Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Out of the pumpkin patch

 The Pumpkin Farmhouse
Maison De Haute Couleur 
Charvin, Paris Watercolour
on Fabriano paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

I'm working on some larger paintings and they take
time.  But today I came upon a photo of one of my
favourite places that no longer exists.  This
wonderful farm was on the edge of Toronto,
up near King City.  I'd pass it every time I
taught at Seneca College, and I loved the whole

In the fall -- even if I had to start my drive at 6
in the morning from downtown to get to class I
was excited and on the alert. (Fuelled by gallons
of coffee.) Were the trees turning?  If so what a
gorgeous sight!  I was thinking of David K. Lobenberg 
when I painted this tonight, and wishing I had his chops.

The farm used to be a pumpkin farm, and our
 family drove up at Thanksgiving, to pick out the
best and biggest pumpkins to carry us through to
Halloween. (In Canada Thanksgiving happens in
early October).

Have a revelling-in-the-best-of-life day 

Monday, January 30, 2017

The force of joy

Three Tulips
Maison De Haute Couleur 
Charvin, Paris Watercolour
on Fabriano paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

Louise Hay asked at the start of the month what word we
would want to use to define 2017.  I choose the
word "joy".  I know it's not the first time I've picked
that word.  Maybe it picks me -- in which case I'm
lucky, and I do feel that way.  

Joy (or happiness if you like) is most potent in the
heart of hard times.  When you lift your eyes up 
out of sorrow and look around, it's there waiting 
for you.  I think perhaps it's the force of nature
saying -- "Look! Look at me! I'm always here 
to make you happy."  

These are harsh times in many ways.  The news
is brutal.  Anxiety is rocketing, and instead of
crawling back under the covers, joy beckons us
to keep going, call a friend, and make our
voices heard, donate, volunteer and join
a vast joyous choir across this beautiful planet. 
What do you do to express your joy?  Do you paint, 
write letters to friends (or politicians), spend time 
with family, go for a walk?  I'd love to hear your ideas.

Have figuring-out-the-joy day.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Holding the world tight -- a super day in mine

One World
Acrylic ad acrylic marker on paper
14 x 17 inches
Barbara Muir© 2017
My heart rocks and rolls to the rhythm of the reality
my friends face all over the world.  There is Diane in
India, and Alessandra in Paris, and sometimes Italy,
Miranda in the Netherlands, my friends in Toronto, and the entire
 list of my blog and Facebook friends.  And of course,
 that also includes my family who are here and in California.

One thing is clear -- we are a community.  We care
deeply for one another and do not want any of our
global family to suffer.  As world travel makes
the planet shrink, it seems stranger and stranger to me,
maybe as a Canadian, to think of ourselves as one kind of people
and the rest of humanity as another.  Someone put
 an old song on Facebook -- We are the world, and to me
that is true.

I want to give thanks to everyone who has made my
life as an artist more meaningful with your kindness and
support.  That means so much to me.  Let's work
on breaking down barriers -- the way artists do --
and hold hands around the globe to express our
gratitude for this dance in the artistic life.

Here is a little abstract I did on the theme of One
World, or We Are One.

Have-a-caring-that-we-are-one-world day.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A day off? Never! But great new toys.

 Studio lemons in a glass bowl (work in progress)
Acrylic on cradled birch panel
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014-17
People picture the artist's life as one of glorious leisure.
We paint for fun, and work when we want. Ah uh ah uh -
Nope.  Stop the discussion right there!  I'm not complaining
and neither would most of my artist friends, but truth
to tell -- days off are rare.  And even then we don't get
a day off!  The reason is a combination of our eyes (try
not to see the gorgeous tulips I bought to paint today),
and our compulsion to make something.  You can't
stop us.

Brief post today.  I was rearranging and found this
lovely lemon painting that I'll keep working on when
I have a chance in the next few weeks.  There isn't much
left to do to finish it.
New Tulips 
Acrylic markers on paper
4 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Plus I bought some more acrylic markers just as the store
was closing.  I ran around driving everyone crazy because
they'd moved.  Came home and drew a few drawings with them
-- here's the latest. (Tip -- I was hurrying to get the colours I
wanted and did not notice that the blue is sparkly -- so check
the labels.)

