Thursday, September 30, 2010

Moving through it

After listening to a show on new studies in neuroplasticity
I decided to hard wire myself to the idea that painting
eliminates colds.  It was a struggle.  At one point this
evening every step I took was faulty, but I refused to
listen to that voice.  I stepped right away (following my
own advice) at the forty minute point, and came back
after a minute renewed.  So this is how far I got.  I love
how Henriette's very curly hair was making wild Art
Taking a break from painting
Stage 3-5
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Nouveau patterns as we talked on Skype.  This is going to be a
real Skype painting with all the trappings of an image on
a computer.

I'm expecting it to be quite interesting.  We're moving
into October, and it feels like the year is taking a running
leap forward.  Collectively perhaps it's time for everyone
 to work on changing our brains into the creative,
fun thinkers we've always wanted them to be.  And as
I kept adding in my conversations today, almost like
a mantra....kind.  Creativity is fantastic, but kindness
counts big time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tobias went home today

Carm and Jason Sealy very kindly loaned me the
portrait of Tobias and the Tigers for Artwalk.  Now
Carm and I are both sick with a cold, but I decided
I had the energy to walk the painting of her son
Tobias around the corner and to get him back to his
 In the studio left to right on the wall my Portrait of Peter Adam
Tobias and the tigers and August Market Flowers

When I was painting the portrait of
Tobias from photographs I discovered that he
lived on the street three houses down from my house.
I didn't meet the actual boy, every bit as charming as
his photos, until about six months later, and I was so
happy because I felt like we were old friends.

This cold is fairly hefty, and though I
know I'm on the mend, I am calling it a day.
I am blessed with collectors who loan me their
paintings for shows, and I really appreciated seeing
the Tobias and the Tigers painting again.  First of
all I love the painting, which is a good feeling, and
then it brought back all the wonderful memories
of doing the Pure Design show with the HGTV crew.
I think I'll dream about that wonderful day tonight.
Have a thanking-the-people-who-help-you-succeed day.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Doctor's orders

Okay in my travels in the past week somehow I picked up
a doozer of a cold.  The moment I felt that baby coming
at me, I opened a package of Cold FX and began the
process of warding it off.  Yesterday was a bit rough.  I
was tired, maybe that's too mild -- exhausted after the
weekend's festivities.  But I did the intelligent thing, had
a long nap, wrote some emails, took the Cold FX and
began my recovery.  Today I woke up feeling not completely
super, but optimistic, which is a clear sign of recovery.
Taking a break from painting
Stage 1-3
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(This is my second in my series
of paintings of Henriette Sonne,
the Danish painter who
lives in Norway.)

This was one of those days that teaches you all over again
how fall gets rid of summer.  Already the trees north of the
city are turning colours despite the fairly warm temperatures
we've had here.  Then came the fatal combination -- heavy
rains and wind.  That's the fall formula.  My huge Cleome
plants in the backyard have fallen over.  Rain flooded the
fields and ditches at school.

So tonight I decided to do a little painting on one of the
series of Skype paintings I intend to do on my friend
Henriette Sonne in Norway.  I don't even know if Henriette
knows about the series, but she shows at the same gallery
as I do in New York City, so I thought it would be...
fascinating to have paintings of Henriette working
at painting in a show. We'll see how it goes, and how
they ultimately turn out. But it's a pleasure even thinking
about it.  And that was the doctor's (Dr. Muir -- my favorite
doctor - me) orders. Have some fun, paint and start a new novel.

 P.S.  I heard the coolest thing on CBC Radio
today about a choir program for people
with Parkinson's disease.  Singing helped 
people keep vocal function and cognitive
function and the neurologist said it releases 
endorphins which actually have a positive 
effect on brain chemistry. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Laughs in a serious world

It's a cold and rainy day here in Toronto.  After running
around doing errands, and planning to put things back
in order after the Artwalk studio tour, I settled in to
watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.  If I were an
American I'd be joining Jon Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity
in Washington.  I know I'd have fun, and laugh with
at minimum thousands of people who find his humour
funny.  Plus of course I understand his serious message.
Jon Stewart  on The Daily Show
He asks the burning questions of the day -- with humour
Black marker on bond paper
81/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

We could use some Canadian comedians organizing
a similar march here, as Torontonians seem to be
 on the brink of voting in Rob Ford, the current front 
runner in the campaign for Mayor of Toronto, who makes 
no bones about the fact that he was charged with DUI in
1999 and for assault and threatening death in a 2008 
incident with his wife. But he doesn't have a criminal record. 
Every intelligent person I know is against the idea of
voting him in, but what does his predicted majority
say about our city?  A lot of us are very concerned.

Of course in their Washington rallies Colbert and Stewart
are trying to provide an alternative to bizarre figures who are
popular for no reason I can get like Glenn Beck.
Don't worry I won't stay on this theme. 

