Thursday, June 20, 2024

Heading home is going into a new show


Heading home
Diptych -- 4 ft. x 6 ft.
Acrylic on canvas
Barbara Muir © 2016 — Revised 2024

This painting is going into the Colour Theme Show opening July 4 at
the Heliconian. The colours in Nova Scotia are magnificent.
The painting shows the first time we see the ocean, (just a glimpse)
in Nova Scotia, where we own a 100+ year old school house. The 
province feels like our second home.

Super hot today, and it's super late.  I hope you had a great day.

Have a loving your life day.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Paris -- I miss you!

The Groom
Journal Sketch
marker on drawing paper
9 X 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2023

Toronto is beautiful. Make no mistake.  Steven and I went
to the lake today because it felt like 40 degrees Celsius --
horribly hot, and it was easily 10 degrees cooler in the
wonderful park we went to by lake Ontario. 
But Paris in the
arrondissement where we stayed (the 6th), was magical. 
Interesting things were always happening.

This is a strange portrait of the groom in a bridal couple
I passed on the Pont Neuf near our hotel in Paris one day.
You can visit this link to see my sketch of the bride. They
not look suited, and the groom looked very 
nervous about it. 
Somehow I felt moved to try and 
capture them in sketches.
His suit was complicated and a pattern in brown on white. His
bowtie was a dull brown.

I hope that they had lovely wedding, and that they will have
a happy life.

Have a loving your life day.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Father's Day week


You can't keep a good man down
Acrylic ink and acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2020
(This is my husband Steven,
-- father of my two wonderful sons)
I'm working on a very complicated painting, so I thought I'd post this favourite
work of mine, in honour of Father's Day week.  Steven (the subject of the
painting) and I alter dinner nights.  Here's one reason he's my hero.  For the
past three + weeks I've had a bad cold.  It is (I hope) coming to an end,
but it's still here, and this sweet man has made dinner every night for this
long, and annoying setback.

I am back to work, but not hanging around friends.  I am pretty sure I got the
cold from Steven, who was hardly sick with it -- just an occasional cough
for a week.  But many people on our street have had, or still have it, so
I don't want to share it with others. 

I was feeling great on the weekend, and spent time with family members,
and then wham it hit me again. Okay I'm ready for it to be over.

So please take care.

Have a loving your life day.

Monday, June 17, 2024

June is also the Month of Love -- Love yourself first

For David Lobenberg
Self portrait
acrylic on canvas
12 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(I did this portrait for David Lobenberg's
June Paint Off in 2009)

I was talking to a friend who was depressed today, and I was suggesting
ways to make himself happy.  Maybe he could do the trick I use of
thinking of five things he loves about his life.  He thought I was
obtuse and simplistic.  Sometimes not a bad way to be.

In the spirit of trying to be happy with one's life, I found this great
blog about self portraits, and loving yourself, and thought I'd share it

"You can read about David Lobenberg's contest hereA fact of a
portrait artist's life is that if there is no one else available to paint,
you always have you, so of course I've painted and drawn myself
 many times. Some of these images stick and make me happy.  

When I taught Positive Psych one of the first things we said
to students was that if you don't know yourself, you won't love 
yourself, and if you don't love yourself you can't love anyone else,
and you won't be happy.

This was not a popular idea when I was growing up -- loving 
yourself smacked of narcissism.  But in fact nothing could be 
further from the truth. If we love and accept ourselves, the world 
is less about us, and more about the people we love.  It's when we 
don't love ourselves that we go around hurting other people, don't end up
doing what we love, and generally don't enjoy our lives.
I credit Louise Hay, excellent therapy and Frank Daley, who
was my boss, and wrote the book Who are you and what are you
doing here?
 for helping me get that concept, and then of course the
 constant work of quieting the ever present inner critic to keep the
idea going. 

Self-portrait: The Happy Artist
acrylic on canvas
36 x 36 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009

Self portrait at the year's turning
Black marker on Moleskine paper
8 1/4 x 11 3/4 inches
Barbara Muir © 2015

One more cup of coffee please
Self portrait
Watercolour and black marker on
Arches watercolour paper
6 x 10 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012
(this is perhaps the most me of
the bunch.  I run on coffee, and
am not quite in the day until I've had
I've included a few of my favourite self portraits to underscore the
idea of loving the self.  I know I'm lucky.  I love my life, my husband,
my work, my family, my friends."  And I am very lucky that teaching people
how to be happy taught me how to be happy.   You are a big part of that.

