Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Royal Visit

 
 Sam in front of one of the Maharaja posters
that decorate Walker Hall at the AGO

Today we took Sam to see the Maharaja exhibition
at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO).  It's a fantastic
show that's come from the Victoria and Albert Museum
in London, England, and no expense has been spared
in mounting it.

On Sunday we had Christmas dinner
with my husband's side of the family (a big one -- he
comes from a family of seven children) in Stratford,
Ontario.  The town has seen some deep snowfalls, and
it is always picturesque, but looked like a Christmas
card as we drove through. During the evening I had a long
talk with my mother-in-law.  A few years ago she showed
us a picture of her great grandmother who was a Maharani
in Indonesia. She was the second wife of a Maharaja, but in
the audio information I listened to today at the AGO,
I discovered that that would not have meant she
had no power.  Her daughter married my mother-in-law's
grandfather.  So he married an Indonesian princess.
And my husband, and children are descendants of the
the Maharaja and Maharani.  In other words descendants
of a king and queen.  This is rarely discussed in the
family.  I only heard about it a few years back, and
Steven and I have been together quite awhile.

I think the reason is that the princess married a Dutch
man, and converted to Catholicism, so the whole
emphasis was on being Dutch.  Not sure.  But looking
at the beautiful detailed artwork and treasures of the
Indian Maharajas today, I felt sorry for the loss of that
culture in our family.

Have a getting-in-touch-with-your-past day.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A blessed feeling

  video
Thank you for a superb year to everyone.  To my family,
friends and neighbours who are sweet to me and support
my art -- thank you so much.  To the wonderful friends
I've met at events in Florence and New York City, thank
you for all that you've taught me. To the blog world friends
who have changed my life, and encourage me on a daily
basis, thank you for everything; I wish everyone wonderful
creative times in the New Year. To my gallery in New York,
and to the galleries I'm taking part in, in Ontario, thank you.
To my fellow teachers and the staff at school where I teach
part time, thank you for giving me fascinating work, and for
your kindness and humour that make an always
worthwhile, sometimes difficult job even more meaningful.

It's been a great year -- joyous in the main, with lots of adventure.
Looking back on the artist I was a year ago, I think I've learned
a lot.  I don't mean about technique, or style, but a lot about
the lives of others, about parts of the world.  And this learning
has been a rewarding discovery.  To my friend, and fellow artist
Gill Cameron, who is currently in Tanzania volunteering her
time teaching school at the elementary level, the merriest
of Christmases, and a very Happy New Year.

Thank you all for helping me to be happy.  You mean the
world to me.

Have a-getting-ready-for-a-great-year day.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Small things matter

 Untitled at the moment
(Work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

What do I mean by the title?  I mean that artists are
affected by small things in the way of what happens
in a day.  When the details are positive, we feel better,
and we're frequently tipped into dysfunction by
what might be insignificant irritants to other people.
So Christmas and its attendant delights and stresses
is a huge distraction for artists, and I could not wait
to get the dining room table covered up with my work
table plastic, and get back to the business of art.

I loved Christmas, and will thoroughly enjoy New Year's
Eve and day, but there is work to do.  So what were the
small things that turned today into a productive day?
I got time to drink my two coffees and read some of the
wonderful book Christopher and Megan gave me for
Christmas.  There were nectarines at the store.  I went for
a short walk with Steven and the dog, and saw a spectacular
sunset.  I had a nap, and dreamt about this painting.  In
my dream it was nothing like this, but I knew I wanted
to do a close-up face.  Alyson Stanfield said to clean up,
so I went through my reference shots, and even some
drawings I didn't like and turfed them into the Recycle bin
with a giant sigh of relief.  I knew I was looking for a
reference for this painting, found it and began.  Et voila as
they say.  It is a long way from done, and I see a million
things that need changing, but thanks to Steven, Zoey the dog,
the beautiful and delicious nectarines, and the sunset, it's
all good.