Have an enjoying-whatever-makes-you-laugh day.
 P. S. If this is too heavy and you feel like looking on
the lighter side hit the link above.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Well sir, that's all she wrote -- another super day

Every time we finish a meal my husband has cooked, he
says, "well sir, that's all she wrote."  Meaning the meal is
finished, there isn't any more.  Sometimes he adds "I'm sorry..."
on the front end of that statement, and we all groan because he's
an amazing cook, and we are always more than happy with
his meals.
A couple of paintings over the mantle in the basement.
The large painting is A Gift for You, and the small one
is New Apples in a bowl.  For a very short
while I collected wooden sailboats.  Here are
two of them from Nova Scotia.

Artwalk was like one of Steven's dinners in a way,
completely fulfilling and wonderful.  I had another amazing
day today, and enjoyed every minute, and all the super
people who came by, from noon to the late afternoon when we
finally pulled up my signs, and called it another day.  So fun.

 Small paintings lined up on the basement wall
-- it's the end of the day, the labels
are missing or looking a bit rough, and the paintings
like me could use some straightening up,
but they're happy.

Here's what I wrote at the beginning of the day today for you.

After a week of working you need something pretty special
to get you to work Saturday and Sunday all day. the St. Clair
Artwalk is that intangible event that can get you up out of
your bed, away from your novel and ready to meet whoever
comes in the door.  It makes me proud to be part of this
thriving community in the center of a city filled with vibrant
neighbourhoods.  I love my city.  So maybe Artwalk and the
dedication it requires lets me express that affection to anyone
who comes in wanting to see my art.  A couple of coffees,
washing my face, and I am ready to see, curious to see who
visits.  It's like a party -- you never know how it's going to
turn out, but when your feelings at the start are warm and
positive, it goes extremely well.  That's been my experience.
It's the morning before the second day.  I feel like I've found
my place in the scheme of things.  If you are in town, please
drop in.

P.S. I was right.  It was a wonderful day.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rocking on with Artwalk

It was a great day at the walk -- St. Clair Artwalk that is.   A steady
stream of visitors came in, and although the doors were officially
closed at 4 p.m., people stayed having great conversations
until 7 p.m.  Tomorrow wraps it up, and
it's been major fun.  I love meeting new people and learning
about their views on art.  Tonight I'm pretty beat, so my sweetie
and I are just going to watch a movie at home.
Lyn and Kaya
On loan for the studio tour
Acrylic on canvas with gold leaf
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

My images tonight are of the studio getting ready for visitors who love
art.  I've been thinking about my message.  Alyson Stanfield
recommends knowing what you want to say, so tomorrow all
rehearsed I'll tell people what I'm doing.  The story is that the
visual world excites me every single day.  I can never record
all that I see, but I get to paint people who most often become
fast friends, and friends who become subjects.  Plus this summer
the gardens everywhere have been like a love song to summer,
so much of my art sings along with the city's flowers --
gorgeous and like many of my favorite paintings high-key in colour
treatment.  My paintings of flowers lead me back to the source of
my happiness -- this glorious planet.  In summer the live flowers
speak to me, and as summer is waning, the colour they created
continues to dance in my flower paintings -- which are like a
thank you letter to the universe.  And my portraits are a record
of all of the emotion generated during the intensive process of
keeping a moment, or a period in a person's life alive.  Whether
they are from photos or live sittings, I connect with that person's
essence, the person's humour, passion, loves, talents, viewpoints,
musical taste, and I know I am so lucky to have that experience.
How's that for an explanation?

 The studio looking fairly crowded

Thanks for being my kind friends.  I so enjoy your thoughts and

Artwalk opening party goes to the wee hours

Well Artwalk visitors, this artist may be a bit tired
for official day one.  The party tonight began at 8 p.m. and
went on until 3 a.m. when the last visitor went
happily home.  I'm having some issues with blogger and
I don't know if you get to see this picture large anymore,
but it's one of the pictures in the show.

 August Market Flowers
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Finished and in the show)

  I counted tonight and I have 58 paintings in my Artwalk
show. It's a combination of old and new, favorites and even
commissions loaned for the weekend.  It's so nice to
see that work again, and realize that I still love it.  I
bless the collectors who loaned me their work, the
friends and neighbours  and family who came by tonight,
and my dear friend Josephine for making the best
pizza which everyone devoured.

Have a life-is-one-great-party day.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Come to Artwalk this weekend and Kitty wants to play the piano

 Down to the sea with Dad
Stages 4 and 5
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 36 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Now I've added some sky.  I may
do more with that another day.  I need
to finish the figures, the walkway,
and add some light on the grasses,
and that's it.  It already reminds
me powerfully of our favorite
beach at high tide.)

