Sunday, October 28, 2012

More from the early stages

 Untitled work (work in progress)
Drawing and beginning of the underpainting 
(This section in black)
Acrylic and willow charcoal on gessoed canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
This painting will be of a delicious breakfast we had in
Quebec City.  I think the people who deliver the
breakfasts are brave, and the staff do such a lovely
job of arranging things on the little cart tables they
serve on, that you want to invite them to stay,
talk about art and have a coffee.  In French?  Okay,
bien sur.  But of course they have work to do, and
I did too.  I had to take the photograph of this delicious
meal for this massive painting, and then eat the breakfast.
It was certainly a happy occasion. Imagine out the
window was the entire beautiful city of old Québec.

This is the top right quadrant of my big painting.  I am
starting to put on the underpainting very roughly.
It's a busy day today, so I don't have much more to
say except watch this spot.  I do hope you'll come out
to see this work, and a number of other paintings
on the theme at the opening at Studio Vogue at 216
Avenue Road in Toronto on December 1.  The opening
 runs from 5 - 7  so we can  go out for dinner, or party
afterwards too.  Can't wait to see you there.  This big still
life will be finished and there to greet you.
 Untitled work (work in progress)
Drawing and beginning of the underpainting 
(On these sections in black)
Acrylic and willow charcoal on gessoed canvas
72 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
Steven holds the upper and lower right portions of
the painting so you can get a concept of scale.
Together the pieces are 6 feet high, not quite the height of the
kitchen cabinet they are resting against.
It's birthday season here, so the balloons will have
work to do until nearly the end of November.

Have a planning-for-future-artworks-day.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Start and keep going

 Starting the big one -- lower right hand quadrant.
Photo by Steven van Schaik
Image on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2012

I remember David Hockney talking on CBC about scale and
the issues involved with painting something large scale.
Now he was talking about really, really big work.  But he
is 6 feet tall, and I am 5 foot 4.  Big difference.  So having
big ideas is a theoretical and practical problem of
execution.  Yesterday I began drawing the images on the canvas
for my big work based on my reference photos.  The local printer
I go to creates large reference images for me.  So helpful.
Steven took a shot of me drawing this one.  I've got to say
I am super excited.  My friend Suzanne and I read a wonderful
novel, probably eight years ago.  If anyone knows the author
and title please let me know.  It was about a writer who decided
to become a school teacher instead, and was not good at it.
After a few months she started having dreams about an
excellent school teacher who told her how to dress, act
and treat the children.  That worked.  Her motto was
"Start and keep going."  I think of this all the time when
it feels like something is too big, or too difficult to do.

Have a starting-and-keeping-going day.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Studio Vogue December Show -- Save the date

Hi everyone,

I will be exhibiting some new work on the topic of
food on December first in a show at Studio Vogue
Gallery 216 Avenue Road, in Toronto that promises
 to be delicious.

Please save the date Saturday December 1, and
come out between 5 and 7 p.m. to see some wonderful
art.  I can't wait to see you there.  It will be
a great way to begin the holiday season and one
of the most festive months of the year.

Have a putting-this-date-on-your-calendar day

Thursday, October 25, 2012

International Artist Day in my world

 The Morning dance of pepper and salt
Watercolour and marker on Arches
watercolour paper
6 x 10
Barbara Muir © 2012
Hi wonderful artists around the world who
I am crazy about, and Alyson Stanfield who asked how
we are celebrating International Artist Day,  I am glad
I spent the day focusing on art, and talking to artists
both in Toronto, and in the U.S.  Art and travel to
other countries for shows is hugely on my mind, and
I'm planning a major piece that I showed you my
canvasses for last night.

Other than that the business of art goes on.  I am
working on several commissions and planning for more.
There is so much going on that my head is spinning.
But I come here, to meet with my fellow blogger
friends, and blog fans to settle down and realize
that I am the luckiest of all people to know you,
and to be able to dream and plan about our super
lives as an international artists. 

