Friday, December 20, 2013

Wishing you the feeling of abundance

 December evening still life
watercolour and black marker
on watercolour paper
10 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013

I think it was Louise Hay who used to encourage
 an affirmation, "abundance is my natural state."
Looking at my life today I feel that way.  Here
is this beautiful fruit on the table, sharing the
stage (out of the picture) with roses and candles.
It is the picture of the bounty of this season.

This little watercolour is very different from
the drawing it began with, and I could do it
ten more times and get a different painting
every time.  I hope you are having a lovely
holiday no matter what you celebrate.

Have a feeling-you-live-in-abundance day.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The gift of wonder


December evening still life (work in progress)
Black marker on watercolour paper
10 x 6
Barbara Muir © 2013
I'm posting a drawing tonight that I did in preparation
for a watercolour tomorrow maybe.  I'd put the dog
(new hyper dog Sally) to bed, and the cats.  I sat
down to do the drawing and could hear my Siamese
cat complaining.  I am not supposed to work after
everyone's in bed.

Making this simple line drawing I was thinking that
I've painted this same cut glass bowl so many times.
It confounds me and delights me every time I look at it.
And although it's perfectly beautiful, part of what gets
me every time is that it's not a completely perfect
structure. It's not 100% symmetrical And I'm
filled with wonder every time I paint or draw it
because it shows me new facets and shapes every time.

Isn't that the best gift of all of being an artist -- the gift of
wonder? Walking home from a friend's place the other
night, saying goodbye to people on the street who were
with us, I looked up and saw huge flakes of snow lit
by the street lamp as they fell, like sparkling stars. Someone
during the evening asked me if I hated the word "awesome,"
and I said no.  I'm an artist.  The world is.

Have an enjoying one-of-the-best-gifts-of-all day.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Finishing up the year

 Toast to the Poinsettias
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
I have no idea why I love Christmas -- I just do.
I have the corniest album of songs playing in
the kitchen, and a friend in Sweden sent me
some Christmas carols sung by a wonderful
choir in Swedish.  So when I want beautiful
music I listen to that.

My son and I have baked cookies, we have some
pine boughs on top of the kitchen cabinet, and
the tree is waiting for us to slow down on our
work, bring it in off the back porch, and put
our decorations on it.  We had so much fun
buying it the other night from Sonny --
a very funny guy who we've been getting
great trees from since the kids were little.

Maybe I do know.  It's the excitement -- everyone
hurrying around trying to get family and friends
presents, people dressing up and toasting the season,
cards and cookies and kindness -- covering the
city like the blanket of snow outside.   And Stephen
Colbert singing Silent Night tonight.

Here's a painting of a poinsettia -- wishing you
all the joy of the season.

Have a -getting-ready-for-the-holidays day!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Thinking about creativity

 Tonight at the opening with Maureen Morrison, wonderful artist
and one of the show organizers for the DVAC Holiday
show on at Todmorden Mills Toronto. We're standing in front
of my paintings and you can just see Now that's breakfast!
behind us. The show is on this weekend, and I'll be there
Saturday between noon and 2:30 p.m.  Come on down if you're
in Toronto or the vicinity.

When we were going through my mother's files
we found the strangest thing.  She had saved all
of our elementary school report cards.  When I
was a little girl we were all called "him, he."
That was a surprise, and also that in kindergarten
I was good at singing, but not considered to be
good at art.  And yet I remember my kindergarten
teacher so well, not for the singing (I was not
crazy about her voice), but for the fact that
I first painted in her class, and will feel grateful
to her forever for that.

I remember to this day the look of the big pots
of hard tempera paint we worked with, using
water to bring the paint to life.  Reading my
old report card with my father's elegant
signature in peacock blue on the back, I could
feel the large, stiff bristled brushes in my hand,
and the pleasure of putting colour on paper.
The best.  I think that was the first time I knew
the thrill of creativity, how rewarding it was to
make a painting, and to take it home to my

Tonight two of my paintings are in the Don Valley
Art Club Holiday Show.  And submitting them to
be included in the show made me feel a similar
pleasure to the feeling I had as a child with fresh work
to go on the fridge.

Have an-enjoying-your-creativity day.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Painters paint

 Sasha -- Art Group Sketch
Acrylic on canvas
20 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
After a long day I went to paint with my art
group tonight.  There are some wonderful
painters in the  group, and when the model
breaks we talk.  Tonight I think the other artists
were tired like I was, but I had one short
discussion about art.  To all of you out
there painting on a regular basis it might
seem simple, but it's what I've been thinking
about lately.  An artist I really admire in
my group who easily creates four or five
strong paintings in a night, while the rest
of us come away with one agreed that Painters
paint.  We don't do it for fame.  It may not even
be a life decision. We do it because that is what
we do.

I like that idea.  And so in the brief time I
was with the group, I painted this portrait
sketch.  The model posed with an intense
almost angry expression.  He was wearing
a sports jacket, and the entire look created
a mood I enjoyed painting with gusto.

