Monday, November 30, 2020

Memories for Monday

View from our apartment terrace when
I stayed in Florence the first time
I exhibited at the Florence Biennale.
There was a church right against
our building, and that's the Duomo
in the distance.
Barbara Muir © 2009

Today was a very busy day and all of it was about art. But it was the background
to art -- discussing proposed pieces, organizing reference material, and picking up
materials in order to be able to create art.

We are in lockdown so everything has to be done over the phone, and by pre-arrangement.
Curb side pick up means you stand in a line and wait to get your supplies. I was lucky
today. A very helpful person and friend in the art store I go to, advised me on what to
get and arranged it all for me.

I’ve been thinking about my time in Florence Italy. The other night Steven and I sat at the
kitchen table in front of my computer, and I read him my blog about our first visit to Florence.

I decided that tonight I would share a quote from that blog entry from 2009, which had us
feeling so lucky, and joyous to have lived that experience. Plus we know that as soon as we
can we will be going back and visiting Paris and Florence, and enjoying the sights, sounds
people and the food there.

Here’s a quote from my trip to Florence for the Florence Biennale in 2009, and the picture
tonight is one of the views we saw on our apartment terrace in Florence.

"We were coming to the internet place at night before supper, but that meant we were
extremely hungry when we went for supper, after walking around all day. So now we're
 starting the day with the blog, and as I sit here the sun pours in from the little garden
behind the computer station store. (We had to go to a computer station store so I could
write my blog).

I thought I'd tell you what I had for dinner last night in the Napaloni, a wonderful
restaurant a few blocks from our apartment. By the way everything that matters (almost)
 is a few blocks from our house. So here's what I had. The server, Elam became our
friend the first time we ate there, and she brought us celebratory glasses of prosecco.
Then instead of the white house wine I was given a gorgeous Sauvignon Bianco. People
don't worry about glass size here, something I noticed in Europe the last time I was here.
The wine (both white and red) is served in large, graceful glasses. My salad last night was
fresh artichoke, thinly sliced, lightly drizzled with a dressing with a bit of lemon in it,
with parmiggiano cheese in wide thin slices covering the artichoke. Then I had zucchini
stuffed with a meat filling mixed with cheese, tomato, and mushrooms. (Mushrooms here
are like nothing you've ever tasted in North America -- they are beyond delicious).
For desert Steven had Tiramisu, (another surprise, completely different than at home)
and after I'd eaten half of his, Elam brought us a thin slice of the most delicious dark
chocolate cake I've ever eaten. That was dinner! "

Have a being happy in the present, enjoying memories of the past, and dreaming of
the future day. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Reality in Canada

End of day light
Toronto in the distance from
Colonel Samuel Smith Park
Barbara Muir © 2020

This my friends is a beautiful day. And it’s almost December which means
the sun starts to set sometime after 3:30 in the afternoon. So many people
realize they better get out and enjoy the day.  And that there's no snow, so
get going because you know that's going to change. Soon. 

This is me. It’s going to be a photo day unless some miracle happens and I
get some art done to show you. Because I’m heading out into the light, and
I’m pretty excited about it. After a week of grey days, one after another, you
understand why people think the sun and sunlight is a miracle.

Update:  We headed to our favourite park and fed the geese, ducks, and 
seagulls who were hungry.  Very hungry.

All good.  We had fun, and the birds were happy.  At the end of our
visit, the sun was going down, and the sunset was spectacular.  

Have a loving the light day.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

More happiness for you


End of day at the prettiest house
Acrylic on birch panel
5 x 7 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014
(I'm glad I got a painting of this. It's
not the final version, but it went in
an exhibition and sold.  People bought
the house, tore it down and built a
black box of a house!)

It’s an absolutely beautiful day today, and the last weekend before December.
We are going to start decorating the house. We love the smell of pine wreaths
and who knows we might even get a tree.

And on this gorgeous sunny day it seems right to think about how we can possibly
celebrate. Our neighbour put a Christmas tree in his kitchen window, which means
when we look at the backyard we see it, and it makes us feel happy. That's going to
be the focus of our day -- trying to figure out how to make ourselves, and the people
who we encounter happy. 

What are you doing today? I hope it’s fun. Meanwhile stay safe. Social distance two
metres (6 feet 7 inches) and wear a mask when you’re out around people. Other than
that let’s be happy.

Update:  We saw family today -- social distanced, masked and outside.  So super
to see them.  We bought flowers at the flower store, just finished an amazing
take out Thai Dinner, and are going to watch a wonderful movie.

