Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Halloween is always a special day for me because
it's my birthday.  As a little girl I found it incredibly
exciting to see everyone celebrating what seemed
like the most kid-centered holiday of the year on my
birthday, and that hasn't changed.  Tonight as I
watched the little people come to my door, I was
reminded as I am every year of the pure joy and
excitement little children, and now older children,
teens and even the occasional adult can bring into the
 My neighbour with his cool Mask on the door technique.
He can stand so his head is behind the pumpkin.

Sometimes I'm overwhelmed with how brilliant
we are as a species in my part of the world (don't worry
I can fall into the trap of thinking the opposite is
true too.)  But this business of Halloween is perfectly
timed to place warm colour, bright costumes, laughter,
a slightly crazy party vibe out in the world, just when
summer is turning her back on us, and we're feeling the
cold finger of true fall, pre-winter coming on. 

So to one and all Happy Halloween.

Have a delighting-in-the-orange-pumpkins day.

Making up time

 Garden triumph
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Hi everyone.  I missed a day this weekend because I
was taking time to celebrate by doing absolutely
nothing -- my mode of least resistance when I
am looking for a happy time.  Actually I read my
novel and planned some marking.  But I also
did paint quite a bit.  The joyous part is that I'm
suddenly on fire with ideas and a renewed gusto.
So you can expect more, even now that I will be
going back to teaching.  But the painting I'm
working on is not quite done.  (Well you know
I am actually working on about five pieces in
bits and pieces as my ADHD takes me from
one canvas to the next like a honey bee collecting
creative nectar).  Forgive my writing.  It's late at
night, and I'm working on an unfamiliar computer.

Here's an image of one of the pieces I'm very, very
happy with so far.  Small changes will happen
tomorrow, then we're off to the races.

Have a loving-your-work-it's-your-life day.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Learning to be happy

One of my favorite books when I started learning how to
be happy was by Dr. Susan Jeffers.  Her story was incredibly
inspiring, and her vital message was that we are
all frightened and that we can't let fear hold us back.
Her book, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway was transformative
for me.
October Pansies
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(Today a sweet note
came through the mail
with a postcard from
London that said a 
painting by Gaugin reminded
my friend of my flower
paintings.  I felt so incredibly
happy and sat down to paint
this "small painting.")

I am positive a great deal of the time, and people who don't
know me well think that I was born cheerful.  But it isn't
completely true.  I was a normal surly teenager, and it's
taken me my whole life to arrive at a state of dependable
optimism. I have been lucky to meet inspiring people
who taught me that you actually have to work at being happy.
Plus I read everything I can get my hands on that might move
my thinking over from grim to joyous.  Then too I am blessed
to have  just wonderful friends and mentors popping out of the
woodwork on a daily basis.

I just received a newsletter from Susan Jeffers all about
affirmations -- short positive statements that can transform
your mood.  My all time favorite is "All is well."  Maybe
you're allergic to these ideas.  But if not, affirmations
are like mental yoga, they stretch and calm the mind.
Painters (well it's certainly true for me), need to tap into
every possible way to stay focused and cheerful.  Their work
is physically and creatively demanding, and they work in
isolation.  Luckily now we have so many ways to access
positive ideas on the internet.  I constantly marvel at that

Have a staying-positive-and-feeling-strong-and-happy day.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The history of smalls

(From the archives)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 36 inches
Barbara Muir © 2002

In a recent article on The Painter's Keys website
Robert Genn explains to artist, Randall Cogburn
who sells small paintings online, (Genn calls them "peanuts"),
that painters who sell small works at a low price will not
be taken seriously by major galleries. Cogan does very nice
work, but hasn't been selling.  Genn gives excellent tips for
how to improve sales, but adds the cautionary note that
selling this way is a poor career move for artists who want to have
credibility in the art world. 
The Pool
Tom Thomson (one of The Group of Seven)
76.4 x 81.7 cm 
National Gallery of Canada
I've been thinking about this problem ever since
I read the post, and don't know what you think.
Yesterday when I was at the Art Gallery of Ontario,
one of Canada's major public galleries, I was
most interested in seeing the work of The Group
of Seven.  These painters from the turn of the
last century are Canadian icons.  And let me tell
you this.  Out in the woods of northern Ontario
where they painted the bulk of their wonderful
landscape paintings -- they were painting on small
boards.  The reasons were practical, ease of
carrying (you don't want a giant canvas in a backpack
when you're hiking), and the ideal size for a
quick study.

