Pastels at Art on the Town Gallery in Pentwater

If you’re up my way, please be sure to stop by Art on the Town Gallery in downtown Pentwater, Michigan. It’s a lovely consignment art gallery with a lot of really nice work to enjoy, including some of my own paintings. Here’s a gallery of the originals I have there this year:

I also have cards and prints of my landscapes and skelly art there, too. Art on the Town features 29 members showing ceramics, fused glass, jewelry, sculpture, fiber art, photography and painting. Pentwater is a lovely little town on Lake Michigan, a beautiful day trip from Grand Rapids.

Click here to go to Art on the Town’s Facebook page.

If you go, be sure to bring a mask to wear inside the gallery. Many of the members are in the high risk category for Covid-19 and they volunteer to be there for shoppers and browsers. Nobody should have to die for their art.

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What I did on my Covid vacation – the wrap up

Kicked up my heels, What I did on my Covid vacation series
Kicked up my heels, What I did on my Covid vacation series

This series is officially done and 19 of the 20 paintings that I did for this project have been sold! So cool!

There were a few other benefits:

  • I got some practice wielding a paint brush and acrylic paint
  • I got to focus on something creative amid the pandemic
  • Lakeshore Food Club is getting a check for $250 (because what the heck! So close!)

Thanks to everyone who followed along with me and who purchased paintings. Woohoo! You’re all awesome.

FYI, I plan to continue painting more skeletons coping with life in 2020. There seems to be a lot of interest and I have more ideas to play around with. Want to see me tackle something specific? Send your suggestions and I’ll add them to my list…

I’ve also heard from some of you that you’d be interested in a picture book featuring this series. Another suggestion was a poster with all the Covid skelly pictures on it. I thought about doing a series of coasters because the square format just sort of begs for that treatment. What do you think? Any of these ideas sound good to you? Let me know!

Thanks again for your feedback and support!

All the skelly paintings have shipped! Watch your mailbox…
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20 in 20: What I did on my COVID vacation

Here we go!

covid vacation 20 in 20 supplies
How are you coping?
I’m bored out of my mind right now, like everyone else. So naturally I got to thinking about how a skeleton would deal with this “stay at home, do not pass go, do not collect $200” lifestyle. And I decided she’d do all the things that I’m doing–like exercising, reading, ordering take out–in an effort to stay sane and positive and be a good person. But for some reason, it’s funnier when someone who’s already dead is doing it instead of me. So I decided to make a painting cartoon journal out of it.

My ulterior motives…
… included finally, finally practicing using acrylics. Also, to sell a little art for a good cause (see below). And these are very little art. Each canvas is just 6×6″. Small enough that making one every day is fun and not overwhelming, yet big enough to be able to paint tiny bones without having to use a single filament brush.

They’re the perfect size for hanging in that tiny blank space on your wall or perhaps on a mini easel on the corner of your desk where you’ve always wanted a grim, yet curiously hilarious reminder of what it’s like to be living in the world right now.

20 Paintings in 20 Days: What I Did on My COVID Vacation
So here’s the deal. I’m going to be posting a painting a day for the next 20 days, starting with Monday, May 18, 2020. If you’re on my Bone Appetit email list (sign up is in the menu) you will get two emails per day. The first one will go out at noon and I’ll share the preview sketch. The second one will be at 9 pm, to show off the finished painting.

If you’d like to purchase a painting, email me or text me at 904-566-4473. I’m pricing them at $25 each and it’ll be first come, first serve starting with next Monday morning’s email. The price includes USPS first class shipping (gotta prop that org. up, too!). Half of all proceeds will go to my local food bank, Lakeshore Food Club, here in Ludington.

Keep track of my progress here.

FYI, I’ll be posting twice daily on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest as well, but later, after I’ve emailed my list. Subscribers get first dibs, so sign up for the best chance to purchase!

Thanks for keeping me sane!

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Staying busy

Painted hands!
Back in February we stopped for beer and pizza after a day painting the gallery. Forgot to wash up before I left the studio!

Like everyone else, I’ve been trying to keep myself occupied while staying at home. One day I sewed masks for the local hospital. They were lime green and matched the outfit I’d made earlier for Violet, my porch vulture.

Violet my porch vulture
Violet, my porch vulture rocking lime green and black lace for Easter.

And then I made a black cape for my skeleton rat, Ralph. I still need to fashion a scythe for him. Any Terry Pratchett fans out there? He’s supposed to be the Death of Rats from the Discworld series.

Ralph, my skeleton rat.
Ralph as the Death of Rats. Scythe to come.

I’ve been reading. A lot. Sometimes two books a day. I find in times like these, when my mind is running around like a headless chicken, that I prefer to read books that have happy endings. I recommend Connie Willis’s time travel series, especially Blackout and All Clear. Her stories celebrate every day heroes and the ways we support each other when things are falling apart. Her writing makes me feel hopeful about the future.

I’ve been painting, too. There’s a show scheduled at LACA in Ludington in July that will feature local art work done during the pandemic. I plan to submit a couple pieces for that and I’ll get you more information about it at a later date, so stay tuned.