Have an enjoying-the-work-you-do day.

Friday, January 27, 2017

More from the hospital -- waiting

Trying to sleep
Black marker on Moleskine paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Sitting in a hospital watching people waiting to go into their
appointments, so many things circle through my mind.
Many of the procedures are painful, and some people come
in in pain, and leave in worse pain.  Strangers don't talk
to one another, like people do at bus stops.  Each patient
and the patient's family, or partner, settles in a separate zone if
possible -- with spaces in between of at least one seat.
I spend the waiting time drawing --sometimes with only seconds
to get a face down.

Not much longer
Black marker on Moleskine paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Thank goodness you are here
Black marker on Moleskine paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

Is it my turn?
Black marker on Moleskine paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
No not yet
Black marker on Moleskine paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

Not my first time
Black marker on Moleskine paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
If you are going back week after week on the same day, you
will see the same people again and again, and still no one
acknowledges one another.  There is a silent agreement
among the patients that they are simply enduring this time,
and the sooner it is over and done with the better.  I do
feel for everyone there and wish them perfect health -- soon.
And I am so glad for everyone I've drawn here that healthcare
in Canada is free.

Have a taking-care-of-one-another day.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Letting Go, and the sustenance of a passion

January's bouquet
black marker and coloured pencil on Moleskine paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
We are not good at letting go, which is why I'm
glad that art can help me let go of fear.
I am not a newshound -- which I think is a saving grace.
In the morning I skim through the paper, and read
stories that intrigue me, or that I'm compelled to 
understand.  That's gentle news.  At night before bed
I read The Guardian online, a good paper. Today I sat 
under the TV in a waiting room, and could not help
hearing news of nearby tyrannical insanity that
horrified me.
The gorgeous tree, now outside unadorned
The beautiful Delft angel my friend 
Miranda Brouwers
gave me at the Louvre in Paris
Thank goodness for art.  Yesterday the Christmas
tree in my studio left to become a bird feeder for
a month or so in the backyard. And I cut the small,
sweet Poinsettia plants that were in silver pots 
discarding the mostly dead leaves and putting the
remaining bits in water.  

I decided to draw one small bouquet as a symbol
of the end of Christmas, the tree's departure, and
at the same time the dogged persistence of nature
to try and make us see.  To teach us to be hopeful,
to be purposeful, and to keep going.  I do love that.

Having a letting-go-and-following-your-passion day.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What might I do? Permission to be kind to myself

Yield to the Lemon
(work in progress)
Acrylic on cradled birch panel
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
In the run around that is Wednesday for me right now,
the morning starts with a list which seems endless,
but is not.  And once the many preparations, and
tidying, and getting back to people who've written me,
or phoned is over -- there is the lovely artist's question.
It is a complete and total gift, the opposite of the
frightening news of the day. "Now what?  Given that I
will be teaching my one night a week class, "What might I do?"

An excellent, if somewhat awkwardly phrased question.
"Very little" is the answer, and that's fine too.  I give this
raggedly tired artist, who made her way to teach through traffic
so thick it took 2 hours for a 25 minute trip, who stayed
upbeat anyway -- who arrived home after 10 p.m. for dinner,
and is still here with you -- permission to show what I did
on one of my paintings, and to go to bed.

Tomorrow is a new day my friends, and glory awaits.

The work will get done.  You'll see.

Have a giving-yourself-permission-to-rest day.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Happiness Trick

Yield to the Lemon
(Work in progress)
Acrylic on cradled Birch panel
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Is there a trick to happiness?  Yes.  People have written books
about how.  But there is a secret to being happy.  We have to
allow it.  I heard about this phenomenon called the "Nocebo
response".  In medicine it is related to telling a patient that
 they will not get better. This message apparently has such
profound effects on the person's mind that she shuts the door
on hope, and may get rapidly worse.

My great happiness magic for today is to talk yourself out of
it.  Of the cold you are frightened to get, and will get if you
sneeze and are told it's coming -- watch out.  Of the depression
you could get because in this city the sky has been grey except
for one hour for what seems like most of a month.  And in
painting of the fear that you can't do it.