Have a finding occasions to be happy day.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Five good things

Untitled (Work in process)
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2020
(This painting is almost done.  I may take a new
photo tomorrow, because it's much brighter than this.)

Okay in the process of flipping the domino effect that I mentioned yesterday, I thought
I’d talk tonight about five good things. Every single happy occurrence that happens is
precious in these hard times.

1. We got to go grocery shopping at one of our favourite stores last night, and there
was no lineup even though we're in lockdown in Toronto. There were very few people in the
store and we were in and out in minutes. This is a big deal, and that made me happy.
Yes everyone was masked, and we were social distanced from everyone.

2. I had some marking to do for the one night a week course I teach, and I’m halfway
through the batch. That too is a big deal with the weekend coming up. I'll have more
time for painting. Yay!

3. I got to talk to a kind friend today who is an amazing artist, a wonderful sculptor,
and who was the director/curator of one of the most beautiful galleries I’ve ever shown
in. She is a delight to talk to, and I felt so happy at the end of the call.

4. Just as that sweet call was wrapping up a dear friend phoned who I hadn’t spoken
to more than twice in the last year since COVID-19 hit. She is not only a collector of
my work, but also one of the most joyful people I know. So we laughed about this and
that, and shared what’s going on with our families, and how we’re coping. I got off that
call feeling that I am very lucky.

5. And here's number five. I stepped away from my computer for a minute while writing
this, and my husband came home from the vegetable store near us where he was picking
up some vegetables for dinner, with a lovely surprise for me. Two dozen gorgeous yellow

Of course I could go on with this list, but this is pretty good isn’t it? Wishing you a day
filled with small miracles.

Have a joyous and creative weekend. Thank you!

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Reversing the domino effect

The Fruits of Love
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014

Today on American Thanksgiving it seems like a good idea to talk about reversing
the domino effect of the strange year we’ve been living through.

Back in March we had no idea what we were getting into.  People in my coffee group
who used to meet Tuesday mornings, talked about COVID-19 in a very light
way. We thought maybe people in the group wouldn’t want to travel because of it, but
we had no idea what would happen. For me the first big indicator of that negative domino
effect was when school at the college where I teach part time, went online and I had to
work through Zoom, instead of seeing my class in the classroom, which had been such
a pleasure for me. So how do you reverse the domino effect?

The idea came to me in the night that one way we could shift the course of our thinking
would be to focus on each happy thing, or idea in our lives.  And we could spread love
and kindness out into the world as much as possible. 

Jim Courtney who has written a book about Skype
Experience Skype to the Max
and who was the Canadian Skype Blogger,
visited a 2010 show Gill Cameron and 
I had in the Wychwood Barns 
and posed beside 
my Skype painting of 
Tamara, a wonderful artist from The Netherlands
I met at the 2009 Florence Biennale.

And speaking of reversing the 
negative domino effect, Jim contacted
me today, and wants to give me a drawing
commission! Yes!

It’s easy to go into doom and gloom with this pandemic. There are a lot of logical reasons
to be depressed. But that’s why creative people have to tap into what they do have on
this grey November day. For example I have a studio full of colourful paints. And I’m
going to use them. We all have friends who we can call, and we can try and brighten each other's
day, and I’m going do that. Instead of worrying about Christmas not happening, I’m going
to figure out what parts of it can happen bit by bit. It will be like a domino effect in reverse,
and happiness will build.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone I know -- American,  Canadian -- all over the world. Let’s be
grateful for what we have, and let’s try to operate the domino effect in the opposite way, while
wearing masks, social distancing, not going out unless we have to. We can still figure it out.
Thank you for all that you give to me every day.,

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Happy American Thanksgiving to my American family and friends

Today has been a wonderful day I worked on a painting that I'd put away for
at least two months, and I think with a bit more patience and work I’ll be able
to finish it. That’s something that I couldn’t have imagined when I put it away.
I was going out to my car, planning to phone a friend before I headed out today,
and the friend walked up the street with her dog. That was lovely. We talked very
social distanced, and then walked as we used to last winter when COVID began
across the street from one another, and had a delightful outing.

I was very happy to be out as I was inside the house for two days prepping to teach,
and then teaching yesterday. So I am having a very grateful day, and I want to say
Happy American Thanksgiving to my family and friends in the United States. It’s a
good time to remember to be grateful for all that we have. I was thinking on my walk
home we need to be thankful for each small happy moment. I even felt grateful for
seeing the small brown leaves on the sidewalk -- beautifully shaped maple leaves.
But then I’m an artist, and we get excited by what we see. 

