Marie Marfia, This Family, soft pastel on gessoed gator board, 12x12"

Old Bones

Recently I spent a day visiting the family cemeteries with my brother and his wife. It’s traditional to plant fresh flowers, wipe off the headstones, pull weeds and just spruce the plots up a bit before Memorial Day. I used to go with my mother.

As well as driving around the places where I spent my childhood, I like spending time with Joe and Anna. We tell stories to each other about the people under the headstones. There’s a lot of laughter mixed with the yarns and there’s something therapeutic about digging in the dirt. Anna always says goodbye to everyone before we head for the next stop.

I try to imagine what it would be like to be buried in one or another of the cemeteries–Fennville, South Haven or Covert. I think I’d like Covert best. It has lots of old trees, and the road that passes by there is quieter than the others. Also, Mom’s family were not given to as much drama as Dad’s and I think it would be more peaceful to spend eternity among low key folk.

In honor of Memorial Day weekend I decided to paint a picture of my father in uniform and this was the one that I chose. On the back of the original polaroid it says “This family lives in Room # 204,” and then lists the names of the men he’s standing with: Edwin Manson, Dan Mannen, Roy Mann, with my dad on the far right. This was a picture he sent home to his parents and I imagine he was trying to inject a little humor into what was otherwise an anxious time. From the letter, he was in air force training school in Miami and so these must have been some of his classmates as well as the guys closest to him alphabetically. The year is 1943, so he would have been in his twenties.

Though the original was black and white, the photo is sepia-colored now, and my memories of my father are taking on those faded overtones, too. As with any portrait, I have to decide which shapes to define, where the highlights will go, and what will stay buried in shadow.

Marie Marfia, This Family WIP, soft pastel on gessoed gator board, 12x12".
This Family, WIP.
This Family, detail.
This Family, detail.
Marie Marfia, This Family, soft pastel on gessoed gator board, 12x12"
This Family, soft pastel on gessoed gator board, 12×12″

I have always loved imagining my dad flying through the air, arms outstretched, chasing crows across the landscape. He died over twenty years ago, but I still think about him a lot. I wish that the end of his life had been easier. He had Alzheimer’s and the last seven years were spent in nursing homes. I remember laying my head on his knee once while visiting him and feeling his hand on my head, comforting me. He lost almost all of his memories but kept his ability to let me know that everything would be all right. I’m grateful for that.


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Marie Marfia, Work Crew, soft pastel on gessoed gatorboar, 8x12"

Work Crew

I got to spend a weekend at my daughter’s house recently. I was supposedly there to help build a deck in the back yard, but really, I just wanted to play with the baby.

My sister came all the way from New York state to help, as did two of my brothers, one of their wives, and also my nephew. Plus my daughter and her wife worked on it, too. Everyone was wielding power tools for almost the entire weekend. Except me! I got to babysit!

It was cool out and rained on Saturday until just about lunch time. Their neighbor brought over a tent so that at least a couple people could get out of the wet. But no one complained. It was just nice to hang out and talk like regular people for a change. We’ve all had our shots. It felt normal.

Marie Marfia, Work Crew, soft pastel on gessoed gatorboar, 8x12"
Work Crew, soft pastel study on gessoed gatorboard, 8×12″

I got a few pictures. This painting is about four people with cordless drills screwing down decking and one supervisor. As it should be.

I had a lot of fun playing with my granddaughter, who is almost 2 1/2 years old now! (How does that happen?) And I loved seeing my family. Would highly recommend.


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Marie Marfia, Green Crested Drooler, acrylic on canvas, 6x6x.75

Green Crested Drooler

I’m starting a new series. It’s all about the things that keep me up at night. I am taking inspiration from Lynda Barry, whose book Making Comics has a monster drawing exercise, which I just love. I try to make monsters every day and then I pick one and make it into a small acrylic painting. Stay tuned! I have no idea where it’s going, but I want to call it my Monsters Under My Bed series and I’m am thoroughly enjoying it! Hope you do, too.

Marie Marfia, Green Crested Drooler, acrylic on canvas, 6x6x.75
Green Crested Drooler, acrylic on canvas, 6x6x.75″

The Green Crested Drooler personifies my fear of getting older and losing control of my bodily functions. Sure, it’s cute, but it’s also drooling! Gross! Blah! I think someone needs to invent terrycloth pillowcases for people like me who frequently wake up in the middle of the night in a puddle of spit. Hell, maybe I’ll make my own…

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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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dunes sky trees lake ludington state park

View from Above

Another angle on the dunes in the Ludington State Park. I was out walking with my husband and one of my daughters and our two dogs when I took the reference photo (below) for this painting.

Reference photo for View from Above.
Reference photo for View from Above.

We all kept telling each other how lucky we were to be able to enjoy such a beautiful area whenever we feel like it. It’s why Steve and I moved back here after living in another state for ten years. Once you’ve got the bug for Ludington, nothing else really compares.

Even in the early spring, when there’s no green anywhere and under cloudy skies, it’s still wonderful to sit and just be yourself outdoors. There are lots of places available for doing not very much for as long as you want. I love it here.

View from Above, 9x12" pastel painting by Marie Marfia. $900.
View from Above, 9×12″ pastel painting by Marie Marfia. $900.
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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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