So very much of me to love

…for the last time

When I was looking for Christmas lights last week in the storage unit, I accidentally found the bathroom scale. It was wrapped in a towel, at the bottom of a box full of linens. I thought, Oh, Steve will be thrilled because he’s been wondering where it was and threatening to buy a new one ever since we moved.

At first, he was happy.

“Yay! You found the scale! Thank you!”

Fast forward three days. Steve says, “I need you to take the scale back.”

“What?”

“It’s not good. I was happier before I knew how much I weighed.”

“Why, how much do you weigh?”

“None of your business.”

“Is it more than (insert number here)?”

“No!”

The discussion then moved on to all the people we know that weigh more than him and after a while he felt better. Crisis averted.

But weight! There’s more!

Frankly, I was of two minds whether to bring it back at all. It’s been nice not knowing how much I weigh for a whole year. Right up until someone told me, which, in this case, happened at the doctor’s office, during my yearly exam. “167,” the nurse said. Later she asked me if I was feeling depressed and I told her, “Hell yes I’m depressed! Did you not see that I now weigh 167 pounds?”

How I used to do it

It was right about then I knew I needed to re-think my weight management tactics. Up until now, I’ve always used two basic methods to keep track of how I’m doing. One is the How Well Do My Jeans Fit (HWDMJF) test and the other is the Pee My Pants (PMP) test.

The HWDMJF test works like this. I buy a single brand and size of jeans, and for me those are Gloria Vanderbilt, size 14. When I can no longer get into them, I know it’s time to cut back on my food intake and up my daily exercise time. Simple.

The PMP test is simple, too. If I accidentally pee my pants while either a. laughing, or b. sneezing, then I know it’s time to drop some poundage.

Except the last two pair of GV jeans that I brought home were really loose on me. So loose, I had to go back and buy a belt to keep the crotch from tripping me while I walk. I know for a fact that I’ve never been larger in my life than I am right now. So this means that some time between the last time I bought blue jeans, probably 2014, and last month, Gloria Vanderbilt made their size 14 jeans bigger. This means that I can no longer rely on Gloria to keep me informed about a weight overage, damn her.

Which leaves only the PMP test, and, of course, the problem with the PMP test is it relies on damp underwear to work.

There’s a new test in town

I know there’s a better way, and likely it will rely heavily on numbers. Facts and figures, along with being told what to do by inanimate objects, like bathroom scales and calorie counting apps, are some of my least favorite things in the world. I’d rather believe in the fantasy that allows for things like bonbons for breakfast and a second beer at dinner and fifteen minute walks with the dogs to keep my weight under control.

But there comes a time in a girl’s life when she has to stop living in a dream world and grow up. For me, that time is discovering that I’m 57 years old and weigh 167 pounds. So I’m hereby putting myself on notice. No more PMP or HWDMJF tests. From now on, it’s the SOTSAFTF (Stand On The Scale And Face The Facts) test or nothing.


Do you like my writing? Why not sign up for my newsletter and get it delivered straight to your inbox? G’wan. You know you want to! The sign up is on the right. Talk to you soon! –Marie

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Black angus bull munching on a haystack that probably has at least one bug in it

Going buggy

It could have been worse. It could have been assassin bugs or spiders. If it had been assassin bugs or spiders, I probably would have made Steve drive back home and never slept in the camper again. But it was stinkbugs. They don’t bite and they’re kind of comical. They toddle rather than creep, half inch long odiferous shields with legs. I thought they smelled like raspberries. Steve thought they smelled like Jolly Rancher green apple candy, but then, he’s a chemist and he’s got a much more discerning sense of smell than me.

Bugging out

We were on our way south to visit our son, some friends, and also to pick up some of my artwork. We took the camper to save some money. On the first night we happened across few stinkbugs sleepily wandering around in it.

“Hey, there’s another one!”

“I found two in the bathroom. Out you go, little stinkbugs.”

They were easy to catch, slow moving and tickley in the palms of our hands. We lobbed five or six of them out the door of the camper and congratulated ourselves on how merciful we were being.

“Go hibernate somewhere else, you little pests! Haha.”

Things get (b)ugly

Two nights later, in a state park in Ohio, I woke up, heart racing, because I’d felt something crawling on my face. Earlier, we’d found about a dozen more stinkbugs hiding in the folds of the curtains that enclosed the bed. Steve was gently snoring next to me. There was a little light coming through the camper window but I couldn’t see anything, couldn’t feel anything. I probably just dreamed it, I thought. I pulled the covers over my head, just in case, and went back to sleep.