I told you that my impulsive husband bought a piano.
And I added that we don't play.  I mean we both took
lessons for a short time as children, but all we have now
is desire.  Well today the piano tuner came, and did
that, "which do you want first -- the good news, or the
bad news?" thing.  Bad news she needs some repair,
and some tuning.  Good news she has not been harmed.
Fiona hits the keys.

That's good because Fiona already is practicing for her
kitty plays the piano video.  She is certainly one of the
smartest cats I've ever known.  Incredibly intrigued.  So
the tuner absolutely winced when he listened to the piano,
but apparently the piano will be a good one when he's
finished fixing it.  Luckily he had the comedic timing of
a stand up comedian, and he says it's just fine in our basement.
Hey.... as soon as she's all tuned up kitty will learn to play.
And so will I.

Tomorrow is my opening party for Artwalk, and Saturday and
Sunday my studio is open from noon - 4 p.m.  If you're in the
area, please drop in.  If you are planning to visit Toronto and
come to see me, email me if you need directions.

Have a getting-ready-to-boogie day

P.S. Hit the line above for a musical interlude

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Peace in the middle of chaos

Down to the sea with Dad
Stage 1 - 3
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 36 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Here's a landscape featuring
our favorite beach in Nova Scotia.
At high tide there's almost no beach,
and the dune grasses shimmer. I
probably won't do much more with the
grass, but now the sky is next on
the agenda for this one.)

Today I realized that I have more to do than is
probably humanly possible. Oh boy I thought.
How can I do what I need to get done? But I
had too much to do to spend a lot of time
thinking. In the parking lot at school I noticed
great green waves of leaves topped with flowers in mauve
and yellow, wildflowers competing for attention.
Lovely puffy white clouds shimmered and glowed
with brilliant sun struck edges up above against
a blue sky. Hurry up I yelled internally.

But on the way home. The same feeling of joy
persisted. I fed a seagull a piece of carrot and
caused a glorious fly by. I sat in a heavy traffic
jam belting out songs from my radio. I could not
shake a feeling of glee. So there you have it. I'm
working steadily towards my ultimate goal --
a great weekend. But if I'm not ready on time my
excuse will be the happy gods, who got a hold of me.

Have a happiness-you've-really-got-a-hold-on-me day.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Okay we are mad

Fresh from Heather's Garden
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(almost complete -- tonight
I worked on eliminating as
much as possible of the orange
ground showing through. The
vase has been yellow, pink,
yellow again since you saw it last.
I'm happy with the painting now.)

One of the hardships of being an artist is a tendency
to spontaneity. No it's more than that, it's an
addiction to spontaneity. Even though many of us
work long hours, putting in disciplined and stringent
days. We like to think of ourselves as free spirits,
and this gets us into trouble. Now my husband, and
staunchest supporter is a photographer when he has
time, and an amazing woodworker. Nevertheless it
comes as a surprise even to me to see how strongly the
impulsive artist vibration resides in him. Working
15 hour days or longer as his norm, he like me,
can get swallowed up in the moment.

If there's one thing
Zoey is impatient with
it's a beginner. Steven practices
with the beginner books
we had for our kids on the
"new" piano.

Which is how right now we are the proud owners of
a piano. Yes. We bought it last week at a contents
sale. It is in fairly good condition, and three very
strong piano movers brought it into our house yesterday.
But here's the funniest thing of all. We don't play the
piano. We both took lessons for a few years as children,
but that was it. Now I guess we'll resume that musical
pursuit. Funny.

Stay tuned, or should I say stay untuned, and we'll
get it tuned.

Have an it's-okay-to-be-spontaneous day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

My painting is on the Artwalk poster

The St. Clair Artwalk happens this weekend.
This is not a perfect photo of the poster,
which is not only perfect but features my work!
Today I picked up some St. Clair Artwalk posters to post around the
neighbourhood and to give to stores and schools in the
area to encourage people to come out for Artwalk.
By the way if you're in Toronto please come and see
me in my studio, you can find the map on the Artwalk web site.
I will be exhibiting in my studio from 12 noon until 4 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday.

What a treat for me to be putting up a poster with a lovely image
of my work. Water Image 2 is on the upper left hand side of
the poster. I am so excited. Got to get some shut eye so I
can go through my prep list and make sure I'm ready for
my guests this weekend. It is going to be so much fun.

Have a come-on-along-and-let-the-good-times-roll day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Transatlantic signals

Sunday with Fiona
Self portrait
charcoal on bond paper
11 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

In recent days I've been overjoyed looking at
Sheila Vaughan's wonderful self portraits. The
last two have been in charcoal and they inspired
me. The transatlantic title came to me as I was drawing
my portrait before supper, thinking about Sheila
Vaughan in England. Tonight I drew myself in what I call my
"Karl Lagerfeld" glasses -- but Lagerfeld actually
always wears dark glasses. Mine are really men's glasses
from Joe, and although they look great on Steven,
(who has a pair too) they're a tad severe for me.
But I love how Mac Photo Booth flashes on glasses,
and you lose one eye to glare.

