Category Archives: painting a day

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.


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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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My Hat, Squared WIP

My hat squared

I had to try this one again, but this time I decided to make it a square painting. I found a version of the photo reference where her hat was in the air instead of laying on the ground, which I like much better. This is still a work in progress, but I like the direction of it.

My Hat, Squared WIP
My Hat, Squared, 10×10″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia. WIP

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My hat! pastel painting on sanded paper by Marie Marfia, $600.

My hat!

Spent a wonderful day at the beach in South Haven, Michigan, playing with my granddaughter, Maeve. I got a picture of her just as her sunhat blew off in the wind and had to paint the memory.


She spent about an hour playing with rocks and pouring out water onto the sand. Maeve is just over two years old and her boundless curiosity about the way the water disappears when you dump it onto sand was irresistible. All that squatting I did to bring her more water from the lake! My legs are pretty sore today!

There’s something really fun about painting a memento of a certain place and the company kept. Good times!

My hat! pastel painting on sanded paper by Marie Marfia, $600.
My hat! 6×9″ pastel painting on sanded paper by Marie Marfia, $600 framed.

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sunlight trees forest field

Longing for Summer

I woke up this morning to a fresh coating of snow. Happy April Fool’s Day!

I found myself wishing for warmer days and so I searched my Google photos for a summertime reference to paint today and happily discovered one that made me feel better about all the white stuff on the lawn.

When I’m walking the dogs I frequently stop to take a picture of the sun lighting up the landscape behind the green trees. Something about all the beautiful warm light peeking out between the leaves makes me feel optimistic about the future. Call me crazy.

Longing for Summer, pastel painting of sunlight through the greenery by Marie Marfia. Available $600
Longing for Summer, pastel painting of sunlight through the greenery by Marie Marfia. Available $600
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poplar aspen trees dunes lake

Poplars in the Park

You know how sometimes you wake up in the middle of the night and you just can’t get back to sleep? And then you just don’t feel like yourself all the rest of the day?

Yeah, these things happen. Fortunately, there are naps. I love naps.

This is a painting that I did because I had an unfinished version of it from who knows how long ago. I spent a bit of time searching for the photo reference in Google photos, finally typed in birch in the search bar and bingo! there it was. Google photos doesn’t know from poplars.

I have to say, I wasn’t crazy about this when I left the studio to go have lunch, but by the time I got back it had grown on me. So I thought I’d share it quick before I changed my mind. I still want to fiddle with it a little bit more, but later, after I’ve had some more sleep.

Poplars in the Park, 12x9" pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia. Available, $900.
Poplars in the Park, WIP, 12×9″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia.
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Marie Marfia, Neverending Love Story, soft pastel, 12x16.375

Nicolette and Aucassin progress

Thought I’d share some progress on the the latest skeleton Old (Dead) Masters painting. It’s coming along. I’m doing some refining right now, and that’s going to take a bit. I like doing these because they’re like a real intense workshop on the style of the artist whose work I’m copying. That’s definitely the case with this one.

grid and sketch of Nicolette and Aucassin
Grid and sketch of Nicolette and Aucassin
initial block in
Initial block in
Easel shot
Easel shot
Work in progress…
As of April 3, 2021.
Here’s a video tour of where I’m at with this one. (Can you tell I’m listening to NPR?)

Here’s the final!

Marie Marfia, Aucassin and Nicolette, soft pastel on sanded paper, 12x16.375
Neverending Love Story (Aucassin and Nicolette parody), soft pastel on sanded paper, 12×16.375″.

Finally! These parodies always take forever to finish. I have so much respect for the original creators of the pieces I copy. And I learn a ton while I’m working.

So, no official title for this one yet. If you have a suggestion, please send it along. Of course, puns are given first priority and if I pick your title to use, I’ll happily send you a print as a thank you. Email me, marie@mariemarfia.com, and tell me your idea!

As soon as I have a title for this one I’ll be adding it to my Etsy downloads and my Fine Art America shop, so I’ll keep you posted.


UPDATE! I have decided on a title. It’s going to be Neverending Love Story. It’s because it’s all about the story that never ends. Also, this particular couple is based on a story–Nicolette and Aucassin–which is also referenced in one of my favorite series of books ever.

Thanks to everyone who submitted ideas for the title. They really helped me a lot to come up with something that I liked and seemed fitting. You’re the best fans ever!


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ludington state park dunes sky trees

Walking in the Dunes

This is a pastel painting of the view looking toward the top of a dune in Ludington State Park in Ludington, Michigan.

Finally, the weather is good enough to go traipsing around on the dunes! The dogs and I are so glad to be able to broaden our walking habits a bit. It seems like a lifetime since we’ve been anywhere but our own backyard. Woohoo!

This is the reference I used for this piece. It was around 8:30 in the morning, the sun was peeking in and out of a cloud bank to the east and the wind was just whipping us around like crazy. Glorious.

reference image for Walking in the Dunes by Marie Marfia
Reference photo.
Walking in the Dunes, 9×12″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia. $900.

Can’t wait to make it a regular habit again!

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Field of Grass, 5x7" pastel study by Marie Marfia.

Field of Grass

Finally, it’s safe to go out walking in the state park again! No more snow and ice! Yesterday was actually the first day I took the dogs out for a romp in the dunes but it was nice enough today to do it again.

If you drive north on Piney Ridge Road, just before the Ludington State Park, there are multiple places to park your vehicle and go for a walk in the dunes and trees. Today we took the first spot with a sign on it. You have to keep the dogs on a leash, which is fine with me, because Daisy is a runner and Roger tends to bite first and make friends never.

Daisy and Roger having a sniff around a sweet looking piece of driftwood.

It was really windy out there today! And the sun peeked through the clouds often enough to give me some nice reference photos to work from. This is the one I decided to work from today:

reference photo of the field of grass with dunes I used for today's daily painting.
Reference photo from this morning.

If and when I decide to do this again I may take the path out altogether. I don’t think it really needs it in the picture and then I could really go crazy with the marks for the grasses. It was really beautiful out there today.

Field of Grass, 5x7" pastel study by Marie Marfia.
Field of Grass, 5×7″ pastel study by Marie Marfia. $600.
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Walking the Perimeter, 8x10 pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia. $800.

Walking the Perimeter

Painting my favorite models walking around the back of our property with me and the dogs. Me and the dogs not included here. Yesterday was my birthday! I had lots of good wishes heaped on my head and two of my kids, Nick and Sam, stopped by to help me celebrate. This is the two of them plus Steve walking past a patch of long golden grasses with the sun getting low in the sky behind them. It was also Steve’s and my anniversary, so extra reason to have cake and ice cream, which we did and that’s partly why we were out walking. We had to walk off the sugar buzz!

Walking the Perimeter, 8×10″ pastel on sanded paper, $800.
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