My message is simple, take care of yourself and the rest will
follow.  I see that the forehead has to change and get higher,
the teeth are too white and not right exactly, and much more,
but I feel ecstatic at this beginning.  In fact I have big news
for you coming up.  I apologize for not keeping my word and
posting through Christmas.  It just turned out to be impossible,
so I let myself off the hook.  I hope you had a very Merry
Christmas, and I wish you all a happy holiday.

Have a taking-care-of-the-small-things-first day.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A boss dinner

 
 Dressy pear on red
Acrylic and marker on watercolour paper
glazed with acrylic gloss medium
5 x 5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2008

Tonight we had dinner with our friends Patti-Anne and
Frank.  Frank used to be my boss and got me started
teaching one of the super courses I teach.  This fall
he had open heart surgery, and this is the first time
we've seen him.  He looks great, and he and Patti-Anne
made a delicious supper (boss as in excellent).
The courses kept coming and coming, and I could
not stop eating.  Yikes.  Luckily I may walk it
off shopping tomorrow. Frank and Patti-Anne
are great appreciators of art, and own among many
other pieces, several of my paintings.

This little one of the pear is one I am fond of.  I love
the colours, and the jolly, jaunty air the painting has.
I'll show you how it was supposed to look, and how
Patti-Anne and Frank display it, which looks great too.
We had a heck of a time taking a shot of it, because
it's framed in and under glass.  Also the painting is
done on 300 pound watercolour paper, and glazed
with gloss acrylic, so it was impossible to eliminate
the shine.  But you get the idea.  This dressy little
pear is ready for Christmas, and no doubt Patti-Anne
will entertain lots of people at her gorgeous dining
room table, and the festive little pear will enjoy
herself. 
Dressy pear at Patti-Anne and Frank's place
A different viewpoint

Have a getting-ready-for-the-festivities day.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The tree comes into the studio

 What a beautiful tree!

My studio is in our former living room/dining room.
At certain times of year (like right now) the room has
to revert (for the most part) to its other use.  And the
only possible room in the house to put up a Christmas
tree -- especially a huge, magnificent Fraser fir like this
year's tree, is our living room.

For the past week whenever I've had a minute I've been
moving the big paintings around, Steven's been putting new
hooks up in the rest of the house so we could clear
a space, and protect the paintings that have been living in
that corner of the studio.

Success.  The tree is in, the lights are on, and tomorrow
perhaps my family will add the decorations that make
a beautiful tree like this one, even more spectacular.

If you are wondering how the Christmas shopping is
going, it has not really begun.  School finished for me
last night, and I am still working on commissions.  So..
watch out stores, in the hours allotted to me on Thursday
and Friday I will be shopping.

I may not be able to show you any work for the next few days
but I'll keep in touch.
Zoey in the garden in her new winter coat
She wants you to know it is mighty cold out,
and her feet are going numb.

Happy Holidays to everyone.  It is a lovely time of year.
And to James Langston in Florida.  Yes you have warm,
lovely weather, but you can't corner the market on warm
hearts. Canadians are a mighty friendly bunch too.
Today on the news one of our politicians said that Santa
Claus is Canadian. So there you go -- eh.  

Have an enjoying wherever you live day,

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Missed the eclipse? Don't worry

 
 At the party
Black marker on bond paper
9 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

We spent the wee hours of yesterday morning watching
the total eclipse of the moon.  This exciting event slipped
by quietly while most of the world slept -- but not my
science oriented husband and son.  The house was on
eclipse watch.  I saw the start of the eclipse, then went
to bed waiting for the big full eclipse.  However, no rest for
Steven. He was out in the 7 below zero Celsius weather
photographing this phenomenon.  There will not be another
full eclipse of the moon on the winter solstice until
2094.    I'd like to be here to see it, but I can't be certain
I will be.

Here's what we saw:  Drum roll -- the moon and sun perform,
brought to you by the universe with help from Steven.
.

Starting the eclipse

It progresses

And progresses

And progresses

And woo!


This is what you stayed up for!!!!
Whee.  Too bad all the sleepers weren't
up and celebrating with crazy parties.

