Artists for Hire: Commissions Part II

by | Dec 1, 2023

Barbara Muir’s paintings are exuberant, colourful and full of a zest for life, just like the artist herself. 

We first bumped into each other in Pugwash about 2007, where my husband and I had moved to run the Chatterbox Cafe. Barbara and her husband Stephen dropped in for a bite to eat and instantly it was like we had known each other forever. Laughter erupting, one conversation tumbling into another, with art as a common thread binding us together.

Based in Toronto, Barbara and Stephen have been coming to their retreat, a converted school house in Wallace Bridge, for well over 30 years. In the last few years their visits have been short, but their love of the peace and quiet of northern Nova Scotia continues to lure them here every summer. The stretches of open sky, scudding clouds and beaches have influenced a number of Barbara’s paintings.

In addition to her work as an adult educator and writer, Barbara has enjoyed a thriving art practice, exhibiting her work in a number of group shows and building an international network of artists and followers with her blog, She started sketching and painting via Skype during long-distance chats when her son who was living in Korea and posting them on her blog, catching the attention of Chicago blogger, Howard Kolinsky who interviewed her. The Public Relations company for Skype,

This exposure led to being hired by Kaplow Communications to do a series of five portraits of attendees at a Skype party at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. Barbara was also invited to sketch Oprah Winfrey via Skype for her special ‘Where on the Skype Are You?’ in 2009. Since then Barbara has been invited to attend fine art biennales in Florence and Paris and has shown her work many times in NYC’s Amsterdam Whitney Gallery. 

For the past 16 years, part of her busy artistic life has been executing portraits, often by commission. They are notable for their energetic use of paint and Barbara’s ability to capture the humanity of the subjects. Before covid, Barbara used live models and some photo reference, meeting in her home studio for a series of ten two-hour sessions. Barbara finds that during the process of painting a portrait a bond grows between the subject and the artist that may result in future commissioned work and referrals to friends and family.

To make sure everyone is on the same page, Barbara draws up a contract as part of her process to outline expectations and protect both her and the client.

The usual contract includes: 

• A description of what is going to be produced – “an original portrait ‘in the style of Barbara Muir'”, in what medium, size, support used, and that it is suitable for framing

• Payment Structure – with 50% in advance (non-refundable) and the remainder on delivery

• Production Schedule – the date the work will start and estimated date the art work would be expected to be finished

• Copyright – artist retains the right to include the image in her portfolio, on her blog and website, retaining the image to enter art exhibitions and competitions, even borrowing  it temporarily for show (as long as it in a safe venue). Anonymity of subject is assured.

• Exhibitions – Acknowledgment that the painting may be submitted to art competitions that may, in the event that this painting wins an award, require that the painting be temporarily borrowed with the agreement of the purchaser.  All shipping and insurance expenses paid by the artist.

• Care and Notification – The purchaser agrees to make a good faith effort in the care of this painting. The Purchaser agrees to notify the artist of any change in ownership of the painting.

Client agrees to purchase art work ‘in style of’ Barbara Muir.

• Shipping details (if needed)

• Dated and signed by both parties

When asked what artists she admires and who her influences are, Barbara produced a lengthy and diverse list. Here is a small part of it:

  • Ontario based artist, Marcia Labelle –, sculptor
  • Portugese/German, Tania Rivilis,

• Bear River painter, Flora Doehler,

• Abstract artist Georgia Fullerton,

• Miranda Brouwers (Netherlands),

• Melinda Esparza,

• Portrait artist, Alastair Adams,

• British artist, Simon Davis,

• Californian artist, Mitchell Johnson,

• Expressionist figurative artist, William Wray,

To see more of Barbara’s work and art practice, go to her blog Barbara Muir Paints. website, or Instagram