Sunday, February 28, 2010

Well worth seeing

Portrait of my father
black marker on bond paper
7 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir 2010
(I'm happy for my father that
the Canadians won Olympic Gold
in Hockey tonight. He was a
major hockey fan, and would
have been shouting out instructions
and gesticulating wildly as he
watched the game today. He
would have loved that we won
the Gold on his birthday.
Here he is sitting in his favorite
chair, outside in his favorite
place his home with a view
on the Ottawa River.)

While I think of it last night we saw a great film
Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon in Invictus.
What an amazing movie. The election of
Barack Obama was a significant moment in
history, and so were the fantastic events in
this movie about Nelson Mandela and
South Africa. At school I look out at a sea
of faces from places all over the world, and it
breaks my heart to think that people would
actively dislike another person -- anyone in
that room -- because of the colour of their skin.
What a stupid bunch of people we have been
all over the world in that regard. The movie
tackled this theme in a respectful, kind and
moving way.

It is my father's birthday. It feels like he's been
dead a long time. The world has changed so
much since he left it. I miss him, and would
love to be able to bring him into my classroom
and introduce him to my students. I think he
would be proud of me and how I work, and
I know he would be delighted that I am doing
so much painting, something he loved to do
himself. Happy Birthday Father wherever
you are.

Have a-giving-your-neighbour-a-hug day.

Saturday, February 27, 2010


A serious talk
Skype drawing
charcoal on bond paper
9 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Before I start a commission portrait
painting I frequently do sketches
and drawings to "learn"
the subject - either live,
or from photos. My friend
Tamara has a beautiful face
and a difficult one to capture.
During a recent conversation
she lit a cigarette. I said that
this was the only way she could
ever have a cigarette and talk
to me. We'd need to be
thousands of miles apart.
(I don't smoke.)

I grew up in the age of instant. My mother like many
of the women of her generation was thrilled with
"instant mashed potatoes", instant coffee, shirts that
didn't need ironing, the entire smorgasbord of
convenience foods. She was a great cook, but was
delighted to be able to use these foods for

Now the rage for instant has become so dominant
that kids have trouble sitting still in school, because
they're used to keying in whatever music or videos
they want to see on their computers. Microwaving
food, instant bank machines, the list goes on.

But when you apply the instant mania to art the
concept loses some of its appeal. It is possible
to create a painting quickly on a small surface,
I know that myself. But for the bigger, deeper,
more intensive, work, instant just doesn't cut it.
The blog world is excellent for demanding
product. I think that's good for artists. It has
been a wonderful discipline for me to know
that people are out in the world waiting to see
me create something.

But it's also hard if (as it does) work takes time
to gel, doesn't come together instantly --
floats around in the brain for months before
manifesting on canvas or paper -- eludes the
artist. Then, when the idea does congeal
it is complex, doesn't permit speed, needs
a lot of work, fast work some days, slow
meticulous detail on others.

This is a concept I'm wondering about right
now because I want to spend a while on my
paintings - hire models, work out poses, think,
and think, and think until I get magic. Or
not think until something pops into my head
and hits the canvas. Constant work on a small
scale is like the daily short runs before the marathon.
Each one has its own meaning and value, and
counts in larger explorations.

Have a working-on-your-inner-art day.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow at last

Tamara talking
Skype sketch
black and grey marker on bond paper
11 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

I am an Ottawa girl although I've lived longer in
Toronto than I did in the Nation's capital. But
we grew up with snow -- lots of it. Before global
warming Ottawa used to experience a whole
lot of the white stuff. They still have more than
we ever do, but it's not the same. As a child I
was sent outside in my snowsuit to play with my
brothers from dawn until dusk. A huge pleasure
was making forts. We dug them out of the snowbanks
by the driveway. Someone had to shoo us out
of there when my father was coming home from
work. But I distinctly remember three children
being able to get inside with snow bank above
and below. We fancied ourselves to be arctic

Toronto? Forget it. A few centimeters of snow
fell today and everyone was talking about it.
well who can blame them, this winter has been
a winter in temperature only. Neighbours were
out with their snow shovels, people were
warned to stay off the roads. I didn't get out
north of the city, where the weather is always
wild compared to Toronto's tame weather.
But here in town this was not a storm. It
was so warm that the snow was melting
quickly into big slushy puddles. It's the first
time all winter I've had to wear my high
lined rubber boots to wade through first the
snow, and then the melting stuff.

I felt grateful to my Mom and Dad today for
raising me where the weather was dependably
undependable in winter. Grateful to my
driving instructor who taught me to drive in
winter, and grateful to that inner Ottawa girl
who found the whole idea of being stopped
cold by a bit of snow funny. Sorry Toronto.

