daily painting | american kestrel

“Allow” is my word for today, the first anniversary of my sister Kay’s death. Unsurprisingly, my feelings are bouncing all over the place, so I think my best practice is to not resist today’s emotional road trip. I love the bullet points in “The Mourner’s Bill of Rights,” sent to me by a wonderfully supportive facilitator who comforts family members of those who chose “Death with Dignity.” A sampling:

• You have the right to experience your own unique grief

• You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions

• You have the right to experience “griefbursts”

Aren’t these marvelous? I will keep this card handy today as so far I am really needing it; my brains are scrambled and I’m upside down, so I’m just going with it. My little guy Buster greeted me this morning with his usual “Wheek! Wheek! Wheek!” which means Good morning, I’m hungry in guinea pig. I scratched his head and gave him some cucumber (his little purring noises crack me up). So far I’ve needed one trip to Berkeley Vacuum and Sewing Center to clean out the shavings from Buster’s cage that clogged my vacuum. He’s worth it, though my house smells like a barn from the small animal hay he eats, but it’s a nice smell. With all the death in my family and in the world lately, I am especially grateful for the miracle of life. In all its forms, including guinea pigs — warm friends who walk with me and hug me when I need to stop and sob for a few minutes, the wonderfully feisty falcon (American Kestrel, shown here) we banded last week, the butterflies visiting the plants on my deck, the occasional bat rays (that look like sting rays) gliding in the shallow water at low tide in my marina, the optimistic Cooper’s hawk that perches on top of the cement silos in our parking lot, playing I-Spy-With-My-Little-Eye (which is probably a gorgeous paprika color) a nice small songbird happy-hour hors d’oeuvre. I am happiest when I am 100% focused on this moment, this second in time. Because I am alive, and so are you, and isn’t that amazing? 
NOTE: Raptors are handled and banded at GGRO with appropriate state, federal and IACUC permits. 

 

 

 

watercolor and ink painting of guinea pig by emily weil

daily painting | buster posey

I wasn’t going to post this but looked at it again today after I came home from grocery shopping and decided my little painting showcases Buster’s adorableness. Buster Posey is my new guinea pig housemate, and how lovely to have another beating heart in the house! (I wasn’t quite ready for kitties.) My wonderful friends Allen and his wife Allison found this little guy in their Berkeley neighborhood, likely abandoned. They tried to find his owner (Allen, being a naturally brilliant biologist, properly sexed him) but no luck and Mr B needed a permanent home, so I adopted him. Allen and Allison and I decided his name should be Buster Posey, as he was Giants-orange and I live by the Posey Tube. Like, duh. Anyways, he’s pretty cute and I’ll probably do a few more sketches of him as he’s a wonderful model, sticking his head out of his favorite place to hang out, a little cave-like plush bed or a tunnel (shoe boxes work great). He’s a little eating machine, loving small-animal hay and sweet peppers and lettuce (Berkeley Bowl day-old produce is now a regular stop). I’m embarrassed at how many cushy little beds I’ve gotten for him. He also has a little play pen where he does laps for exercise and “popcorns” — guinea pigs do these darling little hops when they run around. Sometimes he holds still while I pet his head, and he makes a little purring sound which is heart-melting. OK that’s my animal news, and it’s a good thing my vacuum sucks up the small-animal bed shavings that spill from his cage, as they are everywhere (I pulled some out of my hair today, but things tend to get stuck in there). 

7″ x 7″ watercolor, pen, acrylic pen on paper

 

 

 

daily painting | broken stem

I pulled out my small sketchbook this morning as I was captivated by this droopy bloom which is part of a glorious bouquet of lilies my daughter sent me for my birthday. I left the busted stem in the arrangement (as opposed to removing it to a smaller bud vase) as I kind of liked it. The flowers came mostly in lily bud-pods, and have opened up with wonderfully gaudy fall-color amazingness and I realized today that the bent stem’s bud actually opened up fully, even in its injured state. I am impressed — such stamen-a! (Sorry.) Anyways, I am moved by this vibrant, pumpkin-colored bloom that became its full, beautiful self even when broken. The correlations are obvious, as I came from such a mangled family, so this was fun to notice and appreciate. Limitations? Yes, and so what? We can always find a way to be our most elegant selves.

fountain pen, watercolor in small sketchbook

 

 

