Bird watching

Yesterday I was lying in a puddle on the back deck, hoping to get a clear picture of a bird nesting in a yard ornament that we’d bought at the art fair a couple years ago.

We’ve had birds try to nest in this thing before, but they usually decide there’s too much foot traffic or possibly the space gets too hot in the middle of the summer and it’s abandoned before a family is produced.

Honey, I’m home!

This year Steve and I know there are baby birds in it because the parents have been back and forth to the entrance of the thing with bugs and caterpillars. It’s fascinating. I never thought I would be a bird watcher in the last third of my life but now I find that I enjoy observing them when they show up at the feeders or whistling back to them when I’m out walking the dogs.

With the birds in the ornament, the main question has been, what species of bird are these?

“Is it a sparrow maybe?”

“Nah, it doesn’t have any of the markings for a sparrow.”

“Maybe a wren?”

“But it doesn’t hold its tail like a wren.”

Neither of us has the sharpest eyesight anymore, so we’ve been taking pictures of the birds with our phones, but the results have not been great and we couldn’t find any matching blurs in the bird books on our shelves. I thought maybe my old Nikon Coolpix L810 might get a good enough picture that we’d be able to ID the birds at last.

First I set up on the rail of the deck just outside the back door. But the bird on foraging duty proved a bit camera shy with me standing there and I decided I’d have better luck if I moved the camera to the floor of the deck and hunkered down behind it. Maybe the railing would hide me enough that my quarry would lose his inhibitions and resume making trips to the fish ornament. I propped the camera up with some sticks so that it was pointing right at the front of it. All I’d have to do is tap the shutter button to get a shot.

Eventually, the bird returned to the nest and I got some pictures of it, but I was still hoping for a side profile to complete the series and decided to hang out a bit longer even though it wasn’t exactly comfortable on the deck. I’d managed to lay down in a small puddle and mosquitos were whining in my ears. I thought about how wildlife researchers sat outside in all kinds of weather, fending off bugs and snakes and other horrible things, waiting for their subjects to make an appearance. At least it wasn’t raining. The air was warm and pleasant. I turned my head and watched fluffy clouds passing by overhead. I could do this. I just needed to be patient.

Bugs! It’s what’s for dinner!

I thought about the bird going back and forth endlessly. It couldn’t be an easy task, hunting bugs and worms for a hungry family. Did a bird ever think to itself, “This is taking so long! How come I’m always the one to make dinner! And the kids will probably hate it!”?

Anyway, on one of its return trips the bird spotted me behind the rail and started to chitter at me, first from the safety of a pine bough over the deck and then from the glider, which was between me and the fish ornament. “Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch,” he called, over and over, which I interpreted as, “I see you hiding there, you big human! Bugger off!”

I lay there, trying not to make eye contact, exuding calm and non-predatory thoughts. “I’m harmless, harmless, harmless. Look, I’m not even moving. It’s fine. Nothing to worry about. I’m a rock. Or a plant. Or some other inanimate, perfectly ordinary thing.”

He just kept yelling at me, and now I could smell dinner, a chicken and wild mushroom and green bean curry that Steve was making. What if he came to the door to tell me it was ready and scared the bird off before I could get my shot? Then I’d have to start all over again. It sure sounded like this bird wasn’t going to go back to his nest until I left.

Unfortunately, my camera was focused on the lawn ornament, not the glider. I didn’t know if I could move it and not startle him into leaving, but I decided I had to try. I had the camera set to “Pet Portrait” and I hoped if I pressed the shutter button it would automatically focus on my target.

Definitely a wren.

It took a few tries but it worked! I got up off the deck and brought the camera in to show Steve.

“What do you think?”

“That’s a wren.”

I was so pleased. We looked at the picture on the back of my camera all during dinner, which was delicious, by the way. No bugs or caterpillars at all.

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Marie Marfia, Maeve on the Beach, study, soft pastel on sanded paper, 5 in x 7 in.

Maeve on the Beach, study

I was looking at a cheat sheet that I got a number of years ago when I attended a Margaret Dyer workshop and I thought, I would like to do a pastel with a person in it, so I searched my photos for people and this picture of my granddaughter showed up.

The reference photo I used.

I wondered about the cropping on the photo, whether it would work as a painting or not and then I thought, who cares? and just dived in.

Here’s the time lapse video:

Maeve on the Beach, study.

