Sunday, January 17, 2021

Free as a bird

Bluebird (family Musicapidae)
on a coffee cup

Bird Study #1
acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Hi everyone. I just finished working this morning, and I’m taking a break.
When I was talking to myself a minute ago (yes I do talk to myself,) I said,
"soon you will be free as a bird." 

Right now the birds are fluttering around the bird feeders my husband hangs
off our garage. It's such a treat to watch them. We see Cardinals, Blue Jays,
Robins, Chickadees, Hawks, Blackbirds, Grackles, and of course Sparrows on a regular basis.

Robin earns his stripes
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 
Begun in 2009, finished in 2019

So I thought I’d show you some bird art today. There was a time when I included
Cardinals, and other birds in my portraits. I’ve never owned a bird as a pet, but I
know people who have. As a child I was very fond of the neighbourhood kid's crow.

I hope you’re having a good day, and if you have work to do I hope you get it done
in time to enjoy the rest of this weekend, and feel free as a bird.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

What hangs over your head? I don’t mean art!


Good news Clementines with Lemon friends
Acrylic on cradled birch panel
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2019
(You can expect a new painting
like this soon, because I bought the clementines
with leaves today.  They always remind
me of Florence, Italy, because that's where
I first saw them.  I do love and miss Florence.

In an incredibly nervous making, highly tense time, I’m trying to figure out what
worries me, or hangs over my head, and I’m trying figure out how to get those
issues handled. I know I’ve told you about the Six Things list I learned to make
when I was teaching positive psychology.

That short list, (which often goes to 10, or 12 things) helps, but it also helps to
figure out what should be done first. If I write my blog earlier in the day, I feel
happier. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy writing the blog, of course that’s why
I do it. 

And even though this year I didn't promise myself I’d write a blog every day,
I’m in the habit, and I'm happy to have some positive habits in this hard year. 

If I can write the blog earlier, sometimes not knowing whether there will be
new art, or not, I can take some of the stress out of my life. It’s a beautiful day
today. I think we’re allowed to go to the park we love because exercise is allowed
in the severe lockdown we’re experiencing in Ontario. So that’s where I’m going.

My once a week class has started and I have marking to do, so that has to be done,
and will be. What hangs over your head? Is there something that must be done?
If you can do it, I hope you get it done, so that you can enjoy this beautiful day. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Keep in touch

Black marker on paper
5.5  x 8.5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2019

One of the things that’s happening as a result of this ongoing pandemic
is that people are feeling isolated, and that's making them depressed.
These feelings are natural when we can’t get together. So what can we do?

I find that the comments from friends on the blog, on Facebook, and on
Instagram are heartwarming indeed. These messages let you know that
people out in the wide, wide world care about you, and that when this nasty
disease is finally over to the point that we can get together, we will be there
for each other.

Those who study psychology and stress suggest that we call one another,
write one another, and let each other know that we care. Consider this message
from me a support message. I am here in blog land. If you are my friend, or
someone I know through the blog, Facebook or Instagram you can contact me.
I may not respond right away. But if I can I will.

Meanwhile if you have any tips on how to stay cheerful during this long, long slog
of trying to stay safe from a horrific virus, please share them.

Stay safe and stay healthy.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Experimenting and catching inspiration

Untitled (work in progress)
Imitation gold leaf on
cradled birch panel
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2021

My  thanks to Janet Vanderhoof today. She posted a piece about taking smaller
work and blowing it up into a large size. I read about that just as I was wondering
what to do on this piece of birch panel that I gilded with Italian imitation gold leaf
a couple of days ago.

I went upstairs from the studio to read for a few minutes, and all day I’d been
wondering what to paint over the gold. I knew that I wanted to show a person, 
but I didn’t know what image to use. I went on my oldest computer looking for
faces and found nothing that was right. Then after reading for a few minutes I
thought, "what am I thinking?"

Right then I knew I wanted to use the woman in the drawing I showed you on January
5. So I have started. Let’s see where it goes. It’s really just playing. I got the idea
for the gold background from Bob Burridge.  I'd watched his video on using gold,
discovered some imitation gold leaf in my studioand went for it. Have a great day.
Enjoy playing, creating and having fun  .

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Small daily pleasures

Coffee with milk in a cup
and saucer.
8 x 8 inches
Acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2009
(Steven says they only serve coffee
this way in England, 
but actually
 Starbucks uses cups 
and saucers too
sometimes. I don't take 
sugar, but I
 put some on the side in the painting.
Toronto now you can only get coffee
as take out, so 
no real china cups are
being used.) 
This painting seems perfect
for today.  And 
I like that it went to live in
with the artist Susan Carlin.