It's been a hard week with my friend coming out of
very difficult surgery. All of his friends are thinking of
him full time. There's a strong temptation to crawl
back into bed with a book and wait. But instead
Steven and I headed out to a funny movie. That was
an excellent plan. I hope you are having a wonderful
time creating art in your comfort zone.

Have a getting-into-your-comfort-zone day.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

No time to wait

Sweet face
marker on bond paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

One of the things I have almost learned in my
life is to quit waiting. What do I mean?
Instead of standing in line going crazy I'd like
to have a plan. Seeing students in the first
weeks of school standing in long lines waiting
I see many long faces. This is the generation with
more possible ways to entertain themselves than
ever before, yet they spend hours not listening to
music, not studying, getting increasingly bored and

So yes, I'm that person in front of you in line
in the grocery store who thinks of something kind
to say when you're child is whining because he's tired,
and you're trying to pick up some things for supper and
juggling too many tasks already. I'm the person
who brings a book to the airport, who has wonderful
music in the car (Aretha Franklin right now) Call me.
In other words most of the time I'm aware that this
is my life right now, and I better enjoy it to the best
of my ability. My point? One of the things artists can
almost always do is draw. And if it's a customs line up
and that's not possible, an artist can draw internally
-- right?

Steven and I were parted for about 10 minutes at
the grocery store today, and when we got back
together he said, "What?" "What do you mean?"
I asked. "You've got a look on your face like
something happened." "Oh lots happened," I
answered. Yep. While I was in the clothing store
Joe, a lady and I almost ran into one another and
did that jumping out of the way thing you do, and
she jokingly said, "Dance?" I said, "No, but maybe
later -- my girlfriend and I really want to take dance
lessons." She said , "well my thing is yoga,"
and told me where I could study yoga locally. So
that was the first five minutes. In the washroom
upstairs a woman was changing a three week old
very hungry baby boy who was screaming, his face
bright red until his mother leaned down to his ear
about every 30 seconds and said, "you're all right
sweetie, you're going to be fine," so tenderly that
it not only stopped little baby's crying for a minute
it stopped about four grown up women in their tracks
in awe at the power of love, and they couldn't leave
the washroom without watching the blessing of a
baby and his mother for a couple of minutes more.

So that was ten minutes. The drawing tonight is one
I drew as a study for a painting I'm working on while
waiting to get invitations made up at my wonderful
printers Chris and Ellen at St. Clair Printing. They
are exceptionally kind and good and I thank the
universe for them every day.

Have a getting-to-have-a-wonderful-Sunday day.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Get to versus have to

Flowers for Friday
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

The note from Mike Dooley today made me laugh
because I've been tired this week and in a
highly complaining mode on the home front.
Whine, whine, whine. I hear myself and think
'what's up girl?' Turns out the morning paper has
a simple solution -- more sleep. So I have been working in
another half hour which transforms the world. Plus Mike
reminded me that many people would envy me my
chore list. That made me sit up and laugh!

Mike Dooley sends out the Notes from the Universe
emails on weekdays, and they frequently cheer me
up, and stop me from taking myself so seriously.
This morning his message helped me to remember
the "get to versus have to" idea I learned years ago
from my readings along the way. If I get
to water my garden, instead of have to, I realize
how lucky I am to have a garden. And so on down the
list of former "have to"s. The transformation is

I had a lot of fun painting today's painting. It's not
quite finished I don't think, although I love how loose
and abstract it is right now. I may put some darker
tones in between the flowers. It's painted on a red ground over
a rough layer of paint for texture. The flowers that posed
for it are from Pegann at the market garden, and I wanted
to capture them quickly. They are just magnificent. I
felt supremely lucky knowing that I was going to
get to paint them. I hope that joy comes through.

Have an I-get-to-have-a-great-life day.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Not the gloves already!

Hello little Glovies
11 x 16 inches
black marker on bond paper
Barbara Muir © 2010

Yep. Sad news for ye lovers of summer. Here in Toronto
we summerphiles (I'm surprised that I count myself
among them) had to put on wool coats and winter
gloves tonight. Oh I know there are a few hearty, and
somewhat odd types still braving the shorts and T-shirts,
but in a city of 5.5 million they number in the sixes - as in
six people. It is cold. So I hauled out the pair of fleece lined
leather gloves that took me all the way to Florence last
winter, and the parts of me so recently choosing the ideal
fake tanner went into minor shock. I am not ready
for winter, or even fall. Not ready. Please weather deities
who know all, bless Toronto with another month of if not
straight summer, at least a bit of warmth, and let the
flowers stay.

