Monday, January 31, 2011

Art, health and the power of great soup

Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(This is the final, she went into the show today.  Please
note that her name has changed.)
To see this painting and my other two 
paintings in the Skype portraits series,
plus many other wonderful paintings please
come out to the Inaugural Show of the
at Studio Vogue at the new address --
216 Avenue Road -- between 5 and 7 p.m.,
this Saturday, February 5th.  
 Can't wait to see you there!)

A couple of weekends ago although I knew we should
be out dancing, Steven was working and I was painting
(which if you're having fun, or even just nervous is a lot
like dancing.)  Later we watched a movie
together, but while I was painting I thought about artists and
health.  A raging flu is heading through the city,
every store is selling equipment to organize your
life (baskets, file folders, books on organization).
Then there's the gym equipment -- weights, and
stretchy things, and  CDs on yoga, and yoga
mats in every colour, and high impact exercise
DVDs and  apps.  The window for self improvement
is narrow.  As soon as February dawns tomorrow this
obsession will be over, but should it be?  You need
your health as an artist, to stay creative, attend
 your openings, organize yourself, and to stay
cheerful -- an absolute necessity for artists.

So I finally weighed myself (which I'm supposed
to do every morning), but I've been avoiding it
because my clothes were saying "Hey artist
person you've eaten tooooooo much."  Blame
Christmas, and New Years, and snow, freezing
temperatures and terrific novels. The list could go on
and on, but the result is + 4.5 pounds.  Now that got me
 hopping. I lost 32 pounds in 2010 through dint
of exercise and not eating so much.  So yep that focused
me back on adding up my steps on the pedometer.
One or two more times around the box store my friend.
Ikea is a good one -- nice and large.

But the whole point of this was to thank Norene,
because this grim weight gain thing might have
been infinitely more serious in the summer in
Nova Scotia, the land of the buttered lobster.
But Norene and Greg who own
and operate the Chatterbox Café in Pugwash,
Nova Scotia, made such delicious
soup, that I had soup and half a bakery bun
every day there for lunch and kept losing weight
on holiday.

Norene is an artist, and a wonderful one.  A shout
out to her, but she doesn't have a blog.  However
she did three years ago, and she is the reason I
started blogging.  One of them.  I blogged to get to
her blog -- a short term one in honour of a show she
was having with two other women.
Some of Norene's work
These are pieces she exhibited in the 'From here'
show a couple of years ago.  She did not give me sizes.
 Northwest Cove, Nova Scotia
Budge Wilson herself at home
Acrylic on canvas
Norene Smiley ©

Go West Young Man, Saanichton, British Columbia
Norene's father 
Acrylic on canvas
Norene Smiley ©
Lightness of Being, Lapoile River, Newfoundland
Greg Smiley, a guide and his friend Alan fishing
Acrylic on canvas
Norene Smiley ©

Most artists in Canada do more than one
job to keep the money coming in to feed the family
and put a roof over the studio.  Fact of life here.
I teach, and Norene runs a superb café. The theory
behind getting the café, was that she could paint in
the winter when Pugwash goes back down to 400
residents, from the 4,000 who depend on her delicious
food and coffee and tea and cookies in the summer.

I'm thinking of her on this cold last night in January, and
hoping she is painting or doing a reading.  She
also writes wonderful children's books, and she
and Greg and the café have become a cultural center
in their part of Nova Scotia.

Have a getting-on-the-health-kick-and-liking-it day.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Interior Design Show

Check this out
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

A good friend of ours, Davide Tonizzo was taking
part in the prototype section of the Interior Design Show
at the Metro Toronto Convention Center this weekend.
His new multi-function and multi-personality piece "Gig"
was featured and he gave us a demonstration.  That
was pretty exciting.  The show was fabulous and made us
want so many things, starting with Gig (perhaps in turquoise)
my favorite colour (or one of them).  The latest and best
in interior design was on show, and we toured the large space
oohing and ahing.

Davide Tonizzo sits on Gig displayed in its bed option.
Check out the cool video Davide shot about Gig here.

The entrance display at the Interior Design Show in Toronto 
today at the Metro Convention Center.

I am putting the final touches on my paintings tonight.  Then
tomorrow they are off to go into the show of the International Guild
for Figurative Art.  So exciting.  Not much time right now.

