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 worls.  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.

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!