For now. Here are my gloves -- they are black leather --
hard to tell from my drawing. Note how each glove has
its own personality. Wait maybe I made that happen?

If you've had too much summer, head on up here, and
if you're craving more turn up the car heater and search
out your gloves.

Have a finding-your-favorite-gloves day.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

910 and counting

You make me laugh
black marker on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Hi everyone. Wow I'm 90 blogs away from
1000 entries -- and I'm pretty proud of my productivity.
What a marvellous and exciting experience it's
been writing almost every day (with just over a
month off total). It is for sure my touchstone
with the art world -- a life line that keeps me
informed and keeps me learning -- about you.

It has been a beautiful day here, and I took the
dog for a walk as the last of today's miraculous
light was disappearing behind the dark
silhouettes of trees in the park. The
air was crisp and cool -- the dog and I happy
in the inexplicable way that can overcome
you when you're out in nature, and she reveals
something magnificent. People walking dogs
energized by the air, bird calls for the end of day,
white clouds gilded on the under side against blue sky.
Suddenly the sky forms the palest translucent gold,
canopy, then poof azure from nowhere and a dusting
of stars.

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

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Silence! -- or singing, dancing and painting

Acrylic on canvas
16 x 20 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

I went to paint with my sweet art group tonight.
I am so crazy about these people, and haven't been
able to go for months. So I dragged my tired self
there and was amply rewarded. The model was
beautiful, and I was energized and revitalized
by seeing my friends, watching them work, and
by the snatches of conversation I heard while I
was working, and the funny discussions I had when
I wasn't.

I cannot forget how at O.C.A.D. my art school, there
was an atmosphere in some of my classes controlled
by one or two people who were painting the figure
in three sponge impressions. One, two, three --
done. Brilliant really now when I think of it, but
at the time I felt like I was hostage to Beethoven and
Bach and an air of seriousness far beyond what is at
all necessary to produce magnificent art. So I say,
dance, sing, talk, and you will still make paintings --
maybe every bit as good as the three sponge print
style of figurative work my fellow students prepared.

Have a singing, laughing, painting day.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Falling for art -- upcoming events

Shadow Play in Forest Hill
Acrylic on canvas
14 x 18  inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

This Saturday September 18, from noon to 4 p.m. the
Don Valley Art Club is holding a reception for its
fall show at Todmorden Mills in Toronto. I will have
two pieces in that show, so if you're in the area, please
come out and see the work. The Gallery is beautiful, and
there are bike paths and hiking paths close by, so you can
combine activities.

The following weekend is the St. Clair Artwalk, and I will
once again be opening my studio to the art loving
public from noon until 4 p.m. Saturday, September 25,
and Sunday September 26. If you're in Toronto I'd love to
see you there. Check out the information at the Artwalk
web site.

Tonight's painting is the final version of Shadow Play in
Forest Hill. I am quite happy with it. So it's a great feeling
to have two very different paintings in the D.V.A.C. show and
to be quite delighted with both of them.

Have a painting-whatever-strikes-your-fancy day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Friends are on my mind

A Danish Painter in Norway
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Not quite finished. I worked on the hair
tonight, starting to block in shapes,
and I filled in some of the painting
Henriette was working on as we talked.
So far I am very happy with the painting.
It's a big work, and a great pleasure to
work on, as I am thinking about Henriette -- her talent
and her wit the whole time I paint.)

It's been a busy, run around weekend kind of day, but my
friends are on my mind. In particular my thoughts are
with my friend, and mentor who has helped me so much
in working with the students at school. Tomorrow he is
undergoing serious surgery, and all of his friends are
sending him best wishes, and attempting to form a
circle of protective love out of thought. To me this is
one of the wonders of being a human being -- that
ability we have to reach out and touch other's lives
in meaningful ways, just by following our own chosen

But the other quality we have that is amazing, is our
power of collective thought, our ability to direct
energy towards another human being, with the
result that the other fellow feels that energy. I'm sure
my friend will go to sleep tonight in his hospital bed
knowing that dozens of people are thinking about him.

I worked a little bit on my portrait of Henriette Sonne
tonight. We are definitely connected by thought, and
by the Internet. When I think about that it seems quite
miraculous that women in Norway and Canada can
almost feel like they're in the same room, from across
the planet.

Have a caring-for-your-friends day.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Remembering 9/11

Auntie Anna's Crystal Vase
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(This is a little painting of the market
flowers I bought today from Pegann in
my great aunt's vase -- a wedding present.)

It's impossible for me to forget this day, and part of
it is the reason you're imagining. The other is that
it's the anniversary of my father's death, and he
died before the iconic tragedy of September 11.