Have an enjoying-your-weather-and-your-inner-

Thursday, February 25, 2010

A small celebration

For a small weekday toast
black and grey marker on bond paper
11 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

The other day I bought a tiny bottle of Veuve
Cliquot to celebrate that my paintings were home
safely from Florence, Italy and the Florence
Biennale. Both Steven and I had so much work
to do that we toasted with one glass, and then
put the bottle away.

Tonight is the start of Reading Week for me.
My classes even did count downs 10,9,8 etc.
Of course I'm not on holiday, but working on
as much painting as I can squeeze into the week.

So today I went to my favorite art store, and
bought drawing materials. I recently saw a
cool drawing somewhere -- maybe in the
newspaper that used black marker with
grey marker and I thought that would be
interesting to try. So I bought a grey wide
marker to try it out. Tomorrow I'll go
back and get the lighter grey I was envisioning.

It is a cheery idea. I toasted all of you. The
candles burned down at dinner while we
talked and laughed, and the backdrop was
some amazing tulips which are nearing the
end of their perfection.

Have a trying-out-that-new-idea-and-celebrating day.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Book or portfolio?

Inside the images are a good size and
the printer did a great job reproducing them.
The stock is high quality and has a nice feel to it.

The cover -- just my name
on heavy semi-gloss stock

Sometimes a leap forward in how you present
yourself can happen almost by accident. I
was rushing to get ready to go to the Florence
Biennale, working from a huge checklist
propped up in the kitchen that I'll show you
sometime when I overheard the word book.
A friend of mine had printed a book for the show.
Yikes! This was Monday, I was leaving Wednesday
night. How could I get a book?

The answer was my wonderful local printer,
who I just adore. I phoned and asked if he
could make me a book on Monday afternoon.
He said bring me a disk. I did, and by Tuesday
evening I had the "books" in hand. They are
just over 8 1/2 x 11 inches, and there are
32 images inside. I did not title my work,
or print sizes, because there wasn't time.
I did include my artist's statement and blurb
in English and Italian, plus all of my contact
information. On the front cover I used my
name, on the back my blog address.

Pow! That book (and I've had more copies
made since I returned) impresses people
in a way no portfolio ever did. They believe
in me because I'm in a book. Which is a
bit crazy, but hey -- it's also true.

By the way Liza Hirst has just put out her
second volume of her paintings. I own the
first one, and fully intend to get the second.
I treasure her little book, which has 100
fantastic paintings in it.

I guess that's next.

Have an aren't-you-worth-a-book day.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A quick study with friends

Man in red
Art Group Sketch
acrylic on canvas
12 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

A young friend of mine suggested preparing
several canvasses ahead of time, so that I
could head out to my Tuesday night art group
whenever I felt inspired. I did.
Tonight I had a very little time with my art
group. But the model didn't show up, so
one of the club members graciously offered
to pose. He held the pose expertly, and
perhaps because I know him I dashed down
a sketch.

His face in the actual pose was very
serious, but his kindly nature twinkled from
his eyes. I didn't get time to capture that --
I was more interested in the play of light,
and could soften the chin a bit, if I want to
put more work into it. But I think I've
captured the sweetie pie side of this fellow.

I'm absolutely exhausted in a good and happy
way. So it's time to call it a day.

Have an enjoying-whoever-you-paint day.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Early morning tomorrow so more tomorrow

In the kitchen
acrylic on canvas
36 x 26 inches
Barbara Muir
I don't know if you've seen this painting before
but it's one of my favorites. I've been marking all
night tonight, catching up so I can concentrate
on painting, and I am caught up! Yay.

This is a painting of my friend Jennifer in our
kitchen. It's a big 36 x 36 inch painting from a
few years ago, and I painted it mostly in one
evening while she posed.

Have a super-enjoying-your-life day.

P.S. Yesterday was like spring. I sat on the
back porch with the cat. Today it has been
snowing all day and Torontonians cannot
drive in snow. Crazy.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Let the work teach you

Lina's back door
black marker and graphite on bond paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(I did this little sketch very quickly in my
brother and sister-in-law's kitchen. What
intrigued me was the chord from the
blinds hanging over a coat by the door.
I was attempting to capture the strong darks and
lights created by the trees and outbuildings set
against the snow.Then there was a
lovely grouping of flowers and big plants
in planters set against the window. It
is absolutely beautiful there.)

One of the reasons I was glad to get my paintings home
the other day, aside from the fact that I might show
them again quite soon, is that they are good in my
opinion. I know that sounds high handed of me,
but what I mean is I need them to help me answer
some questions that may arise in the next few weeks.

I brought home an experimental canvas the other
day. I didn't buy it from my usual supplier, and
it is slightly different in texture, gessoed, ready
to go. But I have a couple of things I must do before
I spend anymore time just fooling around.

