Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Taking it easy

Cat on the bed
acrylic on watercolour paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

We are coming up to Canada Day. Canadians
are not as patriotic as Americans, but we do
love a day off. So we will all be heading to
cottages, and getting out the barbecue, hoping
to go swimming because it's a national holiday.
My big plan is to settle in with my novel,
then maybe go for a walk with Steven and our
dog Zoey, then have a super supper. I just got home
from dinner and a movie, and already feel in
the holiday mood.

Here's a little interior painting from my
sister's collection that certainly sets the tone for
what I hope to be doing on the nation's day.
I will curl up with a good book and my cats and
play hooky on the rest of my life.

Have a wonderful Canada Day!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Coffee, tea and look at your art!

The Chisholm family
6 feet x 3 feet
acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2010
(The paintings now hang in a pristine
modern living room, with brilliant light --
so bright the paintings were reflecting the
light in this photograph -- and white
walls like and art gallery. I was
delighted to see them when I had tea
there a few weeks ago.)

I do love visiting my clients and seeing where
they've put my paintings. When I'm creating a
piece my whole obsession is with what I'm painting.
But I'm lucky that during the commission process
I often form lasting friendships with my clients,
so when I visit I am thinking more about them, than
about the art I've painted for them. So it's
touching to learn where people have hung the
work, to see how much thought and care
goes into those decisions.

People often ask if I'll miss a painting when it's
gone. I do feel a small lurch when I pack a
painting up and send it off, either into the
client's car, or into the mail. But I still
have the experience of painting it, and the
gratification of pleasing my client. Plus I
sometimes borrow the paintings for shows
down the line, and then I get to see them again.

Still I love walking into a friend's house and
being told to look at the painting I may have
painted years before. "Ah yes, so there it is.
Hey!" That's a very sweet feeling. My thanks
to all of my clients who've given me that

Steven and I climbed up our
cherry tree tonight on two separate ladders.
There is enough fruit in that one tree
for hundreds of pies, but we picked
enough for three -- 12 cups of cherries.
Each bowl of pitted fruit shown here
will become a pie.
I'm hoping we make two pies and a cobbler.
Sour cherry recipes anyone?

Have a knowing-you-are-appreciated day.

Monday, June 28, 2010

No Typical Day

In a dancing mood
watercolour crayon on bond paper
7 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(I was looking for reference
for a big, new painting and found
this and the watercolour crayons.
So I played around a bit.
Forgive the wrinkled paper. Bond
is not designed for water.)

Do you ever get that feeling? Is it just
me? Or are people acting in a bizarre
fashion? We go walking in the park, and
first we see a couple walking with a small baby
in a stroller and an aggressive pit bull. The
man says, "don't worry he's just a puppy," and
they walk off into the sunset. Pit bulls
are banned in Ontario. You're not allowed
to have a pit bull puppy, and older pit bulls
have to be muzzled. But the pit bull/baby
combo is particularly disturbing.

Then farther on in our quiet park, Zoey, our dog
is attacked by a pit bull walking with a woman
pushing a doll stroller. Steven gets the dog
away from Zoey, and the woman
says "I'm sorry, he is probably just guarding
my ferret." Zoey stops yelping in distress.
We inspect her -- she seems all right, so we head
for home. Steven repeats the woman's excuse,
"He's probably protecting my ferret!" She's
walking a ferret in a doll carriage. So the
night has gone sooooo strange that further
down the path we start laughing at how absurd
this walk is. I start singing the song
Season of the
witch, (my birthday is on
Hallow'een so I know a lot of themed songs)
and suddenly Steven's flashlight reveals
three baby owls in the trees beside us.

The woods with the owls

Magical. Zoey seems fine. The ferret in the
baby carriage and the pit bulls are gone, and
we are seeing baby owls. How amazing!

A baby owl

I came home and did this quick sketch with
Caran D'Ache watercolour crayons. The drawing
is from photo reference for a portrait a few
years ago.

Have a seeing-the-miracles-everywhere day.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A strange week

Valentine Blue
Stage 5
acrylic on canvas
12 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Last week was a strange one, seven days out of
time that left me with too little time to paint.
I'm not saying I didn't have fun, but I am an
artist, and I need routine. Routine means
painting. I don't need a rigid schedule, but I
need to mess about with paint.

