Category Archives: Old (Dead) Masters

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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Vincent Van Skelly

Vincent Van Skelly

Another in my Old (Dead) Masters series, Vincent Van Skelly is my homage to the wonderful Vincent Van Gogh and his Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.

I liked the original piece because it’s all complementary colors, green and red and orange and I liked that he chose to paint himself with his bandaged ear foremost. Like he was saying, here I am, with all my faults, now deal with it.

I imagine he was sorry that he’d lost his temper, and in the process, a good friend, Gaugin, because of it. I can relate. I have a quick and violent temper myself, although I’ve been a lot calmer lately. I think it’s because of yoga every day. I wonder if Vincent would have been happier with a daily yoga practice? Well, probably non-lead paints would have helped, too.

Want to know something interesting? On the page opposite this picture in the book Van Gogh’s Van Goghs, there is a picture of a skull that Van Gogh painted. How do you like that? I’ll bet he wasn’t working from an anatomically correct resin repro either. I wonder how hard it was to get a real skull to work with back in those days?

Here are the progress pics:

The original Vincent Van Skelly is available in my shop, and also as a signed 8×10″ print, a signed 11×14″ print and a greeting card.

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Skelly with a Pearl Earring by Marie Marfia

Skelly with a Pearl Earring

Here’s my take on Johannes Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring.” I can’t remember now how I happened to decide on this one for my Old (Dead) Masters series, but it might have had something to do with my scaling my artwork down right now while we wait for our house to sell.

All my studio is packed away and has been for weeks and it just got to the point where I decided I’d rather paint small than not at all! Accordingly, this is a relatively small painting, only 8×10″, perfect for an apartment or tiny house!

Here are my progress pics for this piece:

 

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pastel painting of homage to Reginal Marsh's High Yaller

High Skeller

Whew! She’s done and I’m so glad. You ever have a project that you want to finish but you just can’t seem to move forward on it? That was me last week.

Finally, I sat down and wrote a short piece about a person named Marie who just got down to it and finished the painting she’d been wanting to finish. Then I decided to hold myself accountable by live streaming the process. And it worked! Something about having someone in the room watching me actually do the painting really motivated me to finish it.

So, I’m very happy to present my beautiful skelly in yellow for your viewing pleasure. See the guy in the back? He’s enjoying her, too.

pastel painting of homage to Reginal Marsh's High Yaller

High Skeller, 20×16″ pastel painting on gator board with pumice ground by Marie Marfia.

Here’s my Work in Progress pics.

And if you’d like to purchase my darling girl, you can do that in my shop. She’s all dressed up and ready to go! She’s also available as a 8×10″ print or a 5×7″ greeting card.

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pastel painting of a boat on the water based on Edward Hopper's Ground Swell

Ground Skel

pastel painting of a boat on the water based on Edward Hopper's Ground Swell

Ground Skel, 16×20″ pastel on gator board with pumice ground, by Marie Marfia.

I thought about Ground Skelly, but then I went with Ground Skel because I love puns.

This piece was a joy to build, from start to finish, but I think I’m definitely going need more blue pastels soon! I love the swoop of the sloop and the way all the angles work within the composition. The clouds make this cunning dotted line across the sky and the waves roll forward like folds in a blanket. Steve asked me what was holding the sailors’ pants up and I said it was the same magic that allowed them to sail a boat!

I have to tell you, this Old (Dead) Masters series has given me so much pleasure, just in the few that I’ve done. I can’t wait to get on to the next one and see what I’ll learn from it.

Here are a couple work in progress pics for your viewing pleasure.

IMG_3445

The charcoal sketch.

IMG_3447

Skeleton crew.

Here’s the link to the original in my shop, and here is the greeting card. I’ll have prints available at The Starving Artist and The Attic soon.

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WIP, The Kiss of Death

That’s a working title, too, by the way. I still am not convinced it’s the final.

Oh boy. Have I been having fun with this one.

At first, I had a huge reluctance to work on it at all. I finally sat down and wrote about it and decided the reason I was fighting it was I didn’t know how I was going to manage the gold leaf part of the painting. Put it on first? Last? What was going to happen with the pastels? Would they all play nice together?

The Kiss of Death, WIP

The Kiss of Death, WIP. This is where I stopped and had to think about what I was doing.

So I decided to experiment and get it all straight in my head before going any further.

The Kiss of Death, WIP

First, I took a piece of gator board and brushed some clear gesso on it to replicate the texture on my big board. I decided to see if scribbling some lines into the gesso would hold up under the leafing. In the Klimt painting you can see where there is some relief going on under the gold. I wanted to see if I could get the same effect with gesso. After the gesso dried, I brushed on the adhesive from the gold leaf kit.

