Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Happy People Project attracts Dutch media! -- over the moon Happy!

 The photo of me and Miranda Brouwers appearing in the
Dutch newspaper, The Carillon today.
We are standing in front of the landscapes
Miranda showed at the Florence Biennale in October.

Miranda Brouwers, a friend I met in Italy,
was the woman who started the Happy People Project
with me at the Florence Biennale in October.  We
encouraged friends we met at the Biennale to put
their hands in the air for 2 minutes to improve
their mood and make them happy.  And it worked.

Since her return from the Biennale, Miranda has
attracted a lot of attention in Holland for the
beautiful landscapes she paints of the area where
she lives in Lage Zwaluwe (which means Low
Swallows).  This December she was part of
the Serious Request Project, a fundraiser
broadcast all day and night in the Netherlands
from December 18 - 23 by top Dutch radio and TV personalities.
Her painting, Aankondiging van de lente (Spring is in
the air) was auctioned off by the Red Cross to raise money
for the Syrian refugees, and was in a special show at the
Royal Talens Experience Center.

Low Swallows with the Bidding Ad for Serious Request
Today Miranda is featured in the Dutch Newspaper,
the Carillon. Miranda spoke about her experience at
the Biennale, how wonderful it was to be with other artists
trying to make the world a more beautiful place.  She
was delighted that she now would have opportunities
to show her work anywhere in the world, China, New York,
and other spots in Europe.

 The article in the Carillon
The title translates I couldn't have imagined this in 
my wildest dreams
In the interview for the article, Miranda explained
when asked about the best thing she experienced at
the Florence Biennale, the wonderful artists she met --
and she told me over the phone, "You (meaning me) and
 the Happy People Project."  She loved the fact that
we helped each other to be happy, and we've continued
to do that now that we are thousands of miles apart.

It was ironic that we were so busy taking photographs
of Biennale artists putting their hands in the air in the
Amy Cuddy, winning and cortisol lowering position -- that
we didn't have a shot of the two of us raising our
arms together.

So here is the photo that will go in the paper,
and a shot of the article in the paper.  Very exciting.

Have a making-joyous-friendships day.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Happy Holidays and why I sign my letters XOXOXOXOXOXO

Forgive the blurry pictures.  They were taken on the run
with my cell phone in poor light.  But this is me with 
Sofia Rukoiatkina at the Idea Arts and Crafts
fair at Super Wonder Gallery a week ago.  Since then 
things have been superbusy.  Sofia was an amazing help 
to me at the show, and a support for my course on Creativity 
at U. of T. in November.  Thank you Sofia.

At this time of year when we're getting together with
family and friends a part of me is thinking about
who I wish I could see, could toast with a glass of
champagne, or sit down and have a coffee and a
cookie with and share a joke, or happy anecdote.

To all my friends and family who cannot be in
Toronto this year for the holidays, please know
that I love you and you are in my heart.

I learned the strong power of love when I held
my mother's hand as she lay dying.  It was
not about regret, although of course I wish I
could have spent more time with her.  My sadness
was about knowing I couldn't see her, hug her
and speak with her again.

After she died I knew I had to live to the fullest,
not for her, but because she would want me to.
And I understood in the most intense way
possible that however many years I had left on
the planet, they would not be enough to give
out enough love to the people I care about,
and to the world.

I don't mean to overpower people with the
XOXOXOXOXO.  I just mean to say I know
without question that however many X's and
O's I can put at the end of a note they will never
convey how important the concept of being
loving and kind is to me.
One of the delightful surprises of the Idea Show
was the Healer Gaspar.  Until I spoke with him I
wondered what he was up to.  But he had a wonderful,
kind and loving way about him, and during the
show healed at least five people I knew of of
severe migraines and definitely helped people's moods!
He even let us take amusing pictures with the pryamid shape
on top of his booth. He was a super pleasure to meet.
All of Gaspar's efforts were directed at helping 
people be happier.  And he was very good at 
solving problems for the people he talked to.

Many friends at this time of year are sharing
ideas about beliefs and ceremonies they
enjoy.  But the common thread in everyone's
background is the importance of love and kindness.

