Friday, April 30, 2010

A toast to you! Still underpainting.

In the kitchen researching for the doctorate
Stage 3
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Still underpainting and checking the layout
Today did not offer much time
for painting, so I am still
adding layers of colour and sorting out the design.
I like the painting more and more as I
go along
Thank you for hanging in with me through some intensely
busy times. At the Don Valley Art Club opening tonight
a friend from our Tuesday portrait night told my husband
that I had to quit working so hard. My husband
just rolled his eyes and smiled, because for sure I don't
work any harder than he does. Free lancers like me can
take a break mid-day every now and then. Full time
workers like my husband cannot.

But that's hardly the point. The point is that we finally
opened that tiny bottle of Veuve Cliquot tonight after
dropping off the taxes at the post office. Check. Paintings
off. Check paintings to show for tonight. Check opening --
and so much beautiful work that it was wonderful to see.
So at our late dinner we drank the small
bottle of Veuve, sharing a glass with our now old-enough-to-
drink youngest, who has been home from school for a week
and has already arranged his work for the summer.

Magic. I rarely have glass of champagne (although in the
past year there have been many more occasions) but I'm
always pleased when I do. So we laughed, took the dog for
a walk to the park where she met a 3 1/2 month old St.
Bernard named Bernie and frolicked like a young puppy
herself. All good. A huge pink moon. A happy mood, and
normal life more or less resuming.

To you. For being so kind and encouraging when a lot is
going on. For inspiring me with your amazing work. For
changing my life in wonderful ways.

Have a let's-toast-one-another day.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Two shows coming up

In the kitchen researching for the doctorate
Stage 2
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Tomorrow night is the opening for the Don Valley
Art Club Spring show
at Todmorden Mills. When I
dropped off my paintings I was excited by the prospect
of getting to see the complete show. From what I could
see it's going to be pretty impressive. So if you're in
Toronto come out between 7 and 9 p.m.

Next week in New York (an expression I cannot get
enough of) I am part of a group show at The Amsterdam
Whitney that runs from April 30 - June 1. Click the
link here to see two of the three paintings I'll have in the
show. I've posted them on the blog and if you click here
you can see how the triptych works together.

Tonight I'm showing you the underpainting for my
portrait In the kitchen researching for the doctorate.
I love the underpainting stage, and I'm learning more
about it all the time. The overall underpainting is a
peachy orange, then there are several other colours
used in different parts of the painting.

Have a woo-hoo-isn't-life-great! day.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

School's out for summer

In the kitchen researching for the doctorate
Rough sketch
12 x12 inches
Acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2010

I went to my last marks meeting today and it was
quite enjoyable. Everyone was civilized and even
better than that -- funny, which makes a long
meeting much better. So I got out of my car into a
wild windy day, sunny and gorgeous and cold.
By the weekend it's supposed to go up to 32 degrees
Celsius, or almost 90 Fahrenheit, and everyone will be
in shock. I know you are ready for that shock.

Our Cherry tree in the late afternoon
(Expect more pictures tomorrow).

Toronto is just beyond description at this time of
year. The trees are coming out into new leaf, the
flowering trees in every colour of pink and white
an yellow make every little journey a treat.

I'm starting the drawing for a painting I told you
about on April 15. It's not a big painting, but I
am really looking forward to doing it. I have
known the girl, a friend's daughter, since she was
a child, and I've always liked and admired her very

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blog 807

Man resting
Art Group sketch
Acrylic on canvas
14 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(I made the man look happier
than he did. Tonight the same
pieces of opera played
over and over, and at the
end of our session the machine
began skipping. So the model
actually asked for no music.
The fellow I've painted here is
cool with our group's eclectic
musical selections, and really
loves opera. Hey! I'm the

Seriously. Blog 800 should have been a blog party. It's a nice
number. If it was 800 pages, (and it was) it would be
a long book. I'm not boasting (much), but the actual
day slipped right by me in a fog of active living.

There was a cool article in the Globe and Mail yesterday
about Neil Pasricha who writes a blog about what he thinks is
awesome called 1000 Awesome Things. Read Sarah Hampson's
A few awesome things about's Neil Pasricha.
Neil is dedicated to noticing what's worth being happy
about in life. I think that's a brave and wonderful

I think passing the 800 point in a blur of
activity is awesome. It's awesome to have so much
going on. But you know what else will be exciting?
Tomorrow. That's what. Now that I've taken my income
taxes in to the accountant, and as soon as I finish my last
marks meeting, I will be completely happy. I am completely
happy right now, but I am also completely exhausted.
For the past month it feels like I've worked from list
after list, after list -- I'm not finished everything on the
big list by any means, but each huge task brings me
closer to regular life.