The next morning, I stared at the camper mattress and thought, “I wonder how many stinkbugs would fit under there?” I picked it up and looked underneath. Turns out the answer is lots and lots.

We immediately began hurling them outside by the handful.

“Gah!

“Gross!”

There’s a limit

As we got farther south, we found more and more stinkbugs. They flew out of the AC unit in the ceiling, they crowded together in the storage areas under the seats, they were hiding behind the valances over the windows. It looked like a stinkbug rave party. It felt like a plague. Around North Carolina, we started to question the wisdom of letting them live.

“Should we be killing these things? Are stinkbugs an invasive species?”

As usual, when squishing insects is required, I cede all control to Steve, who is the man and supposed to take care of these things.

“Hand me a paper towel, please? I found some more.”

“I hate stinkbugs.”

“Me, too.”

We ended up leaving a trail of stinkbug corpses in every state between here and Orlando. I feel bad about this, but not that bad.

Black angus bull munching on a haystack that probably has at least one bug in it

©2017 Marie Marfia, Dumbo Tucks In, 6×9″ pastel on paper. This is one of our friend Doug’s bulls. He named him Dumbo because of his floppy ears and sweet disposition. This painting is on ebay.

And the point is…

The trip wasn’t completely dominated by stinkbugs, fortunately. I got to have dinner with my favorite group of homeschool moms. Steve and I stayed on his friend’s cattle farm for a few days and I did graphic design work on the deck in 70 degree weather. My favorite part of the trip, though, was seeing our son, Nick. He looked really good, healthy and not starving at all, plus he taught us an obnoxious card game that we can’t wait to inflict on friends and family up here, just as soon as we remember the rules.

My friends, as always, told me in no uncertain terms what I already suspected was true, which in this case was that I had to quit sending my kids job listings via email. My son also imparted an important lesson to me, showing me he was fine and that all the stewing that I do in the middle of the night, whether brought on by actual bugs or merely what’s bugging me at the moment, is all about me and not him. He looked pretty wonderful, and required no help, just love, thankyouverymuch. I’m glad we went to see him. It was worth all the stinkbugs just for that.

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The truth about living in a tiny house

A little over a year ago, my husband and I moved into a tiny house.

I welcomed the chance to downsize our lives. I envisioned paring down to a few, simple necessities, all within arm’s reach. I would discard all the rest, like nail clippings, into the nearest trash receptacle. My life would be streamlined, elegant, efficient, speedy.

Fast forward to last week, when I was looking for my bangle skirt to complete my skelly dancer costume.

“Honey, have you seen my hip scarf skirt thing with the coins on it?”

“Did you look in the attic?”

“Yes, it’s not there.”

“How about the shed? There’s a few boxes out there.”

“Nope.”

“The camper?”

“Seriously?”

We then quickly ran through all the rest of the possibilities, including my studio, both vehicles and the storage unit. It took a while. And then I realized the awful truth.

We had traded in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home where, even if I couldn’t find something right away, I knew it was ultimately going to be somewhere within a single building, for a tiny house and its seven additional storage units.

This was not efficient. This was not elegant. This is not acceptable.

How did this happen?

The same way everything happens. In tiny, almost unnoticeable steps. Like the oblivious frog slowly boiling to death in a soup pot, I fear my life is being sucked away, minute by minute, in search of things that I know I have, but just can’t find right this second. Come with me on a magical tour of all our extra storage spaces…

The (Official) Storage Unit

You don’t go from great big ranch house to tiny cottage without having a place to put all the stuff you couldn’t sell at the moving sale. The official storage unit is located 28 minutes away, which is inconvenient for Steve, who’s retired and stays home most days, but on the way to my studio, which is inconvenient for me because I hate having to go there.

The Shed

This is certainly more convenient than the storage unit because it’s in the back yard, however, my handy husband set about transforming it from a shed for yard tools into a retreat/workshop. He partitioned it, insulated it and filled it with woodworking tools, tie dye supplies, concrete sculpture stuff, guitar, computer, a desk, and a comfortable chair. Now it’s a very nice space for doing what a man’s got to do in the comfort and privacy of his den. However, it’s no longer a shed.

