Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Please come out to our show!

Next week on Thursday and Friday evening from 6 - 9 p.m.
my friend Gill Cameron and I are hosting our 12th show
together.  The show title This Magic Land, is in celebration
of Canada's 150th birthday this year.  Both Gill and I are entranced
by the Canadian landscape, and it's unique appeal.  Our work
shows well together -- Gill's lush watercolours are magnificent.
And my acrylic work, mostly in bright colour adds to the theme
of loving this country and the planet.

Whether I'm painting landscapes, people or still life --
my hope is that I am bringing the beauty and joy I feel
capturing the visual world to the people who see my work.
That's also the feeling I get when I look at Gill's paintings.

Please come out and join us next week. We are having a double
opening.  Come Thursday night, or Friday night, or both
for super parties, and lots of fun!

Have a planning to go to an art show day.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A strong inner voice -- and the ecstasy of beauty

Untitled (Work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
I went for a short walk tonight in the freezing cold rain.
Spring is trying its best, but blossoms were blowing off
trees.  Someone else would find it grim.  Yet in the
few minutes I was out I saw raindrops on branches,
and jewels of light shimmering on pine trees like
decorations.  The visual hits kept coming.

As I walked I thought about the people we can encounter as
artists who try to make us feel like we don't know
what we're doing.  Or try to define us as a certain "type of
artist." It's a strange job.  My advice is cultivate lovely
people to support you -- I am lucky to have those people
and thank you so much. Plus work on getting a strong
inner voice.  Not always easy in the face of our own and
others' thinking, but vitally important.  Artists need to
talk themselves into it, into carrying on, into feeling
happy.  That voice matters.  The one that says -- 'yes
it's coming along.'

This painting is almost done.  There are a few things I'll
work on.  But it's doing what I hoped it would do --
express my love and wonder for the east coast landscape
I revel in each summer.

Have an enjoying-who-you-are day.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Friday -- and it was good

Nightfall Cherrywood
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 

I'm afraid I didn't paint today, but devoted the day to
my husband who had a remarkably rare day off.  We
are devastated by the news of more war, of and an
increase in world violence, and worry about what we can do.

Meanwhile, it was a gorgeous day here and we
took a walk past lawns vibrant with bluebells,
a pond with ducks, forsythia bushes and tall
glorious trees.

Here is a little painting I did in plein air on my front
porch looking across the street eight years ago.
It does capture the love I have for my city and my
neighbourhood.  The trees are not out like this yet,
but they will be soon.  So wonderful.

Have a beautiful weekend.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Spring transformation!

Pansy design -- Pansy paintings, Left and right (flipped)Positively pansies
Acrylic on birch panel, 5 x 7 inches, Barbara Muir © 2014
Center --We're Here, Acrylic on birch panel, 5 x 7 inches, Barbara Muir © 2014

It is funny to be writing about spring tonight when
it is sooooo cold.  We've had days this week when
a friend actually spotted someone lying on a Toronto
beach in a bathing suit sunbathing -- but that is not
today.  Winter doesn't want to let go.  It is the coldest
day we've had in weeks. Winter coat weather.

Still spring is winning.  Sorry winter -- a small walk
in the neighbourhood treats us to carpets of gorgeous
bluebells under trees, surrounded by bright yellow,
mauve and purple crocuses, and even tiny vibrant
purple irises. Forsythia bushes are bursting out in yellow.
That gorgeous tender spring green is quietly budding
in every tree!  Wahoo!

And Torontonians' confidence that spring is here to
stay is clear in joyous pots of pansies that flank front
steps -- so pretty and suddenly rich with colour
that our hearts melt in appreciation.

This was my last once a week evening class --
and I thought I'd celebrate with a pansy
painting design.

Have a three cheers for spring day.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Thank Goodness for Harold the Bunny

Harold and the Blue Eggs
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir ©
A few Easters ago thinking about the Easter Bunny,
who has played a huge role in my children's memories
of Easter -- I remembered my sweet bunny Harold
the rabbit, and painted this painting to celebrate her.
I am glad I can show her portrait each Easter when
it seems life is really hopping.

Harold was a bunny I owned in my last two years
of university.  She was very pretty, with hot ears,
and gave me a little extra clout of cool when I took
her to parties with me, very dressed up as I used to
be.  She didn't mind parties, but as her owner I had
to clean up the odd mess she'd make under couches,
very discreetly.

She got along with my cat, and lived a happy life.
That is she did until I moved in with a boyfriend
in a place north of Toronto, and she got out
and excited the landlord's loud barking dog.
She was not hurt I don't think, but she died of
a heart attack, because I didn't know you should
have brandy on hand as a tranquillizer if you
have a rabbit for a pet.

That may well be why that particular romance
with that young man didn't last.  My husband
grew up on a farm, and knows a lot about nurturing

Have an enjoying your animals day.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Fast sketch of the Worp

Trees at the Worp -- fast sketch
Pastel, oil pastel, coloured pencil on
Maison Haute Couleurs Charvin Paper
7 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
I was super moved my some photo reference I found
today of the Worp nature reserve near my friend Miranda
in the Netherlands so I did a fast sketch.

I used pastel (and I think they were mine at art school --
so are very old and dry), oil pastel and coloured pencil.
I was breaking probably every rule and rediscovering why I
like paint.

