pastel painting of a red headed man and two ginger spotted chihuahuas

Three Gingers

 

pastel painting of a red headed man and two ginger spotted chihuahuas

Three Gingers, 6×9″ pastel on board, $110.

I saw this young man with his two sweet dogs walking out in front of my shop and asked him if I could have a picture. He said they were two rescues. Cute pups. One of them needs a hernia operation and he was visiting the pawn shop nearby, presumably to come up with the money for her? I couldn’t resist their faces and they seem so calm and happy with him. I called it Three Gingers because the little dogs each have ginger colored patches that matched their master’s hair.

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Rainbows

You might not know this about me, but I have rainbow children. You know, kids with alphabet soup letters attached to them, specifically LGBTQ?

It’s partly why I made these wings on the front of my gallery. I mean, I started them with the idea that I was going to participate in a fundraiser/publicity event. If you haven’t heard about it, the local hospital started an endowment to help local cancer patients to pay for their care. The people of Ludington decided to go for a Guiness World Record for the most sand angels to raise awareness. A lot of businesses in town decided to make angel wings for people (or their pets) to pose in front of and to encourage people to donate to the fund. That’s what I was doing, too, when I created these wings.

I put them on my big front picture window in front of the gallery with the intent of filling them in with blue and aqua and green, like a macaw’s wings. But when I got to the point where I needed to add the colors, I reached for the red instead, and before I knew it I had made rainbow wings.

I have a history of rainbow-izing things. Way back when I decided to paint the wrought iron pillars on my porch in rainbow colors. At that time I was already a rainbow mom, but I didn’t know it yet. Eventually my daughter told me she liked girls and I hoped like hell it was a phase she was going through. I advised her to wait and see if things changed. And bless her heart, she did try to date boys. It didn’t work very well.

But I still wasn’t ready to accept her as gay. Her dad’s reaction was so much better. When she told him, he said, “I totally understand, because I like girls, too.”

And then when my middle child told me she was trans, I still couldn’t accept it. I thought, this is because of the internet! Instead of feeling lucky that my kid felt secure enough to share this very personal thing with me, I did everything I could to convince myself and her that she’d made a mistake. Was she sure she wanted to be this way when the whole world was going to hate her for it?

What a dumb question! Who chooses to be reviled and hated? No one, that’s who. We all want to be loved. We all deserve to be loved, no matter who we love.

But I had issues. I thought I had everything all figured out. But I couldn’t get my head around this.

Growing up, I had no experience with gay, unless you count bad ones. My brothers used to brag about “beating up queers” in Saugatuck. No one censured them for it. Gay people were viewed as twisted in my family, and “asking for it.” I had a vague idea that this was not right, but I never did anything about it. It didn’t touch me, personally. I didn’t know anyone who was gay, or if I did, I wasn’t aware of it.

My mom used to reminisce about her favorite cousin. He was a snazzy dresser, he had a convertible, he used to take her and her sister out dancing. And he was so polite! A real gentleman, she said. Later, I figured out that he was gay. She never talked about him that way because, you know, it wasn’t talked about when she was young.

I had no early training on how to be a parent to gay kids, unless it was negative training. And I carried this with me through my adult life. When my kids came out to me, my first thought was, “What will my family think?” Because that really scared me. I was afraid my family would disapprove and that they would blame me for the way my kids were.

Thank god for my husband. He was so normal about it all, that it helped me think of it as normal, too. And I did a lot of reading. I talked to people. I wrote about it. I mean, I love my kids, all of them, no matter their gender. They’re my kids. They’re the people I’m the most passionate about, the ones I’d defend with my life. I want them to be happy, more than I want my parents or siblings to be happy.

I’m still figuring it out, of course. And these wings are part of my process. I made them for all the rainbow children and rainbow parents here in Ludington. The wings are part of the fundraiser, too, but mostly they’re for my tribe, my rainbow people. Fly, be free.

