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
animals.

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
Labelle.

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
 sketch
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.

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!