Category Archives: Pastels

Marie Marfia, Juniper study, soft pastel on sanded paper, 9.5 in x 7 in.

May means more outdoor painting

I’ve been making an effort to get outside to paint this month. Not all of the pastels I do are successful, but it’s a lot of fun to try. My new goal is to make paintings on all the trails at the state park here in Ludington.

Bonnie enjoys plein air painting, too.

There’s a local plein air group which I’ve joined and so far we’ve been to the state park once. Coincidentally they meet on Thursdays at 11 am so I will not be able to join them after next week since Thursdays are my new Artisan Market day for the summer season. But if the group is still going out in the fall I can catch up with them then.

Meantime, I’m trying to think of the state park as my new “office.” In the mornings I go out there to walk a bit and then I find a place to paint something.

These are all pictures of the work in the state of “doneness” they were in when I left the park. I will probably hang them up in the studio and work on them a bit more. I like where they’re going and I really like being outside. It combines the best of both worlds for me–nature and creativity.


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Marie Marfia, Sleeping Hummingbird Alley, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10 in x 8 in.

Paint out at the Hudsonville Nature Preserve

I was only about 45 minutes away and I had planned to join the Plein Air Artists of West Michigan at a paint out at the Hudsonville Nature Preserve in Hudsonville, Michigan from 11am-3pm. I was staying at my daughter’s place in Kalamazoo helping her and her wife to take care of brand new baby boys and I’d had a reasonable amount of sleep the night before (we were taking turns staying up all night for feedings) so it looked like all systems were go.

The weather wasn’t ideal. Just 25 degrees with a breeze, so probably more like 19 degrees with the wind chill. I woke up to fresh snow outside. Fortunately, I had some long johns to wear, my boots and my good winter coat. I figured I’d be fine if I stayed out of the wind.

The Hudsonville Nature Preserve has many ravines with creeks and overlooks and boardwalks, and this time of year, mud. Lots and lots of mud. I was worried that I’d lose my boots once or twice, but I made it through with my rolling bag. Rolling bags to carry your stuff are a great idea, by the way, but pulling 20-30 lbs along muddy paths and climbing steps built with snow-covered railroad ties gets old with a quickness. But since I’d never been to this preserve before I had to walk a bit before I found a place I where I wanted to set up.

I was excited to try out my brand new tri-pod, a fantastic upgrade from my flimsier one. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to take the old one out first, so I ended up carrying the newer, heavier one separately, plus a backpack.

And I forgot to pack my fingerless gloves. Not an emergency, because I still had regular mittens and some chemical hand warmers. I put one of the warmers in my left mitten and one of them in my right pocket. Then I painted until I couldn’t stand it anymore and warmed up my fingers in my pocket. This left a lot of pastel dust in my pocket so every time I brushed my hair out of my eyes it would leave marks on my face. I did not know this was happening until after I had spoken to a number of people and driven home, where my family kindly informed me that I looked like a chimney sweep from Mary Poppins.

The first place I chose to paint had snow on the trail with tall dried grasses on either side, and just a hint of spring color in the tree line on the horizon.

Sleeping Hummingbird Alley, WIP, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10 in x 8 in.

As I was getting ready to pack up again, an older gentleman walked down the path and told me he liked to be in this particular spot in the summer. “I call it Hummingbird Alley,” he said. In the warm months, he told me, this part of the path was crowded with flowers and hummingbirds, and it was one of his favorite places to be. I thanked him and thought it’d be fun to come back in the summer to paint it again.

Photo reference.

The next place I chose to set up had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, it was at the top of a ravine and not the bottom, like the first set up. So very soon I was too cold to keep on with it. I had a view from one of the overlooks with a creek at the bottom and a beech tree sporting last year’s leaves like little flags. I plan to work on this one a bit more once I’m back in the studio. I liked the neutrals in the back ground and the little creek snaking all around on the floor of the ravine.

Last Year’s Finery, WIP, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10 in x 8 in.
Photo reference.

