Friday, July 29, 2011

Wonderful painter friends

Mary (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

This is a big day here in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, because
my friend, Norene Smiley is having a opening tonight
and along with other artists from the area will be showing
 her fabulous new large portraits done on sheets of plastic.
I can’t wait to see them hanging in the Tatamagouche
Community Center, as she let me into her studio the other
 day to see the works in progress. They are so exciting and inspiring. 

My artist friend Gill Cameron and I are having a show together
 in Toronto at Studio Vogue this November, and in
September Gill is hosting an evening (location to be announced)
 to raise funds for two little girls in Africa who are orphans.  Gill
met the girls when she volunteered for three months last winter at
the orphanage/school in Tanzania where the girls live now – Peace
 Matunda.  But when they graduate from the school if there is no
money for high school they will lose both their current home
at the orphanage (which is just for public school age children),
and will not be able to continue their schooling. 

I am painting two large portraits for the fund raising event, 
and one third of the price of the portraits will go to helping pay for
 the girls’ high school education.  Today I started a small version
of the larger painting I’ll do back in Toronto.  So this is the
under painting for a little portrait of Mary.   

I’ll show you more as I progress.

Have a loving-your-artist-friends day.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Flowers everywhere

Nova Scotia Lupins (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(Flowers really are everywhere here.  Wild
roses and wild hydrangea bloom around the
school house and across the street.  Bright orange
day lilies flare

The other day we walked up the road from our little schoolhouse
 and Steven climbed down into the deep ditch to pick some lupins
for me.   Normally the lupins are finished at the end of June, so this
was a great treat to bring home a bunch.  I put them in a lovely blue
glass jar I bought from a woman who used to run a health food
 store in the house next to us on the highway.  And then of course
I started this painting.  It isn’t quite done, but I thought you might like
to see the painting in progress.  I started with a magenta ground
 because some of the lupins have a very bright pink look. 

We’re heading out in search of a sheep farm in a nearby town, that
 has a lovely shop in its farmhouse.  You can go out to the barn alone
and talk to the lambs, which we always do.  “Dogs are baaaaad, sheep
 are good” (Remember this from the movie Babe?”  Well
the sheep love that line, and can’t hear it enough times, cliché or no.

Have an exploring where you are day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Bats, bears and deers

Heading Home with the light sabers
Watercolour on watercolour paper with black marker
9 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(After being on the beach this cute little
boy was still playing with the sticks
he called his light sabers.  I love
seeing brilliant imaginations at work.)

We do run into wildlife in the city – that’s why there’s
A radio on the garage full time and there has been for the
 past month.  Once we spotted a coyote in the park,
and apparently coyotes have killed small dogs and cats
north of the city.  But citings of some animals are
rare indeed in Toronto.

In Ottawa my mother lives on the edge of the greenbelt and
is visited regularly by deer who eat whatever vegetables she
doesn’t manage to protect.  On the way
to Quebec City a deer ran out in front of our car, and
luckily we missed it. 

Out here in Nova Scotia a huge black bear ran across the
road not too far from here.  But one of the creatures we
frequently have to cope with is the lowly bat.  You don’t want
 to kill bats if they aren’t pestering you, which they don’t.
  Because near the tidal river we live next to mosquitoes can be a
major nuisance in the summer and bats consider those insects
 to be fine dining.  But discovering them inside the shutters
when we first arrive, or worse making themselves at home
 in the ceiling above out bed – that is something we have to
 handle each year when we first arrive. 

As I write this a crow is telling me it’s a good day for the beach.

Have an enjoying the wildlife in your life day.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Down to the shore -- so much to see and do

Down to the shore
Watercolour on watercolour paper with black marker
9 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(I couldn't help noticing these heavily laden women
heading down to the beach for a picnic as I was 
leaving yesterday -- it's a familiar sight.)
Yesterday Steven and I took a long walk on the beach
collecting shells, rocks and pieces of glass.  This always
reminds me of when I was a child at the summer
cottage my parents rented -- how my little brother and I
used to collect acorns.  We used to pull our collections about in the
shallow water in beautiful little toy rowboats someone had
given us. 

Well now Steven and I give each other the collections we
make and laugh as we do.  I always feel that shopping is
redundant here where so many beautiful things are free.

Have an-enjoying-the-earth's bounty day.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A cup of tea -- then down to the sea!