But no.  You see this in the freezing cold, you
marvel, and then if you have any sense, you
head off to bed and dream sweet dreams of total
eclipses of the moon.  Awesome.  

Merry week of preparation.  I am taking my own
advice, after a long work day, and more festivity,
the night advances.

Have a nothing-can-eclipse-your-happiness day.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The great holiday vanishing problem

Sandra at the party
Notebook sketch
black marker on bond paper
9 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(In the middle of  a conversation 
at a party I had a sudden urge
to capture this friend's face.
I have in no way done it justice,
but I am indebted to the host, who
gave me paper and a pen,
and to my subject.)

Hi Everyone,

Sorry for my disappearance.  I have been shut in with
a stack of exams a mile high, and only released to
out in fancy clothes to head out to a party, and to
put on warm clothes to buy a tree.
Jennifer and her tea
Notebook sketch
black marker on bond paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(My friend's Christmas party
is a lovely one.  Most of the same
guests come every year, and the hosts
serve a delicious meal.  It always
features seafood, and then other delicacies
-- a wide variety of goodies.  Good
conversation and good wine flow
dependably.  I quickly did this sketch
at the end of the evening when Jennifer
had a moment to sip a cup of tea.)

Here I am again, and weather, Christmas preparations
and family permitting I will try to stay blogging right
through the holiday.  My friend Marcia Labelle posted
a warm wish for peace and happiness to those of all
faiths and non-faiths.  In Canada, whatever your
celebration, or non-celebration, you have a holiday
at Christmas, and another one for New Year's Day.  So
whether you string lights around your house, light
candles, or eat special foods, there's a fairly good chance
you will be invited to a party, or hear choirs singing in
the malls.  And that's a good thing.

Tonight, or this morning we're seeing a total eclipse of the moon,
which will not fall on a Winter Solstice until 2094.
I'm not sure I can make the next one, so we've watched some
of this one, and will be wakened by our son Sam at 3:15 a.m. to see
the grand finale.

Have a reveling-in-the-Solstice day.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Just be yourself

Ready for joy
Charcoal on bond paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
There's a lot of pressure on all of us to live up to
some ideal.  I think about this quite a bit. The reality
of my own life is that I am mother and wife,
a friend, an artist, and a teacher. Every role is
demanding, and every one matters.  I am far from
alone in this.  Most people I know in this city juggle
multiple roles, both at home and in their working lives.

It's the end of the semester, and looking back it
feels like a success.  Now I can devote myself
exclusively to my art and my family for awhile.
Compared to the job of balancing art and school,
balancing art and Christmas is a snap.  Tomorrow
after my client leaves, we'll go and get the Christmas
tree, set it up in the studio, and dedicate part of the
studio to the holiday.  We'll decorate the mantle,
and drape pine and cedar boughs around the doorways
and windows.  The place will begin to smell divine.

I am tired, partially because it's very late as I write this,
and because I've been working very long days lately.
But I am also energized by the thought of a bunch of
new art projects on the horizon.  Tonight I'm
showing you a sketch, that may become part of one of
my paintings for the new year.  The model is doing the
whoop exercise from Mike Dooley, expecting all good.
And that's what I wish for you.  Put your arms in the
air and imagine it happening.  Then get ready -- all good
is coming your way.

Have a getting-ready-for-pure-joy day.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Jumping out of the frame

 The thinking boy
Charcoal on bond paper
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
Sometimes the feeling I get when I look at
a photo I decide to work on is so overwhelming,
that the picture almost leaps into life.  Memory
is a strange muse, but one I enjoy.  This drawing
was done from a beautiful portrait of a young
relative thinking very seriously.  I love his face
and his hair, and noticed as I was taking this
shot that the snapshot edge I drew for a graphic
line, doesn't extend the full length of the image.
Symbolically it makes sense.  He's just too
wonderful to fit the frame.

