Wednesday, May 30, 2018

In Memoriam -- portrait artists feel the loss

These are two separate portraits -- Bruce Northcote, and Judge Ann Northcote, his wife.
The paintings are acrylic on canvas,
24 x 36 inches each, and 
are by me -- Barbara Muir © 2011
I enjoyed painting them and was sad 
when the paintings were finished.
To read more click here.

These days I am mostly painting landscapes -- usually with
high clouds, and a background of oceans or lakes. But I've
spent a lot of my career as an artist painting people, which
lead to portrait commissions like the ones I want to honour

I was commissioned to paint Judge Ann Northcote, a citizenship
judge and her husband Bruce ten and a half years ago.  Ann
was a lovely person, passionate about Canada, proud of her
job and her Order of Canada pin.  And Bruce, her husband,
was a retired accountant, passionate gardener and traveller.

One of the most touching things about the couple was how much
they clearly loved one another.  I think that comes out in the paintings.

Ann died in 2011, and Bruce died this month.  I was commissioned
to do the portraits by one of their sons, a friend of ours.  When you
 have subjects coming to pose for you, you are very much in the
present moment -- wanting to capture their expressions and personalities.
You don't think that one day these images will speak to coming generations
about who they are.  I hope I've done them proud.

Bruce had a quiet sense of humour, and he was observant.  He
showed up in my studio smartly dressed with the smart red tie in
the painting.  And he quickly noticed that I complimented him a lot
on the tie, and so he added the pocket handkerchief.

I had so much fun getting to know this couple, and I am so
sorry for the family's loss in Bruce's death.  Rest in Peace
Bruce Northcote, may you be with Ann again.

Monday, May 28, 2018

A complete and utter delight -- taking part in the Water for Life exhibition

Water for Life Official VIP Opening at the Niagara Falls History Museum.
Left to right -- the Mayor of Niagara Falls, Jim Diodati, Antoine Gaber,
Artistic Director, and artist, me -- Barbara Muir, sculptor, 
Gabrielle Fischer Horvath, and at the side of the photo Angelina 
Herrera, Cultural Promoter for the exhibition. 
(Photo courtesy Antoine Gaber)
After months of buildup two weeks ago we were in Niagara
Falls at the Niagara Falls History Museum for the International
Art Exhibition about saving the world's water -- Water for Life!

I knew I would have a great time with friends from the
Florence Biennale, Steffie Wallace and her husband Neil
from Australia, and Wessel Huisman from the Netherlands.
But I so happy to discover that everyone involved with hanging
the show, and organizing the two openings, and the artists' gala
dinner were gracious, thoughtful, considerate and absolutely
wonderful to the artists.
Me with Angelina Herrera, Cultural Promoter for Water for Life
in front of my painting Cloud Magic

I met Angelina Herrera when I showed in the Florence Biennale,
in 2009, and 2015, and Antoine Gaber, the Artistic Director,
Susan Moase the Museum Curator, and Jason Borbidge,
the cinematographer, the weekend before when we dropped off
my large painting.  They were lovely and friendly, and posed
for the pictures that I shared on Facebook. I felt both happy
and excited after that visit.

My happiness grew and grew as the official opening
weekend unfolded.  My work was hung in a beautiful
spot, so that everyone entering one side of the gallery could see
it on the wall at the other end of the space.  Everyone's work
was beautifully and thoughtfully hung and displayed.

We saw the show first on May 11 at the artist's opening at
in the late afternoon.  It was breathtaking, and all of the artists
(32 of the 37 in the exhibition) met one another and took
photos in front of each other's work.

Then it was off to a delicious dinner at the Skylon restaurant
looking over the falls -- part of the inspiration for the exhibition.

The next day we met for the official VIP opening -- a magnificent and
elegant affair, with dignitaries including the mayor of Niagara Falls,
 and the local Ontario Member of Parliament, Wayne Gates. We all met
the mayor, took photographs with him as artistic representatives from 18 countries.
Then we were drummed into the auditorium by Strong Water Women,
an indigenous drumming group who drummed and sang and spoke about
the importance of water.
Strong Water Women an indigenous group drumming and singing 
the artists into the auditorium in the museum for the presentations.

We were praised and lauded as artists hand selected from
countries around the world to take part in the exhibition, and
given an distinctive certificate of participation by the mayor
Jim Diodati.

It was a joyous and special night -- one of the nicest I've experienced.
My heartfelt thanks goes out to all of the crew at the Niagara
Falls History Museum and to the staff at the Skylon for
an over the top treat.  I'm sure all of the other artists would
agree with me that it was entirely joyful, and we were all
sad to say goodbye to each other, and to Niagara Falls.
If you are in the area, treat yourself to a glorious exhibition of
beautiful and moving art.  The exhibition is on until September 9.