There's a little bottle of Veuve Cliquot sitting in the
fridge for after all is said and done. That's to celebrate
1. Getting the three paintings for New York done.
2. Getting the paintings to New York (Hey they
arrived safely at the gallery today!). 3. Marking all
of my student exams. 4. Getting the two paintings finished
and in to the Don Valley Art Club Spring Show -- (if you're
in town the opening is on Friday night from 7 p.m. until
9.p.m. at Todmorden Mills.) 5. Getting help to get
my taxes to the accountant (today). 6. Getting help
to book the hotel and flights. (I better go and get a big
bottle of champers so I can share it with all of the people
who helped me here.)

Front door pansies
(We didn't get time to buy flowers
yet this week. But coming in the
front door there are pots of
pansies on either side of the steps.
I picked fresh ones tonight after my
art group -- and here they are.
No wonder we feel so
ridiculously happy at this
time of year.)

Here's my dream, to sit in the garden under the white
blooms of the cherry tree, and drink a glass of lovely
champagne. To listen to the birds, the squirrels, people
building, planting, playing and watering their grass,
and then to wander inside and read for as long as I
want to... Coming up.

Have a reading-as-long-as-you-want-to day.

Zowey -- it's a rollicking busy time

Portrait of a Dancer
Stage 2
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(This was a mega short
session, but I continued to
block in the light. The face will
change completely, and maybe
the rest of it will too in the coming
days. But here's where it got to
yesterday. I am charged about
this work -- can't wait to continue.)

All right -- here's stage two. I have been working almost
20 hour days for the past week, and must admit,
because I've had the kindest people in the world
helping me, I still feel filled with joy, but Mama
I'm zonked. So today it's finish off the two paintings
to be submitted tonight to my art group show, and
then... finishing the taxes.

After that life should perk along at a normal rate
for awhile. Toronto is absolutely gorgeous at this
time of year. Huge pink magnolia trees everywhere,
my neighbour's tree in full joyous bloom -- our cherry
tree a white blossom gift. It's hard despite this hurry
scurry, list driven time, not to feel profoundly joyous.
So I do. Plus I believe that's my life's work.

I hope you are having a superb and creative day.
Isn't that the whole thing? Doing what you love,
and trying to love what you do. So thanks to
everyone who helps me feel that way.

Have a-loving-the-people-in-your-helping-circle day.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Coming to you live

Portrait of a dancer
Stage 1
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

I love painting! What a crazy thing to say -- but I've
been working at my taxes all day on my older Mac,
and that activity as enjoyable as it was (with my old
Itunes selections blasting from what I have to admit
were really great speakers), makes things clear. Painting
is fun. Run on sentence? Give me a break I've been marking

Painting from life -- super fun. The client for this
commission is a beautiful, intelligent and very funny
woman. I felt so excited all weekend as I worked painting
her. We had three short sessions, and they were a
complete treat.

Today I'm going to show you the painting on the easel
at stage one. She is coming along. At first, and some
times for quite a while the painting looks almost
cartoonish. But I love that early stage when the whole
of life with the painting is about possibility. The first
few stages at least are about underpainting, and feeling
my way around the canvas to see the best possible
position and lighting for the face and body. Painting
a dancer, even in repose, is like painting pure energy.
It's rare to meet someone so fit and muscled in a lean
elegant way. Looking at this woman I could almost
believe she could fly. And as she danced with the
National Ballet of Canada, she no doubt has.

Have a dancing-your-way-through-all-of-it day.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Dense days

Sketch for the dancer
black marker on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

The momentum at the end of April is always at
a high ebb necessary to get soooo much done.
But this year it's cranked up even higher. The
paintings have gone to New York, the marks
miraculously are in. Woo Hoo. Now it's on
to the other paintings, and the taxes. There's
a deadline Monday, another on Tuesday and
so on.

For the month of May I will be in a group
at the Amsterdam Whitney Gallery
in New York
City. I am thrilled beyond expression to be
showing there. The gallery Executive Director-Curator
is one of the most positive, kindest people I've
met over the phone and through letters, and I cannot
wait to meet her in person.

The paintings Water Image 2, Water Image 3, and
Water Image 1 (in that order I believe) (see April 22)
will be on display for the month. They portray young
women on the beaches of their choosing, one in the
Caribbean, one in the Indian Ocean, and one on the
Atlantic in Nova Scotia. A horizontal bar of beach connects
the three, and means that they can be displayed either
separately or as a triptych.

If you're in New York between May 6 and May 9,
I am going to be in town and will visit the gallery
as much as possible, so could see you there.

My drawing tonight is a study I worked on to
get a better fix on a beautiful client I am painting
in a large commission. She danced with the
National Ballet, and is spending time
with friends from the National Ballet School.

Have a so-happy-you-can't-settle-down day.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Going full tilt

Mother and Child
Stage 7,
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(After my client went for supper,
and after marking I began work
on this painting again, which will
go in a show on Monday night.
I worked on refining the mother's face,
and began thinking about the light again.)

