Tag Archives: Marie Marfia

Marie Marfia, Mary Feeding the Chickens, soft pastel on textured gator board, 16x20"

Painting to remember

I’ve been painting to remember lately. It’s partly because of the pandemic. I’m realizing that I need to pay more attention to the people that I care about and to make it a priority to spend time with them. Before Covid, there was all the time in the world. Now, not so much maybe. Another reason is painting the stories I want to keep helps solidify them in my brain for later. I’m aware of memory slippage happening as I get older. Details fade and sometimes whole stories. I wonder, was I really there when that happened? Why don’t I remember it if I was? 

My father’s side of the family suffered from dementia at the ends of their lives, all except Frank, who was killed during WWII, Marianne, who committed suicide, and Ben, who died of a coronary. Six siblings out of nine. So odds are that I and some of my siblings will go the same way. It’s like a cloud that hovers over you, not quite solid but never quite going away, either. Every failure to come up with a name or word that I know that I know prompts the inevitable moment of panic and a rush of internal questioning. Is this the beginning of my decline? Am I going to go down the same path as my dad? Is there anything I can do to stop this?

I spend a lot of time researching how to make my brain do its job for as long as it can. I solve a crossword puzzle and a sudoku puzzle every day, read a lot, and push myself to learn new things. Mostly I try to remain hopeful.

So I’ve started painting memories of days spent with my family. One, it gives me an excuse to paint people, which I like, and two, it helps cement memories of a particular occasion in my head.

First I look at my photos and decide on a story to tell. Then I try to distill my feelings about the story into a painting. Here are three from my last trip to see my sister and her extended family out in New York state. 

Mary Feeding the Chickens

Marie Marfia, Mary Feeding the Chickens, soft pastel on textured gator board, 16x20"
Mary Feeding the Chickens, soft pastel on textured gator board, 16×20″

This one is of my sister Mary and her original flock of chickens, now a few years old. She’s got a colander on her hip with red grapes in it. We had decided earlier that grapes, and specifically red grapes, weren’t very good. They tasted too sweet and not enough like the grapes we remembered as children. So these grapes became chicken treats.

Mary, me, my daughter Alice and her wife Sandra, and their daughter Maeve, had walked down the hill to feed grapes to the chickens. Since they were being cautious around all the new people, Mary leaned over the fence, hand full of grapes, to coax them closer. In my painting I removed the fence and the extra figures behind Mary. But I kept the house up on the hill and our trailer parked next to it. Also there’s the hint of the barn behind the trees on the left, which I may remove. I haven’t quite decided, yet. Mary’s jeans have grass stains on the knees because you spend an awful lot of time on your knees when you are working an organic farm. The weeds don’t pull themselves, you know.

Come out, chickens!

Marie Marfia, Come out, chickens, soft pastel on toned sanded paper, 9x12".
Come out, chickens! soft pastel on toned sanded paper, 9×12″. Sold.

In this painting, I wanted to capture Mary’s step-granddaughter, Alice, trying to convince a flock of young chickens to come out from under their coop. Alice is fairy-like in her demeanor. She has long blonde hair falling over her shoulders and a joyful look in her eye. She refers to people as “humans,” and she is perfectly happy playing with whoever is available, including two-year-old Maeve. I wanted to remember her optimism concerning timid pullets and whether or not they could be tempted out of hiding by a handful of dirt, a stick or one of their own feathers. She tried all of those things without success and never noticed the one watching her from the other side of the coop.

Time lapse for Come Out, Chickens!

Walking to the Barn

Marie Marfia, Walking to the Barn, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10x8"
Walking to the Barn study, soft pastel on sanded paper, 10×8″.

In this final painting, I took a photo of Mary as she was on her way back to the barn. I liked her upright form against the barn and the sunlit green grass. It’s a reminder to me of how her days begin. Up before the sun, out to feed the chickens, providing sustenance, and warm regards (“Good morning, sunshine!”). When I miss her most, I imagine myself walking in the dewy grass with her, and I feel better.

So much of how I remember is visual as well as emotional. Photos can be painful to look at sometimes, because so many feelings well up from them. I often put pictures away and close photo apps because it seems as though I might never stop crying once I start. I’m not sure why I want to cry but I’ll continue to explore it. I think it makes for better paintings. And paintings may soon be the only way I can share what I am feeling if or when the day comes that I no longer have the words.


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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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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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pastel painting of the ludington lighthouse in late fall

Ludington Lighthouse, pastel painting of a late fall scene by Marie Marfia

Another painting of the beach in Ludington, Michigan. Love snow fence as an element in a painting! It’s so bright and lively in an otherwise pretty dull colored seascape. Some people don’t care for the red slash but I just love the splash of color!

Time-lapse of Ludington Lighthouse.
Ludington Lighthouse, 7×5″ pastel painting of a late fall beach in Ludington, Michigan. Available $145.

Here are the studies I made of this painting. Each is 3.5×2.5″.

study of the Ludington Lighthouse painting.
Study No. 1.
Study for the Ludington Lighthouse painting.
Study No. 2.
study for the Ludington Lighthouse painting.
Study No. 3.

This painting is part of a series I’m doing for the Holiday Artsie Craft Show coming up soon! Read all about it here.

If you’re interested in purchasing this painting, please email me.

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pastel painting of the Lake Michigan shoreline with snow and clouds

Ludington Lighthouse, pastel painting of a lake scene by Marie Marfia

November Clouds, 9×6″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia, ©2019. Available $200.

Here’s a piece that I just completed today. I have been getting out to see Lake Michigan whenever I can now that I live so close. I hope to have a series of these kinds of paintings, the dunes covered in snow and the sky peaking through the clouds, by next spring.

Here’s the time-lapse:

Here are the three small studies (4.5×3″) that I did before I started on the final.

Study No. 1
Study No. 2
Study No. 3

This painting is part of a series I’m doing for the Holiday Artsie Craft Show coming up soon! Read all about it here.

If you’re interested in purchasing this painting, please email me.

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First Light, pastel painting of sunrise in Michigan

My dogs love wandering around in our “back forty” now. So many little critters to roust out of their beds! I like being out there, too. Especially on mornings like this, where the sun and the clouds combine to make a colorful layered palette in the sky–blue, purple, pink and gold. It’s just glorious.

First Light, 8×5″ pastel on sanded paper by Marie Marfia, ©2019. Available $180.

Here’s the time-lapse for this painting:

Time lapse of First Light, pastel painting by Marie Marfia.

And here are the studies I did first. Each one is 4×2.5″ on sanded paper.

First Light study no. 1, red and purple underpainting.
First Light, study no. 2, red and yellow underpainting.
First Light study no. 3, blue and yellow underpainting.
First Light study no. 4, blue and aqua underpainting.

This painting is part of a series I’m doing for the Holiday Artsie Craft Show coming up soon! Read all about it here.

If you’re interested in purchasing this painting, please email me.

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