Have a being-a-painter-who-paints day.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Don Valley Art Club Large & Small Holiday Art Show

 Now that's breakfast!
Acrylic on canvas
10 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
This weekend I will be working at the Don Valley Art Club
Large & Small Holiday Art Show.  I have two pieces for sale
in the show which opens Wednesday night, November 20th
from 7 - 9 p.m.

Served to perfection
Acrylic on canvas
10 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
I'd love to see you either Wednesday evening or Saturday from
noon until 2:30 p.m.  There's a wonderful variety of work in the
show.  If you're considering giving art as a Holiday gift, or giving
your house or apartment a lift with beautiful original art, and
you're in the Toronto area, this is the show to see. Plus admission
is free and parking is free.

The show is in the elegant Papermill Gallery, at the Todmorden
Mills Heritage Site, 67 Pottery Road, and if you're using Google
Maps, it's M4K 2B9. 

Come on out and see my work and all of the other super work
in person.

Have a wanting-to-buy-art-day.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Starting a new one

Winter tea at the gallery (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches 
Barbara Muir © 2013

A while ago I showed you a grey scale painting of
this subject I've been wanting to work on since
last winter.  In the midst of summer, the reflection
of a winter tree on a black table didn't appeal.

But going through my references again I realized
that I always loved this image and the memories
it conjured up of tea at the Art Gallery of Ontario
on a mid-winter day -- one of the great pleasures
of living in Toronto.  The black surface of the table,
cleaned to a high polish, formed a perfect mirror except
where either shadow blocked the light, or where the
light missed the table.  All in all, a challenge, and
a delight.

So this is what I'm working on.  I have quite a ways to
go, but I thought I'd show you now.

Have a getting-going-on-a-wonderful-week day.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

A time of great kindness

Unititled (Art Group Sketch)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
(I went back to my art group this week.  The model
was wonderful, and I so enjoyed doing this
sketch in the hour and a half that I was there.)

The emotions and also the obligations and tasks around
my mother's memorial and burial took a slice out
of my concentration.  I know I am lucky that
emotionally I was, and am complete with my mother.
I loved her and she loved me.  We had that down.  I
found her funny and witty, and supportive when it
mattered.  I also found her strength and courage
inspiring right up to her death.

I have said before that she would want me to keep
going and she would.  But more than that one of the
beautiful things about life is that it insists on itself,
which makes sense.

Thank you to everyone who has given me kind comments,
sent cards, given me flowers.  You have made me feel
wrapped in a blanket of kindness.  And I thank the
universe for the gift of sunlight through golden trees
against a blue fall sky.  I thank my parents for my
eyes and for sending me to art college and university,
so that I could know the desire to paint and write.

Ultimately as I said before the compulsion to paint
trumps even sadness.  Thank goodness.

Have a working-it-through-with-love day.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Putting painting on the list

Gallery Tea
Watercolour and marker
6 x 9.5
Barbara Muir © 2013
My mother's memorial is this weekend -- a celebration
of life.  I just had a call from a friend in Los Angeles
who is a wonderful artist, and she encouraged me to
remember the celebration part of the memorial.  I
assured her that my short talk will celebrate my
mother's life, how could it not?

But I may not get to talk about the list.  I have been
lost since my mother's death -- sad to a level I can
rarely remember feeling. But of course I was that
sad when my father died too.  Here's the point -- the
sadness shunted me off my practice of making a daily
list.  It's a supremely simple but great practice.  If
I make a list, the things on it get done.

And it hit me -- that even though I essentially learned
list making through articles, and books, and a course
I taught which included time management -- my mother
was a tremendous list maker.  She was a doer.  And
when I'd call her up on Saturday and Sunday mornings,
she'd have accomplished so many tasks by 10 in the
morning, that I'd feel like a slacker by comparison.

So yesterday, in the midst of all the turmoil of
arranging for her memorial, I wrote a list.  Anchored
by that again, I am getting things done.  And on the list
is starting a painting.  So I have. This is a grey scale
watercolour, of part of what I'm planning.  The canvas
 will be in colour, but it's a winter scene so quite muted.

Have a getting-things-done day.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Picking up the brush -- sad and happy

 Today's flowers from the garden
Watercolour and black marker on 
watercolour paper
6 x 9.5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
My sweet mother died on Sunday morning
last weekend. After my mother died
Steven and I had lunch with my brother,
my niece and my son and his wife.  I know
we were in shock, and horribly sad, but
we were also so happy to be together.

We drove home from Ottawa in the rain which seemed
apt.  I have never known such profound grief.
In Toronto our two Thanksgiving dinners
with family, were good -- the food delicious,
but the ache of knowing my mother wasn't
in the world anymore permeated every conversation.

Today I knew in my soul that my mother wants
me to carry on, to make art, to live life with
every fibre of my being.  So I went into the garden
and picked this small bouquet.  It made me feel
a taste of the delight I knew being in the world
as my mother's daughter -- a flicker of happiness
started in my heart.  One day I will be fine.