But I had a lot of fun, and heightened my incredible
admiration for pastel artists like my friend Marcia

Have a trying what you don't normally use day.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Light -- the whole story

Speeding landscape
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir ©
Light was the whole story today -- because this city
was blessed with one of the most fantastic spring
days.  Perfect temperature -- warm with a cool
edge -- perfect bluer than blue sky, and sunlight
bouncing off every face, every surface, every
couple's clasped hands, every one of the millions
of cars clogging the streets with their passengers'
newfound energy and need for an excursion.

It was like a party.  And we went to the market,
bought some groceries, got our glasses tightened
by wonderful Joe at Optik Zone, so I could keep
reading my Peter Mayle books.  And we sat on
the back porch in the brilliant light with the
cats and the dog, and felt revived.  We made it
through the winter!  It was a really easy winter --
not very cold, and hardly any snow -- but grey
as all get out, overcast, gloomy -- and hey it did
snow yesterday adding to today's miracle.

I did not paint today -- so I give you this one from
a few years ago -- which is about the light seen out
of the window of a car driving through a rural landscape.
Seemed right.

Have an enjoying-the-light day.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A love of bright colour

Fall in Bear River
Acrylic on canvas
10 x 10 inches
© Barbara Muir 
I painted this piece to honour  Flora Doehler
who moved from Toronto a number of years ago to 
the little town of Bear River in Nova Scotia,
where she has been a very happy citizen along
with her wonderful husband Larry Knox.  

Flora Doehler is one of my favourite painters and a friend.
She paints in vibrant colours that leap off the canvas, and
captivate her collectors.  And I am in constant awe of 
her work.  

So my painting Fall in Bear River was painted a few years
back to celebrate both Flora and Larry's brave move from
urban Toronto, to semi rural Nova Scotia, and to show
the beauty of that area, which we've visited many times.

Have a loving-nature's-beauty day.  

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The lure of room service breakfast

Breakfast fit for a queen
Black marker on Fringe drawing paper
9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

It's a cold night in Toronto -- with, of all things
snow in the forecast.  Uh huh, and before that a
deluge of rain and freezing winds.  Not a party.

No wonder I decided when I got home from
my Wednesday night class to do a drawing of
a room service breakfast.  This one was in
the Queen Elizabeth, Reine Elizabeth hotel
in Montreal, which I see is temporarily closed.

That makes me nervous because it was a
beautiful hotel, that understood the magic of
room service, of white table cloths and silver
coffee pots, and creamers and sugar bowls.
I think room service breakfasts are one of
the most romantic meals.  There is no
hurry.  You can savour every bite -- in this
case oatmeal with berries, brown sugar and
milk, perfectly served, perfectly hot --
and coffee -- lots of it.

There is nothing like the luxury of eating in
your room with your sweetheart, and then
dawdling through the morning, reading the
local paper and your book, finishing your
coffee -- okay I'm dreaming, and it's time
for bed.

Have an enjoying thoughts of food day

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

French clouds and Peter Mayle

Untitled (detail)
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
I don't know if you've ever read anything by the author
Peter Mayle, but I am on a definite addictive streak now
with his writing.  I think I picked Toujours Provence
up in one of those little book libraries that look like
houses that people in my neighbourhood have on their
front lawns.

It was sheer delight to read as I was trying to ward off
 a horrible cold, with hot lemon and thinking
positively.  The book was a godsend.  So Steven took
me to the bookstore and I bought three more.  They
describe life in the south of France, Provence -- that
I visited long ago, and where I would love to return.

Peter Mayle had to leave France for awhile because
his readers -- fans -- found him, and even let themselves
into his house uninvited.  But after a short stint in Long
Island he and his wife had to get back to their beloved
Provence.  I must say I get it.  These are not French
clouds.  But they're the beginning of a new painting,
and they have been at least partially inspired by
absolutely brilliant and delicious writing.

Have a getting a favourite book day.

Monday, April 3, 2017

In the halls of academia -- the concept of culture

View from the highway
Acrylic on canvas
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
(99.99% finished)

I am lucky to have lovely bosses now when I teach
English, but an exercise I used to do with my classes,
is not possible with night classes.

A few years ago I had a wonderful boss who
encouraged me to carry out one of the best
teaching exercises I ever did.  We were studying
an essay on Vimy Ridge, and the park in France given
to Canadians in thanks after World War I.  So I took my
students to the Toronto's Art Gallery of Ontario on its
free night to look at Canadian art from that period.
(It's 100 years since the Canadians took Vimy Ridge.)

Most students had never been to a gallery before, and
the AGO is gorgeous.  They were entranced
from minute one. Each student had to write about
a different artist, and connect it to the article in the text.
I loved watching them argue and jostle to try and claim
the painting they loved the best before anyone else.

They had so much fun!  Afterwards they'd go out to one of
the restaurants in the area.  They organized drives for one
another, or took the TTC, and this was inevitably the high
point of their semester.

Sadly my boss retired and the next boss at that college
didn't get the connection between art and literature.
 So that wonderful series of outings ended.  But before
 it did I was at the art gallery one day, and a docent yelled
 out, "Barbara!" and let me and my friend move to the front
of a long lineup to see a special exhibition.  His trip to the
gallery with my class a few years before had turned him on
to the world of art, and he was now working there.  How
exciting! We were both delighted to see one another.

