Monday, March 28, 2011

Looking back with delight

 Kitchen Tulips
8 x 8 inches
acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2009
I'm a big fan of Mike Dooley who tells us
to realize that right now is when all of our dreams
are coming true, and that we should enjoy them.
There are always lots of reasons to be blue,
and with world events in recent weeks, now
is definitely one of them.  But sometimes looking
back shows us how to move forward.  After a
long, hard winter, I am ready for spring.  Today
it was warm and lovely, and my friend in California,
David Lobenberg showed me the way to blog
(without having any idea until I tell him that he was
doing so I might add).  He pulled a painting out of
the archives.  So I have too.  Here is a little painting
I did in 2009, a magical year for me. I am happy to
show it to you again, and to imagine having lots
of cut tulips in the kitchen and a model posing as
she reads one of my magazines.  Happy times in
the past and coming up like the spring flowers again.
Have an enjoying-your-past-and-present day.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Happy weekend and Earth Hour

 Today's paper
marker on notebook paper
6 x 9 inches 
Barbara Muir © 2011
(My Saturday morning ritual is to
read the paper in bed -- so the lacy edge
on the right side of the drawing is
my pillowcase).
I worry that you'll read my last night's
post and think that I am wallowing in despair.
No as a matter of fact I'm going to spend earth
hour with my good friend and fellow artist
Marcia Labelle and her husband David Cohen.

Steven and I will bring the candles to light for Earth Hour.
Thinking about the whole Earth can bring you
down right now, especially when it's been
reported that the water off the coast of British
Columbia is now showing higher levels of

But I also know from living through hardship
in the past, and from reading about many people
who have lived through terrible trouble, that we
need to stay strong and happy in order to be able
to make rational choices and affect change.

So there will be lots of laughter tonight, and political
discussion (Canada is on the verge of a federal
election).  And there will be candles.

I may not be able to post that often in the next
couple of weeks.  It is both the end of the semester
with mounds of essays and tests to mark, and a huge
time in terms of art to prepare for a number of
shows.  So if I don't manage to fit in writing here
during that time, you'll know that I'm busy, and I
will get back to you.

If I can keep writing and showing you my work
during this intense time, I will, because you mean
a lot to me.

Have an enjoying-the-beauty-of-the-earth day.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Earth Hour and Nukes

 Spring tree at sunset
(work in progress)
Acrylic on wood panel
5 x 5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

I don't usually write about things that disturb
me here, because I am trying to be positive
about life, and I do believe that staying
cheerful helps people produce art.

But today I cannot stand by and sanction the
lies and misinformation being
promulgated by some  of the Canadian media about
nuclear power.  People I've talked to since
the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in
Japan wreaked havoc with the Fukushima
nuclear power plant are under the false belief that
nuclear power is either clean (nothing could
be farther from the truth) or cheap (when
each nuclear reactor costs billions of dollars).
Mike Bullard on CFRB radio today said
that it would make more sense to leave
the lights on for Earth Hour tomorrow night
than to light candles, as nuclear power
produces no emissions, and is better
for the environment than candles. This is
a total lie.  Steven came in at this point to say
I should add that the environment is not just
the air (but please note the recent explosion in
Japan polluted the air with radioactive fall out),
but also the land and the water.

I was so disgusted by Bullard's abuse of
his job as a popular radio talk show host
to promote this terribly misleading idea. Yesterday
I was listening on the radio to a farmer in Japan living
near the Fukushima nuclear power plant in
Japan. This farmer has to leave his farm because
the vegetables he's growing are no longer
safe to eat because the soil is so radioactive.
He has to leave his farm and his cows.  He and
many people like him can no longer stay in
their homes or operate their farms, which are
their livelihood.

But most of the media I've listened to in
Canada is trying to minimize the danger
and talk about the benefits of nuclear power. 
If you ever doubt that nuclear power has a huge
lobby pushing for its expansion just watch the
movie Silkwood, a true story about a woman
who tried to reveal the truth about nuclear power
in the United States, Karen Silkwood who was
killed for her bravery and outspoken convictions.

As only one fifth of Canadians read for pleasure
we are particularly vulnerable to false sound bite
information.  But even a little research would go
a long way to helping us understand that we should
make the elimination of nuclear power a focal point
of any politician's stated environmental goals.
Nuclear power is extremely dangerous, as the
Japanese, who are technologically among the most
advanced people in the world are sadly discovering.
What is worse is that the serious meltdown in Japan
could affect that whole region of the Pacific
at a minimum, and possibly fisheries on the west coast
of Canada and the U.S. too.  That isn't a temporary
effect, as the radioactivity lasts for thousands of years.

At the moment Greenpeace in Germany has rated
this accident as a level 7, or equivalent to Chernobyl.