Have a-making-the-best-use-of-your-time day.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Parties and Saturday night

 Photographing for the blog in the kitchen
Morning in Korea (work in progress -- a couple of stages ago)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
Here is one of the paintings I'm working on as
it appeared a couple of days ago surrounded by the
flowers on our kitchen counter.  Yesterday I went to
a wonderful party for a friend's birthday.  She looked
beautiful and was surrounded by well wishers having
a great time in the party room at her new town house.
The guests were fun and fascinating and the food entirely
too good. I found out out about mirror neurons -- the
tendency of the neurons in our brains to mirror not just
the actions but the brain patterns of those around us, and
a book called Connected by Nicholas Christakis and James
Fowler which explains this idea.

Then today on the science show Quirks and Quarks on CBC
I heard that the speed of light is variable!  The world just
seems to get more and more exciting and mind bending by
the second these days.  So... it is Saturday night and time to
take a break.  I am still making minute changes to my
work for the show that opens next Saturday.  I will give you
all the info tomorrow again.  If you're in town, please drop
over to Studio Vogue next weekend to see what I am sure will
be a really great show.

Have a let's-have-fun-it's-the-weekend day.

Friday, January 28, 2011

The almost final version

Morning  in Korea
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

Yesterday my dear friend who comes to see my work
before I hand it in, or send it off, came over and
told me she liked all three paintings.  I made some of
the changes we talked over while she was here, and took
notes on what I might think about changing.  It takes a very
delicate sensibility to be able to coach an artist
wavering on the edge of high alert into the land of
reason, and she has that ability big time.

So today I show you the "almost" final version of this
one, and will let you glimpse the other two before they're
off in their final form.  My deadline has been extended
until Monday for this show, so you know that means I
may continue "tweaking" this or that, because I work
in acrylic and the paint will be dry.

I pulled back a bit from the real pixelation theme because
the woman in the painting looked too much like she had
chicken pox -- not a good look.  So this is the result.

I am super tired today.  I teach almost before dawn, so
it's time for a nap.
Have a being-happy-with-yourself-and-drinking-tea day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Getting there

 Morning in Korea (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

This new year is almost 1/12th gone.  Yikes.  It
is speeding by.  When we went to see the motivational
speaker (he would deny he was that) Mike Dooley
last summer he said that one of the secrets to
a happy life was to be busy.  Well January
certainly has met that criteria.  Whew!
I feel like I'm running full tilt all the time.

The blog helps keep me grounded, and seeing
your work helps me figure out my next steps.
The other day I talked to a wonderfully
talented friend in California who I met at a
painting course eight years ago.  She is classically
trained with a fine art degree, and I love her
intelligent approach to painting.  Plus as she
lives, works, and continues to study in
L.A., she meets top artists, art critics and

She helped me see that an extra dimension to
my Skype portraits was the layer of abstraction
-- which if you use video telephoning can be created
by the distortion of storms and distance -- this series
is based on talks from Korea and Taiwan -- a 14 hour time
difference for one thing.  So the dilemma is
how much abstraction, how much distortion?
She is right.

Tonight I worked primarily on the painting 
I'm showing you, pushing and pulling the
abstraction while I listened to David Seidler, the
screenwriter for the movie The King's Speech in an
interview with Jian Ghomeshi on Q on CBC Radio.
The interview was great, the painting is getting there.
I only have one more day and part of Friday to push
all three paintings to the place I want them to be,
so there's not much time left.  But I feel close.  So
close.  I'm sure you know the feeling. I'm afraid I
can't give you new daily paintings when I'm up to
my ears in a series like this.  But please know that
I am painting every day.  And how.

Have a loving-working-on-what-you-do day.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


 Look at this! (Work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(Sorry about the angle.  The bottom lines
are straight and horizontal, but it's late
and I need to photograph it again.
What's changed?  Once again just small changes in colour
and detail.  More to come.)
I am a fan of order, but not that good at it.  In fact
when I look at what I spend my money on aside
from shelter, food, paint and printing, and show
fees -- order ranks pretty high.  I like looking at
Bob Burridge's site, because he has help
creating order, Kate, his wife,  is a business brain, but
his clothes and his brushes are covered in paint -- the sign of
someone way too busy actually creating work
to think about mess.  Actually mess is a huge part
of creating art.
Flower sketch 
Black marker on notebook paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
This year, I am working very hard on bringing more
order into my life.  I'm writing lists, looking at my
planner, sending myself notes -- and even so I see
my spirit as a runaway horse, not wanting to settle
down and think in an orderly fashion.  Maybe part of the reason
is that I grew up with a father steeped in military order.
We were supposed to keep our rooms tidy and we were
hopeless at it.  So we would be grounded for unmade
beds, and clothes left out.  Tip to the parents out there.
These methods tend to lead to the opposite result -- an
affection for a bit of clutter.