My father died of lung cancer -- a decidedly nasty kind
caused by exposure to extreme radiation while serving with
the Royal Navy. Years later that exposure killed him.
When he died my father and I were developing the kind
of close father/daughter relationship I would have
wished for from birth onwards, but had been impossible
partially because of his military experience. Children
don't react well to orders, and this was a long, hard
lesson for my Dad.

I miss my father every single day, but I also feel
more and more with the passing of time that his
love lives on in me, in my humour, my love of art,
my love of language. Despite his awkward relationship
with his young children, he won our love and our
respect as adults.

As for the September 11 the wider public is remembering,
I am remembering that too -- how I was driving to
school when I heard the news. How I thought it was
a cruel hoax on the part of the radio show I was
listening to, how I feared for my students, and then
the eerie silence as all air travel was canceled over
my vibrant city. Visiting New York earlier this year
the devastation of that day hit me profoundly. What
brave people New Yorkers are. And I realize that
everyone who lost loved ones in that horrific
attack, felt the way I do about my father, and that
they too think of that person every single day of their
lives. My thoughts are with them.

Have an enjoying-your-family's-love day.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Wowee free stuff!

North Shore treasures
Watercolour on Watercolour paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2008
(This is a watercolour I did a few years
ago. I decided to show it to you without
even thinking about tonight's topic.
But when I'm at the beach I feel
the same as my scrounging animals.
There are so many shells, pieces of
driftwood and sea glass to decide on,
that I lose all interest in stores, and
manufactured goods. It seems so
exciting just to fill my pockets with
shells and to give my treasure to
Steven at the end of each walk, when
he gives his best shells to me.)

Some of you may be wondering about the state of the
fair Fiona, our three-year-old Siamese cat. Well thanks
to Dr. Hannah at St. Clair Veterinary Clinic the girl is
flourishing. Her coat is thicker and glossier than before
and she is becoming wildly inventive in her play.

Fiona the fair one wonders when
the next game is going to begin.

See Fiona views the blue boxes (the bins inside the house
where we put recyclable stuff before it goes in the big
outside Recycle container) as toy bins. So does Zoey,
but Fiona brings the pieces of plastic, small bits of cardboard
and other "reusable" material to us like a Labrador
Retriever dog. She wants you to throw a bit of plastic
for her. Is she without real toys? No. She has in fact
squirreled away about 20 small Ikea animals under one of
our couches.

Zoey the dog collects cat food cans. We feed the cats from
small two inch cans. After Zoey's polished off any tiny bits
left in the cans, she takes the special cat food tins
and lines them up around her big round bed in the basement.
We routinely pick up the cans and stick them in one of our
inside bins, but if we don't empty the bin quickly enough,
Zoey steals them back.

And Timbah the cat? He just carries socks, my dresses, shirts,
whatever he can find off the laundry room table and drags
that provender upstairs in case I can't decide what to wear.
After the journey up two floors of okay a clean house, but
not clean enough to warrant using clean clothes as dusters,
I can't really wear his offerings, which breaks his heart
temporarily. And people think animals aren't smart.
Try living with a crew of the strange creatures.

Have a loving-the-inventiveness-of-your-animal-family day.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Today I'm going to change the world

Sunflowers and friends
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

I listened to a song on the way to school about changing
the world. I don't know the name of the singer, but
I loved the idea. I took that idea with me right into class.
Because I believe that that is part of our job here -- on
the planet -- to try and make things a little bit better, one
small step at a time, for ourselves, and for those around us.

Did you know that only 4 % of Canadians have sent money
to help the flood victims in Pakistan? That shocked me, and
I felt glad that I'd responded right away. 38% of Canadians
responded to the Haiti earthquake disaster. So I'm surprised
that this disaster has not elicited more donations. But the floods
in Pakistan have affected almost the same number of
people as the entire population of Canada. Their crops
are under water, and worse their seeds for next year's crops
are under water too.

Okay enough on that. I think we can all change the world,
by just being kinder, doing the small things like holding
doors open, physically, and metaphorically for one another.
Smiling seems like such a simple thing to do, but one
smile can work like a chain reaction. Understanding one
another helps. Listening changes so much -- hearing and taking
in our differences.

I had a great day today. I painted today's painting in part while
talking to a dear friend on the phone. What a joy it was to
talk to her, and paint at the same time. Her humour and
intelligence seemed to liven up my brush and the paint
leapt around and made these flowers sing. Me too.

Have a changing-the-world-without-even-trying day.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sleeping standing up

Friends on the North Shore beach
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

I was making supper tonight and felt myself nodding
off standing against the counter. Why? I taught for four
hours straight and I'm a highly energetic teacher. My
former boss says that's like doing Hamlet without a
supporting cast. But it was a great class, and I did have
a supporting cast. Still after the two hour drive to get
home I was knackered.