It's a beautiful night, and the brilliant lights
Steven put on the backyard apple tree are
probably keeping the neighbours awake.
But it's ten below zero and no one is going to
go out to unplug them tonight.
 A Christmas apple tree
A few years back, before the Iraq War, we were asked
to put lights on our porch and leave them on
to let the world know we wanted peace.  Later that
year I was so sick that I almost died, and when I recovered
we left them on to symbolize both hope and peace.  I'm sure
the neighbours thought we were nuts, but we knew
our inner meaning.  These lights on the apple tree
remind me of that time, and make me feel ridiculously
joyful. 

Have a taking-joyful-action day.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The artist's journal

 
 Bedside table clutter
Journal Sketch
Black marker on bond paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

A few years back, well probably a decade ago
I read The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron.  I was
already a journal writer, but not a regular daily
writer.  Nobody can sell you on the power of
the journal like Julia Cameron who proscribed
it like medicine, unless it's Natalie Goldberg.
And Natalie and her book Wild Mind was my
original justification for journal writing --
 a superb book.

I am fairly devoted to writing the required
three pages -- which is supposed to be the magic
number for creativity.  But sometimes now I
confess I write my blog in lieu of the hand written
journal.  But it's not really the same.  I wouldn't
bother you with some of the trivia or personal
details in my journal.

My point tonight? I picked up the latest Julia
Cameron book on creativity, The Creative Life,
and I'm looking forward to reading it and my novel,
so I'll let you know what I think. Not too surprisingly
I have quite a few journals, and occasionally dip into
them to read about a time in the past, and remember
what I was thinking and doing.

Today I've been reading about a trip to Europe I
took with Steven in 2006.  So much has changed
since then in my artistic and thinking life. 
It was lovely to go back and see through my description
what we were saying and feeling as we traveled
from England, to Germany to Sweden, then home.

Steven kept wanting to hear more, and then we'd get
lost in talking about that wonderfully romantic trip
in one of the hottest Junes Europe has ever known.

Have a starting-to-write-in-a-journal day.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Saturday on the hoist

 

The place to be
black marker on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Steven and I are hard workers who relish a free day.  But
today started with the alarm going off even earlier than
on an official work day because we had to be at the
garage by 7:30 a.m. to be first in line to get my car changed over
to winter tires.  We were, and after a pleasant morning spent
across the street at the mall writing holiday cards, we went
home in a safer car.  Snow, they say is coming here big time. 

Just a quick drawing tonight of the location for the subject
most on my mind, sleep. And here's a bed to do it in.
I didn't sleep at all last night -- my problem with extra
early wake up times.  I'm vigilant -- for the whole night.

Have an I-got-a-good-night's-sleep day.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A long, strange day

 
 
I'm listening
Skype portrait, black marker on bond paper
8 1/2 x11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
My day started with the alarm beeping very
early this morning.  I'd been marking until the
wee hours, as I have been for more than a week.
But I rushed around, got ready, hurried out of
the house with lunch and bags, and inside boots,
and outside boots, and muffled up to the max
in down and fake fur (it is one cold time of year),
and off to the garage that has my tires for the
second time.  This time I sat calmly marking, met
a very nice gentleman who told me stories of his
life in India and Scotland when I took breaks
from marking, and waited. And waited.  For
two and half hours. The problem?  The machine that
broke the first time I came over a week ago, broke
again and I couldn't get my snow tires on.

Oh my.  I was upset.  The nice man who had to
break the news started handing me gifts -- a notebook,
an umbrella with the garage logo.  It reminded me of
the character in the movie Love and Other Drugs, who
escorts the doctors into the hospital in the rain with a
drug logo umbrella.  Only the sun was shining, and the
product -- snow tires (which I own and are stored there)
-- were still not on the car.

The running news loop on the waiting room TV was
of the snowstorm in London, Ontario, two and a half
hours away, where they've had more snow in two days
than they normally get in half a winter.  So I will need
those tires.