Woops.  There I go again.  Now where was that specific
brush I need for my painting?  I better get back to work.
And that's an order!

Have a figuring-out-how-to-be-orderly day.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Serious painter gear

Clarity (Work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

It's incredibly cold in Toronto -- the frozen Canadian
north, but sunny as all get out.  We took down the
Christmas tree last weekend, a terribly sad event
I always feel.  So here's what we do.  We are fans
of the Fraser Fir, a tree whose needles are soft, and
green long past the end of the holidays.  If there is
enough snow, and it certainly looked like that wouldn't
be the case for a while -- but the universe provided --
we (I say we -- but it's Steven who does the lifting)
put the tree out in the backyard.  This year there was a big
pile of snow right near the door to our back stairs, so
the valiant Steven stuck the tree in that snowbank.  And
then -- here's Steven's trick -- scattered birdseed throughout
it's green branches.  The result -- a whole new life
for the tree as a bird feeder, and Christmas continuing for
us.  We can stand in our kitchen and watch the birds on the
tree.  They love it.  Our gorgeous Fraser fir is decorated with
whole flocks of hungry, cold birds, fluffed up and on view.

The Christmas Tree moves outside

So back to serious painter gear.  What is yours?  I am always
amused by people who have real smocks made for the purpose,
and never wear regular clothes to paint in.  They impress me
because so much of my wardrobe is adorned with unexpected
bits of acrylic paint, in colours that don't match my somber
black sweaters and blue jeans.  But my serious painter gear
for this time of year includes the most beat up and threadbare
of my black and navy blue cashmere sweaters, a white shirt,
my oldest, most faded jeans, socks and my fleece slippers from Korea,
which are not fancy footwear, but infinitely warm and comfortable.
My faithful pedometer clips on to either my slippers or
socks if it's warmer.  Then goes with me on my boots to track
the steps of the day.  Add a pair of glasses for close work, and
sometimes when I'm thinking an apron I bought at an art store
for the purpose, and you've got the outfit.  When clients come
to sit, I brush my hair, put on makeup, earrings and a necklace,
my best worn out jeans, my best raggedy cashmere  sweater,
a  very crisp white shirt, and sneakers over the socks.

Voila.  But the truth is that my studio is in what also functions
as a living room and dining room from time to time.  So I can
come home from school, offload my book bag, and coat and
head in to paint wearing the more dressy work clothes.  Which
explains what my friend Jennifer calls "creeping acrylics", or
bright bits of paint everywhere.  How about you?

Have a putting-on-your-artist's-outfit day.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Small changes

 Look at this! (Work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

I'm getting a series of Skype portraits
together for an upcoming show, and I'm at
the stage of making changes here and there,
standing back, and thinking about what to do next.
It's very late and I must quit now. 

I hope you've had a joyous and productive day.
We watched the movie, The Young Victoria tonight
and thoroughly enjoyed it. I'm thinking about new
names for these paintings.  But meanwhile
I'll stick with the old one.

Have a enjoying-your-Sunday day

Friday, January 21, 2011

No mean feat

 Clarity (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

I must admit that I feel entirely blessed on my
dealings with the art world in general, but I
have in the distant past been in shows where people
walked by my paintings and said cruel things.
Believing in kindness and looking for the positive
has altered my life, and most of the comments I've
received in recent years have been a treat on all fronts.

But the blog world in my experience takes the
idea of positive thought and positive comments
to a new height.  And what is the effect?  The
results prove that a positive world, with positive
comments leads to more work, energized and
ultra creative artists, support, a willingness to
risk -- in short all good.

It's an old idea that it's good for people to be
criticized.  Why would that be true?  If someone
posts a painting on a blog there is no obligation to
the part of the audience to look at it, or to comment.
That's the beauty of the system.  Viewers can choose
people whose work they love, and shower the
artist with praise.  It's an equal opportunity forum.
I for one am absolutely delighted to be part of
this glorious world.  It gives me strength, it makes
me work, and it makes me happy.  An unbeatable
combination.  And that my friends is no mean feat.

Thank you for being my cheering section.  I enjoy
being yours.

Have an enjoying-this-positive-world day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

One of the best days ever


 Clarity(work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
Skype painting
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
(This is the third painting in a Skype series
about the emotion that comes through on a video
call, even with poor reception.  This is the underpainting,
but the overpainting levels will reveal almost total
clarity, or the miracle of modern technology and

Okay.  I actually have two ideas tonight.  Okay, at
least two, but I'll try to confine myself to two.  I
discovered this week that research shows that cold
weather actually makes us happier, our brains
happier than hot weather.  A surprise to me, because
it's very cold here -- but you know I have to admit,
though I'm not a fan of snow in particular, I have
been fairly happy lately.