Oh? That doesn't surprise you. Yes, yes, this is
an art blog. True. Well a huge clap of thunder
tonight (the real thing) and heavy
downpour signaled the end of the invasion
of our town by world leaders, and vandals.
Maybe the rain made me feel renewed and ready
for intensive work.

Many pies have been made, and tasted.
The cherry tree has made us all fat and happy.

Next? I have been painting all along, but some
paintings sit in a kind of limbo because I
haven't had the mental space to concentrate on

The painting of the farm house in winter is one.
I am almost finished. I wanted to say I was
finished tonight, but when I took the picture I
said...not quite.

Have a getting-back-into-your-routine day.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sad day in Toronto

A serious talk
watercolour and ink on watercolour paper
7 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

The truth about this city is today that all around the
downtown core where the summit is, people
were living normal lives, doing Saturday
summer things. But the protests downtown
got ugly, and from what the newspeople say
it was just a handful of people who turned
a peaceful protest into a series of stupid
and wasteful acts of violence.

This could have been predicted. Everyone who
didn't want the summit here knew that these
summits attract violent activists. But I feel
sorry for all the legitimate protesters who
had their causes ensnared in the burning of
police cars, and trashing of downtown stores.
That is sad.

Steven and I sat in distress watching this unfold
on TV. Once again we went downtown to feed
the cats, and the mood felt frightening.
Helicopters filled the skies with noise.

I took a photo of this little ink and watercolour
drawing last night. It is a portrait of my son,
Christopher when he was quite a bit younger,
and it was one of the first paintings I'd done that he
wanted. I like the mood of it. He seems quite

As for the city, I hope this insanity is over soon.

Have an enjoying-the-peace-you-have day.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Some summit

Bird on a nest
acrylic and marker on canvas
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(This painting was built on a
red ground, drawn in marker,
then painted in acrylics. Then
it was glazed with gloss gel medium.)

Toronto right now is looking a bit weird.
We're okay up here in our part of town,
but downtown near the lake where the
G20 summit is taking place, the city is not
its normal self. There's a high metal fence
around the summit area, masses of police,
helicopters in the sky, search lights at night.
We just went to feed my son's cats, and
it's a whole different world closer to the
summit center. The sound of helicopters
is a constant. Whew!

I photographed this little painting in my son's
apartment that I did a few year's ago for
the general show at our local Artwalk.
They asked for small work, and this was
mine -- it seems so appropriate in this
town today. Toronto is an organic, vibrant
town, posing as a T-cup. Get it? It's
looking fragile, and you have to treat
it like delicate, fine bone china. The bird's
eggs are the world leaders gathered in
the cup, and the squawking mother bird
is security, all the police trying to protect
the leaders. Nah I'm joshing you. When I
painted this I was into painting china
from my collection of antique cream jugs, and
my grandmother's tea set. We were asked
to paint on a nature theme for the show
(see Alyson Stanfield's gloss on the themed
art show) I believe, and this is what I did.

Meanwhile I'm glad to be in my quiet
house a good way from the summit meeting.
Toronto will breathe a sigh of relief when
it's over and we can resume our normal
outdoor, downtown, carefree summer life.

Have a thinking-good-thoughts-for-the-world day.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

June 24th is our wedding anniversary

Steven and me today -- How
incredibly lucky we are.

Hi everyone,

I did not do a tap of art today. Not any. I
apologize. I am a very tiny part Italian, and
at Italian weddings it's considered very
good luck to have bad weather -- rain, storms,
all good. My point? I woke up this morning
a good two hours before seven hours of sleep
to the sound of loud insistent mechanical
thumping, a high pitched and very loud
machine whining and the house shaking like
it did yesterday in the earthquake. I went
back to bed. I'm not good on five hours
sleep. I actually partially slept until it was
seven hours then went downstairs to see
what new horrible construction event was
on for today -- our wedding anniversary.