Meanwhile tell everyone you love that you love
them.  Spread love anywhere you can.  Yes
it does matter.  It all matters. And you matter to me.

Have a spreading-the-love day.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Opening in honour of my mother

At the opening of Interplay at
Studio Vogue last night.
Me with the Times Tables Series
from top to bottom
Tea Alone,
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30
Barbara Muir © 2013,
Let's Get This Party Started
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30
Barbara Muir © 2013,
The Writer's Life
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30
Barbara Muir © 2013
My wonderful mother is dying in a hospital in Ottawa.
My heart is breaking beyond anything I could have
imagined, but one of the best lessons my mother has
taught me is to be strong in the face of life's sorrows.
And I am.

She was and is one of the bravest people I have
ever known.  Living alone, almost blind, and with
a lung ailment that made her cough for hours at a time,
she still found pleasure in life, especially in her friends
and family. She lived alone by choice.
Even four days ago she was making up
songs about her condition, but I'm afraid that was
the last of the songs I'll hear from her.

During the past few months, and especially in this
past sad month, there have been many
moments of happiness, and some of the most
inspiring have been in the lovely development
of the series I call the Times Table Series, on
view now at Studio Vogue.  The family that let
me into their lives, and took hundreds of photos
for me to use as reference, are funny, and kind
and loving.  And every time I'd make a new request
I'd receive another flurry of photos trying to
give me what I needed.

To honour them, and to honour my mother I
wanted to be at my opening.  I told my friends
in the community that they would cheer me up
if they came, and they did.  It was wonderful.
The ultimate message that filters through out
of all of this, is that love is what matters -- give it,
share it, enjoy it.  And that's what I hope this series

Have a loving-your-family-and-friends day.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Love is everything

 Tea Alone
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
This series of three was inspired by the idea
 of the different forms of loving activities that
take place around the table in our homes.
I've called it the Times Table series, because it's
about the multiple roles the table plays.

The theme is especially poignant to me now as
one of the potent themes of union around a table --
eating at my mother's table -- is coming to a close
because she's very ill.

If you're in town please come out to the opening
of Interplay at Studio Vogue 216
Avenue Road,  Toronto, Ontario,
Thursday night, October 10 between
6 and 8 p.m.  I would love to see you there,
and it would mean the world to me.

A shout out to Auralee and her family for all the
amazing help with this.

Have an enjoying-your-family day.

Friday, October 4, 2013

The Writer's Life

 The Writer's Life
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
Here is the final version of my painting
The Writer's Life, the second in the Times
Tables series.  This is a story that many young
parents can relate to.  My brother is a writer
and he frequently worked on writing with his
baby daughter either in his arms, or drawing
at his feet.

When my children were little I was a corporate
writer, working on messages for some of
Canada's top CEO's.  The irony of my situation
wasn't ever lost on me. There I was
having conversations about the company's core
messages, and trying so hard to silently stop a two
year old brumming a truck from being heard
in the background. My model for this painting is infinitely
more stylish than I was when I didn't have to wear a suit to
appear at meetings.

A friend was over the other day and we put all three paintings
on a counter together.  Displayed horizontally they are
90 inches wide and a sight to see.  I'd love to see you
at the opening on Thursday at Studio Vogue.  Please
come out if you can.  It's going to be a beautiful one.

Have a loving-whatever-you-do day.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Writing in baby's nap

 The Writer's Life (detail)
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
Well my dear friends, quite the week!
So much going wrong in my own family, that
the list could consume my blog for days.  But that's
not right.  On the bright side here's a detail from
 the second painting in my Times Tables series
 The Writer's Life. This is one of three paintings
I'll have in the show Interplay on at Studio Vogue
Gallery.  The opening reception is Thursday,
October 10 from 6 - 8 p.m., and the show runs until
October 26. The gallery is at 216 Avenue Road in
Toronto.  If you're in the Toronto area, it would thrill
me to see you there.

I love the mood in this. I can remember trying to
write freelance articles, and paint with a baby in my
arms or at my feet, or little children coming into
the room when I was conducting an interview over the
phone.  I'm sure my children have vivid memories
of me slicing the air with my hands and silently
mouthing "not now, Mommy's on the phone."

So I love the moment this painting captures. The
mother's incredible strength and determination to
keep working, but her equally strong love for
the baby sound asleep on her shoulder. I'll show you
the whole painting later this week.

Have a loving-the-children-in-your life day.

Monday, September 23, 2013

My beautiful Zoey died this morning -- we will miss her too much

Zoey and the green bin
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

Our sweet dog Zoey died this morning, after a long weekend
of trying to die.  She was 13 1/2 which is old for a dog of her
size, sadly.  She had a good life, with lots of summers by the
ocean, and walks in a gorgeous nearby park, dog friends, people
friends -- a wonderful life.  And she was greatly beloved.  