Have a loving yourself day.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Happy Father's Day to all of the wonderful fathers in the world

Portrait of my father 
black marker on bond paper
7 x 9 inches
Barbara Muir © 2010

 Happy Father's Day

I love this portrait of my father. It captures the wonderful, loving
nature of my Dad.  In  the reference photo I drew this from my father
is smiling at Christopher, my older son, who was a little boy at the time. 
Our son Sam had not been born yet.  I miss my father every day.  

And my dad is still a huge influence in my life.  He was a wonderful writer,
a business man, a fabulous photographer, and a great painter -- good at all
of his roles. His one failing was being a too strict father to young children,
which is probably why I don't like rules to this day. I'm sure his time in the
navy contributed to that. But as I grew up we developed a happy bond over art,
and over family, and we were close at the time of his death from lung cancer which
happened way too early.

My dad would have been delighted to know our children and to
see how they have grown up into amazing people. He would have adored
our grandchildren. 

Happy Father's Day to Steven my sweet husband, and to Christopher my
oldest son. He and Megan have two beautiful daughters -- Alice 8, and
Madeleine almost 5, and a son, James 1 1/2. Thank you to my loving family
 -- Christopher, Sam, Megan, Emily, Alice, Madeleine and James for being
 the reason Steven is a very happy and proud father.

Have a loving your family day.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

An incredible day

A Quebec Village Street
by Clarence Gagnon
Oil on canvas
Collection of the Art Gallery of Ontario
Clarence Gagnon © 1920

Our day started with a visit to the farmer at the Farmer's Market at the Brick Works.
Then -- inspired by the beauty of the day -- we headed to the Art Gallery of Ontario.
And as I said yesterday a must for me is to see the work of The Group of Seven,
and related work.

I fell in love with this painting by Clarence Gagnon.  Reading about him I was
fascinated to discover that he studied in Paris, and lived his life between Paris
and Baie-Saint-Paul, Quebec. 

I was sad to research about him and find that he died of pancreatic cancer at
only 60 years old.  What beautiful work he created. 

While in the gallery, I was in the room dedicated to the work of Tom Thompson,
and met a teacher there who actually conducts canoe trips in the area where 
Thompson drowned,  and he told me that the suspicion is that Thompson was
in a fight with a friend over money, and it's suspected that he fell and hit an
iron structure around the fireplace, and died from a head injury. Then the
"friend" wrapped Thomson's legs in fishing wire, connected that to a heavy rock
and put him in the water. He was not found for at least 3 weeks.

I was amazed to have this discussion just one day after posting my drawing of
Thompson, and I shared my drawing with the teacher and his friend, also a teacher.  

After that treat we went for a delightful walk in the Casa Loma neighbourhood.
The neighbourhood is exquisite, and we met a wonderful woman there with
a dog named Louis who is a Coton de Tulear.

Have a loving your life day.

Friday, June 14, 2024

Canadian art heros


Tom Thomson
from a Wikipedia photo
marker on journal paper
5 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2023
(Unfortunately some of the marks from the
previous journal page come through,
but I still like it.)

One of my Canadian art heroes is Tom Thomson. I found a former blog
tonight that talks about him, and I thought I'd share what I wrote:

"When I visit the Art Gallery of Ontario, I never miss sitting in
the room full of Tom Thomson's work.  He was a fabulous landscape
artist. Sadly he died at 39 years old by drowning.  There is still all
sorts of speculation about how he -- a very accomplished 
canoeist -- drowned, and hints of murder, or suicide, but nothing
has ever been proven. He died in 1917.

What I didn't realize before, having adored his work since I
first found out about him, was that he was very handsome.
And today in my morning journal, I drew his portrait.  I
liked it so much that I couldn't write on that page."

Happy weekend.  If you don't know Tom Thomson's work --
check it out.