What's good in your life right now?  In some ways there's never been
a more important time to think of and enjoy 10 reasons to be happy.

1. When I wake up in the morning, there is hot coffee in the pot in the
kitchen waiting for me.  My husband makes it every morning, and on
the weekend brings it to me in bed. I am very happy to be in a loving

2. Yesterday the sun set at 5:03 p.m. That means we are moving closer,
and closer to longer days of light.  That's a very happy thought.

3.  I have a good and funny book on my iPad, Reasons to be Cheerful
by Nina Stibbe. It's about a girl working as a dental assistant. When I
was a teenager I got a job as a dental assistant part time for our dentist
I did that after school, and in the first two summers when I was in university.
My favourite part of the job was going out to get coffee for the staff because
I got to wear my uniform on the street, and I was very proud of it! 

4. I started teaching my Monday night class this week, and the 
students are wonderful.

5. We have still got our Christmas tree up -- it goes into the
backyard this weekend -- and we've been just sitting and talking
on the couch beside it at night after dinner.  That's been creating
a happy mental space for us.

6. My family are all well, and staying happy during this current
lockdown. Staying well is our primary goal right now, and that is good.

7. I am happy that I get to think about making art, and have lots of
ideas for what I want to do.

8. You and your beautiful and amazing work are a blessing in my
current world.  Tomorrow in our lockdown we are not allowed to
go out at all unless it's to get groceries, or go to the drugstore, or 

9. We have two sweet cats and a dog who are completely oblivious
to this virus problem.  They demand cuddles, games and food, and
time together, and I'm sure help keep us happy.

10. I am so lucky to have this blog, to have Instagram and Facebook.
My blog is a record of where I've been, and what I've been creating,
and thinking about.  And social media gives me an entire world to
see, think about, witness, and learn about.  Thank you.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Talking to friends

Untitled (work in progress)
Acrylic ink and ballpoint pen
on watercolour paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2021
(I'll try and get a better photo of
this tomorrow.  The pinks are more

Talking to my artist friend Flora Doehler today reminded me of why
I miss being around artists so much. She asked me what inspired me to
use red in my backgrounds, and that made me remember the wonderful
art experiences I used to enjoy with my Seneca College English classes, when
we'd visit the Art Gallery of Ontario. The students would pick a painting
to study, and write an essay about that artist’s life, and how it related to the
essay we were studying.

I got the idea of using a coloured background like red, or my more
frequent rust background in my art at that time, from staring at the work
of the Group of Seven. I don’t know which artist in particular used to use
burgundy behind his forests, but even though I’m not a fan of the colour,
I was excited to see how it made the foreground painting pop.

This painting is coming along. Not quite finished. I can see things I would
change if I did it again, but the excitement of this piece was painting from
live flowers, and they may have one day left.

It was a good day in art, I worked at more than one project all day, thoroughly
engrossed in the process, and happy as can be. Given the news, Ontario going
into a state of emergency because of COVID-19, and very sad problems with
our neighbour to the south (America), you could say that was a miracle, and
I am grateful. Thank you to my friends for the inspiring conversations. Stay
healthy, stay safe, and stay creative.

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Painting spirit

Untitled (work in progress)
Acrylic ink and ballpoint pen
on watercolour paper
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2021

Sometimes the painting spirit eludes me, and I find it hard to start a painting.
Today I was listening to Deepak Chopra, someone whose wisdom I love.
He said that if you choose joy you will always be in the present moment,
and you will always be happy.

So I started this painting of tulips because I could tell that they won’t last
much longer, and they are absolutely beautiful. Tulips are not always easy to
paint. Looking at them I realized that if I drew them, and then painted them
with acrylic ink, I might have more success than I could with other mediums. 

I haven't had time to get more done before I publish this, so we’ll call it a work
in progress. I was so happy that the mood struck me, and of course working from
life is best. My thanks to Deepak Chopra and to everyone who helps provide positive
thoughts to keep us going, and creating in these difficult times.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Fixing or starting over?

All the stars that shine
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2020
(This painting took six years to
complete to my satisfaction.  Last 
year I finally made it work in
time for a show at the Heliconian
Club in Toronto.)

Last year I finished two paintings that had been bothering me for 
awhile. The inspiration, as it almost always is, was a show I needed
the paintings for, so I worked and worked on them, and ultimately
I was happy with them. The painting above is one of them.

Like most artists, I imagine, I have work that sits in a stack and might not
ever become complete.  And there are paintings I start, then put away.
When I get them out again, I can't believe that I created that image.