Try this.  Instead of freaking out about what you can't do,
start with "This is easy!"  Just repeat that a few times, and
watch your shoulders quit tightening into a vice grip.
I admit it -- given the number of people who have colds right
now -- our chances of getting one are good.  But apparently
just believing that the hot lemon I drink might stop it in its tracks
 -- could. And as for painting or drawing -- we need to take a look at
how tough things are in the world, and let ourselves know how
lucky we are to be compelled to make something.

Here is my offering for tonight.  When we were in New York
last June, Steven got a T-shirt he loves at the Metropolitan
Museum.   It says "Yield to the art," which is what installers
say when they're moving big pieces through the museum.
Hence Yield to the Lemon, because the lemon demanded
center stage.

Have a tricking-yourself-into-happiness day.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Scottish Connection

Robbie Burns
Black marker on paper
6 x 9 1/2 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
My background is complex on my mother's side --
French, Italian, Irish, but straight Scottish on my
father's side.  When my siblings and I were little it
was only the Scottish that mattered, and as we grew there
were many occasions when the poetry of Robert
Burns was read, or spoken.  My mother knew much
of his poetry off by heart.

I always gravitated to the French and Italian part of
my heritage, but grew up wearing kilts to school
every day. Tonight we went to the Caledonian in
Toronto for a Robbie Burns night (2 days before
his birthday I know) but we had it all -- 4 different
types of Scotch, bagpipes, singing and poetry by
Robbie Burns, and Canadian poets from the League

It was a joyous and lovely evening and a pleasant
distraction from the more frightening news of the
day.  I came home and drew this sketch of the 
famous poet.  Robbie Burns was not only a wonderful
poet, he was a very attractive man.  I did my best Rob.

Have a celebrating-the-poets-of-the-past-and-present day.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

High on small things -- that's being an artist

Lemons in an orange world (working title)
Work in Process.
Acrylic on cradled wood panel
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

No I don't mean drugs or alcohol in my title -- I really
mean reality -- the beauty of day-to-day and not so
common blows me away, and gives me endless

Today again going grocery shopping the store had
these beautiful oranges with the luscious big leaves.
I don't think I ever saw a leaf on an orange until I
visited Italy.  We tend to be more aggressive and
reductive with our supermarket fruit.

Past experience (last week) told me those leaves
dry up overnight in our Canadian house's winter
dry air, so I sat down with them and went to town.
This time I took photos too, in case they are changed
too drastically by morning.  And I am happy.

It has been a weekend of major demonstrations of
unity on the theme of women's rights, and human
rights across the world.  The sheer magnitude of that
outcry moved me so deeply.  And I continue to revel
in the everyday too.

Have a loving-the-great-and-small 
-moments-in-your-life day.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Only one topic today -- 20 Countries Hold Marches in Protest

I am going to share some clips about the
Women's Marches, that happened everywhere,
all over the United States, Canada, and in 20 countries
around the world.  I have damaged knees so could
not march, but I dedicate my blog tonight to those
millions of people who did.  Things cannot go backwards
in terms of women's rights, people's rights,
equality.  The entire world has to work together
to fight racism, sexism, and to save this
magnificent planet.

Have a marching-for-freedom day!

Friday, January 20, 2017

Hot topics -- warm day

Flowers for Friday
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir ©
This painting is a gift from the universe
to me.  I was trying to get another painting down from a
high shelf and this one dropped into my hands.
The title is perfect.

We needed extra cheer today, for reasons I won't go
into, on both the private and the world scale.
But in fact today what impressed me was the talk
I had with out herbalist/acupuncture fellow about
big Pharma -- something we are learning more and more
about in a series of documentaries we're watching.
And big Pharma is making it difficult for alternative
healers to get the medicines they've long relied on
to heal people like me.

I sat in my acupuncturist's waiting room talking about
some of the medicines he's given me over the years --
some of which brought me back from the brink of
death. When I got a supervirus years ago -- and my
doctor told my husband I was dying and there was
nothing she could do, my alternative medicine
healer saved my life.  And the new doctor I got at
that time agreed that he had.
View from the waiting room
black marker and acrylic marker
 on Moleskine paper
3 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

But I looked out the window I've looked out so many
times and started drawing as he talked.  And I did
not have my glasses.  So I've straightened the drawing
a bit.   I am grateful for alternative healers, for doctors
who understand the importance of alternatives, for the
 painting, and for all of the people marching
around the world, for women's rights, for equality,
for the environment.  We are holding hands across
the planet.