 

abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | circus

Emotion central ovah heah (think Carmela’s voice, mobster Tony Soprano’s wife on “The Sopranos” which I’m enjoying again for the 4th or 5th time). You’ve been patiently reading these ongoing posts about my grief. Stormy, wet, weepy, sad and there you go, Bob’s Your Uncle. Still here. But rains cleanse and renew and refresh and make things grow. I’m into growing. I’m becoming stronger and more sturdy. I’m resilient and I am shedding crackled, dried up old skins like a snake. Dark childhood shadows drifting off into the ether. Six months since my sister Diana’s suicide now, and it’s getting easier to get out of bed in the morning, so healing does in fact happen even when you feel like the drippy technicolor emotions will drape themselves all over you forever. Life is such a carnival ride at times, but I’m strapped in and hanging on and fully here for the adventure, even when I’m screaming bloody hell on the roller coaster. As I get older I aspire to be myself. Only myself. It’s liberating, and it’s happening. This is good.

30″ x 24″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil on stretched canvas = $975

 

 

 

pencil drawing of t-rex foot by emily weil

daily painting | toes

I think T-rex toes look like talons, but I have hands-on experience with terrifically fierce and scary hawk feet, so I’m biased. My hopping around the internet found that when it comes to this iconic Cretaceous-period flesh-eater of N America, they are called toes or digits. Fun to draw. I wasn’t interested in tackling the entire T-Rex skeleton at the Life Sciences building on the UC Berkeley campus but the smaller bits were great fun to try and create on paper, so I took out my Lyra water-soluble graphite crayon and did a quick sketch of the T-Rex foot, as our time was winding down for the sketching group. Lordy I wouldn’t want to encounter that guy if he were to come to life. Crazy scary teeth and feet that tore into flesh (mostly of other dinosaurs). Talk about top of the food chain.

I always enjoy gatherings of artists, for I truly feel like I belong. Well I’m writing this on a Sunday afternoon, so I’d best get going if I want time in my studio. I redid an abstract yesterday and was surprised to find I needed to sit and cry (again) while I sloshed paint around. I guess painting opens up the flow of emotions, and that’s almost always a good thing. Thankfully the feelings come and go like storms. They do pass. And some days are wetter than others.

7″ x 7″ water-soluble graphite crayon on paper = $65

 

 

 

sketch/painting of t-rex skeleton by emily weil

daily painting | ribs

I totally forgot how fabulous graffiti is in Berkeley bathrooms; soon I must visit pubs and bars near the UC Berkeley campus for fun and check out the stalls in the lady’s loo. Today was an interesting meeting of an urban sketch group at the Life Sciences building on the UC Berkeley campus where there is a full-scale model of a T-rex (and graffiti marvelousness in the ladies room). It was spectacular, and I haven’t seen one of these skeletal displays in eons (or maybe ever). The sketchers drew fabulous drawings of the bones and teeth and the claws and the tiny arms and I decided I liked the vertebrae and the rib cage so I did that (with my fountain pen and ArtGraf water soluble graphite which comes in nice little cakes). What a hoot. Plus, I always enjoy roaming around that campus as half my family went to Berkeley; my parents went there (and met there, in a chorale group); my bro got his PhD there and my grandfather was a professor at UC (engineering; I never knew him as he died when Mom was 12; my grandmother sewed crazy quilts made out of blue and gold mens’ ties) and my uncle, who graduated from Berkeley, requested that my mom, an organist, play Cal fight songs at his funeral, which she did. She also played the bells atop the Campanile once. Lots of family history there, and I’m kind of into seeking out my ancestors these days. Anyways it was a lovely part of my day and was made even sweeter when banding pal Bill, a fellow artist, also joined the artists. Great to mix things up doing things I never experienced before. Life is rich. I am grateful.

7″ x 7″ Ink, water-soluble graphite on paper = $65

 

 

 

abstract mixed media painting on paper by emily weil

daily painting | weather

Since I was a bit housebound by the Big Howl last Sunday I decided to do a small abstract using materials I had at home (as opposed to hurling drippy acrylic paint at a large canvas in my studio). It kept getting more complicated as I added layers of watercolor and ink and acrylic pen and pencil and god knows what else (maybe spit and string). But it was a satisfying exercise, whatever the results, and in some strange way it holds complicated and detailed thoughts and feelings. It’s a mystery to me how the creative process can soothe (or clarify) emotions by getting them on paper (or canvas) using various media. It’s a bit of magic, really, and I feel very fortunate. Anyways, if you live in CA I hope the atmospheric river didn’t wash you away. It got a bit bumpy on my houseboat, and at one point a big gust blew open the doors that lead outside to my deck (that was a first). But I didn’t end up floating down the estuary or having a neighbor’s sun umbrella spear a living room window. That’s always good.