So get back to me,  and to Alyson Stanfield and tell
me (and Alyson) what you did today to celebrate,
and what you're planning.

Have a loving-the-whole-world-of-art day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Going big, and getting serious about food

Four canvasses getting ready to become one
really big painting.  My son Sam, who is 6 ft. 3 
agreed to lie down next to the canvasses in
the tiny space left in that part of my small studio
to give you an idea of just how big this new work will be.
Fun eh?

Tonight's image is the very, very first stage of going big.
I mean really big.  Over the next few weeks I will be
painting a painting on these four 36 x 48 inch canvasses,
that will fit together to make one 6 foot x 8 foot image
of a table top laden with food.  That is taking food really

The inspiration for this massive, huge, gigantic, piece
of art, is a request from my gallery owner in Toronto for
paintings about food for my December 1 show at
Studio Vogue.  Yes it's a group show -- and I will be showing
this massive work, plus several smaller, but just as serious
explorations of my love of one of life's truly amazing
pleasures -- food baby.  Yes food.  Gotta have it, so do
you.  But seriously.  I love the possibilities for abstraction
coupled with detail in this subject, so watch this space
as I go ahead with it.

As Mike Dooley says "are you thinking big -- I mean
really big?"  "Good because that's exactly how much of
it you're going to get."  Well I am Mike thanks to you,
and have been dreaming of, thinking of, planning this
work for a few months.

 Squirrel making quick work of our pumpkins

The idea
The squirrels' revenge.  And this was just
the beginning of the squirrels' art project.
Nature keeps you humble.

On a lighter note.  We bought five small pumpkins
a week and a half ago to decorate our front porch.
But our local squirrels were still angry that they didn't
get any of my husband Steven's pumpkin pie on
Thanksgiving Day, and they destroyed our pumpkins.
They made our porch look like a garbage dump, or a wild
squirrel pumpkin party.

Have a thinking-big day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

So Much Fun!

Talking on Skype to the students at Meriwether Lewis 
Elementary school in Charlottesville, Virginia, USA
photo by Andrew Sherogan
Today I was a Skype guest at a Virginia Public school.
Through the miracle of Skype (and it certainly has
been a miracle in my life) I traveled to Virginia
and met a brilliant and lively group of students.
They are studying art with Andrew Sherogan, a
great artist himself.  And his passion for teaching
showed in the intelligent questions the kids asked me,
and their extreme enthusiasm for the subject.  Andrew
wondered before the interview if they'd have any
questions, or whether they might need to be prompted.
 But every hand was up and waving every time the students
had a chance to ask me something new. So I want to thank
 Andrew's class for being awesome interviewers.
Can you draw my T-shirt?
(One of the questions from a boy at the end of the talk 
so I did. ) 
Black marker on Drawing paper
8 1/4 x 11 3/4
Barbara Muir © 2012
Here's a little drawing of a couple of the students who
talked to me just before we said goodbye.

What an exciting and inspiring event for me.

Props to Andrew and the super kids in his class.

Have a loving-talking-about-art day.

Monday, October 22, 2012

More Skype and a wonderful art teacher

 The teacher
Skype portrait
Watercolour and marker
on Arches Watercolour paper
6 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012

Today's painting is a small portrait of a really special
teacher.  And I'm not just saying that because he
found my work and likes it, and because I'm
talking to his class in Charlottesville, Virginia
tomorrow.  He is great because he wants children
to feel the way that he does when he's painting, or
making art, and he doesn't want them to have their
creativity squashed by rules, or by everyone doing
the same thing at the same time.  So he's set up
art centers all around the art room in the school he
teaches in, so students can explore art in their own

Awesome.  Tomorrow I am having a Skype
conference with the grade four class to talk
about creating portraits from Skype.  So I
did a little sketch of their teacher, and may do
another before the talk -- because I haven't
nailed it yet, but I still like the feeling.