Have an enjoying-the-connections-in-culture day.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Messages to a cloud freak -- thanks Facebook

Pink light
Acrylic on canvas
Acrylic on canvas 
36 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © Revised 2017

Facebook turned up a memory today that hit me in a
powerful way.  First because I was so impressed with
what my students did in the class I described,
and second because I thought the painting shown in
the blog post needed work.

I read the inspiring thoughts on creativity my 2015
class had come up with and I was moved.  So I knew
I still had the painting that went with the blog, and thought
the whole piece deserved a second run.

Then I looked at the work.  I'd been out on a short
walk today and saw magnificent clouds that took my
breath away, and they were like the clouds in my painting
but -- they had room to breathe.  So I've revised this and
like it much more. I also got rid of the green trees at the
bottom and darkened them, because they were stealing the
clouds' magnificence.

Here are the thoughts from that class two years ago
on how to get out of a creative corner:

1. Go for a walk.
2. Dance to your favourite music.
3. Have a shower -- feeling clean makes you feel new.
4. Look at yourself in the mirror and say, 
"Hi you're wonderful, you can do it!"
5.  Leave the project alone and have a nap.
6. Better yet turn off the light and go to sleep for the night.
7. Call a supportive friend.
8.  Get over yourself.
9. Make a list of all of your accomplishments.
10. Eat your favourite food.
11.  Make a mind map planning out what to do.
12.  Write a series of questions and then wait and 
write down the answers as they come to you.
13. Take a ten minute break and then get back at it.

Pretty wonderful.  I'm grateful to them.
Have a seeing-with-fresh-eyes day!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Spring and Tom Thomson

Tom Thomson
Black marker on Fringe drawing paper
9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
If you aren't Canadian you probably don't know
about Tom Thomson.  But here's who he is -- the
most famous Canadian painter.  Ever.  When I
go to the Art Gallery of Ontario -- the major art
gallery in Toronto, I can't leave without looking
at the Tom Thomsons.  His work is iconic,
revered, known by so many Canadians.  And
why spring?  No one captured the wild spring
landscape better than Tom Thomson.

Yet in the art world outside of Canada -- sorry, he is
not known, and certainly people don't have an
image in their minds of what he looks like.
You know Picasso, you know Berthe Morisot,
you know so many artists by their portraits.
But not Tom.

So I did this somewhat inaccurate little sketch
from a blurry photograph.  I know I will try
again. But I loved the look of this photo -- of
how young Tom Thomson looked with the fancy
white bow at his neck, and his vest and jacket.

The artist's mysterious death is a story that
haunts Canadians.  A consummate canoeist
he died drowning with fishing line wrapped
around his ankles.

Have a knowing-your-national-artists day.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Last day of March -- One overwhelming month!

Feeling thoughtful
Self portrait sketch
Black marker on Fringe drawing paper
9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

What with health issues in the family, what's going on
in the world, and daily worrying news this month has
required a team of cheerleaders, both outside in the
world and inside in my heart.  I do think I'm lucky
because I have those cheerleaders in my friends.  And
I thank you. Everyone I know is going through hard
times in some ways, but working so hard at being optimistic.

And then I listened to a show on CBC tonight about
a girl trying to escape from war torn Syria to Sweden
with her fiancé, but he drowned when the
smugglers running the boats, got angry with the
refugees and rammed their boat drowning 500 people.
This young woman was handed two stranger's babies,
and somehow survived and was rescued holding
the babies, wearing only a child's flotation device

She is now studying in Sweden where she wanted
 to be with her fiancé, and she is being treated well.
 But she hates the label "refugee." She says no one would
voluntarily leave a peaceful homeland. No one would take
such desperate chances unless they absolutely had no other

Have an enjoying-your-own-life day.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Drawing and thoughts on seeing

Cold day outside at the mall
Black marker on Fringe drawing paper
9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Here's another little drawing of the man outside the bookstore
a couple of weekends ago.  What I like about this one is
that the man is in his world, and the woman walking by is
in hers, and they are oblivious to the other person's

Super late, super tired.  Big shopping malls are a fascinating
subject for an artist, because everyone has an agenda, and
the rest of the world is backdrop.  Most of us don't see each
other, like the man and woman passing each other on a sidewalk
by the parking lot. (The square thing in front is a mailbox).

I painted today too, and think I've resolved something
that was bothering me.  But this is it for tonight.

Have an enjoying what you notice day.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Slow dancing with spring

Happy Morning in Port Philip
iPad drawing
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Thank goodness for my friends out there, and here
in Toronto, who keep me on track on positive
thinking.  It is the secret to life. Stay happy,
and whenever possible move on. If the negative
insists on being in your path, cross the street.

I am also indebted to Stephen Colbert and Jimmy
Fallon, whose humour frames the strange changes
the world is going through in an easier to take light.  

I did this iPad drawing the other day, and it was waiting
for me tonight when I came home from teaching my
evening class.  No time for painting today. I love the
pure, glorious colour that bounces out of my old iPad,
and begs me to upgrade to the latest iPad with the fancy
pencil, so I can have even more fun with this
drawing habit.  I do keep thinking of the amazing
show of Hockney's iPad drawings I saw in a gallery
in New York a couple of years ago.  Mind blowing.
Hockney is one of my art gods.  At the time there
was a Degas show on at the MoMA and it was
fascinating how both artists pieced together paper
to make larger images.

