Monday, April 30, 2012

Out on the highway to Windsor (again!)

Making magic in Montreal
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
The schedule for the past week has been way crazy.
Finishing two decent size paintings would be plenty
most of the time, but on top of that it was end of
term, a slog of marking, and marking and marking,
and then a trip to Windsor a week ago to see wonderful
Sam's acting.  Then, more painting, the marks meeting,
getting the paintings to the shipper to be packed on Saturday
morning, and heading out to Windsor again!  Steven got
off the plane from Montreal at 11:30 Friday night, and came
 home to work until two a.m.  So thank goodness that our son
Christopher helped, driving us all the way to Windsor
on Saturday. No sane person would even attempt this
crazy drive two weeks in a row, but spoiler alert, parents
aren't sane people.

And despite a level of fatigue I can hardly describe, we
had so much fun.  At London, we got off the main highway
and drove along Lake Erie again.  Every now and then we'd
get behind someone creaking along at 40 clicks (24 miles
an hour) and Christopher would groan.  But most of the
time it was beautiful.
Cherry blossoms (I think.  Correct me if I'm  wrong.)  When I was
taking this shot, a farmer drove by on his tractor and gave me
a thumbs up sign.  It would be lovely to live with this beauty.

Today I'm showing you the final version of my second
painting for New York -- flying out today.  Visualizing
good weather and a smooth delivery.  The  young woman
in the painting loves to travel, and lived and worked in
Australia last year.  She has a degree in Neurobiology, and
is heading back to Montreal (a city she loves) to work in
a professor's lab at McGill, to earn the money for her
Masters, and then her doctorate.  Travel is the theme for
my three pieces going to New York.

Steven looks out over Lake Erie on a high cliff.

Wild strawberry flowers by the Lake.
Have an enjoying-the-journey day.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Shipping to Show

First stop Paris
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
While I was painting this painting I was listening to
Seth Godin videos. One of the talks I enjoyed was
about shipping.  Lizard brain according to Godin stops
us from shipping.  And when you're showing in
New York City as I am at the Amsterdam Whitney
Gallery (the opening reception is May 10), you have
to ship to show.  So this painting had to be ready to
go on Saturday.  And it was.

Godin calls the negative chat we do "thrashing" and
says that lizard brain encourages us to thrash at the end
of a project, and then we miss our deadlines.  We don't ship.
Shipping of course is also a metaphor for getting our
work out to the public, for being actively involved in
moving our art, or writing, or opinions into the world
to do what we were meant to do.  But doing so involves risk,
and risk makes us uncomfortable, so we don't take
risks.  We manufacture excuses instead of just doing
it.  Believe me I have worked really hard at fighting the
urge to let the lizard win.  Nothing against lizards.

So here she is.  I have had dreams of going to the shipper,
taking the work out of the box and doing more.  (Note
to self -- you could always do more.  On the next painting!)
Godin also says that you do have enough time, but you have
to decide.  I was taught at art school by a wonderful
artist who would take his work down in museums, take
watercolours out of the glass and "fix" things.  That's
a disease.  I had to let her go, and looking at her tonight
I feel happy that I did.

Have a getting-it-out-there day.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Fighting Lizard brain

 Untitled (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
Seth Godin calls the primitive part of our brains
"the lizard brain."  I've been listening to him all
day while I paint, and I absolutely know what he
means.  I am quite sure the young woman who
modeled for this painting would disagree, because
she knows some actual lizards personally and
likes them.  But according to Seth my constant
 urge to eat, sleep and read is because of my primitive
 brain's desire to stick to basics. Creativity is a step
 away from the basics. 

If you've never watched any Seth Godin on YouTube
or Vimeo I suggest you check him out.  He's a great
speaker and thinker.  For now I'm going to give in to my
inner Iguana and go to sleep.  As promised another
image of a stage in a painting.  I hope you are well,
resisting the primitive brain and making art like

Have a loving-your-fantastic-brain day.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Gone painting. Wahoo! Miss you.