In other news I finished a commission today
that I've been working on for a while.  So.
whew.  More on that at another time.

Have a-being-excited-about-the-work-you-do day.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Thank the universe for Sunday

Cosmos for the cosmos
Watercolour and marker
on Arches watercolour paper
6 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
(These are the last Cosmos left over and still
blooming from my Thanksgiving flowers)

Today was one of those glorious Sundays that make
you believe in all things wonderful.  The sky was
that perfect deep blue with white puffy clouds
floating by as decoration.  And the autumn trees
seemed to soak up the sunlight and hold it like
living candles.  It was pure delight, so we decided
to head to Kleinburg and the McMichael gallery
one of the largest collection of Group of Seven
paintings in Canada.

When we got there most of the Group of Seven
galleries were closed, but there was a wonderful
show of gallery volunteers' work, and two super
portrait shows, Double Take: Portraits of Intriguing
Canadians and Queen Elizabeth II by Cecil Beaton:
a Diamond Jubilee Celebration. Both exhibits were
fabulous and I was completely happy.

Standing in front of gorgeous portraits in oil
of Wolfe and Montcalm -- the generals who
decided the fate of Canada at the battle
on September13, 1759 (would we be predominantly
 French or English?) (By the way the English won, but
 both generals died from wounds they suffered during the battle).
I felt excited about the power of painted portraits.
James Wolfe
oil on canvas
Artist: Highmore, Joseph, Attributed to (1692-1780,)
Library and Archives Canada 

Louis-Joseph, Marquis de Montcalm
Artist unknown,
 plus detail of the face
oil on canvas
Library anad Archives Canada
There they were these two famous men, staring
out at me.  And I preferred Montcalm.  He looked
more interesting and less stuffy.  I quipped
to the man beside me -- "there they are the fate
of Canada in their hands", and we laughed.  I
said, "we could all have been French, and
had much better food, and probably cared more
about literature."  He replied, "I'm from Alaska,
I could have been Russian," and then we both
laughed.  I said "like whats-her-name." And
he said, "Sarah -- don't remind me."  And I said
how did you know who I meant?"  He said,
"everyone knows."  I said that that wasn't true,
but clearly we both watch Jon Stewart.  And that
was true so we laughed again. So much fun in
front of these famous dead generals.

If you're not Canadian the historic battle decided our
cultural future. The English won, and that's why the only
province in Canada that is French for the most part is
Quebec.  But for Canadians there is much more to
it than that -- far too much to go into here.

Steven on the grounds at the McMichael
Canadian Collection
Beautiful birches outside
like those in the Tom Thomson 
painting inside the gallery.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Today -- showing up to the paint

Dancing Nasturtiums
Watercolour and marker 
on Arches watercolour paper
6 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012

My friend Melinda Esparza recently blogged about
a book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield,
which I have yet to read that talks about
showing up and doing the work.  That doesn't mean
that painting is a slog and we don't want to do it.
It means that in the midst of all the things that can
pull us away from the paint, an artist feels better
when she/he honours the need to paint, and shows
up to do it.

At what could have been bedtime today, after
painting all day on a commission, I wanted to paint
for the blog.  I want to show up here, and be present.
So I looked at what may be the very last Nasturtiums
in this lovely milk pitcher and started the drawing for
this watercolour.  Immediately I was glad I did.  The
flowers sang to me -- saying now, now, now.  Today,
not tomorrow.  The large burgundy blooms would wilt
in the morning.  I knew this.  So I got to work.

I am happy with the result and bonus -- have added to my
series.  And now it is time to sleep.  Let's honour that
need too.

Have a painting-more-and-sleeping-more day.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Send me your happy babies

 Baby's birthday
Acrylic on canvas
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
Hi everyone,

Or your sad babies, or your mothers, fathers, sisters,
brothers.  Just finished this commission of a baby, and
the client was very happy.  I painted the baby's older sister
a few years ago, and although their faces are quite different
I wanted the paintings to connect, so I painted similar
leaves going in the opposite direction on the current painting.