But these smaller works, which are every bit as
magnificent as their larger paintings in all respects
except for scale, hang proudly on the wall beside
the large works, and are now just as "important."

In my case, if I had not been doing small Skype
drawings I would not have attracted the attention
of Howard Wolinsky and then The Oprah Winfrey
show etc.  I might not have been asked to show in
Florence, and a vast, exciting world of opportunities
would never have opened up to me.

But I also took Robert Genn's article as a permission
slip not to try to create a new small painting every day,
or if I do to charge a reasonable rate for my work -- something
like what Edward B. Gordon does.  Painting small works has
not hurt Edward B. Gordon in Germany.  He has been
asked to do all sorts of exciting projects.  What seems
to matter to me is that an artist continues to paint larger
works while producing small work (in part to pay the
bills to produce the large work).

I would love to hear what you think about all this.
It's certainly an interesting topic.

Have a painting-in-whatever-size-suits-you day.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


 View out of the glass shell at the 
Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto
Black marker on bond paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

I am a big fan of the humanizing influence of culture.
In this city it's exciting to visit cultural spaces and see
how we all get along, and are raised above the petty
concerns of the day -- such as Monday's divisive municipal
elections in Toronto -- by the presence of art, and great architecture.
Art and architecture definitely contribute to increased levels
of something I value -- sanity.

Today I met my friend Susan Filshie, a landscape architect,
city planner, and wonderful painter for tea at the Art Gallery
of Ontario.  We had a delightful time.  First we enjoyed
full service tea in the members' lounge.  Then we both love
the Group of Seven and headed straight for those paintings.
I love going through a gallery with a friend who is passionate
about painting.  I learn so much.  Susan's observations on
everything from painting techniques, to how the work was
framed were delightful.  I felt like I was playing hooky,
but I was studying my subject, learning, learning, learning.
The Cathedral like walkway at the Art Gallery of Ontario
The Group of Seven bowl me away every time because their
work is still so innovative, their colour so fresh and
experimental, and their passion for both painting and the
wilderness is clear.  We put so much energy into just
looking that we were tired after an hour or so, so we
made a last stop at the glorious cathedral like walkway that
runs the full length of the front of the Frank Gehry redesign.
There we sat down for a minute. Looking out at the city I was filled
with nostalgia for the way the city looked when I was at
OCAD (The Ontario College of Art and Design) and like
all first year students was asked to draw these old houses.
The school is right next to the art gallery -- a civilized
arrangement. I did a small sketch of what I saw for you,
in the style we that were encouraged to try when I was a student.

Have an enjoying civilization day.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The storm

Big doings in town today were all about the
weather -- would there be a terrible storm,
being described as a "weather bomb" or
not?  So far in this part of town we've been
 spared extremes, but all over the country
 and in parts of Toronto there are power
outages, heavy rain and wind.
How's it going?
Black marker on bond paper
Skype drawing
81/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
Zoey and I headed out for a walk in the park
early and the weather was crazy great at
that point.  Is it Alyson Stanfield who recommends
typing a list out for the day, then keeping
that list with you.  (I think it is).  The great thing
about that is that even if you get off your list
the fact that those hoped for behaviours are
written down encourages you.  So I've been
painting, but can't show you.  Here's a storm
drawing done via Skype.  Skype images are
most definitely affected by the weather, but I
like that.  The simplification caused by distortion
and interference with the image quality makes for
a cool image to draw.
Willow leaves on gravel at the park today
Tomorrow I'll ask you about the Painted Keys
message for today.  It is both liberating and
worrying.  An oxymoron I realize but it will all
depend on your point of view.
Beauty is in the details and patterns everywhere.

