Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leap Day

 Tree by the water # 2
(work in progress)
Watercolour and black marker on
Canson watercolour paper
9 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
Leap day was strange -- we did get snow -- and by the time
I finished typing emails, drinking coffee, taking phone calls
and cleaning up to start work it looked like a daytime version
 of last night's snowy photo.  Today I'm posting a work in
progress.  It's a colour version of the trees by the lake we saw
the Family Day holiday a week ago Monday.
I hope to either resolve it tomorrow, start over, or move on.
 But for now just think of it as a clear contrast to the moody black
and white version.  The scene was awesomely colourful, but
that colour is going to take a little more work.

A great cartoon in the Globe and Mail today showed a couple
in the marriage therapist's office staring glum faced at the therapist.
The therapist asks, "which would you rather be
right, or funny?"  My friend Jo-Ann and I could not stop
laughing after reading that.  In my family funny wins every time.
I can't find the cartoon online, but if I do, I'll put in a link. 

Have an enjoying-your-colourful-world day.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Yes it is and a tribute to my Dad

 Night image of the backyard one year ago today
Steven van Schaik © 2011

Shaky middle of the night picture of the backyard taken 
by me minutes ago. See a picture says it all
(*Note -- the tree on the right of the picture
that looks like a Christmas tree -- is in both
pictures -- not the same one -- we put the tree
in the garden until the spring every year, because
Fraser firs stay green for a long time.)
Barbara Muir © 2012

My husband Steven jokes as he heads off to bed,
"so you have to write another 500 words tonight eh?"
Do I?  I don't have to but I can.  Today would have
been my father's birthday if he were alive.  I think
about how lucky he was to be born on the day before
a possible leap year.  And I think about missing
him.  I think about him all day on his birthday -- not
that as a grown man he was into having major parties
for his birthday.  I always remember going to the
convenience store when I was about seven in Ottawa,
 and buying him a pen.  My father was very fussy about
 his equipment.  He liked really good brand name pens,
and my gift was not that, but he opened the present and said,
 "Thanks a lot Bibby!" (his nickname for me).

My father was a writer -- an excellent one.  God
knows what he'd think of this blog business, and
trying to produce art every day.  He was a photographer,
and a painter too.  I was thinking of him driving home
from my art club tonight, because one of my favorite
friends from the club is very ill.  Another club member,
a terrific artist, who always made me feel happy when
 things were hard died this year, and I miss her too.  I don't want
to fall into a swamp of sadness, but I feel the loss of
my dear friend who can't come to the club anymore
so keenly.  I always thought that although my father
was gone, I knew so many kind, fatherly men in
my community, that I had a sense of being with
the people who represented the best of what my father
valued -- kindness, a sense of humour and good manners.

My father was a painter, but I've only realized
recently just how shy he must have been.  It's amazing
to me that he never joined a photography or painting
club, or took any classes in the subjects he was
passionate about, or exhibited his work.

That seems like such a shame, because I know
he would have enjoyed knowing how much people
loved his paintings and powerful black and white
photographs.  I wish I could tell him that our oldest
son is in Vancouver right now on a trip taking
photographs of athletes -- that his grandson says
he got his photography chops from his Poppa (the
name he uses for his grandfather -- my dad).

Tonight I'm showing you a picture of our backyard thatSteven took at night last year on this date. It's a far
cry from this snowless winter (my blurry shot).
Snow is predicted for one day this week, but it will
disappear quickly.  In Toronto global warming is real.
The tulips are coming up in my garden and it's still February.
 I saw a Magnolia tree filled with buds today.  Not good.
One of my father's later paintings
He was bolder and braver about going 
abstract than I am.  I don't have an actual
title, but I'll name it for my Dad.
Study in yellow and orange on green
oil on board
36 x 24 inches
Wallace Muir ©
I just realized that we haven't even eaten the last
package of frozen peaches that we saved for the
depths of the February blahs -- which never happened
because it was a lovely month.  Woo Hoo!  So I
guess it will be peaches for supper tomorrow, and
I'll think of my father who was partial to fresh peaches
and vanilla ice-cream in season.

Now that is a perfect illustration of the power of words
to take us out of life's unavoidable sadness and lift us up.
I can see my father's face smiling when I say that.  And
 I know he'd like that conclusion, because
the last time I saw him as he was lying dying he was
chuckling to himself about something he was seeing
no doubt because of the strong pain killers, but all the
same -- that is my final image of the living man.  He
died with grace.