I loved the baby's expression -- that straight up joy that
babies express so perfectly. She is a beauty. I am always
touched when clients come back to me because they
loved an earlier painting.

Tonight my dear friend and wonderful artist, Sally Chupick,
 (who I met through blogland) and runs the Gallery at
the Porch Door, dropped in and we had some
wine together.  Sally is always so sunny and warm.  It's a
delight to spend time with her.  We had both had long days
and didn't feel up to a photo, so forgive me for not
getting one.

Have a sending-me-your-babies day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

More proud moments and an inspirational drive

 Got it
Watercolour and marker on
Arches watercolour paper
6 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
It's been quite the fall for my family. This past weekend
 Steven and I drove to Windsor, Ontario to see Sam graduate
with a Bachelor of Fine Art from The University of Windsor.
Sam was so happy striding across the stage.  Afterwards we
celebrated with dinner and champagne.  Sam was thrilled.

On the drive home Steven and I stopped at various points
along the way so I could take pictures for future reference.
My artist friends traveled along the route with me in my
mind. Marcia LaBelle would have done a fine portrait of
Sam in his graduate's robes. David Lobenberg would have
nailed that confident look on Sam's face as we toasted him.
Sheila Vaughan has already painted one of Sam's parents,
and would have done a moving job of getting the mood
on both of our faces.  Susan Carlin could easily be
commissioned to paint the distinguished faculty in their

I could see how Flora Doehler and Nicki Ault would
 handle the autumn colours. All along the road we saw
 purple wild asters set against deep rusty reds, brilliant
 yellows of wild grasses and fields in fawn
 the colour of my Siamese cat Fiona's fur.
Farmhouse on Lake Erie

I could see how Laurel Daniel would elevate the scenery with
warmth and beauty, how Karen Bruson would paint the red brick
 farmhouse where we stopped one time. I could imagine
Edward B. Gordon's treatment of the dramatic low storm clouds,
and moody light. Róisín O'Farrell  would have made the interiors
in any of the lovely old houses we passed gleam with delicious colour.
 I imagined the lush, abstract drama Melinda Esparza would create
 with those colours.  Linny D.Vine would make whole towns appear
to be joyously part of Linnyland. I could see Sally Chupick's lovely
images of water scenes, and what Belinda del Pesco would
do with a quiet table setting at our morning breakfast. Liza Hirst
would get the light and gestures of the people at the take out place
where we stopped for lunch magnificently. Marilyn Flanegan
 could paint me lasting and gorgeous images of the horses we
passed on quiet side roads.

Closer to home Julie Davis could make the stands of trees
against farmer's fields sing on canvas.  Tammy Hext's impasto
would make the Niagara Escarpment at Milton monumental.
Kim Rempel could easily create fantastic paintings of brilliant huge
 trees in a farmer's field, and Catherine Jeffrey would capture
 the rainy, dark Toronto streets with aplomb. And there are too
many other artists I'd love to mention but I could see their work
too flashing through my sleepy brain as Steven drove on. One of
those artists is Pam Holnback, who would also love the ridge at

My painting today is a fast portrait sketch of Sam holding his degree.

Have an enjoying-your-painter-friends day.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving and the newlyweds return

 On their wedding day Christopher and Megan
Photo by Geehae Jeong

Happy Thanksgiving again to everyone in Canada
celebrating, and now sleeping after at least one
fantastic dinner I hope.  Tonight we had dinner
with Megan and Christopher home from their
wonderful honeymoon in Bali.  Steven, Sam, Megan,
Christopher and I sat down to a feast of turkey,
stuffing, roast potatoes, salad and pumpkin pie.
The newlyweds had been swimming (diving) with
sea turtles, and saw beautiful schools of fish
set against the coral reefs, (which are reviving
apparently -- very happy news).
 The Skype series I did based on Megan
 and Christopher last year
Three paintings
Acrylic on canvas
 Each 24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2011
You know that I have painted my family many
times.  They have frequently been willing subjects.
And I love the photograph above of them on their
wedding day. 
Megan and Christopher
 I also love my photo of them the day after, happily starting a new life.