Please turn off the lights tomorrow night, and
think about the people in Japan who have had their
homes and livelihood taken from them, first by
an earthquake and tsunami, and then by an even
worse irreparable man made tragedy -- the breakdown
of a nuclear power plant.  Here in Toronto I live 23
miles from a nuclear power plant in Pickering.
On March 14th the Pickering plant leaked 73,000
litres of demineralized water containing tritium into
Lake Ontario, the source for Toronto's drinking water.
Go to minute 2:26 of this story to get a clear comment
on the severity of this "incident."

• Nuclear power plants cost billions of dollars to
• To date there is no safe way to store nuclear waste.
Nuclear waste has a radioactive half life of
10s of thousands of years, and is unsafe for human
beings for that length of time.

Please read up, and then ask your governments to
quit building nuclear reactors, and to mothball
existing nuclear power plants.  There are viable
alternatives, but we all have to work together
at insisting on their development and use.

Have a not-being-fooled-by-idiocy day.
P.S. On Wednesday night Stephen Colbert
discussed this idea on the Colbert Report in
the section called "The Word".  Check it
out on Comedy Central in the U.S. and The
Comedy Network in Canada.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring means action

In the midnight sun (work in progress)
(Stage Three more blocking in colour)
Acrylic on canvas
14 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

I will be showing in New York this spring and I'm
finishing up my work for that show.  Two of the
three paintings are close to complete, and the third
is just at the starting point.  I've been working on
a study at a much smaller size for the third.
Tomorrow is a very early day -- up and on the road
by 6:30 a.m., so I am posting what I think is the
last stage of this study.

It has been a long, hard winter, and the thought of
New York sits on the horizon like an incredible dream
that will come true.  I can't tell you how much I love
that city.  A friend just came back from a trip to New York,
and brought me coasters that stack into an abstract
painting as a gift from the MoMA.  Both of us sat in
my kitchen drifting off into our imaginations just at
the word MoMA.  She was seeing images that were
totally fresh, and I was running the movie of the two
almost day long visits Steven and I made to the gallery
last spring.  Cannot wait.

Have a dreaming-of-New-York-City day.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Snow again! -- Be happy

 Steven took this photo earlier this winter after
a fresh snowfall.  Note that the street has seen
no traffic in this shot.

I woke up this morning to see the new spring
covered with snow.  I know -- it's predictable
at this time of year that nature will give us
one last reminder of winter.  Her thinking is
that experiencing the cold, ice, bad traffic will
make us appreciate the new buds on the trees,
the first flowers I saw a couple of days ago,
and understand just how fantastic spring is.

So...I accept the challenge.

Why snow is great:
1. It sound proofs the city -- a blanket of
snow really does work like a blanket to
muffle the sounds of traffic.

2. It looks beautiful -- snow  covers the
brown grass, the bits of garbage winter's
produced, and makes the whole world fresh.

3. The cold air is supposed to make us happier
than warm air, which is why I'm writing this list.

4. It produces generous feelings, with neighbours
cleaning one another's walks out of a crazy urge
to be kind.

5. Children love it.  Little children love to play
in it, so the park will be filled with toboggans
after school today.

6. Dogs love it almost more than food.  My dog will
be over the top with joy today.

7. Skiers love it.  In the past two snowfalls I've
had to move out of the way in a city park for a cross
country skier.

8. Plants love it.  The blanket that keeps out the
noise of a 5 million plus city, also brings more
concentrated added moisture to the garden and

9.  I don't have to put away my winter coat -- yet,
which means I don't have to figure out what to
wear -- it's back into the winter uniform.

10. When you get home from a terrifying journey
through snow, your house and the ordinary things in
it look amazing.

I may not post a painting tonight.  My Steven is home
after 11 days away, and I plan to watch a movie with

Have a taking-care-of-yourself-and-the-planet day.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Romancing the check list

 Bright light
(Art group painting)
Acrylic on canvas
14 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

As I got ready to rush off to my art group
tonight I ran through the checklist. 1. paint.
2. brushes. 3 paper towels. 4. water bottle.
5. extra paint. 6. charcoal. 7. a canvas. 8.
brushes. 9. Something to put water in. 10.
A yogurt lid to mix paint on. 11. cash for class.

And so on.  And last night very late before I
went to bed I wrote a check list on a scrap
of paper on the table in the studio to direct
me through the finishing job for a difficult

My point.  Sometimes we think of painting as
being like something apart from life -- a high
orgiastic experience comparable to listening to
Beethoven, or Verdi.  And it is like that, especially
at the origin of the inspiration and at pivotal points in
creativity.  But there is another more practical side to the
job of creation too, and that is the work side.  Enter
the check list.