Have a loving your life day.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

Our beautiful city in the Month of Blooms


In the village
Acrylic ink and black marker on
watercolour paper
9 x 12 inches
Barbara Muir © 2019

We got a bit of heat today, and can expect higher temperatures tomorrow,
but it has been a deliciously cool spring.  We've had days of rain/sun/rain/sun.
Today with the help of some of the younger family members Steven did a lot
of planting in the backyard planters.  It was hot and sunny all day.

And now that we're about to settle down with the animals, and watch our
evening TV show, it's raining.  Talk about perfect timing!  As I'm painting
a scene with lilacs, this painting of a scene in Forest Hill Village with 
late blooming lilacs seemed perfect.

Have a loving your life day.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Paris effect


Suzanne in Paris
black marker on bond paper
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2009
(My friend Suzanne gave me the photo
 I used as reference for this when she came back
 from Paris. It's one of my favourite drawings
because I didn't quite capture the look
on her face in the original photo, but she looks
 almost smugly content. I love how her hair
is blowing around in the wind. But the
main thing is that 
she looks so relaxed and happy in the drawing
To me that is the Paris effect.)

It will be my friend Suzanne's birthday this weekend.  Scrolling through
my blog, I saw this, and thought how perfect. Suzanne is a sweetheart,
and it looks like Paris liked her too.

I was reading a blog about two interviews with David Hockney run on
our national radio channel CBC in 2012.  I loved one sweet thing Hockney
said.  When Hockney started drawing on his iPhone he sent the drawings
to friends.  He talked about how most items people get in their emails are
requests, and pieces of information.  So he'd wake up, see a sunrise or a flower
(he likes to have flowers about), and draw that and send it off.  What he liked
most about that was that his friends said 
that they enjoyed receiving his little
 I loved that story. So I should make a copy of this drawing and
send it to Suzanne. Good idea. See how you and David Hockney help me?
Thank you.

Wishing everyone born in this beautiful month a very happy Birthday.

Have a loving your life day.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

My debt to technology

Drawing My friend via Skype

I worked on a painting today -- but it's at the early, early stage, and
I am still struggling with this harsh cold.  So I decided to look through
my really old blogs, and found this image from June 2009.  2009
was a pivotal year for me and my art.  I started drawing using Skype
images, when my son was teaching in Korea, and Skype, which was
new, was our method of communication. During our talks I'd start
drawing, and ultimately my Skype paintings got me the chance to draw
Oprah live via Skype.  That was thanks to Howard Wolinsky who 
encouraged me to do Skype paintings to feature in a Skype blog.

This image is of me drawing my friend Melinda Esparza in Arizona
via Skype.  I got a lot of media attention from the Oprah show, and
I was featured on City News the day of this photo.

Skype got me the chance to draw Oprah live, and so much
media attention.That lead to being in shows in New York
City, Florence, Italy and Paris, France.  So yes I am incredibly
grateful to technology.

Have a loving your life day. 

Monday, June 10, 2024

For the love of peonies


Stand Back for the Pie
Acrylic on canvas
24 x 24 inches
Barbara Muir © 2013

When you look around my backyard, at the tall trees forming a high
green curtain of waving leaves, or drive through the streets of 
Toronto, you understand why we find our cold winters so hard.
Some of the flowers that make me feel joyous right now are peonies. 
They are so beautiful.  My very generous next door neighbour lets
me pick hers, and they are magnificent.

I spent the day researching, getting supplies, painting edges, and 
the undercoat for a new painting, and picking up research reference
photos. This one's going to take awhile, so here's a favourite 
painting featuring peonies. In fact it won first prize in a San Fernando
Valley Arts and Cultural 
Center show. So wonderful.

Have a loving your life day.

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Quite the Sunday

The front porch roses in full bloom
Steven van Schaik © 2022
(Steven is my husband.)

It was a special day today as we went and watched one of the 
younger family members perform in a piano recital.  27 young
people played one or two pieces, and they were very good. What
a treat.

We had some family members over for dinner, created some
art, and afterwards Steven and I sat out on our front porch
looking through this rose bower. It is even more magnificent
than this this year. I just haven't taken a photo yet. And once
again we can sit behind that screen of beautiful roses and
leaves and people walking by don't see us.  Fabulous.

I hope you had a great weekend.

Have a loving your life day. 

