watercolor, pastel painting of abstract calla lily by emily weil

daily painting | abstract calla lily

Hanging out here at Smith Ranch nursing/rehab facility in San Rafael with my recovering brother, Jamey, three+ weeks after he had a sizable malignant tumor removed from his cranium, similar to John McCain’s. I did this abstract calla lily about a month ago, before this frightening avalanche hit, working with watercolors and ink and pastels. Really enjoyed it. Haven’t painted much since then as I’ve been mostly camping out in my brother’s hospital room. He was moved to the rehab spot last week (surgery was at UCSF), and the PT teams were working him, getting his muscles stronger and helping him de-wobble. Which meant I could take out my paints a bit and catch up on laundry.

Except I just found out this morning his next move is into hospice, as he’s not strong enough for radiation — it would weaken him and only would buy a bit of time. Time which would be miserable.

I’m kind of numb, really. Spending lots of time with bro as he struggles to understand what’s happening. His brain has served him well throughout his life, so since it is now turning on him, it’s confusing and upsetting for this accomplished brainiac. He’s an MIT grad (with scholarship) and got his PhD at UC Berkeley in engineering (and he tells great stories of working as a house painter to pay for grad school in the 1970s, including being part of a team that painted Francis Ford Coppola’s office building in North Beach in SF which involved some intricate problem-solving). Always been quite brilliant and good at figuring shit out — he worked as an administrative law judge for the CA Public Utilities Commission (among other career accomplishments) and fought for all of us when Pac Bell or PG&E wanted to unfairly hike up our rates. He’s my one remaining sibling, and has always been my hero (he’s nine years older and as a little girl I worshipped him) and he’s getting ready to leave the planet and I hardly know how to soak up this information. He turns 79 next month. The same age as dad was when he died.

But at the same time I am happy to be with him and help look after him. We have many lovely tender moments, as he lets me into his heart. He sometimes recounts memories — he’s fuzzy on his current situation, but one afternoon talked about our childhood neighbor Carolyn’s grandfather, Grampa Louie who taught meat-cutting classes for years at San Quentin to the prisoners. Not kidding. And dear Carolyn, who babysat me and little sister when we were very young, got a kick out of hearing me recount that story.

Life and death and sickness and here we are, living and dying. I am surrounded on all sides by loving friends and family members who root for me and my brother. Jamey may not be long for this world, but he is loved and respected and adored by many people. And they love me too. And I am grateful for this large and rich and multi-layered existence, truly.

30″ x 22″ ink, pastel, pencil, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor and ink painting of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | tumors & tears

Well I’m not sure where to start this post. I’m sitting in my big bro’s hospital room on the neuro-care floor at UCSF, looking over at the row of incision-closing staples that snake through the top of Jamey’s noggin like an aerial view of a row of dominoes set up to topple. The incision stretches almost ear to ear, and indicates where surgeons entered his skull last Friday to remove an avocado-pit sized malignant tumor, of the same variety as John McCain’s. He’s sleeping a lot which is good, so when he does I get out my laptop and do my life. 

I spend most of my time here (good timing on NBA playoffs which he loves) and he’s a little better every day though still stuck in bed and unable to walk. His sentences are getting longer and he’s a bit less confused. But progress is very slow as he recovers from this “insult to the brain”. It will take time, and he’s 78 years old and has Parkinson’s (he assumed his sudden symptoms were his Parkinson’s getting worse). He’ll go into a rehab facility in a few days and treatments will be discussed in a week; palliative care may be in his near future but we can’t know quite yet. 

Will I be the last sib standing? It’s entirely possible, but my own brain can barely take in this information. 

But I’m good in a crisis. I stay clear-headed and know what to do (or how to find someone who does). Then at some point I melt down, which I did when they wheeled him down the hall for pre-op last week. I completely fell apart, not sure I’d ever see him alive again. A kind nurse held her hand on my shoulder as I sobbed. As I started to recover, a Cooper’s Hawk flew past the hospital window. A bit later I sat outside in the sun, near the hospital, having a latte and collecting myself, and the SF parrots flew overhead (they are hard to miss, very noisy). Since surgery would take hours and hours I went to Ocean Beach, not far from here, as beaches always soothe. After my ocean visit, as I drove home on Lincoln Ave which is alongside Golden Gate Park, I was stopped in traffic and I looked over at the thick greenery on the park’s edge and saw a Peregrine Falcon perched in a tree. I cried some more but got home safely. 

[Did this class demo for a watercolor workshop several weeks ago.]

10″ x 7″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor and ink painting of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | workshop bouquet

Last Saturday I taught a watercolor workshop and did several demos, referring to a lovely bouquet of posies I pinched from a few Alameda office building landscapes. It’s a delight to teach a painting class to students who are so open and willing and hard-working. Though I felt sadness from missing grandkids on Easter, coming home to my warm floating home community after class filled up my achey heart — especially when, as I was literally roaming online searching for local bakeries to find a gluten-free treat, a neighbor dropped by to bring me some delicious macaroon-like gluten-free cookies that she knew I loved. Brought tears to my eyes — the timing was remarkable. What welcome medicine that was (I gobbled up the last of them this morning).