Untitled (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas 
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
I sometimes feel like my schedule is packed
as tight as a can of sardines.  Sure there are
people who do much more, but you know what
I don't envy them. So when I'm feeling frantic I
try to remember to breathe, and laugh.  (Have you
noticed that you do breathe deeply when you

A couple of years ago when I consulted Alyson Stanfield,
 the Artbizblog writer, she told me to make a list every
 day and carry it with me.  Super advice.  I followed her
advice and it helped. How odd though.  I teach the very same
thing to my students, but was so stressed I'd forgotten
this vital rule.

These days I live by lists and lists of lists, and
lists that evolve from larger lists, and they help

My marks for the part-time courses I teach are in.
One thing to cross off the list, and a huge sigh of
relief.  I may not blog much in the next few days.
Gone painting.  Oh I'm here if you need me, but that's
what I'm doing, painting, and when I'm not painting,
painting something else, and when I'm not painting that,
painting.  I feel as happy as a seagull riding an airwave
over Lake Erie.

The image tonight is of an early stage of a painting.  I think
I'll be showing you lots of painting stages in the next
few posts.  This model is a favorite of mine -- a really
super young woman.  The painting changes a lot as it goes

Have an enjoying-your-painting day.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My home town -- my sons' acting ground

 Is it really love?
Black marker on Moleskine paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012

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

Yesterday we packed up the car and took the
long trip back down south to Windsor, Ontario.
Our son Sam was performing his final monologue,
based on the life of Jack Kevorkian.  Sam wrote
and acted out the monologue which was
powerfully sad. When Sam stayed at the
theatre to talk to his class afterwards we went for a long
walk by the Detroit river -- the two of us both shaken
up and disturbed by Sam's intense and moving
performance, and filled with pride for him.
Steven and Sam talk about Sam's plans
at the City Grill Restaurant in Windsor.
Both of our sons took acting at the university of
Windsor, and like me spent four years in that
city.  Sam will be coming home at the end of
this term and launching out into the world.  This
trip I was moved by the thought of not returning
for some time.  I was born in Windsor, and left
when I was four.  I kept hearing the song
 "My HomeTown" by Bruce Springsteen
 playing in mymind while we were there.
I have vague memories of being a happy child
in Windsor, and now amazing, and poignant memories
of watching my children perform. 

Today we visited the Art Gallery of Windsor with
Sam before heading home. I was grateful
to the docent, Lynn Newman who was engaging
and enlightening about the Mary Wrinch paintings
and prints on the third floor. A dynamic self portrait
by a woman painter I'd never heard of before -- Bobs
Cogill Haworth was magnificent.
 Self portrait
Bobs Cogill Haworth
Oil on linen
Art Gallery of Windsor

Sam, Steven and I walked through a door in the gallery
 into one of the beautiful glass-walled rooms looking out
over the Detroit river. The space was set up for a tea the
next day, with different gorgeous china tea sets on each table.
The glassed in space shaped like the prow of a ship
set up for a tea party.
For a china freak like me this was a visual treat.
On the trip home we drove as far as London today
 on country rodes passing by apple groves shimmering
with pink blooms in the sunshine.  The sight was one of
 the most beautiful I have ever seen, and there seemed to be
about 20 miles of orchards on one side of the road,
while the glorious blues of Lake Erie attracted us
on the other side of the two lane highway.
Steven looks out over Lake Erie
We drove down to Port Stanley to walk on the beach. Then
after trying to get dinner at three different restaurants with no
success we decided just to head home, and the cats were
glad we did.

I feel like I've been away for a week with so many
fascinating experiences.  Aside from Sam's impressive
 work, the best part of the trip was travelling with
Steven enjoying the chance to listen to music or
hilarious talk radio, and to dream and plan together.