The entire street has been under siege for
a few weeks, and the earlier horrors were
just a tester. Today huge holes were dug in
neighbours' meticulously planted and
cultivated front lawns and gardens. We
had three four foot deep holes dug in our
interlock driveway. If you believe in luck --
according to Italian rules this must mean
that the next year is going to be even more
fantastic than the last.

Yup. So what to do? We decided to have
dinner out of town, drove to Oakville and
ate in a restaurant on the lake called
Compass. We ate inside, but could see
sailboats, the people outside, seagulls and
even swans swimming close by the patio.
So lovely. The food was delicious and a
shout out to Julie and Wanda who treated
us like royalty.

So sorry about the art -- there will be some
tomorrow. Let this day be about love.
We loved getting away from our street, talk
of the G20 summit and loved sitting in a beautiful

My father walking me down the aisle
on the big day. How incredibly
happy I was. Yes I wasn't always

It was and is a Happy Anniversary.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

June's tune

Valentine Blue
Stage 4
acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir 2010
(The painting requires the exact right
blue on the farmhouse. I
found it tonight.)

June reminds me a bit of September and December,
two other months that insist on a list of behaviours.
In June in my part of Ontario it's safe to put the
garden in. There are a host of events, and one
was our show On The Bright Side. Then there's the
painting work, and pop the garden flourishes,
demanding attention and more plants! June says
sing my song now ....or else, and none of us here want to
hear that part.

We rarely have ripe cherries in June so that was a
surprise, but the tree reminds me of farming.
My friend Flora Doehler lives in the country in
Nova Scotia, and she and her husband Larry
just garden like crazy. But they are really
farming. Our cherry tree makes me feel a
tiny bit of what a farmer must feel. There
it is -- the crop is massive, and it only makes
sense to jump on that ladder (or climb it
very carefully as I do), or climb on the garage
roof to get even more, and pick.

So I couldn't resist and picked some more
fruit today. Six cups, pitted, sprinkled with
a bit of lemon juice and waiting.

Six cups of cherries getting ready
to be pitted.
Steven, who grew up on a farm, made the
pastry tonight while I pitted, and pitted and
pitted until my sissy city hands hurt. The
cherry tree fills our horizons so
completely that we hardly discussed the
earthquake that shook our house earlier in
the day, or the tornadoes threatened for
early tomorrow morning.

Steven making his pastry --
cracking an egg.
I did a little bit of work on my farm landscape
tonight. The house is now the right blue.
Tomorrow I'll finish it off. I promise.
Oh wait, I take that promise back. It's
my wedding anniversary -- see what I mean --
there goes June again, insisting on celebration,
and how can I not want to celebrate my
ridiculously happy good fortune to marry
a man who makes a fine cherry pie.

Have a celebrating-your-love-of-life day.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Pies are not square

My dear friends, there may not be any
art tonight. As I write this I am powerfully
distracted by the smell of cherry pie wafting up
the stairs. This has happened to artists dozens of times
before. Distraction so huge that there is no
creativity -- on the two dimensional plain.

Oh wait, I'm being called -- pie rules -- as in
the rules of pie.

1. We must wait until it cools down to eat it.

Trying to be good I settled in to do this little drawing
of my model, who was anxious to be on her way,
with her purse on her lap when I took the picture.
The mood was similar, I wanted to be on my way
downstairs to pie heaven.

Time to go
black marker on bond paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
Rule #2
2. I said please put the pie in the fridge to cool
down. A no no apparently, but my husband did.
I used my picker/pitter status to get the pie to my
plate quicker.

3. You can eat the tarts first. (Did I mention that
I've been dieting for three months? I was not settling
for tarts over pie. One piece of cherry pie is 480
calories if homemade. )

4. Eat the cooled pie while it's still warm.

First cherry pie this year
Look at that. Imagine it hot
from the oven. The smell is
even making the cats crazy.
But no pie until it cools down.

5. It doesn't matter if it's so fresh that it falls apart.
It tastes so much better.

My piece on the plate
-- so much juice
comes out of newly picked cherries
into the pie. It is the ultimate fresh
delicious taste. The butter crust was
thick, rich and soaked in the juice.
I know what I'll dream of tonight.