When I was preparing to go on Oprah Alyson Stanfield
advised me to write a checklist every day and keep it
with me all day.  I teach this kind of thing, so I should
have known it.  But she was extremely comforting,
and so is the check list.  It's an anchor in a sea of
the strange, emotional highs and lows of creativity,
like the grocery list that leads to the amazing
dinner and terrific party.

Have a writing-a-checklist day.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Dog tired

Barney (study sketch)
Black marker on bond paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
I think we use the phrase "dog tired" because dogs know
how to be tired so completely.  I'm sure they
could teach lessons on how to relax.  Well tonight I am
dog tired.  It was a crammed weekend, for art, for
marking and for social events. So I'm posting this sketch
of my friend Alen Rubesa's dog, Barney.  It's a quick
drawing of the full head, and I can immediately see the
many changes I need to make in the next sketch.  But I like
the dog, who is dog alert, the opposite of dog tired, and
eventually this sweet dog face will become a huge painting!
Meanwhile I'm going to take a cue from my own animals
and get some sleep.
Fiona the cat and Zoey the dog sleeping with paws together
Have a sleeping-enough-to-be-dog-happy day.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Learning about happiness

fine marker on bond paper
3 x  5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(A blog friend in California,
David Lobenberg recently wrote
a piece about small sketches and
actually has a book out of
his sketches and technique.
To see this delightful
book visit his site by
clicking on his name above.
He made me reconsider my
small 3 x 5 inch sketchbook
I've had for years, and  I've been 
doing some small sketches 
to show you.)
I am blessed with a job that's all about encouraging
people to do well in school.  In the past few years
I've realized that my art and teaching lives feed one
another and run on the same principles.  In order to
create and feel like creating art, for the most part
it helps to be happy.  Events in the world can conspire
against that feeling of peace and centeredness, but
knowing how to return to joy is a critical skill.
The same is true for students.  Happy students, and
those who cultivate resilience do better in school.

That's why I am always researching how the brain
works, and what makes us happy.  A few interesting
facts have surfaced in my reading over the past
few days.  1. Big things don't make us as happy as
smaller ones.  So getting a big house, taking a lavish
trip, buying a sleek car  will all make us happy, but
the sensation is temporary.  Whereas if we spend our
money on small things more often we can sustain
a feeling of happiness.  For artists this is easy -- brushes,
canvas, tubes of paint.  I feel so delighted when I go
to the art store, and come home with a new colour.
Sunday tea
marker on bond paper
3 x 5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

The second piece of information is that feminists (women
who believe that women are equal to men) have more
satisfying, happy and romantic marriages.  To me this
makes sense -- because it's true in friendship also.
Feeling like equals is much more satisfactory than
feeling not equal, which is probably why we have so
much fun here in the blog world where we are all
(both women and men) working at the same type of work.

Have a buying-something-small-(flowers?)-and-
enjoying-your-relationships day.
P.S. One way to make yourself happy, if you can
afford it, is to give.  Many artists are offering auctions
on their paintings to raise money for the Japanese
Relief efforts. I have made my donation, but if you
have extra cash this is a great way help people in
tremendous need, and to increase your feeling of
well being, knowing that you did what you could
in this crisis.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Super moon and Saturday night was so much fun

Super moon over the city
Acrylic on wood panel
5 x 5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

What was proposed as a quiet evening of dinner
and cards turned into a wonderful night of lively
discussion with my friend Josephine and her
friends for a little impromptu party in celebration
of a very large moon tonight.  Apparently the moon
is the closest it's been to the earth in 18 years.

Every topic you should never discuss was
talked about with great excitement around a
dining room table covered with lovely china
and delicious food.  So much fun.  Religion,
politics, the environment, the world, all
came into focus and were loudly debated.
Then the group parted laughing into the night
under a super moon.

Have an-enjoying-a-great-group-of-people day.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Into the wood

 Our special corner
Acrylic on wood panel
5 x 5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

The people who work at the art store I go to are
all artists.  In the past year the store has started
carrying wood panels, and now it has them in a
wide range of sizes.  Many of the artists in the store
have told me these wooden panels are fun to paint
on.  But perhaps what tipped me over to trying the
wood was the gorgeous painting on wood Nicki Ault
submitted to International Women Celebrate.
I have always painted on canvas since I switched out of
watercolour and wasn't even tempted by the wood until
my last visit. The painting today is on one of these small wood
panels mounted on its own frame.  Super fun to paint on.
Timbah waits in the window -- he has spring fever

Inspired I came home and painted this little painting.
It is almost done (I know I say that a lot -- but it's in
recognition of my own racing brain, that may add to
it later). I invite you to settle into the corner -- smell
the flowers like my friend Raylea did when she
visited me last night, and relax.  Also notice how well
one of my large portraits would fit into your house.
Zoey is waiting for Steven (or me)
to take her for a walk -- sighing in her sleep

In honour of the weekend.  Sit down on a nice comfy
chair, open that book you've been saving, have a
cup of tea or a glass of wine and breathe.  Ahhhh.
That's more like it.