Have wonderful Thanksgiving. And for the rest of us let’s be grateful for what we’ve
got. I am so thankful for your work, your beautiful art, your kind desire to collect my
work, and your inspiring social media posts.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

A fantastic assignment -- looking back

Black marker on watercolour paper
9 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir ©

Excerpt from a blog in January, 2009

"On November 22nd, 2008,  talking to my friend Flora on Skype
I decided to draw her. I had a sketchbook and pens on my desk,
and whipped off a little marker drawing while 
we talked, which I

A Chicago journalist, Howard Wolinsky, saw that drawing and 
contacted me. On December 5th he did a video interview with me
Skype and you can find that on YouTube.

The Public Relations company for Skype, Kaplow in New
York, saw that interview, and decided 
to hire me for an event
they were doing at the 
Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas,
So on January 9, from 11 p.m. Toronto time, to 1:30
a.m. on January 10, I drew five portraits of people attending a Skype
party. This whole project would have been impossible without the
wonders of 
Skypeand wouldn't have happened at all if it weren't for
the blog, and Howard."

The project was so much fun, and the people incredibly helpful.
The setting for the portraits in Las Vegas was lit like a cocktail
party, and the client very kindly adjusted the light because
I couldn't see my subjects well enough to draw them. 

Sara was the woman who organized the whole project, and I'm
very grateful to her, for an exciting project, that ultimately
led to me being on the Oprah Winfrey show, and on several
other TV shows. A delightfully happy memory for a Tuesday night
when I'm teaching.  

Have fun remembering wonderful events in your creative life.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Another sketch in progress

Midnight flowers (sketch in progress)
Acrylic ink, watercolour crayon, acrylic marker
on Canson watercolour paper
9 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2020

I was so sad about the approaching end of the yellow tulips in my kitchen that
I decided to sketch them in a different medium. The first painting is going very
well, and I can finish it with the photos I took for reference. But I thought I
would like to try something looser.

So here it is. Flashes of insight into what to do next come to me when I walk
away and do something else. That’s part of what painting is all about, and I am
having fun thinking about it. The flowers finally stopped being okay today,
and have to go into the compost. But I have given them all of my attention,
and enjoyed thinking about spring flowers as the snow fell outside yesterday.

Wishing you a creative, happy, healthy life.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

A trying things out day

Morning Sketch (work in progress)
black marker on Canson drawing paper
5.5 x 8.5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2020

I’m so impressed by people like Eleanor Lowden who get up in the morning and paint.
They have 20 things done by the time I’m drinking my coffee. So I thought, 'why not
start the day with a sketch?' I did. But I was using the wrong pen. Then I did something
I rarely do, and traced my own drawing. I thought I’d try it again with a finer pen.

But we go into lockdown at midnight tonight, so we had to go out and pick up a few things
before all the stores in Toronto are closed (like art supplies). Apparently the liquor store
is exempt because it's an "essential service". I find that funny. Back home for a few minutes,
I started a painting of tulips with acrylic ink. A lot of fun -- but nothing finished, so I’ll just
show you my first sketch, and wish you a very creative week.

It’s taken a long time to get my creative self going again. Now I can feel ideas coming into my
head, and that’s a delightful feeling. I'll keep that happening, and leave Covid alone. Sooner
or later we will be getting together and rejoicing. Oh man it will be fun!  A very snowy day today --
absolutely gorgeous. I hope you had a great day too. 

Take care.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Your holiday plans without friends and family?

Valentine's Day Blue
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 16 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010


I told you yesterday that Toronto (Canada) has gone into lockdown. Today
we went to 2 malls. It was only the third time we’d been to a mall in the past
nine months. Outside the mall north of Toronto where they are not going into
lockdown people were in line ups of 200 to 400 people at each store on
the sidewalk waiting. We circled the mall once, and left.  The scene was 
depressing and pointless.

At the second mall things were much different. In Toronto where the lockdown
is actually going to take place, the mall, which will be closed as of Monday morning,
was busy. Everyone was wearing masks and social distancing. But you could move
from store to store and there were small line ups at each store. All of the protocols
were in place, temperature checks, limited numbers in stores.  We stood in a short
line up, saw almost no one in the store, picked up our things in five minutes and 
left, delighted to be back in the car, and gone. Hand sanitizer, masks off. In these
Covid times we live in, and it is really cold tonight, we needed warm socks.

But the site of the mall all dressed up for the holiday season, (certainly the prettiest it
ever looks all year), and knowing that it will shut down in one day until four days before
Christmas, made me sad. Sad for the business owners who cannot afford this shut down,
and sad for all the people who get their holiday feelings by walking through this
beautifully decorated space. 