Have a enjoying-a-fabulous-trip day.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Don't let it get away, and the start of something great

iPad drawing
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
It's been a nutty week in paradise.  (You know I live in
Toronto -- in case you were wondering where paradise is.)
Well for an artist spring just breaking out in its soft, sunlit
green, and back lit flowering trees,  with brilliant blue skies
is paradise anywhere. Nutty? I guess I mean busy -- not the
standard elevator 'busy -- yep, really, really busy,' but the real
thing.  When the to-do lists get too long, I crave the quiet of
 a good read, and maybe even a nap.  But I know the happiest
 people are busy, perhaps not raggedly so, but in fairly constant
 motion.  That applies. So I'm not letting the week fly away without
talking to you.
 Unnamed painting (work in progress)
(Stage 2)
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
(A bit more thought to the sky, and
I've started the underpainting on the hair.)
It's the end of term, exam week -- heavy marking and also
so much to do on the art side.  So I am showing you a
quick sketch I did on my iPad tonight and a canvas at
the beginning of a new painting.  I hope it will be something
 great, because the subject is an absolutely beautiful girl,
 in every sense ofthe word -- just a spectacular person.
 Inspiring -- and that'swhat we artists love.  Right?  Thanks
for always inspiring me. I love your work.
Unnamed painting (work in progress)
Stage 1
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
(Here I have painted the ground and
drawn a rough sketch in charcoal,
then painted some of the lines, and
a bit of the underpainting for the sky.)
Have a loving-the-unfolding-of-spring-in-your-paradise day.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

All over the world, the song of art and Happy Birthday to Jesca

Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
This has been a unique and wonderful day.  This
morning I called my friend the artist Gill Cameron,
because she'd written to ask me if I'd send her a Jpeg
of my painting of Jesca.  Jesca lives in at Peace Matunda
an orphanage/school in Tanzania, in Africa, and she is
turning 12 next week.  Gill's roommate when she worked at Peace
 Matunda last year, lives in Germany, and is going to be
 in Tanzania for Jesca's birthday.  So I've just sent off a Jpeg of
the latest version of the painting, even though I think
it needs a tiny bit more work.  I relayed it to Gill, who
will send it along to Kathrin in Germany, and she will
print a copy and give it to Jesca for her birthday.  That
makes me happy and proud to be part of this little girl's

Then this afternoon my friend, Melinda Esparza,
a wonderful artist in Tucson, Arizona painted on Ustream
and I watched her paint live for about an hour.  This was
wildly exciting for me, because I love her work so much.
She was so great in front of the camera, painting away,
showing us her various palette knife tools, discussing
technique, colour and light, then leaning smiling into the camera
to answer our comments.  I was entranced.  As a person who
loves to marvel at the glorious elements in life, this
was pure delight.  It was funny too having her talk, and
then typing back remarks. 

As Steven my husband says when people are finished eating
a terrific meal he's cooked, with the candles flickering and
everyone complimenting him, "I'm afraid that's all
she wrote folks."  And that's the truth for now.

Have a marvelling-at-the-world day.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Night out with my art group

Charcoal on bond paper
18 x 20 inches
Barbara  Muir © 2012
This has been a crazy week, with Easter last weekend,
and a large commission finishing, with four new
commissions starting and all of the marking for
the end of term to complete.  Whew!  Tuesday
was a packed day -- I took photos for an exciting
new commission, then marked solidly until
it was time for my art group session, and hurried
to go and spend an hour with my friends.
By Line
Marker on bond paper
18 x 20 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
I'm glad I did.  They are so funny, and talented --
I really enjoyed stepping out of the rush-rush
life for that hour, and just drawing.  I did one longer
drawing of the beautiful young artist who modeled
for us, and then some fast line drawings.  When I
drove away I felt light and filled with a joyous,
bubbling humour from my close friends there.  Fun.
Pretty great
Marker on bond paper
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
School is over for the term.  We have exams next week,
but other than finishing my grading life can go back
to all art all the time.  And as much as I will really
miss my students and their vivacity and humour,
I am looking forward to that immensely.

