Category Archives: Old (Dead) Masters

Ground Skel

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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Marie Marfia, The Kiss (Skelly Lovers), soft pastel, gold leaf on gessoed gator board, 18x18"

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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Marie Marfia, Madame X-Ray, soft pastel on sanded paper, 12x6"

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.

Madame X-Ray has a new home! 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!

Pastel painting of a skeleton posing in a formal gown
Madame X-Ray by Marie Marfia. Sold. See alternative purchasing options below.

For Madame X-Ray fans, please note. You can download a pdf or jpg file of Madame X-Ray for personal use in my Etsy shop or you can purchase a version printed on practically anything in my Fine Art America shop. You can also find her in my Signed Cards shop. I also have cards in my Square shop. Enjoy!


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The Skelly Dance

pastel painting of skeletonized Matisse's The Dance
Marie Marfia, The Skelly Dance, soft pastel on sanded paper, 20×30″. Original unavailable.
detail of a pastel painting of skeletonized Matisse's The Dance
The Skelly Dance, detail.
detail of a pastel painting of skeletonized Matisse's The Dance
The Skelly Dance, detail.
detail of a pastel painting of skeletonized Matisse's The Dance
The Skelly Dance, detail.
detail of a pastel painting of skeletonized Matisse's The Dance
The Skelly Dance, detail.
detail of a pastel painting of skeletonized Matisse's The Dance
The Skelly Dance, detail.
detail of a pastel painting of skeletonized Matisse's The Dance
The Skelly Dance, detail.

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 was lost in an accident at the framer’s, unfortunately. But there is another original available because I had contracted to show the piece in Art Prize Nine and so I re-painted it. Read about that show here.

And there are prints, cards and various novelty prints available in my Fine Art America, Etsy and Signed Cards shops. See the links to those in the menu.


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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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The Skelly Dance, work in progress

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The Skelly Dance, work in progress

The Dance by Henri Matisse

The Dance by Henri Matisse

I have begun another in the Old (Dead) Masters series. This is based on Henri Matisse’s The Dance, which is another classic work that I love.

I think what I like best about this painting is the dancing, of course. I also love how their arms make a heart shape. I love the colors, red against cool blue and green. I love that they’re naked. It’s interesting that once I make them into skeletons, there won’t be any way to tell what sex they are.

I did another version of this back when I was in college, but this is the first time I’m tackling it with skeletons. It’s also the largest pastel I’ve ever done. Matisse’s work was around a hundred inches tall by a hundred fifty inches wide. Mine will be 20 x 30″, only a fifth of the size of his. I think about how much canvas he covered and it makes me want to paint really big, too. I swear, before the end of the year, I will find a way to make something enormous-sized. I want to use my whole body to draw.

I’m going for the same primitive feel for my skellies as Matisse used in his painting, so trying to limit the detail. It’s a lot of fun, as usual. Can skeletons ever not be fun?

Here’s some progress shots. More to come, so stay tuned!

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Pastel painting of a skeleton posing in a formal gown

All framed up…

….and some place to go. She’s such a little drama queen. I think putting her in an ornate gold frame was a good idea. It’s the perfect finish and gives her a truly Old (Dead) Masters feel. I took a picture of her in the garden behind my house. She’s looks quite the coquette, hiding behind those purple leaves.

Madame X-Ray, framed up and ready for the show! Sold!

Madame X-Ray will be at The Red Sable beginning on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 along with three others from the Old (Dead) Masters series, plus seven paintings from Greetings from St. Augustine and three Skelly Dancers. They’re going to be there all October, along with matted 5×7″ prints and small notecards. I’ve already sold one piece from the O(D)M (I’ll tell you all about it on a later post), but Madame is available for $270, which includes her splendid gilded frame. Contact me if you’d like to purchase her.

You’ve got some place quiet and secluded for her to be, don’t you? She won’t want to compete with anyone else for space. And even though she’s small, just 10 inches wide by 14 inches tall with the frame, she’s going to command a lot of attention. Drama queen, remember?


Pastel painting of a skeleton posing in a formal gown
Madame X-Ray reproductions available!

For Madame X-Ray fans, please note. You can download a pdf or jpg file of Madame X-Ray for personal use in my Etsy shop or you can purchase a version printed on practically anything in my Fine Art America shop. You can also find her in my Signed Cards shop. Enjoy!

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Marie Marfia, Au Moulin Skelly, soft pastel on paper, 19.5x17".

Au Moulin Skelly

Au Moulin Skelly, 19×17″ pastel on paper by Marie Marfia. This painting is available for purchase. Email me to arrange payment and shipping.

So Au Moulin Skelly is done, done and done! While working on it I got to thinking about bars and how I used to enjoy going to them when I was younger. You know, BK (before kids). I remember looking forward to the weekends, getting dressed up, dancing with my friends, drinking to excess…

Those days are way behind me now, but painting this nightclub scene, with all these skeletons clearly having a great night on the town, reminded me how much fun that used to be.

I can’t help but imagine the stories behind all the figures. Like the guy at the top left looks like he’s either on his way to the men’s room or he just got rebuffed by the two beauties primping in front of the mirror. What do you suppose they’re all talking about at the table in the middle? And why is that woman photo bombing the picture from the right? Let me know in the comments what you think! Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec probably had a lot of fun painting the original. I know it was fun to recreate it peopled with skeletons!

Pretty happy with the way this turned out. I hope you all like it as much as I do. Click the link if you want to learn more about the Original Red Mill (Au Moulin Rouge).

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