Thursday, March 29, 2012

Not nine to five, and how painters escape

 And then we were seven (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
A few weeks ago I was sitting in my accountant's office
bemoaning the state of culture in Canada, and he told me
that he's glad he's an accountant.  You hardly think of
that as a glamorous job, but unlike the artist gig, it is
nine to five, or eight to six, except in March and April
when the workload really heats up.  And when the office
day is done, and all the numbers are in place, you can forget it.

Whereas artists work all the time.  They even work when
they're sleeping.  Because as well as being a job, and
let's make it perfectly clear that this crazy, compelling work
is that -- work, it is also an obsession.  You don't wash your
hands at the end of the day, drive home and say,"Hmm.
What's for supper?"  You break for supper, and then you're
back in the studio staring at a painting and talking to
yourself.  It was a revelation to my students that it's
okay to talk to yourself.  Okay?  Go in any artist's studio
and you'll hear if not speech, harrumphs and exclamations,
and ,"oh I know!  I can do this -- yes!  That works!"
Occasionally you might even hear an expletive deleted.

I have been working on a painting that I am quite fond of,
but it is a complex task -- for me.  Today instead of doing
too much to it (it's almost done), and as a relief from
other distractions, like peeling the hard dried-on acrylic off the
plastic containers I mix it on, (a secret diversion -- now
made embarrassingly public) I painted tulips.  The
other day I bought three pots, and today I reveled in
their straightforward beauty and started this small painting.  It's
almost done, and I'm happy so far.  It's very late now,
and I'm taking myself off to bed and my ridiculously
funny book.

I'm glad I'm an artist, and delighted to know you.

Have a  being-glad-that-you're-what-you-are day.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Great to be with my art group and Magnolias in trouble

 This place needs you
Acrylic on canvas
14 x 18
Barbara Muir © 2012
People who care about the planet are very worried
about the latest weather upsets.  Magnolias in Toronto
in March are out too early.  Last night we had 7 below
Celsius here, and the flowers on many Magnolias are
brown and ruined before they'll ever get to bloom.
I went to my art group tonight, and the model looked
fierce.  She wasn't, but this whole scene came into my
mind instantly looking at her -- as though she was
worried about the earth too.  I liked the spare angular
quality of her face, much thinner than I made it.
I've been painting all day on a big painting, and
I only had an hour or so, so couldn't go Cubist or
Art Deco on myself like I wanted to.  But it was fun
being with my friends and watching them paint, even
for a precious hour.

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

Monday, March 26, 2012

In the Happy World/in the Sad World -- paint

Tea at the AGO (Work in progress)
Watercolour on Arches watercolour paper
10 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
The world is both happy and sad -- inside and outside
our personal worlds.  Spring has been halted for a day
here by freezing cold temperatures, sending us all
back into our winter coats.  That makes me happy.
The light today was over-the-top wonderful.  Let's
hope the apple trees on a farm where one of my
students works don't lose their two-months-early
blossoms to the frost -- or no apples.  Sad is the news,
and stories of disaster from around the world.  In either
case the artist's answer is to paint.  I prefer to paint
happy.  My philosophy being that there's plenty of
sorrow to go around. I don't mean sugary fairyland
happy -- although I'm all for that too.  I just mean the
warmer side of the life spectrum, the happier place to
be on a frosty night.

The painting tonight is a work in progress of tea
at the AGO.  The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto
 is our major gallery in the province (one of them,
 because the National Gallery in Ottawa is also impressive).
A friend has given us memberships for the past few
years. The result?  We head  to the member's lounge
the moment we go in the gallery, then happily spend
a couple of hours looking at art, fortified with a very
nice tea, and maybe some delicious egg salad, or
tuna fish sandwiches. You need to be well nourished
to spend the afternoon looking at great art.  Why? 
Fantastic art gets your spirits jumping, and gives
your brain and heart a work out. A sustaining
sandwich in advance is excellent prep. 

Have an-enjoying-painting-happy-or-sad day.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fast sketches and spring chores

 Roses in a cut glass vase
Black marker on Moleskine paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(I don't think I showed this to you before,
but if I did I still like it.)