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pastel painting of a dog running along a path in the woods

I’m Gonna Run to You

Here’s my daughter Alice and her wife Sandra’s dog, Panda. He’s running through the woods at a park where they like to take him for walks. He’s such a good boy. They have been training him to do “nose” work. That’s where you teach your dog to find things based on the smell. Alice says it’s a lot of fun and it completely wears him out to go to the classes. This is a good thing because Panda is a very energetic doggy. Whenever I visit them Panda knows that he’s going to be asked to run through all the tricks he knows and then there’ll be treats!

pastel painting of a dog running along a path in the woods

I’m Gonna Run to You, 6×9″ pastel on board, $110.

If you’d like a portrait of your or someone else’s best friend, please check out my commissions page for more information. Pet portraits make great gifts!

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pastel painting of a german shepherd puppy

Did You Just Call Me a Good Boy?

I thought so.

So, I’m toying with the idea of a doggy a day painting for the rest of the summer. I have roughly three months to get better at pet portraits and it’s certainly not hard to find subjects! I have a bunch of good boys and girls walking by my store every day with their owners. I’ll just start asking them if I can take their picture.

Here’s my start.

pastel painting of a german shepherd puppy

Did You Just Call Me a Good Boy? 8×10″ pastel on gator board with clear gesso, double matted, no frame. $145.

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Pastel painting of a tree with pink blooms

Pinked

Pastel painting of a tree with pink blooms

Pinked, 5×7″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia. $90.

I was driving into town to work today and was gobsmacked by the flowers on all the trees. You know those pink ones with the really giant blooms on them? I love those things. If I had one in my yard I think I’d just stare at it all day so long as the flowers lasted. I took a lot of reference photos just in case the wind blew all the blooms away and then I did this little painting when I got in my studio. It’s fluttery and windswept and pink, just like those trees.

 

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pastel painting of a man on a log in the forest

Sitting on a Log

pastel painting of a man on a log in the forest

Sitting on a Log, 5×7″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia. $90.

This little painting is about sitting on top of a log in the middle of the Manistee National Forest. Steve and I had gone walking around a potential camping spot near the Pere Marquette River and started wandering along a deer path. Deer seem to pick out the prettiest places to walk along. Anyway, we came across this huge tree across the path and naturally, Steve wanted to climb aboard and pose for a picture. I love living around here.

This is one of my daily paintings. If you would like to purchase it, please email me.

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pastel painting of a small lake

Untitled Lake

pastel painting of a small lake

Untitled Lake, 5×7″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia. $90.

This is a painting from a little lake that Steve and I circumnavigated on Saturday. It was one of the many bright spots in a four hour span spent wandering around the Manistee National Forest, not looking for mushrooms.

As much as I am grateful for more people wandering around out in the woods, sometimes I just want to be out there alone, you know? Saturday we decided not to join the throngs of morel mushroom seekers and just go someplace quiet. This little lake, or pond, really, fit the bill nicely. We brought out the binoculars and watched some turtles sunning themselves on a little hummock out in the middle of the water. The sky was deep blue and reflecting off the surface of the lake. We listened to the birds. Then we walked all the way around it, finding a hollow beech tree off the path with a mound of pretty fresh porcupine poop all on one side. The dogs were very interested.

If you would like to purchase this painting, please email me.

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pastel painting of a river

Kink in the River

pastel painting of a river

Kink in the River, 5×7″ pastel on gessoed mat board by Marie Marfia

Today I had a mammogram. This is not my favorite thing in the world. I’m sure I’m not the only one. I never know what to do with my hands. And I’m uncomfortable being the only one in the room who’s topless.

Maybe if I was in my twenties or thirties, but not nowadays. Nowadays I’m almost 60 and I’m not interested in letting everything hang out there in the fresh air. Nude beaches? Not so much. That’s not to say I wouldn’t try it, but I’d have to see it first, see if there was anyone else like me out there, nekkid.