Have a greeting-the-world-with-hope day.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

At the hospital

 Nudge (I call this Nudge -- because that was the book the man was reading.
I looked it up and it was a very difficult book on perception.)
Black marker on 
Maison De Hautes Couleurs Charvin Paris paper
6 1/2 x 8 inches 
Barbara Muir © 2017
Each week this month when a family member goes for a cancer
treatment, I go along.  And while I am waiting in the waiting
room, I draw the other people.  No one there is having a wonderful
time.  They are tense, worried, and some of them will be enduring
 painful treatments.  I have to draw very quickly.  If I have two
minutes to draw someone that is good,  sometimes I just have
30 seconds before the person is called.
Black marker on 
Maison De Hautes Couleurs Charvin Paris paper
6 1/2 x 8 inches 
Barbara Muir © 2017

Waiting in his hat
Black marker on 
Maison De Hautes Couleurs Charvin Paris paper
6 1/2 x 8 inches 
Barbara Muir © 2017
Angry Bird #1
(This woman was playing Angry Birds with her
phone with the sound on.)
Black marker on 
Maison De Hautes Couleurs Charvin Paris paper
6 1/2 x 8 inches 
Barbara Muir © 2017
Angry Bird #2
Black marker on 
Maison De Hautes Couleurs Charvin Paris paper
6 1/2 x 8 inches 
Barbara Muir © 2017

Black marker on 
Maison De Hautes Couleurs Charvin Paris paper
6 1/2 x 8 inches 
Barbara Muir © 2017
Here are some of my sketches.  I am painting
too but sometimes I take a long time to finish a painting.
I wish everyone I saw today great cures and good health
in 2017.

Have a moving-towards-your-own-good-health day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sleep and art

Baby is sleeping
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
One of the things our fast paced society is going rogue
on is sleep.  We just aren't doing it apparently.  Hard
problem.  Because I know a vitally important part
of creativity is sleep.  We crave it, but aren't good at
doing it.  Tonight in my once a week community college
writing class I'll teach an essay on  The Heady Thrill of 
Having Nothing to Do, by Scott Adams.

His major point is that our incredible technology,
smart phones, and even this laptop I'm writing to you
on, are wrecking our creativity, because we don't have
down time.  He is the creator of the Dilbert series.
And he things boredom is essential for thought, and

But sleep is an entirely different dimension, and
imagination flourishes when we get enough of it.
Two days ago wired by worry about family members
and friends scattered over this planet, and politics,
I didn't sleep at all.  My brain was fried and I dragged
myself around. Anecdotally I'd say that sleep drives
this artist.  So if you are exhausted, do yourself a favour
and go to sleep.  Apparently even a 26 minute nap helps.

Having a sleeping-for-creativity day.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

To make a long day -- short

Self portrait
Coloured pencil on paper
6 x 9 1/2 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
I started this self portrait a few months ago, and then
what with travelling, shows, and painting, forgot about
it.  Until today.  When you come back to something 
I think it's always a shock.  The drawing needed more
contrast.  And the medium is very soft. When I first began
showing my art I worked in coloured pencil.  The thrill wore 
off quickly after I moved into watercolour, and both faded
from my mind for the most part when I
started painting on canvas with acrylics.

But these cool pencils arrived in the mail from Sketchbox,
they are multi-coloured coloured pencils, and I thought I
could just slowly, slowly complete the drawing.  Not
realistic.  Not because it wouldn't be fun, but because
I need to do other things. If I'm going to put days and 
weeks into a project I want it to be a painting. 

And today, the drawing reminded me of the feeling I had 
during that dinner with my family, holding a beautiful baby
on my lap.  That's the look.  Super Happy.  I also 
loved using these coloured pencils with multiple
colours in each one.  You can't predict or control the colour --
subtle as it is, because the colour in the pencil changes as
you draw!  Cool. Very cool.