Today was one of those days when life works
the way it should. A perfect sky blue day -- just
a bit chilly, as spring in Toronto is supposed to
be.  The light was magnificent.  I painted, marked,
 painted, marked, gave many books and magazines
 away to a friend's charity.  That would have been
enough, but Steven did the dreaded chore of spraying the
 fruit trees (we only have two) with organic spray
and I operated the tap.  After dinner I made stock
from the left over roast chicken, and we had a
super quick walk through the beautiful starlit night
with the dog.
Working the salesroom
Black marker on Moleskine paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
(These people were working on
selling cars in a showroom.  They
might have succeeded with my
husband, but the senior managers
soured the deal.)
A day to be treasured.  I worked on two paintings,
but I'll show you these quick drawings now, and
have an actual painting to show you tomorrow when
it's finished (just a small watercolour.)

Writing a letter 
Black marker on Moleskine paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012

Have an-everything-is-going-right-day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Why do we marry?

 Missing you too
Skype drawing
Charcoal on bond paper
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
When I talk to therapists like my sister I hear that we marry
our mothers.  If so I wonder why I married this man pictured
above?  Maybe when we first met I fell because he was as beautiful as
my mother used to be when I was a little girl.  And like her he
could bake a delicious cherry pie.  He was scientifically curious like
her too --loved nature, and grew up on a farm which is why
he was right there and unafraid all through both of my children's

But what if women marry people who remind them of their
Dads?  Well Steven could do that too -- talk in a serious,
 voice -- work in business -- get people to work as a team.

Put the research together and you get a picture of people marrying
trying to recreate their original families -- on a subconscious
level of course .  But what if the real reason is that as opposite as
 my guy is to me -- I mean completely opposite to the point of
exasperation sometimes (country music (him) versus soul music (me))
 is that we could create a family that was new -- ourselves.
 And ultimately -- just like they say we begin to look like our dogs,
we don't look alike, but we actually are alike in so many ways. We enjoy
the same happy endings in movies, the same kinds of jokes, agree
politically.  Maybe that's why we marry -- to start over, to find
 someone we can care about whether they fit the paradigms or not.

When students ask me how they'll know when they really love
someone, I say that they will just know.  And how do you know
if someone loves you? The same way -- a wordless, innate knowledge
built on kindness, observation, and tender affection.
But, as I pointed out to an artist friend today, words do help.  I
couldn't live with someone who couldn't say he loved me.
That conversation today prompted this topic. Because I can
remember the radiant look on my friend's husband's face when
he first found her.  And he still looks at her that way years later.

What I do know is that it sure is better for Steven and me
to be together than not. And that I miss him horribly when
 he's away.  That feeling is mutual.  I guess that's why we got
 married, and I'm glad we did.

Have a being married-or-unmarried-happily day.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Missed anniversary plus four years and counting

 Woman with her cats
(from the archives)
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2008
Four years ago on February 17 I started this blog.
Tonight I'm including a painting from the archives, and I
don't even think this is the final photo of the
painting -- A woman and her cats. I was painting
this painting in September of that year, 2008.

I loved the richness and pattern on the silk
collar of the subject's blouse.  It was a beauty.

So what have I learned?  Sometimes in life we
think we're going nowhere.  That's what's so
wonderful about the blog world.  You can see
how far you've come, all the things you've learned
and in my case the great excitement that's come into
my life since I began this happy process.  My blog
was born during a hard time in my life, with relatives in
poor health, and my son going to Korea. The blog
and the people who read it became a source of
delight and strength for me.  When I painted this
portrait I had no idea what was going to happen in
the next months, when my blog would be discovered
by Howard Wolinsky, the Chicago journalist, and
subsequently by Oprah.

Steven was saying today, "your thoughts create
your future," one of the key philosophies of
Louise Hay.  And sometimes your future is
created by thoughts other people have that
are beyond your wildest dreams.

Have a thinking-yourself-into-a-joyous-future day.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Green and Happy St. Patrick's Day

 The green teapot
iPad drawing
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
A friend asked me the other day if I was getting over
my dislike of green.  "Yes," I said.  Then
when I thought about it, I realized that I've
probably always loved green.  Not in clothing
so much, but who would not love the green of
leaves, of my cat's eyes, of grass covering a
hillside, and the cedars and pines giving a white
farmhouse its definition.   Today I saw
green everywhere, including in my house, where
we'd decorated for St. Patrick's Day, one of my
favorite celebrations.