6. Thank the pie maker, and stop eating pie, because
truly you could eat nothing else for days, and
you know you're going back up that tree the second
the rain stops.

Have an what-the-heck-I'm-having-some-pie day.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Cherry season

A handful of cherries
Stages 1,2,3, and 4
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

It seems completely fitting to me that our cherry tree
is ripe on the first day of summer. I was lured outside
by the tree, spent what I thought was minutes
picking in partial shade and got a slight sunburn. I love
everything about cherry picking. Okay, maybe not
being up in the ladder. But the fruit is gorgeous --
red with a hint of peach on some. It stands out like
precious jewels against the green leaves.

I climb up on the ladder, grab a branch, pull it towards me
and take off each bright red cherry, then drop
my produce into a colander waiting on the ladder
shelf. The cherries ooze juice. They smell wonderful.
My hands and arms get sticky with picking and the
birds chatter to one another all around me, no
doubt describing my invasion into their territory.

I certainly wish I could fly at times like these -- get
up to the top of the tree where the cherries are all
ripe and ready for -- pie. Yum. Steven's cherry pie,
is the best on the planet (sorry Mom).

I started a little painting of the fruit in a small bowl.
It's not done yet, and I realize my last cherry
painting started with a red ground. So maybe that
will be tomorrow's task.

Tonight I sat at the kitchen table after dinner and
pitted the four cups necessary for a pie. Then we
hightailed it to the store for sugar and tapioca --
supplies you understand for the big pie baking
night tomorrow. Wish you were here to have
a piece (because I am on a diet!) -- oh and of
course because I'd like to see you and let you
have a slice of pure heaven --Steven's pie.

Have an-I'd-could-eat-a-whole-pie day.
P.S. If you check out some of my posts on
cherry pie from other years (hit the links in
this post) you'll notice that the cherries are
ripening at least two weeks early in 2010.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

To the fathers

Father's Day Dinner -- Golden Thai, Toronto
left to right: Sam, Christopher, me and Steven

What a great day I spent today with Steven, a
great husband and the father of my two super
sons. He is such a sweetheart.

I think it's important that we acknowledge how
vital fathers are in children's lives. And I love
being with my whole family. We went out to
dinner at one of Steven's favorite restaurants
tonight, and I'll have to walk hard for a week
to walk that Thai food off. Soooo good.

We had terrific music on in the car, and Steven
and I sang all day every time we were whipping
around getting flowers, and groceries. So much

In some ways it seems like men need more
attention than women, and they don't always
get it. Women typically have a circle of friends
who tend to them, love them, consult with them
and laugh with them. A lot of men are only with
the men they know at work most of the time. I
think it's great that we have a day to honour the
amazing job that good fathers are doing with their
children. So much of a child's self esteem depends
on knowing that her/his father loves that child. And you
can see that confidence shining in every child who knows
this love.

And as for my father, long dead, I still miss him.
I wished my mother Happy Father's Day today,
because I said she has to be both father and
mother now. She laughed.

Have a loving-the-fathers-in-your-life day

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Inspired by the universe

Our gang with Mike Dooley
Left to right: Josephine Pica, Mike Dooley, Suzanne Betcke and
me, and Steven.
Outside Saturday evening is settling in on one of the loveliest
days of the year. I watch sparrows on my neighbour's roof
and through the thick branches of the cherry tree see a
party going on on the next street over. The clouds form
glorious patterns of velvet purple outlined in brilliant
white, and the sky between is a pure bright blue. It's
so warm you can wear a sundress and feel fine, or
shorts and a T-shirt. My area of Toronto is
a party in almost every yard and that seems exactly right.

See I spent the day with two very good friends and my
husband Steven at a hotel on the edge of town
listening to Mike Dooley, who writes the Notes From
The Universe
that land in our email inboxes from
Monday to Friday. And Mike Dooley, who signs his
weekday emails "The Universe" did not disappoint
the good-sized crowd.