 Tea in the member's lounge
Watercolour on watercolour paper
9 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
Today we're sitting in the Chatterbox café -- the only place we can
get High speed Internet.  So if the posts are few and far between
I hope you'll forgive me.  On the other hand the place is so delightful
and the tea in a generous white pot so glorious -- you may hear from
me quite often.

My painting today is a watercolour of a scene in the member's café
at the AGO.  Some of my friends find the place too spare, but
Steven and I love that place.  Ever since I saw this scene of the
table after lunch with tea and glasses of water, I wanted to give it
a whirl. Here it is.
Seagull feather at North Shore park
Wild roses at the shore
Plus I'm adding some photos that evoke this place for me.

Have a super day tomorrow.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Where I want to be

Self portrait in a Quebec hotel
watercolour and black ink on watercolour paper
10 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

Our heart's second home is in Nova Scotia in a little
school house without running water and outdoor bathroom
facility (outhouse).  It is in essence a very beautifully built,
100 year old wooden tent near Pugwash, Nova Scotia.
We've been travelling for four days and here we are
having an anniversary lunch in the Chatterbox Café --
celebrating our first date (we've been together ever since),
and making it here safely.  We drove through pretty
awesome rain from Quebec City to Fredericton, and
then again from Fredericton to Pugwash.

I've been trying to keep painting -- at the end of a long
day of travelling, I settle down for a few minutes to
get something down.  I saw an exhibit in Fredericton
yesterday at the Beaverbrook art gallery of sketches
by Herzl Katshetsky -- some fabulous, some just
a jotting down.  Mine today are like the notes
you take to write a story.  Except that this is the
story, and they are the punctuation in the tale
of two happy hard working Torontonians escaping
to Eastern Canada.  What a joyous thing to do.  We
got out just as Toronto hit its highest record
temperatures making it more like what our friends
in Tucson live with every day in the hotter months.
It's been so cool here today I had to wear my coat
and needed a sweater down at the shore.

Paula's Flowers
Watercolour and coloured markers on watercolour paper
14 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(My friend Paula puts flowers out for
me so we'll arrive and feel
More images tomorrow.  I am going to try and keep
going every day.  We'll see.  I won't be upset if I
don't succeed.  Folks like us need a break from time
to time.  Big time.  Last night we sat rocking in the
very ugly garage sale rockers we bought for five
bucks each one Saturday, looked around the big,
virtually empty school house, and smiled huge grins
of absolute contentment.   We are home away
from home.

Have a loving-your-time-off day.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Art in the family

At the studio, Christopher takes set up shots of Sam to see what he's
working with.

Last weekend we had the pleasure of watching our sons
at work.  Art continues to flourish in the next generation.
My son Christopher is an amazing, award winning photographer.
And Sam is an acting student at the University of Windsor.
This year Sam needs head shots, so of course he went to
his brother.
Sam chooses his images

I'm on the road now taking a bit of a holiday, and naturally
I miss my guys.  But today I'm showing you pictures from the photo
shoot.  A make up artist did Sam's make up and Christopher
helped him choose a wardrobe for the shots.  We have high
hopes that Sam (named after Sam Shepard) will have a
glorious career in acting, if that's what he wants to do.  Both
his brother and his cousin are into film, his cousin may even
show a film at TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival)
next year.
Christopher works with Sam to edit their choices.  

After the shoot Sam went through his pictures, and then Christopher
and Sam picked the shots that will represent Sam in his final
year productions.  Pretty exciting for the Mom and Dad -- me
and Steven.

Have a being-delighted-with-your-family day.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The beautiful apples, and the happy lake view

At Lake Muskoka 9
(work in process)
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches (3 x 4 feet)
Barbara Muir © 2011

I am a complete sucker for my own fruit trees.
Foolish really because they are too big (much)
for my tiny city lot.  Tonight we  tried to take
more apples out of the tree, and to plant some
replacements for the flowers the apples have
hit.  So Steven plugged in the lights he put in at
Christmas, and wow that was a gorgeous
effect with the full summer leaves and fruit.
 Night lights in the apple tree

Tonight I'm showing you the full version of my
painting At Lake Muskoka.  There may still be
minor changes, so I'm keeping the Work in
Process status, but it is a close as close can
be to finished, and just looking at it here makes
me feel filled with joy.

By the way I heard  Julian Schnabel talking the
other day about why he paints.  And he says he
does it for the joy of the act.  I think that helps
me justify my Pollyanna attitude to life.  Well
this painting has been a joy from start to finish,
and a lot of cookies were consumed .
So both of us were happy with the process I do
believe.  The sitter and me.  And that is a wonderful
way to work.