The question came flashing into my brain -- "But
what colour of ground should I use for my next big
work?" I've been using orange, or rust forever. Recently
I've used black, then I did a dark purple (not as
nice as black.) But for this a mother and child
(I think) I might use a peachy pink ground. I
decided that when I saw a self-portrait staring
down at me the other day and realized. Yes.
Good colour for Blondes (the boy) and maybe
even Mommy (not blonde). I have also tried one ground
colour in one part of the painting and another in
another. This works too.

Self-portrait: The Happy Artist
acrylic on canvas
36 x 36 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(Note the peach background and how it
works with a blonde subject (moi in this case).)

Aside from all this I am marking today, and may
not get to paint. Forgive me. I need to catch
up, and I'd love to get ahead with my schoolwork.

Back to the discussion. Painting the street paintings
I line up some of the other street paintings. They
are like a cheering section. I select several small
paintings from different seasons and they talk
to me. (Yes I'm a bit crazy -- maybe you should try
it!) They say "see! see! see! Try this. Look at me!"
In that way they are like small children and cats.
But I do look, just the way I look at all of your work,
and I say "Aha! You are right my tiny friends." So for
my much larger work the three portraits of young
women that I showed in the Biennale may be my
guides, and when I was painting them, other
paintings gathered on the floor near my easel
and taught me things about light and colour.

Have a learning-from-your-paintings day.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The travelling girls are home!

Saturday Tulips
black marker on bond
9 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Back in November three of my paintings were
crated by a company that builds wooden crates
and packs artwork, then shipped overseas via
Milan, to get to the Florence Biennale on time
for the show to open.

When I arrived there they were miraculously
hung on the wall in exactly the right place. While
other artists struggled to restretch and hang their
work (by far a less expensive option) I stood
around and offered help and sympathy.

The show ended mid-December and my three
paintings of young women in party finery
stayed in Florence when I headed home. As
I'm new to International exhibits, and shipping
large work, I thought my paintings would be
back by early January. But I was wrong. They
got back in town last week, and then had to go
through customs clearance.

So it was a pretty big deal when Pete the shipping
guy carried the big wooden crate up and stuck it
on my back porch next to the large (and messy)
collection of tulips waiting to go in the garden as
soon as it is warm enough to plant them there.

Steven takes the screws out of the crate
so we can open it. Crates
for international shows must be
reusable. Now I'll save this one.

Today Steven, my dear husband, brought the
big crate into the kitchen, and out came the three
girls in perfect condition. I scuttled around the
studio taking down small paintings, and rearranging
everything so that they could come back. I was
absolutely thrilled to see them. The Florence Biennale
is not a sale show, and only a few artists made quiet
deals to sell their work. I've been asked before if I'm
sad when I sell my paintings. The answer is a
resounding no. But I have to admit I really, really like
the three who crossed the ocean. They feel more human now.
Will I sell them? Yes of course. But do I love
them. I do.

Opening the crate. The moment of truth.
All was well and the girls are back on
the walls safe and sound. What I don't
get is why they suddenly want
The tulips I drew a couple of days ago are now
almost over. They have grown up beyond their
big green leaves. Sadly one of our cats thinks
that tulip leaves are delicious and he's somewhat
mangled the greenery, but the remaining leaves
and blooms are too beautiful to ignore, so I
drew this drawing for you.

Have a loving-your-own-work day.

P.S. To all the artists I gave the Sunshine Award
to. Please don't feel you have to do anything at all
about it. It's the gesture that counts. You are
my friends, and my people. Stay happy.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sunshine -- glorious, brilliant, sunshine

Golden Sunlight Cherrywood
acrylic on canvas
16 x 20 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Here's the painting I've been
working on today. Not quite finished. It's the view
from my studio painted plein studio window
again. The light in the late afternoon today was
absolutely magical -- light that could make you
fall in love with winter. I did while I was
painting this.)

I have been awarded the Sunshine Award for positive and
creative blogging by my friends Julie Davis, and Karen
Bruson, and by Becky Joy whose work is lovely,
and I hadn't seen it until she gave me the award. Thank
you very much everyone. I am thrilled beyond measure.

The rules for accepting the award are;
Put the logo on your blog or within your post,
Pass the award on to 12 Bloggers
Link to the nominees in your post
Let the nominees know they have received this award
Link to the people who gave you the award.

Okay here goes:
Flora Doehler
Belinda Del Pesco
Liza Hirst
Melinda Esparza
Eldon Warren
Theresa Rankin
Laurel Daniels
Julie Davis
Gwen Bell
Marcia LaBelle
Karen Bruson
Edward B. Gordon
Susan Carlin
Laura Starett
Carol Marine
Sheila Vaughan
R. Garriott
Nicki Ault
David Lobenberg
Edgar Schrock
Sally Chupick
Linny D. Vine
Tammy Hext
Catherine Jeffrey
Elisabeth Seaver

Oh My Goodness, now I'm getting nervous. I
go flipping around the blog world looking for
people I might have left out. 12 is not enough.
I've been doing this for two years. There are
so many, many people whose work I love.
If I forgot you that's exactly what happened.
I just forgot. I still think you're wonderful
(can you tell I'm a middle child -- we really
want to be kind and fair -- okay not all middle
children, but this one for sure.)