I am so sorry she is gone, as I go through the house and see
her quilts on the floor in every room.  Her dishes in the kitchen,
the balls she like to play with.  But most of all I miss her.  She
liked being with us, lying down on the floor of whatever room
we were in.  And I loved being with her.

Have a loving-your-dog day.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

You are invited to the DVAC Fall Show at Todmorden Mills

 Reading on the dock
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
If you come out to the opening of the DVAC Fall show
between 7 and 9 p.m. Friday night, I'll be there and
I have two pieces in the show.  I'd love to see you!
I'll be on roaming sales, which means I get to
walk around and see all the art (there are usually
more than 100 artists displaying their work), and
help to sell it.

The DVAC (Don Valley Art Club) displays the work
of artists painting in every category, from figurative,
to landscape to abstract.  So if you like looking at art,
or want to buy some, there's a great variety of styles and
price ranges to choose from.

Come on out if you're in town.  They usually have great
food and wine, and it's an absolutely beautiful venue.

Have a going-out-to-an-art-show day.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Magical Monday -- and here it is. Ta Da!

 Let's get this party started!
First in the Times Tables series
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
Finishing work to be delivered to a show at my art
club tonight's made this a crazy busy day.  Thank
goodness for acrylic -- it dries fast.  And really it
 isn't as totally mad as it sounds because one
of the paintings was finished last winter, and the other
was almost finished this weekend.  But I was so happy
that the second painting went well.  When that happens
it feels like magic.

It was a beautiful and cool day, and in my breaks I was
out in the garden.  The morning glories lasted for most
of the day, and one lone cleome, that was spared by
the lawn mower reached it's full height today and put out
the most glorious, large, lush white flower.

As promised this is the final version of my painting of
the family.  (I may still work on the odd detail, but it
is done.)  How I loved working with this family -- so
much so that I'm doing two more paintings to make this
a series called the Times Table series. So in fact this
party has just started.  I'll talk more about that another day.
I have a really early morning tomorrow, so it's off to bed
 feeling happy and accomplished.

Have a taking-pleasure-in-what-you-do day.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I am the luckiest painter on earth -- painting happy children

 Detail Untitled Painting (Work in Progress)
Big reveal on Monday
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013

These little sisters are two of the most joyous kids you
could ever want to meet.  I felt on top of the world
the whole time I was painting them.  And that was
a sweet gift, as there was illness in my family, and
worry.  But each time I came back to the canvas I'd
smile and could not stop.

In fact I'll miss these girls when they go into the
show I'm painting them for in a couple of weeks.
They feel like family to me too.  I think I explained
how for me at least, when I paint people I really
feel very close to them.  Then the paintings go
off, and I need to start on something new, just
so I won't feel lonely in the studio.

I had a great call the other day from Hannah,
the girl I painted in the motorscooter painting
a couple of years ago.  We were both talking about
how magical that painting was from the beginning.
I met her in a Superstore parking lot in Fredericton.
I was doing a series about women travelling
called Faces and Places, and she seemed perfect.
The painting showed in Toronto and New York
City, and then I took it to the Maritimes to show
Hannah, and her dad bought it.

She was writing an essay for school on the whole
thing, and interviewing me for the parts she couldn't
remember.  Hannah now drives a motorcycle and
is getting her car license.  So she is definitely still
On the Road in Fredericton.   We met for coffee this
year when Steven and I were travelling through town.
It was a shock to me how she had grown up so much
since our first meeting.

Have a loving-the-magic-in-what-you-do day.

Friday, September 13, 2013

I don't know if men know how much women like men who are affectionate dads

 Detail Untitled Painting (Work in Progress)
Big reveal on Monday
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
The father in this picture embodies what women would
like in a mate for a family.  He is clearly a warm and
loving Dad, and one of the reasons for his family's
exuberance.  He's a fun Dad too, and that will be
clear when I show you the whole painting on Monday.

I'm painting a lot right now for the deadlines that arrive
all fast and furious with the fall. One of the photographs
on our bulletin board of family photos struck me as I
walked by today.  Steven is cuddling our older
son Christopher when he was about four or five.
Both of them look so beautiful, and the affection
between them tugged at my heartstrings all over

My job with a portrait is to make those moments
vivid, so the viewer can feel the energy that was
there at the time.  

To all my blog friends, I apologize for not commenting
this week.  I promise to catch up as soon as I can.

Have a loving-the-children-in-your-life day.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Are babies corny subject matter?-- Botticelli didn't think so

 Detail Untitled Painting (Work in Progress)
Big reveal on Monday
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
No I'm not in any way comparing myself to Botticelli.
But I do love his work, and he painted babies beautifully
in his many Madonnas. But as I was working on this
little baby's face I was aware of the criticism often
leveled at painters of children and babies.  As a portrait
artist, all ages of people matter to me.  And as a person
I have always loved babies. As a little girl I lived with
a doll in a carrier on my back, and could think of no
nobler pursuit than being a mother.