Here's a little painting of an image that made me
feel like dreaming about Nova Scotia. So I think
I will in a minute. In the summer of 2009 my
friend Flora and her husband Larry made the long
trek from Bear River to our school house outside
of Pugwash, N.S. The day we went to the beach
was ideal. Hot -- too hot for me, but perfect for
Flora and Larry. I carried a lovely orangey red
umbrella and we all took pictures of one another.
It was a perfect day.

Have a dreaming-of-wonderful-holidays day.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Great times roll in when your eyes are open

Skype call coming in
Black marker on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Driving up to school today I heard a magnificent
woman speaking. She was 104 years old and simply
loving her life. When the reporter asked the
standard question -- "so what do you like about
being 104?" the woman answered that these are
the best years of her life, that her good times
really started when she turned 100!

I loved that. It made me laugh so hard I nearly
drove off the road. Here we are nattering about
thinking that we can't do this, and we're the
wrong age for that. My students are doing it.
I hear over and over again that someone thinks
he/she is too old to be at college. I know many of
my friends felt terribly old at 25, and were certain
that the future was going to be, "all downhill
from here."

Not true, and the astoundingly great 104 year old
lady made that clear. I put that together with a
supremely beautiful sunset that I saw tonight when
I was buying my groceries at Loblaws. The store
near me has massive windows that look out over
a park. High above the trees was a gorgeous
multi-hued pink sunset resting on dark purply
blue clouds. I was struck with instant joy, and
rushed to my car to get my camera. But by the
time I fished it out the sunset had gone.

Then I wondered how many people would not
allow themselves to see that beauty because it
was in the wrong place? Can the sunset be as
beautiful here as it is in Nova Scotia, Texas, England,
California, France, Italy, Argentina, China?
It can, and it was.

Have a letting-the-good-times-roll-in day.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Staying happy is no joke

Sun lights up Cherrywood
Acrylic on canvas
16 x 20 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(stages 1-10, a few more to come)

It has only dawned on me in the last few years
that working on being happy is a choice. I now
know that the smiling people who greet you in
stores, teach you in schools, run in races, work
in hospitals -- happy people -- did not get there
by magic. They woke up every morning making
the choice to be happy with what they're doing,
what they have, who they know, how they act,
or to look for a way to change it. That action taken
by so many people I know who are seriously ill,
perhaps dying, who are terrified about money
worries, or just plain frightened about some big
decision they have to make in their lives, I see
as a supreme act of bravery, and one that impresses
me again and again.

It turns out as I've said before that this act of courage
spreads, and the people who are encouraged and
touched by this depth of love for the world, become
happier too.

I have to get up early tomorrow, so I'm showing you
a painting that needs some work. It was a rescue
canvas that I picked up in the shelter of an upstairs
bedroom and dragged out onto my front porch to see
if I had more vision, or better thoughts than when I
started the piece about 6 months ago. I did, but I
kept losing energy, and had to talk myself out onto
the porch about every five minutes, and give myself
apples, and celery and hundreds of cups of coffee.
So now. It is almost done. It will take maybe two
more porch sessions and dappled sunlight. I am
ready for the heat to return tomorrow (it's so
freezing tonight) and then we'll take it to the next
level. How does this relate to being happy? I decided
that the best thing about this painting is its happy
light, and whatever else is going on, I do try to see
my world in a happy light.

Have a seeing-your-world-in-a-happy-light day

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Goodbyes, new beginnings, super supper, waves and stars

Zoey from above
(I see this drawing is not quite finished)
black marker on bond paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

This weekend was set as the time for the trek to
Windsor to take Sam down to school. We left
yesterday, drove to Windsor, unloaded Sam's
stuff and went out for dinner together. Today
Sam had breakfast with us in the hotel, we
traipsed around the stores in Windsor with him
buying the remainder of what he needs, like
millions of other parents all over North America,
then checked out of our hotel, and said a last
goodbye before the school term starts.

I have the normal nostalgia for our summer
together. Sam worked hard this summer to save
money for school, and I could almost watch him
growing up day by day. I find that just as exciting
now as I did when he was a little boy. But I will
miss our talks, the occasional dinner together,
and just seeing him.

Still I also feel the excitement for him of a new
school year beginning, a chance to see friends,
and learn wonderful new lessons. I know this
will be true for all of us.

The lovely bay at Port Stanley

On the way home Steven and I stopped in Port
Stanley, as we do whenever we get the chance.
M.E. and Suzie's in Port Stanley, is without
a doubt one of my favorite restaurants on the
planet. I wanted to say the best restaurant on
the planet, but Steven started to remind me of
the eight or ten others we've been too that are
really good. This one is really good, in fact

The waves at night (gorgeous big waves which
my camera is a bit too small to record accurately.)

After supper we walked on the beach under the
stars. That was beautiful. Hurricane Earl has sent
wild winds, and huge breakers rolled in on the
normally quiet Lake Erie. I stood listening to the
waves, and looking at the stars and was entirely
happy. I tried to photograph the waves but the light
was too dim.