And thank you Daddy, and my dear friends for carrying
me way beyond the 500 words.  Well folks that's your
thousand words, and your pictures. 

Have a loving-the-fathers-and-fatherly-figures-in-your-life day.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Is it?

Tree by the water
Watercolour on Canson watercolour paper
9 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
(In grey scale the tree looks haunting, so
I must do it again in colour so that you can
get a different feeling.)
They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  (The
origin of the phrase is hotly debated). So I
thought I'd try to write a thousand words on the
subject.  I was watching a wonderful video of
Louie Schwartzberg put on by TED TV, and he said
we take in most of our information visually.  But aren't
written words visual?

Years ago when I was at university, one of my
professor's wives with a deep interest in the printed
word resurrected a century and a half old hand operated press.
You had to really think a word was worth printing to
go through the process of setting type, choosing each
letter and setting it in place, then inking the segment you
were printing, lining up the paper and cranking the
handle to make the page print.  Each letter was carved in wood
and topped with linoleum or metal.  Making a print of a poem
took intensive patience, labour and messy clean up --
but everyone would easily agree that there was no comparison
between those printed pages, and print produced by an electronic
 printer.  Part of it was the bite into the paper page that each letter
 made, so that it each letter impressed itself on the page.

Too many words make a dog dog tired
Right now the dog is snoring on the floor.  She's had
one walk today and wants another.  If she wasn't sleeping she'd
be yelling at me -- "all right, all right -- a picture is worth a
thousand words.  A thousand words is way too many mom
for today's audience.  What they want is more pictures and
 fewer words.  They're going to have to get Alex the auto
voice person on the computer to read your many words for them.
 The whole idea makes me want to sleep again."

As you know making pictures from Skype video telephoning
has been a major focus in my work in the past few years.
Is it better to phone, or to see the person you're talking to.
My friends and family have found that it depends on
the day.  It's very intimate to phone and not see the
caller, but heart warming to be able to see someone you
miss laugh, and gesture.  One day this whole question may
be moot.  When it comes to talking to my family I know
the visual call is the one I prefer.

 If you visit a word person's home, there is every chance
that words will feature as decorations on the walls, furniture,
maybe even their fashion, more than pure visual images -- or pictures.

Marcia's take
But a thousand words for one picture?  I phoned my friend
Marcia, a fabulous artist, and she said "absolutely.  A picture
 is worth a thousand words.  I love pictures."  She definitely
 loves picture books, a fact I noticed when we visited her and
husband David in Hamilton on Family Day. We looked at one
glorious picture book after another discussing art all the while.
When I told her I was going to talk about this topic, she said to end
it half way to one thousand words.  The picture tonight
is a grey scale of a gorgeous tree we saw in a park on the edge
of Lake Ontario on our way to Hamilton for dinner with Marcia
and David.  In the late day sun it was a stunner, and I'm hoping that
 my paintings of the tree (that's right I might do more than one) give
 you an idea of how magnificent it was.
Me with my son Sam on the shore of Lake Ontario on Family Day.
Behind us is the glorious tree.
But I have to quit now -- and I'm not quite at 1,000 words. In fact
I'm only half way.  So I'll continue tomorrow with more pictures
from that lovely journey -- which ended with a super dinner with
my wonderful artist friend.  I hope you're having a happy day, and
that one of these old maxims is teasing your brain.
By the way I got the link to Louie Schwartzberg  from Carol Wiebe,
a wonderful artist whose work you can see here.

And what about you?  What captivates me on your blog?  Your pictures
and your words.  I love the paintings, the photos, the videos and what
you have to say.  Thanks for all of it.

Have a-loving-pictures-and-words day.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Roses and work

 Roses in a crystal jug
iPad drawing
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
Roses are a big part of my work, and have been for
years now.  Why?  Sometimes I paint them for flower
paintings, and sometimes they are in the background
of a portrait. Plus they add a lift to a still life, or interior.

They beautify any room, which is as true of my studio
as it is of the kitchen table.  I have painted them in the studio,
and at the kitchen table, to the great consternation of my
family who had to sidestep around my mess until the
painting was finished.  But on top of that I just love them,
and particularly love the kind I've drawn for you tonight, which
are Oceana, and smell like real garden roses.  This is my first
iPad drawing of the beauties.  I was settling into the drawing,
thinking it through, when I realized I could not draw a high
realism drawing of roses on the iPad.  Breakthrough! That's
when I added the blue and made myself happy.