Being a mother has been a joyful role for me, and
one that always added to my excitement about life
in general.  I'm not saying it isn't hard raising little
children, but it is infinitely rewarding and joins you
to the rest of humanity in a profound way.

This baby is destined for a happy life in a vibrant
family, and perhaps my reason for painting him is
to wish all babies the love and nurturing they need
to step into the human race with confidence and
help the planet. Maybe Botticelli had the same
wish for his infant models.

Have an enjoying-the-babies-you-know day.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A flurry of preparation -- and routine's bonus

 Market Zinnias -- bright and gorgeous
iPad drawing
Barbara Muir © 2013
This place has resembled a test kitchen in the past
few days.  It started last week with the delicious
organic peaches at the market, and a passion to
conserve one of our favorite tastes.

You can't really do it.  Nothing can ever reproduce
the taste of a fresh picked peach.  Nothing.  But
freezing them with nothing in the freezer bag except
fresh peaches --  lets you get almost the same
flavour in the dead of winter. And Steven's canned
peaches in tall lovely jars, will be a mid-winter treat.
Steven's beautiful canned peaches
Barbara Muir © 2013

My friend is going back to school as a full time
teacher, and I am a very part time teacher, but order
is the watchword of the day.  And I like that Robert
Genn talked about how everything in an artist's life
that isn't about art needs to be orderly in his August
27 post Decisions, decisions.

The routine of a little part-time work, insists on an
order that permeates all of life in a good way.  And
this is good for me as an artist.  I have to get my act
in gear for everything except the act of creating, and
the order in the rest of life helps that.  So I'm going to
go and do some laundry and then paint my delicious

Have a getting-life-in-order day

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pumped and ready for the new season, but sad to say goodbye to summer

Portrait detail (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2013
The light knows it, the birds know it, okay the morning
glories aren't especially on target, but summer's coming
to a close.  It's been such a great one.  I am still working
on my big portrait, so I thought I'd share some photos tonight.
I'm also showing you one more little face in progress.
What a cutie. Full of life and giggles.  
Morning Glories just hitting their stride
Barbara Muir © 2013
In the middle of the hot days, as well as painting I have
been to the market and I'm freezing peaches.  And Steven
got passionate about canning, and bought all the equipment,
so we'll have our choice.  He may be moving on to
tomato sauce which used to be almost a festival with
our former next door neighbours.  The whole family would work
over a propane heater in the garage.  The cans of
tomato sauce for pasta would go into a big metal barrel.
My neighbour would supervise, but her husband, two sons
and her daughter, plus their mates were all in on it.  I
absolutely loved the look of this activity and the smell
was delicious.  So far Steven's work has been an inside
Sunset in our local park
Barbara Muir © 2013
It's so hot in Toronto, and has been mixed weather today.
When it rains Steven says it's hot and mouldy.  That's not
entirely untrue.  This summer's weather -- heavy rain, then
long dry spells and high heat have been hard on the trees for sure,
and we're afraid we may lose our beloved cherry tree.

But what a wonderful summer it's been -- I've worked
all the way through painting like crazy.  Enough from me.
Here are some pics.
The summer started with weddings -- Lucy and Dan's
Steven van Schaik © 2013 

and then Alannah and Erik's wedding
Steven van Schaik © 2013 

Then it rocketed along through our lots of work, our
anniversary, Christopher's birthday and our trip to
Nova Scotia. Stopping in beautiful Quebec City
on the way.

 Quebec City in July
Barbara Muir © 2013 
A classic Nova Scotia farm house 
photographed in passing.
Barbara Muir © 2013

Roses in Annapolis Royal
Incredibly beautiful
Barbara Muir © 2013
I hope to do some paintings based on that trip.

More photos another day.

Have a great end to the weekend.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

What's the opposite of a cold?

 Portrait detail (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2013
I came up with the answer this summer.  A hot. Think
of a cold.  When you have one you're sick, you have
no energy.  Every now and then this summer I've had
the opposite -- a condition I'd like to encourage -- a highly
creative work day, good in every way. A day when I knew
 just what to do.  I was on fire with ideas, sent brilliant emails,
painted effortlessly, gave great advice, was helpful and
kind and the most brilliant I can be -- in other words had
 a dream day.

What's Your Perfect Day? -- Here's Mine
For me an exquisitely productive day is an ideal day.
 Add the ocean, or a few trips out to the garden,
some funny phone calls with friends and family.
Fantastic.  On the weekend sleeping in, reading,
seeing a movie might join the roster.  Lately
Steven and I have been trying to stick to the ritual
of walking the dog in the evening. No matter how
demanding the workday has been this adds to the picture
 of a perfect day.