Have a loving-your-relaxing-time day.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Not painting is like not being in love

Kitchen dress up
(not quite finished)
12 x 16 inches
acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2011

First of all Happy St. Patrick's Day. 

Why paint?  Who me?  Yes I hear you asking
that question and I'm almost embarrassed to tell
you the answer.  To not paint, for me is like not
being in love.  I've had a boyfriend except for the
year I was 12 since I was three.  (Please don't
tell my children), and I started painting at four
(once again keep this to yourself.) As an exuberant
human (good therapy has helped me define that as
a good thing), I love people.  Can't help it.  I love
my husband, my family and most of the people
I meet in my daily life.  In that I am unusually
lucky and blessed.  And I love painting.

Painting people -- absolutely ideal: people + painting =
happy.  We all know the negative side of a love
relationship -- the quarrels, the misunderstandings,
the separations, but what about the delicious fulfillment
of being with someone who makes you laugh, sing,
dance and decide that life is one of the best gigs going?
That is why I love painting too.  It does all of those
things for me.

Forgive me now.  I have a date with a paint store.
Got to go get more canvas, more paint and continue
this passion of mine.  Thanks for sharing your passion
for this activity with me. And to Steven the source of
my joy, thank you too.  Now to all of you who keep
me focused on this wonderful art, thank you.


 P.S.  This blog post was inspired by the
 super TED video on Alyson Stanfield's 
artbizblog today, I am answering the
question posed there -- which is 'why do you do
what you do?'

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Gotcha -- What about women?


Flower play
Acrylic on watercolour paper
5 1/2 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

(Spoiler alert.  Fight me on this one.  I would
be thrilled to be proven wrong over and over

Okay I am a woman.  But from my biased
position as a woman I think it's odd that
art clubs are predominantly filled with women,
privately run art shows overflow with women.
Women are making oceans of wonderful
art -- and yet.  We are still not featured 50%
of the time in public galleries, or in the leading
private galleries.  In some ways the art world
hasn't changed since the days of our beloved
Michelangelo and Botticelli.  Where are the
women?  The Internet has been a major bonus
to our sex because we get recognition for the
work more readily.

However our art heroes (even among women) are
mostly men.  In part I know it's our fault.  I know
so many women who won't even put their work
in a show, for fear of rejection, or disrupting
their families, or competition with a mate.

But in part it's the art world for not seeing us,
for dubbing our work as "pretty, facile, trivial."
In other words female values "beauty, detail,
daily life" don't matter.  So in this I want to give
a big hand to Irish painter Róisín O'Farrell who
just sold out her London show, with work that
was beautiful, detailed, powerful, strong,
and decidedly female.  We need to know
that these tremendous successes are out there.
Both men and women benefit when we women
do well, are creative, get recognized and sell.

I remember a time when all the women in
corporations tried to look and sound like men
-- men's suits, guy talk, "at the end of the day."
"in the final analysis" "ensure and challenge."
They did it because the perception was that the
only "serious" business people were guys.  And I
also remember the shift when women started
wearing tastefully feminine clothes to work,
and talking like themselves.  In art we need to
make the same shift.

Yay for women!

 Have a-supporting-women's-art day

P.S.  I am not talking for myself here.  As a
portrait artist for the most part, I am
blessed with creating art that has a reliable market,
but I know many women who do not enjoy that reality.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The pull of the past

Sean's Garden
(work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
 ( I think I'll take a new shot of
this tomorrow.  It is much brighter in
real life. I added some highlights,
and shadows to Sean's garden today.  
Speaking of Sean, I hope he's 
coming back
to Toronto this summer.  He was
a wonderful gardener.)

I am constantly thinking about past painters and
going through art galleries staring.  Because I
live in the present day I am more deeply drawn
to the recent past -- in Canada specifically
The Group of Seven.

I used to teach an English writing class, that
let me take my students to the Art Gallery of Ontario
to the Canadian section.  I'd ask them to pick
out one painting, and then do an essay linking
to an essay we were reading about art, comparing
what the author said to how they felt about the
painter they were studying.