Have a staying-happy-in-all-weather day

Monday, October 25, 2010

I see a red door and I want it painted grey

In Toronto grey is the new black.  In fact it's the new
red, blue, yellow -- all purpose colour -- like beige
without the warmth.  Canadians are already overly
gung-ho on beige because it's neutral.  But this year
grey is edging out every other colour.  I was in a
store the other day that normally sells lovely gift
items in beautiful colours, shawls, and pretty
bowls, even seasonal decorations, and office
organizers.  Usually the colours are so delicious
you might want to take everything home.  Not this
year --grey has taken over like an invading army.
Grey objects scream depression -- both psychological and
financial.  True I own a grey dress, and will buy a
beautiful grey jacket while they're in style.  Next
year we can expect the come back of zingy colour.
Reading the bird book with the cat
Charcoal on bond paper
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
Meanwhile in keeping with the trends my drawing tonight
is all in greys.  I found a lovely photo of one of
our cats draped over my husband's shoulder while
he read a bird book.  Pretty funny.  The photo is
brimming with colour, from the flowers
on the table, to the curtains in the background, but
I was working in charcoal -- and that produces
greys.  I love the greys charcoal creates, and this
type of grey is one I very much enjoy, both
in the creating, and afterwards looking at it.

P.S.  It's grey in Canada, gray in the United States.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Note to self

I was wandering around tonight wishing
I had something I could show you for the blog.
Saturday is a busy day for us.  We hit the
market, the flower store, visit with friends
near the flower store, go to the supermarket, walk
the dog, have supper and go out for the evening.
Tonight the movies weren't  right for us, so we
hung out at a bookstore, and came home to
watch a movie.  All in all a packed day.
So I was flipping through a lovely notebook
I bought in Florence almost a year ago, and
found this little drawing I did while I was sitting
a show last June at the Wychwood Barns
with Gill Cameron.  The drawing shows the
view we saw across the street when we
opened the gallery doors.
 View from the Wychwood Barns Gallery
coloured markers on bond paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
It's been raining all afternoon, and the leaves as
beautiful as they are, are coming down.  So the
sight of the lush green I now remember looking
at in my little sketch is reassuring somehow.

Have a finding-what-you-need-in-your-notes day.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Modern love

As a beneficiary of this wild technological age
we live in, and also a person with a lit degree,
I frequently wonder where this ride is taking
us.  We know so much about past generations
because we have their books, letters and journals.
Today I was mentioning that my family has hardly
printed a photo since we switched to digital
cameras.  Letters are all on email.  How will
the next generation know who we are?
Happy News
Skype drawing
Black marker on bond
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
The drawing tonight is of my sweet Steven. 
I am thinking about love tonight, because we went
out to dinner with friends and had a wonderful time.
Now when people talk in restaurants and can't
remember a fact, out come the Blackberries, and
iPhones, and the fact is either confirmed or disputed.
I am certainly a fan of that immediacy -- it lets me
hear from and get in touch with you instantly almost
wherever you are in the world.

From time to time though I think it would be good to rewind,
to look up facts in books -- things of beauty in their
own right, and to send and receive love letters.  Our
current pace makes sitting down and writing someone
a tall order, but what a treat to get a loving, thoughtful
letter in the mail.  And despite the ease of carrying
thousands of books on a small device, there is nothing
like the heft and feel of a real book.  Okay that's
my next assignment.  I'm going to go and write a
letter on paper and pop it in the mail, then I'll come
back and sink into a real book.

Have a writing-a-great-letter-and-sending-it day.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's not a ladder it's a circle

In an interview on Q on CBC radio with Jian Ghomeshi
the other day, Gloria Steinem said that women working
together is a circle (as opposed to a heirarchy).  I liked
this image, and would apply it to artists male and female.
We are a circle of friends, and as such can help one another.
I am in the thick of marking right now, but found some
time to work on this little painting.  It is almost done.
The baby's sleeping
(work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
Have an enjoying-your-circle-of-friends day

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reality is overrated

I'll be swamped for the next few days with marking
but I wanted to show you something.  You've seen
this before, and it's definitely a work in progress.
I now know what I wanted to capture.  But painting
the real image of my hallway looked wrong.  In
fact my hallway is all wrong.  It's an old building
with angles all out of whack.