Have a trying-out-new-supplies day.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Jealousy -- what is the point?

Paris Anemones
black marker on Moleskine paper
8 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
I'm reading a novel about life in Washington D.C. (Ironically
appropriate this hard week), and it seems the world there is rife
with jealousy.  I find that a hard emotion to understand.  I am not
jealous.  When I was young -- in my teens I had a very rich boyfriend,
and some extremely wealthy friends. I found out then, what I know
for a fact now.  Wealth doesn't make you happy, neither does fame,
fancy clothes, the best car. That boyfriend has grown up to be a
super fellow, and is I believe happy.

Happiness -- and aside from love, I value happiness above all --
is an inside job.  You could have the biggest studio in the world,
and though I know I'd enjoy that.  I would not be jealous.

If I were jealous I'd work on being jealous of the people I know
who live in Paris -- one of my favourite places in the world.  But
I'm not.  I revel in every word they ever write about the place.
But I'm not jealous. I will visit again, and enjoy every minute.
 I don't want a title, a fancy car, a big house (bigger
maybe), I just want to be an artist, and sell my work, and teach,
and travel, and love my family and friends.  And I'm doing that.

More money?  Yes that would be nice.  I won't say no.  But I
would just travel more,  give better gifts.

The drawing tonight is of the tangled flowers and leaves of a
bouquet of anemones -- which in Paris are huge -- a flower we
see almost in miniature in comparison here in Toronto.  So far
it's a line drawing.  Colour would really tell the story better.  Maybe

Meanwhile - Have a-I-don't-have-time-for-jealousy day.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Miraculous specificity -- the seasons

Untitled (yes another one)
Work almost finished
Acrylic on birch panel
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

We humans can get pretty puffed up with our importance.
But nature can shoot us down on this in a nano second.
As much as we force her, mess with her, try to change
her -- there are things she knows better than we do --
like time, and the "to everything there is a season" rule.

Facebook pulled up a painting I posted exactly 3 years ago
today. And yesterday these beautiful oranges were in the
grocery store!  We didn't used to be able to buy them in Canada
with the leaves still on -- and the sight thrills me.  It
reminds me of Italy, where these gorgeous fruits were
common in the Florence market, and of my first visit to
California, seeing lemon trees thick with lemons.

Thank you nature, and this painter is grateful to you in
every season -- even winter.  By the way this is supposed
to be the most depressing day of the year!  Really?  I
hope it isn't for you.  But if so I recommend getting
a great book, going for a walk even in the cold we're
enjoying in Canada, and listening to happy music.

Have an enjoying-nature day.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Favourite stop -- a great start

Untitled (Work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

Here's a painting I've been working on -- another landscape --
a bit different because it's at a favourite place to stop on the
way to Nova Scotia, on the St. Lawrence River in Québec.
The feeling of peace, and the light when we pull into this
park is unparalleled.  I want to stay, but there is a long
journey ahead of us, and we have no idea where to eat nearby.
(Sure to be a place -- because Quebécers care passionately about
food -- but we don't know where it is and when we get to this
place we have two provinces to go.)

I've been thinking about gratitude today all day -- to the market
farmers who take my order via email, and save the best eggs,
a quiche, carrots, potatoes and greens for me every Saturday,
even while they're packing up because they know I'll arrive
late in the day.  And I am so grateful to the flower store, that
knows what I like to buy, and what I'd like to paint, and give to
clients.  And of course to you

Have a dreaming-of-somewhere-peaceful day.

Friday, January 13, 2017

10 more reasons to be happy.

Untitled (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
18 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

When I taught college positive psychology, (happiness)
which I secretly work into any subject I teach, one of the
exercises I used at the beginning of each class was 10 reasons
to be happy.  10 students would come to the front of the class
and say why they were happy.  It was a college course, and
many students had no idea how to be happy.

The experience was quite moving.  One girl I remember
went to the front of the class, looked down as if she might
cry, then lifted her face and said in a small voice,
"I'm happy because I'm alive." Every time someone said
why they were happy, the class clapped.

The result?  Everyone in the class began to get happier.
Amazingly.  It helped.  They made friends with each other,
they started to study, they got good marks, and that one
exercise out of many had a huge impact.