When I came home after teaching, the cats had knocked
over a poinsettia plant in the hall, eaten part of it, and
made themselves ill.  So there was dirt, plant and cat
sick to clean up.  Ah well.

I am good at picking up the mood.  Thank goodness.
I ate dinner, and now for a change I'm going to...mark.

Here's a Skype sketch to end the day on a happy note.
I like the mood, and enjoyed the challenge of working
with a thick, black marker.  Drawing like this creates
an image almost like a woodcut.  Nice.


Have a picking-up-after-the-cats-and-enjoying-it day.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

What's in the cards?

 Some of the new holiday cards set out on my art board,
getting ready for happy wishes.  As soon as I put my
brushes down, I'll be picking up a pen.  

My wonderful printers Chris and Ellen at St. Clair
Copy had my Christmas cards ready today.  This is
the last week of classes and I am marking so much
it literally hurts.  What hurts?  My back, my hands,
my eyes, my mind.  Yes.  Marking is hard work, but
also a sheer pleasure.  It's great to see how much
people have learned, and to realize how much I've
learned too.

At any rate, if I have your address and postal code,
and you frequently comment on my blog,
I hope that I get to send you a card.  Time as we say
in my class, is of the essence, and I don't have gobs
of it.  So...I will do my best.  I do not answer the
muir.bibby78@gmail mail often, but you can email me
at the sympatico address at the top of my blog.  Send
your address, and in a few weeks a card will
probably appear -- just in time for New Years.

Meanwhile Happy Holiday, and Holiday preparations.

Have an enjoying-it-all day.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Stepping back and walking towards peace

I've been painting on and off all day.  Actually
I've spent one hour marking and one hour painting,
alternating all day.  I used my iCal alarm to let
me know when to switch tasks and locales.  It
sounds pretty dry I know, but I teach time management,
and every now and then I have to apply my own
teaching.

I've also been listening to wonderful talks on TED TV
while I was painting.  What an incredible pleasure.
One of my favorite lectures was by William Ury on
The Walk from No to Yes.  Ury's thoughts on how
to create peace in the world are inspiring and
fascinating to say the least. 
 Late afternoon light Pugwash
watercolour on Arches watercolour paper
16 x 12 inches
© Barbara Muir (date unknown)
Unfortunately I can't show you what I've been
working on. But I wanted to give you an image -- maybe
one you haven't seen.  In this watercolour image
I was trying to catch the magical light at the end of day
on the beach near Pugwash, Nova Scotia, where
we spend as much time as possible each summer.
  I've always been embarrassed by it, because it
doesn't do either the light, or the beach justice. 
But today I think it does capture something --
maybe it captures the feeling of peace, or the idea of
walking for peace.

I painted it at a time when my son, Christopher, was a young
teenager, and some of our happiest moments were spent walking
together.  Ury says that when you walk side by side, a
feeling of peace can develop.  I know that this is true.  I've
told my classes that if they walk beside someone for more
than 20 minutes they'll notice the endorphins kick
in, and the mood transform.  In fact the mood will
elevate considerably most of the time.  Some research
says 30 minutes, but night after night walking with one
of my sons, or with my husband at the time when this was
painted, I'd notice the talk move from complaint to wonder
at about the 20 minute point.

Now let's all try moving towards peace -- at home, and
on the planet.

Have a walking-towards-peace day

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Getting ready for the holidiays

Backyard Winter Sunset
acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

I know some of you are all ready for whatever
festival you celebrate, and if I hadn't had years
of therapy I might envy you.  But the other night
I had a flash of inspiration, and decided to borrow
a painting from a collector to use for my holiday
card.  The holiday we celebrate is Christmas,
because we like the tree, Santa Claus, and
giving one another presents.  So today Steven
very kindly photographed the painting I'm
going to use on my card, and I photographed
him taking the shot.  Of course I could have
taken the shot by myself, but then I couldn't
show the process could I? Now I can.
Steven taking the shot for the Holiday card.