 Nap time
(work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
I had to step back for about six months, then I saw
what the painting needed-- a makeup artist to do for
my hall, what good makeup does for the face.  But
in this case I meant it literally.  I had to make it up.
The hall does not have good bones, what it does get
from time to time, especially at nap time on a Saturday
and Sunday afternoon is good light.  Beautiful
inexplicable, transcendent light.  So that's what
I'm going for now and the rest will be a slow
process of correction.  I am starting to see the
idea coming away from the reality.  And that's
a good thing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hey I won the lottery!

What?  Now you want to know what happened.
I mean the life lottery.  Every single day as an
artist I feel lucky.  Yesterday I had lunch with an
artist friend, and another artist friend of the family
visited my studio last night and oohed and aahed
about my work.  It's such an amazing feeling to be around
people who understand you, and get your work.
It was like a blessing.  (How would that go? --
"Go forward my child and continue your wonderful
work." Well all right then.  I will.)

 The baby's asleep
(work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Earlier at my friend's house as we talked
I'd been dazzled by her paintings on the walls,
and in her studio.  I was so fascinated by what she was
doing.  We talked about how lucky we were
to have this passion for art.  On the way home
I thought about a story about a  man who went
to see a guru (I wonder if I heard this in a movie
recently) and when asked what he wanted, the
man said, "to win the lottery."  What was the
guru's advice "buy a ticket!"  So I bought a
An artist's bounty at the park today

But I wondered why I so rarely check my actual
lottery tickets to see whether or not I've won.
The answer is simple.  I already have.  I live
a life filled with love, compassion, fun and beauty
full time.  I am an artist -- and that my friends is
like winning the lottery every day.
Zoey enjoys our neighbourhood park

Monday, October 18, 2010

Be generous with yourself

I talked to an artist a while back who was
proud because he'd only used one tube of
paint in 20 years. One!  I've noticed that
artist is using more than one colour now, so
I'm assuming that more tubes have been cracked
into, but I was shocked at the austerity of the
idea.  This fabulous artist, one of the best in
town would not allow himself the luxury of having
ample supplies.
 The baby's asleep
(work in progress )
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(This is the second phase of underpainting.
In the first phase I underpaint the
entire canvas and draw my
rough image.  Then I start fleshing in both
colour that may stay, and more underpainting.)

But I also understand.  When I was a watercolor
painter for the most part, a sheet of paper cost
about $15.00, so I deliberated about every sheet
I bought.  In Canada the actual watercolours are
pricey too.  I was shocked when I went to a
workshop in the U.S. and people bought
their watercolour in huge tubes.  Alyson Stanfield's
artbizblog current entry says that you should not start an
art career when you're desperate. I would add
that although people have created art out of every
possible medium and found object, if you can
possibly afford it, (and my friend with the one tube
of paint could) you need to treat yourself to a
quantity of good canvasses, or paper, the best
colours you can afford in your medium, and as
many colours as you want.  If you paint all in
gray fine, but otherwise, get what you need.
You deserve it. Another reason to treat yourself
like you deserve supplies.  If you don't think
you're worth it, who else will?

Have a let's-go-out-and-buy-some-paint day.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Getting there

I talked to an artist friend today about the phenomenon
of whether or not we think we're "real" artists.  She's
reading a book on art and fear and sees that all the greats
we admire were at least as insecure as we are, and that fame
and/or money don't necessarily change that.  She was
responding to the little video I posted yesterday on staying
true to yourself.
Fresh from the garden
Watercolour on Arches paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(The temperature is vacillating wildly
but at night it is quite cold.  My garden
flowers can't last much longer, so I'm
bringing them in as often as I
remember to.  This is a small bunch
I gathered today and had to record.)

Her point was that we're real artists when we decide we are
internally.  But I also think it's a lot like writing, in that you
may not decide to be an artist, art may decide it wants you --
and then you are in, hooked and will obsess about art every
day for the rest of your life.