But how about today.  Why was today so good?  Looking
back it doesn't make any sense whatsoever.  I woke up
with a headache on the back of the left side of my head.
Two aspirins did nothing for it (right away).  But I
doggedly set forth on making a plan.  Sidestepping that
plan only briefly to drink the wonderful Starbucks coffee
(two cups), I made, and read my fabulous novel The Hundred-Foot
Journey by Richard C. Morais. And I did talk to my brother
in Ottawa, and he is almost always funny.

At the printers Chris and Ellen laughed, and asked me why
I was tired, and I pantomimed myself teaching -- which can
be an energetic exercise.  Chris told me that teachers in China
(he's Chinese Canadian) are learning how to be funny so they
can keep their jobs.  This really cracked us all up for no
apparent reason.  But I left feeling so lucky to know Chris and
Ellen, who help me with all my photo reference, and make my
cards and books.  They are fantastic.

Then I went home to paint.  First I stopped by the supermarket,
bought salmon (a mood enhancer) and more of the organic grape
tomatoes I'm addicted to and saw Paula, the cashier who is always
funny and always smiles.  Then I went home to paint.

And here's the second  reason.  I started listening to Sir Ken Robinson
on TED TV who believes we need an education revolution, and I
thought that some of what I do as a teacher, and how I think as a
teacher fits in with what he believes.  I may even have learned
what I know from an earlier TED talk he did.  So while he talked
about the importance of creativity, and how the current world
education system crushes it, and why there is so much apathy in
Canadian schools, etc. (I watched (listened to) several of his videos
after the TED videos, I painted.  And I am very happy with the odd
underpainting I've done.  Now it's bed time without question.  A
frighteningly early day tomorrow.

Have a enjoying-a-creativity-revolution day
We're part of the creativity revolution -- in fact
leaders in it -- right here.  Yay for bloggers.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Sliding through January

 You must be kidding
Skype sketch
black marker on bond paper
Barbara Muir © 2011

Did you know -- of course you did that today would have been
Cezanne's 172nd birthday, which would have garnered him
title of oldest painter on the planet.  I have to admit I'm
a fan of Cezanne.  When Cubism hit him, he did exciting
things with it.  And I think he was almost as famous for
his fruit paintings, as the great Dutch still life painters.
But alas. Ah for the benefit of my feminist friends our own
Emily Carr (Canadian) was pretty great with a kind of
Cubism too.  Hers was more lyrical and organic than
angular.  Check it out.

Did you also know astronomers and astrologers calculate the positions
of the planets differently so that your horoscope could be one
month off due to something called earth wobble? Would that
make me a Libra or a Saggitarius?  I felt deliciously happy
to have given up all belief in horoscopes after watching the
movie Religulous when I read about that story.

In Toronto today a flash freeze after some rain made the
road so slippery that anything was possible.  I watched a
Cadillac SUV do a triple spin on black ice, and quickly
altered my driving route home.  (The Cadillac was safely
on its way don't worry.) Thank you to Flora Doehler for
recommending icers, which I put on my feet when I was walking
from my car to the school, and which let you walk across
glare ice without falling.

We get so tied up here with weather -- the pursuit of warmth,
the tense driving which makes your neck ache, that we do need
a little nap, a really good book and sometimes to practice an
image a few times before committing it to canvas.  I am in that
frame of mind today.  Let my hand slide across the page
measuring and measuring, in the sweep between hand and eye
to try and get the proportions of a face I'm painting just right.
You do it, I do it.  By the way two great paintings to check out
today are the entries of the International Women Celebrate
show in Ayr Ontario in March by Marcia Labelle and Nicki
Ault. I am getting more excited by the minute about seeing
all the magnificent work in that show hung together.  And
I hope that by March we'll have warm weather, and no snow.

My mind is sliding towards sleep, but before I go here's
a little Skype portrait sketch I did tonight.  It is not the subject
for my painting, but it is a happy image for me of a great
talk with some dear friends.

Have a sliding-towards-joy day. 
(And if you fall, I hope it's only to fall in love.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blue Monday

TV on Blue Monday
Black marker on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

According to the Globe and Mail this is Blue 
Monday, or the saddest day of the year.  I felt a
twinge of the blues yesterday because some
people in my family are far away. But I rallied
on Monday.  Too much going on.
Blue Monday was apparently invented by
travel companies as a way to get us to get up
and go as a cheering up device.

