Monday, July 30, 2012

Try something new

 Pugwash Flower People
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
I’m an artist – fact of life.  As a portrait artist I am used
to meeting the client’s requests – but here was a new one.
About a month ago a friend in Pugwash expressed
an interest in my painting PugwashFlower Man, that
I showed in Studio Vogue Gallery last fall, and in the 
Don Valley Art Club Spring Show.  I called her up to 
confirm that she wanted it, and after saying yes, she asked,
 “can you put me in it?”  Maxine is my friend Ken Lander’s
 fiancée, and a major force in their flower business.

I ran downstairs to my studio holding the phone, stared
hard at the painting, and decided “Yes I can.”  Then the
fun began.  I’ve never actually done this before.  Oh I’ve
changed paintings – usually because I wanted to redo
an area, add more depth.  But add a person into a portrait
of one person?  Nope. Luckily in many photos of the couple
together, Maxine takes exactly this pose.

Challenges?  The trees and flowers that used to be in the
painting where Maxine now is, were painted with a palette knife –
thick and bumpy paint.  I took those off with sandpaper, and then
 rubbing alcohol to make a spot for Maxine.

The rest was not hard.  I would have put Maxine in in the
 first place, but I took the reference photos on my way out
 of Pugwash last year and she was away. 
The happy result for me, is that I like the painting
much better with her in it.  I was always fond of the painting, 
but now see there was someone missing.

And of course the best part of all was seeing the couple's
faces light up when I delivered the painting today.  They
loved it.  

Have a being-willing-to-change day.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The fox, the deer, the herons and the cats

Crab apples in free fall
Acrylic, black marker, and coloured pencil
on watercolour paper
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012

This sounds like a fairy story title I know.  But these
are just some of the creatures we’ve seen in the past few
days.  Driving here at night you have to be constantly
vigilant first of all  for country cats and kittens who play
along the tall grasses at the side of the road, probably
hunting mice.  But we have seen more than one deer
crossing our path on the highway.  And foxes slink away
off the road making a quick get away.  The blue herons are
back in the river bay just down the road at Wallace, Nova Scotia.
Tonight we came home to find a deer slowly sauntering into the
 woods near our apple tree.  Steven pruned the tree until its boughs
are like an umbrella, when you walk under it – the branches
surround you, thick with small, green crabapples.

This drawing is of some apples I scattered onto our
table and then tried to capture.  Across the room from me
in the school house are branches filled with apples, arranged in
a white, Victorian pitcher.  They spread dramatically across
a ten foot span.  A dreamy amount of space for us, used as
we are to city cramped quarters. 

Other than that it was another gorgeous day at the beach.

Have a seeing-the-magic-around- you day.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On Vacation – Flew the coop

 Steven in Hudson Quebec
Molleskine paper and black marker
6 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
We are on vacation in one of the most magical
places on the planet. It wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea,
but for us the combination of sun, sea, blue sky and white
clapboard houses against rolling fields, wide vistas, or dense spruce
 and pine forest – it ‘s ideal – idyllic.

Leftovers Hudson Quebec
Moleskine paper and black marker
9 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
We’ve been at our schoolhouse near Pugwash, Nova Scotia
 since last Friday night, and already it feels like forever,
and like the blink of an eye.  That’s how the place tricks you. 
It’s slow and easy, the people so friendly , the days so long. 
And before you know it poof it’s over, and it’s back to the
 busyness and constant thrum of the city.
The Gulf Shore Beach today
I have learned some things since I arrived. Inspired
 by the lessons Melinda Easparza posted during her visit
to the Grand Canyon, here they are:

1.     Enjoy each day.
2.     Half a blueberry muffin from Grumpy’s bakery in
Oxford, N.S. (only the home of Canada’s blueberries, only
The most delicious muffins on the planet, will not make you fat.
3.     Long walks on the beach at any time on a good day are
       the answer to the major questions of life – why? And how?
4.     Long walks on the beach after sunset on a rainy day
are to be avoided – mosquitoes.
5.     Even a less than stellar book is great on vacation.
6.     I am addicted to the internet and talking to you, and I
have maybe half an hour of internet time per day – not
enough to keep up with all that you are doing. So I have to
back off. Forgive me for not responding, there is barely time
to post and read my email.
7.     I have two apple trees on my little acre of land.  They are crabapple
trees, and may make me want to paint.  But I am working on a
commission that’s almost done, so given our demanding schedule –
eating, walking on the beach, sleeping, eating, walking one the beach,
there may not be much time for other forms of painting.
8.     I love it here.  On a sunny day, (most days are sunny) I wonder
why I don’t live here full time.  All need falls away – stores seem
odd.  Breathing, and looking at the stars, and picking wild
raspberries, and buying raspberries from the woman up
the road who has a little garden fill my brain.  On a rainy
day I know I’d be lonely here – even with all of our lovely
friends.  On a rainy day I’m a city girl. Well we do have an
outhouse and it is scary crossing the lawn to the trees in
a thunder storm.
9.     Light is different from place to place, and here it is captivating.
10. I do miss you.  Have a lovely time.

Have a having a lovely time day.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Hannah

The Hannah
 Hannah Creaser and me with 
On the road in Fredericton
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
On Friday my painting On the Road in Fredericton
went home to Fredericton and its rightful owners
Hannah Creaser and her family.  This was a happy reunion.   
Hannah is the young woman I photographed in the parking lot
 of the Superstore in Fredericton last year.  She is an amazing girl –
an actress, a singer and a champion wrestler.  The painting of
 Hannah has shown in Toronto, and New York, but it belongs
 in Fredericton.

