Category Archives: painting a day

Marie Marfia, Juniper Tree, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10x8 in.

First paint out in the snow!

I’m so proud of myself! I drove 2 1/2 hours to the Paw Paw Prairie Fen Preserve to paint outside in the snow!

If you don’t know, I recently joined the Plein Air Artists of West Michigan group so that I could do more painting, where else? outdoors! This was my first time meeting up with them and it went really, really well.

Drat!

Well, except I dumped over my pastels within the first hour, but it was fine. No one could hear me swearing because I was up the hill and around a bend and you know what I always say, think of your pastels as already broken. Fortunately, they landed in the snow so they were mostly okay and I recovered them all except a black one which I accidentally stepped on. I hardly ever use black anyway. No idea why it was in the box in the first place.

Paw Paw Prairie Fen Preserve.

If you’ve never been to the Paw Paw Prairie Fen Preserve I can tell you that it’s an absolutely lovely place to paint in the snow. The weather on Saturday, February 26 was pretty nice, in the mid twenties and we had mostly blue skies with some interesting clouds from 11 am until 4 pm.

I met Richard Jordan, the director of the group, and he gave us some quick ideas about where we might like to set up. There were 5 or 6 of us all together. I got the award for longest distance traveled, but someone came all the way from Lansing and another from Grand Rapids. My excuse was that I planned to stay over at my daughter’s house before heading back up north. A chance to spend time with my granddaughter Maeve is a great reason to get out of the house.

Lessons learned about painting outdoors in cold weather, 1. hot packs go on the tops of your hands inside your gloves (figured that out before my palms got burned, thankyouverymuch); 2. Holding my backing board works in a pinch when it’s too windy to use the easel; 3. snow pants kept me toasty warm; 4. using a sled to transport my gear up hill and over dale was a brilliant idea; 5. painting outside in the cold really takes it out of you; 6. I was starving by the end, so I’m really glad I packed a lunch!

Here are some pictures of what I did and where I was:

It was a great first winter paint out experience and a very nice group of artists. I will definitely paint with this group again.


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Marie Marfia, Steve by the Pool, watercolor and sharpie on watercolor paper.

Travel diary

While I was out in Tucson last week with Steve, visiting his brother, Will, and our friend, Pam, I made a point of doing a small sketch every day. I brought a watercolor sketchbook to make a visual record of the trip because I think using different mediums is fun and it gives you a chance to stretch your brain a bit. I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older I am reluctant to take chances, and while it’s understandable, it doesn’t mean I have to go along with it all the time.

The portable watercolor kit I have is very small, pocket-sized, and I use a small brush with a water reservoir in the handle. Once I exhausted the water in the brush I was done for the day. Each piece took no longer than a half hour to do, so it was easy to fit into my schedule, especially since I was the only early riser in our group! I would wander out with my kit and paint the first thing that caught my eye.

Pam’s place, where we stayed, buts up against natural desert habitat and she also has horses, so there was plenty of subject matter to play with.

Horses, sharpie on watercolor paper.
Easy, watercolor on watercolor paper.
Hungry Horse, watercolor on watercolor paper.
Cast shadow, watercolor on watercolor paper.
Cast shadow, watercolor on watercolor paper.
Pam’s Cacti, watercolor on watercolor paper.
Steve by the Pool, sharpie and watercolor on watercolor paper.
Carolyn’s Tree, watercolor on watercolor paper.
Skeleton Face with Flowers, watercolor and sharpie on watercolor paper.

Hope you enjoy these postcards of my trip out to the warm southwest!


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You can buy my art imprinted on all kinds of cool stuff in my Fine Art America Shop. You can purchase downloads in my Etsy shop or cards imprinted with a personal message and mailed for you in my Signed Cards store. Buy greeting cards, prints and stickers in my Square shop. Please contact me directly about purchasing original artwork. Thanks!

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Marie Marfia, Winter Sunset Surprise, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8x10"

Winter Sunset Surprise

Sunsets are tricky. They’re beautiful to watch, but capturing them on paper is a different story.