Have an enjoying-the-heat-of-summer day.
P.S.  I have to force myself to calm down at the
end of a portrait.  And as I'm closing in on this
one it qualifies.  So I made applesauce last night
and finished at two in the morning!  That's right.
Late night applesauce.  But that's another painting
some day.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Close up of the Lake view

At Lake Muskoka
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir  2011

For the past few weeks I've been working on
a portrait of a friend's husband.  My routine
with a commission is pretty straight forward.
The sitter comes to my house in whatever clothes they
will be painted in,  we have cookies (by
request), and a drink -- coffee, tea, or a
soft drink, sit in the kitchen, talk about everything.
Then we go into the studio where the sitter poses while I paint
for 10 - 12 minutes.  The timer goes off, and we
head back to the kitchen.  I time the sitting, but
not the breaks, because I learn so much in the
breaks.  And of course while we're talking,
I am studying the sitter, noticing how the nose
looks, his eyes, and what happens when he smiles.
When it seems right we go back and the sitter poses for
another 10 - 12 minutes and so on.

This subject is a sweetheart of a man, well
loved by his wife, and incredibly co-operative
about posing for me.  We are almost finished the
painting process.  But for today I'll show you a
close up of his face.

Have a working-away-happily day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Hurry! Buy a lottery ticket!


 Apples on a fancy dish
watercolour on Arches 
watercolour paper
with black marker
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
I was going to publish something quite different
tonight, but I will perhaps be more serious tomorrow.
Meanwhile, why should you get a lottery ticket?  No.
Why should you run, or race to your nearest lottery
outlet?  I'll tell you.  My apple tree, which normally
produces about enough apples for one pie, or maybe
8 - 10 apples, is heavily laden with fruit this year.
The whole world has gone topsy-turvy in the fruit-in-
the-backyard world.  We had no cherries, and usually
are begging neighbours to come and pick them, and
the apple tree, is dropping apples on the entire yard.
The poppies don't stand a chance.

But how incredibly lovely.  They are cooking apples,
and tonight I produced a batch (small -- the apples
are organic, which means a lot of cutting out of not
great bits) of applesauce, and had a bowl of it before
I rushed up here to tell you. 

So get your ticket.  Now if possible.

The painting today is a little watercolour I did in 2009.

It is of our tiny apples when they're green.  Usually we
get a nice bowl of  huge yellow apples, but as I said this year
...I know it's hot.  But jump in the car, or get on your bike.
Go get your ticket.

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

Monday, July 11, 2011

Why it matters

 At the party
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches (3 x 4 feet)
Barbara Muir © 2011
There are a million reasons to commission a
portrait.  I know some of them from the paintings
I've done over the years -- but one of the most moving
jobs is to paint a commission based on nostalgia.
Some people want to capture their children as
they are, or a moment in time when their parents
were young.  What I've begun to realize is that even
when they start out for a formal reason, all portraits
end up being emotional and sentimental.  I think
my youngest likes living in a room covered in
portraits of himself at different stages in his life.
Whether they were quick sketches or longer studies,
bits of his life are there in a much more powerful
way than a snapshot can convey.

Edward B. Gordon posted a moving portrait on his
blog today of the actress Maria Kwiatkowsky. She
died on July 4th, at 26 years old.  Edward did a
series of small portraits of her for his blog and he
made her live for his readers.

I am posting the full painting of my At the party
today, which captures the joyous feeling of a loving
family out for a special evening.  The painting
conveys a moment in time that is already history
because the young women are growing up, and have
changed of course. I'm glad that in the painting they are
happy and enjoying their family.  I wish them a lifetime
of happiness.

Have a creating-joyous-and-meaningful-work day.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The final piece of the puzzle

At the party (detail)
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

Here's the last portrait detail from the family of
four I've been showing you.  I'm really happy with
the painting and I'll show you the whole result
tomorrow.  Next month I'll borrow the painting from
the client so I can photograph it properly both for
the blog and my portfolio.

