Tag Archives: painting

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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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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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 a tree in winter

Leaning In, pastel painting of a tree in the winter forest

pastel painting of a tree leaning over a trail in the forest during winter time
Leaning In, soft pastel on paper, 6×8″.

Walking in the woods with the doggies and came across this big boy leaning over the road like he’s a boss or something. I take my life lessons where I can find them.

This painting was for sale on ebay. When you bid on this painting you’re helping me contribute to AFFEW, a local environmental organization. Thanks for your support!


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pastel painting of dune grass and snow in the winter time

Winter Dune Path

Winter Dune Path, pastel painting of footsteps through the snow on a dune in winter time.
“Winter Dune Path,” 9×6″ pastel on paper by Marie Marfia ©2019. This painting is available on eBay for a short time. Click the link below for more info.

This scene if from a recent walk along the dunes in wintertime. I love the Ludington State Park!

This painting was for sale on ebay. When you bid on this painting you’re helping me contribute to AFFEW, a local environmental organization. Thanks for your support!


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pastel painting of a snowy path through the woods

Snowy Trail-pastel painting of a wintry scene in the woods

pastel painting of a scene in the woods in winter
Snowy Trail, 5×7″ pastel painting of a snowy path through the woods by Marie Marfia.

This painting is based on a walk down a two-track road in the winter time. Sometimes when I stop to paint what seems like a monotone scene I am amazed by all the color that comes through. I love walking in the Manistee National Forest with my dogs. It inspires my work.


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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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pastel painting of a white dog on a snowy road

White Dog White Road-pastel painting of my dog in the woods

pastel painting of my dog on a snowy road through the forest

This painting is based on a walk down a two-track road in the winter time. My dog Daisy stopped to sniff something in the road and I took a picture to use for a painting later. I love walking the woods in the morning with my dogs. It inspires my work.


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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pastel painting of a sunrise through the woods

On the Ridge-pastel painting of a sunrise in the woods

pastel painting of a sunrise in the woods

This painting is based on a walk down a two-track road in the winter time. The little bit of snow on the ground was mixed with lots of oak leaves and I could see the sun coming up over the horizon and throwing beautiful blue shadows everywhere. I love walking the woods in the morning with my dogs. It inspires my work.


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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