9″ x 12″ watercolor, acrylic pen, ink, pencil on paper = $140

 

 

 

daily painting | hydrangea

Last week the grief fog began, timidly, to lift. I had heartfelt, healing and warm conversations with my niece as she came through town; we talked about family and her mom who committed suicide in May. Just voicing the frustrations with, anger towards and love for my sister Diana felt like a balm that soaked in deep, because Kirsten gets it, as she works through her own shock and loss. It was a welcome gift, to comfort one another. I am so grateful for all the resources I have access to — grief groups, therapists, warm friends, open-hearted family members, writing exercises, painting, and banding hawks. All these are medicines, healing my fractured soul and shattered heart. And joy is starting to creep back in around the edges of my life (and I’ll take it!). The cement shoes that make it hard to get out of bed in the morning are starting to crack and chip. The finches at my birdfeeder make me laugh a bit more heartily, and my new housemate, Buster Posey, my rescue guinea pig (who is Giants-orange) that a friend found abandoned on the side of the road, is hilarious and adorable and tolerates brief cuddles (“cavies” are pretty low-maintenance pets, I am learning). Little puddles of relief. Marvelous.

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, acrylic on paper = $90

 

 

 

abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | embers

Art as therapy is my world these days. Here’s another big abstract, a painting from several years ago I reworked. It’s satisfying, being in my studio and slinging acrylic paint around, consciously sidestepping rational thought (on composition, color balance, and so on); most of the paint actually lands on the canvas. It’s an emotional process, and digging into feelings and tossing them onto a paint surface is mending me. I’m very grateful — for my studio, that I stumbled into Leigh Hyams’ workshops in 2008 which exploded me into a serious art practice; for glorious, vibrant paint colors, for headphones that supply rock and roll. Grief is a helluva rabbit hole to tumble into — I’m upended. I disappear into it, and at times I even have hope I’ll emerge with all my body parts. I’m sometimes satisfied, strengthened and exhausted, sometimes frustrated, spent and humbled. But always, always more whole.

68″ x 60″ acrylic, oil pastel on canvas (stretched) = $5600

 

 

 

acrylic abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | 2020

Wacky wanderings is how I’d describe my world today. I’m finishing up the book, Proof of Heaven, about a neurosurgeon who had a near death experience (NDE) and writes about his journey into a place of love and joy and acceptance and connection to the divine while he was in a coma he wasn’t supposed to recover from. I couldn’t put it down, and it’s making me rethink everything, and in a good way. I’ve had faith for most of my life in a spiritual presence or higher power or Spirit or God (though I don’t like that term, it connotes male patriarchy and confining religiosity). Reading more about NDEs (I’m going back to the library for more) is boosting my beliefs and giving me more confidence to have faith and trust in the divine, western intellectual culture be damned. It’s like I’m learning that what I’ve always hoped to be true but was afraid to completely believe is real — there is an unseen, miraculous world that our limited human brains cannot access. A world of Spirit and consciousness and a loving, supporting, expanding universe. Because I’m in a stage of life where my “past is growing and my future is shrinking,” and because of recent deaths of my sisters, all these other-worldly concepts are on my mind, and I’m finding I’m in a place of, “Oh eff it, I’m going to leap off that cliff into total surrender and faith.” A place not exactly supported in our culture, but a stance that deeply comforts and encourages me. So, there. I’m reaching more deeply into my beliefs, dammit. It’s not a popular way of thinking, here in this world. But I’m more convinced every day that there is a higher being (or beings) that support me in this human life. And today I consciously choose to practice radical trust. This is difficult for me to share, as it makes me feel vulnerable. So I hope you are OK with that.

Which is kinda related to this painting. I took an older abstract I wasn’t crazy about and made a new one out of it. I’m doing larger works these days, as the over-sized canvases are better at holding all the swirling emotions that whip through me these days. I titled this painting “2020” as it felt appropriate. It contains all the roiling, messy feelings from that ridiculously crazy, painful year.

55″ x 65″ acrylic, oil pastel on canvas (stretched) = $4900