The evening we met at the gallery was so much
fun.  Most of my students had never visited a
gallery -- period, and the excitement of coming
downtown, the beauty of the gallery, the thrill of
picking a painting definitely got to them.
They had to write down which painting they had
chosen on a list.  Two people could not pick the
same painting (in theory), so there were often
strong pleas to be allowed to paint the same work
because it was so beautiful.  Please. please please.
Laura Muntz was a favorite with her Interesting Story
and the painting of the burning of Quebec City got
such a reaction that I once had to stop a girl from touching it.
 Interesting Story
Laura Muntz Lyall 1898
Oil on canvas
81.3 x 100.3 centimeters
Permanent Collection The Art Gallery of Ontario
Gift of the Government of the Province of Ontario
(born Radford, England 1860
Died Toronto, Ontario 1930)

But what a pleasure it was to see these young
people getting so excited about art.  We need more
of that.  We need people to bring young people into
galleries to see what's possible, what's been done,
to make the connection to the past.

 The Fire in the Saint-Jean Quarter, Seen Looking Westward
Joseph Légaré 1848
Oil on canvas 
151.1 x 220.3 cm
(born Quebec City 1795, died Quebec City 1855)
The Art Gallery of Ontario permanent collection
Purchase with the assistance of Wintario

Meanwhile, I am always thrilled when I go, stand too
close to the paintings and study what the artists were
doing.  I do wish more women artists were featured
in all of our major galleries.  But that's a topic for
another day.

Have a valuing-the-major-galleries-in-your-area day

Sunday, March 13, 2011

St. Patrick's Day early

 Piper in the Toronto St. Patrick's Day Parade
Black marker on bond paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

Our family is a  sucker for celebrations.
I know I've said this before but we go from
one holiday's decorations to the next from
Thanksgiving right through to Canada Day,
and then there's a short break before it all
starts again.  We are not really Irish, although
my ancestors lived there briefly.  They were actually
French who fled to Ireland because of political
difficulties.  But today we love the St. Patrick's
Day celebrations because they're fun.  We eat
something green, have green champagne and get together
to be jolly.  We give our family green candy
and treats, and everyone is happy.  What can
be wrong with that?  Nothing.  It's all good.
Oh.  We also always phone my mother who
knows the words to "When Irish eyes are smiling..."
and we sing that.
 Sam and Christopher in their St. Patrick's Day hats

We're celebrating early this year because Sam is
home from university for the weekend, and
won't be here on the day.  So that is it.

Have a loving-family-celebrations day.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Dreaming in grey

 The rain has come
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

It's been a good day here, if wet.  In fact it's been raining
for so long I don't remember when it wasn't raining.
It rained all last weekend and has been raining and
snowing all week.  I am a fairly cheerful person
(some people think ridiculously cheerful), but the
sorrows of the world do get to me.  Yesterday
we watched the news about Japan on the big screen
at school.  To watch that wave come up and destroy
everything in its path was devastating.  There was no
escape.  And people all over the world are fighting with
their lives for their freedom.  I dreamt this picture when
I went to sleep last night.  Years ago I used to paint in
red and green, but I saw it against a grey background.
Then I wanted rain because rain is a fact here.  Rain
and more rain.  The girl in my picture is resolute.  She
will come through the rain and into the light.  I wish
the same for the parts of the world affected by sorrowful
events and war. 

Have a taking-care-of-your-family-and-neighbours day.

Friday, March 11, 2011

More pictures from Ayr

 Nicki Ault took this shot of me with 
and Water Image #1, which I brought to Ayr to 
 show her because she'd wanted to come to 
my studio, but didn't have enough time.

A  week ago I was a guest of Joyce Fournier, Studio Vogue
Gallery's Director at the The Artist Project Opening night
party and saw 200 artists in their booths displaying a fantastic
variety of art.  Joyce is predominantly known as a figurative artist.
She featured both superb portraits and exuberant floral still life
work in her booth. Then the next day we drove to Ayr for the
International Women Celebrate show to meet the wonderful
women in the show. I felt such a connection with the other artists
and was thrilled to meet them. I'm  sorry I didn't get to meet more
of the 107 people in the show, but I did meet and enjoyed talking
to quite a few.
 The blogger friends meet one another in Ayr -- so much fun.

One of the bloggers who I have become friends with over more
than a year of commenting on one another's blogs, is Nicki
Ault from Saskatoon.  Nicki got a lot of well deserved media
attention for her beautiful piece in the show, and was on TV,
in the paper, and featured in another online International Show.
 Nicki Ault, with her self-portrait called
In My Aura Ayrspace, in Ayr Ontario
Acrylic and oil and collage on board
24 x 24 inches
Nicki Ault © 2011

Nicki sent me these photos of the event taken from her camera
(I'm sorry I don't know who took the shots), and said I could
share them with you. 

Nicki took this shot of my painting
Ready for Joy as it was
displayed at Ayrspace with my fellow artists

So all in all it was a major art weekend, as I saw the work of
more than 300 artists.  A big shout out to the women
who took part in the International Women Celebrate
show, and to Nicki Ault for sharing these wonderful
photos with me, and now with you.