Have an appreciating-life's-wonderful-moments day 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The long and lovely weekend

 Still want to party
Watercolour and marker
on Arches watercolour paper
5 7/8 x 9.5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
Tonight we went for dinner at my sister's.
She and her husband make a big round table
bigger, by placing a huge wooden circle
over the smaller circle of the table, and then
no one is sitting on a corner.  Brilliant. We
were eight delighted participants -- seven grownups
and a lovely five-year old girl.  After the adults
enjoyed a little champagne to toast the evening,
the sumptuous meal began.

And here's the thing.  We do it all tomorrow
again at home -- complete with turkey, potatoes,
and pumpkin pie.

As for art, tonight's flowers look a bit baroque.
Baby it's cold outside.  I traded my trench for
a light winter wool coat, and a scarf. So we are
closing in on this series.  Still my love of the
resilient Nasturtiums, and Cosmos hasn't faded
 a whit.  Once again Happy, Happy Thanksgiving
to everyone in my land, and to everyone in yours.

Have a plenty-for-everyone-so-let's-
share-the-planet day

Friday, October 5, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

 This photo from last Thanksgiving
was the inspiration for this
Cottage Flowers
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
 The painting sold in May, and it is just one of the
reasons that I'm grateful for a wonderful year.

In Canada this is the long weekend.  Three
days off, lots of turkey, potatoes, pumpkin
pie, and time to hang out with family
and friends and enjoy everyone.

To my friends outside Canada, historically
our Canadian celebration has been about
many things, but in the last century was declared
 a holiday on the second weekend in October
 to celebrate the harvest.

It happens just as the fall in this part of
the country is at its most beautiful.  I'm
sure aside from gratitude for the harvest
it's a distraction from what's to come (winter),
and a holiday separate from both religion and
gift giving, although both can be involved.
But everyone can celebrate the harvest and
be grateful for all that's good in their lives.
I am grateful that you are in mine.

Have a sharing-what-you-have-with-others day.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Sublime

 Night Bouquet
Watercolour and marker
on Arches watercolour paper
5 7/8 x 9 1/2 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012

The book I'm reading, The Elegance of
the Hedgehog, which a friend of mine
tells me is sad, talks a lot about art and the
sublime.  It explores how art and literature
lift us out of the petty concerns of our daily lives
and give us glimpses of the sublime.

Nature has the same effect on me.  The other
day as I was picking tomatoes off my crazy
grape tomato vines which are now crawling
down our outside basement stairs unchecked,
 I stood up and had these flowers against my face.
 And I was filled with wonder.  I stood in silence for
a few minutes in absolute thrall.  The sublime.
Japanese Anemones in my garden.

Have an enjoying-extreme-beauty day.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Flashlight flower hunter

 Night Nasturtiums 
Watercolour on watercolour paper
5 7/8 x 9.5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
I know, I know.  You were hoping for
more food pictures, or people, or anything
as a break from my recent obsession with
 flowers.  But it isn't over.  Each cold night
worries me like a parent who can't stop
going in and looking in the crib to make sure
the baby's breathing.  I'm not even a good
gardener, but nature is.  So under a canopy of
huge Nasurtium leaves there are new flowers
popping up.  I harvested them with a flashlight
one night, because I was so afraid the whole
beautiful, jungly plant would be gone in the
morning.  And these fragile, almost colourless
tadpoles of Nasturtium flowers blossomed
in the little milk pitcher filled with water

Have a willing-to-save-the-beautiful 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!