We went to see Midnight in Paris yesterday, a romantic
and nostalgic Woody Allen show.  Like most of what
happened yesterday -- a day of long wait times, and
incredible surprises my trip to the movies was unusual.
Steven and I set out to see the new movie Horrible
Bosses.  Most of my bosses have been wonderful, but
the horrible bosses can stand out in your mind.  Once
I went on vacation leaving my job as Assistant Editor
on an art magazine for four weeks, and came back to
find that my job had been given away, and I was now
in ad sales.  Ad sales was a fraught position, because
the low budget magazine was always at least a month
late, and ads for art exhibitions really care that they
are out before the show.  Fussy I know but true.  I left
the magazine as quickly as my finances would allow, and
have been a bona fide freelancer ever since.  Ultimately I am
grateful to my quite horrible boss for everything I learned
on the job, and for pulling the rug out from under me so
I had to make my own, much more beautiful rug on my

So I would love to see the movie Horrible Bosses, but
when we walked into the theatre it was standing room
only.  That was not for us, so we ducked across
the hall and ended up in Midnight in Paris -- a very
happy and delightful accident.

The girl in the painting today is Danielle, who is also
a dancer, and is studying art at the Ontario College of
Art and Design.  It is clear from my portrait that she
is a happy, confident and beautiful young woman. I
so enjoyed meeting her and working on this portrait.

Have a working-for-wonderful-bosses day.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A beautiful woman and a busy day

 At the party (detail)
Acrylic on canvas with gold and silver leaf
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
This has been a long day running around
helping a friend who is looking for a car.
Now that is a hard job.  My friend has probably
been to at least 6 car dealers in the past
week, and I've gone along for the ride and for
moral support.  Whew!

After leasing a number of cars myself I am
starting to know some of the ins and outs of what
happens.  But here's a tip for the car industry.
Tell the truth wherever possible and be nice.
Ultimately my friend bought a car from the nicest,
kindest, most direct and honest dealers.  The dealership
wasn't convenient, the car wasn't even in the running
before a day of looking around.  In other words,
polite, but not pushy helpfulness (along with good
design and affordability) won the day.

So. Triumph. My friend is getting a reasonably
priced, good and comfortable car, and I can
go back to painting, although I did get some
drawings done today during various long waits.

The painting tonight is a detail from the large
family portrait I'm showing you person by person
with a grand finale in two more days.  Sabine,
the mother of the family, is an elegant and beautiful
woman who manages a demanding and successful
business, and takes care of her family.  She
seems to do so effortlessly, and with style and
good spirits.  It was a pleasure painting her.
Her sequined dress has real silver leaf accents,
and I used 24 karat gold leaf on her rings,
and watch and her husband's ring.

Have a being-a-good-friend day.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Mirror Neurons, the happiness factor and next person in the portrait

 At the party (detail Jochen)
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(I do need to get better
photos of this painting, and
will in the next month or so.)

Did you know there's a reason not to be negative and
angry for trivial reasons.  Your nasty moods can
spread through an observer's mirror neurons.
What are they?  According to the article Why
I feel your pain: secondhand stress and how it spreads
by Mark Fenske in the Globe and Mail yesterday they
are neurons in our brains that react or "mirror" the
emotional signals put out by others.  So if you are
happy, sunny, cheerful, singing, loving -- others may
unwillingly "catch" that mood and be forced to go through
their day smiling,whistling, dancing, singing, and just
generally acting silly and happy.  Hmmm.  I don't know
about you, but if I am choosing who to mirror
it's going to be the happy people.

That's why I like the happy smile on the second
portrait in the large portrait At the party, which
went home yesterday.

Jochen, the father in the family, is an expert with
horses, and started the Saddlery business he and
his wife run, after noticing that poorly made saddles
can hurt a horse's performance in competitions.
He has a wonderful twinkle in his eye, and a joyous
smile that lets you know he loves his family, his work,
and loves life.

Have a mirroring-good-moods-day.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The big portrait goes home -- left to right -- Sam

 At the party (detail -- Sam)
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011

Painting a family of parents working 24/7 and
grown children involved in university is a hard
call.  The problem?  Time.  Coordinating four
people is next to impossible.  But that's where
the artist comes in.  Working with the sitters we
have the great good fortune of making the impossible,
possible, and I was overjoyed today when my client
came to pick up At the Party, hugged me, and
took it to its new home.

I've decided to show the people to you one by one,
and then the whole picture like the grand finale
at the fireworks display we watched on Canada Day,
last Friday.  The first person on the left of the
painting is Sam.  She is studying dance.
Sam patiently sat on the arm of my studio chair to
recapture the feeling of our original shots taken at
her home north of the city, and recreate the pose.

I enjoyed talking to her so much.  She has a wry sense
of humour and the grace that comes from being a dancer.

Have a finishing-your-projects-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!