So my question is what are your plans for how you are going to enjoy the holidays at the
end of December, if you can’t have your friends and family over for dinner, and can’t have
parties, and if you meet people you have to meet them outside in the freezing cold? I’d like
to know what you can do to keep your spirits going, and what you will do to celebrate?

We sat outside for a few minutes on our back porch today. We call our Siamese cat
Fiona by whistling. So I was whistling the tune, and a neighbour one street over
started whistling after we finished, so we'd whistle back.  We were starting and ending
the tune for each other, and this went on for at least 10 minutes and maybe more.
Steven and I would whistle, and then the person whistling on the other street
would pick up where we left off. It was too bad that we couldn’t see the person,
but it was very happy scene. It was like "yes we can celebrate something!".So how
will you celebrate? That’s my question.

Have a happy weekend.

Friday, November 20, 2020

Picture this — a night off

Seagulls at Colonel Samuel Smith Park in October
Photo: Barbara Muir © 2020
(We were as hungry as seagulls tonight.
We planned to eat in front of the TV, but
ate on the back porch in our winter coats.)
Here was the original plan : Tonight is going to devoted to eating pizza, eating
chocolate coated, vanilla and caramel drumsticks, and watching the TV series
we're watching until we can’t watch anymore.

The fellow at the store where I bought the pizza was upset when I said we were
having this treat because we were countering depression. He said, "Oh no this is
celebration food," as he put it in the oven. "I know," I said, "but we’re going into
lockdown again, and if we didn’t eat celebratory food we might be depressed about

As it is it will be an evening of pure pleasure, and I wish you the same. 

Postscript: I don't eat flour or sugar most of the time.  The double hit tasted 
amazing, but I won't be doing that again any time soon.  As for the TV, we
watched it all night, with a small break for a walk -- and that was wonderful.

Have a figuring out how to be happy anyway day.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

When everything clicks in life

Winter tea at the art gallery
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2014

One of the things I find fascinating about human beings is when I meet someone
for the first time, and there’s an instant connection. I’m not religious, and
although friends tell me I’m spiritual, I think I am more practical, and more
interested in facts. But I am still stunned, and amazed by the mysteries
of social connection.

This is something that my artist friends and I have been talking about this week.
It's the part of our artistic life we miss so much.  That feeling when you talk
to another artist and there's instant understanding, humour, and new ideas!
There's the artist community -- the people you see regularly at portrait and
figure sessions in your artist groups -- not happening.  And there's that miraculous
 connection that happens when you're painting a portrait and you meet the subjects
 in person. Even if you go back to painting them using photographs, the in person
experience between you stays inside your brain and imagination, and makes the
work flow. Almost magically. 

Today after working late into the night last night, I was so happy to get a surprise
phone call from the wonderful artist Sharon McClurg, and then to have a great
conversation with the artist Flora Doehler in Nova Scotia. All of us who care
about creating artwork are experiencing this pandemic in a totally different way.  

I think what’s good about it is that we have to stay cheerful, and dig into our own
creativity in whatever way we can, to keep going. Because one day, that great big
show that we always wanted to be in is going to be out there, with live music, and
dancing, and champagne, and we are going to travel, and meet a whole bunch of
new wonderful artists and reunite with our amazing instant connection artist friends
who we've met along the way. I can’t wait for that day.

But I will.

Meanwhile please wear your mask, social distance, and enjoy every possible
connection you can have, in whatever way is safe and healthy. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Over 600,000 hits

 A few days ago I was excited to see that I’d already reached my year end goal which was to have 600,000 hits by the end of the year on my blog. I reached that goal about mid month, a month and a half easily before the end of  The year.y

I’m constantly told by those in the know that blogs are irrelevant. But I think 100,000 hits in just over nine months tells a different story. And maybe that’s the point. Maybe what some people like is a bit of a story about what’s going on. I can’t say that I always write the most exciting bits of news. But it seems that some people enjoy what I do say.

Thank you so much my goal with my blog Is to reach 1 million hits. The last couple of years have a blast away in the numbers compared to the many years before. I think that is partly due to my posts on Instagram.If you feel like doing me a favor, please just come on and and look at the blog every now and then. Every time you do you don’t have to say a thing, but just knowing that someone is looking at this daily project of mine makes me beyond happy. And that is an incredible gift in a timeI of so much negativity and anxiety. 