Our friend Luigi Benetton (foreground) 
with left to right, Josephine Pica, me and Steven
Photo by Luigi on Josephine's phone
What's not to like?  Green Veuve Cliquot (a
drop of food coloring) and mini green icing
cupcakes.  We had friends over to drink a
toast, and all of us, including the dog sang
"When Irish eyes are smiling"s over the phone
to my mother, who is a wee part Irish.  Her Irish
descent, and of course it follows mine too, comes
 from French people who immigrated to Ireland to
escape persecution for their religious beliefs.  No idea
beyond that.
Zoey wears a garland and sings
She thinks her cookies taste great
at a party.
I did this little drawing on my iPad to go with
the theme of Green.  That green teapot, is really
a plastic watering can.  But I love the shape.
Fiona and Zoey think it's time the party was over, and Zoey
wants that garland off.  But Fiona has to admit it makes
Zoey look pretty.

Have a loving-of-the-green day.

Friday, March 16, 2012

My own advice

Slow down time
Charcoal on bond paper
Skype drawing
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
I was looking back in my blog for a painting that
I was selling, when I found a post
giving advice on not listening to people who liked
your any type of art (fill in the blank) better than what you
do now.  Hmmm.  I decided to take my own advice
about listening to your gut, and figure out for
myself what's next to paint, once I'm finished my
current commission.  This may seem like a circular
problem to you, but it was a revelation to me today.
Listen to me, and create what I want. Aha!

Wow.  Thanks for the reminder from me, and from
all the rest of you who help me sort through my
indecision and clear headedness to reach an internal
consensus.  Yes!  That's what I want to do.

Now how about you?  Who are you painting for?
Your granny, your Mom, your teacher/husband/friend,
or for you.  Pick the last one in the list, and some of
the others will love what you do for sure.

Have a painting-for-yourself day.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sleepy discussion

 Are you awake?
Charcoal on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
I know my son, a hard working university student,
isn't sleeping enough.  When he asked me to Skype
him today, and I saw that he was snuggled up in bed,
and I was happy.  He was grabbing a rest between
rehearsals for his final play.  As a parent seeing
your child, sleeping, or even resting  reminds you of all
the times you tried so hard to get that baby to sleep
when he was little.  So I didn't mind talking to sleepy
Sam at all.

I did this little drawing to catch the mood.  I may
do a series if I have the time.

Have a getting-enough-sleep day.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Small changes

Acrylic on canvas
16 x 20 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012

"Sometimes the smallest changes make a big
difference to a painting," a friend at the art
group I belong to once said.  Tonight I'm showing
you a painting I started at portrait night
with my group in 2009.  The model was a
wonderful young man who'd just moved
to Toronto from the states I think.  I seem to
 remember that he was a journalist.
Acrylic on canvas
16 x 20 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
I don't usually change a painting because someone
makes a comment about it, unless I've deliberately
sought advice, or the person wanting the change
is a portrait client.  But my son didn't like the colour
of the model's T-shirt, so I thought I'd change it.
Now it's blue, and I think he's right -- it does make
a stronger painting.  I also made a few other small
changes, like the bright yellow in the background
 that I put on with a palette knife. I'm happy with it
now.  It's still a sketch, but it has more power.

Have a making-small-changes day

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The lovely Shamrock

Lucky Shamrocks
acrylic on wood,
5 x 5 inches
 Barbara Muir © 2012

I was in my favorite flower store the other day
and saw the most beautiful, delicate, spring-like
plant.  When I asked what it was called my
friend Lynn said it was a Shamrock.  Well! I
thought.  The real flowers are a far cry from
the clover inspired greenery I'll decorate with
before St. Patrick's Day.

This little painting is my impression of the plant --
white flowers on pale green stems against
a background of leaves like butterflies. A
delightful discovery.

Have a getting-ready-for-spring day.

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Art Gallery of Ontario x 3

 The Galleria Italia at the Art Gallery of Ontario,
designed by Frank Gehry spans 590 feet along the front
of the gallery and is a beautiful cathedral-like space.
Steven accompanied me on one of my visits,
and sitting on one of the benches in the space
he gives you a sense of the scale.  Magnificent.