Few people who aren't artists realize how much of an artist's
time is spent thinking about, planning, looking at the world
 and wanting to do more work, new work, different work,
and all of the unfinished work. The urge to create is overwhelming
 like a serious cold, it won't go away.  You look at a teacup,
your lover's face, the cold blue night sky, a car whizzing by, a movie,
 your dog, the book you're reading, the light -- ah the light, the light,
the light everywhere, and want to capture everything,
and even nothing.  You want colour and line, and absence
of colour and escape from line. You feel crazy and happy,
and sad and inspired.  And when this happens to you, you are a "real"
artist, a member of an ever growing club of creatives.  You
don't have all the answers and never will.  And that's okay.
You are getting there.

Have a happy-to-be-caught-in-this-paradigm day.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

You be you -- we like your work

My message today is simple.  I'm sure I've said it
before and I'll say it again.  Be yourself.  It's a
gorgeous day here, and before I drive out to see the
fall colours I wanted to talk to you for a minute.
I hope you're having a great day in art and in life.

Have a loving-what-you-do day.

P.S. Forgive the clunky glasses.  I wear them to
gain gravitas -- no just kidding -- I couldn't find
my more femmy frames.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Twice blessed

Yesterday I posted a sketch of Christopher, my
son that I drew from a tiny school photo.  Today
I looked through Sam's school file and found a
little picture showing him at five or six.  He was
lucky to have a wonderful babysitter, Mary, back
then,who kept him looking shipshape while she
worked for us from the time he was one until he
was seven.  Sam did not like having
haircuts as a toddler, but by this stage I think he
might even have had some gel in his hair, and the
cut was pro, not a home special.  I love the confident
smile in this picture, as though he knows he looks
wonderful in his red sweater and dressy blue shirt.

 In the red sweater
Pencil on bond paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
Looking at my sons' school pictures made me chuckle
as I was flooded with memories from that time.  Sam
was a thoroughly happy baby and child.  Steven
and I feel so lucky to have these two amazing children
in our lives.  This past weekend when I was sad
that he was leaving town, Sam sent me funny videos
from Saturday Night Live, and I immediately appreciated
his thoughtfulness (which is always there), his witty
sense of humour, and his intelligent, perceptive nature.
He is a delight.

The above link is for anyone who loves Eric.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Penciling in the past

Tonight I found a small school photo of my
son Christopher and wondered what it would
be like to draw a larger image from that little
wallet picture.  He was such an adorable boy.
The photo said so much.  I could see another
example of one of the home haircuts I did so
inexpertly.  His smile says that he's trying to
do the right thing and pose, but his face even
then showed his tremendous sense of humour.
He looks about five in the picture. 
 Christopher in the striped sweater
Pencil on bond paper
6 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

He's been a great person to know from day one.
And I feel he's taught me at least as much as
I've taught him, if not more.

Have a penciling-in-the-past day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

All the livelong day

It is a good feeling to go to bed late knowing
that you've done everything you were meant to
do on that day.  It's been a long day and I've been
working from before dawn almost to the next
one.  And aside from a touch of fatigue it's been
great fun.  My students were eager and funny
today.  My colleagues taught me new techie skills.
In the studio one of my clients was a superb model
today and I enjoyed her sense of humour and irony.
 October flowers in the students' vase
Watercolour and marker on Arches paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

But there is a frost warning north of the city, so I
hurried out into the garden and gathered another
mismatched bouquet like the one pictured here.
Yesterday I picked morning glory stems for the
first time and came down to breakfast this morning
to see one had stretched out of the vase and around
a candle stick. A nice one too.  I thought the morning
glory had good taste.  So I did a quick little watercolour
to commemorate the day and as a toast to the best
garden ever!

Thank you to Sean for planting it early while I was up
to my ears in paint and shows and goodness knows what.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The day after -- nostalgia and peace

 A fall bouquet at the window
Charcoal on bond paper
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(This is a sketch I did for a 
painting I'm thinking of doing.
Steven and I were at Todmorden
Mills, a historical site in Toronto,
examining the old houses there.
Steven was carrying a large bouquet
of fall flowers I'd bought, slung over
his shoulder.  I loved how this looked.)