I was scrolling through my photos references and a sunset picture caught my eye. I liked the dark clouds overhead, the band of yellow orange on the horizon and the dark lake with waves rolling in. But sunsets can be frustrating to paint. The colors you think ought to be there somehow don’t look right on the paper. However, I’d just learned a way of figuring out colors using the eyedropper tool and a color wheel in Photoshop, so I thought I’d try it and see what happened.

The first surprise was the little bit of sky peaking out on the left side of the piece. When I sampled it with the eyedropper tool, the color wheel showed a yellow green. Normally I would put an aqua in there, something more blue than green. The second surprise was the water. It registered as a dark reddish blue. I would have used a blue trending towards yellow there. Hmm. The third surprise was in the heart of the sun. That showed up on the color wheel as a bluish yellow, not a reddish yellow as I would have guessed. All of a sudden, this potential painting was not just another sunset. It was an experiment, and I was eager to see what would develop.

Winter Sunset Surprise time-lapse

I used a warm alcohol wash underpainting–red, orange and yellow–to start with. Then I blocked in whatever caught my eye, without thinking too much about what I was doing or where I would end up. I was careful to use the colors I discovered in the color wheel, however. When I got to the water I went back to my dark red to put in the waves and was very happy with the result. It all meshes together pretty beautifully I think. Sweet!

Marie Marfia, Winter Sunset Surprise, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8x10".
Winter Sunset Surprise, soft pastel on sanded paper with warm underpainting, 8×10″. $800.

On another subject, what do you think about a pastel class that is all about sunsets? Should we all paint the same sunset? Or each do a different one? Is a 3-hour class long enough to finish or should it be more than one session? Leave your comments and let me know what you think!


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You can buy my art imprinted on all kinds of cool stuff in my Fine Art America Shop. You can purchase downloads in my Etsy shop or cards imprinted with a personal message and mailed for you in my Signed Cards store. Buy greeting cards, prints and stickers in my Square shop. Please contact me directly about purchasing original artwork. Thanks!

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Marie Marfia, Morning Walk, soft pastel on sanded paper, 9x7.5".

Morning Walk

I love walking in the mornings, especially when the sky is all lit up with cotton candy clouds and the sun is reflecting on the snow. Today there were bare patches of leaves and needles under the trees and for a moment they looked like they were on fire.

Morning Walk, 9.5×7″ pastel on sanded paper, $700.
Morning Walk, 9.5×7″ soft pastel on sanded paper. $700.

Sign up for my Marie Marfia Fine Art newsletter! You’ll get regular updates about my latest work in the studio plus insights into my process. Plus, get a free downloadable print just for signing up!

You can buy my art imprinted on all kinds of cool stuff in my Fine Art America Shop. You can purchase downloads in my Etsy shop or cards imprinted with a personal message and mailed for you in my Signed Cards store. Buy greeting cards, prints and stickers in my Square shop. Please contact me directly about purchasing original artwork. Thanks!

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Time lapses for December 2021

Here are some time lapse videos from my painting efforts during December 2021. Enjoy!

Pink Morning

Pink Morning, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8×8″. $700.

Early Winter Morning

Early Winter Morning, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8×8″. $700.

Winter Sunset

Winter Sunset, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8×8″. $700.

Four in a Row

Four in a Row, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10×8″. $800.

Long Shadows

Long Shadows, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10×8″. $800.

Side by Side

Side by Side, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10×10, $900.

Roger Dodger You Old Codger

Roger Dodger You Old Codger, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8×10″, NFS.

Maeve Speaks

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Me and You

This is a portrait of me and my husband from a selfie I took a while ago. We were out walking around Magoon Creek, which is about a half hour north of where we live along Lake Michigan. It’s a really pretty spot to wander in, with a wooded area, a creek and then a long strip of beach. It was late fall when we were out there, pre-pandemic. The sun was shining in our faces, the wind was blowing. It was a glorious day.