I will never forget seeing that same sad girl 6 months later,
skipping down the hallway, her hair in pigtails, tied with
bright wool, her clothes a vibrant pink, the smile on her
face radiant.  She stopped me because I didn't recognize her
from the depressed person she'd been, and said.  "Thank you!
and hugged me."

So.... Let me take some of my own medicine.  I've spent
the afternoon in a hospital with a dear family member.

1. I am happy because I have a loving husband.
2. I am happy because I have a loving family.
3.  I am happy because I have kind, funny friends around
the world.
4.  I am happy because I'm an artist, and I love making art.
5. I'm happy that I get to teach and meet amazing people
every year in that job -- even with one night a week.
6. I'm happy that I live in Canada -- never happier about that.
7. I'm happy that I've learned how to be happy, and am
still learning, and think I will learn more and more for the
rest of my life. And I'm grateful for all that you've
taught me on the subject
8. I'm happy that I've learned to love myself enough to
choose only to be with kind and happy people.
9. I'm happy that I don't believe in horoscopes, superstition
or most dogma.
10.  I'm happy that I love to read and I have a wonderful
Oh no.  I could go on.  I'm happy that my artist friend
Janet Vanderhoof got me to meditate, which has been
a wonderful gift.

I have a million more reasons, but I'll save some for another day.

Have a thinking-about-10-reasons-to-be-happy day.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Heroes make me happy

The artist thinking
charcoal on bond paper
14 x 15 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Being happy and understanding how to stay that way is
an obsession of mine.  I am lucky to know, and work with
funny, kind and happy people here and across the planet.

So today I did a little charcoal study of one of my happiness
heroes in art -- Veronica Funk.  I think I have her permission
to try and do a portrait, and Veronica if you're reading this,
I could do more work on this -- or proceed to painting you,
as you have done portraits of so many fantastic women heroes
of your own.  You are one of mine.

Veronica paints the brightest, most exuberant, paintings full
of colour pattern, and themes -- one of which is great women
in history.  

Another conversation that made me laugh and pleased me
no end was with a colleague at the college where I teach
writing one night a week.  We had been joking about 
beginning the course with Chaucer, the great English
writer from the Middle Ages. I studied
Chaucer in university and have a large hard cover text
I can barely carry -- all Chaucer.  The other night because
of this idea I started reading the great writer -- just
picking a random page and despite the old English,
enjoyed his delicious turn of phrase and humour.
But he would be the wrong writer for an essay
writing class. 
marker on bond paper
8 x 5 inches
Barbara Muir 
Et voila a small sketch of the man for you based on
a photo of an actor called Phil Boardman portraying
Chaucer in 2000 as part of the Chautaugua  series
in L.A.

Have a picking-heroes-that-make-you-happy day.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why I started to paint

 New in pink
Acrylic on birch panel
5 x 7 inches 
Barbara Muir © 2014
(One of my favourite paintings.
Small but exactly right.)
As a little girl I hated school.  The reason?  My mother
was way more fun, and a stay-at-home Mom.  She loved
reading books, singing songs, reciting poems, and made
delicious bread and brownies. Plus most of the time she
was kind and nice.  And she made me a big fan of the CBC.

School was different. It felt like we had military police for
kindergarten teachers.  Why I don't know.  My
first teacher Mrs. Jordan was always nervous and shrill.
Except when we were painting -- and I'd never painted
before.  Then she was a strangely spontaneous, happy
being.  At every other massively organized point in
the half day, she seemed to dislike children.

Looking back I think it was sweet of her to write on the
back of our paintings what they were about.  I wish I
still had the one of my mother holding baby me on her knee,
and eating cake at her wedding, and my father
looking on.  That one made my parents laugh
because I was their third child, and they were firmly
married before any of us came into the world.
Fresh from the garden
Watercolour on Arches paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010
That military order continued in school. Opportunities for
art were rare, but always worth it, always a great change
from the normal rote.  And in grade 7 and 8 I had the most
amazing art teacher.  We made life size wire and papier maché
sculptures of the characters from Alice in Wonderland.  And we
painted and dressed them!  The best.