Have an all ready for spring day.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

More from the hospital -- on a beautiful day

Thinking about the crossword puzzle
Black marker on Fringe drawing paper
9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Strange to be spending time in a hospital with
relatives on a joyous, sunny spring day -- with
tulip leaves poking up in the garden.  But a blessing
in a way because in this vibrant city you get a
picture of how many people are sitting waiting in
hospitals for tests or surgeries worrying about
their lives.  Many, many people.  And in Canada
we are so lucky that all of these tests, treatments,
 and operations are free.
Worried Dad, Sick little girl
Black marker on Fringe drawing paper
9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Waiting for Mom
Black marker on Fringe drawing paper
9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

I did a few drawings sitting in several waiting
rooms, and am grateful to my family who
are there for each other, to my friends for the
sweet card left in the door, and even to my
country for making this care available to
In this together
Black marker on Fringe drawing paper
9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Trying to read and text
Black marker on Fringe drawing paper
9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Early morning -- the good nurse
Black marker on Fringe drawing paper
9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Thank you to all of you who support the work I do. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Steffie Wallace told me to -- and short blog break

Happy fields by the sea
iPad drawing
8 x 10
Barbara Muir © 2017
My dear friend Steffie Wallace is a fantastic artist from
Australia, and she's also written a novel called The
August Months.  I met Steffie at the Florence Biennale,
and I just love her work -- very moody, misty, brilliant
landscapes -- all about light.

So when I posted an iPad drawing last night, and Steffie
suggested I do a series, I thought maybe I'll do at least
one more, and pop it up here for you tonight.

I am going to take a few days off the blog.  I've got
a bad cold I think I picked up from one of the
sweetest very young people I know.  And I need
to concentrate on painting and thinking for a short
break.  I may miss you too much to stop, but I do
need to prepare for a show in May!  More news about
that coming up.  Meanwhile be good to yourself.

Have a dreaming-of-glorious-adventures day.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Always on -- (really?) Or have I ever been tireder!

Clouds at play
iPad drawing
8 x 10
Barbara Muir © 2017
Tonight after teaching I have to admit I am super
tired.  Knock down, drag out, tired.  But as artists
who blog -- not okay.  Right?  We should be on.
And of course talking to you makes me feel
a million times better about the sapped energy,
the new cold threatening to become full fledged.

I get all happy and motivated and feel my energy
coming back and it's almost like I can feel you
out there sending me inspiration, and so much
kindness, and wonderful opportunities.

So.  To hell with tiredness.  Here's a little
something different -- a landscape from my
iPad, drawn with my finger.  My iPad is old,
and unreliable, and shuts down in a minute for no
reason, fully charged.  But wow, try drawing on
it -- in the ultra low tech way of dragging your
finger over the surface -- and the thing is fun.
Thanks for reviving me.

Have a having fun making your art day.
P.S.  I know it should be "more tired",
not "tireder".  Yes I do.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Winter nostalgia -- (just a little).

Winter at the beach
(work in progress)
Acrylic on cradled birch panel
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Today's painting is of the beach in winter,
 at Port Stanley on Lake Erie.  Sometimes there
is a miraculous day, when there is no snow, and
we just need to see that beach so badly, that we
leave Toronto, even though it's late in the day, and
it's quite a ride.  This view might be our reward.

If it is warm enough to walk on the beach all
bundled up, and the need for that view is intense
we might make the trip, have maybe half an hour
before darkness ends the view, and still feel entirely
rewarded, renewed, refreshed.

Have a getting to the beach day.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Happy International Day of Happiness!

I'd like that please!
Acrylic on watercolour paper
4 1/2 x 6 1/2 inches
Barbara Muir © 

I love the thought of an International Day of Happiness,
and have been holding onto that idea, and returning
to it all day.  Today has been a full day, on many fronts
-- both work and family worries.  Thinking about happiness
I went searching for a painting that I don't think if I've shown
to you yet, and here it is.

It's a painting of my son Sam when he was younger, and
appropriate for the first day of spring.  It was cold
today, but the sound of the birds singing filled the air --
a sound we've missed all winter.  Clearly in this painting
my son is sitting on our back porch,  in what looks
like spring -- holding a piece of fruit. And a lovely cardinal
has come to investigate.

We do have cardinals coming to our bird feeder and they
are a gorgeous sight.

Happy International Day of Happiness, and Happy Spring.
Let's keep the happy thoughts coming.  They are the best.

Have an enjoying-the-new-spring day.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Party Day -- and Belated Pie for Pi Day

Stand Back for the Pie
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 
Today we had our lovely little family party to celebrate St. Patrick's
Day a couple of days late. We had brunch to suit both work
schedules and our youngest member's nap time.  Steven made
French toast, and we enjoyed party sandwiches from a local deli,
bagels, cream cheese, coffee, cherry pie and ice cream.

It was a sweet time, and I saw this painting that seemed to
capture that feeling yesterday at Yang's Flowers on Avenue Rd.
 It is still for sale if you'd like it, write me here.  But the point
is that it seemed the perfect painting to celebrate both spring,
a party feeling and the delicious bakery pie we served.

Have an enjoying family parties day. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

In a state of wonder

The tide's in
(almost finished)
Acrylic on cradled birch panel
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
It is a bit wintry today, though much warmer.  Quite a
wonderful day despite the grey skies, and for me in
addition to going to the market and seeing our friends
there, there was this.