I think it might have been Aaron Lifferth who
suggested photographing your work outdoors.
And he might also have advised using a grey
background.  Our front steps in simple
concrete, (not very attractive, but sturdy)
turn out to be the ideal backdrop for
a smaller painting.  Tomorrow I'll head over
to my printer, and then spend any spare minute
in the next few days addressing as many cards
as I possibly can.  Meanwhile, Happy Holidays
to everyone.  The real holiday is a long way off
for me, but just the thought of it is immensely
cheering.

Have a-delighting-in-the-thought-of-celebration day.

Friday, December 3, 2010

One year ago in Florence

 This was our view from the terrace a year ago today.

Last year at this time Steven and I had just arrived in Florence,
because I was showing at the Florence Biennale.  We fell
head over heels in love with the city long before we landed.
It's so strange going to a place you have read about and studied
for your entire life, and then actually being there.  We were constantly
astounded by the thrill of history living and breathing all around
us.  We loved the people, the church bells, the magnificent
architecture, the art everywhere and the food. And the Biennale
in the Fortezza da Basso was incredible with 650 artists
displaying their work in a vast hall.

We met such fantastic artists and formed new friendships; it was
so much fun -- it's almost impossible to believe that an entire year
has gone by.  My great, great, great grandmother was Florentine.
But I know very little Italian.  Yet for my whole life I've felt such
an affinity with everything Italian, and that love was rewarded daily
in Florence.  It is one of our most fervent dreams to return.  And soon.

Have a making-your-dreams-come-true day.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Merry Christmas on Cherrywood

Sunny winter afternoon on Cherrywood
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
 This is the sight that greeted me this morning.
Someone was having coffee on my front steps.
These guys were incredibly nice.
As Stephen Colbert would say, "Folks."
You all know that I live on the picturesque
street I've portrayed in my paintings many times.
You could almost say I've put the old street (and
it is old) on the map -- except you'd be wrong
because there are so many famous people on
the street that it should get one of those special
signs they make for tourists.  The boy at the
top of the street made a  documentary with the
director of Crash.  His dad is a prop man for
every major TV show, and his Mom, an artist
and interior designer.  Farther down my friend's
son has just published his first comic book.
Across the street is the famous designer, Davide
Tonizzo, and his wife the interior designer, and
communications expert, Sandra Pacitti, and
on and on it goes.
 I asked if I could take their photos and they were great
about it, joking around, "I think this is my best side."
But for the past few days the Cherryhooders have
been getting a special pre-Christmas treat -- lead
free pipes into their houses.  We're getting the lead
out of the city water piping, and that is wonderful.
Of course the gift has a price, and I think in this case
a photo, or several is worth a thousand words.
Ours is done now, and the people working on the
job are fast, hard working and courteous.  Major
props to them.  They woke me up knocking on the door
this morning to tell me the water would go off
in half an hour. So after cleaning up a bit, I went out
and asked if I could take some pictures and they said
"yes!"  Isn't that great?
Merry early Christmas.  Water is vital to all
celebrations and we've got ours back, cleaner than
ever before.
The fellow in the bright hoodie, wanted to check out his photo.
I'm sorry I didn't get a clearer shot.

Thanks people for everything.

Have an the-excitement-keeps-on-happening day.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This is my life right now

For the next week or so, most of my daylight and evening
hours will be consumed with marking. I have piles of essays sitting
in front of me, and I am reading them.  Don't immediately
think -- ah poor thing.  Because I'm really enjoying the work.
But my time for painting is definitely going to be limited
at least for the next few days.  I hope you'll make allowances
for me.
Marking papers at night
Black marker on bond paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

I so admire the work of Sheila Vaughan and her wonderful
self portraits.  Every time I worry that you'll think, oh
there she goes drawing herself again, I think of Sheila and
how much I enjoy the myriad ways she has portrayed herself.

I hope all is well in your world wherever you are.  It has been
raining and cold here, but most of us are relieved it isn't
snowing.

More to come.

Have a doing-the-work-you-need-to-do-with-a-happy-heart 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: barbara.muir@sympatico.ca
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!