Thank you for yours in 2015, and thank you
to all my friends and family for a magnificent

Sofia, the skeptic tries out the triangle and maybe some
meditation.  She really enjoyed the weekend --
 so much fun.   
XOXOXOXOXO Sofia, and to all of my friends and family everywhere.  
Happy, Happy NewYear.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Never the same twice -- the artist's life

Snow scene Cherrywood
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2015
This week I've been working on a commission for
a client who really liked a painting that was on my
blog, but was gone.  My job?  Try to recreate that
painting based on photographs.

The house is across the street from me, and I've
painted it many times in different seasons, just
because it's directly in my view.  Artists tend
to paint what they see.  But trying to redo what
we've already done is a completely different scenario.

I know there are whole schools that teach the
fine art of copying,  and people deeply immersed
in every brushstroke of Vermeer, and Bouguereau,
but my job was to try and copy me.  And nothing
ever looks the same way twice.  An artist's quandary.

Still I did have fun trying, and I like this version
better than the original, and that is an artist's

I hope you enjoy it.

Have a trying-to-walk-in-your-footsteps day.

Monday, December 7, 2015

"Stubborn gladness" -- Elizabeth Gilbert's recommendation for creativity

 Pugwash Flower People
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
I've been reading Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic this week.
I became a fan of hers reading The Signature of All Things, a
spectacular novel, the writing unlike anything I'd seen
of hers before.  That made me want to read Big Magic,
plus I'd just finished teaching a course on Creativity
(Nourishing Creativity) at Emmanuel College at
the University of Toronto, so I was psyched on the subject.

Gilbert's concept of approaching creativity with "stubborn
gladness" appeals to me. I am sure I inherited my
determination to be happy from my mother who stayed
stubbornly happy to the end of her life, despite losing
her eyesight, severe arthritis, and a lung disease that
left her coughing horribly in phone calls where she
was describing something she'd read with giant
magnifiers, and special light, or heard on the radio,
or enjoyed at a friend's house that inspired, delighted or
even infuriated her.  She was definitely stubborn, and
determined to take every bit of joy she could in
her existence.  That didn't mean she ignored the world,
she was deeply committed to it, volunteering to help
children with disabilities swim when she was younger,
taking meals to the elderly until she couldn't see well
enough to drive.

Artists who claim to be painting about joy can be
dismissed as shallow.  But I believe that finding the
joy in life is an important part of why we're here.
If we don't take any joy in our love lives, our
family, the places we visit and the places where
we live, how can we commit to caring for, and
nurturing, and sheltering, and celebrating the lives
we are living.

Gilbert's book is a treat for anyone in a creative
field.  I am loving it (and I am a novel reader).
I am busy now working on a commission, but
here is a painting from a few years back, that is
all about the wonder of loving life. The subjects
in my painting work hard at creating beauty --
developing specimens of flowers that are sold
all over North America, and have been featured
in Martha Stewart Living magazine.  Yet they
are the most kind, humble lovely people,
and crazy about each other.

Have a living with "stubborn gladness" day.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Ode to Paris

 Paris Anemones
7 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2015
Steven and I have visited Paris twice this year.
We love the city.  We were deeply saddened by the horrific
killings two weeks ago on a Friday night.  I was planning
to write about my time there, and thought I wouldn't at this sad time,
but Paris and Parisians have not stopped because of these
attacks.  People still stroll by the Seine, drink coffee
in the cafés, and create and appreciate art. Paris is beautiful.
The city will mourn, but continue to be a must visit city,
especially for artists.
The Seine at night
I started painting this little watercolour of anemones when
we stayed in Paris in October.  We came home a month
ago.  Near our hotel was a beautiful flower market, and
one day I brought home a huge bouquet.  We don't ever
see anemones this large in Canada.  The flower
seller wrapped them up like a present, putting lush leaves
in with the flowers, and twirling the bouquet in thick, clear
plastic that she tied in a bow.  She seemed to take great pleasure in
the finesse of her presentation when I said they were for me.
 Me with the anemones in the hotel in Paris
I bought the paper at the charming, old art supply store near
my hotel, Maison de Haute Coleur Charvin.  In fact I went
to the store every day of our four day stay.  The paper is
not the watercolour paper I would normally use, and the
colours were in blocks, not tubes, but I felt so happy to be painting,
and all of the supplies were of the highest quality.

