Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The family goes home

The girls with Let's get this party started
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
This painting has already lead an interesting life.
It was exhibited in a show in October in Studio
Vogue Gallery. I was talking to a friend about
that show today, and saying that I have almost
no memory of it.  Steven I had driven to Ottawa
on Tuesday night to see my mother on Wednesday.
She was dying and the family, my husband,
son Sam, sister Sally and I gathered around her
bed.  She was funny to the end, and I held her
 hand for most of the visit.

Then we drove back to Toronto, I taught on
Thursday and was at the opening of the show
on Thursday night. Then we drove back to
Ottawa to be with my mother until her death
on Thanksgiving Day.

The family I painted were like a talisman to me.
 I was so fond of them by the time the three paintings
 of their life together were finished that I actually dreaded
the end of the process.  In fact I considered
keeping going, painting a room full of paintings
of this one great family.  I may still do that,
but for now this is it.

Then for a couple of months all three paintings
hung on the wall in one of the chair's offices
at a local community college.  I like to get my
art out and working in the community. The chair who wanted
art for her office, said she loved how the work brightened
the room.  But ultimately the family wanted to own
this picture. So it travelled again.

What I loved about these five people was how
generous they were with their time.  Here were the
mother and father raising three young children
more than ready to take photos for me -- hundreds
of photos to work from.

When my mother died, I'm sure the kind
support of my gallery, the thoughtfulness of this
sweet family, my portrait subjects through months
of work, and my family and friends are what
kept me going.

So it was especially poignant for me to see the
family in person, and deliver the work.  I have
family in Ottawa, and we worked in a brief visit to
my brother and his wife. It was all good.

The family's home is beautiful, filled with
light, and my paintings as I unwrapped them
to show them, took on a whole different
life in that brilliant light.

I wished I had my camera out as the two
little girls carried in a huge tray with
a plate of tarts, and a plate of delicious
strawberries.  (John Singer Sargent
would have loved to have painted that one.)
My photos of the girls with the painting
the family bought were taken with my phone,
so forgive the blur. Their mother is a friend, but I
had never met her children before, even though I
felt like I had, having studied their faces for
so long.  They are, if possible, even more wonderful
in person.

Have a working-on-paintings-you-love day

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Florentine Prince, or Toronto designer?

 The Florentine
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
We had a wonderful model at my art group tonight --
a young graphic designer.  He was excellent at
holding a pose, and delightfully engaging and funny in the
short breaks.

All in all today was a great day in art.  I went to the Art
Gallery of Ontario, heard a wonderful lecture about the Group
of Seven in the Canadian Gallery, and went to the show
The Great Upheaval: Masterpieces from the Guggenheim
Collection on now until March 2. I stood in awe in front
of the Kandinskys -- my favorite paintings in the exhibition.
The exhibition focuses on paintings created between
1910 and 1918, a time of great change in artistic expression.
 If you're in Toronto between now and March 2, I
recommend that you check it out.

A big thank you to the model, Daniel, for being such
an instant inspiration.  The artists in our art group
were debating what he looked like.  I voted for Renaissance
Florentine prince, but people had many ideas about his
dramatic looks.

Have an enjoying-the-drama-in-your-painting day.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

 Happy Valentine's Day from the Bluebird
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
In our house Valentine's Day is huge.  We decorate, we
talk about our favorite food, we eat more chocolate
than is at all wise, and in recent years I do a painting
for my own cards.  I love the idea of celebrating love.
That force for good is an incredible power, and I
can't thank my family and friends who love me enough
for the kindness, encouragement and wonder they've
brought into my life. And I thank them for giving me
the pleasure of loving them. 

This painting is of a Bluebird. I have only ever seen
one once, and it was quite magical.  This fall the
week after my mother died, one of my girlfriends
took me walking, as her way of helping me
recover.  We talked about nothing, or we talked
about her dog (Steven and I didn't have our dog
Sally then), and as we headed up the hill in the
park one day we saw the brightest blue in one of the bare
trees.  Up close we realized it was a bluebird, and
I felt like I'd been given a gift from the bird, the
universe, maybe even my mother, who did teach
me to feel wonder.

Here's my latest Valentine painting, and some of
the fun I've had making designs with my painting
and a painting of tulips I sold last year called
And then we were seven.

I hope you have a wonderful Valentine's Day and
weekend with the people you love, doing whatever
you love to do.

Have an enjoying-everything-about-your day day.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Quick, quick -- Slooow, Sloooow

Late evening tulips 
Acrylic on birch panel
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
Last month I painted 31 paintings.  It made me
feel terrific.  Some of them were complete,
and others like this painting of tulips I'm showing
you tonight were started, but not finished.

It's great to get into a rhythm of turning work
out quickly.  It feels amazing, but it's also good
to slow down, take a second, third and fourth
look and push the work to where it wants to
go.  This painting is almost there.  When it
asked for more time, and then some more,
and maybe even now more.  I listened.

The title is a quote from a former dance
teacher of mine, Theresa Kowall teaching
us how to do a jazz dance.  I loved the
sound of her voice and the feeling of the
movement of the quick step, and the slow,
sliding step. 