Before the stay at home orders for Michigan were in place, Steve and I were working to get my new gallery space painted. We got it done in the nick of time, but had to stop with the rest of the renovations until it’s safe to go out again.

Steve painting the gallery.
Steve being awesome. So. Much. Black.

There’s so much left to do! Put up some tulle and twinkly lights. Get Laurie’s Dolloween art in there. Paint skeleton foot prints on the floor, and a few other spooky, fun things. It’ll be cool when it’s done. I hope everyone will have a chance to come and see it this summer, but if not, maybe I can make a virtual tour? I’ll ask my son Nick to help me. He’s very good at figuring stuff out.

Back in early March, Nick was hanging skeletons in my newly painted gallery.

I’ve also been working on a brand new website that will just have skeleton art on it. Slowly getting all the skellies up there. I’ll let you know when it’s fully functional and ready for business. Meantime you’re always welcome to shop for them here on my website. Oh, and I just added a Gift Card option, so please take advantage of that.

Here I am back in February, when Steve and I got to babysit our granddaughter. I can’t wait to have her in my lap again.

Of course, the hardest part of all this is not being able to reach out and hug your family. I have a granddaughter in Kalamazoo who’s growing up so fast!

I still have plenty of things to do to keep me occupied. I have basement walls to paint. There’s a garden to put in. Dogs to walk. You know, stuff. And there’s always more art to make.

I hope you’re all staying busy and healthy and safe. Take care, everyone. We’ll all get through this together.

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Skelly Godiva – skeleton pastel painting

Skelly Godiva, finished pastel painting of a skeleton on a horse, homage to John Collier's famous work.
Skelly Godiva, 17×22″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia. Sold.

Yay! All done. That was quick. Sort of. Compared to the last one, I mean. Skelly Godiva was a challenge in more ways than one but I’m very pleased with how she turned out.

Actually, it might have been worse. Fortunately for me, Collier’s original included a beautiful red blanket covering most of the horse, so I wasn’t faced with a second ribcage to render, hah! It’s the little things that keep me from going insane on these pieces.

This probably took me close to 40 hours to finish. The Old (Dead) Masters paintings often require a lot more craftsmanship, just because I’m going for a pretty accurate copy, otherwise the joke falls flat. Well, maybe it does anyway for some people, but those aren’t the ones I am painting for!

The original has been sold (thank you, Mary!) but of course you may purchase canvas wraps, paper prints and cards of the finished artwork in my shop or things like pillows, phone cases and mugs in my Fine Art America shop.

Thanks again, Megan, for the idea to do a Lady Godiva skeleton painting!

Here are some time-lapses of my latest work in progress, Skelly Godiva. This is number 19 in my Old (Dead) Masters series and it’s based on a classic painting of Lady Godiva by John Collier. Enjoy!

There are more time-lapses for this piece are on my YouTube channel.

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Scratch Cook

The day I gave up cooking stands out in my memory because it started out as a day full of the best intentions. I was going to follow a recipe. I was going to be patient and let the flavors meld properly. I was definitely not going to cook the way I normally do, which is to google the list of food items that I happened to have in the cupboard at 5:30 pm and see if there was anything at all that could be made from them in a half hour or less.

My husband Steve is the real cook in our family. Let me just say that cook is a misnomer for what he actually does, which is craft gourmet-quality meals, using skills honed over a lifetime of working as a chemist. My only beef with Steve is that these exquisite repasts usually take hours to prepare and since he is chronologically challenged, often results in dinner being served anywhere from 7 pm to o-bed-thirty, by which time we are all starving and he could set a heaping bowl of gruel in front of us at that point and we’d gratefully eat it all up and ask for more.

Up to that day, I had always considered myself an okay cook in that I could take five or six ingredients and combine them to make a meal that would be, if not excellent, at least filling, and would probably not kill you. Almost as importantly, it’d be ready by 6. But lately, my offerings felt like they were lacking a certain something. Like taste, texture, toothsomeness. Steve was just so good and I’ve always been super competitive. Blame it on growing up as one of eleven children. I can’t even take a yoga class without hurting myself trying to prove I can bend over backwards a scootch more than that other grandma doing stretches next to me. 

I just wanted to make something without tuna in it for once and that everyone would sigh over and be grateful to eat, oh, and serve it at dinner time, which is when I’m hungry, versus 9 pm, which is when I’m slavering for any remotely food-like substance.

That day I carefully got out the crockpot, paged through the cookbook and selected a recipe. I figured a crockpot recipe was the perfect choice because it satisfied my need to produce something really tasty with only a half hour’s worth of effort. I could slap it together and forget about it until later. Piece of cake. This would also have the added advantage of preventing my usual end of day meltdown which was me realizing I needed to come up with something for dinner and no idea what it was going to be. 