Later, after I stopped recording the time lapse of this piece, I ended up overworking it and lost whatever likeness I’d achieved earlier. Sigh. It happens. Just means I need to do more of these and more often.


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You can buy my art imprinted on all kinds of cool stuff in my Fine Art America Shop. You can purchase downloads in my Etsy shop or cards imprinted with a personal message and mailed for you in my Signed Cards store. Buy greeting cards, prints and stickers in my Square shop. Please contact me directly about purchasing original artwork. Thanks!

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Distant Fire

This painting is about the light shining through the trees that’s reflecting off a poplar that’s loaded with yellow and gold leaves. Normally I am what is called a seasonal painter. I like to paint what’s around me, but today I went looking for something colorful from my photo archives and found this. I had just gotten bad news about one of my brothers who is suffering from some kind of dementia and I felt like I needed something cheerful to paint. From my journal, …Endurance. It’s the best you can hope for now.

Distant Fire, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8×5″. $600.
Distant Fire, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8×5″. $600.

I still remember watching my dad’s decline and I really hope my brother isn’t in for the same thing. It’s no way to go. And everyone suffers along with you, which makes it so much worse.


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You can buy my art imprinted on all kinds of cool stuff in my Fine Art America Shop. You can purchase downloads in my Etsy shop or cards imprinted with a personal message and mailed for you in my Signed Cards store. Buy greeting cards, prints and stickers in my Square shop. Please contact me directly about purchasing original artwork. Thanks!

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Early Snow

I woke up feeling sad over the death of a friend. From my journal: …we can make new pathways in our brains. But sometimes you start down the old path and gravity works to keep you on it.

I went for a walk outside with the dogs and there was fresh snow on one of my favorite juniper bushes, with a pale peachy sky behind it, so that became the focus for my daily painting.

Time lapse of Early Snow, soft pastel on sanded paper, 6×8″,
Early Snow, soft pastel on sanded paper, 5×8″, $600.

I am still sad about the death of my friend, but I’m happy I made this little painting. I can feel both things and it’s okay.


Sign up for my Marie Marfia Fine Art newsletter! You’ll get regular updates about my latest work in the studio plus insights into my process. Plus, get a free downloadable print just for signing up!

You can buy my art imprinted on all kinds of cool stuff in my Fine Art America Shop. You can purchase downloads in my Etsy shop or cards imprinted with a personal message and mailed for you in my Signed Cards store. Buy greeting cards, prints and stickers in my Square shop. Please contact me directly about purchasing original artwork. Thanks!

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daily paintings time lapse

Latest daily paintings

Making an effort to do more daily paintings. Here are a few of the latest time lapses.

Those Clouds Look Interesting, soft pastel on sanded paper, 12×12″.

This one is inspired by a drive back from the Ludington State Park where we’d dropped off our camper for some friends of ours to use. I said something like, “Those clouds look interesting,” and Steve promptly pulled over so I could get some pictures. Next day I pulled them up on my computer and made a painting.

Old Bent Gate study, soft pastel on sanded paper, 5×7″.

I based this on a scene right outside my door, practically. Along the ditch that forms a boundary on our property is one of those metal gates that don’t really block anything. It’s a little bent and sort of just hangs there, unconnected to anything. I noticed how the sun was lighting up the bracken behind it, and the dark trees just behind the bracken. Honestly, the golden morning light fascinates me. Anyway, I took a picture of this scene to paint later. I’m glad I did, because yesterday when I walked past it again with the dogs, all the color had vanished, leaving drab browns in its place. Lesson to me: if something makes you look twice, take the picture! It’ll never be like that again.

Between the Dunes study, soft pastel on sanded paper, 5×7″.

One of the last times Steve and I went to the beach for a swim this year, I took pictures of the space between the dunes. This painting is all about the low hills just behind the beach and then the higher, older dunes beyond that. I love the grass, the way the wind blows it every which way, the colors of it in the lates sun. I could paint this every day I feel and never get tired of it, never run out of things to say.