Please stay safe healthy and creative.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Artist friends and happiness

Franco Mbilizi (Franco the Creator)
and Ambassador Alton Louis Amsterdam III
sharing a joke in front of my painting
Breakfast in the hotel
Petit-déjeuner à l'hôtel
Acrylic on canvas
4 canvasses
36 x 48 inches
6 feet x 8 feet total
Barbara Muir © 2012

The painting
Breakfast in the hotel
(see details above)

Free Yourself, Free Me, Free Us,
Franco The Creator © 2019

My friend Franco the Creator (who painted the magnificent painting above)
and I shared a late night phone call the other night, which cheered me up so much.
Franco reminded me of the first time we met at the Amsterdam Whitney Gallery in
New York City. 

At the time I’d listened to two interviews with the artist David Hockney on
CBC radio talking about why he tries to have the largest work in any exhibition.
Hockney definitely inspired me, so the work Franco saw was a combination of
four 36 x 48“ paintings that made a large still life based on one of the most
wonderful breakfasts Steven and I ever had in a hotel. And Franco told me that
he was blown away when he saw it, and that was how we met.

Since then I have been so excited by his paintings. His perspective on creating art
is completely unique. His paintings look like they are either about the end of the
world, or the beginning of a whole new era with light manifesting in amazing patterns
in the sky, and over the earth.

And Franco and I have remained friends. So Franco's praise for my work the other
night set my painting wheels in motion. I have been dreaming of so many different
ideas. And something that I read reminded me to take it step-by-step. Okay I am.
Thank you Franco, and all of the artists who are my friends and keep me going. The
Internet demands swift results, but I realized that a portrait I showed on my blog
on November 12, that looks so fresh and vibrant, took ten live sittings in my
studio that were two hours long.  I would love the pleasure of that experience again
when it is possible. 

A sad note in this story is that H.E. Ambassador Dr. Alton Louis Amsterdam III,
the gallery Director, Ruthie Tucker's husband died in the summer of 2018. We all
miss him.

Wishing you a creative day and wonderful, happy, funny talks and inspiration with
your artist friends.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Starting a painting

Untitled (Work in process)
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2020

The sight of these tulips in my kitchen makes me feel so happy. On Friday night
my husband and I were both tired, and not in great moods.  I bought them to lift 
his spirits. And he arranged them in the vase so beautifully.

But these gorgeous tulips can’t last. It’s the wrong time of year, and I wanted to
capture them at their best. So I’m part way there. I'm off to a good start, and I feel
excited about how the painting is going. I hope the flowers can hold on for another
day just until I'm close to finishing the painting.

Please stay creative, safe and healthy.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Talk about weather

Winter at the beach
Acrylic on cradled birch panel
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2017

We had a severe weather warning today, and I hope we’ve seen the worst of it.
Actually I’ve been inside the kitchen looking out the glass door each time the wind
got strong, and it was pretty exciting. At the most severe moment wind was severe,
and ice flew across my vision totally obscuring what was beyond it.

All afternoon and evening we've had very extreme winds. This painting seems right
because it’s about loving the water so much, we'd go to the shore in winter even when
the scene is bleak. This was on the shore of Lake Erie, where we used to go to Port
Stanley because of a phenomenal restaurant. When the chef left town, we stopped going
to that beach.

And with the extreme weather warnings for today, we were not going to any beach, or
even out of the house. But unless the weather is as extreme as it has been today, we have
a new favourite park by the water on Lake Ontario, and we go there as often as possible
all year around.

Have a safe and healthy and creative day. 

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Missing the Maritimes

Untitled (work in progress)
acrylic ink on watercolour paper
5.5 x 8.5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2020

We crazy Toronto people own a little school house in Nova Scotia. What
that’s done to us is to make us live in two places emotionally full-time. I
know that means we’re lucky, but this year we didn’t get to go to see the ocean. The
Maritimes was not open to the rest of Canada.  A brilliant move in a pandemic,
because they have hardly any cases, and the rest of the country has rising
cases every day. 

If you’ve never been to the ocean you can’t know how much people who love
it, miss it. It is in your blood. It’s a constant craving to see that vast expanse of
water. And nothing but getting to the ocean and seeing that beautiful blue does
the trick

So I did a little painting in acrylic ink today of the scene we see when we walk
down to the beach at the park we love in Nova Scotia. Miss you Nova Scotia.
Miss all of our friends out there, and the land and the ocean. We walk the
streets here, as gorgeous as they are, and our hearts are always yearning to be
back by the sea. 

Have a great day

Friday, November 13, 2020

Happy World Kindness Day


Happy Word Kindness Day
Acrylic on canvas, and
iPad lettering and extras
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2020

Someone on T.V. the other night was saying that we all need to be leaders.
We have to spend our time on the planet doing important actions.  I
think being kind counts as a vitally important action. So let's be
leaders in kindness.