His message is all about thinking about what you'd
like to happen in your life in general
terms, and then taking actions to move in the direction
of your dreams. I am a major believer in his message
because starting this blog was one of the actions
I took, and as he points out, the opportunities and
wondrous events that happen for anyone who makes
a small step towards a dreamed of life are surprising
and fantastic. Deciding to take action, then doing
something about your dream helps you to experience
incredible changes in your life. What's happened to me
through the one small action of starting and continuing
to write the blog, is way beyond anything I could have
imagined when I wrote my first entry over
two years ago. Mike says that no matter what your dream
is, working towards it will cause significant positive
transformation in your life, but he also suggests working
on many dreams at the same time, so that your whole
happiness is not sewn up in what he calls, "making
leg warmers for kittens," in other words a dream that
makes no sense.

So we sat and listened to his wisdom, had two rest
breaks and a break for lunch and were in that hotel
room together from 10 in the morning until 5:30
at night. All I can say is that it was a superb treat.
Mike Dooley is an inspiring speaker, warm and
engaging -- funny and humble all at the same time.
He joins with the audience by telling his own story
and explaining that anyone can have a similarly
great story.

In the breaks he signed books and posed for photos
with people who wanted pictures. Our group was
lucky enough to get a wonderful woman to snap
the picture above. Yes that's a look of pure joy on
my silly face.

Have a getting-in-touch-with-your-happy-self day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Valentine's Day Blue

Valentine Blue
acrylic on canvas
12 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Checking the date on the reference photo I noticed that
it was the day after Valentine's Day, taken on our
drive home from a superb weekend in Ottawa. We
never want to leave anywhere we visit, but we always
love being back home with our family, friends and
animals. So we weren't blue. But the whole answer to
this painting is the exact right blue, against the perfect
yellow with hints of other sunset colours.

More to come on this one. Big day tomorrow. I'll tell
you all about it tomorrow night.

Have a getting-the-perfect-colour day.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Go Back

Farmhouse sunset
stages 1 and 2
acrylic on canvas
12 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir 2010
(I started a painting of a winter
scene today that I've been wanting
to paint -- since the winter!
This is the underpainting. So far so good.)

The shocking truth about human beings is that
we're always changing. When a student opens
an explanation with, "that's just the way I am."
I sometimes answer, "How you are is always
changing." This is especially true of young
adults, but it's also true of artists. Biologically
we're renewing our cells at a rapid rate. And
psychologically and creatively the same push
forward into new time, new thinking, new
ideas is always at work.

Do you ever get advised to go back? Go back to
what you used to do? Misguided advice.
Under the message of affection for
what you used to do, is a veiled criticism of
what you're doing now. It's a bit like the
comment, " I liked your hair better longer,"
or shorter, or darker. Or I liked you better
fatter, or thinner, or whatever... My
therapist friends would tell you these
are change back messages. The good news?
They almost always mean you're on the right
track -- your own.

A kind response is, "Really. Thank you but I like
me now." We are all on a journey in this life, and
the direction is forward
not back. I know sometimes it feels like we're
going around in circles, but we're not, we're
always acquiring knowledge, learning, growing.
So hold your present work in your heart where
the fire is. You are on the right track, doing
the right thing.

Think about driving. A driver tries to cut you
off, but you maneuver swiftly away, and down the road.
In 20 minutes you're somewhere else physically, and
creatively you are somewhere else entirely.

Have a being-somewhere-else-entirely day.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How a portrait grows

Pam in New York
stage one
acrylic on canvas
36 x 38 inches
(The figure is in,
the blue underpainting defines
the shape of the dress)

Pam in New York
Stage two,
acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Some refining)

Pam in New York
preliminary face sketch
black marker on bond paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Pam in New York
Stages 2, 3, 4
acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Blocking in the dress,
underpainting the chair and

Pam in New York
Stages 5,6,7,8,
acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(The portrait comes
together -- the face, body,
dress, chair and the
start of the background)

Pam in New York,
Stage 9
acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Painting on the necklace.
The necklace is painted in
metallic silver, with
real silver leaf accents)

Pam in New York final
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(The portrait is finished -- it's
a happy result)

I've shown you some of the stages of the portrait as
it developed. I don't show my commission clients the
portrait until I know it's done. There are many stages
that are part of the process that don't look like progress
to the untrained eye. But each stage is building to the

Have an enjoying-each-stage-in-your-work day.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cleaning the studio

Pam in New York
acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Tomorrow I'll talk to you about the
process of getting this painting
done, and show you some
pictures I took along the way.)

