Monthly Archives: August 2015

Old dog, new trick

pastel painting of a green wave with a blue sky

Skype Light, Wave Portrait No. 154, 5×7″ pastel on gessoed mat board, by Marie Marfia.

My fingertip taps the bright blue icon and I hear the familiar “zoooop” sound as Skype starts up. There are ten contacts but my eyes zero in on two, Sam and Nick, and I see the lights next to their names are bright green, which means they’re online. Chances are good they are playing a game together, Dungeons and Dragons probably. My finger hovers over Nick’s picture but then I change my mind and close the app. I don’t have anything to tell either of my kids, really, except I love and miss them, which they know already.

I sit, iPad on my lap, and rapidly exhaust all the internet urls in my favorites list. I scan the headlines on an endless array of amusing, educational, snarky articles, watch adorable pet videos, work sudoku puzzles and the Sunday crossword. Don’t I have anything else to do? Some larger purpose besides being a source of visits, views and clicks on other peoples’ websites?

My purposes have all flown the coop. I am not needed hourly, monthly or even yearly, if you go by one particular child’s  communication habits. I have nobody’s socks to pick up, no one’s meals to prepare, no one’s life to organize, except this one right here in front of me. All my brain, no longer portioned out evenly between three children, is now able to focus on just one life, my own, and it is apparently not that interesting.

The Skype light is a secret beacon, a dot of comfort. See? Both green lights are shining together, so I should be happy. They used to fight constantly at home, sending the dog running for cover. Once, they were looking particularly glum after coming home from the paper route they shared. They told me someone had pulled over on the street and stopped them from fighting. “You’re brothers,” the lady had scolded. “You ought to take care of each other.”

I sat them down and pointed out that they were more alike in their opinions than not. “You two agree with each other. You just come at it from different directions,” I said. “One of you is emotional, the other is logical.”

I see their bright green lights here on my iPad, in the evenings sometimes and most weekends. Now and then, it will just be one green light, and that’s my cue to send a quick message, “How’re you doing?” just to see if anyone needs anything. Old habits, old purposes are hard to change.

Here’s a time-lapse of this painting’s progression.



Name this Skelly painting contest!

pastel painting of a skeleton in front of a fountain in St. Augustine, Florida

Untitled, 11×14″ pastel on paper by Marie Marfia. This is a skeleton tourist posing in front of an old fountain in St. Augustine, Florida. This piece needs a title! Leave your idea in the comments and you might win a print of this painting! Woohoo!

Here’s the latest in my Greetings from St. Augustine skelly series and, as usual, I need help coming up with a title for it. Anyone who enters, regardless of whether I use your suggestion or not, will be entered in a draw. The winner will receive an 8×10″ print of this painting. Leave your suggestions in the comments, please, along with your name so I can enter you in the draw. Thanks for your help! Drawing will take place this Sunday, August 30, 2015.


How I make a progress picture slide show in WordPress

Filling the viewfinder with my art.

I use a tri-pod and a DSLR camera to take progress photos of my art. This photo shows how I try to fill the viewfinder with my art. It also shows my messy studio, but that’s the subject of another post!

Bev asked about progress pictures. This post is for her and anyone else who is keeping an art blog and wants to know how I do this. I use my camera to take pictures and I use my iPad and the Motion Pics app for time-lapse videos.

This post is about taking pictures and making a slide show with them. I’ll talk about time-lapse in another post.

  • Digital camera (I use a Nikon CoolPix L810 camera, but any DSLR camera works well)
  • Tri-pod (You can do this without one, but if you’re working in low light, a tri-pod is a great way to prevent blurry shots)
  • iPhoto or other photo storage software (I use iPhoto because it came with my Mac)
Set up:

I set up my paper or matboard on my easel, then position the camera on a tri-pod in front of it. Then I go to the camera settings menu and select “white balance”. There is an option called “Preset manual” that I use which will automatically tell the camera to focus on whatever is in front of it, in this case, a piece of white paper or white foam core that I prop directly in front of the artwork area. Measuring the white balance keeps my pictures from having a blue or yellow cast to them due to ambient light sources.

Using the "white balance" settings on my camera.