Sunday came with an Easter visit from my son. I made us some brunch and we visited and I learned more about his bipolar challenges as he openly shared his thoughts with me. How I wish I could wave a magic Mother-wand and fix his brain, as I could feel his concerns (and he never, ever complains). Lovely moments together with my grown boy and I am happy he was willing to drive from Sacramento for time with his mom. All the bits of my heart and soul and mind are sloshing with thankfulness.

10″ x 7″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor painting of santa barbara courthouse by emily weil

daily painting | santa barbara courthouse

Today is Good Friday. In the Christian tradition, it is the day Jesus was crucified, with Easter being the celebration of the miraculous resurrection. Though I no longer practice these beliefs, I am always heartened by the promising and hopeful message of new life emerging after death. Because I’m kinda tired of death. The daffodils and happy faces of the ice plant flowers blooming in my marina cheer me — every year they pop out, and they don’t care of news of war or pandemics or family strife. They just happily do what they do; I also so love the row of calla lilies blooming in Fort Cronkhite in the Marin Headlands. Here in Alameda we don’t have snowy winters, but still the blooms in Spring boost our hearts. 

And I am sad today not to be with family for Easter, but there are unresolved difficulties still keeping folks apart. Families! Always somethin’. But I believe in love and hope and resolutions and resurrections and reunions. I do a morning meditation every day, where I calm myself and ask Great Spirit to walk with me. Today I visualized my two sisters who have recently left this earth hugging me, happy we are together. Every day I am grateful they are no longer in pain. I think they watch over me, helping me find my way.

About this painting — done at the watercolor workshop in Santa Barbara last week. And hey, I just heard a blurb on the news that today is the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier which is amazing and wonderful — and his widow Rachel, now 99, continues to work to fight racism. Doesn’t that just make your heart light up? Happy Easter and Passover and Ramadan, everyone.

6″ x 9″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor painting of leaves by emily weil

daily painting | kevin’s leaves

On the last day of the Santa Barbara watercolor workshop with Shari Blaukopf, it was a blistering hot day (95°+). I played hooky for the afternoon lesson (painting figures on the streets downtown) as I knew the heat would melt me. Instead I found the shadiest, coolest spot in the back yard of the house where I stayed and painted the gorgeous, large leaves of a big tree (which I forgot to identify). It was fun and relaxing and quiet and cool(ish) and afterward I dipped into the pool before heading to the group’s 2-1/2 hour, mind-fogging farewell dinner inside a restaurant with no A/C (but I really enjoyed my conversation with fellow artist, Anna). Now that I am home, I am just starting to sort through the many lessons and observations from this past week that are ping-ponging around my cranial cavity. 

I felt more joy during those six days in SB than I think I’ve felt in two years (heart-shattering grief does, in fact, subside, in time). And I am deeply grateful my artist pal Sue gave me this opportunity to take her place in the week-long class, and also for my astoundingly generous neighbor Beth who at the last minute was willing to again take care of my little guinea piggie (without her, the trip would have been a no-go). It’s kind of like, How can I begin to count the ways I am thankful? Many, many ways. I think the top-of-the-list insight I’m chewing on is that I now fully inhabit who I am as an artist. I’m my own me. I read in my meditation book last night that I need make no excuse for who I am and how I want to be in this world. Unrestrained girl power, baybee.

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor painting of Santa Barbara Mission by Emily Weil

daily painting | the old mission

Gosh I hardly know where to start! Taking a few minutes while baking in Santa Barbara heat today (93°+ which makes my brain, as well as my laptop, sluggy) to post a painting from a watercolor workshop which I am enjoying this week. A very dear friend generously gifted me this painting extravaganza here, as sadly she had to cancel as her mom became suddenly ill. Breaks my heart, but I’m grateful and learning much about many things — who I am as a painter and art teacher, how I want to organize workshops, what I have to offer students. An incredible opportunity. Did this painting on day one at the Old Mission, and I am accepting that my style is quite different from the very gifted teacher, Shari Blaukopf. Not a detail-oriented artist ovah heah. But I’m having a ball, and enjoying meeting new friends, including recent Academy Award winner Brian Connor and his delightful partner Mia. They are renting the master suite in this upscale hostel where I am renting a bedroom in Goleta and it’s the icing on the cake of this extraordinary six days — pool, hot tub, views of the ocean (big sprawling ranch house up in the hills), great kitchen, coyotes yipping at night along with frogs croaking and crickets singing. But back to Oscar! So Brian and Mia are exhausted from the LA/Hollywood hoopla and are taking it easy up here. Brian brought the Oscar out (AND his BAFTA), awards for Best Visual Effects for the movie, “Dune”. The coolest guy. So we hung out in the kitchen and took pictures and had some wine and had our own Oscar party (“we” also including the house-owner and another guest). So casual, so fun. Not to mention, Mia is a chef with her own restaurant in Montreal and cooks up amazing Thai dishes which they generously share. Obviously I’m a bit star struck and goggle-eyed about this excitement, so thanks for letting me name-drop. 