As for me I got to talk to a local artist I met
via the blog world, and that was fun.  In fact
it made my whole day.  I think the answer to
the winter blahs, if there is such a thing, is
to have so much to do that you hardly notice
the weather except to enjoy the sunshine,
and clear the snow as you move from one
project to the next.

I did not have time to paint today, but I
did this quick sketch from one of the
photos I thought about using in a series
I'm doing.  I like the pensive expression and
the way the sweatshirt hood looks almost
medieval.   I'm successfully fighting off
a sore throat so I'm calling it a day.   Please
don't be blue. 

Have a nothing's-blue-but-my-blue-paint day.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Look at this!
(work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(I'm working on a series of
Skype portraits of this couple,
and having a lot of fun with
the idea of intimate but imperfect
pixillated images.)

Why do you paint?  Today I heard the actor Christopher
Plummer interviewed by Jian Ghomeshi, and he said
that he was addicted to the theater and acting.  Do you
feel like you're addicted to painting?  I don't know if
that is the word I'd used, but I would say that I'm
obsessed with painting in the best sense of the word.
It is a huge part of what I think about each day.

So here's what I'm working on.  It's a ways off from
finished, but it's coming along.  It's part of a series of
Skype paintings of images from conversations with
a couple half way around the world.  There is such a
fresh tenderness in the images, that I'm enjoying
painting them.  Plus I'm trying to convey the blips
in technology that make for an interesting image.

It's late and my day started before the crack of dawn
this morning.  I actually like getting up and going
in the dark, but after seeing a great class, then
painting and going out for a delicious dinner,
it's time to settle in with my superb novel and to
dream about my paintings and yours.

Have an enjoying-your-obsessions day.

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Take a look at this! (detail)
(Work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

It's been an exciting and kind of vulnerable day.
Why?  So many reasons, but I guess the overall
one is that I'm stepping into new territory in so
much of my life, and there is so much to learn.

I was on CityLine today with Tracy Moore,
Samantha Pynn, and Ramsin Khachi, all of whom
are wonderful TV personalities, and I give a big
thank you and shout out to them.  I am very proud
of my shy artist self for stepping onto the TV stage, and
I know that is a huge, big world that I've been
lucky to be part of for the last two years. And
I know there is soooo much to learn.  Fortunately
I love learning.

I am also working on a big deadline with so many
parts to finish, so I feel vulnerable there.  I'm trying
something that is both new and old.  The point of
vulnerability here is that there is nothing more
vulnerable looking for a portrait painter, than
people talking to you about their thoughts,
triumphs, and lives through the video on their
laptop computers.  The subject matter is

So what do I listen to on TED TV while I'm
working on the second painting in the series?
Brene Brown talking about vulnerability.
What an astonishing and superb talk she
presents on what makes wholehearted people
go for it even when they're vulnerable.  The
reason she suggests is that they believe they
deserve to be loved.  And they go after
new experiences, even when they feel
excruciatingly vulnerable, because of that
base of love.  She says we have to be willing
to risk imperfection, and make mistakes,
in order to be able to experience joy.

 Zowey! My eyes were popping out as
I painted away.  The moral of the tale?
We have to take risks, because being
vulnerable leads to happiness.

Feel better?  I do.  Thanks for making
me feel blessed.  We do deserve to be
loved and loving, and to approach life
with wholehearted zeal, and we can and
do certainly help one another to get there.

Have an enjoying-feeling-vulnerable day

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The idea of choice

My painting Water Image #1 is on the International Guild of
Figurative Art Invitation that I received today.  It's the
painting in the lower right hand corner. 

I listened to the 1000 Awesome Things guy, Neil Pasricha,
today on TED TV.  Neil started working at noticing
what is good about life after his wife left him and his
best friend died.  He began noticing the simplest
little things that were good. 

I've been hitting the TED site a lot because I'm painting
and listening to the speakers helps me to stay in the studio.
When I get engrossed in one of these talks I forget to wander
out to the kitchen, for a cookie, or a coffee, until the talk is
over, and as most of them are about 20 minutes long
that's perfect.

Neil Pasricha was interviewed in the Globe and Mail,
Canada's leading newspaper last year. I looked up his
blog and wrote to him.  He wrote me back the nicest
email letter, and ended by telling me that I was awesome.

I am very interested in the power of positive thought
on the brain, and subsequently on our organs, our
sleep, our recovery from disease, and especially
our creativity.  A friend was telling me tonight that
one of the credos of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous)
is that an alcoholic can't "afford" to stay angry.  I like
that thought.  He said that this was a powerful idea,
and especially powerful for men who tend to view
life in terms of costs. (Whether that's a true observation
or not is not for me, a woman, to say.)