Sooo fun.

Have an enjoying-the-dance-of-art day.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Canvas finds its happy soul

The Fruits of Love
Work in Progress Stage 4 & 5
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014

This is the story of a canvas, good quality, on a
thick gallery style stretcher that could not get
a painting.  The first coat on it over the gesso
was the artist's classic orange base -- a colour she'd
found was kind to people's skin.  And as she was
a portrait artist, this discovery was a boon.

So she drew a big portrait of a woman on it, got
involved in other things, and forgot it.  The trouble
with the canvas at that time, was that it was large
but not large enough.  It became a spare.  One
day she wiped off the figure, and drew on a cityscape,
but it looked wrong, and once again the canvas
was forgotten.

Now, in magical 2014, no canvas is left unpainted.
Suddenly the artist, who'd been painting on very
small wood panels, wanted something bigger.  But
it was snowing, and she had a cold, and.  Ta Da!
In the corner of the studio the canvas spoke up,
"Ahem!" it said.  She pulled it out, slid a deep
magenta glaze over the orange after she wiped
off the latest charcoal drawing, and began.

The painting still needs more work, but the
canvas likes its jubilantly happy theme.  It
fairly shouts that life is wonderful, and please
enjoy it.  The canvas knows the artist is happy,
and so far it's a happy ending.

The artist didn't have much time today to work
on this happy work, but every minute was a pleasure.

Have a making-your-canvasses-happy day.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Business -- mine and yours -- it's work!

 Untitled (work in progress)
Acrylic on birch panel
5 x 7 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
Today was a day taken up in part by the business
of painting.  Part of a painter's business is arranging
shows, and planning the coming season.  So I'm
excited to say I'll be showing in New York again
this spring.  I'll give you details closer to the date,
but needless to say I am going to be painting like
a fury!

Here's a little portrait I'm working on of a woman
at work at the bakery which was already the scene
behind two of my portraits last month.  I admit
we may be getting addicted to the food there.

This is the gracious woman at the counter who
greets you, and makes sure you have everything
you need as you eat your delicious sandwich and
drink your perfect coffee. She is incredibly sympatico
as we say.  Although it's a small portrait it is going
slowly.  Definitely a work in progress.

Have a loving-your-work-in-progress day.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Big and juicy -- bumping it up a notch

 The Fruits of Love
Work in Progress Stage 1 - 3
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
Today is Alyson Stanfield's birthday, and she put out a
request to all of her followers to have a happy day.
I was on board immediately.  Part of what she wanted
was for people to spend time in the studio, so I did,
working on a small portrait that I'll show you
tomorrow, but itching to once again work on something
The fruits of January
Acrylic on birch panel
5 X 7 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
I loved this little painting called The Fruits of January,
so decided to blow it up.  As we still have arrangements
of the same fruit in the house (some of them were kind
enough to help me with this today), I think I will call
this one The Fruits of Love, because it's a February
painting, and February is love month, and a very joyous
time in our house.

I have never done this before -- (hard to believe) -- worked
a small painting up into a large one, and it is so much fun.
Some things remain the same, but so many change.  The
smaller painting was done on wood, the large on canvas.
For the small one I needed tiny brushes, for the larger
one, my largest two inch brushes are coming in handy.
But I was right about one thing.  I liked it small, and
I am going to love it larger too.

More to come.

Now for another part of Alyson's request.

Five reasons to be grateful.

1.  It was a relatively warm day, and spectacularly
beautiful -- sunlight, blue skies and heavy white snow
icing all the big pine and spruce trees.

2. My dog is getting more and more relaxed. This is
big news with a hyper puppy.

3. I spoke with several good friends today and had
fun.  We talked about art, and politics and the
news both sad and happy.

4. I finished my wonderful book  The Last
Runaway by Tracy Chevalier, and it was

5. I made an excellent dinner of vegetarian
Tacos.  Delicious.

6.  Ooops is this cheating?  Sam, my son, put
on my current favorite song, Happy by
Pharrell Williams and we danced in the kitchen
listening to it.  We were, and I am Happy!

Have a having-a-happy-day day.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Dreaming of painting

 I dream of you
Work in progress
Acrylic on birch panel
6 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
(Quite a bit left to do, but it will
have to wait) 
I woke up this morning after my first decent
sleep in two days, and saw this image in my
mind.  A friend called and I talked to her
in a woozy state, slugging back coffee, and
holding onto the thought.  I do love this image.
it is a combo of flowers from the market and
my own garden.

Pretty funny, because we finally took the tree
down today (yes the Christmas tree!!!), and
put it in the garden for the birds.  Steven poured
a whole bag of birdseed over it and tomorrow it
will tantalize our new dog, because it will fill with
little birds thrilled that we've pulled this crazy
stunt once again this year.  It is still green, and the
needles are still soft.  By the end of March it will
turn brown, then we chop it up and it goes into
garden waste.

Already the big tissue paper peony wreath is
up on the kitchen door.  Moving on people!

Have a welcoming-this-new-month 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!