. I was in awe. I love his work,
the expressions on the faces, of his Madonnas,
his Venus, the beautiful women in Prima Vera.
And add to that the fact, that many of the gardens
he depicted are still that way today.

Stage one
a rough drawing from my reference
of a great boy I painted a few years
ago, and red around the edges over
an orange ground.
Barbara Muir © 2010

So tonight I am thinking about tondos -- those lovely
round paintings he did, some of which are still
framed in the original glorious carved, gilded wood.

You know I'm a sucker for gold. I'm just trying to figure
out how to use it in my work too now. But I could
use an expert teacher.

Have a life-is-truly-as-bright-as-gold day.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The compulsion to paint

New Year's Eve Tulips
watercolour and black marker on watercolour paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

It's very late, and I've just finished a fast watercolour
sketch. I'd planned to do a quick charcoal sketch of
our table after the Christmas dinner was over. That's
right we had a second one tonight, and it was delicious.
But passing through the kitchen I saw that the
gorgeous tulips I bought for New Year's Eve are almost
finished and I had to try and capture a little of their
full blown beauty.

But now I'm heading off to bed.
I hope you had a lovely Sunday. I know I did.

Have a loving-the-first-week-of-the-New-Year day.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Celebrations and dreams

Back road lookout in San Gimignano.

Tomorrow (or today) as we're past the midnight hour
is going to be a second Christmas for us. We've bought
presents for our son Christopher and Megan, his fiancée.
So we will have another day of celebration and then
the year proper will begin.

Steven and I talked tonight about why the Florence
visit is sticking in our thoughts and hearts so deeply,
when we were in Europe for two weeks in 2006
with none of the same after shocks. I think it may
be that Italy was so sympatico. Plus he explains that
we were two whole weeks in Florence, that I had a
job to do, that we met wonderful people, and
had our own apartment, and lived in a neighbourhood.

He has just let me upload pictures from his excellent
camera. So I thought I'd post some of them over
the next few weeks. Tonight's is a view over
the Tuscan countryside from a lookout in San Gimignano.
This was a 11th century Tuscan town we visited on our
last day in Italy.

Merry Christmas times two!

Have a loving-every-chance-to-celebrate day.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A quiet start

Steven waves the glow stick arm bands and
we get a cool image with the flash off

Whenever I saw Steven today he'd made
more and more fantastic jewelry out of
the glow stick halos we gave our guests on
New Year's Eve. Of course, he was trying
to make me laugh and it worked. I
told him he was getting so arty I
probably shouldn't take him to
any more Biennales.

It seems appropriate that after at least six months
of running to meet deadlines, fill out forms,
organize what seemed like endless details for
my art business, teaching and planning the visit
to the Biennale, topped off with Christmas
and New Year's Eve, which did feel like the icing
on the cake -- we did nothing today. New Year's
Day for us a traditional slow feeling. When the
children were younger, we might head out for a
freezing walk.

But today after a 5 a.m. bedtime after the party
was over, I have been reading my novel, while
Steven pulled on layers of down vests and ski
jackets to go and putter in his workshop in the
garage while the snow fell all around.

So Happy New Year. It has been a perfect day.
The year is off to an excellent start. Our friends
have deluged us with so much food and wine, that
we feel like we need to have another party. And
we are...on Sunday we have Christmas with Christopher,
Megan and Sam again. So we're catching our breath,
and then....we're at the post, we're off!

Happy, Happy New Year.

Have a taking-it-easy-before-it-starts-again 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!