The Shed Addition

Because the non-shed is busy being a den, Steve’s building a lean to that’s going to hold all the things that used to be stored in the shed, like the lawn mower, the ladders, the gardening tools, shovels and bags of dirt.

The Camper

Gotta have one because one of these days, we’re going to pack up and head down the road to who knows where to have the best time ever. It’s just we have these dogs, one of whom is really uncomfortable traveling to anywhere new, and the other who’s a consummate escape artist. No problem, just drop them at the kennel, except the darn kennel owners expects us to pay for that, and the truck only gets 10 miles to the gallon when it’s pulling the camper, so maybe not a really long road trip, but if you’re just going one county over, then why bother camping? A day trip will do and we may as well take the dogs because it’s a beautiful day and they like walking in the woods as much as we do.

So the camper is now a storage unit for all our camping gear, plus extra kitchen items, like dishes and silverware and a bottle opener. Oh, and that cute string of skull lights that our neighbor down the street got us, and the lawn chairs that don’t fit in the non-shed or the lean-to, plus it’s really handy for overnight guests, since we no longer have a spare bedroom. Besides, the dogs won’t be around forever, and then we’re really going to tow it somewhere fun.

The Studio

My first studio space was large and we had dreams of splitting it equally between my work and Steve’s hobbies, but after a particularly awkward episode involving some odiferous mushrooms and multiple drying racks, we decided it was just going to be for me. Then I moved into an even smaller space and it really became just mine, all mine. Except it’s got the filing cabinet in there, so it’s mine all mine, unless something needs to be filed, and then it’s both of ours.

The Vehicles

We have two of those and the things they store all depends on what’s being moved from one of the other satellite storage units to another. For instance, my van currently has about 4,000 postcards in it, left over from ArtPrize Nine. Don’t ask me why I printed so many. I’m trying to use them for other things. Maybe to wallpaper a wall in my studio? Steve’s truck holds lots of truckworthy things like firewood, a chainsaw, bins with more camping supplies, mushroom hunting paraphernalia, fishing poles, and sometimes, the dog bag with the long leashes and portable water dish, plus cans and cans of Deet. Oh, and last week, it had my skelly dancing costume in it.

The Upshot

I still like living in a tiny house, even though I’ve stopped believing in the whole bare necessities only way of life thing. It might work if you were just starting out, before you’d had a chance to amass all these completely necessary things. But right now, at this stage of mine and Steve’s lives, we need our stuff, ergo, we need our satellite storage units.

We’re at the age where you’re not only more aware of time passing, but you’re also equally aware you’re running out of it. All those things you meant to do are now things that you’d better get done before it’s too late. Our stuff is more important to us than ever, because it represents a life we still plan on having, as soon as we remember where we stored it.

 

Tiny cat pastel painting is perfect for a tiny house.

©2017 Marie Marfia “In Memoriam,” 7×5″ pastel, $75.

 

 

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Still not famous…

…but I’m okay with it.

Earlier this spring, when I was juried into ArtPrize Nine, I hoped this would be the event that put my skellies on the map. I was gonna get 1,000 new sign ups for my newsletter. I hoped to sell not just one, but all seven original paintings. I imagined being carried through the streets of Grand Rapids by my adoring fans in one of those little tent things on poles.

When I walked into my official venue at the bitter end coffeehouse on the first night of ArtPrize Nine, ostensibly to see how my paintings had been hung, but secretly hoping someone would point at me and yell, “Look! It’s her! The artist who made all these awesome skelly paintings! Oh, please, would you sign my coaster?” there was a huge line out the door and every table was occupied. I held my breath. But as it turned out, everyone there was either doing homework or standing in line for coffee.

I thought, is it possible I have seriously overestimated the importance of skelly paintings in the minds of perfect strangers?

As you’ve probably guessed by now, I didn’t win ArtPrize Nine. I also didn’t get a thousand new names on my mailing list. I didn’t sell any of my original skelly paintings. And, adding insult to injury, no one carried me through the streets in a giant palanquin.

Does this mean ArtPrize was a disappointment? Of course not.

Every day that I was there was a great day. Lots of friends and family stopped by to drink coffee with me and chat. My brother and his wife put aside a cold beer with my name on it every evening. My husband picked up my slack so I could be away every weekend during the show. My mom even refrained from telling me how much she doesn’t like skeletons when I’d stop by to give her an update, which was kind of amazing, really. She’s nearly 95 and doesn’t have many governors left.