Have a loving-your-friends-and-being-glad-you-do day.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

An art border collie

Love the dog on the mat
Black marker on bond paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

I met a woman in my supermarket last weekend
who called herself a border collie.  She works
in customer service in a huge superstore, and
was alone in a booth with probably 100 bins
filled with returned merchandise, sorting it out.
I had bought a pair of shoes for $9.99 (down
from $69) and three pairs of glasses for $15 and
they would not ring through.  In about 15 seconds
the customer service expert rifled through the bins,
found similar items, rung them up, then smiled --
I was on my way. But she described herself as a
border collie, someone who likes to get people moving.

I think I'm my own border collie for art.  I run
around myself, herding myself until I get into
the studio.  I give myself a good hard stare in the
mirror if I am not at it for at least part of every
day.  My dog is part border collie so I've seen that
stare on her face many times.  When the cats snarl
at one another, she is on it immediately, returning
order - the Nana from Peter Pan in our house.

Who is the art border collie in your life?

Have a getting-that-art-person-into-the-studio day.
P.S.  I felt incredibly lucky after writing this to turn on
the radio in the studio and come across an Ideas
program on CBC all about how dogs think, called
Dogs Themselves. I don't think I'd agree with all of
their findings, but it was interesting, and to honour all of that I did
a drawing of Zoey, my dog.  She looks much
heftier here than she is in real life.  That girl is sleek.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wednesday is crunch day

The Cake House (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
14 x  18 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
Wednesday is a long, long day -- made longer
by the strange weather at the end of it. Freezing
rain and snow.  I am lucky to be able to come home
after this day (safely) and to settle down to paint
listening to great radio shows on CBC radio.
Tonight I painted on my "cake house" painting.
I've been trying to move it to a slightly more
abstract mode, but it is resisting me.  Still what
fun.  I love painting houses (and still life, and
portraits and landscape).  I just love painting.

I tried to keep this a bit more muted because it's
about one of those gloomy/bright winter days.
Tomorrow I'll give the house a bit more depth
maybe, and then expand the trees in front of it.
I may even put in the quirky fence.  The house
sprung up just behind our local park.  There's a
beautiful section that runs through a hilly wood.
Left alone the woods block out the view of the
houses backing onto the park.  But it seems
like the owners of this house have cleared some
of the trees away while they were building.  The
up side of that is that I could get a great view of
the house.

Meanwhile I am working on some other paintings
that can't go public just yet. The more I look
at the cake house, the more I imagine a house with
large rooms with a studio that could accommodate
massive paintings.  Now that would be nice!

Have a dreaming-of-a-wonderful-life day.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Doing nothing -- and don't knock happiness

The Cake House (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
14 x  18 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(*Note:  I wrote the blog earlier today, then came
upon this image and wanted to paint it.  We were
walking in our park and I noticed that a house seemed
to have sprung up over night.  It's a big house, and in
real life has a kind of construction fence around it.  But
with snow decorating it, it looks like a big cake.  So here's
the connection.  I'm not a very symbolic painter, but
let the cake be for International Women's Day.  Let the house
represent shelter and safety for all people, let its luxurious
size represent peace and bounty for all people.  That's a lot
to put on this one little painting.  So in the end let's just let
it be a cake house.  We'll see what happens.)

Today is the first day since maybe  November when I have
actually got nothing scheduled.  And I am probably wrong.
But it feels true right now.  I woke up and thought, "I
have no appointments (that I know of).  I have nothing to do!"
I felt incredibly jubilant and went to get a coffee.  Of course
the list of what I really have to do is interminable, but I gave
myself a mental break.

Reading the paper there's an interview with a woman knocking
the current desire to stay young when in fact you're not.  She
is slamming the whole concept of staying fit and eating right
as an aid to growing old gracefully.  Okay.  As a writer I know
that this is a writer's trick.  You can research and find evidence
to back up any theory. And a book going against a trend is always
going to provoke controversy.  But I prefer the anecdotal.  The people
I know, including close relatives, who have followed the stay
fit and eat well formula are living fairly great, vigorous older lives.

I'll add one though -- staying happy.  Another journalist did
a book about how bogus the positive thinking idea was.

Is it?  I don't think so.  I think happiness is one of the important
goals in life. So I believe if we do our best to stay fit and to stay happy
we may have a shot at enjoying life now, and when we're older.
I have had hardship in my life.  I had a near fatal illness 10 years ago.
Very close family members have been ill.  Both friends and family have died.
But I think happiness after grief has diminished is both a choice, and
a job.  Take today.  My desk is piled with papers.  My iCal has sent
me five messages, my mail inbox needs attention, I have painting
work to do.  But what's at the core of this activity and this life?
Me.  If I don't take care of me, I will be...not.  So every now and
then I tell myself a slightly distorted story, and say I have nothing
to do.