Here's another face in the painting I'm working on.
I love the girl's face and I think she's great. If she were
here we'd be talking about her dress. It was pink, but
pink doesn't work in the painting -- so we'll work it out.
Plus her hair is wonderful.  Meanwhile:

Have an- optimally-creative day.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Talk to your paintings

Detail Untitled (Work in progress)
This is one face in a work I'm painting now.
Acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2013
(I am not finished this face.  We have had several
real life conversations lately.  And soon (probably
tomorrow) I'll be talking to the painting too.

I am lucky to work painting people I get to know and
care about.  Perhaps my background as a journalist,
and as a psychology teacher, helps me get to
know my subjects quickly.  But sometimes all
I have is a photograph, and I haven't met the people
at all.

Then what I go on is the stories their friends or family
who've commissioned the painting tell me.  But here's
a quirky fact you may not know about portrait painters,
or at least about this portrait painter.  That image
in the painting is real to us.  Painting you, or your
family is a thrill because you come to life on the
canvas, not matter how creatively or abstractly
we paint you.  And for me I know I am getting there
with a portrait when I start talking to it, saying
goodbye to it when I leave the room.  I even start
telling the painting how I should fix this or that,
and don't worry I'll do it.

Yes.  I should get out more.  But I'm a painter,
we need to stay in more.

Have a talking-to-your-work day.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Market Day and George's charcoal

 Market Flowers (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
The Brick Works market where we went today is
at one of its best times ever, the last week of August
with every crop coming into ripe perfection.  The
season is a bit late this year, because of the cold, wet
spring.  But it's happening.  Today has been a feast of
summer bounty -- delicious ripe organic peaches, wonderful
new potatoes, tomatoes coming in from local organic

And to top it all off Pegann's gorgeous flowers.  I asked
for a bouquet of Zinnias, and I'm getting ready to paint
them fast because they are not a flower that lasts.  Here's
a painting I started of last week's bouquet.  What
spectacular beauties, offset and highlighted by white
gladioli.  I still have work to do on it, but am busy with
some big paintings now, and don't have a lot of time.

I think of George Shane, my artist friend who died earlier
this year a lot when I go to the market, partially because
our art group used to have its home there before the
environmental group that runs the place raised the rent
sky high.  And partially because the last time I saw George
walking was while we still had that beautiful studio
at the Brick Works.  At his memorial in our new home at
the Forest Hill Library we were asked to take any
art supplies that had meaning for us, and I took a
package of George's charcoal, because he was always
loaning sticks of charcoal to me. I drew the drawing
at the start of this painting with George's charcoal.

Tip: I kept my Zinnias going all week last week
with a couple of teaspoons of sugar, and some
were still good enough to use in a fresh bouquet .

Have a painting-summer's-bounty day.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Getting it right -- my latest portrait

 Summer Sisters
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 36 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
Hi Everyone,
As promised here is the whole picture.  Here's the
story behind the painting.  I worked from an
image I took myself.  When I can do this, it's ideal,
because while I'm painting I can picture the moment
 so vividly.

There I was with these three beautiful sisters --
absolutely dazzled by their talents and opinions.
I was talking to them and learning about their lives.
They are all funny, and like most siblings like to
tease one another.  And all of a sudden when I
asked them if I could take their photo now, after
a series of very straight up and down formal poses,
they got so excited about the summer stretching ahead
of them.  (I think it was the last day of school), that they
fell together like this, and I got the perfect reference
for my portrait. Looking at my photos later I thought --
yes -- this one gets it -- this perfect time in their lives.

My thanks to my wonderful client, to the girls big time
for their patience with me (it took two visits to get
exactly the right image, and I used all of my photos
for reference as I worked), to my family, my artist friends,
and my friends for their support and belief in me.  I am
very proud of this painting.  And that is a great way to
be! Oh and thanks to Pam and John Vincett.  The
view from their dock was the inspiration for the background.
I knew my client loved her cottage, and she said this
was almost like the view there, although she had no
idea until she saw the painting that I was including this

Have a being-proud-of-what-you-do day.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The last girl in the mix, and the awesome moon

Portrait detail (Title to be announced)
Acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2013
Tomorrow is the big reveal.  The full picture. Photographing
it tonight is tense.  For one thing, I can't seem to get the
colour to behave and come out properly. Plus I know
the painting wants to go home, but I like these girls so much,
I feel like a parent having trouble letting go.

So here's the girl at the right of the picture, when you're
looking at it head on.  She is a beauty and talented like
the other two girls.  What a trio. I admire their parents.
They've given these girls all the love they could ever
ask for, and a joyous life as a family.

Tonight on our evening walk the moon as we went by
the park was a deep pink coming through a haze of
mauve. Hot night air slowed our pace, and the sound
of cicadas livened up the mood like a massive band playing
thousands of the same instruments.  I love that sound -- it
percolates through everything and means it's really
summer.  On the way back a giant, glowing, peach
moon sat just above the tree line and we frantically
tried to photograph it with my phone. Useless.

I better try and capture this entire painting again.

Have a finishing-up-your-work-day.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Across the portrait line. And summer's last fling.