Seeing how Parisians are treating the sadness and losses
 they've faced with grit and determination
to continue to be Paris, I feel that it's even more important
to talk about how wonderful the city is.
I may write more another day.  For now here's a little
painting of anemones.  And some pictures from our
most recent visit.
 Edgar Degas
 Petit Danseuse de quatorze ans
originally in wax, here in bronze and 
first shown in 1881
Musée D'Orsay, Paris

To my friends in Paris, and all the kind people
we encountered everywhere we went on our visit -- thank you.    

Monday, November 23, 2015

Creativity Nourished -- a whirlwind series of super seminars

 Working together today on a huge canvas -- super fun!

A really big canvas -- daunting at first, but 
the group met the challenge trying every
available medium with panache.
For the past month I've been leading seminars on
Nourishing Creativity at Emmanuel College at
the Unversity of Toronto, in Toronto, Canada.
What a blast.  We have been delighted to have
guest appearances by Gary Smith, portrait artist,
 who added his talent and wit and warmth
to all three seminars, Trica Carey, Entertainment
promoter and event planner, and Patrick Luciani,
a writer who has written for the Globe and Mail
and Huffington Post..

 Gary Smith does a portrait demo in pastels

Trica Carey offered tips on
event planning, professionalism and
keys to successful creativity

Writer Patrick Luciani offered his tips on
the successful writer's life. 
We had so much fun combining writing,
drawing, discussions about methods for
unblocking our creative goals, working
on art projects together, and even how to
meditate to help us be creative.

It was an eye opening treat, if I do say so myself.
Today, the final day we listened to writing tips
from Patrick Luciani, then the group worked
together on a huge canvas, 12 feet, by 8 feet,
using markers, acrylics, glue, collage.
At the end of the session we cut up the
massive piece into sections and the creators
took them home -- a triumphant finale to a
glorious experience.

Thank you to our guest speakers, and to the
talented seminar class who made it memorable.

Have a using-your-creativity day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Wow! What's Happening? -- come out to Super Wonder Gallery on Friday and Saturday this week and see!

I am immensely impressed with the curator who designed
the figurative show I was in before I went to Florence
and Paris -- Daniel Anaka.  When I heard that he was
curating an abstract show Rorschach, opening this week, I wanted
to be part of it. The openings are on this Friday November
20th and Saturday, November 21st from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. at
the Super Wonder Gallery, 876 Bloor Street West, just west of
Broken Line #1
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2015
(one of two paintings I'm showing that mirror
each other in the Rorschach show.)

And hurray my paintings have been accepted! I'll be exhibiting
two 3 ft x 4 ft. black and white abstract paintings in the show.
A complete departure for me.  Have I been influenced
by the artists I met in Florence? I'd have to say yes,
but more importantly I really like the artists that
Daniel Anaka attracts to his shows, and Daniel's wit,
sense of humour and no nonsense, honest approach.  Plus
he throws a super great party, and we artists and collectors
need that.

The group Tokka with Dr. Eugene Draw, famous
electronic violinist, will be playing at the openings,
on Friday and Saturday night.

Have I gone abstract?  No -- not forever.  I am
just adding that possibility to my affection for
portraits, still life, and landscape.  And for me
it's been a happy addition.

Come and see!  I know you'll enjoy yourself.

Have a celebrating art day!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

So many wonderful artists! -- more from the Florence Biennale

It's a week and half since I landed back in Toronto
after a very good flight across the wide Atlantic,
and my thoughts are still revolving around the
wonderful artists I met at the Florence Biennale.

As an artist for the most part working in intense
colour, I was surprised at how attracted I was to
the work of artists working in black and white and
grey scale at the Florence Biennale.
Square 1
Oil on canvas
Alegria, 2015
(We were just about to take the shot
for the Happy People project and
we got called away!  Alegria pointed out
that her name means happiness!)  