I'm a bit tired as I write this because it's been a non-stop
day, and will continue to be. I was up at the crack
of dawn and first thing this morning
I supervised my students in their final exam.
A great bunch, I hope they did well in the exam.

I hurried home to clean up the studio after the push to
get the portraits for New York done, and get ready
for my client's first sitting with me this afternoon.
So much fun painting from life on a large canvas.
I was in heaven.

Now it's time to mark my papers (the marks are
due on Monday morning), and then arrange more
details about the trip. Plus I have two paintings
to finalize for Monday night. Whew.

Still I have to say I'm having the time of my life.
Am I happy? Woops. I forgot about taxes, that's
the other thing this weekend. It promises to be a
busy one. I hope you're having fun too. Please
forgive me if I'm behind on commenting, I have just
been having trouble keeping on top of it.

Have a dancing-the-day-away day.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Okay - what's next?

Water Image 2, Water Image 3, Water Image 1
Acrylic on canvas
90 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(This is the final, final
image. They are signed, and I
took the photo with a good camera.
So off they go, and I wish them
a safe journey.)

I had a memory yesterday of one of the first shows I was ever
in. My friend Jennifer Hinrichs, a brilliant artist, and
I had a show of watercolours in her house. I had never
paid to have my work framed before that show, and
she painstakingly showed me how to clean up my
work, get the pencil marks I didn't want off, decide where
to crop.

I thought of her yesterday as I was painting the edges of my
canvasses, which will be unframed in the show in New
York. It was a laborious process, but of course worth it
in the end, just as it was when we took our work to the
wonderful framer we found before our first show -- held
in her very pretty home.

Well it's on to the next thing. The paintings have gone to
be shipped, and I'm prepping my canvasses for a couple
of new commissions I start tomorrow.

Here's one last shot of the girls that I took today --
signed (by the artist) sealed and delivered. A great
feeling of relief.

Have a thanking-the-world-for-its-bounty day.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Another long trip

Water Image 3
Final stage
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
( As you can see the shell is gone.
I'll take another picture of this
tomorrow before she flies to New York.
The colour is not right, so I'll photograph
it outside in the morning.)

We hauled down to Windsor, Ontario today to pick
the boy up. That's 12 hours in the car. So I am tired
and happy to have my son, Sam, home from university.
He's moving out of residence into a good house next year,
but in the mean time we have him here and get to enjoy him.

I am getting my work ready to ship tomorrow,
so I'm afraid this will be super short. We listened
to Malcolm Gladwell What The Dog Saw in the car
on the way home, and arrived home erudite as all
get out. Love those books on CD.

Have a wrapping-it-all-up day.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Super tired, beautiful day

Water Image 1
Stage 8 (done).
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

I added some water shine to the
face, and covered the blue
spot on the neck. As I
painted I remembered the
chilly March day when Claudia and
I worked on the first session for this
project. She is always a super
model, the subject of so
many of my paintings.
Thanks Claudia.

I am going to make it short today. I went to my
friend's shipper, a very nice guy at U.P.S. and I'm
saying goodbye to my work Thursday morning.
So off it goes -- farewell. It has been the most
amazing spring day here.

I've been thinking about teachers today, after
hearing a horror story about a mean teacher.
As an artist I know that the way to teach people
is through encouragement. Nothing else really
works. In art confidence is as important as
talent. Yet so many people who teach in the art
field believe in telling their students that it's a
cruel, hard world "out there." Meanwhile the
people who make up those stories to frighten
talented people who want to succeed in precarious
art professions are not "out there" wherever
that is.

My experience so far (and I realize I'm very
young and lucky) is that unless you're in a war zone, an
abusive family, or have not got enough food
or shelter, or are terribly ill, the world out there
turns out to be the way you imagine it will be. The
stats on artists' financial situations, and on the
possibilities for success are irrelevant when it
comes to you, or me, or a student. We can have
a different, even a unique experience. And if we
give out joy, we will very likely get it back.

If you teach art, please give your students the
confidence boost they need. If you teach anything
please do that. Learners, especially late teen,
early 20 learners, need to be treated with great
kindness to flourish. My friends on the blog have
given me the solid encouragement that has sent
me to Florence, and now New York. Just one
year ago I could not have envisioned that
possibility. Now -- your kindness and support
has truly given me enough confidence to keep on

Thank you for that.

Have a treating-your-students-with-love-and-care day.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The whole shooting match

Water Image 2, Water Image 3, Water Image 1
Acrylic on canvas
90 inches x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

I've spent the whole day painting, and I'm
finally (almost) finished my three paintings for
New York. Please be advised that the shell may
not stay over the head of the central figure.

Water Image 3
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(I will take better photos tomorrow
in daylight, and show you the
final images of all three paintings.)