To everyone who took the time to come and see me, who smiled and encouraged me and told me they were proud of me for participating in the biggest art show in the world, I just want you to know that it was you that made the event worthwhile for me.

Putting my stuff out there for a chance at fame and fortune may have been my original motivation, but friends and family turned it into something way better. Success is not about the quantity of people who love me, it’s about the quality of that love. I’ll never forget how lucky I am to have all of you in my corner. Thank you.

Faces of ArtPrize Nine

Below are some of my favorite pictures from ArtPrize Nine. You guys all rock my world.

Selfies are harder than they look…

Pie!

Just take the freakin’ picture!

That’s better!

Thanks for making me feel like a big deal.

Last, but not least, one of my favorite sculptures from ArtPrize Nine. This crazy bird is just a tiny part of why I was happy to be included in ArtPrize Nine. See you at ArtPrize Ten!

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Sometimes you cry

While in child’s pose this morning I was thinking about the portraits of my children, Sam and Nick, that I have hanging in my studio. (I’d have a portrait of Alice there, too, but I haven’t yet produced one that I like well enough to frame. It’s on my to-do list.)

Pastel portrait of a young man.

©Marie Marfia, Nick, No. 74, 100 Portraits in 100 Days.

Hanging the portraits inside my studio was supposed to put a smile on my face every day. Nick’s because he’s grinning ear to ear. The photo reference is from a picture I took after watching him open up presents on his birthday. Sam’s portrait is not so cheerful. She’s looking off to one side and her expression is either suspicious or worried or both. This is a typical look for her. I just like it because I think she’s beautiful even when she looks like that.

Pastel portrait of a young woman.

©Marie Marfia, Sam, No. 75, 100 Portraits in 100 Days.

Yesterday I looked up and saw those two faces and basically fell apart. I miss them a lot.

They’re off living their own lives. Nick’s 23 and independent and looking for work in Florida. Sam is 26 and trying like hell to have a writing career out in Connecticut. I’m proud to know both of them, I just wish I heard from them more often, a common enough complaint when you’re a parent.

Yesterday’s break down is partly me being emotional at the end of a longish day and also because I recently attended a funeral for my cousin’s daughter who died at age 25.

Pastel portrait of a young woman.

©Marie Marfia, Alice, No. 68, 100 Portraits in 100 Days.

You know what the worst thing about young peoples’ funerals is? There aren’t that many stories to share about them. They just didn’t live long enough. There are only short vignettes about overnight trips with the track team, or a prank they pulled while they were visiting their family two weeks prior. And all their friends are there, all the same age as the dead person. They’re devastated and crying and in shock. And watching the family try to figure it all out breaks your heart.

There should be tons of stories, years’ worth of them. Not just two or three. People are supposed to live longer than 25 years. Especially people who are the children of other people.

Of course I wanted to hug my kids after that. Alice is near by so pretty easy to reach out and touch her, thankfully, but for Sam and Nick I had to be satisfied with emails. Nick doesn’t always pick up the phone when I call. He’s probably thinking I want a progress report on whether he’s found work or not. Sam doesn’t have a phone. I don’t know why, she just doesn’t. She’s an idiot that way.

In the emails I reminded them that I loved them and missed them and they didn’t have my permission to die before me. Not that I have any control over that whatsoever. I just wanted to go on the record as having an opinion about it. Honestly? I’m sure I’ve told them all this before, but funerals for other people’s kids have a way of bringing these issues to the forefront of my mind.

So now I’m debating whether to take the portraits down. I know Nick and Sam are fine and I’ll be fine, too. It’s just, right now, it’s hard. People die, some through no fault of their own. I know one thing, I’m going to hug my kids, every chance I get, even if it’s just an email hug. It’s better than no hugs at all.

I guess I’ll leave the portraits up. Try to remind myself to enjoy my kids while I’ve got them. I’m grateful for that, even if it does make me cry now and then.

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Now comes the hard part

The smoke cloud fading behind our house.

Summer’s gone now. The trees are starting to turn. I saw a pair of brilliantly colored trees, red and orange, on my way down to Grand Rapids to drop the skelly paintings off for ArtPrize Nine.

I’m sorry summer’s done but I’m enjoying the cool mornings for walking in the woods with my dogs and it’s nice having seasons again. Makes me think of football games, raking leaves and the smell of burning stuff in the air.