 Portrait detail (Title to be announced)
Acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2013
Here's the second face in the commission I finished
yesterday.  This girl is a power house.  Clearly
great teachers have inspired her.  Here's to being
that kind of quality teacher. 

Steven and I are taking wonderful walks with the
dog every evening.  There is always something to
see and you forget that when you don't walk outside.
Yesterday we watched a kite in the park soar so high,
we thought it might interfere with low flying planes.
It was amazing.  It was so high I could hardly see it,
like a very, very high flying bird.

Tonight under a beautiful moon in a clear blue sky,
we saw a rabbit sitting on someone's front
lawn.  It was there when we turned to cross
the bridge over the park, and had moved
one lawn over when we headed home.
Seeing wildlife in the city makes me happy.
We saw a fox in our local park last week.

I start a new and very exciting series for a show this
fall today.  I am beyond thrilled about it.  Complicated
and evolving in my mind by the minute.  It is the best
when I feel like I love painting.  A young man who works
in Gwartzman's Art Store where I buy my canvasses, said
he likes to paint every day, "it's like breathing."  A good
sentiment.  Let's keep doing both.

Have a -seeing-the-magic-under-the-blue-moon day.

Monday, August 19, 2013

First face and a delightful conclusion

Portrait detail (Title to be announced)
Acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2013
I have been working for the past while on a commission
that's been a pure pleasure.  I'm a firm believer in showing
my clients completed work, so it stays under wraps until the

Imagine my thrill on bringing the client in to see the
painting today, and realizing that I've not only created
a painting, but it's made someone's day, and will
add to the family's story.

I decided to give you the painting one face at a time
for the next three days, and reveal it in its entirety on
Thursday.  So set your watches, program your calendars,
watch this space, and enjoy how the whole thing comes
together.  I know I did.

Have a bringing-more-happiness-into-the-world day.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Understanding Oldenburg and a great series

 Untitled (Work in Progress)
Stage 5/6
(starting to refine it)
Acrylic on canvas
10 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
As a young art student I was drawn to Claes
Oldenburg's work but didn't really get it.  Now
I do. Every day objects, and this case breakfast
are quite beautiful.  Oldenburg is known for
impressive, large public sculptures, featuring the every
day -- a typewriter eraser, a spoon holding a cherry,
and one of my favorites an ice cream cone
crashing into a building called Dropped Cone.

I don't know what I'll call this painting when it's
finished, but it's the other side of the table
from the bowl of porridge.  If I keep going on with
this series, the food will turn into characters and
start to speak. What would it say, "there I was
under a beautiful stainless steel lid, when
suddenly I was right out in the open, and a couple
was staring at me as if I was a work of art!!!"
Untitled (Work in Progress)
Stage 3/4
(Making decisions and
Acrylic on canvas
10 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
That's how a perfectly served hotel breakfast
strikes me.  It's a work of art, like a vase of flowers,
or a beautiful room (or an ice cream cone crashing
into a building).  There breakfast is, and I defy you
to look out the window and concentrate on anything
else.  Even though in this case the view was a
spectacular panorama of old Quebec City, which
is very beautiful with it's historic buildings and the
St. Lawrence River and mountains in the distance.
View of old Quebec out the window
(Funnily enough there's a sign on the window
asking you to pull your sheer drapes during
the day)
I am still working on this painting, but I thought I'd show
you some of the stages.
Untitled (Work in Progress)
Stage 1/2
(drawing and fleshing
in the ground)
Acrylic on canvas
10 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013

While I'm working I've been listening to an
awesome free series of audio seminars
called The Push Up Entrepreneur.  I've had
a lot of painting work this week, but I listened
to KC Baker yesterday and was so inspired,
and today I listened to Ali Rittenhouse, and
John Lee Dumas.  It is certainly a fantastic
and educating experience. I'm learning a lot, and I'm
very grateful to Angie Rice and Silvie Matthews
for organizing this free online series.

Have a loving-what's-in-front-of-you day.

Monday, August 12, 2013

A hit of pansies and transforming the chair

 A shot of pansies
Acrylic on canvas
3 x 5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
My entire  front garden died when I was in Nova
Scotia.  Very sad, and I haven't had time to replant.
But some very straggly pots of yellow pansies made
it through the heat and flooding of July, and are the
only decorative note at the front of the house.  (I
promise to fix this next weekend.)

So this little painting honours those cheery little
plants, struggling to improve the first impression
our house gives out.  I had fun painting it,
and have to say I really like these flowers.  Good job
girls I say.  (They are not really girls, but I like the
sound of that.)