I hope in your encounters today that you meet very kind people.  I 
know I have.  And I hope that you feel that kindness is one of your 
strengths.  I certainly appreciate your kind support of me and my 
work.  And I am grateful for your sweet comments here.

I decided to draw on my iPad (it's a bit awkward because I was
writing with my finger), on one of my Valentine images -- to make it
into a World Kindness Day image for you just for today.Let's be loving
and take care of each other. 

 Please stay safe, wear a mask, and stay well.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

A breath of fresh air

Acrylic and silver leaf on canvas
24 x 36 inches
Barbara Muir © 2006

Looking through my posts from the past I found the photo of this portrait of
a little girl named Madeline who must be 23 now. I hope she is having a
wonderful life, and I’m sure she will be because her parents are happy, and kind,
and loved her very much. Thinking about the whole story of the portraits made
me feel hopeful.

Madeline’s painting was one of three portraits -- Madeline, and her sister, and
brother. The paintings were created to fit together in a line and look like the
three siblings were on a couch together. But when they grew up the idea was that
they would each have their own portrait.

The good thing about art is that we are always learning. I’d been experimenting a
lot at the time with 24 karat gold leaf, which I love.  But Madeline was wearing a
silver dress so I needed to use silver leaf. What I didn’t know was that silver leaf,
like silver spoons and cutlery, tarnishes.  So I had to go back and fix the painting
after it was finished, and seal it. It all worked out and everyone was happy.

I’m very grateful to Madeline’s parents for three wonderful commissions, and I feel
delighted looking at this one today.

Take care and have a good day. Stay safe, and stay healthy

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Poppies for Remembrance Day

Field poppies growing in our garden
Barbara Muir © 2015

I spent about an hour today going through my photos year-by-year to find
a picture of the Poppies that grow every year in our garden.

When they appear they are a clear sign of wonderful summer weather.
We grow field poppies which come back every year. Their seeds are so
small they’re almost too small to be seen. But the plants are resilient and
show up everywhere. I haven't taken many pictures of them because 
there is always a lot going on in our lives when they are at their finest.

So this is what I found. It made me nostalgic for poppies and for Remembrance
Day. As a child I was a school crossing guard in Ottawa in grades seven and eight.
That meant that we got to join the marching soldiers, and bands that would go to the
National War Memorial in Ottawa to honour our fallen soldiers on Remembrance
Day. I felt so important, moved, and also lucky to be there.

As an adult teacher a few years ago I taught a soldier who fought in Afghanistan.
His view of war was very immediate. He had PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).
He was 21 when he came home, and did not think of himself as a hero at all. So I
will think of him today when I wear my poppy pin. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Fast sketch today

Morning face
marker on Canson
drawing paper
5.5 x 8.5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2020

I’ve been thinking a lot about portrait work.  I'd like to do some portrait
drawing. But I’m not interested in painting people with masks, and in the
portrait sessions at my art club at the moment the models are wearing masks. That
makes sense because Toronto is in a period of spikes in coronavirus cases.

So I did a fast sketch of myself. I need to cut my bangs. I need to fix my hair before
my Zoom class tonight, but here’s the person I saw earlier today. She’s working hard
at being positive, and that’s a good practice in these times. So artists -- I miss you.
If you’d like a quick portrait sketch -- you can send me a photo of yourself, and I’ll
do one when I have time. No promises there (about when), but I love drawing faces.

Have a great day! In Toronto this is probably our last warm day, and people are out
and happy about it, wearing face masks, social distancing, and enjoying the beautiful

Monday, November 9, 2020

Tulips in November

Untitled sketch (Work in progress)
Acrylic, acrylic ink, watercolour crayon
on watercolour paper
7 x 9.5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2020

I find the sight of tulips in November refreshing and hopeful. Tulips are
generally a spring flower, and we are heading into winter soon.
But today it’s beautiful, warm, and everything you associate with spring
except for the colour of the golden leaves on all the trees brightly lit by sunshine.

So I’m working on this loose sketch. It was a fun experiment. It’s a very hard
time for creativity, because of the constant worry about Covid -- and in our
city the numbers are rising dramatically. But art is what brings artists joy. Wishing
you a creative and joyous week. The U.S. news of the Biden /Harris win is fantastic,
and it makes us all happy.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

For the love of family

My men
black marker on bond paper
5 x 5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(a quick sketch from a
photo of Steven and the boys
when Sam was a baby. I like
the exhausted Dad look
on Steven's face, and
the wide awake look on the
boys' faces.) 