This work Square 1, a triptych, consisting of 16
panels each, by Ecuador's Alegria is one of the black
and white works I admired. It explores her thoughts
about the way women have to hide to be safe. Her
paintings were inspired by her daughter's 16th birthday.
Alegria isworried about what her daughter will face out
in the world as an adult woman.

 Rafael Cardona-Acevedo
Untitled sculptures 
Various materials
(Rafael was another artist we hoped to photograph
as part of the Happy People Project on the final day,
 but he didn't have any free time.  Here he
is with a guest, I'm not sure who.)

I'm sorry I don't have a better photo of Puerto Rico's
Rafael Cardona-Acevedo's witty sculptures.  Rafael's
buoyant good mood, cheery smile, and positive
attitude were a treat for all the artists exhibiting near
his work.  His wooden crests with hands playing
with Yoyos, is a wonderful work, and and his bike
as an elephant, is also brilliant.

Kaya Deckelbaum with En'light
Hand manipulated, coloured wire mesh
(Kaya would also have been part of
the Happy People Project, but 
there was no time to photograph
her on the final day because there
were so many visitors.)
New York's Kaya Deckelbaum creates dramatic and
evocative sculptures of faces using wire mesh, which
she tints, and then lights so that the faces also create
shadow shapes on the wall behind them.  We did
not get to do the happy people exercise with her,
but she is very happy.  And she did win an award for
her work, En'light. Her sons and her husband helped
her out at the Biennale, and her family is understandably
proud of her work. Kaya won a prize in sculpture.

Alvaro Gómez with Querencias (close up)
Mixed media on canvas
Alvaro Gómez hands in the air happy
Alvaro Gómez from Venezula displayed two large
panels, featuring beautiful, classical drawings in
coloured pencil on black canvas.  His images play
off some of the iconic paintings of the Renaissance
in an homage to Florence, the heart of that
art movement.  Those paintings and sculptures
continue to move viewers to voyage, as Alvaro did,
across the planet, just to see them.  Alvaro did the
Happy People move, and he also won a prize
in mixed media!

 Stefano Favaretto debates the Happy People idea 
in front of his beautiful photos on marble. 
Stefano goes for happy. 
Stefano Favaretto comes from northern Italy,
and I was surprised to learn that he worked
in Canada, I believe in Calgary as a family
therapist.  His lush photographs, printed on
marble, were a hit with everyone visiting
the Biennale.  His technique involves duplicating
the photo, like a Rorschach image, that reveals
a face, or character in the process.  He has
exhibited in Milan, Shanghai and New York City.
When the Biennale was over he was shipping
photos on slate to a show in Singapore.

Miranda Brouwers and I are hoping to continue
the Happy People project and expand its borders.
If you feel like belonging to this cheerful group,
email me a photo of you with your hands in the air,
and a big smile either at an art show displaying your
work, or in your studio. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

What a joyous experience! The Florence Biennale

 Steffie Wallace does beautiful, moody seascapes.
She put her hands in the air for her photo, and
picked up a prize in painting!  Yay Steffie.
here husband Neil is also a sweetie, and they hail
from Australia - a long, long way to travel.

When it comes to luck I really think I'm blessed.
I've just spent 10 days in one of the most beautiful
cities in the world, with a group of artists, who
were not only massively creative, but who formed
lovely connections, were filled with advice,
information, connections, support, and most of
all humour and joie de vie.
The painter Chu before the 
Happy People idea
Chu's wonderful paintings
(the two circular textured works 
And Chu getting happy (oh and
he won a prize in painting!)

On the second to last day Miranda Brouwers and I
began encouraging people to envision a world where
all of their work sold, they got super commissions,
-- they had no problems creating, and we took
photos of them showing their joy at how things
were going.  Instantly their mood changed, and we
had sooo much fun.
Puerto Rico's Gabriel Esquivel paints joy, 
and was delighted to become even happier!
Elisa Ana Bono is Italian, and her theme
is the ocean, like me in this Biennale.  We spent
10 days together.  I even drew her (that's
for another day), but we couldn't speak
to one another except for Hi and Goodbye --
yet a bond developed.  Elisa did the
happy people hands up, and won
a prize in ceramics (I'm just saying!)