Thank you so much for the award. I am a firm believer
in trying to be positive. It is a choice, and not always
an easy one, I know that's true.

Have an Hey-I'm-a-prize-winner! day.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Two years of blogging today

Breakfast in the hotel
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Two years ago today I sat down at this very computer for
the first time and wrote my first blog. My son helped me
get started because I had no idea how to begin a blog.
That seems funny now after blogging every single day
since that one, but it was a big step then. My motivation
at the time was being able to comment on my friend
Norene Smiley's blog about an upcoming show. The
show has long since past, and the artists didn't keep
up that blog, more's the pity. But I am eternally
grateful to them for creating the blog that pulled me
into this world.

Tonight we toasted the blog, and all of you, for
helping me reach this anniversary. I feel like
my career as an artist changed dramatically when
I entered this cyber world. I'd been drawing and
painting for my whole life, and having shows and
selling for quite a while. But the blog gave me a
community, a whole world of artists who are
magnificent, and disciplined, funny and kind.

I have always had friends, and couldn't have
envisioned wanting more. But the blog world
surprised me by introducing me to people I
could never have met in my day-to-day life,
and fostering real friendships with these
people. I know for certain that I will meet
many of my blog friends, and I am so looking
forward to those reunions, because they will
be meetings with old friends.

And the blog world is like a giant art school,
with teachers (fellow art bloggers) everywhere
sharing their joys, secrets, tough decisions, and
ways of managing difficult problems in their
paintings, and out in the art world. I have
learned so much.

By now I'm blatantly addicted to the activity
of blogging, and astounded at the results.

I'm including a little painting I did in our
hotel room last weekend. The subject matter
is simple. One of the services I really like in
hotels is room service. I love hanging that
sign on the door at night, and getting
breakfast delivered, by a waiter rolling
the table laden with delicious goodies into
the room. The tiny bottles of jam and ketchup
make me feel like a pampered child, and
then there's the luxury of drinking cup after
cup of coffee.

Have an enjoying-your-breakfast day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Growing before my eyes

Tulips dancing in the kitchen
black marker on bond
9 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

I think it was Martha Stewart who taught me that
tulips continue to "grow" after you bring them home
and put them in water. I love Martha Stewart, and
now a friend gives me the magazine as a year long
gift for my birthday. We've been away the past two
weekends, and couldn't follow our usual rituals --
buying flowers for one another at one of the flower
shops on Avenue Road. So I picked up some tulips
and roses on the way home from work tonight to
cheer up the house. When I brought the bunches of
tulips in (hastily purchased at the supermarket) they
were tight buds, furled deeply inside their big boy
protective green leaves.

By the time I sat down to draw them after dinner they
were starting to emerge, and I was blown away by their

Have an enjoying-putting-flowers-around-your-house day.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In the midst of marking

Night view from our hotel room in Ottawa.
That's the Chateau Laurier on the right,
and beyond that the parliament buildings.
Hi friends,

I am working on a small painting that isn't ready to show you,
and I've been marking papers all night. Marking is one of
the most difficult and most rewarding parts of teaching,
so I feel both happy and the slightest bit tired.
We went up to Ottawa, a long, long drive on Saturday morning,
stayed in a hotel, and visited family. It was a good plan.
We had a fabulous view, and didn't impose on our family
members too much -- not a good plan for the Valentine's
Day weekend. I love the journey, and Steven and I always
listen to good books. On the way up we listened to Malcolm
Gladwell What The Dog Saw, and on the way back last
night, Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed about marital love.

Both books were terrific to listen to, and fascinating in their
own right, although Elizabeth Gilbert is a better reader.
I love that feeling of learning, of devouring a book as the
miles speed by. Even though each time you get out of the car
you feel as stiff and strange as you do without the book, you
are also in the middle of something besides the journey. Your
curiosity is peaked. You want to know what happens next.

View of the Ottawa River from my mother's house.
The hills in the background are the Gatineau in Quebec.
Quebec is just across the river.

We didn't finish either book, so I will probably listen to
them while I paint, or we will get in the car, and listen
to them as we whip around town buying groceries and
running errands. It's a cheering prospect.

Forgive me for not getting back to your blogs today,
and for not writing about the sweet people who have
given me wonderful awards in the past week. I am
decidedly behind and need your understanding. It is
a busy time in my artistic life, my school life and my
family life, and I must sleep to be able to juggle the
elements of my existence with ease. Let it be known
that you cheer me up beyond measure, and I feel
so blessed to be part of this wonderful circle of
gifted and kind artist bloggers.