I worked on this painting of clouds in Nova Scotia near
where we stay in Pugwash.  And I know that looking at
this scene I would be in a state of wonder, and have
to stop the car, get out and stare.  Which is what we artists are
here for -- to drink in what we see, interpret it in our
own way, and give it back to you.  So I hope you enjoy
it, and I also hope you get to travel to Nova Scotia in
the summer yourself, and delight in all that it has to
offer.  I miss it.

Have a travelling in your mind day.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day -- It's a fine day

It's a fine day sweetheart
Acrylic on cradled birch panel
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Happy St. Patrick's Day.  The shamrock decorations are up,
and we put a touch of green colouring in the last of
the good wine we had with dinner.  The dog sported a bow,
and we sang some good old Irish tunes.  But the party
will happen when the family can get together.  It has been
a thing for us since we bought the boys green treats one year --
tradition.  Even though Steven is Dutch, and my Irish relatives
were really French from France.  Still I love the day.
Sally gets a St. Patrick's Day treat
for wearing her green bow, and trying very
hard to sing Danny boy!
Here's a little painting that is almost finished.  I love the clouds
that fly miles and miles wide across Nova Scotia -- like massive
sculptures of the most beautiful kind.

Have a loving-your-family's-traditions day.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Tense, worried, crazy -- Relax

Better bring the laundry in Bob
Acrylic on cradled birch panel
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
It was a bit of a day I'd say for getting nervous,
tense, worried.  I was thinking myself into dead
ends and corners on many fronts and then I
watched this little message from Oprah from a
few years ago -- and hey she hit the nail on
the head.  (Click on her name to watch it).
So I just started painting, and kept on working on
my larger work, and on some smaller pieces.

I got the message, and thought.  "You know what
girl -- if the painting needs more work -- it's a
painting and you can do it!"

Thank you to my wonderful friends, and major
wishes of good health and happiness to all
the friends who have boosted my art in the
last year, pumped me up, shown me the
lovely light that is always there to see.

Have a starting-to-relax day.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

More from one of my best models

Acrylic on canvas
24 x 36 inches
Barbara Muir ©
My brother and I share some similar interests.
We both went to OCAD, and we both write.  In
fact we've worked on many writing projects
together. But my brother -- a super artist, and
photographer himself is also good at sitting
for portraits.

So when my brother heard today, that I'd like a
photo of another portrait I did of him, because
I was teaching tonight, and was not quite ready
to take a break from blogging.  He searched out
this painting,  photographed it, and sent the images
to me.

This one really shows the influence of my art
training -- that push towards something a little
darker, more sinister.  A less forbidding person than
my brother would be hard to imagine, but here
using the primary colours I loved at the time, and
relying on an intense inherited Muir expression,
the actor in my brother pulled it off, and I captured
it.  I love this painting, for all that it evokes -- a
time, a place and the exuberance of painting a
very good and helpful model.  Thank you Andrew.

Have an enjoying the work you've done day.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Snow, Sleet, Snow -- and a Favourite

Shorelines Gatineau River
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir ©
We have been wonderfully spoiled by climate
change this winter, and also worried, because
until today it only snowed twice in the whole winter.
I had to look for my boots, because I've only needed
boots -- not shoes -- two times in an entire winter.
Yes Toronto is in Canada, and yes this is not normal
Not even a little bit.

But hey.  Today it snowed all day, and whether that
in any way makes up for a snow free winter for the
many crops that grow all around this city, and to
the south of us in the peach, and apple orchards
along the lake, I don't know.

I'm still working on my landscape, and I am still
thinking of slowing down on the blog soon.  But the
last time I said that some of my friends said that they
look forward to it every day!  Hi there, you make me
very happy reading my thoughts every day. So I'm posting
this painting of my brother -- the painting is a favourite
of mine.    My brother lives on the shore of the Gatineau
in Chelsea, Quebec and is lucky to look at a spectacular
landscape out of his living room windows every day!
But snow -- now in Chelsea they really
have had a snow packed winter.  And every roof had
about three feet of snow covering when we were there
 in February.

In every spare moment I'm reading a great book --
On Beauty by Zadie Smith. It feels like a long
and quite delightful conversation.

Have a enjoying your favourites day

Monday, March 13, 2017

Painting all day -- and drawing with Emily

Sketch of my Niece
Charcoal on Fringe drawing paper
9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
I was working today on a landscape that is coming
along in slow, slow steps.  It will be beautiful -- is
already arresting -- but it may take a few more days,
or even a week until it's cooked.  Does this happen
to you?

This afternoon I was drawing with my son's girlfriend,
Emily.  She loved the little portrait of my niece I
posted and then didn't post the other night, so I will
post it again now. My niece is exceptionally beautiful,
and I didn't think I quite captured her, but as Emily pointed
out a drawing is not just the subject.  I would like to do a
perfect drawing, but I need some tools I don't have to
finish the drawing.  And that will come.

 Man in jacket
Black marker on Fringe drawing paper
9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Meanwhile I'm also showing you another drawing of
a man I saw out the window of a bookstore on
Saturday when it was below zero.  He intrigued me
with his coffee cup, and shopping bag, and phone.
Maybe he was waiting for someone, but I would
like to do another drawing of this, even perhaps a
little action series.  Those are my thoughts for today.
Random.  The impulse to draw is a bit random,
because we artists want to draw what we see. That
is -- everything.  And I know that's too much.