I found this little sketch which sums up my feelings. It was my
husband Steven's birthday today, and an incredibly beautiful November 8.
The weather was too hot to wear a sweater for most of the day, and then
warm enough that with some warm clothes you could still sit outside as
the sun was setting.

It was so wonderful to have our whole family together and to be able to make
everyone comfortable socially distanced. We had champagne and birthday cake
made by Megan, my daughter-in-law, and my four-year-old granddaughter, Alice.
ice cream and coffee, with milk for the kids We sang happy birthday to Megan,
to me, to my son Sam, and to my husband. A  lot of Happy Birthday, and it has
been a lot of happy birthdays.  I hope you had a super day too. This little drawing
shows how lovely life can be with the family. It certainly was today. 

Have a good week. 

Saturday, November 7, 2020

A weekend of celebrations

Sam and I in the good old days when
 you could hug your children,
and be together without wearing
Photo: by Steven van Schaik

Today we had a wonderful birthday dinner on our back porch social distanced
with our son Sam and his girlfriend, Emily. It was lovely, and I think Sam was
very happy with both our dinner and our gifts. It was good that his birthday
coincided with the momentous and joyous occasion of the Biden/Harris win in
the U.S.  Here in Canada we too have been anxious about the outcome of the
American election.

Tonight I’m showing some pictures from 10 years ago when we visited Sam at
the University of Windsor, where he was studying acting. I love the photo of me
hugging Sam because that was the one thing missing in our birthday celebration
tonight. We could not hug Sam because he works in a place with a lot of people.

It was so nice to see Sam and Emily and to share some time together on the back
porch in weather that was surprisingly warm for November. The other photo is of
Sam and me doing funny walks, something he was practising for a play he was in
at the time.
Me and Sam in his drama lab 
10 years ago.

We didn’t take any photos tonight. We didn’t think of it.  Happy birthday Sam.

Friday, November 6, 2020

A model son's birthday

This photo, taken eleven years
ago, shows how we tidied up
Sam's room when we had
to show the house to get
a loan. Sam van Schaik Muir,
our son was the model for these
paintings and many others.
The room is no longer this 
colour, and Sam moved out
years ago.
Photo and paintings are
© Barbara Muir

I don’t really think of my son Sam as a model for my art, but it is amazing
to me how many paintings I’ve done of him. Tomorrow is his birthday, and
once again, like every year on this day, I am filled with memories of his life
so far, which I think has been a pretty great one. I'm so grateful that he came
into our lives on this coming day. 

He is kind, funny, and over-the-top generous. He's a great writer, an actor,
an IT whiz. Plus he’s happy and in love with his beautiful girlfriend, Emily.

In the past year because of COVID we have met Sam and Emily, and Sam
alone on our back porch many times, and those visits have made this 
strange time much happier.  I wish Sam a wonderful year, and we
will see him (social distanced) for some birthday magic tomorrow.

We are lucky to have two wonderful sons and a great family. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

What we miss and what we gained

Chu Okoli's photo of
Rolf Leemeijer, Miranda Brouwers,
Me and Chu at the gala dinner for the
2015 Florence Biennale

Chu Okoli © 2015

People like me who love participating in art shows, and especially enjoy
international shows are missing that live experience now. I know I’ve
said it before, but it deserves being repeated. But what we gained when
we were in those shows are friendships that last, and are powerfully nurturing.

Today I got to Zoom for the first time with my friend in the Netherlands
the artist, Miranda Brouwers. And what was wonderful about that is the
same thing that is wonderful about teaching people online. There’s something
very intimate about talking to people when they are in their own space.

I’ve never been to Miranda’s atelier, or her home (although with her
incredible help I was in an exhibition in the Netherlands), and suddenly
I could see the scale of some of her work, her beautiful portrait of her
son, Hugo, and a sweet photograph of her sons Hugo and Marnix when
they were little boys.

So as much as we miss those shows, and can’t get together to display our
work because of COVID-19, what we found when we showed together
has lasted. And the friendships that I made at the Florence Biennale,
where we were together for 10 days, continue to matter five years after
the last show. That means a lot to me in this strange, and sometimes lonely time.

Stay safe and stay healthy. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Thank you Halloween

The Pumpkin Queen and
the squirrel sculpted pumpkins

Barbara Muir © 2020

Halloween is one of my favourite days of the year. When I was growing up
in Ottawa it was a very happy occasion. We got some candy going door-to-door,
and dressed up as kings, queens, princesses, and characters from TV shows, but
it wasn’t the frightening, death focussed occasion that it is now.