Have a counting-your-blessings day.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Long day's journey

Tea and tulips -- my brother's table
black marker on bond
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(I'll reshoot the picture tomorrow.)
Hi everyone,

I did this little drawing at my brother's kitchen table
today. Then we jumped in the car, visited my mother,
then got in the car again and drove home.

It's a five hour drive and we are super tired now.
It was a lovely visit in Ottawa, except that we are
worried because my mother is not well. I love my
family more than I can ever express, and I'm glad
we spent the Family Day holiday visiting my brother
and mother.

Now we plan to stay home for awhile. Two weekends
on the road is a lot. I'll talk to you again tomorrow.

Have a loving-your-family day.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Late Sunday afternoon

Backyard Cherrywood afternoon
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
Here's a little painting of my backyard in the
late afternoon that I thought was pretty
dark and moody until I took it out of my
studio and photographed it outside.

I hope you are having the best Valentine's
Day ever, whether you have a special someone,
or you're being extra loving with family and
friends. I'll be thinking of you and sending
you hearts and flowers and super good wishes.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Have an enjoying-the-love-the-world-offers day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Boy thinking
8 x 10 inches
black marker on bond paper
Barbara Muir © 2010

Who do you love? Who Who. Who Who?
Who loves you? ... Today I'm posting a
sketch of a boy I painted a few years ago.
Why? Because he was 15 -- probably one of
the most powerful ages for romantic love.
Not that he ever told me whether or not
he loved, or even liked anyone.
Now all you Valentine's decriers -- try to
remember back to when you were 15, and
whether or not someone loved you was the
whole deal.

I told my class the other day that the idea
of love was well worth celebrating, and all
this talk about commercial takeovers ad
nauseum makes me unhappy. Because
hearts are pretty, and a day that honours
loving is a good thing. Argue back every
day should be for loving. Okay! My husband
and I give one another flowers for
Valentine's Day every weekend all year.
My point is people aren't always loving,
and a day that jolts the love vibe is not a bad thing.

Go back to your tender hearted 15 year
old, jealous, baby self and reconnect with
that passion. Now that should work. If
not I give you a pretty picture for Valentine's
Day. I love my life, my work, my family,
and my friends ... that includes you. There
is lots of love to go around. It isn't a pie.
But then you already knew that.

Have an enjoying-all-the-love-in-your-life day.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Moving around

Sunny winter afternoon on Cherrywood
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

One of things I admire about plein air
painters is that they're gutsy. They get right
out there and paint in all weather. I am not
them. Sand at the ocean, grit in the city, wind,
dirt in my acrylics, rain, too much sun, not enough
...I haven't acquired the requisite coping skills.
But last summer I did porch air paintings out
on my front porch, and really enjoyed the results.
For the past couple of afternoons there has been
a glorious light. Robins and over observant artists
think it's the precursor-to-spring-type of light.
I haven't seen a Robin yet, and I'm grateful for
that because I love those birds and it is sub
zero weather.

But I have seen an artist getting all peculiar,
starting to sing with no provocation. So this
artist instead of sitting on the porch, now a wasteland
of icy concrete and bricks, decorated by permanently
on bad taste Christmas lights (the only lights
available two days before the event), sat inside.
I scoured the place for a perch, and decided on
my model's chair in the studio window.
So this is what I saw. You may recognize the
view done in a much more restrained manner a
while back. I might work on it a bit more, or
leave it as it is -- loose and happy.

I realized today that we don't have to go out
to get that plein air spirit, we just have to
be strategic, and careful and move around in
our own houses, (or other people's if they are
willing) to paint what we see. It wasn't comfortable
sitting on the arm of my chair in the window. But
was it meant to be?

Have a moving-around-for-a-view day.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Funny people

Journal sketches
(carrying on the theme from last night I found these
two sketches of Steven sleeping with a pillow
over his head -- in a journal filled
with writing about art, these are
the only two drawings)
black marker on notebook paper
9 x 6
Barbara Muir © 2010

Man sleeping
Journal Sketch
9x 6
Barbara Muir © 2010

Okay I forgot something when I talked about my
addictions the other day. I really, really love
humour. In fact it's one of the things I live for.
Sometimes it doesn't seem like such a funny
world, but funny people don't take long
at all to see the humour even in desperate
situations. So...funny is something I crave.
This preference gets me into trouble
when humour is inappropriate, which it
often is.

To that end I have stayed up way past any
sensible bed time to watch Jon Stewart and
Steven Colbert. And tonight talked on Skype
too late given my 5:45 morning wake up
for school, laughing my head off with a friend
who lives in the American southwest. It
is so different there it isn't even funny.

Except it is. What I mean is planting season
really never goes away, and people there
are getting their seedlings ready for
the garden. You could do that here, but
it's going to snow tomorrow and you can't count on reliable heat until
after May 24, and if we had a summer like
2009, maybe not ever.