I've been to The Art Gallery of Ontario three times in the
past two weeks helping students do research, and
researching myself.  I absolutely love the cathedral-like
space at the front of the building and make a point of
visiting it every time.  It always makes me think that Frank
Gehry is a genius.  And he is.  The gallery is one
of the buildings in Toronto that makes me proud to
live here.  Make sure to see it when you come to town.
Me in front of the letters at the front 
of the building.  It is a Canadian artist's
dream to show here. (It certainly is this 
Canadian artist's dream.)
How I'll look when I know I have
a show inside the building.  Meanwhile
I just love going there.

I may post a drawing with this post tomorrow.  I just haven't had time
to finish it tonight.  Still painting on a large portrait, which is going
well, but slowly.
Have a going-to-your-favorite-gallery day.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Too nice to dream of summer

 The red cottage
iPad drawing
(based on a photo by Richard Semik)
Barbara Muir © 2012
On International Women's Day today, I painted
all day, then went to an art store, and then to a party
for women in my neighbourhood.  We talked about
men and women, and worked really hard at being
sensitive and kind about gender differences. I love
that great group of women, and thoroughly enjoyed
the discussions.

You've probably heard that Canadians are nice.
Some of us really are.  We bump into each other's
carts in the supermarket, and it takes five minutes
to move on, because we're so busy saying, "I'm
sorry." "No, no, no, it was me, I'm sorry."
So global warming is a talking point challenge
for us.  In Toronto not having a cold winter really
is a boon.  Who wants to wake up in the morning, and shovel
first a path to the car, and then clean the car off, then
shovel the car out, or ask neighbours, or perfect
strangers to push you out of a snow bank like I
had to last winter?  No one.  But we are nice.  And
some of us even read, so we know about the idea
of global warming and see it happening -- evidence
all around us.

Being able to go out in shorts on March 7 -- albeit
in what was really jeans and sweater weather is
so wonderful.  But we can't help knowing that this isn't
right.  We stand on our back porches saying sorry
to the squirrels.  We put our parkas on anyway.
And tonight we were rewarded with cold temperatures
again that make us long for the place I've drawn on
my iPad.  A balmy tropical paradise.

Have a being-nice-to-Canadians day.
(Especially Canadians living in cold, wintry conditions.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Summer in March

 Reading about Botticelli
Black marker on Moleskine paper
5 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
It was a super hot day today -- 17 degrees Celsius,
which is insane for March 7 in Toronto.
But that was what it was.  It was a teaching day
for me, and in between classes I drove out to get
paint. On the radio an interview talked about global
warming and its effects on farming.  Ice wine
is an important product in Ontario, and this year we did
not have the cold temperatures needed. 

But the fluctuations in temperature are bizarre
-- 12 below zero Celsius one day, and 17 above the
next. Flowers which shouldn't come up at least
for another month, don't know whether they're
coming or going -- one day says -- 'Hey girl hey,
come on out and grace us with your beauty',
and the next says, 'winter is here, prepare!' 

I did this little Moleskine drawing today of a model
who sat at my kitchen table on a cold night a couple
of weeks ago.  She is a beauty, and that night had
rather fantastic hair, piled in elaborate patterns
on her head.  Beautiful.

So the weather report from here is that March is
coming in like a lion/lamb/lion/lamb -- who knows.

I hope you are having a wonderful time.  More to
come.  Got to go paint, but cannot show you
anything yet.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March Madness

 View from Highway 401
iPad drawing
8 x 10
Barbara Muir © 2012
Here's an iPad drawing of a scene on the 401
on the way to Windsor from Toronto.  I snapped
a shot on our last trip to see Sam in the play
Emma, based on Jane Austen's novel.

March started out with dinner with two very funny
 friends who get along famously.  So much fun.
 So many laughs.  It feels like March.  The winter is
almost gone -- so there's so much to do to
get ready for spring events.  Yikes.  Got
to go and sleep and then work, work, work.
But I can feel that spring madness coming on.
Yay!  I love that feeling.

Have a-getting-into-spring-madness 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!