There are so many parts to an artist's life, but for this
artist cleaning the studio is a rare event. Pity the
poor cleaners who have to do the job.
was the day. We hired some wonderful cleaners
to clean our house last week. We thought it was
extreme that two people came instead of one, but
no -- knowing I was an artist, four people came.

I had vacuumed my studio and washed the floor,
a rare event last weekend before my client came,
but even so, I worked downstairs on my husband's
desk, and heard a lot of thumping, vacuuming and
discussion going on. They couldn't even touch my
painting table -- still in the throes of big work. But
everything else was rearranged in patterns that would
never occur to me. I stood in the clean space and

The studio -- pillows arranged in a diamond pattern
(I liked the satin throw along the back of the couch,
and the red and flowered pillows against it.)

Now it may happen every two weeks if we can
afford it, and that may send this artist's happy
heart into shock. Beautiful shock.

On the coffee table, the books
notes and the silver tray I usually
have flowers on are arranged in diamonds.
Cool! This will all change tomorrow,
but for now it's an art piece. (The tape on
the floor is to mark where people
sit and stand to have their portraits painted.)

Have a liking-an-orderly-studio day.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The ultimate goal

Pam in New York
acrylic on canvas
26 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

The big painting I've been working on journeyed home to Chelsea,
Québec today. My client came and picked up the painting first thing
this morning. It was a great approval process with my client, Pam,
extremely happy with her portrait, and her friend loved it too.
That is always a wonderful moment. I can't get enough of them.

So what's the ultimate goal? That's it. Having a satisfied client
with a portrait commission. It's also getting a likeness that pleases
the sitter, and me. And of course the ultimate goal is making
a good painting.

I'll show you more of the painting tomorrow. For now
her beautiful face is enough, and of course it was part of
my ultimate goal.

Have a deciding-what-your-goal-is day.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ideal interiors

At the blue desk
Acrylic on watercolour paper
5 x 7 inches
© Barbara Muir

I know I'm primarily a portrait painter -- especially
today -- and for the last week every second I've been
painting. But I also love interiors, landscape,
and still life.

Here's a little interior that my sister owns.
Before I started painting on small canvasses for
my smaller work I painted on watercolour paper,
then glazed my acrylic work on the paper, and
framed the painting. I used that technique in
this joyous small interior.

Have a loving-what-you-see-inside day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The past holds meaning

Graeme and Coco
24 x 30 inches
acrylic on canvas
© Barbara Muir

One of my earliest portrait commissions was this one of
my friends Suzanne and David's son Graeme with their
puppy Coco. That was about eight years ago, and I
still like the portrait whenever I see it.

Tonight I've been working on a portrait that I'll show
you when it's finished and approved by my client.
But each time I see a former commission I remember
the story behind it -- what happened -- how Coco
wriggled when we tried to photograph her -- how
Graeme patiently sat with a toy rabbit to pretend he
had a dog in his hands. I also remember how sweet
Suzanne was about the whole project, how accepting
of my painterly style.

Today has been a great day with my client and her
friend, and I'll tell you more about it another day.

Have a loving-the-stories-behind-your-art day.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Busy painting

Flowers at the Barns
black marker on bond paper
9 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

I've been working for a while on a big portrait that
I hope to finish this weekend. So forgive me for
not showing you any painting for a while. But
when the painting is done I'll show you the stages.

It's Friday night, and it's been a busy day, and
a packed week. Tonight we went out to dinner
with friends at a local restaurant and had a great

But now I'm beat and tomorrow will be another
painting day. So tonight I'm going to show you
a simple line drawing I did a couple of days
ago of a some flowers in a vase.

Have a doing-as-much-as-you-can day.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The closing

My friend Paula Galang
dropped in on the way home
from work and took this picture of
Steven and me at the show with her
Thanks Paula

Our show closed tonight. It was so wonderful. I'll miss
the space, the people who visited that I just met,
and the entire experience. Just fantastic. Great
friends of mine drove in from Hamilton to see it,
and then raced back to another opening in their
own city. Thank you Marcia and David and to all
the other friends and new friends who came out
tonight to see the show before Gill and I took it down.