The drawing tonight is Zoey my dog from above.
Looking closely I see that I'm not quite finished the
drawing, but it's soooo late. I have to go to bed.
To all the parents saying goodbye to grown up
children, I think everything is going to be all
right. We all need our space, and a little time
away is a truly good thing. Meanwhile I certainly
do miss Sam.

Have a saying-goodbye-and-sending-love day.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Up and to the market early

Zoey and the green bin
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

(Toronto has a complicated garbage
system, and we all have three bins --
green is for compost, the large blue
bin on wheels is for recycling, and
the large grey/brown bin is for
garbage. Most people keep the bins between the
houses at the back of the driveway, which
is where ours reside except on garbage day.)

It's Saturday and unlike the stifling hot day pictured above, it's cold
and windy. But the sun is out, the sky is blue, so all is well.
Our Saturday errands got us up frighteningly early today, so
I thought I might as well hop over to the local market at the
Wychwood Barns. At this time of year it's outside, and the wind
was whistling through the tents over the stalls. I bought two varieties
of peaches -- the season is almost over here. A cheery fellow at one
stall was making organic donuts. I bought a dozen for Sam and Steven.

I have to run now, but I'll talk to you tomorrow.

Have a wow-it's-Saturday day.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Who is on your cheerleader team?

Acrylic on canvas
16 x 20 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Remember I said I had an idea for what
to do with this one. This is it. I still
have to add some shadow to the figure,
but I like the combination of figurative
and abstract.)

Is this an idle question -- I don't think so. I hope the
first person on your team of supporters is you, because
without belief in what you do you can't keep going.
But how about your friends? In the art world
there are people who are supportive, detractors,
and those who just don't care. But this job requires
a lot of nerve. After all many people won't understand
either what you're creating, or why you're creating it.
Some fierce little person inside has to keep going
through snide remarks, lack of appreciation, and
outright put downs. But that person (you/me) also
has to learn to move away from the detractors, and
seek out a great cheering team. I don't mean that
you force people into a corner and say "hey -- tell me
I'm good!" I mean you seek out people who like what
you do, and who like you, and those friends,
acquaintances, and as the circle grows, total strangers,
are your positive back up.

Now Alyson Stanfield, who writes the artbizblog,
I can imagine might say there's another group. Those are
converts. The reason you can't rule out people who
outright dislike your work altogether is twofold.
Tastes change -- the tastes of your audience -- and you
change -- your work evolves and goes in different
directions. One day you'll be at a show
of your work, and see a former critic approaching
you beaming. Are you going to turn away because
that person didn't used to "get" your work. No.
You're going to beam back, and possibly have a
convert, even a collector now on your team.

A final idea. Don't let detractors stop you. Not if
you believe in yourself. I heard the other day about
a wonderful writer who didn't write for 20 years
because of a cruel remark. What a shame. Twenty
lost years. See what I mean? Take the cruel remark
to your closest supporters, and they'll help you
let it go and move on.

Have a cheering-on-the-people-you-believe-in day.
P.S. Thank you to my team of supporters. I rarely
hear any cruel remarks anymore. And if I do I
either weigh the remark's validity, or I discount it,
or I head right to my friends for a talk it, and drop
it discussion.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Short takes

Fresh from Heather's Garden
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Still a work in progress. There
are finishing touches some
colour decisions to finish.)

What? I have artists friends who literally sit or stand
for hours in front of a canvas with no breaks. They
are not me. I have never actually been diagnosed with
ADHD, but if a painting has a problem -- or feels
difficult I certainly manifest most of the signs of
Attention Deficit Disorder. My answer? Small

We all know we're supposed to stand back. 'Stand back!'
say the experts and our knowledgeable friends. But
I say go away. That's right -- if you are at a loss --
get out of the room. That doesn't mean you pack up,
and decide to quit. It means you go and do something
else. Water the lawn, make a phone call, write an email,
and then come back. Make a comforting tea or coffee,
if you're not on a diet eat something like a cookie,
and look at the painting again. Aha! you say. I could
...(soft little voice in your head telling you maybe if you
just put some paint in this place it would be almost easy)...
and you do! And it works, so you keep going and then
doubt, worry, distraction hits again.

Break time.

Little by little, no matter how *distractable you are, and
believe me it doesn't take much. Something gets done.
In fact a perfectly reasonable facsimile for a work of art
gets done, and done well. And if you continue this practice
a whole lot of it eventually seems to happen. But it didn't
just happen. You did it! Hurray for you, and hurray for
me. Now about that cup of tea, and maybe five minutes
with my novel. It's a scary one so I'll get back to work
quickly. Promise.

Have a getting-right-out-of-the-room 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!