Still not comfortable in my own skin. I wonder if I’ll ever be?

About the painting

This daily painting is from a photo I took on a high bluff over the Pere Marquette River in the Manistee National Forest. Steve and I had just sat down to rest for a minute and I was struck by the bright reflection of the sky and the diagonal of the trees in the background. I like the sweep of last year’s leaves in the front of this piece and the green, purple and orange colors. The swirling brush strokes capture the movement of the water. This piece reminds me how lucky I am to live here.

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Sky on Fire

pastel painting of morning sky

Sky on Fire, 5×7″ pastel on gessoed mat board by Marie Marfia

I stepped outside this morning, letting the dogs out to pee, and when I turned around, this happened.

The sky was on fire and it held me spell bound as I walked down the dirt road opposite our house. The dogs didn’t seem to notice anything out of the ordinary, but to them, every day is the best day. It’s just humans who make a fuss about sunrises and sunsets.

I brushed out my first attempt at this and started over, trying to paint how I felt instead of what I thought I saw. They’re two different things, you know.

 

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Rituals

watercolor of a big dune with pine trees along the crest

Tree Line and Dune, 4×6″ watercolor postcard by Marie Marfia. $60. 

In the mornings, I take the broom and dustpan and I sweep the kitchen floor. Then I lay out my yoga mat and select the Yoga Studio app on my iPad. I turn the volume down to about 4 so that it doesn’t wake Steve sleeping in the bedroom. For the next half hour I concentrate on my body and my breathing and try not to think about anything else. Of course my brain is always churning but after three years I feel like I’m making progress.

When I go to the studio, I have other rituals. To prep for a pastel painting, first I see what’s available in my pile of mat board odds and ends. Then I think about what size I want and trim the mat board to fit. I attach it to a foam core board with artist tape and put it on the easel. Next I get out my clear gesso and a large brush and slather it on. I like to play with the brush strokes, depending on my mood. Most times they’re organic and curvy, sometimes they’re straight and uniform. While the mat board dries I print out a reference photo and make a notan or two, then a color study on a small piece of paper. By then my mat board is dry and ready to be painted and I’m eager to begin.

If I’m doing a watercolor postcard, the ritual is much quicker. First I pick a reference photo from the gallery on my phone, load my travel brush with water, open my mini-watercolor paint set, line up a piece of paper and begin!

I find that rituals are important because they put my mind in the right place. They help me get ready for the day, for my work, for creating. If I don’t do my rituals I feel lost, adrift and rudderless. Rituals point me in the direction that I want to go.

This spring I’ve started a new ritual, walking around in the woods near where we live. We put the dogs in the truck, pack the long leashes, a few treats, water, the plat book and maps, and then we drive around the Manistee National Forest. We might be looking for camping spots or maybe places where we might find mushrooms. We find a place to park and let the dogs out and then we wander. Sometimes we walk along the Pere Marquette River, sometimes we discover a little lake or pond and find traces of beaver or muskrat. Sometimes we just walk along the sandy roads, following the dogs following their noses.

The forest changes every day. The light is different, with the leaves and ferns reflecting the sun or the clouds, depending. I need to be out under the trees, tramping across the leaf litter, feeling the sun or the wind on my face. It recharges me spiritually and emotionally and it inspires my paintings. It’s being out in the woods, smelling flowers and dirt, hearing the wind in the leaves, seeing the creatures that are out there, feeling the texture of bark and grasses, that really helps me understand what I’m painting. I can’t get that experience by just driving by or watching it on television or seeing a picture of it on someone’s Facebook feed.

It’s really wonderful to be back in Michigan after so many years away. When we left I had been walking in the forest every day but I wasn’t yet a pastel artist. Now that we’re back here again I’m taking up my old ritual of being in the forest and combining it with my new ritual of daily painting. I am looking forward to what’s going to happen with this new combination. I expect it’s going to be awesome.

 

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