Category Archives: Skeleton

Skeleton

pastel of a skeleton carferry captain

Old Carferry Captains Never Die…

Yesterday an older gentleman stopped by while I was out in front of my studio, writing at my little café table. He’d been walking around town all morning and needed to rest for a bit before returning home. He asked if he could sit down. “Sure,” I said.

We got to talking and he told me he’d worked on the carferries for 30 years in the engine room. “20 days on and 8 days off,” he said. “But sometimes the boat would get stuck in the ice and you couldn’t start your time off until they got to the dock. That was hard.”

I liked listening to him and imagining what Ludington looked like when there were seven carferries sailing to three different ports on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan–Milwaukee, Manitowoc and Kewaunee. He listed all the boats on his fingers, “The Pere Marquette 21, the Pere Marquette 22, the Spartan, the Badger, the City of Flint, the City of Saginaw and the City of Midland.”

I thought about how the town harbor must’ve bustled with people and trains and boats. It’s still a little bustly with the Badger running half the year here.

The man that sat down to talk didn’t ask about my skeleton art but I got to thinking about it and I wonder if he’d have liked the commission that I painted early this spring, about a skeleton carferry captain racing back to port. The owner of a local restaurant wanted me to paint a skeleton picture that had Ludington, the carferry and House of Flavors Restaurant in it. Oh, and could I do it in ten days because the giftee was leaving town?

I’m a glutton for punishment so of course I said yes. As it turned out I also had to get the piece printed as a canvas wrap in time for the going away party, but once the original was done that part was easy peasy. I love it when a plan comes together! Bonus, it was a really fun piece to do.

Do you suppose the old guy I was talking to yesterday would appreciate a card with that piece on it? If I see him again I’ll be sure to find out!


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Haters gonna hate, lovers gonna love

“Ugh.”

“That’s horrible.”

“What a mockery!”

It’s hard not to take it personally when I hear comments like these floating through the door at my studio. Maybe putting The Very Last Supper front and center in my shop window has something to do with it?

I could place a more traditional piece there, like a landscape or a still life or a portrait, and people would walk by and never say a word. But poke fun at a religious icon and suddenly everyone loses their minds.

detail of Jesus in The Very Last supper

The Very Last Supper, detail, by Marie Marfia

I could try to soft-pedal the subject matter by combining genres. For instance, skeletons with vases of flowers or skeletons in the landscape would be more palatable maybe. But I’ve found that skeletons are pretty polarizing as a general rule. People either really, really like them or they really, really don’t.

My mom was one of the latter group. Whenever I told her I’d sold another piece of skeleton art I’d have to preface the news with an apology. “Hi Mom, I’m sorry but I sold a skeleton painting today.” She’d always wrinkle her nose at the news, as though I’d just farted in front of her. “Oh, Marie,” she’d say, and sigh. She’s gone now, but I can still hear her sighing like a mournful ghost.

Certainly the skeletons don’t mind whether or not people like them. They’re glandless creatures and so they don’t have feelings that can be hurt.

The question is, can I live with some people not liking what I do?

The urge to please everyone all the time is a real issue for me. I come from a large family and I spent a good portion of my life trying to make people like me in order to get attention, which I craved. It was only when I hit menopause that I stopped caring quite so much. Once my body realized I was done reproducing, my brain took over and said “I’m in charge now,” and that was that. (See? Biology is another thing skeletons don’t have to worry about. More reason to love them!)

The bottom line is, I’m trying to learn how to paint. Studying the classics is a really good way to do this and adding skeletons makes it more fun.

But some people are not amused by skeletons, and they’re especially not amused by biblical scenes with undead people in the starring roles.

(I confess, I deliberately put that print in the window hoping to persuade a couple of political organizations, which shall remain nameless, to set up their tents elsewhere instead of directly in front of my studio during Friday Night Live events. And it worked, sort of. At least, the next weekend, they’d moved across the street. With them a littler farther away I figured I had a better chance of attracting my target demographic—people with a sense of humor who aren’t afraid of death.)

So to answer the question about what I can live with, while it bugs me when people openly sneer at my work, I absolutely adore the people who love it. They say things like, “These are so cool!” “That’s hilarious!” and my personal favorite, “I’ve gotta buy this.” So I’m going to focus my attention on them and everyone else, including my dead mother, will just have to deal.

Thank you to everyone out there who keeps laughing along with me. You know who you are. As long as I know you’re out there, giggling, I can handle a hater or two.


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Skelvis!

pastel painting of Elvis as a skeleton doing the Jailhouse Rock

Skelvis! 24×18″ pastel on paper. ©2018 Marie Marfia.

Skelvis rocks!

When I was in college I did a lip synch video to Elvis’s immortal “Devil in Disguise.” I enlisted the help of my sister and a friend, dressed one like an angel in a pretty white frock and the other in  red flannel underwear with a tail and horns. They took turns dancing on my shoulders throughout the song through the use of video magic (well, it was magic back then). I was dressed as a tele-evangelistic minister in a sharp suit and tie, with my hair slicked back and holding a leather-encased bible.

Flash forward to this week when someone asked me if I’d yet done Elvis as a skeleton. The suggestion immediately brought back all the fun we had making that video. Truly, it was the highlight of my college career, not even kidding.

When my dad saw it later, I heard he laughed himself silly. High praise indeed.

To paint The King, I needed just the right reference photo. I didn’t find Devil in Disguise but I did find Jailhouse Rock. Looking it over, it occurred to me that a ribcage can look a lot like a striped uniform shirt, and well, he came together pretty quickly after that.