I hope that roses are part of your working day too.  They
are elegant companions, and lovely to paint or draw.  A
kind way to treat them, is to cut them and place them in warm
water with some cut flower powder, then just enjoy them.
Some people can't resist touching them -- but roses really
are a 'please don't touch' flower. As artists we are lucky, because
we can touch them with our eyes.

Have a giving-someone-roses-for-the-workplace day

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Watch out for purring cats

 Timbah in the roses
iPad drawing
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
At the end of the working day I got my novel and thought
I'd read for a minute.  Along came my sweet cat Timbah
probably wanting dinner, but purring up a storm, and
urging me to let him stay with me while I was reading.
A cat's purr I'll warn you is hypnotic.  Listening to Timbah
I felt more and more relaxed, and woke up two hours later
because I was hungry.  It was past supper time, and there
I was happily sleeping beside my lovely cat.

The drawing tonight is an iPad drawing of wonderful Timbah
sleeping on my rose covered comforter.

Have a loving-a-purring-cat day.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Bests and the lost photo

 My best boyfriend
Black marker and watercolour 
on watercolour paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
In my classes we talk about 10 reasons to be
happy.  Tonight I have many more than 10 reasons
to feel joy, but I am thinking in terms of bests.
My little sketch tonight is from an old photo
of the best boyfriend I ever had.  In a rush to
clean up before the wonderful cleaners came today,
 I've hidden the photo from myself so
although I'd like to make changes, I can't go farther
 than this at the moment.

 I decided that instead of reasons to be happy I'd
write 5 bests -- I could easily do 100 bests, but lets
 stop at 5, because it's late and I am incredibly tired.
1.  Best boyfriend ever -- my husband Steven --
still my best boyfriend ever.
2.  Best beach in the whole world -- (the world
I've seen) -- the beach at the North Shore park
near Pugwash Nova Scotia at low tide.
3.  Best most diverse city in the world -- Toronto
Canada, (but the massive push to high condos has to stop).
4. Two of the best cities for art that I've visited -- New
York and Florence. And I'd have to add to that London,
Paris and Stuttgart, Germany and Stockholm.
5. Best family ever -- mine.
Oh now I have to go on.
6.  Best move I ever made that involved writing and
art -- starting this blog which let me meet you and
you are:
7. The best artist bloggers I've ever met.
Well heck I might as well go to 10.
8.  Best flower people in the whole world,
Yangs on Avenue Road in Toronto, PegAnn's
Flowers at the Brickworks market in the summer
and fall, and Sunrise Greenhouses in Pugwash
Nova Scotia.
9. Best year of my life -- this one.
10. Best book I've read in the past year --
Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese.

That's it for now. Best idea I've seen more
than once in the past couple of days -- express
gratitude, say thank you.  Why?  Being grateful
makes us happy.  I am so happy that I know you.
Thank you so much

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Late family Valentine's Day party and the tissue paper flower heart

Acrylic on canvas
18 x 20 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
The image tonight is of the model at my art group tonight.
It was nice to be there for a little while and see the people.

On Sunday night we had our family Valentine's Day party
because Sam was home from university and all of us were
pretty busy on the actual day.  The kitchen was decorated
and I wrapped the last tissue paper peony onto the wreath,
and hung it up on the back door a second before
Christopher and Megan came through the front door.
The heart was loosely based on the lovely tissue paper
heart on the cover of Martha Stewart's February issue.  I
went out with a friend to get the tissue paper a few weeks
ago, and started the heart then -- but this was a lot of work.
On Sunday I made a big push to get it done -- thinking otherwise
what was the point.  I'm not really a crafter, but thought this
would be a snap.  It wasn't. I think there are at least 80 flowers wired onto
our frame.
 The Valentine's Day Heart
a la Martha Stewart

So a big poufy extra Valentine's Day wish to you.   May
all of your days be filled with people who love you so
much they'd make you a huge tissue paper heart.

Have a loving -your-life day. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Being in love

 True love means springtime in any weather
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
I think I have always been in love with life.
I have always found the good parts of life
pure joy, and recognize that I am supremely
lucky to feel that way.

Today I enjoyed coffee with some of my friends
in the neighbourhood in the morning, and
we laughed hysterically about relationships --
how frustrating they are, and how delightful.
Steven and I are supremely blessed to  have loved
one another for a long, happy time.