I wandered around a bit more before deciding to pack it up for the day around 2 pm. I am still learning how to paint plein air and even though I was pretty chilled by the time I left, it was still a really great day. Definitely planning to do more of these.


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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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plein air set up at Ludington State Park

Painting at the state park

After my first attempt to paint outdoors in the snow I found I liked it so much that I had to do it again. This time I went to Ludington State Park, which is just about five minutes away from my house. So great to live this close!

I set up along the Sable River for both pieces. I was captivated by a pine tree on the bank with its limbs covered with fresh snow and the sun glinting on the water. Memo to me: if you park yourself under snow covered branches and there’s the least bit of wind you will end up with snow in your pastel box. I need to do some research about umbrellas that attach to a tripod. But no harm done.

The second piece was farther up the river towards the dam along the boardwalk on the south side. I loved the way the sun lit up the bank and the way the pines in the distance cast shadows all around.

It was pretty cold out there at 10 am, and I was also in a lot of shade, so there were no warming rays hitting my coat. Fortunately, I had some of those instant heat packs to put in my mittens.

Another memo: Get some good, fitted fingerless gloves before doing this again. The mittens I have are wool, but while the fingers are open, the thumb is covered. This makes for awkward handling of pastels, especially the smaller ones. Yet another memo: replace all those teeny pieces with half sticks. It’s just too hard to hang onto small pieces when your hands are cold.

I had a great time walking around in the park. I saw four people and one dog out on the trail along the river and it was a beautiful day to be outside, sun shining and mild temperatures in the 30s.

Here is the first of the pieces I did:

Marie Marfia, Tree on the Bank, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10 in x 8 in.
Tree on the Bank, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10 in x 8 in.
A picture of my set up for the first piece.

I really love being outdoors to paint. I like feeling the sun on my face, I like the paintings I make from life better than those I recreate from photos. They’re fresher, looser and more reflective of the overall experience. So I will definitely be doing more of them!


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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, Shadow Play series, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8 in x 10 in.

Shadow Play

This time of year I notice the shadows. The sun is really low in the sky and there’s still snow on the ground, which means the shadows are purply bluish colored and they reach out a long way over the ground.

Shadow Play series time-lapse

I love the colors of the shadows, the patterns they make on the snow, how they seem to be reaching for something.

Here are some of my shadow play series:

Marie Marfia, Shadow Play series, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8 in x 10 in.
Shadow Play series, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8 in x 10 in.
Shadow Play series, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8 in x 10 in.
Shadow Play series, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8 in x 10 in.
Shadow Play series, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8 in x 10 in.
Shadow Play series, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8 in x 10 in.

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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, 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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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, 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!


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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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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Pastel Portrait Class January 26

Hey, y’all. I’m planning to teach a pastel portrait class from 6-9pm on Wednesday, January 26, 2022 at the Ludington Area Center for the Arts, 107 S. Harrison St., Ludington, Michigan.

I will provide everything you need to make an 8×10″ pastel portrait on sanded paper. There will be paper already mounted on a board, there will be a large selection of pastels to choose from, although you can certainly bring your own (not oil pastels, though, cuz that’s a different can of worms). All you need to do is bring a reference photo of either an animal face or a human face.

Please note: the reference photo should be 8×10″ with the size of the head measuring at least 7″ from top of the brow to the chin. There’s some leeway here, but basically, I want you to be able to draw a face that’s large enough to easily put some details in.

We’re going to be using the grid method of making a portrait. So you’ll draw a 1 inch grid on your reference and then a 1 inch grid on your sanded paper. This will let you get a pretty good likeness right from the get go.

If you want to participate, you should go to LACA’s website, and register for the pastel portrait workshop. Cost is $25 for members and $30 for non-members. There is a limit of 6 people.

Here are a couple of time lapse videos showing the process.

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

Hope to see you there!


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!

Sign up for my Bone Appetit newsletter! You’ll get regular updates about my latest work in the studio and 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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