Category Archives: Animals

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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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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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 portait of a grumpy tortoise

No. 88, Mr. Grumpy Pants

Actually, I have no idea if this tortoise is feeling grumpy or not. This might just be his resting tortoise face. Maybe he’s feeling ecstatically happy right now. I bet tortoises would make excellent poker players.

This morning I attended an artist’s critique get together and signed up for membership in the Ludington Area Center for the Arts while I was there. Then I had an enjoyable lunch with five other artists. This is so much fun, meeting arty people and doing arty things. It’s hard to believe that I lived so long without any of this in my life.

I feel like I want to live as long as this tortoise guy, just so I can catch up on everything I’ve been missing, you know?

Pastel portait of a grumpy tortoise

Mr. Grumpy Pants, No. 88, 100 Portraits in 100 Days, 6×9″ pastel portrait on gessoed mat board by Marie Marfia.

Thank you to Eric Kilby for contributing the photo reference for this piece. Here’s a link to the Creative Commons Flickr group where I found it.

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pastel painting of a dachshund puppy dog

No. 84, Kippy

I made a few new furry friends over the weekend when Steve and I went to visit his mom. She lives in an assisted living facility in Flint, Michigan. As soon as we arrived we hustled her down to the lobby because there were puppies!

Well, they’re probably grown dogs, but they’re miniature dachshunds so they look tiny and are so much fun to pet and hold! Miss Diana likes to pet them a little but she’s mostly there to spend time with Johanna, her friend. Johanna loves the dogs and she makes a point of coming to see them whenever they visit. She has a particular favorite, Shelby, who sits on her lap like a little queen and allows herself to be petted by no one but Johanna for the entire hour. It’s cute and sweet and makes Johanna so happy.

Kippy, the puppy I painted today, was off being held by someone else. I snuck in a picture of him to paint later and here it is.

pastel painting of a dachshund puppy dog

Kippy, No. 84, 100 Portraits in 100 Days, 6×9″ pastel on gessoed mat board by Marie Marfia. Available here.

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pastel of a woman and her cat, sleeping

No. 11, 100 Portraits in 100 Days

Here’s Kelly and her kitty. They look so comfortable snoozing like that together. I miss my cat sometimes. She was a clever kitty. But Steve is allergic to cats so our last cat was our last cat.

pastel of a woman and her cat, sleeping

Kelly and cat, No. 11, 100 Portraits in 100 Days, 6×9″ pastel on UArt 400 sanded paper, mounted on foam core, by Marie Marfia. This painting is available ($100 plus $12 shipping). Contact me to purchase.

Here are the progress pictures:

Read more about my 100 Portraits in 100 Days project, and follow along on Facebook or Instagramor TwitterSign up for my newsletter and be the first to see my portraits as I finish them!

 

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Nick and Abby, Warm and Cool

I did these two studies while I was working at the Attic last weekend. I combined two different photos for the reference and then tried it twice, once on warm toned paper and once on a cool toned paper. Which do you like best?

child and dog on the beach on warm toned paper

Nick and Abby, warm, 5×8″ pastel on paper by Marie Marfia. $75, unframed. Contact me to purchase.

Nick-and-Abby-cool-800

Nick and Abby, Cool, 5×8″ pastel on paper by Marie Marfia. $75, unframed. Contact me to purchase.

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Eagle 19, Alone in the Dark

This morning I woke up hearing Joni Mitchell singing “Help me…” in my head. The last couple of days have been a slog. I seem to be crabby all the time and I can’t make myself do anything about it. I want to crawl back into bed and forget about everything I still have to do for this show coming up. I don’t feel like walking or shopping or framing or painting. I just want to sit in a puddle and feel sorry for myself.

Here’s the thing, though. I write it all down, just how crappy I feel, puking it all out on paper, and eventually, I feel better. Not 100%, but better, maybe 30% better. I write a little more and pretty soon I’m giving myself a pep talk about how everything will work out okay if I’m patient, if I take things one step at a time. Gradually, I begin to feel like I could do one of the things on my list.

So, I went online and spent about $500 for everything I’ll need for next weekend. I’m excited, a bit daunted, but at least I have a plan. 50 prints, 150 cards, 7 paintings and 1 giveaway, plus a partridge in a pear tree, or a beer in a tree, depending on where you’re from and who you listened to growing up.

It’ll all be okay. I just have to remember that when I’m feeling alone and helpless, I have the power to make it better. I can do things, write things, make things. It’s enough.

pastel painting of two eaglets asleep in the nest

Eagle 19, Alone in the Dark, 6×9″ pastel on gessoed mat board by Marie Marfia

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Eagle 17, Attitude Adjustment

pastel painting of a bald eagle on the nest with eaglets

Eagle 17, Attitude Adjustment, 6×9″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia.

Eagle 17, Attitude Adjustment

When we lived in Ludington and Steve was working long hours, I was faced with making dinner every night after work. I was so depleted at the end of the day that coming up with a meal was just too much on top of everything else. So I enlisted the kids to take a day a week and decide what to make for dinner, then I’d help them put it together. That plan was in place for probably three weeks, which in the overall scheme of things, isn’t very long, but it helped. I got a break, they felt like they were contributing, so it was good.

Parenting for me so far has been a series of short experiments. I’ll try this new approach to discipline that I just read about on the internet, and next week it’ll be a how to talk to your teenager book I found at the library. The week after it’ll be something my girlfriend told me about that worked for getting her kid to clean up his room. I am always trying to improve my parenting self.

One of the first things I remember figuring out was how not to be funny at my children’s expense. You know how it is when you’re telling a parenting story and it starts to sound like complaining but it’s funny and you can’t stop. Pretty soon people think your kids are awful, when actually, they’re just being kids.

I decided one day to just tell people, if they asked, that my kids were perfect. Because they were. They were perfect examples of children. At least, that’s how I thought of it.

Instead of actively taking notes about how hard it was being a mom, I started memorizing all the good stuff. Instead of telling the story about Alice walking on her baby brother when I wasn’t looking, I told the story about how she cuddled him in her arms. Instead of whining about how Sam kept me up all night, I talked about how much he loved to be held. Instead of talking about Nick sneaking into the health department building after hours with his friends, I bragged about how he had built-in GPS and always knew where he was.

My friends started telling me they wished I’d been their mother. And this always stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t think of myself as a good mom. I just practiced thinking of my kids as good kids.

Maybe I can take that early lesson about my attitude toward my children and apply it to myself. Rather than make a daily catalog of my failures, what would happen if I made a list of my successes instead? If I started toting up all the examples of what makes me a perfect example of myself, it would maybe change how I feel about me. It’s worth a try.

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