Last week one of the neighbors had such a big burn pile going that it made a fog over our entire back yard. The sun was low in the sky and it lit up the smoke, throwing the trees in silhouette.

Part of me was thinking, “I hope I don’t die as a result of all this toxic smoke in the air,” and the other part was thinking, “This is so cool looking!” I ran in to get my phone for a picture but by the time I came out again, most of the smoke had dissipated. I can still picture what it looked like, the branches all backlit and peeking through that huge cloud of smoke.

Signed, sealed and delivered

Pastel spoof of Frida Kahlo self portrait with skeletons

Frida Skelly with Monkeys, 12×18″ pastel on sanded paper.

You’ll be happy to know all seven Old (Dead) Masters paintings are officially delivered to the bitter end coffeehouse and by this time next week lots and lots of people will have a chance to see them up close and personal. I’m excited and nervous and feeling a lot of dread right now.

Kind of like I used to feel right before a particular fundraising auction in my previous life as a Rotarian. Back then I’d have nightmares about nobody showing up and then to add insult to injury, I’d get what I called my “Christmas Cold Sore” on the day of. It never failed.

My contact at the bitter end wasn’t there when I arrived but his father, Mike, was. Mike told me that when he and his son, John, first saw the skellies they knew right away they were perfect for their place.

“We’re on the fringe of ArtPrize so we appreciate art that’s also kind of out there,” he said. “We had another exhibitor a few years ago, and she had twelve pieces featuring the role of underwear during the course of a person’s life. It started out with diapers and it ended with them, too.”

I think I couldn’t have chosen a more perfect place to exhibit skeletons in, don’t you? Meantime, I keep feeling my lip for impending cold soreness. So far, so good.

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How I lost five pounds in one week

Last week I took a road trip with my brother Joe to see our sister who lives near Utica, NY. Mary and her partner, Jonathan, run Down Dog Farm, an organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and we planned to visit and help on the farm for a few days.

There’s a whole patch of flowers on the farm. So pretty.

It was a spur of the moment trip and we only meant to be gone Monday through Thursday, but we decided to hang around a bit longer and help them put up their timber frame house. They’ve been living in a barn for the past few years, and while it’s cozy, nothing beats hot running water and the occasional soak in your own bathtub.

I love visiting my family. Last week’s favorite memories include rolling up to the barn at 7 am in Joe’s truck and then listening to him play Reveille on his harmonica. We’d climb the stairs to the loft and have coffee and a peach muffin with Mary and Jonathan before walking with them and their dogs, Maya and Teddy, around the perimeter of the farm.

Staking the tomatoes.

After breakfast, we’d weed the beds or stake tomatoes or harvest vegetables. In the afternoons we toured the Erie Canal, played miniature golf, and sampled beer at the Saranac brewery in Utica. Evenings we played cards or dominoes or Bananagrams.

Every night Joe and I would go back to the motel and sleep like the dead. We were tired but happy. There’s something wonderful about hanging around with your siblings. The chores don’t feel like chores, the outings are a chance to add to the family lore, and it’s relaxing and familiar and precious.

There was lots of work to be done before the actual raising of the timber frame. Mary and I pored over the plans, counting the braces and figuring out which piece was going where. Joe did a ton of routing on the timbers, standing ankle deep in sawdust. I buttered the tenons with beeswax so they’d fit together more easily. Jonathan called the timber frame company with questions about how it was all going to work and sent out an email inviting people to help.

Swinging a sledgehammer.

Sunday came and about 25 Down Dog Farm subscribers and family members showed up. Everyone pitched in to carry the heavy timbers and swing sledges and hammer in the pegs to hold the pieces together. The actual raising of the bents (cross beams with the posts attached) was an elegant bit of choreography, with Jonathan calling out the dance moves (“Lift with your legs! Curl! Stick people grab your sticks! Rope people, pull!”).

Helpers on the bent.

I mostly stayed out of the way, taking pictures and not wanting to be personally responsible for a bent taking a header off the edge of the deck. At the end, though, I wrapped my legs and arms around a corner post and helped to lift the final bent into position. My partner on the post told me, “You are mighty!” and I’ve been basking in the glow of that compliment ever since.

Me and Joe taking the long way home.