I am totally wiped and it's very late. So I just
want to say thank you so much everyone for
your support and kind thoughts. Thank you
to everyone I spoke to today about the shells.
Yes shells. I'd intended to put them over
each of the faces, but decided at most to leave
the one over the center woman. We will see.
The song that came to mind when I looked
at it was George Harrison's Within You
Without You, maybe not what I'm going for.
I was listening to Malcolm Gladwell's book
What The Dog Saw, which it turns out is
quite amazing. So I think I got swallowed
up in thought. Not a bad place to be once in
a while.

Have a got-er-done day.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

What me worry -- time for the lists

Water Series Image 1
Stage 7
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Okay I am a pretty positive person -- after all it's
my job to read about how to stay positive and
focused, and to be successful and all of that
because I teach psychology. But we all know
that teachers teach what we most need to learn.

Given no pressure -- no blog, no commissions,
no shows, no interest in my art (not a world
I'd choose please understand) I would probably
lie down, read my book, watch reruns of 30 Rock and
eat. I was plugged in, and energized before I
started the blog -- but my dear friends -- my
output then, my energy, my income from art,
my exciting artist's life. There is no comparison
between B.T. B. (Before the Blog), and L.A.A.B. (Life
as a blogger). None.

So today forgive me if I had a moment there of
feeling overwhelmed. And because I am a positive
person, and can muster up huge faith in myself
when I begin to falter (even for a minute),
I made a list. Now by tomorrow night I need to
have accomplished the 30 things on that list.
But what a comfort a list is. Are you on the list?
Of course -- but then you know that because you're
on my list every single day. 1. Write the blog.

It is glorious spring here, and for a beautiful take
on spring colour visit Jala Pfaff's blog. Perfect.

Have the-happiest-Monday-you've-had-in-months!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

My kind friends

Water Series Image 3
Stage 5
acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2010
(I decided with the central image
to make the water a bit less abstract.
The line of the beach, and the
apparent tide pools are
completely abstract, but I liked
the pattern on the water
in my reference, and so did
my model, so I put it in.
You can still see the chalk
line across the face, but don't
worry it will rub off.)

I was planning to write about something
else today, and it hit me tonight that I
absolutely had to talk about my kind friends.
Two wonderful women -- Heather and Mary --
came to the house today to help me arrange
my trip to New York, and to calm me down
about where to stay and what to do. The paintings
I'm currently working on will be going into
a show in New York in a couple of weeks, and
I'm going to go and visit with them for part
of that time. I'll tell you more about that when
I make sure it's fine for me to talk about it with
the gallery.

Another sweet friend solved my dilemma about
how to get my canvasses lined up so that the
straight line of beach and of ocean would connect
on each painting. The lines of water and sand
unify the paintings, and make it clear that they
belong together. So my friend Suzanne, trained as an
architect, brought over her chalk line, and with
the help of my husband, we lined all three
paintings up on the floor, and snapped a
straight line to make sure the bands
of sand and ocean are read together.

I worked today on small repairs to even out the
beaches and oceans on two of the paintings,
and then put in some detail on Water Image
3, which will be the central image when they're
displayed, and was meant to be more detailed
than the others in the background. There still
may be a palm tree on the patch of sand at
the far right, and I'm not entirely sure I'll keep
the beach there. Tomorrow I will work on her face, and
on the face from yesterday, and then scrutinize
the paintings to see what else has to happen
before they go to New York.

I left the chalk lines running across the face for
now because I may have to make more adjustments
to the lines before the ocean and sand are complete.

Have a getting-it-all-lined-up day.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Controlling the procrastinating inner child

Water Series Image 1
Stage 6
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

My inner child is tired today. She did not want to
do anything but read, talk on the phone and sleep.
How many students have the same problem. It's
handy that I teach them how not to procrastinate.
So I chanced upon a superb handout some of my
students prepared this term. Impressive little
thing -- a stack of 10 different coloured paper
cards, with tips on how to get over procrastinating
in large black print. They are held together at one
corner, so I can fan them out and read them one
by one. Good.

I gave the stack of ideas to my inner child, and
finally after a lot of coaxing and a large cup of tea
got her into the studio.

Now understand we have work to do. And I used
a method not included in the fabulous tips --
setting the timer. I set it for 20 minutes, and then
for a 10 minute break. That seemed to work. I
got a long way on this painting -- and I know I have
a long way to go. As the first 20 minutes ticked off
I felt my inner adult/artist take over. The relief!
I think she's back now, and I'm going to bed.
Tomorrow is another painting day.

Have an understanding-how-to-get-painting day.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Resting, thinking, planning, drawing

In the kitchen researching for the doctorate
Black marker on bond paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Yesterday was a long, long day of work at school --
seeing a student every ten minutes to close out the
semester in our course. As the course is about
succeeding in school, we feel obliged to find out if
there's anything else we can do to help, and
that's what the interviews are for.