Here is my Valentine's card painting for you.
The  front of the card reads Happy Valentine's Day,
and inside it says From Your Secret Admirer.

That of course is a joke because my name is on
the back of the card with the title, and anyone
receiving it knows that I am the admirer.  In
your case it isn't a secret.  I value your friendship
and your wonderful uplifting work.  So have
a Happy Valentine's Day.

Have a love-is-always-everywhere day.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Thoughts of Love

 The new Valentine's cards hide under the Amarylis
Barbara Muir © 2012
Okay I'm a sucker for Valentine's Day.  It seems so
perfect -- a celebration of love.  Kindness is one of the
most important qualities in the world, and love for
one's self, others and the world is at the root of
kindness.  So here's to a wonderful Valentine's
Day for you tomorrow.  Whether you have a special
sweetheart, or are just spending the day with
friends and colleagues.  Love and the potential
for joy are everywhere on this happy day.
I send it out to you and hope you know how
much your kindness and encouragement,
and fine work mean to me.



Tonight I'm showing you a picture of this
year's Valentine's Day cards, tomorrow --
ta da, the card in its full glory.

Have a loving-the-kindness-in-your-world day.

Friday, February 10, 2012

In living grey

The listening effect
Black marker and watercolour on
watercolour paper
10 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
Today has been quite the day.  Tomorrow
I start a new commission, so I'm heading off
to bed.  But here is a Payne's grey Skype
painting.  In a noisy cafeteria, the subject
listens to the call through earphones (the
buds).  When I paint in Payne's Grey (I say
that like I've been doing it for years -- and
in fact  when I was at OCAD, my favorite
medium was watercolour and pen and ink
drawings with nib pens and India ink) I get
lost in Value thoughts.  Today I enjoyed the
watercolour essence of the medium and the
value happened effortlessly.

But honestly -- much as I am enjoying working
in values, I feel terribly sorry for all of the students in
workshops all across this country and the
world, religously doing value studies thinking
it will make them into artists.  Nothing will
do that, and don't you remember the first
time someone let you take a big brush and put
colour on a page?  I am willing to bet that's
why we're still painting today.  So thank you
Mrs. Jordon, my kindergarten teacher who
introduced me to big paper and brilliant tempra

My mother and I were laughing the other
day about the time I was doing a pen and
ink drawing in my room using indelible
India ink, and spilled a whole bottle on the rug.
It made a gorgeous, huge black stain on a
lovely sea blue rug.  My mother got my brothers to
move the bed and the rug so that my father
wouldn't see the spill and be upset.  He
didn't and he wasn't, but I know that when
we left that house the very nice rug with the
big ink stain did not move with my parents.

Have a hiding-the-ink-stains day.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Behind the scenes

 Getting serious
Watercolour and black marker
on watercolour paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
Before I take off on a new theme, or start
to use a new model I spend far too much time
thinking.  I see a painting in my mind's eye, then
change it the next night in my dreams.  Meanwhile
time moves on, and paintings have to come to the
canvas or paper.  Today a beautiful new model
came to pose for me.  We talked sitting in the
kitchen and I was so impressed by her.  I met
her on a TV show set a year ago, and wanted
to paint her right away.  But we were both
busy, so this year when I reconnected with her
she'd just returned from doing a five month
internship in India.

I am thinking of using her in my Water Image
series, but that's still under consideration.
Meanwhile I did a quick grey scale sketch of
her after painting all day.  It is not exactly her,
but I was entranced by her hair, piled like a
crown in elegant patterns, high on her head.
She is much more beautiful.  But I felt like
I had to start painting her, so that an idea
for the larger painting could cook in my brain.

Have a letting-your-brain-cook day.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Stopping the crazies

Jesca (Work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
I admit it -- it drives me crazy if I don't get
into the studio often enough. So...I'm really
excited about some upcoming events. (I call
them events, but they are very, very small and
personal events.)

One I am going back into the studio and putting
on a TED TV event to get back to the canvas.  There
are actually several canvasses that need to be
addressed.  Two I have a new model coming
tomorrow and I can't wait to take pictures of her
and talk about future paintings.  And I'll tell you
more about three another day.  Suddenly the year
is lifting into a state of grace and I feel so happy.
Well three I heard from an artist/model friend in New
York who I met on my last trip to the city,
and she would like to come to Toronto to pose
for artists here. She has been painted by some
very famous American painters.  So we'll see
what happens there.