What struck me though in both the 1000 awesome
things talk, and my friend's discussion is the concept of
choice -- that even when bad, perhaps terrible things
happen, we have the power to choose to believe in hope.
That doesn't mean we don't have to work to change
what's wrong with our world, and the world in general,
it means we can choose to try not to despair, to imagine
an end to sorrow.

All of us have reasons to feel grief -- many of my
friends both in the blog world, and my immediate world
are going through hard times.  Our creativity needs to
gentle us towards hope.

This subject matters to me because I teach a psychology
course that works on helping people succeed in school.
Belief and hope are key to changing our lives, and the
lives around us in dramatic and important ways.  I know
that these ideas are transformative because I've watched
at least 1,000 people change, emerge, smile, grow,
grab their goals, turn the ship around.  Just that thought
is enough to convince me tonight thinking about them,
and thinking about you out there, that the world is truly awesome.

Have an enjoying-the-small-hopeful-and-awesome-things day.

Monday, January 10, 2011


 Morning in Korea
(work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

The other day I watched this short video on TED TV of
Arianna Huffington talking about the importance of sleep
to creativity.  It must have had a profound effect because
I taught my first classes today, was all wound up and
filled with ideas for subsequent classes, came home and fell
asleep over my book like a teenager.  (Maybe this is why
it's good to spend time with teenagers).  I was dragging
around when I got up for dinner, but found that when I
went in to paint I could focus.  Thanks Arianna. 

This is another image of a work in progress.  You can see
that it's coming along.  I want it to stay in a somewhat
digitized look -- like broken communication from a
distance, but have the sweet connection you can have
in the eyes and faces of people you love, even when the
image is far from perfect.  That's  quite the challenge.
And I'm happy so far.

But now I'm going to take Arianna's advice and head back
to sleep.  I'll continue on this tomorrow.

Have a getting-enough-sleep-for-creativity day.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Long distance love

 Morning in Korea (detail)
(work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

I'm making an effort now to paint the way many people
in the world regularly view their families.  For me
it started when my son was in Korea with his girlfriend.
Before that separation I had never thought about
talking through computers, or even more bizarre,
seeing one another, and sharing bits and pieces of life
with video through computers.  You know the rest of
the story.  Now as I paint this image, bit mapped the
way images sometimes are when you talk using this
technology, I am deeply moved at the thought of
people working so hard to stay connected.

This past fall Steven was away a lot and my images
of him were affected by the quality of the Internet
connections in his hotels, by the weather, by the
lighting.  And yet that was the closest we could
come to sitting down and talking at supper -- or in
other words, regular, loving family life. 
So I'm giving you a detail of this painting in progress.
I began the painting with a freehand grid.  Although
I'm not sticking to it by any means, it is coming through
in places, and I like the effect.

Have a loving-both-your-long-distance-and-nearby-friends day.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The kindest thoughts

 Happy on holiday
Charcoal on bond paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(Another sketch for a 
Skype series painting.
I am enjoying the images
of this couple up against
the computer screen.)

I do get wrapped up in my own world sometimes,
trying to keep track of my family and friends.
What with art and school, I don't always get time
to explore the blog world, or even to read the posts
that turn up on my blog list.

I just took a look at Marilyn Flanegan's blog
Flanegans' Muse.  She is an incredibly sensitive
artist, portraying animals in a way that elevates
them to high art.  She also does abstract pieces.
Scrolling down I see that she wrote about me on
October 23 and said how much she liked my blog.
That was last fall, and I had no idea she'd done that.
Please Marilyn if you ever write about me again, please
let me know so I can thank you.

Her blog makes me think about the dignity and grace
animals always portray.  They share our joys and
sorrows wordlessly.  I always feel when Steven is
away that the animals are my team.  When he is home
we share their love, and they put on little acts and
games for us.

Thank you Marilyn for both your kind post, and
to everyone else who shares their kind thoughts
with me, and who spreads joy by creating encouraging
comments to send to their circles of artist friends.

Have a-discovering-the-kind-things-people-have-said day.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Iron is Hot

 Morning in Korea
Charcoal on bond paper 
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

The old saying "strike while the iron is hot," stuck
in my mind today as I thought about the events of
yesterday.  Those involved the taping of the
CityLine show, (so fun) and a mad dash in the night
with my photographer son to access a photo that
had to be sent off right away!  It snowed
last night, and the car skittered and slid its
way around town despite the snow tires, making
us very suspicious indeed.  But that's for
another day.