Untitled (work in progress)
Acrylic on canvas
12 x 36 inches
Barbara Muir © 

One painting sitting in my studio all week is like this.  The image is very
nostalgic for me.  My son Sam, my husband Steven, and our dog Zoey 
(who died in 2013) are down at the shore in Pugwash, Nova Scotia.  As
imperfect as the painting is, looking at it, Steven and I started talking
about how different the beach is now.  In the summer if we could visit
we'd walk carefully down a narrow path between high bushes and poison
ivy.  That wide open access is gone.  I'll think about it while I sleep,
and I might paint it over tomorrow. 

Or... I might work on it, solve the sky, the ocean, the proportions, the 

Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay creative. 

Saturday, January 9, 2021

To the shore

Time to go
Barbara Muir © 2021
(The hungry swans have had
their fill.  Everyone else
wants more.)

Another amazingly sunny day -- what a gift. I could sit out on the back
porch without a coat on in the early afternoon. Then we went to the
lake to feed the geese and swans. Amazing. The colour of that lake blue
lifts my spirits in such a positive way.

I feel like we are in a new year when we follow our old habits -- going to
the park and feeding the swans, geese and ducks.  They were more than
happy to see us.  Happy New Year to all! 

Friday, January 8, 2021

Studio visits

Gabrielle Fischer Horvath visits
me in my studio in

Steven van Schaik © 2019

The picture today is of a delightful time when the sculptor, Gabrielle
Fischer Horvath came to visit my studio. Gabrielle was picking up work to take
to her gallery in Niagara Falls. That was a truly special time. I have rarely seen
a space as beautiful, welcoming, and tasteful as her wonderful gallery. I was
beyond thrilled to exhibit there.

Gabrielle is a fantastic sculptor. I love her work. And she was a magnificent gallery
director. As soon as our current lockdown permits she will be holding her
courses again in life casting. It’s her birthday today and I’ve been thinking of
her all day. She is a shining example of fantastic creativity, and resilience
in the art world.

COVID-19's effects -- the restrictions on holding receptions, classes and other
events in the gallery made it impossible to keep her brand new space open.
Everyone who ever entered the gallery misses it. So of course we are wishing
that one day she will open another beautiful space.  Happy Birthday Gabrielle.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

The vitality of light

Breakfast Quebec City style
Watercolour and black marker
on Arches watercolour paper
6 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012

Today was magnificent. Nothing of great importance happened in my small
world. But the whole day felt like a miracle because after what seemed like a
couple of weeks of dark, gloomy days, the sun came out and gave the whole
world the benefit of its beautiful light.

We had some work going on in the house so I went for a short drive alone.
I parked in a parking lot at the edge of a beautiful trail. I sat staring at the
brilliant blue of the sky, a deep, gorgeous colour that no painting can really
reproduce properly, but I intend to try for as long as I am a painter. I watched
the light hit the top of the very tall trees, turning their branches gold against
the blue.  The trees were reaching for the light.

I looked around my studio for paintings that would symbolize the excitement
of sunlight, and thought maybe my breakfast paintings sometimes
capture the magic feeling when the sun comes into a room in the morning.

That made me miss traveling, staying in the hotels we stay in on our way to
Nova Scotia. And breakfast room service is so wonderful after a long drive late
 into the night. I miss that. There's that first shock in the morning when you
 draw back the curtains in your hotel room. The sun floods in, and there’s a
 knock at the door – the waiters bringing in the food. None of that can happen
now -- not the travel, not the hotels, and if you do travel for any reason here
 in Ontario or Quebec -- no room service. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

This special world

Another nine happy images
You can expect more in 
this format!
Photos and paintings
gathered from the files of
Barbara Muir © 2021
Upper right corner Florence
from our apartment,
Lower left corner, my main colours
on Instagram in 2020
The rest are obvious.

The world of blogs, and social media in general, is often derided as a huge
waste of our time. That strikes me as so wrong. Not that I don’t often
spend too long looking at Instagram, Facebook, and the world of blogs,
 but there is something vitally important about this world, which is
keeping us going at the moment when we can’t go out into the real world. 
We can't hug our friends, see our families, go to restaurants, or stand in crowds
clapping at spontaneous music that happens in a park. But we can still
connect -- and the deep support, the inspiration, the kindness in those
connections are powering us through this hard time.

Thank you to everyone on social media, in the blog world, Facebook,
and Instagram for the beautiful posts you share, which make
me feel so happy, and that not only is life worth living, but that so much
awaits us when this nasty virus is finally over.