This picture shows how I use the “white balance” settings on my camera to eliminate color casts from my photos.

I use a focal length (the telephoto option) that’s about midway between the widest angle and the closest angle, about 50 mm, so that the picture isn’t distorted and the sides of the paper or matboard are parallel to the sides of the viewfinder. I try to fill the viewfinder with my artwork. I take a picture after every step in the painting process.

Once the painting is done, I upload all the photos to iPhoto. I delete the photos that are blurry and then export the rest to a  folder on my Mac. I export them as jpeg files, high quality, large size. With these settings each image is about 160k, so the slide show loads quickly.

To make a slide show in WordPress on my blog, I click on “Add Media” at the top of my new blog post. I upload the photos, then with them selected, I click “Create Gallery” in the upper left corner. This takes me to a new window where I can add captions under each photo and rearrange the order of the slides. I select “slide show” under “Gallery Settings: Type.” Then I select “Insert Gallery” on the bottom right, and voila! I have a slide show. It doesn’t look like a slide show while I’m editing but if I select “Preview” at the bottom I can see how it will look when the post is published.

I’ll share how I make a time-lapse progression on a later post. Hope this helps, Bev! Let me know in the comments if I left anything out.


Party Time – Wave Portrait No. 146

painting of a bright pink and purple wave on a yellow sky

Party Time, Wave Portrait No. 146, 5×7″ pastel painting on gessoed mat board by Marie Marfia

When I was a teenager, I couldn’t wait to get out of the house and go somewhere, anywhere. I tried on fourteen different outfits. I fiddled with my hair. I put on make up. I thought about who I might talk to, what I would say, hoped there’d be dancing. I wanted to hang out with my friends, to meet someone new, to flirt.

When did pre-party anticipation turn into pre-party dread?

Now, it’s a struggle to leave the comfortable confines of my cave. Getting dressed up seems like so much work. Should I drink? Not drink? What shall I bring? Snacks? Dessert? Unthinkable to show up empty-handed! What if nobody eats it? Do I dare dance without my husband? Is that allowed?

What ever happened to just showing up and expecting to have fun? I swear, I am going to dedicate the rest of my life to remembering how that works. There’s too much seriousness in this world. It’s time to par-tay!

Here is the progression of this painting:


Sargrasso Sea, Wave Portrait No. 145

pastel painting of a wave of grass

Sargrasso Sea, Wave Portrait No. 145, 5×7″ pastel painting on gessoed mat board by Marie Marfia

The first two houses Steve and I ever owned both had postage stamp-sized yards. That was fine with me because of the two us, I had the lower GLT (grass length tolerance) level and neither of them took more than a half hour to mow.

The lawn we have now could comfortably hold six or eight of our old lawns. Steve wanted a big ol’ yard when we moved here and, while I agreed that it’d be nice to have room for the kids to play, I made it clear that I wasn’t going to responsible for mowing it. So Steve bought a riding lawn mower, because, hey, that’s what you do when you have a big yard. Our son Nick liked mowing with the rider. I still remember seeing him racing around the yard in third gear, his hair streaming out behind him and a big grin on his face. He looked like a crazy person out there.

The kids are all gone now, so it’s just me and Steve and we still have this huge yard. Usually, Steve is pretty good about keeping it trimmed, but he’s gone until next week and it was starting to look pretty shaggy out there. I decided I’d mow it myself because 1. I am still plagued by a low GLT level, and 2. how hard could it be? I’d start early in the day before it got hot, and have it licked by 10am.

I used the push mower to do all the perimeter work and around all the trees and shrubs. That took about 45 minutes. I had already sweat through my clothes, but I drank a glass of ice water and went to get the riding mower fired up. Unfortunately, it had a flat tire and when I went to inflate it, the valve was buried under the rim somewhere. No problem, I thought. I’ll keep using the push mower. It won’t take that much longer to do. I walk every day. I’ve got this.