I came home with bruises on my thighs, a farmer’s tan and a song in my heart, specifically, “I Hate You All,” which I first heard in 2004 on a road trip with my kids and husband (my daughter Alice has the best play lists). Joe and I took the long way home so we could see Lake Erie, eating the rainbow chard pancakes that Jonathan made us, talking about our favorite parts of the week and missing Mary the whole way. Some trips you just never want to end.

 

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The studio lessons

Last June I moved into a new studio space at 307 S. James Street here in Ludington, Michigan. It’s awesome. There are a lot of new businesses around me so I’m in good company and it’s fun to watch people walk by my big picture window. But there are some things I’ve learned since going from a work-at-home artist to a work-in-the-public-eye artist.

Having lunch at my skellified table…

Are you going to eat that?

Lunches are a challenge. My space is pretty small. No room for a microwave and no windows for ventilation, so there is a whole list of things I can’t eat here, like any kind of hot food (I now eat soup for breakfast), legumes (I hadn’t realized beans would go through me quite that quickly), and anything odiferous like tuna or smoked fish. I use a freezer pack in my lunchbox and eat salads every day. I feel virtuous all the time now plus I’m more regular than I’ve been in years.

Look, rainbow shoes!

What are you wearing?

I have to wear nicer clothes than I did when I worked at home, or at least, matching ones. Also I can’t come to work in shirts with holes in them (mine get holes right where I press up against my work table, at my belt line. It looks I have moths living in my navel), or pajamas, or anything that I wouldn’t want to meet the mayor in (he hasn’t shown up yet, but it’s a small town. You never know). All the tie-dyed dresses my husband Steve made me so long ago are getting a real workout this summer. They’re bright and artsy and you can’t see where I’ve dribbled vinaigrette on them.

I no longer smell like vegetable soup

I can’t tell you how many showers I’ve taken since mid-June, but it’s probably at least four times as many as I did in the last twenty years. But is this is a good thing? I mean, Steve appreciates it, I’m sure, but I find myself wondering if this is how people start losing their hair. Is it possible to wash it too much? Also, if I’m too clean, how will he find me in the dark?

Blankety blank blank

Every once in a while my computer does something really stupid and I yell at it in a not very lady like way. And then I take a quick look around to see if anyone heard me. Recently, I got mad enough to kick a cabinet (that’s better than kicking the computer, right?) and thought I broke my toe. Fortunately, I just stood on the freezer pack from my lunch in my stocking feet for a while (hardly any swelling). I’m learning to curb my tongue better than I used to, but computers never fail to bring out the crazy in me.

Time to do something with this pile!

Have you seen my…?

I am a natural slob. Did I mention the space is small? This means that whenever I do anything at all, I have to finish it and then put away everything that I took out to do it with before moving on to the next thing. I’m not used to this, but it’s starting to grow on me. I used to have piles of projects in various states of doneness all around. Now I can’t let them become piles in the first place. It’s neater, if a little alien to my nature. The big advantage is that I know where everything is now because it’s always put away. The disadvantage is that I’m always putting things away. How did I live with myself before this?

I love my Pilot G-2 gel pens. I should buy stock.

The life of an artist is often misunderstood

Now and again I take some ribbing from the people passing by. My favorite is, “Have you finished my homework yet?” which happens when I’m sitting out front writing in my notebook. I think people don’t associate writing with art making but it’s a fact that you have to write about what you’re doing if you’re planning to share it or sell it. I like to sit at my skellified cafe table and put pen to paper. There’s usually a breeze, occasionally I have company to talk to, and it’s fun to watch all the people go by. Once someone called out that he wished he had my job because it looked so much easier than what he was doing and I nearly told him to go jump in the blankety blank lake, but I thought better of it. After all, he might have been the mayor.

Like what you’re reading? Have a similar story to share? Please comment!

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Walking my dogs makes me a better painter

At least it gets me off the couch in the mornings. Truthfully, if I had my way, I’d spend all day on the couch eating bonbons and flipping through Imgur on my iPad, but the dogs aren’t going to let themselves outside and since our yard isn’t fenced (yet!), I have to go with them.

This involves piling them into the back of my minivan and driving out to the woods. See, I’d walk them around the neighborhood but there are too many potential pitfalls involved with this, i.e. other loose dogs. So my preference is to drive about five miles south on Walhalla Road, turn off onto any one of half a dozen “seasonal roads” and tromp around the Manistee National Forest for an hour.