Am I crazy?  No I am probably one of the sanest people you know.  And
for the next half hour I'm sticking to my story and reading my book.
Then I'll contradict myself, make my list and get on with it.

But for now.  Nothing, nothing, nothing.

Have a doing-absolutely-nothing day.
P.S. Happy International Women's Day.  Thanks to all the women
who are showing in the International Women Celebrate show that
has its gala opening today.  More than one of the women in the
show painted a work about taking time to relax.  I am following
their cues.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Catching the last of winter

Winter Walk (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
14 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(Adding finishing details)

I was hoping to post more pictures of the artists'
day in Ayr, but the images on our larger camera
are all blurry.  The smaller one we used is on
loan, so I may have more for you later in the week.

Meanwhile, there's a certain poignant feeling to
this end of winter.  As much as those of us in this
part of the country are sick of cold and snow,
we also have brilliant crisp sunny days with very
little pollution -- and those make me think.  What
if I actually missed winter?  Crazy as it sounds I
am sorry at this time of year to know the season
is almost over.

I started this little painting a few days ago, and have
been working on catching the brilliant colour you see
when you go for a walk on even a dull winter day.
The new snow combined with a vibrant undercurrent
of trees and bushes getting ready for spring, always
surprises and delights me. 

Have a noticing-the-beauty-of-winter day.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Quite the incredible day!

 Me with Nicki Ault who came all the way from Saskatoon.

With a day to think about all that took place in the
artists' celebration party for the International Women
Celebrate show, I feel so moved by the experience.
Jill Yuzwa, the Ayrspace gallery director is an incredibly
generous and gracious host.  Not long after we arrived
the went around the large gallery space introducing each
attending artist and her art.  Each woman stood next to her
painting and described her motivation.  There were so many
wonderful stories stemming from each woman's interpretation
of the event.  Some were sad, honouring mothers and friends
who were now gone, many were joyful expressions of women's
desire to be free, some were political about the oppression
women still face in parts of the world, and some were intensely
personal about lost relationships, or about wanting to inspire
a daughter to be strong and happy.

These stories also captured in the book designed by Jeanette
Vermeyden-Obbink set the stage for an evening of discussion.
I was extremely happy to meet women from all different
parts of the country, and to sign each other's books.  But the
sweetest part of the evening, in an event packed with notable
memories, was sitting with my blog friends and just revelling
in the excitement, happiness, humour we shared at meeting one
another.  It was so delightful to realize that everything I'd always
thought would happen if blogging friends got together -- did.
We hugged and laughed and talked.  Our comments on each
other's blogs, our knowledge of each other's work made the
connections in person, instant and meaningful.
At the end of the night Marcia Labelle, Jill Yuzwa and me 
getting ready to say goodbye after a great day.

Three cheers for the blog world, for Jill Yuzwa again. And to
all the women in the show thank you.  I could sit and stare at
your work for hours and hours.   Absolutely inspiring!

Have a meeting-the-people-you-admire day.

P.S.  There will be more pictures tomorrow.  My camera
work was not too great, I think I was too excited.
So I'll get some shots from Steven's camera, and show
you more of the people.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ayr was great -- More tomorrow


 The green is returning
Acrylic on paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

Hi we got back from Ayr quite late, so I'll have
to save my description and photos until tomorrow.
It was a wonderful day and evening, and I met
so many great women, and had amazing talks.

Thanks to Jill Yuzwa, Kim Rempel and Jeanette
Vermeyden-Obbink for organizing International
Women Celebrate -- a super event, and
to all of the 100 plus women for a superb show.
It opens officially on March 9th, and is well
worth the drive to Ayr.

My painting today describes the awesome sunsets
we've been getting, the snow that doesn't seem to
want to go away, and the grass and greenery coming
back.  On the way to Ayr today most of the snow was
melting.  When we got home we watched a movie,
and when we looked out the window again there
were six inches of snow on the ground!  Come on
winter.  Let my people go!

Have a-getting-ready-for-spring day.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hold the formal, get out your sweaters, jeans and rubber boots!

Hi everyone.  I am going to take part in the
International Women Celebrate show opening
on International Women's Day, March 8th.  But
tomorrow the artists have a day to themselves
to meet and talk about whatever strikes their
fancy.  Many of us who comment on one another's
blogs will be meeting for the first time and
I am so excited about that.

As a  sort of zany tribute to this event, I got
the idea to do a comical video hello, emphasizing
how ridiculously cold it is here.  Weather in
this part of the world is not at its best...yet.
So although my humour in the video is about
partying in the middle of freezing weather and
snow, it is actually a bit milder and raining.