Have a capturing the random day.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Time shift -- shaking it up

Cottage Flowers
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Today is the dreaded day our clocks move forward.
I say that because everyone's world rocks around
what time of day it is, and I had coffee late in the
day yesterday. That meant I was up too late.
And add to that another hour so it was even
later --just plain cruel.

On the bright side (and OMG it was a gorgeously
sunny day).  The time changes because we are moving
towards spring.  And that is a delicious idea.
So hurray for spring! Here is a painting I have looked
at for years and wanted to change.

The problem was that I didn't like the colour of the
shadows on the table, and the table itself.  Today
after a scary power outage around dinner time, (yes
just when we were cooking), I knew exactly what to
do.  Miraculous eh?  The lights came on in the house,
and in my brain at the same time.  Another reason
to be happy.

So I love it now, and I hope you like it too!

Have a saving-the -day-and-saving-the-art day!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

10 Reasons The Internet is Super for Creativity

Okay I admit that I've looked at Facebook today, checked my
blog, and read some email.  But I can't get behind the idea
that the Internet is harming creativity.  Really?  Let's check
this out.

1. Before the Internet, artists were restricted in large part
to being alone, and working alone.  If you were
painting in that ancient time, do you remember how
isolated you felt? 

2. The Internet through all the social media sites, through
blogs like mine,  connects artists to artists all over the 
world.  When you are working on a piece and post it,
people comment on how well you're doing.  
You never had support like that in the far back past.

3. Seeing work from all over the world, adds to, it does not
detract from our creativity.  New ideas and new ways
of working pop up every day on favourite artists' sites,
and many of them post how-to videos, photos of how
their studios are organized.  I have learned so much!
I admit that if you have no sense of time you could
perhaps lose days just looking at what people do.
But even that would be a productive use of an artist's

4. Being public as an artist puts pressure on us to
produce.  Less creative than before the Internet?
I hardly think so.  Nothing is more of a push to
get going with new work, finish old work, do the
work period, than knowing people are waiting to
see what you are doing.  We all can have an
audience now if we want it.  And I don't get the
idea of creating art in a vacuum and not sharing it
with the world.  Sharing it to me seems to be one
of the reasons for creating work.

5. Speaking of being noticed -- how would I have
been found by Howard Wolinsky, the Chicago
Journalist (and fantastic photographer)
if I didn't have a web presence (a blog)?  And
how would his YouTube interviews with me 
get picked up by the Oprah Winfrey show if
I didn't have a blog?  Marvellous and miraculous
opportunities open up for artists because of the 
Internet.  Oh and the reason I was noticed --
I was working on a then new form of Internet
communication -- Skype. 

6. And perhaps even more exciting are the
invitations to take part in International shows that
might never have come my way, if my work 
wasn't out there, visible, online.  How 
wonderful to get the chance to show in New York 
City, the Louvre, in Paris, or The Florence Biennale, 
in Italy and meet artists whose work you admire face 
to face. How lovely to visit cities you have always
wanted to see, and to make new friends there. 

7.  Let's not forget one of the reasons for producing
art if you are a professional artist -- sales.  We work
in one of the few professions in the world which
is supposed to be above discussions of money.
It's true.  I can't tell you how many artists have told
me that either they don't sell their work, or they
don't care about sales.  Either those artists are
independently wealthy (and I have met many
such artists) or they've bought (pardon my wording)
the myth that artist should be above concerns
of cash.  Not true.  The Internet can bring
artists sales from anywhere and anyone.  And it does.

8. Having an Internet presence gives artists a quick
and easy record of what they've done, and if they
write a blog, like I do, they've also got fast access
to what they were thinking creating a certain piece
of work, what their worries were, what methods
they used, and valuable insight into what their 
ideas and goals were in the past,  and how they've
changed and grown.

9.  Proof of creativity is an incredible advantage of 
the Internet.  Since I started this little blog in 2008
I've written 1840 blogs.  Say I get down (and everybody
including artists has their down days) -- that number
alone should help me see that I haven't been 
completely idle, I've creative.  And that's the blog,
and doesn't include other social media.  Plus I am
getting close to 300,000 hits (or people looking at
and reading my blog.)  That is quite a lot more
attention than I would have had working alone in
my little studio, and it is encouraging.  Oddly enough
we artists are doing a peculiar thing -- making something
out of nothing.  Many of us are as insecure as all get
out about it.  The proof that people notice is a great
boon to our spirits, our productivity and I believe
our mental health.

10.  It just gets better.  There is so much I haven't
mentioned -- all the supportive people we can meet
who conduct seminars we can access online, both paid and
unpaid to learn about the technical, financial, 
theoretical -- every aspect of art and creativity.  TED
Talks, Alyson Stanfield, please add to this list in the
comments, I have to go and paint soon.  Plus there is
a code of honour -- certainly in the art blog world.
We only comment on work we like.  So all of our
comments are positive.  And in my experience as a 
teacher -- believe me that has a magical effect.
It is not bad for creativity for people to earn 
praise -- quite the opposite.  Think about it.
Which friend makes you want to continue with
(anything), the one who criticizes every single 
thing you do, or the one who notices what you're
doing well.  I pick the latter, and I know you would

That's it for today folks.  Hurray for the Internet
and the boost to creativity everywhere.

(This blog post is a work in process.  Even that
is possible.  Set your clocks back and I'll add to
this tomorrow).