Have an all-art-all-the-time day.
P.S.  We all know that all artists are all-art-all-
the-time people every day.  We really can't
help the fact that right in the middle of an
intense conversation, we are also thinking about
how we would draw or paint this.  Fact. Forgive us.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Easter dinner last Saturday and art photos for New York Sunday

 The final photo for New York City
On the road in Fredericton,
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
Photo © Christopher Muir 2012
I am not religious, but my family loves to celebrate,
so we could probably have a celebration
every day of the year if we had the time.  Easter is big
with my family because they love the chocolate eggs
and turkey dinner.  Now that we have a new
daughter-in-law-to-be, Megan, we work our Easter dinner
around all of our schedules, when Sam can get home from
university, and when Megan's family is having their supper.
The kitchen table with Easter eggs and floppy bunnies.
This is the set-up before the hunt, which is always
funny and fun.
That's why the Easter supper was on Saturday night.
And what a run around it was getting ready for what must
be the simplest of meals -- turkey, stuffing,
rosemary roast potatoes, broccoli, salad, with apple pie
and ice cream for desert.  Sunday morning Christopher and
Megan came back to our house to do the egg hunt, and
I spent the rest of the day marking and painting.
Christopher, Megan and Fiona the cat check his
photos for accuracy.
And art was also part of our weekend.  Christopher
photographed my painting for the show I'm in
that opens on May 10th in New York City at
the Amsterdam Whitney Gallery.  Christopher's studio
 is closed right now for renovations so he improvised
photographing the painting in our kitchen.

I hope you had a lovely long weekend, whatever you

Have a-getting-ready-for-art-shows-day.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Family's home, and a painting goes home

 Adriana's celebration
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches 
Barbara Muir © 2012

The nice thing about long weekends is having time
to see family, even though everyone is really busy.
I finished a commission today and began doing research
for another set of paintings. April always seems to be
insanely packed because I'm gearing up for spring shows.
My client came today, was very happy with
her portrait and took it home.  That always gives me a
great feeling.  I helped pack it in the car and went inside
to the empty easel.  And there my easel stood speaking of past
work (all the paint forming a thick crust on the ledge) and
waiting for tomorrow, when it will get to work again.

Have a great weekend for whatever you're celebrating. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

"The easy path is joy"

 Hotel Breakfast concert
Black marker on Fabiano drawing paper
10 x 7 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
(We did not eat breakfast in our room (one of
my favorite pleasures -- but had a delicious
breakfast the the hotel dining room with Sam,
looking out at the Detroit River and Detroit.)

I get these notes from The Secret  called The Secret Scrolls
that my friend Henriette in Norway told me about.
You can sign up for them here. Today's was very good.
To sum it up Rhonda Byrne says that being joyful takes
less energy than it takes to, "think negative thoughts, to
 speak negative words, and to feel miserable."  I like this.
 Sam as Guy (left) gets a slap from the character
Sam, his high school sweetheart, played by
Natasha Alexander, one of
 the women he's hurt in the past.
The great irony of the play
for us is that in real life our Sam is the sweetest
person, and loyal to a fault.

We had a wonderful weekend this past weekend when
we took off for Windsor to see my son in his final play
at university.  He was the lead -- Guy -- in Some Girls,
by Neil LaBute, and he was wonderful.  The cast of four
women and Sam was exceptional.
Sam (right) as Guy with the fun girl Tyler, played by
Elizabeth Guilbault, another
woman who Guy
treated badly in the past.  Guy
(Sam's character) travels around the U.S.
apologizing to past girlfriends.

Yesterday Sam had breakfast with us, then we took
him back for his next performance.  We walked along
the waterfront in Windsor, which was a super walk,
then drove the back roads up to London past acres of
greenhouses growing the tomatoes and vegetables for
the big Heinz factory in Leamington.  We bought
beautiful tomatoes from a road side vendor, and saw
so many charming farmhouses. I find it comforting that
there is still land saved for farming in our very populated
province.  In the background big windmills gave Steven
a delight -- he is a firm believer in wind energy.

I was in the mood for change -- so we had dinner in
a very pretty restaurant in London, Ontario  called
David's Bistro, and then drove back to Toronto.
View of Detroit, Michigan from our hotel room in
Windsor, Ontario.  From Windsor, Detroit looks
like the city's downtown.  It's strange to think how
arbitrary our borders are.  You can hear Detroit's
traffic by the river.  It is so close.  When I was a little
girl living in Windsor, we regarded the two cities as
part of the same cultural experience.
It's been a day of hard work today, and after the long
drives Saturday and Sunday (five hours each way),
the memories of our happy times with Sam, and
our fun and laughter with each other make life seem
precious, and great.

Have a getting-out-to-see-the-world 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!