Saturday, June 8, 2024

World Oceans Day

Cloud Magic
Acrylic on canvas
4 x 6 feet
Barbara Muir © 2018
(available --
email me at:

If you know my work, you know I am crazy about the ocean, 
and try to spend some time near the Atlantic ocean in Nova
Scotia every year.  The Maritimes have been a major focus
of my work for quite awhile, because I love that part of
our country so much.

The first time I saw the ocean was when I visited my sister in
Philadelphia,  years ago, and we went to the Jersey shore.  The ocean was
so magnificent, and I'd never seen it. I was hooked. I have loved
being near the ocean since that time, and have in some ways
worked with my husband to design our life around it.  We have a
rustic little school house near Pugwash, Nova Scotia, and when we are
there we go to our favourite beach every day, rain or shine.

This is certainly one of my favourite paintings. And I’ve been
looking forward to World Oceans Day, which is today. We have to
take care of our oceans, and we aren’t at the moment. 

When you think about whether, or not to buy that plastic one-use
water bottle, or the plastic balloons that last forever for your
friend's birthday -- think of alternatives. We have to save the

Have a beautiful world ocean day. 

Friday, June 7, 2024

The new and the old

The breakfast phone call
8 1/2 x 11 inches
marker on bond paper
Barbara Muir © 2009

I love this drawing.  This is a drawing of my son taking a phone
call at the kitchen table 15 years ago.  I love both the mood and
the detail.

It's been a super productive day.  I've almost finished a small new painting
based on a random photo I took as we travelled through Nova Scotia. 
There is a characteristic Nova Scotia clapboard house -- that I just love. 
That is the only place I've seen them, and believe me they are beautifully built
 -- created as many were by the same people who built the fabulous ships
in the region.

We planted our tiny front garden, which needs more flowers, but looks pretty good.
It rained, and then cleared, and the sun shone, and then it rained again -- all
day.  Rain/sun/rain/sun/rain. A super day for planting.

Painting again feels wonderful. 

Have a loving your life day.


Thursday, June 6, 2024

Busy and tired


Slow down time
Charcoal on bond paper
Skype drawing
8 1/2 x 11 inches
Barbara Muir © 2012

I am finally better enough (recovering from this horrid cold)to do things, and
I've been going all day, so I'm going to use a former post that seems fitting. 

"I like this drawing of my son Sam from 8 (now 12) years ago.  
He was talking to me on Skype at the end of the day, and was getting
up and biking to work at a Starbucks to open the store at 5 in the
morning.  He was tired, like we all are now. 

Things looked up for him after this.  He moved into a house with a
bunch of kids he liked, and had fun for the rest of his university studies.
And now he is happily married, so it all worked out. What I like about
the drawing is the fact that he is listening. And he's good at it.  

It seems to me, living in a family of talkers.  As teachers, actors,
project managers, film directors, writers -- we know how to talk.
That is a lucky break for us.  And at this time in our world, it's
also important to listen.  Hear what people are saying, and figure
out what to do. And that's about all of it."  

We need to listen to one another and be compassionate.

Have a loving your life day.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

World Environment Day

In the right place at the right time
Acrylic on canvas
36 x 48 inches
Barbara Muir © 2016

What seems odd to me is that World Environment Day isn't one of
the most important days in the year.  More important than birthdays,
or Christmas, or any religious holiday.  Our environment, which means
our planet, is in big trouble.  So if we want to keep celebrating all of
the other vital holidays, maybe we should focus on fixing what we're
doing here first.  

It is a dear friend's birthday, and wanting to celebrate her is utmost in
my mind, and I do wish we could give all of us the gift of taking care
of the environment, ending wars, and stopping our foolish habits 
of valuing money above all.

I saw another friend today and we talked about kindness, which made me
want to reprint the content from an earlier blog.  This piece was
about blogging, but I've had the same experience on Instagram,
so here goes.

"The big learning for me about blogging, was that it's a positive
environment.  If you don't like what an artist does, you move
on, and don't comment.  If you love what they do, you tell
them!  Oh Boy! That is revolutionary!  Because all over the
world (except perhaps in Finland -- which I hear has an amazing
education system), parents are taught not to praise children
too much!  This still happens.

But here's what praise does.  Everything.  If people praise
your work, you feel empowered.  Seriously.  You feel like
getting back at it.  You feel like doing more.  It may
not directly affect how you're working, but it definitely
keeps you working.