Last ditch art project

It's hard making ourselves work on improving the
place when we're in Nova Scotia.  I was busy
painting, and Steven was reading and waiting for
me.  Then both of us ate a lot, and walked on the
beach.  When was there time for crafts?  Well on
the second last day, inspired by my friend, Diane
Mattinson, who has transformed many things
with a quick coat of spray paint, we changed the
look of an inherited-with-the-place chair that
had always bugged us.
The chair partially painted.
The old burnt orange looked
sad.  White is the new colour.
Now it looks positively glossy with pride.  I
think the July issue of LivingEtc, a gorgeous
housing magazine, pushed white, and we
succumbed.  Steven was going to let me do it.
He carefully covered the legs and arms with
cut pieces of newspaper, and then could not
resist when push came to shove.  A shout out
to you Steven for an awesome job.  (Now about
the wicker furniture on the back porch here!)

The final product - sprayed 
white with leather spray paint
A vast and happy improvement
making all the rest of the furniture

Have an enjoying-the-art-in-everything day.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Iconic House -- one symbol of Nova Scotia

 The house on the hill
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
When you love a place the way we love Nova Scotia,
and travel there by car -- certain landmarks
help you know you've arrived.  This house is one of
them for me.  You see it coming along Highway
6, the Sunrise Trail, from Amherst.  It's at the top
of a hill, and it appears over the brilliant green of
summer grass.

This year I photographed it frantically as we drove
by, and then when I was painting it the angle was
different than my mind's image, so I wasn't clear
that it was "the house."  Driving by another day,
I thought, "that's the house in my painting, oh and
the house on the hill," and the house was all the
more real to me because I'd been staring at it,
deciphering its appeal.

This is it.  A simple white farmhouse. Those
white buildings set against vivid green grass,
and blue, or scowling grey skies might as well be
the fans waving flags at the finish line of a race at the
end of our 2,000 kilometer (1,242 mile) journey.
They say, "lucky you.  You're here in Nova Scotia

I think I'm finished this painting.  It was just
missing the tree.  Light influences everything we
paint.  In our part of Nova Scotia the sand is a
coppery red.  The colour changes wildly with the
time of day, and many of the roads and paths
are the same colour.  That was my ground and
it wants to pop through here and there, so I let

Have a finishing-your-happy-work day.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The glorious summer of paint -- Shh it's a secret

 Served to perfection
Acrylic on canvas
10 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
Last week I confess we stole away for a super
retreat at Megan's parents' cottage.  (Megan
is my son Christopher's wife).  It was so much fun
and I wish I'd taken even more pictures so I
could do a whole series based on that incredible
spot, and the wondrous weekend we spent there.

I have been painting, but am working on a big
commission, and this seems to be my reality this
summer, unable to post because it's all hush hush.
So I thought I'd take some time this morning to finish
some details on a painting I started a while ago.
Even though it is of a hotel breakfast, it almost
looks like the wonderful breakfast Megan's Dad
and Mom served us.  Fresh cooked Irish steel cut
oatmeal (theirs was cooked with dates) with
blueberries and strawberries.  Plus, and this is huge --
endless cups of some of the best coffee I've ever tasted.

For a non-morning person, I am a major fan of
breakfast. I love how it looks, and how it's
often accompanied by delicious sunlight.

Have an eating-a-wonderful-breakfast day.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Moving Commission starts its journey

Loving our Toronto home
 Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
The sweet part of painting commissions is that they
frequently center around an emotional request.  As
I care a lot about my painting, and like to work
on projects that have meaning, that makes me

The client who commissioned this picture was
inspired by the house paintings I did for a client
last year.  The twist in this case is that the family
who wanted the painting is moving from Toronto
to Calgary for a year, and wanted a portrait of their
 house to remind them that they will be coming back.

12 x 12 inches is not a large space for a house
and four running figures!  Quite the challenge.
But what a treat today when the mother and
father of the family came to pick the painting
up to get it packed for its flight, and they both
loved it!  Hurray!  I felt like I had wings too,
and could fly alongside the plane.

But there is work to do.  So I am here.

Props to the wonderful family who bought
this painting.

Have a making-people-happy day.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Nostalgia in advance and the wide, wide sea

 Pansies in the school house (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
We have been in Nova Scotia for two weeks
now and I feel my homesickness for the
place mounting in advance of our return
to Toronto.  I look longingly at my great, big
 studio in the schoolhouse, and know too well
how much I'll miss my friends in the province
 and the beach.
The beach near Pugwash
(That person way out there is Steven)
Driving through the landscape after awhile it's tempting
to take it for granted.  The eyes adjust quickly
to views of classic white clapboard farmhouses, green
rolling fields filled with contented cows and
wild and cultivated roses climbing fences,
arching over doorways and filling gardens.
Walking by the gardens in Annapolis Royal
Black marker on Moleskine sketch
4 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
But all too soon I'll be back in my tiny studio in Toronto,
managing the pace and demands of city life--seeing
masses of nondescript glass condos against the
waterfront instead of sea grass, wild roses and red
sand. Instead of moaning about it today, I've just made
the firm decision to enjoy every moment now, and share
as much as I can with you.
Pansies in a jam jar
Black marker on Moleskine paper
4 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
Have a being-here-now 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!