But there's another three, so maybe that's a four.

My favorite shows were not on tonight, which meant
back to the easel and I settled in with Jesca. I worked
on the background a bit, and made a few small touches
on her face and dress.  Tomorrow I hope I'll get to refine it,
and work on the background until I'm happy with the painting.

Have a watching-the-year-lift-into-possibility day.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Window gazing

 Flirting with spring
iPad drawing
8 x 10
Barbara Muir © 2012
Here's a little plein air under glass that I did
on my iPad today.  I was inside, and was so taken
with the view that I had to go for it.  Bright light,
golden and orange, and deep blue shadows lured
me into the landscape and into my imagination
beyond the pathway.

Perhaps tomorrow I'll have time to get back to
painting.  I am thinking about many ideas, but
need a little time to let them gel.  After our five
hour trip to Windsor Saturday, and our even
longer return trip yesterday -- plus a full day
of teaching, I am giving myself the rest of the
night off.  We had just a super fantastic time
with our little family this weekend, and now
it's time to retrench, rest and read.

Have a taking-some-time-to-read day.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Road trip to Windsor

Considering the future
iPad drawing
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
Yesterday we headed out bright and early
in the morning to visit our son Sam in
Windsor.  He's playing Mr. Henry Woodhouse
in the play Emma.  The performance was
delightful -- very pro, and Sam was perfect
in the role of a hypochondriac fussy father
who is against marriage.  It was very funny.
Christopher and Megan came along and we
all had a great time.

The weather in Windsor today was balmy.
We visited the marvellous Art Gallery of
Windsor, went for a walk, and had a super
(though long) trip home.  Here's a little
drawing I did of Sam on the iPad this
morning while we chatted briefly before
he headed off to do the early Sunday show.

It does not do him justice, but I like the
drawing anyway -- that's Detroit in the
background out the hotel window.

Have an enjoying-your-family's-talents day.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Not the Grey

That wonderful face
Watercolour on Arches
watercolour paper 
with black marker
8 x10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012

As I went to post this little painting, once again
an attempt to capture a dear friend --  I had a flash
of thought on what it would be like to paint the
same image over and over again for the rest of
a lifetime.  I guess some religious icons follow
that idea which might explain why even when they
were ornately decorated with gold and beautifully
painted, I found that it would start to feel monotonous if
no personality surfaced from the faces of the
hallowed in rooms of icons in museums.
I'm not worried the personality is
there.  No problem -- but the essence of what
makes my friend herself -- and the exact proportions
of that face -- not quite right my friends.  Still this
is another jump at it and I do like it in colour.
That's the way I roll.

Nicki -- I saw the paintings by your friend Tom
Thomson today at the AGO and stood in wonder.
I also reveled in a gorgeous show of Jack
Chamber's work and felt personally connected to him.
I feel sad that people are not using hand writing
anymore, because his handwritten notes moved
me almost as powerfully as his paintings.

Have a loving-the-personalities-you-meet day.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Be the voice you want to hear

 My TV Tuned to Jon Stewart
iPad Drawing
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012

We all know the comfort of a loving voice,
the person you can count on to lift your spirits,
laugh when you're happy, and understand.
Here's a revolutionary and life transforming idea
-- how about being that voice for yourself.  I
asked some people today whether or not they
talked to themselves.  Of course they do doesn't
everybody.  But opinions range on the sanity
of the proposal.  What am I getting at?  I mean
when you're alone and talking to yourself,
or listening to that internal bank vault of all
the negative, unkind, just plain mean, and
even brutal things ever said to you -- shut
it all off, and be the kind voice.  Talk to yourself
gently, and tell yourself how amazing you are,
what a great artist/person/mate you are, and
help yourself to the best you have to offer.

Tonight my kind self allowed me to watch TV.  I
was sitting with my iPad when I got the urge
to draw.  I was too tired to switch brush sizes,
or to attempt anything but what was in front of me.
And what you see is what I got.  The basement is
exactly that red, and the rest is just the side of the
fireplace mantle, the edge of a painting, and a bookcase.
Brad Pit was on Jon Stewart tonight, and the women
were swooning.  That's why the figure on the tube
has blonde hair.  I know it's more finger painting -
my kind inner voice says that's my gift to you, and
I'm going with her for now.  Yeaaah!

Have a being-the-voice-you-want-to-hear 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!