Here’s a couple of videos of the process:

And now all that hip-shaking sexiness is available for you to have for your very own! The original (18×24″ on paper, unmatted and unframed) is $600 and in my shop. You can also have him to grace your walls as a canvas wrap print, paper print, or a greeting card.

Do you know someone who loves the King and skeleton art? Please share.


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When disaster strikes…

The Skelly Dance at the framer’s. It got a little wet.

…it’s best to have an insurance policy already in place. Failing that, a positive attitude can take you a long way.

“Marie, I have some bad news.”

A couple weeks ago the framer called to tell me one of my paintings for Art Prize had been accidentally destroyed. A pipe had burst in the ceiling over his shop and mine plus eight other people’s projects had gotten drenched. Tim, the framer, was distraught. I was the last person he’d called that morning and he’d been sick three times already.

I went over to his store and looked at the piece, decided it wasn’t salvageable, took a picture for my records, and reassured him I wasn’t upset. Then I went back to my studio to think about what the next step would be.

Since this piece was slated for Art Prize, it would be one of three things:

  1. Alert the venue that The Skelly Dance had met with an unfortunate accident and ask whether or not I could substitute another piece in its place (fortunately, I’d just finished Bona Lisa the same week);
  2. Tell the venue that The Skelly Dance had met with an unfortunate accident and just go with six pieces for Art Prize;
  3. Re-do it, in which case I needed to order supplies.

You’ll notice that nowhere on this list is the step in which I panic. At the time I thought it was odd that I wasn’t more upset about the loss, but then I thought, “You’ve been through this before.”

Deja flooping vu

It’s true. Last year I lost four original skelly paintings and a slew of prints during the flooding in St. Augustine from Hurricane Matthew. That was pretty ouchy, but at the time, the gallery owner thought she might be able to arrange compensation through her insurance company.

As I should have guessed, flooding, which is what happened to my skellies down south, doesn’t count as compensatable damage. I think the hurricane actually has to leave a signed confession before an insurance company will agree that it will cover any losses due to one coming ashore for a visit.

Back to the drawing board, er, easel

After mulling it over, I went with steps 1 and 3. I alerted the venue and they agreed to take the Bona Lisa in lieu of The Skelly Dance, but then I decided to re-do The Skelly Dance anyway.

I’ve got time, after all. Art Prize isn’t until mid-September. Also, I’m a little leery about substituting art work without clearing it with Art Prize first. I’ve heard of people being disqualified from that show for small infractions. I could try to get a new piece juried in, but it’s way past the deadline now, so I will happily forgo opening up that can of worms altogether and count myself lucky this happened when it did.

Onward and upward

Besides, if there’s one thing I’ve learned since I started making art every day, it’s if you did it once, you can do it again.

Nothing is so precious that it can’t be re-worked, or re-designed, or re-made from scratch. It was painting every day that taught me this lesson and I’m grateful for it. Because of this I can let something like the destruction of a piece roll over me like water off a duck’s back.

But I’ll tell you something—I went out and got an insurance policy for my art last week, because while a positive attitude can take you a long way, cash money makes for a smoother ride.

 

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painting of skeleton couple

Nos. 16-17, 100 Portraits in 100 Days

Nos. 16-17, 100 Portraits in 100 Days

painting of skeleton couple

Nos. 16-17, 100 Portraits in 100 Days, 8×10″ pastel on UArt 400 sanded paper, mounted on foam core, by Marie Marfia. Available $200 plus $12 shipping.

Here’s a cute couple. From the reflections in their sunglasses, I think they must’ve been at a park when they took their picture. Awesome! I’m a nature gal, myself. Although, I can get my fill in an hour or two. I love walking the trails, but I don’t want to be out there all day! I got stuff to do! Places to go! People to see! Know what I mean?

You’ll notice that on this portrait I opted to use a distorted grid. Couldn’t resist. It was such a twisted sort of skeleton portrait to do.

Here’s the progress pics:

Read more about my 100 Portraits in 100 Days project, and follow along on Facebook or Instagramor TwitterSign up for my newsletter and be the first to see my portraits as I finish them!

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pastel painting of 2 skulls just getting engaged

Nos. 12-13, 100 Portraits in 100 Days

Here is Liz’s selfie of her and her fiancee, showing off the big rock on her fourth phalange. Oh happy day! They’ve since gotten married. I fell in love with her blue hair while working on this piece.

pastel painting of 2 skulls just getting engaged

Liz and Fiancee, Nos. 12-13, 100 Portraits in 100 Days, 8×10″ pastel on UArt 400 sanded paper mounted on foam core by Marie Marfia. This painting is available, $200 plus $12 shipping. Contact me to purchase.

Read more about my 100 Portraits in 100 Days project, and follow along on Facebook or Instagramor TwitterSign up for my newsletter and be the first to see my portraits as I finish them!

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No. 1, 100 Portraits in 100 Days

First, I’d like to thank Rae Crowley, who sent me a selfie and told me to roll the dice. I rolled a 5, so I skullitized her portrait. How cool to start the series off that way!

skeleton portrait

No. 1, 100 Portraits in 100 Days, 6×9″ pastel on mat board with pumice ground, by Marie Marfia. Available $100 plus $12 shipping. Contact me to purchase.

The first one is always the hardest, isn’t it? I didn’t have my stuff ready to go, had to find mat board, the pumice mixture, find a cup to mix it in, a brush, a rag, my pastels. Oh blah, but in spite of all that, I had fun when it got right down to it, and I think it turned out well, don’t you? Onward!

Here are the progress photos:

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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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