Enough though. Fatigue does kill humour.
I shared some laughs with friends in the
neighbourhood tonight, and then went
home to talk to USA. Funny artists need
one another, because we've all suffered
through art school classes with pompous
self involved people cranking out Mozart
and insisting on silence while they work
at their oeuvres. We confuse oeuvres with
oeufs here in Canada - eggs, and serious
people silently painting to classical music
sometimes trigger unappreciated fits of

Have a loving-what's-funny day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


One way to get "juice" into your work.

When I walk into a writing class I put the word "juice"
on the board in huge letters. You can teach all the
grammar and structure you want, but if writers don't
have juice - power, vitality, vision, punch, oomph,
excitement, no one will read what they have to say.

In painting the juice in your work is what gets you up
in the morning, makes you think about a painting all the time,
lets you see flashes of colours and solutions in your dreams.
Juice matters. You can look at 30 landscapes, beautifully
executed technically, and the one with juice will grab
you and won't let you go.

It's been snowing here, and people think that's a good reason
to abandon their spirit, to look downcast, to feel
deservedly irritated. But snow happens, and many
communities have way more, tons more snow than the
couple of inches that fell here. Snow, parking tickets,
filling in forms, waiting in line. Once again juice is the

One way to get your juice back is the one recommended
by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way, and before her by
Natalie Goldberg, in Wild Mind, and that's to write in a journal
daily. The blog is like a journal, but less intimate because it's
broadcast to the world.

In your journal you can describe your fears and even ask
questions to a theoretical imaginary artistic power and write down
the answers. You can mention your petty worries, and
make lists. The possibilities are endless. You can go all
high end and have superb sketches and great prose, then
publish! (Hey you can do that in a blog too.)

Enough. I'll let myself speak for myself.

Have a writing-your-thoughts-in-a-journal-for-juice day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Talking on Skype

You're only a day away
Skype drawing
black marker on bond
9 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

We are reaching the middle of the semester
and like most teachers I get tired at this
stage. I have to remember to boost myself
with lots of positive self talk, cups of coffee and
tea, time with my excellent and funny novel
(I can't read grim at the moment, so please
don't recommend anything even bordering on
sad). And one of the best ways to recharge
is to talk to family and friends.

How wonderful Skype is! I talked to my sweet friend
Tamara, in Holland today. We met in Florence, and got
along immediately. She is spectacularly pretty,
so I worked on drawing her tonight.

Now I am folding into sleep in a minute, to bounce
back up and paint and teach again tomorrow. Coupled
with the fatigue I feel an intense excitement about ideas
I want to try out. So... it's passing that delight in life
on that is my biggest job. Thanks for sharing your
wonderful ideas and beautiful work with me. I
cannot tell you how immensely inspiring I find
your fantastic art to be. It is for sure the colour on
the icing on the cake of my life.

You know what? It's finally snowing and I hear the sound
of a shovel outside. The whole rest of the world has been
deep in snow this winter, and so far we've escaped. Aha.

Have a shoveling-out-the-walk day.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Monday's obsessions

Daily fixings
8 x 8 inches
acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2010
(What I need to get through the day --
a book, a notebook, coffee, some
romance and great conversations.)

I woke up this morning with an idea for a little
painting. Does that happen to you? Lately my
brain has been on fire, and I think it's because
I feel like we're moving towards spring.

I was thinking about my vices. Do I have any?
Well of course I do, but they're not the
standard ones. I am not a drinker, although
I'll have a glass of wine if we go out for dinner.
I never got into smoking, and now the smell
drives me mad. I don't do drugs aside from
aspirin, and Valerian to get to sleep. So I
wondered for a second or two, maybe the silly seconds
when you wake up from a dream -- what are my

I did this little painting of a still life to illustrate
the answer. I am obsessed, maybe even addicted
to reading. I feel best when I know there is a stack
of new magazines, and books beside my bed.
And I would not like to live without coffee. I am
trying to cut the number of cups I drink a day down
to two -- but those two are vital to my happiness and
joie de vivre.

Plus I do love to write and draw. I really love the
red spiral bound 5 x 7 inch notebook I bought in
Italy. The heart represents love -- and I'm crazy for
romance. The red heart is a votive candle holder
placed on the table for Valentine's Day. Talking
is my other distraction -- and the yellow sticky
pad is handy when I'm on the phone and need to
keep a name or number.

I may work on this little painting a bit more
tomorrow. It's an early day, so I hope you have
a good Tuesday.

Have a facing-up-to-your-passions day.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A long day's journey to our boy

Sam and I fool around practicing silly walks, while
Steven snaps a photo.