That teacher, whose name I forget, got me really entranced
with art.  She was happy, and beautiful, in love with
her subject, and enjoyed her students.  The way teachers should be.
I have to thank art, and my middle school art teacher, for
giving me a fantastic life, and super friends in art.
To Miranda Brouwers in the Netherlands who is teaching art as
I write this.  You are bringing joy into your students' lives.
What could be better?

Have a bringing-joy-into-people's-lives day.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail

Art Group Sketch
16 x 20 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Be determined.  A good motto.  I saw in an email that my
art group was meeting tonight, and not again for 6 weeks.
I thought I absolutely must go and paint from the model.
My complicated schedule meant I had an hour and a half
at the most to be there.

So I parked.  It was snowing for most of the day today,
but when I hauled my supplies out of the car I stepped
in a 6 inch deep puddle.  It was raining like crazy.  Slush,
ice, slippery sidewalks.  And the normal door into the class
 was blocked! Yikes!.

A kind lady from the adjoining library funneled me through
the warmth of the library, and ran down the two flights of
steep stairs to check that the group was there was there.
 I saw the stairs and froze. (knees) But the librarian ran up,
grabbed my bags and ran back down.  Done. I was in.

The model was lovely a woman with a Masters in acting,
who now teaches private lessons in English to grade school
children in China via Skype.  I'll call this rushed.  (I
know -- don't answer that question -- but it is a sketch --
maybe 3/4 of an hour, but I don't think so.)

Have a working-on-being-determined day.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Large and small

Untitled (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
Thinking today about the simplest of contrasts large and
small.  The inspiration for that idea came from a desire
to do a small painting, and the realization that for the
most part I like working on larger pieces.  I like the
freedom of the big canvas -- which is highly impractical
living in a small space, with a tiny studio.

The fact is that the big art world, the major galleries
for the most part like large works -- the larger the better.
Though I remember seeing a brilliant show of very tiny
pieces that went in a line around a huge room in the MoMA
in New York.  But that same artist exhibited a massive video
of the artist chasing tornadoes (small ones) and getting right
inside them.  The sound system and dark room in that exhibit
made the experience so real that Steven and I were holding
hands, and people kept running out of the space because
they were so scared.

And the fact is that larger work has more impact, as one of
my gallery owners once said, "because it is large!"

So here's what I'm working on.  The subject is the wide
ocean -- a favourite theme of mine, and favourite
place too.  It is a medium size painting.

To add to the topic, and perfectly timed as
I was just rolling the idea over in my mind -- a tiny pink
envelope dropped through the door that contained a
beautiful thank you note, with a joyous pink tree
on the front and a message about Happiness! This is
the second perfect small card that has landed in our
hallway in the past week -- and the second message
that touched my heart so deeply.

You get the point -- it's the message that counts, or the
image -- not the size. By the way I am always in awe of
the small work by Edward B. Gordon, Nicki Ault, William
Wray and Miranda Brouwers.  And yes Vermeer could
pack a lot into small.  (I know the list is endless).

Have a loving both the small and the large art day.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Renewal on the joy train

The Invitation
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017
This painting is one of my favourites.  Not only that it's
in my bedroom and I wake up to it every morning.  I
love it, but it started to bug me awhile ago.  Such a
contrast of energies -- all loose and bright on the one
hand -- and careful and constrained on the other. I am
thinking a lot about joy, so I want the things I look
at every day to add to that feeling.

I began actually working on remedying this a few
months ago, but then working on preparing for
the shows in New York, and Paris seemed to take
up all of my creative energy.  But I changed the hands --
which were not right.  And today I've added to the flowers.
They were way too tame, not in colour, but in willingness
to invade the space.
The Invitation
pre changes
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 

The great thing about flowers is that they do invade the
space, and become what you notice.  Right now I'm
noticing that the beautiful bulbs the model for this
piece gave me for Christmas, are shooting up tall
green leaves and what will be blooms into the
gathering light.  Every day the light is growing, and
every day my hunger for doing more in this new year
and experiencing more joy is growing too.

Have a recognizing renewal day.
The joy train?  I think it's a song, and the only train
I want to be on.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Brands and tribes. Lets all be one.