Today I'm showing you a rough drawing for
a painting I'm working on.  I'm falling in love with the
Skype theme all over again, and am doing
more than one series of paintings using this
theme and references.  Next week school starts
and the fire of creativity that has been burning
in my studio since 2011 began will have to
accommodate my school schedule so I am
striking while the iron is hot.

My son thought it would be cool to suggest
the pixilating image you sometimes get when a
video image crosses a vast distance.  So I may
try to integrate that into the painting. As a start
I dug a textural grid into the ground with a wide
comb.  It may not even show through, but it also
guides me when I want to make a jagged
(pixilated) edge. 

I like the idea of old world technique combined
with a techno world reality.  So that's what I'm
going for and will show you when the image is
ready.  For now enjoy this sketch.

Have an enjoying-the-new-reality-day.

P.S. Yesterday my son showed me the dinner he
was cooking as he cooked it, via Skype on his
iPhone. I thought of how dazzled my father would
be both by the technology, and his grandson who
works in the kind of photo studio my "pro-amateur"
Dad would have absolutely loved.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A great day-- Drawing live on CityLine on Citytv

 Happy Time
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(And it was a happy time.
This is the small portrait
of Tracy Moore that I
gave to her at the end of
the show.)

Today I went to the Citytv studios at Dundas
Square to draw the star of CityLine, Tracy Moore
as the taping took place for next Thursday's show.
A live audience watches the entire show -- and
it is an hour long production.  Tracy moves from
movable set to set, talking about a wide variety of
topics. Today the theme was decoration and design.
Samantha Pynn, one of the guest designers on the
program was talking about art and how to display
it on the wall, and as a side piece I was drawing
a quick sketch of Tracy from a photo and one of
my paintings was on display.  Pretty exciting stuff.

Tracy comes to see the sketch I've been working on.
The painted portrait (first image above)  is turned around
on the easel because it's a surprise.

At the end of the show I gave Tracy the small
finished portrait I'd brought, and was especially
glad that I'd finished it on time, because it was
Tracy's birthday today.

Upcoming shows to watch for:

I've been invited to join the International Guild of
Figurative Art and will have three pieces in guild's
first show at Studio Vogue Gallery's new location
at 216 Avenue Road, Toronto, Canada.  The show runs
from February 2 - 26, and the opening is on February 5 from 5-7p.m.
The International Guild of Figurative Art brings
 together artists who have a passion for figurative work
and who have taken part in major cultural events, both
in their country or origin, and internationally.

March 8 is International Women's Day, and
the 100th anniversary of that special day.
I've already mentioned that there will be a show
at Ayrspace Gallery in Ayr, Ontario featuring
over 100 artists from around the world.  The show
International Women Celebrate runs from
March 5 - to April 1, 2011, and the opening
reception is on March 5th.  In addition to the show,
the organizers have put together a book telling the stories
in brief of the 100 women artists participating, and
showcasing their work.  Sales at the show will help fund
 a Haitian charity focusing on women, and their children.
All in all an exciting show with soul and heart.

Have an art-is-always-exciting day.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

100% art

 A Happy Time
(Work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

What do I mean by my title?  My days for the past little while,
mildly interrupted by New Year's Eve, have been totally
focused on art.  I am eating, sleeping, and moving through
life in a state of intensive artistic concentration.  This
morning I took a break to join some friends in the neighbourhood
who gather for coffee.  I sat down beside a woman I've talked
to many times about many things, and she showed me pictures
on her camera of absolutely gorgeous monoprints of women in
evening dresses.  They looked like living flowers.  The colours
so vivid that I woke up even before drinking the coffee the generous
hostess offered.  I had no idea this friend was an artist.  She teaches at
the public school across the street from me, and is having a year
off.  The time is allowing her to focus on her art. 

In short there's no escape from my obsession.  And that's good.
I've started a little painting which needs more work, but it's
at a stage that I can show you.

I will be at the CityTV studio taping for CityLine this Thursday,
but the show won't be on until next Thursday, January 13 at
9 a.m. and 2 p.m. so check it out.  I am on with Samantha Pynn
the wonderful host of Pure Design, and I'm looking forward to
seeing her again.

I hope you're having a great start to the year.  I certainly am, and
feel extremely lucky to feel this way.

Have a you-know-what?-I'm-happy! day.

Monday, January 3, 2011

International Women Celebrate

Ready for joy
(finished version)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

The time has come to tell you what my little painting is
all about.  Jill Yuzwa, Kim Rempel and Jeanette
Vermeyden-Obbink in Ayr, Ontario put out a call a
couple of months ago to bloggers and other artists
asking for women artists from around the world to
participate in a show together to celebrate the
100th anniversary of International Women's Day.
So on March 8th, 2011 the painting shown here
and at least 99 works by other women will be shown
together at Ayrspace Gallery in Ayr, Ontario.
Christopher in the studio taking the shot.