We spent ten hours in the car today driving to
Windsor, Ontario and back to see Sam. We
brought him three boxes of groceries, and stuffed
his tiny residence room with food, then took him out
to lunch. We went for a bit of a drive to see
where I lived as a child (I spent my first four
years in Windsor), and then took him to his

Sam teaching Steven some of his steps.

When we arrived the girl who is his rehearsal partner
for a Commedia dell'Arte scene hadn't arrived,
so Sam practiced his funny walk. Steven
and I joined in and played in the beautiful
voice room at Jackman Hall at the University
of Windsor. We took these goofy, blurry photos
which I love, then tore ourselves away for the long
drive home.

Sam and me. I always hate to say goodbye.

The drive away from Windsor -- vast views of farmland.

I used to dread reaching the flat land that stretches
for miles between Windsor and London. Now I
love it -- the vast expanse of it, which I can't
record properly with the camera.

sunset at Port Stanley

We walked on the frozen beach at Port Stanley,
grabbed dinner, then sang the rest of the way

Another view of the beach at sunset. That's
winter fencing and frozen waves. But we
still walked in sand.

Have a having-fun-with-your-family day.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Early morning tomorrow

Oprah and Sadie
charcoal on paper
14 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

We're heading out to see our youngest tomorrow
on a day trip, so I can't talk to you for long. We
saw an incredible movie tonight, An Education --
brilliantly acted and extremely moving to anyone
raising, or working with teenagers. Steven sat
with his hand going over his face in parts of it.
Sometimes I was holding my breath. I won't give
away the plot, but it was a very good film.

Tonight I'm showing you the sketch of Oprah
I donated to the Heartbeats of Africa auction.
It was the drawing I did to show the Oprah
Winfrey Show team that I could draw Oprah back
in May when they asked me to be on the Skype
show. I suggested I do a drawing, so they'd have
a sample of my work. I found the story of her
two shelter dogs Sadie and Ivan very touching.
Oprah adopted the puppies, and then they got
sick. Ivan didn't make it through, but Sadie did.
So I did this sketch of Oprah with Sadie.
I hope you enjoy it.

Now I've got to shut down for the night.

Have a going-to-see-your-family day.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Two gifts in one

Flowers for you
acrylic on canvas
12 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

In the middle of a strange day, trying to find out in which
direction to travel this weekend, there was a knock at
the front door. Lo and behold someone was giving my
neighbour flowers -- a gorgeous arrangement from
Demarco Perpich.

Years ago when I used to be editor of a glossy corporate
magazine, the art director for the magazine sent me
this type of lovely arrangement for Christmas every
year and it made me feel like a million bucks.

So today I brought the lovely arrangement into the
kitchen so it wouldn't get chilled in our somewhat
cooler hallway, and then sitting far enough away
that I wouldn't get paint on the lovely cellophane
wrapping, I painted this romantic arrangement
very happily, and with great exuberance.

The result is the painting you see before you. I
skipped the cellophane and made up the vase
because it was sitting in a small cardboard box and
I couldn't see it.

When I'd just finished and put the flowers back in
the hallway anticipating that my neighbour might be
home from work any second to pick up his gift,
there was a knock on the door again. And were the flowers
a Valentine's gift, or in celebration of his anniversary?
No. They were sent as a thank you for a very successful
business deal. I said "good for you!" very enthusiastically
indeed, and then said "do more of that! The flowers
are great."

And the painting? That can be our little secret.

Have a loving-everything-you-see day.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Reading with heart

Reading with Heart
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir 2010

My painting Reading with Heart is finally done and I dropped
off that painting, and my drawing of Oprah and her dog
Sadie, that I did before I drew Oprah via Skype for the
taping of her show in May. I am giving the drawing, which is
nicely framed, and the little painting Reading with Heart to
the Heartbeats for Africa art show, and auction that is being
held next weekend in support of the Stephen Lewis Foundation.

When I learned that approximately 2 million people die of HIV/AIDS
in Africa every year, and that every three years that amounts
to the number of people who died in the Holocaust, I was
astounded and deeply saddened. I would like to be rich, and
to have millions of dollars to give to get the antiretroviral drugs
available in North America to everyone who needs them in Africa,
so that people with the disease could be treated and continue
to live instead of dying senselessly. So my little painting is
supposed to be tied in to Valentine's Day. The idea of Valentine's
Day linked to this sad world issue, is that on Valentine's Day
we give our love. So it makes me feel wonderful to know that
I've given my work, and work I treasure (my drawing of Oprah)
to a cause I believe in. I admire Stephen Lewis, and his passion
for trying to wake the world up to this grievous need. In my
mind Stephen Lewis is one of the true heroes on the planet,
although he is a completely kind, gracious and humble man.
He is a man who cannot turn away and pretend this disease
is not killing millions every year.