For one thing we mostly had to make our own costumes. So ghosts were white
sheets with black eyes cut out so you could see, and probably a smile.

A couple of years ago I created the pumpkin princess. She is painted on canvas,
and stuffed with the bags I use to deliver my paintings to shows. She’s a very
practical decoration.  Because when Halloween is over I take the stuffing out,
and she rolls up and goes in a bag until the next Halloween.

What I like most about her is that she isn’t scary. She’s just celebrating the
wonderful day. She's queen of the beautiful pumpkins that everyone along
our street carved. I heard on CBC radio that one fellow carved 100 pumpkins.
I would’ve loved to have seen that!

We haven't taken the pumpkin queen down yet.  People's houses are still decorated, so I thought I'd show you how she looks this year.  One pumpkin came inside for a celebration for me.  The other two have been eaten and further carved by squirrels - nature's artists.

Goodbye Halloween, and thank you everyone who helped make mine fantastic.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Happy Birthday to Sally

Sally the dog
Acrylic on canvas
5 x 7 inches 
Barbara Muir © 2014

Tonight I taught my Tuesday night class, and when that was over
was delighted we're watching a Netflix show, because the U.S.
election is too distressing to follow.

So let's talk about our dog Sally, who turns eight today. We got
her at a very sad time. Our almost 14 year old dog had died
in September, and my mother had died a couple of weeks later.

We needed a dog, and ended up in the Humane Society adoption
center, and chose Sally.  She was a skinny little dog lying on a ripped
blanket. When I sat down on the floor beside her cage she pulled
my purse into the cage, and that was that.  Steven found me crying
in front of her cage, and the rest is seven years of history. She
is very happy with our family.

Sally was one year old when we got her, and we were her
fourth owners.  Tonight she sang Happy Birthday to herself
in front of my Zoom class.  And she got two cookies instead
of one for singing -- because it is her birthday.

Wishing you a happy day tomorrow.  

Monday, November 2, 2020

For the love of paint

Untitled (work in progress)
Acrylic and acrylic ink
on cradled birch panel
6 x 6 inches
Barbara Muir © 2020

In October I was having fun with Inktober drawings. That’s a fun challenge,
and it kept me thinking about art. Last night we had our first snowfall. To
me seems a bit early. I think in my whole life I remember one snowfall that early
in Toronto. But the snow made the transition from October rather dramatic.

So now I want to move from Inktober into November, and try out some bright, 
colourful paintings in whatever way the mood hits me.

Today I started this small abstract landscape using a palette knife.
It was a lot of fun, and a complete contrast to line drawing.

If you live in Canada it’s time to find your warm clothes. And let’s enjoy the
transition. I went for a long, beautiful walk tonight with Steven. It was very
energizing being out in the freezing cold.

Happy November.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Open and receptive

Doing the happy people pose at
the Orangerie Museum in Paris.  This is
the museum specially made
to house Monet's waterlilies, and it
is beautiful.  I am a devoted fan of
Monet.  I have seen his work in
Stuttgart, Germany -- where I fell
deeply in love with his poplars,
(to the point that I was crying
about the experience I was so
moved when I met Steven back
at the hotel), in New York City,
where I'll rush to 
see the Monet water lilies
magnificent) before the MoMA
closes, when I arrive 
and in Paris -- Oh Monet!
Steven van Schaik © 2016

 I was a big fan of Louise Hay when she was alive.  I had her books, and
owned daily sayings tear off calendars.  She was amazing.  And one of the
things that she and other people who are positive thinkers taught me was
to envision the best.

One of her key sayings that I remember is, "I am open and receptive to
the bounty of the universe."  That's a good one.  And maybe saying it often
is part of why I ended up in this photo, in one of the most famous museums in
Paris, while I was also exhibiting in Paris at the Carousel du Louvre in
the Louvre! Seeing Monet's work live -- the scale, the passion -- the use
of colour, the technique.  Not much can match it for an artist, especially one
who is a fan.  I am.

But putting your arms in the air to be open and receptive to the bounty
of the universe, not only welcomes the possibility of good into your life,
physically holding your arms up for two minutes lowers your stress

Here we are in Canada, just north of America where people are hanging on
the edge, wishing their lives will change after the election. I send love
to all of my family and my friends there. And maybe this is the time for being
open and receptive to good, and lowering our stress levels.

Paris is one of my dream cities -- going through a hard time now, as are
people all over the world.  So I send love. I loved every minute I spent

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!