Have an enjoying the Internet day.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Something you may not know

Flowers for my father
pencil crayon on paper
21 1/2 x 26 inches
Barbara Muir ©
Although it isn't my objective now as a painter
I was trained at the Ontario College of Art
and Design in Toronto as a classical artist.
How we drew, how we painted -- in most
classes was in the shadow of Michelangelo,
Rembrandt, Vermeer, you name it.  We barely
reached the influence of the Impressionists.
Oh we did, but I only stayed for two and half
years, and then left to study art at another
university, and ended up getting an English
Literature degree.

I did this drawing when I was doing mainly
flower painting, and the style definitely reflects
my training. Now I like high key colour, and
lots of abstraction.  This drawing was a tribute to
my father's passion for flowers, which he passed on
to me.
Flowers for my father
pencil crayon on paper
(almost full view)
21 1/2 x 26 inches
Barbara Muir ©
The piece has been staring at me for weeks,wondering when
I would show it to you.  Photographing it was a bit of
a challenge because it's framed, and everything reflects
off the glass. So I've done a close up, and an almost full image of
the drawing.  The flowers are in a jug, sitting on a
table cloth my parents purchased in Madeira, Portugal --
a place my mother and father loved, and visited often for holidays.

It's the end of the week, and time to enjoy the weekend.
I hope these flowers urge you to go and get some of
your own.

Have an enjoying-your-older-work day.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Summoning summer in my mind

Weather's coming in darling
Acryllic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Apparently the brain is susceptible to word clues, so that
if I read, "She could feel the sun's heat flooding the room,
and hear the waves rolling in on the beach," I will
experience those sensations in my brain.

Good.  Because we are about to get the coldest weather
we've had all winter, which cruelly will last all through
March break!  We've had super strong winds, and now
freezing cold.  The cashiers in the supermarket say,
"well it's been so nice all winter, I guess we can't

No.  But we can imagine something else.  Here's
a little painting of summer, inspired in part
by an artist whose work I love -- Nancy Boynton

Have a thinking-summer-words day.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Tulips for International Women's Day

Cat in the window
Coloured pencil and black marker
 on Fringe drawing paper
9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
I feel lucky that whatever positive genes my parents
gave me worked today.  Three cheers for women
around the world!  I hope your day was good.  And
thank you to my women friends who helped me
see the bright side of everything today.  Also thank
you to my students who sent men to the board to
do the writing work, because it should be their
day off.  Funny.

This little drawing of tulips is for you.  I see one or
two things I might change, but I am happy with it so far.
And thank you to the men in my life, who helped me,
made dinner for me, and were wonderful and funny
today.  I am a super lucky woman, and person, and
a feminist if you were wondering.

Have an appreciating-your-friends day.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

National Cereal Day -- here's my favourite breakfast!

Served to perfection
Acrylic on canvas
10 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
I was driving home from buying some groceries
when I heard that today was National Cereal Day.  Great
I thought, because I knew I wouldn't have time today
to do any new work, but I thought this painting
would be perfect.

My favourite breakfast (and I'm not sure it's cereal)
is oatmeal that I make in a pot.  I love the way
hotels serve oatmeal with berries.  When you stay in
a hotel that understand the beauty of a room service
breakfast, it's hard to imagine anything more

For Valentine's Day, belated because of health
issues in my family, I had breakfast overlooking
the Byward Market in Ottawa.  The waiter
set up the table.  There were real silver utensils,
and beautifully pressed cloth napkins (white),
with a white tablecloth.  Large water glasses
filled with ice, and of course a hearty full
classic breakfast for my husband.
The Byward Market Ottawa
Barbara Muir © 2017
The Market was iced in snow about two feet
thick, and even that looked romantic.

Have an enjoying-National-Cereal-Day day.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The significance of portraits

Woman with her cats
Acrylic on canvas with gold leaf
36 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 
I am a portrait painter for sure.  I also paint
still life, and landscape and scenes with people,
but I started with portraits, and they are still a
major love of mine.

Today a collector called me to tell me that one
of the cats in the portrait I did of her with
her pets had died.  She said it made her
feel better seeing his portrait on the wall.  This
touched me profoundly.

I remember working on the painting so well -- the
woman was in the most beautiful blouse, and her
cats were arranged behind her shoulders and on
on her lap.  I took lots of photos with the cats
in the pose, then the subject came and posed for
me in my studio, and we used pillows to pose
instead of the cats.

The cats were big fluffy beauties, and I really wanted
to get them right.  The cat behind her shoulder died
a couple of weeks ago I'm sorry to say.  My photo
of the painting, taken when I had barely begun blogging,
is not so great, but I am proud of the work nonetheless,
and glad that it's given my client something to comfort her
at this sad time.

Have a loving-the-portraits-you-buy day.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

To the Gallery -- after searching for Sunday markets -- super!

Woman drinking tea
Black marker on Fringe drawing paper
9 1/2 x 5 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

Today we'd planned to go market shopping.  But when we showed
up at the market  the advertised market event was nowhere
to be found.

It was a freezing cold, but beautiful sunny day, so we headed out
for lunch and then a brief tour of the Art Gallery of Ontario.
That was a delightful way to spend the afternoon.  I got to see the
Tom Thomsons and look at them in a brand new way.  I knew that
he stylized his paintings, but I saw techniques I've never noticed
before and I have stared at his work dozens of times.