Thanks to Josephine for the pizza and the watermelon,
and for helping us to take the show down after attending
both of our parties. Thanks to Jenny for the sweets at
the opening, and Audrey for the bubbly.

Thanks also to John from the Wychwood Barns
who was kind to our work when he moved lights
and furniture around to accommodate other groups
using the space.

It was a treat to meet so many new people from the
community I've lived in the whole time I've been
raising my family here. What a top notch
neighbourhood. Joe Mihevc, the local councillor
dropped in today, and complimented us on our

And most of all thank you to Gill Cameron for
her beautiful art, great sense of humour and
unflagging kindness for the past week. And
thanks to Bruce Harbinson, Gill's husband for
his help and superb creative ideas and support.

And thank you for being there and allowing
me to share the experience with you.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The genius inch -- Monet and Messi

Lionel Messi, Argentina

Claude Monet
Four Trees
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

I'll show you the line (less than an inch wide)
that I love the most in my portrait of my family
that I did a few years ago. I'm not saying this
is anything like genius, but on Monet's
landscape a blurred line is genius.

Here's a detail from that portrait
showing Sam in blue and Christopher
in dark blue and white. I do love
their expressions -- somewhat
sulky as they'd sometimes be if asked
to pose back then
and the part of the painting I like the best
is the totally loose red line that
defines my son Sam's right arm.
Both of my sons are soccer fans.
Barbara Muir © 2010

Toronto is a soccer town and as the World Cup begins in
South Africa cars are appearing with flags of their favorite
countries out the window. In the grocery store people
pick up the dinner groceries wearing soccer T-shirts.
Soccer means a lot to me for sentimental reasons even
though I've never seen a pro game.

When my oldest was born it was a World Cup year, and
the shouts and boos in our neighbourhood as the games
progressed were both disturbing and seemingly appropriate
(especially the cheers) to a young mother. Someone gave
my son his first soccer T-shirt for a team unrelated to
either of his parents' heritage.

In 2006 Steven and I were in Germany for the World
Cup, in Stuttgart where some of the games were played.
It was wildly exciting. We didn't have tickets to the games,
but the energy in the city was wonderful. There were
soccer balls worked into flower gardens, on the plane
the butter and the chocolates were in the shape of soccer
balls. People from all over the world gathered there in
fantastic costumes and face paint in their national
colours. We bought our sons the orange T-shirts of the
Dutch team when we moved on to Sweden. In
Stockholm one of the main streets was decorated
with ribbons high above the traffic with all the flags of
the countries in the World Cup.

I saw first hand how excited everyone can get about it,
and what an air of camaraderie surrounds the games.

Apparently the favoured team in these games is Spain
because they have won the most games, but yesterday
I heard that Argentina could win it because
of the "genius inch" his ability to manuvre in tight

Now where is this taking us in terms of art. When I
was in Stuttgart, I left the glory of the World Cup outside,
the shouts and cheers, people carrying around
foot and a half tall glasses of beer on the street, the
cafés whose patios looked like giant parking lots of fans
in front of huge TVs, even the silly humour on TV
in the hotel room, with Reality show people playing
soccer blindfolded, to see the most wonderful show
of Monet's poplars at the gorgeous Staatsgalerie.

At the time I noticed that on each of the paintings
displayed in the gallery Monet had applied very
thick paint, but during the process, perhaps at the
end had rubbed the paint on the horizon, frequently
with a completelym different colour from the rest
of the piece with his hand or a cloth, and I could
feel the action of Monet painting. I will always
associate my profound feeling of being in the
artist's immediate presence, of his genius in that
horizontal blurred line across his canvasses with
soccer. Call it synesthesia. And I will always associate
Christopher's birth with the game.

We can expect a wild city, especially in the coffee
bars on Sr. Clair just south of us during the games,
and I'm looking forward to the hubbub. My sons
cheer for Holland because their father's parents
were Dutch, I have no favorite, but would cheer for
Italy if I did. I just love the excitement.

Have a getting-ready-for-cheering-on-your-country day

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Come to the closing party!