I’ll be posting more paintings in the coming days, as we hung out at the historic mission, the old courthouse, a fun and quirky architectural apartment complex, the wharf and other spots. I think I’ll find a nice shady spot under the pomegranate tree out here in the yard and do a small painting right now, in fact. Or maybe I’ll just jump in the pool.

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

daily painting | vermilion views

OK so I’ve been going to the thesaurus to find words other than crimson, since I’ve overused that word a bit in the last few posts, trying to verbally capture the drama of desert outcroppings in Arizona; vermilion is my new favorite word. Here is an abstract I worked on, inspired by Sedona’s stunning red rocks. The views in that area take your breath away; the crowds take your patience away. Was fun to work on this without expectations, smearing paint with palette knives and making marks with pencils and oil pastels. I’ve thrown myself back into my art practice with renewed vigor, as I become clearer that, 1) My past is growing and my future is shrinking [stole that line from a movie], 2) I need to create art with abandon regardless of worries of whether my art career is financially viable, and 3) Painting gives me joy and that’s reason enough. That’s my mission statement for today. Amen.

12″ x 12″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil on claybord = $185

 

 

 

watercolor of grand canyon by emily weil

daily painting | grand canyon

Rain chased me away from this spectacular view of the Grand Canyon with blue/gray storm clouds hovering. Hard to imagine natural beauty with more gob-smacking drama. My road trip with a friend who planned to hike down into the canyon to join a river rafting trip already underway (did you know it can take over 30 years to get a permit to journey through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River?) brought us to this amazing National Park and if you haven’t been there I highly recommend it (and it’s usually crowded). Icy, slick, frozen trails made Nancy’s adventure a bit perilous but her sturdy crampons, well-prepared gear and years of hiking experience got her down to the canyon floor and the waiting river rafts. After she was safely on her way, I roamed around AZ and marveled at the sights around every corner. From snowy and chilly Flagstaff all the way down to warm, arid Phoenix, I took it all in and it was marvelous. This country! So many beautiful pockets of stunning sights. I gratefully absorbed the wonders of the warm desert sun, the brilliant stars, a full moon rising behind rocky cliffs, towering crimson rock castles, fast-moving roadrunners, the best chili verde enchiladas I’ve ever eaten and an amazing wolf-rescue/sanctuary in Rimrock which was a real treat (how many people can say they’ve been cheek-licked by an affectionate wolf?). Probably write more on that later; I hung out with tundra and gray wolves rescued from stupid, abusive humans. I’ve long been obsessed with wolves and had no idea what I was signing up for, so the whole experience was moving and memorable and spiritual. [If my wolf stories pique your interest, look up Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowat, a book that upended my views of these incredible canines.]

Before the trip, I said a prayer asking for clarity as I edge into old-womanhood. Where to go from here as an artist? And as an art teacher? I got my answers and I’m deeply grateful though I’d be more comfortable if the wolves told me I was about to win the lottery. Sigh. All is good. Life is an amazing adventure and I’m not done hurling myself into it. Not yet.

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

daily painting | sketches

Ahhh… nice to be back on my lily pad in Alameda. I live here in a floating home in Barnhill Marina, across from Jack London Square and we residents are trying to get the word out about our lovely, caring, tight-knit community. It’s a joy to live here, and we want the Bay Area to know about us. Pass it on, would you please?

I recently returned from a road trip to the Grand Canyon and other interesting spots in AZ. I have been painting away — Red Rock State Park near Sedona, cute, spiky barrel cacti, glorious crimson rocky peaks. For all my slopping cadmium reds around in my watercolor sketchbooks, I’ve produced nothing I want to post. Ah, well. Such is art. Having a getaway was the best, though. A change of scenery is always good for the soul, and the dry deserts of Arizona couldn’t be more different from my watery life here on my houseboat. Had a ball; will share more on that in future posts. 

Today’s sketches in a pleasant park in Berkeley, Cedar Rose Park, were fun to do. I was killing time as my car was being serviced nearby. It was an hours-long wait, but time moved quickly on this temperate, breezy, sunny day as I roamed through the snapshots in my head of roadrunners, flowering prickly pear cacti, a lovely butterfly enclosure in a botanical desert park my dear friend Kerry brought me to, and the gloriousness of the full moon rising in Rimrock, AZ. So many moments of deep gratitude.

ink drawings in small moleskine sketchbook

 

 

 

daily painting | onion skins

I was sorting through small watercolors and came across this demo of an onion with loose papery skin that I did for a painting class. I’ve added a bit more color and decided I liked it. I probably should get out my paints today as a remedy for gas-pump sticker shock, which of course is nothing compared to the pain experienced by millions of displaced folks in Eastern Europe; the images and videos are wrenching and heart-bruising and horridly reminiscent of WWII except for the brightly colored parkas and backpacks. I don’t know if prayer helps, but I figure it can’t hurt. This is one of those moments where I feel like an overly-comfortable American as I can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to run from bombs raining down on my city. How does one ever recover from the terror — if you actually survive physically? It’s impossible. This is an upside-down world with too many sharp edges. (And I admit I am enjoying the images of Starbucks and McDonald’s signs in cyrillic in Moscow.)

6″ x 6″ watercolor, ink on paper