House in the wind
(Work in progress)
Acrylic and ink on bond paper
12 x 14 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

Walking through our local high end mall today --
going for an Espresso that reminds me of Paris,
I was struck by the word tribe.  The brands,
high end, and beautifully illustrated with huge
artistic signs and videos flashing up to the 50 or
60 foot ceilings make the space beautiful. But it
also felt primitive -- like we humans still need
to brand ourselves as part of a certain group.
I am reading a book called Joy on Demand
on happiness which more or less says that happiness
is first --we won't enjoy that designer dress or car,
if we haven't figured out how to be happy first.

As artists we are part of both a certain group,
and the world.  The more we travel, the more
art we see -- not just in books, the larger and
wider and more inclusive our art tribes become
and the more we know.

I am a firm believer that one of the best ways
to crack out of the narrow, dangerous, petty
"this group -- people, sex, country, is good,
and this group, people, country, is bad"
thinking is to travel and meet the world.

Ironic perhaps that today I worked a bit more on the
perfect grey Toronto House, which would clearly
make the owners part of the Millionaire tribe
if they sold the place.  I hope they are already
happy.  The house is looking a bit more content with
today's progress. Some of the wind is gone.  New

Have a making the world your tribe day.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Quite the day!


Work in Progress
Acrylic on watercolour paper
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

There is a lot going on in my family right now that is
hard, sad and frightening.  This centers around health
and our worries about family members.  At times like these
when possible, I find it is never more important to do as they say in one
of my favourite meditations and "hold a little space 
around you that is just for you."  That meditation goes on
to say, "sink back into that space."  How lovely.

For artists the space we need to hold around us is a space
for art.  The visual is always with us.  We are a bit nuts
that way.  In the midst of trouble, we're drawing the 
people's expressions in our mind.  Tonight I spent a some
time working on a little painting I started in November.
The inspiration was in one of the worst traffic jams I've 
been in in a long time.  In this city that's saying something.  
Traffic is us.

And here's the thing.  In the middle of a terrible traffic 
jam, so slow I could have turned my motor off, I was
noticing how beautiful everything looked in a harsh,
urban way.  Light bouncing off the cars, the sun setting,
my view blocked by a huge SUV.   I worked on this a bit
tonight.  It isn't finished yet, but it's getting closer. 

Have a holding-a-space-for-art day. 

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Break it down

Wonder Water Image #3
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
The final image -- sorry
the photo is not a good quality.  I
am learning. It sold in NYC which is nice.
How do you draw, paint, a person, a scene, a car, a cloud?
How?  One million different ways of course -- no wait
are there 9 billion people on the planet by now (last time
I looked it was 7). That means currently there has to
be that many ways to do this thing called make a piece
of art.  All valid.
Wonder Water Image #3
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
An earlier stage -- coming together

Then there are the instructors, the rule makers.  They ride
in on white horses, or in Navy and tan Rolls Royces,
or yellow Lamborghinis, and they know everything about
how to make art.  Except for one important factor.  They
have no idea how to be you.  Silly though eh?  (I'm
Canadian -- we say eh)  Seems too simple?  Have you
ever met you except in the mirror.  Even if you have a twin
he/she is not you.

So.  I will give you a really simple answer.  Break it down.
Start with the least frightening part of the new thing you
are attempting. (Not the most difficult.) Sometimes if it's
really hard in your mind, you needs lots of breaks, and
maybe some meditation. And then go back, set the timer
(how long can you be there -- 5 minutes? 10?) and work
on the easiest part.  You may get so lost that when the timer
goes, it's annoying and you don't want to quit.
But every break brings you back new to you, and you get
another aha.
Wonder Water Image #3
Acrylic on canvas
30 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
And two earlier stages -- small steps

Some people are fast and this whole process
might take a day, or even a morning.  But others are slow
and need weeks for the same thing -- maybe even
an equally great result.  Don't ever answer that "So
how long did this take you?" question.  Because it
could have been an hour, and it could have been 30
years.  Both are fine.  Just say you aren't sure. (You're
not are you?  You're making art, not keeping a time
graph!) Smile though.  The whole process is your secret --
and isn't that good?  I think so.

Have a breaking it down and liking it day
Here's a funny video I found on the subject.

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!