Today was the deadline for getting the images and
writing in for the International Women Celebrate
book.  So I headed over to the studio where my
photographer son, Christopher, works to get my
painting captured photographically. Now I am
done.  That painting and the necessary added
written copy have flown off over the Internet and
now I can savour dreams of the kick off weekend,
when I'll meet the other great women artists who are
taking part in this fine exhibition.  Cool eh?

But there's something else.  On Thursday morning
I'm heading over to City TV here in Toronto,
to draw the host Tracey Moore during the taping of
the show.  More TV!  I'll give you more information
on that tomorrow.  But meanwhile time to move on
to the next project.
Have a keeping-busy-for-art day.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

1001 blog posts

 Ready for joy
(work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

Happy, Happy 2011.  So far it's been an overwhelmingly
amazing year.  Pure bliss.  Part of that is because it's
almost a holiday, although I'm painting, and part
is because of the great conversations I've had with
friends.  Also I'm reading a superb novel that I discovered
because of Oprah's summer reading book reviews
called The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake.  I
have been having the most wonderful creative dreams,
and am filled with ideas for projects.  I implore the
universe to let this feeling last.  As I only had two
half glasses of champagne on New Years Eve, I
can't blame my euphoria on the bubbles.  But
isn't it a glorious thing when you feel that all is
right with the world.  We artists are sensitive beings,
and life isn't always (pardon my illusion to the novel)
a piece of cake.

It could just be that my husband's been away a lot
on business this fall, and having great amounts of
time together feels like a present.  Last night I sent
him a series of ridiculous videos of me singing three
of our all time favorite terrible songs.  What are
they?  "We'll sing in the sunshine," "McArthur Park"
and "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad."  I emailed each
crazy video from my computer to his, then we watched
them laughing hysterically.  Our shared humour is
really ridiculous, but such a treat.  Just so you know
I am probably one of the worst singers on the planet.

Have a loving-this-new-year day.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Shine your light in 2011

 Ready for joy
(work in progress -- and the name may change)
Acrylic on canvas 
drawing in charcoal
Barbara Muir © 2011
(Starting a painting for an upcoming show.  I'm
referencing the drawing I did about a week or so
ago -- shown below.  The feeling is exactly
what I want to portray, and seems right for
the hopeful start of a new year.  Here you
see the orange/rust ground, the charcoal drawing 
and the background coming in.)

The orginal drawing 
Ready for joy
Charcoal on bond paper
Barbara Muir © 2010

Stage two filling in the background.  I wanted to
create a sunny upbeat feeling.
Ready for joy
(work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas 
drawing in charcoal
Barbara Muir © 2011

  Stage three, the underpainting blue goes on
the hair and sweatshirt.
Ready for joy
(work in progress )
Acrylic on canvas 
drawing in charcoal
Barbara Muir © 2011

Happy New Year to all my blogger friends.  I've had
a wonderful Christmas and absolutely delightful New
Year's Eve party, and I'm filled with ideas.  One thing
strikes me about my conversations with artists in the past
few days -- and that is this -- we have so much difficulty
believing in ourselves.  So let's step away from that for a
moment and if we're going to resolve anything on this first
day of the new year, let's resolve to see ourselves as brilliant,
to be the people spreading the joy and light, to shine our
magnificent creative lights in our own lives and in
others lives.

1,000 blogs today
I've been listening to this James Taylor song off and
on for the past day or so (listen to it here).  And I love
what he says.
"Shower the people you know with love, show
them the way that you feel, things are going to
work out fine if you only will."

Maybe that's what the blog world can do at its finest,
shower the people you know with love.  I am at 1,000
blogs.  I was trying to think of a contest, or a give away,
or some special thing I could do to celebrate.  But it
seems to me that this is a celebration all on its own.
When I started I could never have imagined this
milestone.  So like the turning of the year, the getting
to 1,000 is a numbers game yes, and also a sign of
hope.  You keep me going with your wonderful art,
your kind thoughts, and your inspiring words.

I say here's to the next 1,000 blogs, and to three more
years with this great community of creative people.
(It took me about three years to write 1,000 blogs.)
Thank you to everyone for the riches you've showered
on me in so many ways, and Happy Happy New Year.

I'll post more stages of the painting tomorrow.

Have a noticing-how-good-you-are 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!