Wonderful as the experience was, today I felt quite
tired, and a friend advised me not to paint while my
energy was low. So instead I started work on a new
commission, taking the photos, and talking to the client.
I took the sitter with me to get the flowers. She's
a lovely young woman, a friend's
daughter, who worked for me quite a few years ago.
She is working on her doctorate now, so in the
painting she will be thinking about the book on
English literature that she brought to our session,
and was reading in every free second.

Here is the line drawing I did to allow myself to
figure out the design of the painting. Of course
the painting will be looser, but I really enjoyed
drawing this. I could have kept going for days,
but instead decided to write to you, and call it
a night.

Have a-there's-time-to-slow-down-and-look-at-the-flowers day.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Semester's end

Water Series Image 3
Stage 4
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
It's almost the end of the winter semester, and both
students and teachers are preparing for exams, and
getting ready to say goodbye for the summer. I will
miss my students, but not my early morning classes.
As for the teachers, and the staff -- it's hard to imagine
life without the humour and kindness that keep us all

Tonight I got home late after a very long day of
interviews. I am not used to sitting all day, and I
forgot to take a break for lunch. It feels great to
spend some time one-on-one with as many students
as possible, and help them link to jobs, or the right
person to tell them about courses, and to talk about
how to prepare for exams.

Tonight I spent a little time working on my Water
Image 3, and I'll show you the results. The changes
aren't dramatic, because I really need to go slowly
when I'm tired, but I still like how she looks and
where it's going. I'm at the point when a lot of
decisions come into play. So I need to take a breath,
have a decent sleep, and then continue tomorrow.

Thanks for your kind encouragement. It helps a lot
when I'm on a major push, like I am now with this

Have a getting-what-needs-to-be-done-done day.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Animal rebellion

In the warm light
Art group sketch
acrylic on canvas
12 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Our animal crew here have some fixed ideas about
how a day should roll. I'm sure they knew my
teaching schedule for the semester before I did.
They make the time change to Daylight Savings Time
in a day. No huge adjustment. On the old time
they're hungry for dinner at 6 p.m., and the next
day guess what they know when it's 6 p.m.

Today was a long day at school, and they aren't
used to that on Tuesday. Neither am I, but it
was an interview day -- every ten minutes a new
interview all day long. Well...

Did anyone think about telling the animals?
Apparently not. I walked in the door to see
a roll of shredded toilet paper in the front
hallway, and to hear my dog jumping off my
son's bed upstairs. Yes the rip in his antique
quilt is more dramatic. My earrings had been
knocked on the floor, and a plastic baggie of
my sorted tax receipts attacked and played with
in the upstairs hallway.

Did I get the message? Yes. After their supper
the dog and I hit the park for some fresh air.
Then when Steven came home, to monitor
this rebel crew, I headed out to my art group.
Here's the painting. The model
was a Rubenesque woman -- I hope you like
the result. I was quite pleased.

Have a taking-it-one-step-at-a-time day.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Synesthesia and artists

Water series Image 3
Stage 3
(Today I started working on the face and
hair. I started work on the sky, and
fleshed in the beach, although it will
probably change colour somewhat.
It was a good day.)
I was in a kind of tidy-it-up mood this morning. These
hit so rarely that I was planning to put one of my
journals away. Or maybe I intended to file it. No
matter. (I teach journal writing in another life --
connecting creating art to journal writing) -- aha!
So this blogging business makes sense now doesn't

Well in my journal (Come on I had to read it to
decide what year to put on the label didn't I?)
I mentioned Diane Ackerman, whose books I was
reading at the time (four years ago). My journal
said that Ackerman in An Alchemy of Mind said
that artists have different brains from regular people.
Although everyone is creative artists of every kind --
writers, musicians, and painters are synethists. They
see more intensely, hear more intensely and feel more
intensely. And she may be right.

Just as I started this whole ocean series a friend
started talking to me about Laguna Beach in
California. He had lived there for a short,
magical time, and holds the memories in his
head as almost sacred. I visited the beach in
2007 and absolutely loved "The Light!" we
both said at the same time.

What I couldn't explain quite as well, is that
for artists light as dazzling, as astounding, as
moving and as overwhelming is everywhere.
Better by water, or by the ocean -- more dazzling,
more moody, more infinite. But it's everywhere,
and we are hypnotized by it.

Ackerman according to my journal went on to
say that artists must create, and we are
vulnerable to depression when we can't.
So for this artist it was a good day today. I did
put the journal away, clean out the cutlery drawer,
polish the stainless steel fridge, dishwasher and stove,
clean the bathroom mirrors, have a go at the doors
and drawer fronts in the kitchen, and painted.