The dogs get to sniff and dig around, I don’t have to clean up after them (although I’ve unofficially adopted the first two miles of 6890 because, let’s face it, people are pigs), and we all get some fresh air and exercise.

Sometimes we see deer, sometimes a dead snake, and once Roger thought for sure a cat walked out of the ferns not six feet in front of him, but it was a skunk and he was not allowed to get any closer to it although he fussed a bit about my decision. I held firm, though. You should see the divots my feet left in the road even two weeks later. I held on for dear life, I’m telling you.

So how does this make me a better painter?

It provides subject matter, of course. I won’t tell you how many pictures of my dogs are on my Google drive right now, but it’s a lot. Like thousands. Sometimes I keep my finger on the camera button, snapping pic after pic of Roger digging in the dirt just to get that one glorious moment when he leaps back into the road to try to catch up to whatever he’s smelling off in the distance.

It lets me paint wonderful scenes of my dogs enjoying the great outdoors. I used to think I went out to the woods for me, but really, I go out there for them. They’re the ones that are having the great time.

I guess I’m jealous. Here I am, covered in Deet to keep off the bugs and checking for ticks and bears and swiping at deer flies and those two are just loping along with their tongues hanging out, having a grand old time. Every. Stinking. Morning.

I love it. I love them. I’m a lucky girl to have these lucky dogs.

©2017 Marie Marfia “Roger and Out” 6×9″ pastel on paper.

©2017 Marie Marfia “Daisy in the Dark,” 9×6″ pastel on paper.

You can find more of my daily paintings on ebay including the ones pictures here. They start at 99¢ and the auctions last for 7 days. Good luck and happy bidding!

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When disaster strikes…

The Skelly Dance at the framer’s. It got a little wet.

…it’s best to have an insurance policy already in place. Failing that, a positive attitude can take you a long way.

“Marie, I have some bad news.”

A couple weeks ago the framer called to tell me one of my paintings for Art Prize had been accidentally destroyed. A pipe had burst in the ceiling over his shop and mine plus eight other people’s projects had gotten drenched. Tim, the framer, was distraught. I was the last person he’d called that morning and he’d been sick three times already.

I went over to his store and looked at the piece, decided it wasn’t salvageable, took a picture for my records, and reassured him I wasn’t upset. Then I went back to my studio to think about what the next step would be.

Since this piece was slated for Art Prize, it would be one of three things:

  1. Alert the venue that The Skelly Dance had met with an unfortunate accident and ask whether or not I could substitute another piece in its place (fortunately, I’d just finished Bona Lisa the same week);
  2. Tell the venue that The Skelly Dance had met with an unfortunate accident and just go with six pieces for Art Prize;
  3. Re-do it, in which case I needed to order supplies.

You’ll notice that nowhere on this list is the step in which I panic. At the time I thought it was odd that I wasn’t more upset about the loss, but then I thought, “You’ve been through this before.”

Deja flooping vu

It’s true. Last year I lost four original skelly paintings and a slew of prints during the flooding in St. Augustine from Hurricane Matthew. That was pretty ouchy, but at the time, the gallery owner thought she might be able to arrange compensation through her insurance company.

As I should have guessed, flooding, which is what happened to my skellies down south, doesn’t count as compensatable damage. I think the hurricane actually has to leave a signed confession before an insurance company will agree that it will cover any losses due to one coming ashore for a visit.

Back to the drawing board, er, easel

After mulling it over, I went with steps 1 and 3. I alerted the venue and they agreed to take the Bona Lisa in lieu of The Skelly Dance, but then I decided to re-do The Skelly Dance anyway.

I’ve got time, after all. Art Prize isn’t until mid-September. Also, I’m a little leery about substituting art work without clearing it with Art Prize first. I’ve heard of people being disqualified from that show for small infractions. I could try to get a new piece juried in, but it’s way past the deadline now, so I will happily forgo opening up that can of worms altogether and count myself lucky this happened when it did.

Onward and upward

Besides, if there’s one thing I’ve learned since I started making art every day, it’s if you did it once, you can do it again.

Nothing is so precious that it can’t be re-worked, or re-designed, or re-made from scratch. It was painting every day that taught me this lesson and I’m grateful for it. Because of this I can let something like the destruction of a piece roll over me like water off a duck’s back.

But I’ll tell you something—I went out and got an insurance policy for my art last week, because while a positive attitude can take you a long way, cash money makes for a smoother ride.

 

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