Have a thinking-about-how-you-can-help day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Acting like a traveller

View inside the Cathedral in Pisa, Italy

Most of the artists I know are not wealthy, so the
opportunities for travel are rare. For those of
us in the northern part of the country, the many
grey days of winter can become enervating.

Is there an Rx (prescription) for artistic ennui?
I've been thinking it's to act like someone new
to your city or town. What would you be doing
differently if you had never been there before?
Steven and I started talking about this when we
were in Florence -- wondering why you have so
much more fun when you're travelling than you
do sometimes at home. We decided that in part
it was because you are so much more experimental.
You have to be. So you eat at unknown restaurants,
you visit every possible museum. You are a culture
hound, constantly looking for new opportunities.

I know -- now you're saying -- well okay. That's in
Florence, where there is great food every five steps
or so, museums galore, and so much art you can't
not see it. For goodness sakes one night walking home
there was a girl dressed up standing alone in the middle
of a lit piazza singing opera in a gorgeous voice!

Okay but what about where you are? I feel very
lucky to be friends and colleagues with Frank
Daley who teaches a theater course at the college
where I teach. I've seen more theater in the past
few years with Frank and his family and friends,
and students from his theater class than I had
for years before I met him. Tonight Steven and I
went with Frank and his crew to see Jersey Boys.
What a wonderful musical about the Four Seasons
and Frankie Valli. The music, staging and acting was
superb. The show's been in town for a long time, and
I've wanted to see it, but I do lead a fairly busy life.
Frank made it easy to go, and it was like being in a
brand new city, and yet my own, to go out for
dinner to a new restaurant and see a hit show.

So treat yourself like a tourist. What would you
do? What are you missing?

I don't have a painting tonight, and it's an early
start tomorrow.

Have a living-like-a-traveller day.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tuesday night at my art group

Art Group Sketch
acrylic on canvas
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

It's been a long day today starting with my early
morning class. There is always at least one student
trying to lean against the wall, or catch a few more
minutes of sleep in some way, and as I'm not
a morning person, I have to really work hard at
not following suit. Instead I am wildly enthusiastic
to keep everyone motivated, and after class I feel
like I've been dancing the can can for a couple of
hours. Not true of course.

We finally have a little snow, a layer about a half inch
thick that sparkles in the light at night, and makes the
whole city look newly hatched, or redecorated. If we
don't get tons of it, this will be just ideal.

So tonight I went out to my art group and painted
from the model. There are some great painters there,
and a few who paint in a superb, strong, dynamic
style. If I'm lucky I pick that energy up almost
instantaneously and whip up a painting with some
punch. Tonight was one of those nights. I was so
happy to be there. The pose was good for me with
strong shadows and light, and I felt fantastic until
I stopped. I reached a place of -- okay time to quit
and went home to talk to you.

Have an it's-great-to-paint-with-friends day

P.S. I think posting my paintings here and
looking at everyone's paintings on the net
is the closest thing there is to painting with
friends. The only thing missing is the tea and
the music.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Not my night to cook

Reading with Heart
Next stage (still working on it)
8 x 10 inches
acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2010

As I write this I smell the delicious stir fry that
Steven is making downstairs in the kitchen. He is,
as it happens, a much better cook than I am, and I'm
so glad we traded nights last night, so that I don't have
to cook after an afternoon of teaching. Listening to
him, I realize I've become a bit like our cats and dog,
in that I know when he'll call me to dinner, because
he makes the salad dressing last, in a small glass bowl,
and when I hear him mixing it, I know he'll call me.

I usually read to relax, or mark papers while he cooks.
Then because all that prep wasn't my problem, I can
clean up and paint. We alternate nights, and have for
quite a few years now. Before that there were a few years
when Steven cooked every night, and then we talked about
fairness, etc., and we started our present habit. About
three, maybe four years ago we made a rule that there
had to be salad at every meal, which added a layer of
complexity I sometimes feel is overwhelming. But
if I argue with myself, I'll realize I can do it easily
enough. I do cook, but it is not a passion.

How lucky I think we are -- first to have food, and dry
shelter, and warmth, and then to be able to think
in a problem solving way about how to arrange these
tasks. I know so many women who work, paint,
clean and also make every meal in the house. But
a growing number of men in our immediate friend circle
are the keen cooks in their relationships. And both of
my sons can cook.

What am I rambling on about? And as my mother so
frequently says, "what does any of this have to do
with art?" I guess it's about balance. "Ah there's
my call --"Honey supper's ready " pure music to my ears.

Tonight I'm showing you the progress on my Heartbeats
for Africa painting. The theme is tied in to Valentine's
Day, as the show happens on the Valentine's weekend.
So I thought this girl could be getting ready to go
out to a Valentine's Day dance, sitting in the kitchen
drinking her coffee, and starts to read about Africa,
and to think about it as she gets ready.

I'm not quite done, but will be tomorrow.

Have a thinking-about-your-good-life 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!