I’ve been using an underpainting method that Lana Ballot teaches that’s mostly purples and I adapted it to the method that Margaret Dyer taught in her figure study class. I like the richness of color that the purple gives to the successive layers of pastel. I have another picture that shows more of the hat Maeve was wearing and I may combine the two in another, larger, version of this piece.

For now, it’s just fun to walk into the studio in the morning and paint whatever I want without thinking too hard about my choices.

Here’s the result of about a half hour session:

Maeve on the Beach, study, soft pastel on sanded paper, 5 in x 7 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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Great 2022 Print Giveaway

The Great Summer 2022 Print Giveaway

Did you know that I’m giving away as many as 72 prints this summer? Amazing, right?

Great 2022 Print Giveaway
More prints getting mailed out during The Great 2022 Print Giveaway!

Here’s how it works. I have a booth every Thursday at the Artisan Market this summer in downtown Ludington, MI from May 26 through September 22, 2022. Every week I offer a giveaway of either a landscape or skelly print to anyone who signs up. No purchase necessary! Pretty cool!

But there’s more! I am also randomly drawing names from my existing email list to send a print, either skelly or landscape, by mail. So just by being a subscriber you are entered to win either a beautiful landscape or a fun skelly print each week this summer. So by signing up early, you have more chances to win!

So, come on out to the Artisan Market this summer and get in on The Great Summer 2022 Print Giveaway! Or sign up here on my website. Either way, you’re entered in the giveaway. It’s my way of thanking my subscribers for hanging with me. You’re all awesome.


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!

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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, Beach at Stearns Park, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10 in x 10 in, $1,000.

Classes coming up

So I’m going to teach a few pastel classes during Summer 2022 at Ludington Area Center for the Arts.

  • The Beach, Tuesday, June 28, 6-8pm
  • Wildflowers, Tuesday, July 26, 6-8pm
  • Waves, Tuesday, August 23, 6-8pm

To register go to the LACA website or call them during business hours, 231-845-2787.

I’ll bring reference photos for you to use or you can bring your own if you prefer. We’ll be using a warm underpainting — think red, orange and yellow — for each class and working on 8×10″ size sanded paper. All the pastel sticks will be provided. You really only need to bring yourself. I’ll also have a couple of framed pieces to show you how best to display your finished painting.

This’ll be fun! Below are some examples of pastels paintings that I’ve done that fit the theme for each class.

Beach at Stearns Park, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10 in x 10 in, $1,000.
Weeds, soft pastel on sanded paper, 8 in x 10 in, sold.
Marie Marfia, Wavy, soft pastel on textured board, 5 in x 7 in, $450
Wavy, soft pastel on textured board, 5 in x 7 in, $450.

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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Walking along Lake Michigan

Herons hop skip ahead of me
Even sneaking through the dunes I can’t get close enough for a clear picture
I decide the tracks are likely coyotes coming to the shoreline to gorge on alewives
They’re welcome to them
Also raccoons and possibly ‘possums
At 29 minutes I turn away from the view of a lower laker making her way south and cross the grassy hills,
stopping once to breathe
Along M-116 I fill my plastic bag with food wrappers, deflated balloons, non-returnable cans, losing lotto scratch-offs, and butts
Lots and lots of butts
Next time, I think I’ll reverse my course
Save the herons for last

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dead crow

Walking on the beach

I’ve been trying to get more exercise lately. It’s part of an overall push to get healthier. Less sitting. More greens.

To that end I’ve begun to walk along the beach in the mornings. I leave the dogs home, since they’re not allowed there, which means that I can just worry about myself for an hour or so.

I drive out to M-116 which is the access road to the Ludington State Park, and then I start my beach walk a half mile north of where I started the previous time I went, crawling over whatever dunes are between me and the water. Then I go north for a half hour before turning around and heading back again. I take pictures, make a note of the songs or parts of songs that I hear in my head, pick up trash. Today I thought, I’ll make a sculpture of whatever I find today on the beach. That’ll be fun. But by the time I was back in the car, with a shopping bag full of crap, I’d lost whatever enthusiasm I had for the idea.

You’d think that on a beautiful beach like this one, with a lake view that goes on for miles, people would pick up after themselves, but you’d be wrong.

There was a sculpture made of driftwood and what looked like random trash right at the place where I turned around this morning. I don’t know who is making them, but I’ve seen a couple in the past few years.