Getting ready for a big family dinner is a huge
deal in our family.  We try to keep it light, but at
the same time there are so many details to remember
for even the simplest of occasions.  Yesterday
was our  Thanksgiving celebration dinner, and it
was fantastic.  We felt so lucky to have both our
whole family here, (Christopher and Megan, Sam
and his friend Nata) and to welcome friends
at the end of the night for dessert.  Steven's pumpkin
pies seemed even more delicious than they did in
anticipation.  And just before he popped the pies
out of the oven, he dashed out, picked the last of
the apples off our apple tree (there were some that
were late maturing), and made a good sized bowl
of incredibly fresh and delicious applesauce. Of course
there was turkey and stuffing, home made cranberry
jelly, roasted potatoes, salad.  And there are enough
left overs for quite a few days.

The great thing about holding the dinner the day
before the actual holiday, is that we were completely
free today.  After we'd dropped Sam off at the bus to
go back to university, we sat on the back porch eating
our lunch.  Then we took off for a walk with the dog,
and sat outside drinking decaf coffee in Forest Hill
village.  I love having my family together, and felt
a tug of sadness this morning realizing that we won't
all be together again for a while.  Yet I love having the
quiet, contemplative day too.  Both are wonderful --
I'm extremely thankful for my life.

Have a loving-your-family day.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Canadian Thanksgiving

  The view from the parking lot at Seneca College in King City
That's the Timothy Eaton estate home in the distance.  The campus
exists on his former estate, a 700 acre nature reserve. 

I've been thinking about Canadian Thanksgiving all
day today.  We're celebrating the occasion with a big
turkey dinner tomorrow, and spent most of the day
trying to find an organic free-range bird.  Sold out
in more than one market.  But we got one after four

All that driving around gave me plenty of time to
think about what Thanksgiving means to me.  When
I was a child, it meant big multiple family gatherings
at our summer cottage before we boarded it up for
another year.  Pumpkin pie was essential, so were
turkey and mashed potatoes, my mother's delicious
rolls, stuffing and women in the kitchen all day.

Now we have dinner with whoever is home, fiancées,
girlfriends, and sometimes friends too.  We clear out
my studio, iron a vintage white table cloth, deck the
house with even more flowers than usual, and
Steven cooks the bird, and the vegetables,
I help with the stuffing, my sons make the rosemary
roast potatoes, and Steven makes the pumpkin pies.
I make the salad.

Canadian Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest.
We give thanks for a great harvest, for our unusually
blessed lifestyle, and in honour of that eat a meal
together. It is not about religion, or history, or which
culture you grew up in.  And that's what I love about it.
Everyone can share in the harvest.  All races and
cultural backgrounds can get in the spirit together
and we all understand the meaning of the holiday.
The farmers' markets today were filled with the diverse
people this city is famous for, and they were all
buying the food they needed to have Thanksgiving
with their families and friends. Each family will
prepare a different meal including traditions from
their own country of origin and new traditions that
they developed here. Judging from the run
on turkeys, that part of the meal may be the same in
many homes. 

The best thing about living in Toronto was evident
today.  It was a beautiful day and the streets were
filled with families walking together, enjoying
a stroll after an early Thanksgiving meal, or
carrying home bags stuffed with groceries, so
the preparations could begin.

 If you're Canadian and are celebrating, Happy
Thanksgiving, if not Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Dear friends,

This weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving.  My son is home from
university.  The studio has to convert back into a dining room.
Before I rush out to buy all of the standard food stuffs and
pumpkins,  I just want to thank you for the wonderful
contribution of wisdom, art, kindness and affection you've
added to my life.
 This year's crop of Morning Glories, 
one of the many things I'm thankful for.

More to come.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Time to take time

Alyson Stanfield's great newsletter about how to make
time just arrived in my email in box yesterday.  She
always has the ability to make me think.  So I am writing
this  entry to you in the morning, instead of last thing
at night, because I have a few minutes now, and may
not later.
Cape Breton dinner
Stages 1 - 4
Acrylic on canvas
14 x 18 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(I took the picture for this painting
a few years ago when Steven and
Sam and I met Flora and Larry
in Cape Breton and had a lot
of fun together.  They loved
Nova Scotia so much that
they moved there a couple
of years ago.)