Being the work-at-home parent back when the kids were small and Steve was working out of state, it fell to me to make dinner most of the time. I enlisted their help to make the decision as to what dinner was going to be. By the end of the day I just couldn’t muster up the energy to think of what to feed everyone. This resulted in a lot of “backwards dinners” where I’d serve ice cream or pass out the little yogurts. The kids didn’t complain but I felt a lot of guilt over this. I was the parent, dammit. I was supposed to make them eat vegetables at dinner time. There’s rules and things.

And the kids helped, each taking a couple days a week to choose what was going to be on the menu. We ate a lot of grilled cheese sandwiches (Sam), hamburgers (Nick), and pizza (Alice) back then. It all worked out.

Now, however, I felt like I was competing with Steve to make something more than just edible, hence the stab at crockpot cooking. I remember dutifully reading the ingredients list and layering meat, vegetables and broth into the pot, putting the lid on it and then waiting for the magic to happen.

All day I resisted the urge to peek under the lid to see how it was coming along. I mean, why worry? I was using a recipe! It couldn’t fail. People didn’t just put random instructions in cookbooks without checking to see if they worked first. There were test kitchens. I had heard of them. Probably this recipe had been tweaked at least fifty times before being added to the final edition of this cookbook.

At the crack of 6pm I opened the lid of the crockpot and gazed inside, anticipating juicy pork steaks in tomato sauce, artfully dotted with capers (I was pretty proud of the capers, thinking they lent a certain sophistication to the mix, without actually knowing what, in fact, they were). Instead I saw a crock pot full of dried out slabs of gristle in no sauce whatsoever, just red and green bits stuck to the sides of the pot. It was a disaster.

When Steve came home, I apologetically informed him that dinner was a failure and we would be ordering pizza. He lifted the lid, sniffed the contents, and said, “The capers were because…”, letting the sentence dangle. “They were called for in the recipe,” I said, not at all defensively. Then he tasted it and announced that if I had done three things, which he proceeded to describe in great detail and which I have since completely blocked from my memory, it would have been fine. Edible, in fact.

And that was the moment when I hung up my apron for good. In a hundred million years, I would never have been able to not only diagnose what was wrong with that glop in the crockpot, but to know what it would take to make it delicious. 

I was reminded of a time when I called in a repairman to fix the dryer. I’d already tried to repair it myself and managed to lose a screwdriver down the lint trap in the process. The repairman came over that same day. As I let him in and showed him the partly disassembled appliance skulking in the basement, one kid on my hip and the other toddling along behind, he told me something I’d forgotten until now. He said, “It’s okay that you don’t know how to do everything. You don’t have to be an expert at this. It’s okay for someone else to earn a living, too.”

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Cookie making time

Recently, Steve and I were making gingerbread cookies for Ludington’s Downtown Cookie Walk and I could only find one cookie sheet. Everyone knows you need two cookie sheets in order to make cookies in the most efficient way possible. While one sheet is in the oven, you can load up the second sheet so it’s ready to go in soon as the first one is done.

I knew we had a second cookie sheet somewhere and could picture it in my head. I dimly recalled making something with it (apple slices? nachos?) between the time we’d moved into this house and now. That ruled out the storage unit but left open the possibility it was lurking somewhere in the house or the garage. 

Steve and I were methodical in our search for it. We took turns getting down on our hands and knees to look in the very backs of all the bottom cupboards (nope), and then we tried the tops of all the shelves (nada), the gaps between all the appliances (zilch), and then the cupboard over the fridge, which necessitated first clearing off all the stuff on top of it in order to get the doors open (which also explains why the cupboard turned out to be completely empty—why bother to put anything in there when it’s easier to pile it in front?—whereupon I immediately nominated that space for storing liquor, which still needs to find a designated forever home after the move, but Steve said it’d be a pain in the patootie for any future drunks looking for a quick shot, so it’s still empty, in case you were wondering.)

This is a problem with moving into a new house. The place where you first put things usually ends up being the place where you always put things, no matter how inconvenient it may turn out to be later. Like cookie sheets, for instance.

This morning I found it behind the fridge, and I know it was me who put it there, because I remember thinking it was a good idea at the time. It’s a narrow, vertical space, and cookie sheets definitely fit there, but it’s also much, much closer to dog fur, of which we have a plethora, and which now covered it, front and back.

What was I thinking?

The answer is that I wasn’t thinking at all, or I wasn’t thinking very hard, or possibly I was distracted by the next thing on my list, which in no way involved making a once and for all decision about where it would be best to store flat items that only get used once a month, if ever.

The upshot is that it took longer than it should have to bake a hundred cookies, not least because we spent some of that time in a fruitless search for a cookie sheet.

But we had fun looking, which is the most important thing. And it made a memory, which would never have happened if the cookie sheets had both been in the same place at the same time. Have you ever noticed that it’s the things you’re not expecting that last the longest time in your head? 

As for the cookies, we iced them to look like reindeer skeletons with red noses and then called them “Rudolphs, Deconstructed” for the Cookie Walk. They were both creepy and delicious. A nice balance, I think.

skeleton reindeer gingerbread cookies
Rudolphs, Deconstructed.

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