I have questions, though, such as, do they, the creator(s), then come and disassemble it and throw the trash away? Or does it all come apart on its own and the trash go back to being trash and not part of a sculpture? Or is it comprised of their/her/his own trash that they bring to the beach in order to sculpt with it?

Maybe it’s just my inner curmudgeon asking. In the meantime, I’ll continue to pick up stuff as I walk along, even though it pisses me off that I need to. Knee bends are good exercise, too, you know.


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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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Marie Marfia, Bonnie waves to the S.S. Badger, photo, NFS.

Waving bon voyage

I took Bonnie down to the Waterfront Park in Ludington to wave at the S.S. Badger the other morning. I remember back when my kids were little and I would take them to go watch the carferry sail off on her maiden voyage of the season. One year my mother came as well and a picture of us all waving at the boat was published in the local paper and then subsequently picked up by the Associated Press. Mom told me that at mass the next Sunday, a friend of the family told her he’d recognized her in the picture, even though none of us was id’ed in the photo. I said, “Just goes to show that lech has been looking at your butt all these years.” She laughed.

Bonnie waves to the Badger as it sails out of port.

Bonnie and I were the only ones waving to the passengers on the Badger this day. No surprise, since we were a few days into the season already and it was kind of cold out. Bonnie never minds the weather, though.


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!

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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Art at the Pointe pop up show

Hey everyone! I’ll be participating in Lakeshore Visual Arts Collective’s Art at the Pointe pop up show June 18, 2022!

Here’s a link to the event page on Facebook or read about it below:

“Join us for Art at the Pointe–our first pop-up show in Adelaide Pointe’s huge and amazing boat warehouse on Muskegon Lake. Come by car, bike, or boat (docks are available) and see this space transformed into a one-night, pop-up gallery filled with art by more than 50 regional artists in a wide range of media. Enjoy live music by Serita’s Black Rose, food truck eats, cash bar, and lots of great regional art. Your $10 door donation plus 10% of artists’ sales benefit the great work of Read Muskegon (www.readmuskegon.org).”

I’ll have both skeleton art and landscape art at this show. I’m excited to help raise money for Read Muskegon. Hope to see you there!

Marie Marfia, Ground Skel, soft pastel on textured board, 16 in x 20 in, $2,500.
Marie Marfia, Ground Skel, soft pastel on textured board, 16 in x 20 in, $2,500.
Marie Marfia, Busy Season Approaches, soft pastel on textured board, 5 in x 7 in, $450.
Busy Season Approaches, soft pastel on textured board, 5 in x 7 in, $450.
Marie Marfia, Wavy, soft pastel on textured board, 5 in x 7 in, $450
Wavy, soft pastel on textured board, 5 in x 7 in, $450
Marie Marfia, Come Sail Away, soft pastel on paper, 5 in x 7 in, $450.
Come Sail Away, soft pastel on paper, 5 in x 7 in, $450.
Marie Marfia, Wave Portrait 129, soft pastel on sanded paper, 5 in x 7 in, $450.
Wave Portrait 129, soft pastel on sanded paper, 5 in x 7 in, $450.
Marie Marfia, Wave Portrait 130, soft pastel on sanded paper, 5 in x 7 in, $450.
Marie Marfia, Wave Portrait 130, soft pastel on sanded paper, 5 in x 7 in, $450.
Marie Marfia, Wave Portrait 131, soft pastel on sanded paper, 5 in x 7 in, $450.
Marie Marfia, Wave Portrait 131, soft pastel on sanded paper, 5 in x 7 in, $450.

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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Finished portrait commission

Thank you, Anna, for asking me to paint this portrait of your great Aunt Ardice. She’s beautiful.

Aunt Ardice, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10 in x 8 in, sold.

If you are interested in a portrait commission, please check out my commissions page for pricing and then contact me.


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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Marie Marfia, Suzanne's Mom, 9 in x 6 in, soft pastel on textured board, NFS.

Finished portrait commission

Thank you, Suzanne, for asking me to paint your beautiful mom. It was a pleasure.

Marie Marfia, Suzanne's Mom, 9 in x 6 in, soft pastel on textured board, NFS.
Marie Marfia, Suzanne’s Mom, 9 in x 6 in, soft pastel on textured board,sold.

If you are interested in a commissioned portrait of someone you love, check out my commissions page and then contact me. I’d love to make a piece just for you.


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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