I have moved on a bit with Water series Image 3,
and realize in the scheme of things the names will
probably change. But for now, she's coming along
and she's very happy about it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

On another ocean

Image 3 Water series
Stage 2
Acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2010
(The blue/green of the
ocean goes on as an
underpainting colour on the
shadow areas of the face, and
is the first layer on the ocean part of
the painting.)
My third model is originally from India, and although
she's never been to the ocean she decided she
wanted to be on the Indian Ocean where it meets
the island of Madagascar. So this is the colour of the
water there -- a greenish/turquoise colour. I wasn't
sure how to make the colour until I began, and then
I loved it.

So I painted the shadows on her face with this lovely
greeny blue, and then thought I'd start the ocean too.
The beach will be a tan colour, and the sky a quite
dark blue.

The other day I began obsessing about the fact that
I'm missing the Pacific Ocean in this series. But I
only have enough room in the show I'm entering
these pieces in for three paintings, so the Pacific
will have to wait. I decided to paint the models
against whatever oceans they wanted in the paintings.

I really love the painting at this stage, and have to
force myself over the hurdle of loving the underpainting
into the main work of getting the face right. That's
tomorrow's assignment.
Have a loving-the-work-you-do day.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Castles, painting and birthdays

Casa Loma, Toronto

Today we took a short walk in a lovely neighbourhood
close to our own. We drive by Casa Loma almost every
day, but it doesn't look the way it did today at the end
of a very pretty street rising up in the distance.

I worked on the Water Series Image 3 today, but
it's not at a finite stage, so I can't show you. I'm adding
shadow, but the shadow on this image is not as
defined as on the other two, so I am in the midst of
figuring out what's going to happen next.

Tonight we went to a friend's birthday -- a delightful
event, small with great company and delicious
food. We had a lot of fun. Now it's late and time
for bed.

If you come to Toronto you have to visit our "castle".
I remember going to a formal, or prom there when I
was in high school, but even though it's incredibly
close we've never visited it, or taken our children
to see it. All that's going to change this year I'm

Have a dreaming-of-castles-on-Spadina-Avenue-in-Toronto day.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Painting summer in winter

Water series Image 2
Stage 6
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

It was one very chilly day here. Strange because the
magnolias are out a full month at least ahead of
schedule, and we had snow flurries! I didn't mind
because I was inside working on this painting in
my water series. I'm very happy with how it's going.
There are a few things I still need to do.

I photographed it outside for veracity's sake, and
the moment I got ready to shoot there was a howling
gale, and sleet falling all around the porch. So some
of what seems off may be the effect of a painting
vibrating in the wind like a sail. (Canvas you know).

Nearing the end of the semester I can feel four
months of intense thought falling off me, and I have
a strong urge to hibernate, but there is too much to
do in the art world. But tonight, I'm going to make
it short and sweet. I apologize for being behind on my
comments. I plan to catch up with everyone this
weekend. This painting shows me exactly where I'd
like to be right now. As it came out of my dreams
and onto the canvas, I plan to go to this beach
in my dreams tonight -- it looks really warm
there, and it's mighty cold here at my desk as I'm
writing to you.

Have a Saturday-is-sweet-indeed day.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Trimming the cool

Drawing for Image 3 of the Water series
acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(I've done the drawing for the beginning
of the third portrait in this series. The model
is from India, and that permits me to
include a third ocean behind her. I will
find out tomorrow if she is at the right
height to go with the other two
paintings. Her hair meets the magic
line vertically, but there are a lot
of other measurements I need to take.
At the moment this is going to be
a separate triptych. That is
the paintings should go together
and ideally would be hung in a row
touching, but as long as they are
displayed at the same height they
will read as a triptych.)

Writers can take years to complete a novel. A major
work takes time, thought, space, and has to fit around
raising children, parents, the work that supports it,
and life. In art the same phenomenon happens. But
in art it's the mega idea, that sometimes has to quiet
down, just so art can happen. What do I mean?

I mean that it isn't practical for most of us to find the
time or money to produce the Sistine Chapel. But
painters want to paint. Lately my dreams have been
filled with images so magical, and fantastic, that when
I wake up I am overwhelmed with how amazingly
cool those images are. I would like to translate them
to canvas -- but some of them would take years to
produce, and there are shows on the horizon. So
I have to trim the cool. When I was writing for
magazines, a common piece of advice to writers was
to kill your darlings. That meant that the sentence
which will probably ruin your article, is the one you
love the most. It meant be willing to edit.

In art this is also true. But today I had a supremely
comforting thought about all of this. I said to myself --
self I said, you can paint those images from your
mind that will require more time than you've got
right now, and you will...later. Telling an artist
later, even when that artist is you, is about as easy
as telling a two year old later. We are right now
people. Not that we don't have patience, we have
a ton of it. We always have to wait for paint to dry,
images to evolve, models to have a day for an
appointment, money to come in for paint and
brushes -- we know how to be patient. But we don't
love that patience, and we are like dogs on a too short
leash at the edge of a beautiful green and grassy
park, when we've got an idea festering.