You can buy my art imprinted on all kinds of cool stuff in my Fine Art America Shop. You can purchase downloads in my Etsy shop or cards imprinted with a personal message and mailed for you in my Signed Cards store. Buy greeting cards, prints and stickers in my Square shop. Please contact me directly about purchasing original artwork. Thanks!

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Marie Marfia, Shaded Mary, soft pastel on sanded paper, 11x14"

Stuff happens

It was a beautiful day to paint outdoors, warm and sunny with a bit of a breeze. I was in Grand Rapids, Michigan with my friends, Deb, Mary and Sue. They’d registered to paint in the Festival of the Arts Plein Air event from 10am-1pm and I’d driven an hour and a half from Ludington to join them. I wanted to enjoy the company of friends whom I hadn’t seen in far too long and also get a little painting in.

We’d been assigned to paint in the middle of downtown at Studio Park, a patch of astroturf surrounded by trees in concrete boxes, with a giant movie screen attached to one of the three buildings on the perimeter.

Our adventure started out pretty well. Sue was working on a careful preliminary sketch, Mary and Deb were painting in watercolor, and I had my soft pastels out. I decided to focus on Mary who was seated in the shade on the astroturf. I liked the stark shadows on the building behind her and her red hair against the bright green grass. By 11:20 I had put away the first piece to finish later and started on a portrait of Deb working under one of the trees lining the plaza. Just then a woman with a pony tail and yoga pants walked up and told us we had to move. She’d apparently reserved the space from 11:30am-1:00pm for her yoga class. Whoops.

Marie Marfia, Shaded Mary, soft pastel on sanded paper, 11x14".
Shaded Mary, soft pastel on sanded paper, 11×14″.

Mary asked politely if the woman needed all the space for her class and she said she absolutely did, whereupon she proceeded to cover the entire park with florescent orange cones, indicating where all the students were meant to spread their mats.

The Summer 2021 issue of Pastel Journal coincidentally features a ton of stories about the joys and trials of plein air painting. Tales of artists who get chased off their spots by alligators (Florida), sheep (Maine), bugs (everywhere) are par for the course. But this was the first time I’d heard of a paint out session disrupted by mat-toting people in leotards.

At least Mary and I were the only ones who had to move. We’d had the bad luck to set up on the astroturf in the first place. The others were fine where they were, Sue on the perimeter sidewalk painting café tables in the alley, and Deb sitting on a bench off the grass.

My plein air set up that day was pretty basic. I had a small pastel box that opened flat and attached to a tripod using a camera mount. The easel with pastel paper mounted on top of that and then I hooked my backpack under the tripod for ballast. To move, I just grabbed the tripod with one hand and my backpack with the other and carefully walked up the steps surrounding the grass. I wanted to be closer to Deb, since she was the subject of my second painting. But before I could set everything down again, a gust of wind flipped both easel and pastel box off the tripod and onto the cement.

Yoga happening in front of me. My rescued pastels in the box next to me.

I remember thinking, “Wow, that was quick.”

In the past, when my pastels have hit the dirt (cement, floor), I’ve cursed and thrown things, but that day I wasn’t even that upset. Maybe it was endorphins from having spent the last hour painting in the sunshine. Maybe I was on my best behavior because I was in front of my friends. Whatever the reason, I was more worried about getting everything cleaned up before someone plowed through it and got pastels all over their shoes than anything else.

The aftermath. Paint nothing but pictures, leave nothing but dust.
Marie Marfia, Deb Squints, soft pastel on sanded paper, 14x11"
Deb Squints, soft pastel on sanded paper, 14×11″.

Deb helped me pick up the pieces and someone else found a push broom to sweep up the dust. Then more friends dropped by to say hello, and I ended up spending the rest of the session catching up with them, getting lots of sympathy for the pastel disaster and trying to paint some more.

Stuff happens. Pastels break, rain turns your work to puddles, people say weird things when you’re out painting in public. None of it mattered. It was still a beautiful day. I got to hang out with people I love. I spent an hour or two making paintings. It was all good in my ‘hood.

Besides, it could have been a lot worse. There could have been alligators.


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