We had a lovely time drinking coffee with Hannah
and her Dad, Eben and seeing the beautiful house Eben
built, and the super property they have.  We
were talking about Europe and how Hannah would
love Florence.  Eben reminisced about seeing the
Mona Lisa at the Louvre, and how valuable the painting
is, how it’s kept under thick glass.  Hannah said that 
one day this painting, (On the road in Fredericton) would 
be known as “the Hannah”, and be just as famous.
You can’t get a much better compliment than that.
A big shout out to Hannah and her Dad for their kindness 
on our visit and support of an artist who saw an image
and had to capture it. 

Have a meeting-wonderful-people day.

Friday, July 13, 2012

A Hockney fest

 Untitled (work in progress -- almost done)
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
I don't know if you like David Hockney's work, but I am a
major fan.  Funds to our wonderful public broadcasting
station CBC have been cut, which means a lot of repeated
programming.  This week the repeats were definitely in my favour
as I heard two interviews with David Hockney
in one week, one with Eleanor Wachtel, and one with Jian

What I loved:

With one interviewer the discussion of scale came up.
Hockney talked about how large scale presented technical
problems.  For instance he is 6 foot, and working on something
12 feet high was double his height.  He talked about how
Monet dug a trench to be able to complete his largest
water lily series.  The interviewer wanted to discuss the
whys of scale, and Hockney the technical challenges.
The largest painting I have worked on to date is 4 feet by
6 feet high.  On an easel, even at the lowest setting the painting
was 7 feet high -- a challenge for a 5'4" woman.  I painted
quite a bit of it standing on a chair.

When Hockney started drawing on his iPhone he sent the
drawings to friends.  He talked about how most items
people get in their emails are requests, and pieces of
information.  So he'd wake up, see a sunrise or a flower
(he likes to have flowers about), and draw that and send it
off.  What he liked most about that was that his friends said
that they enjoyed receiving his little drawings.  Hockney then
switched to the iPad, and had an exhibition in Toronto at
the Royal Ontario Museum of his iPad drawings exhibited
on 40 iPads.

When asked  if he was bothered by how ephemeral digitally
produced images were, Hockney said that everything
is ephemeral.  Nothing lasts.  That didn't worry him, he just
liked recording what he saw.

The artist noted in one conversation that even movies were
reducing the amount of colour on the screen.  He said that
in fact the world is very colourful if you really look at it.
Hockney likes bright colour.  Yay!

Here is a painting I am working on.  I don't in any way
claim to be similar to Hockney, but I do love his work.
I like how Hockney goes forward doing what he likes,
and continuing to innovate as he creates -- not by trying to
be ultra modern, or way out, but by being totally
unique whatever he tries. The irony of course is that by
doing what he likes, he ends up being cutting edge.

Have a being-your-own-artist day.

Friday, July 6, 2012

10 great things about salad

Untitled (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
Last night I was walking my dog under a bright golden
moon thinking about salad.  It's very hot here, and the
dog and I were tired.  Not walking far I assured her,
just to the park -- where the cool from the trees hits you
with a surprising force. In the midst of wonder I
thought about salad's bounty -- because I'm painting salad.

10 Great things about salad

1.  Salad is usually the first course in a simple meal.
It is served when you're filled with anticipation.
2. Most salads are good for you (unless you heap
on mayo or fill then with bacon bits), so at this
point in the meal you are still virtuous.
3.  Salad is pretty -- all that colour makes you feel
happy when you see it.
4.  A well made salad is so delicious that there would
be something missing in the meal without it.
5. Salad is filling, but not heavy, so you may eat less
of the following courses, but you can still eat.
6. Part of a future salad is growing in my garden --
three tomato plants, planted themselves.
7.  Good point -- salads frequently contain tomatoes
one of my all time favorite foods.
8. Tomatoes contain lycopene which I just read can protect
you from sunburn, and can also protect the body from
certain types of cancer.  Well now!
9. Salad is easy to make.
10. And most important -- salad makes a great subject for a

The painting I'm showing you today is a work in progress.
I've been very happy painting it, thinking of the miracle of
eating a meal, photographing it, and then turning a
photo into a painting of both a happy time, and a delicious meal.

Have an-eating-whatever-you-like day.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Poppies, Canada Day and Baby's Birthday

 Holiday Poppies
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012

I think that should be in the reverse order because the
main thing on our minds today is my older son's birthday.
And of course Christopher will always be our baby. A few
minutes ago Steven and I sat in the kitchen reading my journal
 from the year Christopher was born.  At the time I was working
 selling drawings in coloured pencil and black pen and ink, and
 translating articles from French to English. That is hard to believe
 now when I have to work hard at remembering my French.

Christopher Sleeping 
(journal drawing)
marker on paper
Barbara Muir © 2012

The painting today is of poppies, loosely based on the poppies
in our garden, one of my favorite flowers.
People gather at sunset to watch the fireworks.
We sat on the rocks at the beaches.  The man in
the foreground is holding a dog in a towel.
In the far distance you can barely see the CN Tower.

Yesterday was Canada Day, and Steven and I and Sam went
over to the Beaches to watch the fireworks out over the water.
We go to the water treatment plant at Victoria Park, and watch
the fireworks at Ashbridges Bay from there.  It's far less crowded
and much more human.  One of my favorite things about
the evening was listening to a little four year old girl, who was
lying in the sand proclaiming "oh my that is so colourful, that
is so beautiful! This is a great party!"  Her enthusiasm was
particularly impressive because we waited 3/4 of an hour for
the fireworks to start, and the mosquitoes at the water were
incredibly thick. 
The moon over Lake Ontario at the beaches, Toronto on
Canada Day.
The drawing today is of Christopher from my diary.  Now
I have to go and wrap his presents.  Happy Birthday Christopher.
You rock.

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!