Gill and I invite you to the Closing Party
Thursday June 10, from 6 - 9 p.m.

We had so much fun at our opening party that we're
having a closing party for everyone who couldn't
make it out to the opening. Gill Cameron and
I have been having a super time with our
show at the Wychwood Barns, and we'd like
to show our appreciation for our friends in the
community, the city support,
and guests like those who dropped in from
Vancouver, Philadelphia, France and Texas!

So we're having another party and we'd love to
meet you there. The show is absolutely beautiful.
Our work is glorious together and we put on
one great party.

Portrait of Zoey my dog
from a xerox copy of
the original watercolour
done for Zoey's dog walker
the wonderful Diana.
Diana hasn't walked our Zoey for a few
years, but she and her daughter, Astrid
are friends, and they trained her
and made her into the great dog she is.
This painting made me laugh because she's
such a beautiful black and white dog.
Artist's liberty.
Barbara Muir © 2010

Have a getting-ready-to-party-on Thursday day.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Plugging in and unplugging

In the park -- ready for summer
Final version
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 36 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(The final, final version of the painting --
I took it back to its owners last night
after the show closed for the day.
Steven and I were invited in to see
it where it will live above a very
beautiful mantle. It looked wonderful there.)

A few weeks ago a friend of mine talked about
feeling guilty for doing a crafts project and not
painting. I sometimes wonder if the downside
of blogging is the pressure to produce. For me
it's been a definite plus, but it's not such a good thing
if an artist feels guilty for having fun doing any
other thing.

Then the other day an artist visited
the gallery and we had a great discussion on
the beginning of specializing. We decided
that this phenomenon has intensified over
the years. For instance the woman writes,
and gives talks at the University of Toronto,
but she can't get a teaching position there
because she doesn't have a degree in

You don't need a degree in painting to paint.
You need to paint. Painting teaches us how
to paint. And so do our eyes. I was trying
to remember what I saw when I got out of
the car tonight after coming home from the
gallery. So here goes. I saw the squirrels who live in the
tree in front of our house running across the
roof and leaping into the tree. I saw
the golden light hitting the houses across the
street, the grass getting as long as a field in
front of the house, which says my husband has
been busy, the pansies, getting long legged in
the pots, so incredibly beautiful, which says the
tree on our front lawn is coming back to life after
a very dry winter and shading the flowers,
the maple keys all over the front walk, and I heard
the sound of robins chirping. I saw the dusty red
chair on the front porch, and the little child's chair
I rescued from the garden and the chair Sam
started to paint a few years ago and never finished.
When I opened the door I saw the mail fanned out across the dark
rug in the hall as though it had been blown in by
a high wind, and the dog and the cats running down
the stairs towards me. I let the dog out the back door and
saw leaves coming up in the garden that look a bit like
Japanese anemones. (Yay)(One minute tops of what an artist
sees -- which is why we really don't need drugs
except to go to sleep.)

Remember the excitement of being a little kid? ( Yes you do,
because if you're an artist you still have it.) It's impossible
to teach our intense observation, you can only train it. At the same
time thinking about painting, painting and obsessing
about the painting you're painting all mean that you
need a break from time to time. I spent an afternoon
recently gilding a terra cotta plate with real gold leaf.
The plate had been gilded at one time, but left
outside and the gilding had worn off. It would be
hard to think of anything less important to
accomplish, but I felt great afterwards, and went
back to my painting projects renewed.

Have a noticing-how-much-you-see day.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

More pictures from the opening

Gill Cameron's husband, Bruce Harbinson took
some great pictures of our opening at the
Community Gallery in the Artscape Wychwood Barns.
I think the pictures maybe really are worth 1ooo

People outside the gallery entrance

Jenny Koniuk at the door looking in

People enjoying Gill's pictures

Every bit of the space was filled with people talking and
looking at our art.

As the evening went on

The crowd grew

This shot after the opening ended gives you an idea
of the space.

Gill Cameron and me at the end of
the evening, tired but very happy.

We are sitting the show every day from noon until
from Monday to Thursday and having a
closing party on Thursday night.

Have an aren't-we-lucky? 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!