Have a going to see an art show day.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Come out and see this in person

Cloud Magic
Acrylic on canvas
4 x 6 feet
Barbara Muir © 2018
I'm so excited about being part of the Water for Life International
Exhibition at the Niagara Falls History Museum, in Niagara Falls,
Canada.  The exibition opens this Saturday, May 12 at 7 p.m. and
we would love to see you there.

My work for the show is quite large, and extremely difficult to photograph.
To get an image of the painting, we had to photograph it sideways on a
counter, because there isn't enough space in my small house, and even
smaller studio to capture it properly. So I will show you two images tonight --
the official photo, and a shot of the piece on the easel. I actually think the second one
gives a better impression of how the painting looks.

Cloud Magic on the easel
Barbara Muir © 2018
Now that this work is off visiting Niagara Falls I am so glad that
I felt completely happy with it when I packed it up.  It says
everything I'd like to say about water -- water is delightful, joyous,
beautiful -- the background and foreground of our lives.  It is
spiritual, rewarding, life giving -- and absolutely essential
to the planet.

Each year when I visit Nova Scotia, where we own a 100+ year old
schoolhouse, I spend every day visiting the ocean -- overcome with
its beauty, the sound, the view -- superb.  Back in Toronto I go to
a gorgeous, huge park on the west end of the city as often as possible.
There on the edge of Lake Ontario my husband feeds the birds
(the right stuff), and the geese, ducks, and swans know the sound
of his voice. They swim and fly in from far out on the lake when
we arrive to see him.

Water is a big part of my life.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

What's in a name? Magic

The ocean series in the kitchen getting ready to be 
photographed. This part of the series showed in New 
York city, and here in Toronto.  And these paintings 
started me on my exploration of clouds, and water

Preparing for the Water for Life exhibition has taken a number
of months.  And tomorrow that big painting is jumping in a
van and driving to Niagara Falls.  Yes!  The build up to this moment
has been intense.  And after the work arrives there is a week to wait until
the show opens.

I was going to write about the water crisis again, but then I wrote
the painting's name on the back tonight, and now I want to talk about
that name.  Cloud Magic.

My fascination with the beauty and magnificence of water landscapes
began in my childhood in a setting something like the one in last
night's painting -- a rural lake in Northern Ontario.  And after my husband
and I bought a little school house in Nova Scotia, and spent every
day of our vacation there walking on the beach by the ocean, I was
more than in love with ocean and water views.

Before that I had been a flower and a portrait painter, but I started
an Ocean series of portraits connected by a bar, which was the sand
in the chosen landscape of the sitter.  Before long the magic of ocean
vistas demanded to be painted alone, without people.  And in Nova
Scotia and the Maritimes, clouds dominate your view.  They are the
most magnificent, huge, billowing, clouds I have ever seen in my life.
I had to paint them, to share that magic with my collectors.

Which is how we get to Cloud Magic, my ocean scene painting for
this show.  But tonight I will show you some of the ocean series

Have an enjoying the magic in your life day.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Water for Life -- my story

Reading on the dock
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013
(I have one large painting in
the Water for Life exhibition,
in the Niagara Falls History Museum, 
Niagara Falls, Opening Saturday May 12,
so I have decided to write about 
water in my posts until just before the 
show, (then reveal the work), 
and meanwhile feature some of my
other paintings on the subject.
This painting seemed right for 
today's post.)
When I was pregnant with my son Sam, who is in his 20s
now, I was at a summer cottage listening to David Suzuki
on the radio.  He was warning us that we had 10 years to
save the planet. We are more than 10 years past that deadline,
and the planet is in trouble -- so are our oceans, lakes and
rivers.  The Water for Life exhibition in Niagara Falls, in
the Niagara Falls History Museum, is about this crisis.

Oddly enough government and businesses -- which should
be working full time trying to reverse the damage our insistence
on oil, on plastic products, on rampant consumerism has cost, are
campaigning against the University of Alberta for awarding
David Suzuki with an honorary degree.  This is madness.  Bottom
line, we need clean water, we are water.  This frightening
dissociation between the factual reality, and the financial push for
continued investment in dated and dangerous technology is
beyond short sighted.

Why aren't we thinking about our children, and their children,
about all the people in the world without clean water to drink,
including in our own country?  And the answer is jobs?  Pipeline
jobs are summer work.  They are not long lasting.  Water
damage is, and as the title of the exhibition suggests -- fatal
to the environment, to wildlife, and to us.

Have a writing your politician day.

Portrait Artist

My photo
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I paint and draw on commission and for shows. To commission a portrait, or purchase one of my paintings please contact me at:
A major highlight in my career? Drawing Oprah Winfrey live via Skype for her show "Where in the Skype are you? Galleries: Studio Vogue Gallery, Toronto, Canada. The Amsterdam Whitney Gallery, New York City. Gallery at the Porch Door, Kingston, Canada. Your positive comments on this blog mean the world to me. I'd love to hear from you!