 Switzerland's Astrid Bänziger does paintings
 in a variety of styles -- all bright and colourful.
Happiness is part of her vision. 
Encarna Díaz Velasco from Mexico showed
hangings featuring faces, and eyes that looked right
through you.  She also combined writing with drawing,
and one hanging was sculptural.  She won a prize in
mixed media.

Now here's an interesting fact, a great number of those
people became prize winners in the show!  So put your
hands in the air, put your hands in the air.  I'll show you
some of them today, and introduce you to some super
artists. Miranda and I envision this Happy People idea
continuing.  I do have more artists to introduce you to,
and I will do that next time.

Have a believing-artists-are-happy day.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Artists I've met at the Florence Biennale

Talking to visitors at the Florence Biennale

This past week has been an exciting and heady experience
talking to visitors to the Biennale, trying to communicate
whether in English, Italian, French, German, and sometimes
a word or two in other languages. And one of the best
parts of the experience has been spending time with and
learning about the art of other artists.  Above all it's been
fun. With 400 artists in the show, I cannot possibly discuss
all of them, but here are a few who've become my friends,
and I'll try to cover more tomorrow.
Wessel Huisman with his work Garden of Men
Dutch artist,Wessel Huysman displays three large canvasses
at the entrance to the Biennale, dramatic scenes in black,
white and shades of grey.  They are filled with figures,
depicting -- firs the technical world, and the greed which
is killing the planet, in the middle panel -- the world where we
are now, just carrying on with our daily life, and in the far
panel the possibility of heaven, with parachutes
ascending and a world filled with joy and wonder.

 Wessel explains his work to Florence Biennale visitors
This is a big theme at the Biennale. Kama Rosynska from Poland
is displaying two large photographs on the theme of waiting
for Dionysus. The bottom one shows faces shrouded with
transparent veils, not seeing the trees (beauty) around then.  Cattle
skulls float in the sky with brilliant moons.  In the top
one, Dionysus has arrived and it's both erotic and frightening.

 Kama Rosynska with her 
Waiting for Dionysus photo paintings
Betty Collier's exuberant abstract sculptures arise out of a
love for the natural world.  She is a huge fan of walking, and
during her walks in the woods in Australia has been fascinated
with the shapes of mushrooms -- the inspiration for these
two sculptures.
Betty Collier with her sculptures 
-- Cluster formations

Norway's Heidi Fosli, is primarily an abstract impressionist
who introduces figures that are almost hidden into
her work.  Her paintings talk about the lack of connection
people feel in the modern world, and the possibility of
change through caring about the planet, nature and one
another.  Her center panel is about disassociation, and the
bright coloured side panels offer hope.
Heidi Fosli with her Exposed Globe Triptych

Holland's Miranda Brouwers is exhibiting two striking
landscape paintings, which are about her love for her
country, and the beauty of the sky.  She has just finished
a commission for 100 landscape paintings and feels quite
delighted about that project.
 Miranda Brouwer's landscapes: Heading for Home
Miranda Brouwers with her husband Rolf

Have a going to an international art show day.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Florence Biennale

 Me in front of my Wonder Water series
 with artist Gengliang Xu

Saturday was the opening of the Florence Biennale here in Italy.
 The opening ceremonies, dignitaries, flags, 
a procession through the exhibition
of people dressed in Renaissance costumes, 
playing drums. Lots of excitement!

The Biennale opens with wonderful fanfare. A procession of people in 14th century
Dress with flags and drummers marches through the exhibition. There are speeches
And so much excitement. Then the artists go and stay by their work, or circulate looking
at the vast show of 400 artists.