Still the idea of future possibility put my patience
into gear. I guess I'm the dog who got the cookie.
It's been a wonderful day, and I want to paint
now. So I'll tell you all about it...later.

Have a trimming-the-cool day.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The kitchen as garden

Parrot tulips in in the kitchen
black marker on bond paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

This past week our kitchen has been insane
with flowers. (Okay I'm tempted to add dude!)
I spend a lot of time with teenagers in my
work and their way of talking rubs off. (Add
another dude here. As in Dude!)

The kitchen table
How are we supposed to eat with all
of these flowers? We manage just fine.

How would I rephrase that as a grown up?
Friends have been awestruck by the riot
of colour created by our floral friends this
week. Ah forget it. What happened? The
flowers from last week didn't die. We thought
they would, so we bought more, and last
week's beauties stayed with us. Plus I actually
planted pansies in the pots at the front of
the house and you've got to pick those
every day (dude!) and bring them in.

So tonight's drawing is of the most gorgeous
red parrot tulips in my kitchen. I wish I
had time to paint them, but it's early to bed
tonight -- it's my early class tomorrow.

Parrot tulips in pots on the hutch.
These are my favorite tulips.
But of course I love most tulips.

I started the third painting in my water
series tonight. That is I painted on the
orangey/brown ground, but realized that
I was way too tired to draw my next image
on the canvas. So I'll wait until tomorrow.
I am dreaming of this series now. It's pretty

Have a maybe-we-should-get-some-flowers day.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Looking back helps me learn

Megan at The Stork Restaurant
Acrylic on canvas
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

I am marking thoughtful essays today. I've been at it
all day, and will not be stopping until bedtime. So
I thought I might put in an older painting here, to
give my hungry blog something to look at. It makes
me think about how I used to paint, and how I
paint now. This was done in 2003. It is a portrait
of my son's fiancée Megan, and I may have shown
it to you before.

I like the portrait very much because it reminds
me of the night we spent celebrating Christopher's birthday
in a wonderful restaurant that no longer exists.
Megan and Christopher were so young! They still
are and it's hard to imagine that they've been
dating for such a long time.

Looking at how badly the original photo was
cropped I realized that I've learned so much from
blogging. Just the daily need for images has
taught me how to crop, and photograph (not
always expertly) and how to get the photo
to look as much as possible like the original
painting. Blogging makes me think in a graphic
and design format every day. That's a tremendous
help to me.

So this is just a fast thank you. I have to get back
to marking, but this end-of-term marathon will
end in a day. And then it's painting full time
except for school time, until exam week. I am
looking forward to that time with a skip in my
step. I'll have soul with a capital "S". (I think
that's a Tower of Power song.)

Have a-thanking-the-universe-for-spring-on-this-planet day.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Quick sketch on a marking night

Sketch for Water Image Three
Black marker on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Wahoo! I've finished marking one set of final essays,
and in the main they were a pleasure to read. So I can't
say much, because I teach first thing in the morning.
I did a fast sketch of the next model in my water series
to celebrate. Very quick. When I get to the painting her
hair will make a lovely pattern. She is originally from
India, and wants to have the Indian Ocean behind her.
We looked it up on my son's ancient garage sale globe.
The map of the world has changed I think. I'm
excited to get going on this one, and to have all three
paintings moving towards the finish line at the same time.

Have a loving-what-you-do day.

P.S. Ferocious chorus of robins when the dog and I
took a short walk at dusk. Forsythia bursting, Magnolia
on the 5th of April! Folks this is global warming. People
are so happy about it, which is understandable after
winter. But Hello! These signs are a month and a half

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter

Water series Image Two
Stage Five
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(I started work on the beach, and have to
think a bit about where I'm going now. Do
I keep the same thin strip, or change from
lighter sand, to darker sand and hold
onto the connecting horizontal bands?
Questions for tomorrow.)

Today was a day of high contrasts. Steven and I began
the day early for a Sunday, planning how to help
the Easter Bunny fill the baskets and hide the
chocolate eggs for our grown children. We are
a pretty good team by now, and we filled, and
wrapped the baskets in short order. I'd found some
huge bunnies which we set out at each place. This is
all part of our expected ritual. Then we blindfold the
children. (This started with my sister for some reason
years ago. The reason has been lost but the tradition
is intense with our kids.) We lead Sam blindfolded
down from his bedroom to the basement where
Christopher and Megan were then herded all three
up the stairs blindfolded. In the kitchen we twirled
them each around three times, counting, one, two,
three then they could take the blindfolds off and look
for eggs. Christopher said that the blindfolds now
remind him of Gitmo. The morning had begun.