Every time I'm in a show I ask visitors if
they paint or draw.  It's my belief that the caves in
Lascaux France, that show the drawings of early
people (note I don't say man, because maybe women
did those drawings on the wall of the hunt) prove
that we have always been artists.  And I extend that
thought to add that we all are artists.  I mean visual
artists -- because I believe making art is an innate
skill, and we get stopped in our tracks somewhere
along the way by a teacher with poor methods, an
unsupportive parent or spouse, or a busy family
and work life.  Why do I think this? So many people
I meet say that they used to paint or draw, and would
like to again...but (and then they sigh).  Or they say
that they just don't have time. Alyson says that we
need to make the time.  And I agree.

Have a making-time-to-make-art day.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A great model grows up

My friend's daughter, Claudia has been, and I hope
continues to be one of my favorite models.  Today was
her 21st birthday and I have been flooded with memories
of watching her growing up all day.  She was a beautiful
little girl when we first met, and in the same class as
my son Sam at school.  As so often happened back then
I met her mother through the school, and one October
invited Claudia to Sam's birthday party.  Her mother and
I and Sam and Claudia have been friends ever since,
and in fact our two families have felt like family to one
another from the very beginning. 

Water Image 1 (detail)
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

But my relationship with Claudia is also one of painter and
model.  Claudia always understood what I was trying to do,
and from a very young age, could strike a pose and keep it
over multiple and protracted sessions.  A talented photographer
and writer herself, she "gets" what I'm trying to do and has
always been cooperative, kind and engaging.  Her modeling
work has helped me produce some of my best paintings.

New Face
Acrylic  on canvas
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2004

Before the dance in the white dress
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2006

Happy Birthday Claudia. I hope to do many more paintings
with you as my model, and I am grateful for every painting
you have ever helped me complete.  A Happy Day and Happy
Year to you.  By the way Claudia is one of the most well adjusted,
animated, funniest, and kindest young women I know.
And I feel that I have been incredibly lucky to get to watch
her grow up.

In the black dress before the dance
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 24  inches
Barbara Muir © 2006
Have an appreciating-your-models day.
P.S. Thank you to all the other models who've worked
for me too.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Back to my art group

Tonight the model for the art group I paint with
on Tuesday nights was a very beautiful man.  The
pose was one of those sitting straight, fairly stiff
setups, that let most people get a view of the face
(or at least that's how it's been explained to me
before.) No one actually ever sits quite so rigidly,
and the model off the stand was a relaxed fellow.
 The blue line
 Acrylic on canvas
16 x 20 inches
Barbara Muir  © 2010

But I liked the almost fierce quality in his stare.  The
lighting was also stark, but interesting.  I joked around
with some of my friends, painted quickly and surely,
and went home early to try and accommodate my
still lingering cold, and some work I needed to do.
I'm fairly pleased with parts of it.  As always I learn
so much watching other painters work even for an

Have a working-quickly-and-happily day.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The power of artist friendships for good

Today I had a long, long talk on the phone with a dear
friend, who is an artist.  We discussed the power of
positive thinking, neuroplasticity and ways to access
it, and strategies for tackling difficult work.  I felt
so energized after I hung up the phone.  Kind artist
friends set you up for success.  Their entire motivation
is to see you break through whatever barriers stop
you from moving forward, and in a good friendship your
motivation is the same -- to listen, love and encourage.
And to laugh.  Perhaps the laughter and also the acknowledgement
of sorrows are the most important fuel for creativity.
They are for me.  Laughter helps me stop taking my minor
worries so seriously, and sometimes with great friends
and family, laughter, sorrow and creativity are intertwined
into something close to the essence of life.

Taking a break from painting
Stages 5-8 (work in process)
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Whatever the reason, I know the magic of joie de vivre
let me get back to a couple of works I'm slowly developing.
This is one of them.  As far as I can see my method of
working with a more sustained work is a back and forwarding,
not a straight progression.  I underpaint, then confidently
move to the next layer, then decide that that too is
underpainting in places, then move on.  Tonight I did about
four layers in places on this one, and can see that for now this
is underpainting in many areas.  But the most important thing
for me was the energy, which stayed constant, and the
good feeling I had as I listened to interesting programs on the
radio and continued to paint.