Top the day off with a captivating sunset, and a huge hawk circling
the hydro towers as we drove home, and it was a perfect

Have a loving-the-new-things-life-presents day.
The woman in this drawing is enjoying the delicious tea
they serve at the gallery.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Hooked on you -- and the man again

A man
Line drawing -- black marker on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 
Whoeee -- it is the coldest it's been all winter here and
everyone is in shock.  That feeling goes along with the
strange feeling of having to go out and buy sunscreen
because it was eye-blindingly sunny today. We all
feel a bit like we've been smothering under a grey
blanket for all of January and February (but it was
warmer under there) and all of a sudden -- brilliant
light!  We love it, but we're unprepared.

So it has been the kind of day a Saturday should be --
super busy with market shopping, and then having
dinner with friends.  I am still working on larger
paintings, but I wanted to blog all the same.  

Plus I decided tonight that I have not said enough about
how much I appreciate what Stephen Colbert has
continued to do opening his show, to lighten my
mood on the depressing state of the world -- 
especially the one he has to wake up to and present
as comedy  (a tragi-comedy of errors) every week 

I like the loose quality of this sketch from the year 
I was on the Oprah Winfrey show Skype sketching her.  
And I know my underlying reason for drawing Colbert 
so many times, aside from the fact that I could freeze frame 
his show on my iMac and draw gestures -- was that I wanted
to be invited to be on his program too  -- The Stephen Colbert
show.  Now I enjoy watching him on The Late Show,
and am more than content to simply enjoy his superb

Have an enjoying-humour-in-your-life day. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Taking a break and dreaming of Florence

Dreaming of Florence
Charcoal on bond paper
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir ©

Barbara Muir © 
Our winter which has been kind and reasonable
took a plunge into the super cold weather we
normally expect in January and February, but
have been sweetly seduced out of expecting
this year.

We were having some work done on our
kitchen today, the ceiling painted, which is a good
excuse to edit things on the high shelves, and
a good excuse to escape into thoughts of where
it would be nice to be.  I do love Florence,
and found this drawing I did of one of my
favourite models after returning from the
Florence Biennale in 2009.

Such sights we saw.  Like an opera singer
standing all alone in the middle of a piazza
at night singing with no one around.  She was
in a beautiful dress, and we heard her when
we were around the corner and down a narrow
side street.  She was magnificent.

Have a dreaming and planning day.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

David's Birthday -- and salad

Silver salad servers at work
Black marker and watercolour
on Fabriano watercolour paper
4 x 5 1/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
It's our friend David Cohen's birthday, and he probably
wishes that I didn't remember the occasion even with
concussion brain, and didn't sing Happy Birthday to him
over the phone. (I'm no singer!) But he is a wonderful person,
super writer, great photographer, and married to my dear
friend Marcia Labelle (an amazing artist, and sculptor.)
I am not that good at remembering dates of birthdays, but
David's sticks in my mind. So Happy Birthday David.

I love the salad servers in this picture which I inherited
from my mother, and we use them every night to serve
salad.  Steven makes a delicious salad, and cuts carrots
like a professional chef.  On my night to make supper
(we alternate nights) I serve his leftover salad, and
anything else he cooked that I can possibly reheat.
(Not a cook sorry).  I hope David had some salad
with his birthday dinner -- along with cake of course --
maybe not at the same time.  Cake deserves ice cream.

So I did a little drawing of a typical salad at our house
 -- this one in a glass bowl, and now it's a watercolour.

Have a Happy Birthday Party -- with salad!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

On the Highway -- Spring is coming Mr. Snow

Best summer drive
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Happy March 1 -- wow that went by quickly.  March doesn't
know whether to come in like a lamb or a lion, and was
way too warm today 16 degrees Celsius, or 60 Fahrenheit.
But now there are chilly winds, and apparently we may
see snow (it has been an almost snow free winter in

I am planning to hit the painting highway in the coming
month, and get working on some larger pieces, so I
may not be able to join you every day.  I know I have
loved the Month of Love, and don't worry I love the rest
of the year too.  The painting today is a highway view --
lovely trees against a bright field, the kind of sight that
always lifts my spirits.

Have a joining-me-on-the-painting-highway day.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Last day of the Month of Love -- Love lasts

My Dad (from his own self portrait)
Charcoal on Canson Mixed Media paper
13 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
(My father loved black and white photography --
he had books by all of the greats in
that field.  He took beautiful colour
photos too, but that was not his
passion.  The photo I based my drawing on told
me so much about my father.  His love
of playing with light and his knowledge
about light is so evident.  Plus this
is my father in casual dress!  Yes
he would not leave his house, even
to go to the store for many years if
he wasn't dressed properly. Plus his sense
of humour came through in the merest 
suggestion of a smile.)
Not to end on a sad note, but this day in February
always has a special meaning for me because it was
my father's birthday.  My father died years ago, but
I think of him every year on his birthday, and
probably every other day of the year too.

So it is appropriate on this last day of the Month
of Love to think about the meaning of love on
a deep level.  And here's what I know.  Not only
is my father visible in my face, and in my way
of talking, my love of humour, and the fact that
I have been both a journalist and an artist, like him.
But the main connection I have with my Dad is in my

So the powerful message he would like me to convey
if he were alive on this the final day of the Month
of Love, is that love lasts.  It never goes away.  And
my Dad's love for me, and mine for him is a
wonderful thing, and always will be for me.

Isn't that comforting to know.  I think so.

Have a loving-the-people-who-love you 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!