In the lovely world of art blogs for some reason this is
understood through some secret unspoken code.  And Hurray
for that.  So go ahead praise an artist, your kid, your romantic
partner, your boss, whoever you possibly can.  Oh -- and
part two -- mean what you say!

I'd add -- also give yourself a pat on the back.  Acknowledge
each time you've done something you're proud of and reward
yourself.  It doesn't have to be a trip to France (I am ready),
but a phone call to a friend can make your day.

Have a praising what you love day!"

Tuesday, June 4, 2024

Begin again

Tea in the gallery with Marcia
Acrylic on canvas
8 x 8 inches
Barbara Muir © 2015
(In the original I tried to include
a suggestion of Marcia.  Looking
at it later, I realized that the
figure part, and yellow background
weren't working.  I painted out the
figure and changed the background 
colour and like it much better.  Besides 
Marcia deserves a proper portrait.
 I promise I will do one soon!)

I am inching towards recovery from one of the worst colds I've ever
had.  And no it's not COVID, although a doctor suggested it might
be pneumonia.  Let's say might "have" been, because I am getting

Today Steven took me to my favourite art supply store, and waited
while I went in masked to buy a canvas for an upcoming 
commission.  I loved being there and seeing my friends John and
Michael. So that my friends is a big deal.  I am moving back into
thinking about art -- a definite sign of major improvement.

Have a loving your life day. 

Monday, June 3, 2024

How about five things we're grateful for right now

Miranda Brouwers with her husband Rolf
Barbara Muir 2015

I talked first thing this morning to my dear friend in the Netherlands,
who always makes me happy -- the artist Miranda Brouwers.

Then I read a piece on Instagram by Neil Pasricha, a writer whose work I love 
about five things people regret when they're dying. I'd like to turn that
around and talk about five things that are great in my life. I think
appreciating what you have matters.  

5 top joyous features of a happy life:

1. I'm delighted that I'm alive.

2. I'm so happy that I love my partner.

3. I'm so thrilled that my partner loves me to the moon and back.

4. I'm so happy that I get to do work I love, and that I meet 
    wonderful people through my work.

5. I feel overjoyed that I have an amazing family, and wonderful

Neil put the message about dying people's regrets on his fridge,
I'm thinking of posting this list on my fridge and as always
I'm grateful to Neil and to all of you for the inspiration.

Have a loving your life day.

Sunday, June 2, 2024

The week of the yellow Iris

Iris in the kitchen
Barbara Muir © 2024

I don’t think I got a good photo of the Irises, which is too bad.
We have incredible yellow Irises in the garden. and beautiful
purple Irises.  

Nature is a constant mystery -- a good one to focus on in these
trying times. When I look out our basement door window at night
the yellow Irises are highlighted by the garage lights and glow against
the dark night. So dramatically beautiful. 

Summer teaches us to love each moment. Most flowers have their
time in the garden. Frequently brief and then something new captivates us. 
Wishing you a happy week.

Have a loving your life day.

Saturday, June 1, 2024

A wonderful story from my artist's life (there have been so many)


Portrait of the Artist
acrylic on canvas
24 x 30 inches
Barbara Muir © 

I love this story from one of the few juried art shows I participated in with
the Don Valley Art Club in Toronto.  It's Saturday, and I'm a bit tired after
our big trip yesterday. So please enjoy this:

"One of the most exciting evenings of my life as an artist happened
 the night I won Best Portrait, for this odd little painting submitted to
 the Don Valley Art Club spring show. That year the judge was a man
who travelled extensively for Windsor Newton. In choosing my painting
he said that he had just been to a show of portraits at the Tate in London, and
that my work was equal to anything there.

Wow! There were oohs and aahs from the crowd, and a friend of ours rushed away
from the room and purchased the painting on the spot. The evening was not only
wonderful, surprising and a hit on every score. But the funny thing was that because
it was a self portrait, it never occurred to me that someone would buy it. I had
painted it more or less as an artist's joke for my family, because my true artist's
costume, is a pair of paint covered jeans and an old sweater. But this was funny.

The moral of the story? Have fun painting, because the art world is full of surprises.

Have an exciting and surprising 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!