The Kiss of Death, WIP

I also experimented with some other kinds of gold making. Here’s a couple of pens and a pot of leafing finish.

The Kiss of Death, WIP

Definitely, the gold leaf is the brightest of all four. And it seems to work well with the gesso relief, too. Yay!

So, with this done, I was free to play once again.

The Kiss of Death, WIP

I brushed out some of the pastel that I had already done, reasoning that it would be easier to to the gold leaf first and put a texture on top of it, and then pastel than the other way around. You can see where I used the end of the paint brush to put in the swirls and circles. I let that dry, then brushed everything that was getting leafed with the adhesive.

The Kiss of Death, WIP

Here you can see the gold leaf plus the brushed on metallic paint all around the background. I may have to go over this with an acrylic wash to darken it some more. This stuff is BRIGHT! Don’t want to blind anyone! You can see some of the gesso texture coming through.

Stay tuned, skelly lovers! This is starting to get good!


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The Kiss

This one is going to be great!

That is, I hope it’s going to be great. I love Gustav Klimt’s paintings and all the beautiful gilding on them. A friend suggested I do a skelly painting based on The Kiss and I thought, why not? It’s iconic, it’s romantic, it’s gold!

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, subject of my next Skelly painting!

The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, subject of my next Skelly painting! This image courtesy Wikipedia.

For this piece, I ordered some gator board. If I’m going to put gold leaf on this, it’s got to be on a pretty stiff ground. Paper is so flexible I’m afraid the gold would flake off. So here you can see I’ve started with black gator board. (I buy it at Uline, in case you were wondering.)

The gesture drawing on black gator board.

The gesture drawing on 18×18″ black gator board.

The gesture drawing on black gator board, detail

The gesture drawing on black gator board, detail

I love this piece already because of the patterns in the ground and on the clothing. I love the brush strokes in the background. I’ll start with the bones first, then work on the green ground with all the flowers, put in all the clothing details that are in color, then last, but not least, I’ll put the gold in. I have some gold leafing supplies, plus gold paint, plus gold metallic markers, so I ought to be all set.

I am probably too excited about this, but whatever! I’m just going to let it wash over me while I work. Stay tuned.

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Madame X-Ray has a new home

happy couple holding Madame X-Ray and some prints

Stephanie and James with Madame X-Ray and prints from my show at The Red Sable, October 2015.

Congratulations, Stephanie and James, on your newest acquisition to your skeleton art collection! It makes me happy that you loved Madame X-Ray so much that you just had to take her home with you! May she bring you joy.

I enjoyed talking with them about skeleton art and I’m excited about making plans for next year’s Day of the Dead Festival in St. Augustine, Florida. It’s gonna be great! Stephanie and James, hope to see you there!


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The Skelly Dance

pastel painting of skeletonized Matisse's The Dance

The Skelly Dance, 20×30″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia. $600.

detail of a pastel painting of skeletonized Matisse's The Dance

The Skelly Dance, 20×30″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia.

detail of a pastel painting of skeletonized Matisse's The Dance

The Skelly Dance, detail, 20×30″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia.

detail of a pastel painting of skeletonized Matisse's The Dance

The Skelly Dance, detail, 20×30″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia.

detail of a pastel painting of skeletonized Matisse's The Dance

The Skelly Dance, detail, 20×30″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia.

detail of a pastel painting of skeletonized Matisse's The Dance

The Skelly Dance, detail, 20×30″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia.

detail of a pastel painting of skeletonized Matisse's The Dance

The Skelly Dance, detail, 20×30″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia.

So here is my homage piece to Henri Matisse’s The Dance, except, of course, I substituted skeletons for all the dancers, because that’s what I do! Hope you like it. The original pastel painting is available for purchase ($600). Contact me by email and I’ll set up payment and delivery.

Stay tuned, as soon as I get a nice high res photo of it, I will be offering prints in my shop.

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Closing in on done

The Skelly Dance, WIP

The Skelly Dance, WIP

Do you ever get to a point in a project when you just want to be finished? That’s where I am right now. But I know it’s not finished yet. So I’m going to set it aside for a while and figure out what’s bothering me about it and really be done when I say I’m done. I’m close, but there are still lots of parts of this that I’m not happy about. If I didn’t think I could fix them, I’d quit right now. But I can do this.

So you’ll be seeing this one again, but it might take a little while. Some things come clear after you let go of them for a bit. This feels like that sort of project.

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