Ayr is a beautiful small town. But I anticipate
that when a group of women artist/bloggers
meet it will be both incredibly fun and exciting,
and heavy on information sharing, the hows
and what to dos of making art, showing in
galleries and blogging.  These are huge topics
and every single one of us must care about that.

That's why my little video that I'm going to attempt to
post today is funny because I will not be wearing
a semi-formal tomorrow.  I will not in all probability be
outside at all, and I will be loving every minute of
my time with the amazing women I'll be meeting.

Have an enjoying-meeting-new-people day

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Aren't we lucky?

View of Toronto and the CN Tower from the south facing 
lookout at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Yesterday was a learning day for me.  I went to the
Art Gallery of Ontario to meet a fellow artist,
and we  took in the Paterson Ewen and
David Blackwood exhibits.  Mid-afternoon on
a Wednesday was a great time to be there,
and people were easy going and friendly.  A
woman in the Paterson Ewen exhibit turned to
me with a big smile on her face and said, "Aren't
we lucky? Of course I answered, "Yes we certainly
are!"  There was so much meaning in her question.
Winter Walk (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
14 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(Blocking in the light areas)

I'm sure she'd seen me laughing with my friend
over tea in the member's lounge, but it seemed
like more than that.  We were lucky to be seeing
this magnificent exhibition in a beautiful gallery.
We were lucky to love art, we were lucky to live
in a peaceful country like Canada, we were just
lucky to be alive and to agree that we were lucky.

I felt so moved by her question that I wanted to
ask her her name so I could quote her here.  But
I immediately realized that her name wasn't
important.  It was her message and impulse
to share with me in that moment that mattered.

Winter Walk (work in progress)
Stage one 
Acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2011
(I started with a blue over black ground,
then drew a rough drawing of the scene
on in yellow watercolour crayon.)

Today has been a non-stop wonder from start to finish,
but I'll tell you more about that tomorrow.  Right now
it's very late and I have been running all day.  Until

 Have a meeting-the-most-wonderful-people-in-the-world day.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Totally Missed it! Three years plus of blogging...

In the midnight sun (work in progress)
(Stage Four refining colour)
Acrylic on canvas
14 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
The third anniversary of my blogging life was February 18,
2011.  I started writing to you and posting my work on
February 18, 2008.  Sooooooooooo much has happened since
that momentous date.  In some ways it feels as though my
entire art life began with that first tentative blog.  But of course
that's not true.  I had definitely spent the magical 10,000 hours
working on being an artist before that date.  But wow has my
world expanded since then.

Thanks once again to Norene Smiley for having a show blog that
inspired me to want to respond and to Flora Doehler for putting
the idea into my head about seven months before I was at all
ready to get involved in blogging.  She must have a good chuckle
every time she reads my blog thinking about how heartily
resistant I was to the whole idea back then.  More than anything
what has propelled me to keep going whether I'm tired, or busy,
or in another country, or overwhelmed has been the incredible
people I've met through blogging and the other superb artists and
art blogs I see every day.

By now the list of people I admire and would really love to meet
has grown so long that it would be crazy to attempt to write all
of the names here.  My blog has crashed, or run into computer
glitches a couple of times and I've lost names off my blog list.
I promise that sometime soon when I'm not running absolutely full tilt
I will fix that up.  I have made some strong, deep and meaningful
friendships through the blog. Thank you.

This weekend I will get to meet some of the wonderful women
artist bloggers whose work I admire at the artists days for
the International Women Celebrate show.  How incredibly exciting.
Meanwhile these have been three fabulous years -- three earth
shaking, joyous, transformative, poignant, happy, hard,
gob smackingly wild and wonderful years.  Thank you for being
with me on the ride of a lifetime.  With an open heart, open eyes,
and fierce dreams I look forward to the next three years in
this blog project.  So much fun!!!  (You can laugh now Flora!)

Have an okay-so-I-used-to-resist-change-but-all-that's-changing day.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Painting a pink cowboy

 Pink Cowboy
16 x 16 inches
Acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2011

My background today was a deep pink.  I
covered the canvas and headed out to see my
art group hoping the model tonight would
be someone I could paint on pink.  The model
is a handsome young man, who was posing with
a big cowboy hat on his knee.  I immediately
thought pink cowboy.  His expression was
serious, and I as I painted, I imagined his
story.  "Maybe he's in a bar, or working
the rodeo circuit," I thought.

Our model had his own ideas, and brought
his own music -- something I've never witnessed
before in our group.  It wasn't bar music, but
it was quite unique, and I loved painting him in
what felt like an envelope of sight and sound
that he was creating.

Voila the portrait for today.

Have an enjoying-your-happy-day 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!