The crazy looking Easter table before breakfast
and the Easter egg hunt. Zoey the dog would
really like both the eggs and the toy bunnies.

Our traditional holiday breakfast is champagne and orange
juice with iced coffee cake. But no one wanted that
drink today. This morning everyone ate coffee cake and
strudel, boiled eggs and toast, and they all drank coffee,
even Sam. Meanwhile the hunt had begun. Sporadically,
and eagerly they hunted for chocolate eggs in bursts,
with me and Steven offering silly hints. It was a lot of
fun as always.

Then we drove Sam to the bus stop, and Steven and I visited
Kensington Market and part of China town. We were tempted
by many restaurants, but went for a bit of a walk and
headed home for reheated turkey (still delicious).

Kieran Brent works on a painting
outside his Kensington Market area house.

In Kensington Market, in front of a run down house on a side
street, I saw an artist working on a great canvas. I asked if
I could take his picture, and he agreed. So let me introduce
you to Kieran Brent. He was working with a large brush,
and I like what he's done with the image so far. Kensington
Market has been a haven for artists since I went to OCAD
(a few years ago). It was great to see an artist confidently
working away in his front yard.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Half way through Easter

Sam after dinner
black marker on bond paper
20 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

We're doing Easter a bit differently this year
because Sam goes back to university tomorrow.
Both of our sons, and my son's fiancée love the
hunt for chocolate. Of course they're fast
because they're all grown up, but they are as
excited about chocolate eggs as small children.
My mother was surprised that we carry this
tradition on, but that is our tradition -- a big
turkey dinner together, and the hunt for eggs.
We just finished the big turkey dinner, completely
prepared by my sweetheart Steven.

So the older "children" are sleeping over
tonight to make sure they are part of the hunt,
because Sam has to go back to school early.
Like many of my students he can't believe
that there's school on Easter Monday. But
there is. As I pointed out to my class, many
people in the class don't celebrate Easter at
all. Reality check.

The studio ready for Easter

Sam is doing a degree in acting, so tonight
he offered to pose for me for a few minutes
in exchange for some time to run his lines.
I listened to his Shakespeare monologue, and
read the part of a corrupt cop in another
piece he's rehearsing, and got to do this sketch in
return. It was fun, and reminded me of the
days when he lived at home all the time.

Have a Happy Easter, or whatever you celebrate.

Friday, April 2, 2010

All about art

Water series portrait 2
Stage 4
acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(I am not finished the background.
The sand will be the white, or
caramel coloured sand of the
Caribbean, and I may put in
surf if I can figure out how to
paint it in an abstract fashion.)

Today we drove to the other end of town, almost out of town
altogether to pick up my third model, a wonderful young
woman. Back at the house I took her picture in the pose
for the third painting in the water series, and she posed
for some other small paintings I may do when this series
is over.

We had a lot of fun, and she got to meet Sam, who is home
for the weekend from university and Zoey the dog, Timbah
the cat, and Fiona the cat.

Both Steven and I have grim colds. They remind me of the
cold we came down with in Florence, but the difference
is that we know which medicine to get here, and are
madly drinking special tea for colds, taking Cold FX and
today I got a combo that will stop the sniffling, which
really stops creativity in its tracks. Hurray.

So once that took effect I began working on the background
for the second painting. I want the lines of the water and
perhaps the tide pools to be at the same level in the paintings.
So I figured that part out and painted in the ocean and the sky.

This model wanted a Caribbean feeling ocean, sky and sand, so
the colour changes in this painting. I may leave the large bit of
blue over one eye when I work on the face a bit more, because
it is the colour of the sea too, and she is a water being in my
painting. Aha!

It's now very late, and I'm going to take the night time cold
medicine and go to bed. Lots of marking to do this weekend
too, so instead of my novel I'm reading final essays.

We are having our Easter dinner tomorrow night, because
Sam goes back to school on Sunday. So tomorrow will be
a very busy day. I'm not crazy about Easter, but my sons
like the bunny and the chocolate eggs, so we will cook a
turkey (I hope it's not as hot as it was today) and there
will be a hunt.

Have a celebrating-celebration day.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

A fine finish to the day

Water series, painting 2,
Stage 3
Acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2010

It has been a very beautiful day here. I taught this
morning and my class was wildly excited about
the prospect of a long weekend. This joy reached
a fever pitch because it was an exceptionally
beautiful and warm day.

When they the class was released I went home to
handle a series of chores. Finally I got back to my
painting, and I am very happy with how it's
going. The girl's face is just a beauty. I learned
this technique of putting the blue underneath
from a friend in my art club, George. I really
like how it works in these water paintings. Because
blue reads wet, reads water.

I am having so much fun painting. But it's late.
More tomorrow.

Have a getting-a-really-excellent-rest 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!