I am so grateful to all of you -- my friends, and supporters in this virtual
world. Thank you 1 million. Here’s to a helpful, hopeful, and happy year
to come. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The concept of happiness

Yes I'm happy
marker on Canson 
watercolour paper
9 x12
Barbara Muir © 2020

The image I’m sharing with you is all about the word Happy. On different days,
and even from moment to moment, the word means different things. Today it
seems to be about order. It’s been a very strange day. Perhaps this is the day when
the whole idea of a new year hits in a concrete fashion.  The piles of paper on my
dresser, and bedside table strike me as more than a little annoying. As for the table
in my studio with all of my supplies scattered on it – suddenly the look of it seemed

Maybe that’s the point of the whole new year idea. Even though as they said on the
James Corden show last night we aren’t in a new year really, we're in lockdown again
which is exactly like the 2020 we are so eager to leave behind. But maybe the point is
fresh vision –The ability to see things in ourselves and to change what we don’t like.

This is something we're used to in art. We put a painting away for the day, and get it
out the next day and think,"oh no I’ve got to change this!"And sometimes that goes on
until the work is done. Sometimes even for years! This drawing my not be completely
finished, but I do like the mood it conveys.

Have a very Happy and Creative Day!

Monday, January 4, 2021

For the love of drawing

Deep in thought
marker on Canson paper
5.5 x 8.5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2021

In the past week I've had a strong urge to draw -- such a pleasure. I think
in reality I started painting before I started drawing. My parents did not like
children to make messes, and art is definitely messy. So I was four years old
and in kindergarten before my art experience began. And painting was our
kindergarten art activity. I loved the feeling of paint on paper, the lush colours
 – it was like a miracle, and still is.

But drawing started later, and became a strong focus after I went to OCAD. I
started drawing on the edges of textbooks. In high school that’s probably why I wasn’t
good at chemistry, or math. My textbooks were filled with drawings of people at
the beach, or doing anything besides studying.

So I’m back to drawing -- the perfect activity when I’m thinking about what comes

Drawing Before Coffee
Inspired by Liza Hirst's one line portrait
Marker on Canson paper
5.5 x 8.5 inches
Barbara Muir © 2021

Wishing you a confidently creative day.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Word of the Year -- Happy

Steven and Me laughing
I know that I'm lucky I married
a man who loves to laugh. 
This photo was taken at Christmas in 
2007, but laughter is a
lovely part of our family life.
Chris Muir © 2007

Happiness has taken a beating as a goal in recent years.  But that's
too bad.  I've witnessed the transformation that happens in my
students, and friends when they discover ways to increase their

The artist Veronica Funk posted a piece on Instagram about choosing
a word of the year, to motivate herself, and keep her on course.
I read the link in her bio to the article about that idea, and thought,
"Why not?"  

As someone who teaches writing, the concept of just one word
guiding a whole year, seemed at first like an enormous burden on
the chosen word.  But hey!  Happy seems like the ideal word for
me.  It is a state I am often in, and frequently redirecting myself
toward.  And it's not, as some people think, a selfish idea -- because
how I feel affects the people around me, and if I can be happy,
I can help others to be happy.

So thank you Veronica. You have made me HAPPY, and I hope I
can spread joy in 2021. 

Have a choosing your driving force word day.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

A Resilient 2021

Toasting the New Year
iPad drawing
8 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2020

I finished this iPad drawing today that I started on New Year’s Eve, so I could
wish everyone a Happy New Year, and continue the reality of our need to
wear masks.

What I like about the iPad drawings is that I draw with my finger. which
reminds me of my first attempts at art back in kindergarten when everything
 seemed so delightfully fresh, and always possible. Thank you Mrs. Jordan,
you were a great teacher, and you're probably why I am an artist today.

After the overwhelming sad feelings of 2020, any return to creativity feels
wonderful. I also worked on a more finished drawing today, which I may
show to you soon Meanwhile it is still time for celebration and Happy,
Happy New Year!Thank you so much for everything you’ve posted in the past
year on your blogs, Facebook, and Instagram. You lifted my spirits, educated me,
made me understand more, made me laugh, and inspired beyond compare. Plus
you made me feel like yes we really are going to make it to the end of this
pandemic into a new future. Thank you

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year's Day


Me with Steven, my sweetheart
This is us on New Year's Eve 
five years ago.
Barbara Muir © 2015

I've been thinking about things that we consider miracles. Sometimes
in my head, I am silently listing things.  I do love lists.  So I think,
"What were five things that were great about 2020?" or "What are
some things you think of as miracles in your life?"

This man is the number one miracle in my life.  He is kind, honest,
loving, a great cook, a smart person in any type of work he takes on,
whether at work or around the house.  He is fun, funny, and perhaps
luckiest of all for me, loves me.  That is a miracle.

We have had so much fun together in our lives with each other, that
during this hard time of the pandemic we can entertain each other
with stories of the wonderful people we know, the superb places
we've been, great food, fantastic art shows.  We sing together (me
badly), him very well, and love our family, our home, our
animals.  That is a miracle.

Have an enjoying the miracles in your life 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!