I met one of the actors in the procession, Cosimo who couldn't be more than 5 and
couldn't wait to get back to playing with his parents' tablet.
Cosimo -- a young actor in the procession

The wonderful thing about showing in international shows is meeting
artists from all over the world and enjoying great conversations. I will show
you more work another time.
Wonder water series © Barbara Muir 2015
And then there is Florence which is endlessly fascinating and beautiful.
I am exhibiting this work and my friend Patrick Luciani translated
the description for my show book.  Thank you to Patrick, to Heather Speers,
to Raylea Lambert, and everyone else who helped me and advised me.
It is a big deal to get ready for and participate in an international show.
I couldn't have figured it all out alone.

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

A really big show -- in T.O. this weekend!


In September I submitted 6 of my portraits
to a show opening this week in Toronto at the
Super Wonder Gallery.  Three of my ocean series
paintings have been accepted, and a self portrait.
I also submitted my The Conversation Continues
series, but am not sure if there will be room in the
show for them.

Why?  It is a huge show -- over 300 artists will have
work in the space -- which itself is impressively large.
There's a $10 charge for admission to cover the curator's
costs in renting the gallery, and a cash bar.  I think
it will be as the curator Daniel Anaka says, "epic."

If you're in Toronto please come out.  I will be there
both nights.

Daniel's title, ReVersion is about the resurgence of figurative
work in the city.  And from what I saw when I dropped
off my paintings, he is right -- everything from
abstract figurative, to classical work and all of the
possibilities in between -- all vibrantly alive.

Please come and check it out.  I'd love to see you at
the opening(s).

Have a coming-to-a-big-show day.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Going the distance -- the Florence Biennale

 Wonder Water Series
polyptych, acrylic on coordinated canvasses
6 feet x 9 feet
Barbara Muir © 2015
Hi everyone,

I just signed off the forms to send my work to the Florence Biennale.
It is a strange feeling to go over your work with care (there have been
small changes since this photo), get it ready, and then try to
envision it going so far. But it's happening, and Mike at the
shipper has been so wonderful.

Now it's my turn.  How do I make the transition from uptight
artist, into international traveller, and get myself to the event?
Luckily this year I've travelled quite a bit, so it's not as
discombobulating as it would be if I hadn't been to Paris and
New York City.

I am crazy with excitement.  Cannot wait.  So here's the finished
product of what's going there -- to be presented as a unified
whole on the theme of our oceans.  I wish you could all be
there with me, and if you're going to be in Florence during the
Biennale, October 17 - 25, please let me know and I'll do my
best to get you tickets to the show!

In the meantime, where are you planning to go and show?

Have a charting-your-route day.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Listen to the pros -- behind the scenes in art land

 Untitled (work in progress)
acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2015
I wish I could confidently show you my finished
painting of the lobster burger I had in Nova
Scotia looking out at the Wallace River.  But
it's taking me a long time to paint.  In fact it's
arduous.  Not painful.  But time consuming in
the extreme. 

In my frequent breaks I soak in the advice of the
pros.  The queen of tinfoil -- which is what is slowing
me down in this small painting -- is Canadian artist,
Mary Pratt.  Actually Mary Pratt is known for
taking the everyday -- jars of jam, bowls of fruit, tinfoil --
and making it glorious. She is the most famous Canadian high
realist.  And in an interview, she said that she
estimated at one point in her career that it would take
her six months to do a painting.
Sketch of a bouquet from the Brickworks market
Watercolour crayon, and black marker on paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2015
I just got back from New York, and in the magnificent
Sargent exhibition at the Met, I read that for one painting
 he required 83 sittings!   Okay -- why is time such an
issue for us as painters now?

It's this -- it's the blog -- waiting like a dog that
needs a walk, for evidence that the artist is still
in the building.  I am.
Self portrait sketch
black marker on Moleskine paper
8 x 10 inches 
Barbara Muir © 2015
I also read a timely post by Danny Gregory about
getting out of practice called Mortified. He inspired
me to take another crack at sketching.  And keep
working and working, even when life is as jam
packed as mine has been lately.  So here
are some sketches, and a peak at my work so far.

Have a getting-to-work 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: barbara.muir@sympatico.ca
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!