Have a talking-to-fantastic-artist-friends day.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Going to the pros

There's a saying the teenagers say, and it's "go pro or
go home."  So when I found out that I was going to be
in the Amsterdam Whitney gallery's 2011
 beautifully printed, glossy, full colour calendar, I decided
I'd better get a pro to shoot my painting.

Although I photograph my work every day, I'm not using
the highest resolution camera, and many images need to be
redone to be print-worthy.  I worked as a corporate magazine
editor, and writer for years, and was lucky to be able to hire
top photographers, graphic designers, and illustrators in that
role, but it's a whole different matter working on your own
budget on earnings from art and teaching.

 Christopher photographing my painting Water Image 1

 I'd been planning to write on my blog the other day that
I think I am one of the luckiest people alive, and
I certainly felt that way today.  My son Christopher works as a
first assistant for a top photographer in town, and agreed
to shoot my painting for me.  While he worked I snapped
a few shots of my own of the gorgeous studio, and the
process of getting exactly the right picture.  I was delighted
both with the work, and with the chance to see my son in
action, and to understand how incredibly skilled and
talented he is.  The studio is vast.  My friend Flora is always
asking for references that show scale.  For reference the
painting is 30 x 30 inches, and Christopher is six feet tall.
Cool space eh?  I loved it.
Christopher setting up.  As soon as I left he was going 
to paint the space white (again.) Keeping it perfectly white
is a recurring job.

Earlier in the day I'd had some great conversations about
his acting studies with Sam, and then was sad to see him go
to his bus back to school.  I feel extremely blessed that we've
raised two incredibly kind, bright, happy and talented people.

Have a seeing-your-children's-talents-and-enjoying-them day.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Holiday thoughts

It's been a great Saturday, but I've been on the move all
day.  My friend Suzanne treated me to the opera Aida --
wonderful because Verdi is one of my favorites.  The two
of us had colds and tried not to cough, or rattle cough
candies until the audience was yelling bravo after a
rousing chorus, and there were many impressive chorus
pieces in this production.
 Kujo on the beach near Pugwash, Nova Scotia

Then I went to see a friend's house.  She has recently
moved, and though she's inherited paintings from some
true Canadian greats, she would like to buy art from me
too.  Wow.  I reeled in my cold as much as possible.
But now the day is over, and I have no art production to
show you.  It's cold tonight.  I wore one of my winter coats
out to the opera and needed it when I was coming home.
Ach aye as we say in Scotland, I thought I'd give myself
and you a wee break.  Here's a view of my favorite beach
in the world, the beach we visit every day in Nova Scotia.
And that's my friend Diane's dog Kujo, who I love almost
as much as Zoey and who Zoey loves too.  She hasn't seen
him for two years now, and she still perks up at his name.

Have a dreaming-of-summer-and-a-walk-on-the-beach day.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Waiting? No problem

Parts of my day have been filled with waiting.  Waiting
for the long lines of traffic to get through the construction
on the way to teach.  Waiting on the way home to get through
the construction again.  I wave at the man who holds the
yellow slow sign at the edge of the road while the traffic
inches through.  We stopped for about ten minutes and
I took the time to look at the glorious clouds, and the red and
orange trees.  Construction usually means goodbye to
trees and fields, so it's good to enjoy them while they're
 Thinking about you
Charcoal on bond paper
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
But the longest wait was for Sam to get home from university.
What a treat to see him, to watch him eat a huge "snack" and
drink almost a gallon of milk.  We talked and the animals
played with him, and competed for his attention, then it was
time to sleep, happy and content after the long day.

My drawing tonight is of a friend of mine, who is incredibly
beautiful, yet has no awareness whatsoever of her beauty.
The mood of tenderness on her face, seems appropriate for
a day of thinking fondly about my children and welcoming one
back home for a visit.

Have a waiting-with-pleasure 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!