Monday, May 17, 2010

On a new assignment

In the park -- ready for summer
Stages 1 and 2
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 36 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(I've done a light sketch -- you saw my
more detailed sketch -- then began blocking
in the large shapes in the underpainting

Step one is the underpainting. Actually with this one
which has to move apace, step one was the drawing, and
step two the underpainting, which is mostly finished.
I showed you my little ink drawing of them the other day,
but on Sunday I moved them onto the big canvas, and began
to think about what colours would work underneath to
make the colours above sing.

Today I kept working on it, and revising my thoughts. Right
now it looks like it will be dark indeed, but actually the
children are in a park on a lovely spring day, so its current
look will transform considerably.

I didn't learn about underpainting at art school. Maybe I didn't
stay long enough. I was eager to hear some meaningful
words, and in truth at the time followed my then heartthrob
from art school to university. He made it clear to me in my
first week there that he wanted nothing to do with me, so
I settled down to art and English literature, and that was

I learned about underpainting teaching English at the college
where I teach. Blurring the edges between English and art
I used to take my winter students to the Art Gallery of Ontario,
and make them write a research paper on one of the Canadian
artists featured at the gallery. While hosting field trips
for this purpose I would talk to my students about art and
what the painters were doing and why. Over several
semesters looking at the same paintings, I started to really
see the power of underpainting, especially in the work of
the Group of Seven. Then watching one of the women in my
art club get rich skin tones with a rust ground, I started
experimenting with rust, orange, red, and other colours.
Et voila as we say in Canada. Here I am, underpainting like
a mad dog, and happy to do so.

Have a that's-where-I-learned-that day.

P.S. Thank you Lawren Harris (Group of Seven -- fond of
a reddish purple underpainting). The painting of the PhD.
young woman went home today, and I was delighted that
her mother was happy.


Nicki said...

Hi Barbara,

You are busy aren't you- making quick progress on this one! Someday I hope to be as prolific as you, but for now I am just happy if I can get to the studio three days a week! You are definitely an inspiration.

I recently found a beautiful book on A.Y. Jackson and I have been studying the images to learn from the colour choices he made. I'll have to spend some time looking at Lawren Harris more closely. I also have a really old book on Fred Varley-- his portraits were spectacular. Maybe someday a book of Barbara Muir's work will be a resource in my studio! Could happen!



loveeeeee the Group of 7 and on a visit to Canada last summer I heard the stories of how they trudged all over the imposing mountains and valleys of Canada in their heavy clothes with loads of painting gear to capture your great country. I think that's why I've been so attracted to your work-my deep admiration of Canadian painters in general-even Emily Carr with all her dark and spooky woods and totem poles.

Linny D. Vine said...

What a great start. This one looks like it will be loads of fun to paint!

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Nicki,

Yes I'm busy. Oh my I love A.Y. Jackson too -- the pinks and blues in his winter scenes -- so amazing. There is a small book of Barbara Muir's work -- just 32 images. Maybe some day I'll send you one when I'm a rich and famous artist.

Thanks so much.

Barbara Muir said...

Hi Chris,

Love the Group of Seven too. Of course they're talking about such a familiar landscape, even though much of it is gone to real estate now, it's still available. I love Emily Carr too.

Take care,


Barbara Muir said...

Hi Linny,

You're right. I'm having a great time painting it. That isn't always true, but I just keep wanting to go back and work on it at all hours of the day and night.

Take care,


Portrait Artist

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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!