An hour later, with the ambient temperature at 90, I was having serious doubts about my ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other, much less push a mower at the same time. My legs felt like 40 lb. bags of cement. My hands were bruised from gripping the mower handle. I thought, I’ll stop when I finish this half of the yard. Three circuits later and I thought, I’ll stop when I run out of gas. Another circuit and I thought, I’m going to die if I don’t stop now. There’s a nice unmowed patch in the middle of the south side of the yard now. I’m thinking about calling it a wildflower garden and just letting it grow.

Here’s a progression of today’s painting:

I started with a gessoed piece of mat board, then blocked in with “dirt” colors, and rubbed the pastel in with pipe insulation. Then I came over the top with greens and blues, using direction strokes to mimic the way the grass grows in my huge lawn. I put a signature on before I was quite done with it, noticing as I took pictures what needed tweaking. Cameras are useful for this. I also included a picture of the pastel colors I used.


Stretched Thin – Wave Portrait No. 144

Stretched Thin-Wave Portrait No. 144, 5x7" pastel painting of a wave in purple, gray and blue by Marie Marfia.

Stretched Thin-Wave Portrait No. 144, 5×7″ pastel painting of a wave in purple, gray and blue by Marie Marfia.

This is how I feel when I am in the middle of a project, in this case, re-doing my website, and I’m not familiar with the software, and there are too many choices, and the directions I’m following are three years old, so nothing matches, and I decide, screw it, I’m just going to do what I want, and all the while in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “I just want the work to  already be done. I hate learning new things. Just leave me alone in my corner, sitting in a puddle of ignorance. I’m tired of all if it!”

This painting occurred to me while I was doing yoga of all things. I thought it was about feeling transparent, but it turned out to be about feeling inadequate to the task at hand.

Here are the progress pictures. I included a picture of the pastels I used for this painting.


Volcanic Activity, Wave Portrait No. 143

I snarled all the way home this morning, after dropping Steve off at the airport. I hate driving.

It’s too boring to list all the ways that my fellow drivers irritate the crap out of me, so I’m not going to. I just wish I was calmer about it, that’s all.

I go from zero to sixty in a heartbeat. One second I’m enjoying some story on the radio and the next I’m furiously flipping off the three cars that just passed me in the exit lane.

I don’t want to have my day spoiled by things I can’t control. There’s probably some kind of therapy for it, but so far I haven’t found anything that sticks. I am pinning my hopes on the future when, after we move away from this big city with its miles of roads and its oblivious drivers, I’ll remember how to be cool, calm and collected behind the wheel.

It’s been so long, though. Was I ever like that?

pastel painting of a red and blue wave

Volcanic Activity, Wave portrait No. 143, 5×7′ pastel painting on gessoed mat board by Marie Marfia

Today’s painting was done on mat board that I painted with clear gesso. This gives me a tooth for my pastels, which you can see in the progression slide show. I blocked in color, then rubbed it all in with some pieces of swim noodle (another use for those!) and then came back in over the top with more colors. The sky is pink and blue because it’s where I want my brain to be. The red hot color under the dark wave shape is where I’m afraid my brain is at.

Here’s the progression of today’s painting:


Wave Portrait No. 142 – Coffee Time

My favorite time of day is coffee time at my brother’s house. Well before dawn I make my way to the kitchen, choose a mug, fill it with coffee, milk and sugar, and whisper, “Anyone need a warm up?”

The room next to the kitchen has a large, stuffed ottoman, wicker chairs covered with afghans, and floor pillows snug against the walls. The cats loll on the little table next to the window, purring. Low voices murmuring, we talk about everything and anything, a susurrus of ideas, laughter, and impractical dreams shared while waiting for the sun to make a decision about whether it’s going to get up or not. I always want to be the first one out there in the morning. My brother and his wife make the best coffee.

pastel painting of a coffee wave

Coffee Time, 5×7″ pastel painting on UArt 600 sanded paper by Marie Marfia.

This painting started with a warm red, orange, and yellow underpainting. Then I layered blues and pink for the morning sky and browns and rusts and pinks for morning coffee with a little dark green thrown in to get that dark, dark earthy color.

Here is the process for today’s painting:

Here is an excerpt from my painting journal:

“Coffee, early morning, talking in low voices, cats lounging on the table, darkness before dawn, bare feet resting on the ottoman, the popping noise signaling a fresh pot ready…”

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