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.


Elizabeth Seaver said...

Interesting musings here, Barbara. I think that is why I do not post every day, especially right now while I am working much larger. But there most definitely are pressures to post more frequently.

Your remarks about how long an idea may "percolate" before you begin to work on it in earnest reminds me of my least favorite question from a viewer, "How long did it take you to paint that?" To my way of thinking, there is no short answer to that question!

I love your marker sketches. And thanks for such a thought provoking post.

laura said...

This drawing is so beautifully expressive ... Your friend puts me in mind of Billie Holiday: perhaps it's the bee-sting eyes?

Melinda said...

Yes, Barbara, we love the instant, but also love when anything is built with care over a longer period of time. I see a kind of backlash to instant coming in the world, and that's a good thing.

Oh, those eyes tell the story of contemplation and feeling!

eldon warren said...

Aint it the truth. :)

Karen Bruson said...

I often feel myself rushing through a painting just so I can blog it. Not good.

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Elizabeth,

I know what you mean about that question. Well Alyson Stanfield on the Artbiz blog did a segment on that. Apparently we are our own worst enemies for getting upset instead of curious. The question is irrelevant, but it's made by someone interested in our art. So we are better off responding by asking, 'How long do you think it took to make this?' and using that for an opener to a discussion. She says that people (buyers) don't understand art, and it's our job to help them understand it. Plus people who enjoy a discussion with you about your art, are more likely to buy the art because they associate it with the wonderful discussion they had with you.

I love your work.

Take care,


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Laura,

My friend does wear her hair pulled into a tight bun, and has expressive
eyes -- usually quite dramatic eye make up, but there the similarity ends. She is so Dutch. There is a painting that looks like her in our local art gallery from the Dutch High Renaissance, the same creamy/rosy skin, the same deep eyelids, the same expressive eyes. I stood staring at it the other day in awe.

I'm so delighted that you like my drawing. I really appreciate your encouragement.

Take care,


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Melinda,

I know what you mean -- slow cooking, a drink called 'slow" as a contrast to high caffeine drinks like Redbull.
And we all know there are many activities that are more enjoyable if they aren't rushed! Art is one of them sometimes.


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Eldon,

Thanks for your happy face.

Take care,


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Karen,

I know exactly what you mean. But I can't deny that the opposite is also true. I should have been a Gemini because as soon as I make a proclamation I see the opposite side of the story. It can also be true that we spend too long on something and disappear up our own proverbial...thought process. Sometimes quick is exactly right -- like in your work -- decisive, confident and beautiful.

Take care,


Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at:
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!