daily painting | bay leaves

The other day I was, as the day wore on, steadily slumping under sadness and loss. Despite my sticky dark brain fog I remembered that the redwoods up in the Oakland hills always soothe and comfort me, so I put on my hiking boots and headed up to Joaquin Miller Park to my favorite trail that winds uphill through the hushed forest, past excited spaniel puppies exploring the great wilderness and energetic mountain bikers politely making way for me on the path. On the fern ravine trail, the park folks have added stairs in the steep bits, and the trail was carpeted with deliciously fragrant bay leaves of all colors. I took a pic and took out my paints once home. Such interesting textures and hues but I wish I could do a scratch & sniff blog! So yummy, the flavors in the air. 

What a godsend those parks are — minutes from concrete jungle urbanity, a rejuvenating and healing retreat from all the sharp edges of this nutty world. I felt 100% better after my hike.

watercolor, pen on paper





daily painting | the yaquina

I was honored to be commissioned to paint my sister-in-law Jane’s dredging vessel, The Yaquina (inset is photo taken by Jane). The fun part of this photo, from which I painted the piece, is that it was taken at the mouth of the Siuslaw River in Florence, OR, where I lived as a young married woman. The Yaquina dredges river mouths along the Oregon and California coastlines and Jane is 2nd in command of this hard-working ship. I was fortunate to have been invited on the ship last year when it was undergoing maintenance at a shipyard near me in Alameda; I got a grand tour and was allowed to sit on the decks and paint. SO cool.

It’s a complete delight to be connected with my ex-husband’s sibs and their kids. I’ve been divorced for many years but to be still in touch means a lot. As I get older, family connections are everything.

11″ x 14″ watercolor, pen on paper




daily painting | dappled light

OK so I have this ongoing distaste for painting landscapes. Give me an old building or a disintegrating tractor or a flower in a garden any day. But I took a photo of the gorgeous dappled light on a woodsy trail up in Joaquin Miller Park in the Oakland hills one day, and tried my hand painting it (white acrylic pens rock!). A favorite hiking spot of mine, this trail, as you walk through the redwoods and the peaceful, healing space they create. They embrace me on a lonely day, and I often tell them, Thank you. Sometimes I am very fortunate and spot a red-shouldered hawk in the air, expertly maneuvering through the tree limbs, dazzling me.

8″ x 6″ watercolor, pen on paper = $60




daily painting | page 9

Another page from my sketchbook project chronicling some of my early life and my spiritual stuff (I’d say “spiritual path” but it’s such a new age cliche even if it’s true; I’m bored to death with that language). The book is finished and is deeply personal and emotional — a loving thing to do for myself — to see and acknowledge a sad and lonely little 10 year old Emily who is a vital and sensitive and important part of my innards and I value her insights. This project is also stirring up all kinds of grief and memories (the texture of the cushions in our rumpus room as a kid!), and I believe that is in itself a healing process. The sketchbook also is about celebrating all the help I’ve gotten over the years, both seen and unseen; I do think I’ve had lots of help from The Divine, and the more my heart is open for magic to happen, the more I see the amazing gifts around me (like one day stopping in my tracks as I walked past our marina mailboxes — a hummingbird was lunching on the sweet nectar of nearby flowers; as it hovered in the sun its iridescent feathers dazzled and it cast a beautiful shadow).

I have designed my own personal belief system which works for me. Though I had an early adult life in the Christian church as a born-again, I think my current spiritual connections run deeper and are more satisfying and comforting and real. Every day I am helped and taught, and my challenge is to stay in that place of trust and not go into the rat-hole of loneliness & isolation, which is a childhood default place that feels safer. And is completely miserable. It’s my daily practice. Staying present.

8″ x 5″ watercolor, pen in sketchbook




daily painting | book

I’ve mentioned this topic before, but an important part of my life is my healing journey. When I was in my 30s (lo, these many years ago!) I first started a therapy process and decided I would see just how far I could take it. A kind of personal science experiment — when one has a difficult and painful childhood, are there limits to how much one’s mind and heart and spirit can heal? I wanted to find out; night terrors and sleep-depriving nightmares had made me desperate to find help. So I threw myself into it, going to counselors and therapy groups and in-patient treatment programs for adult children of alcoholics. I read books and went to workshops and 12-step meetings and new-age churches and sought healers and shamans and spiritual directors. I’m quite certain I was thoroughly obnoxious about the whole thing.

Anyways, I found out one important bit of information — the human spirit is powerful and strong and there are no restrictions on becoming whole. No limits at all. I am not “sick.” I am not mortally wounded. I am a sensitive human who grew up with emotionally mangled, lonely parents, and I still learn every day how to be kind to myself. My therapist advised me to create an art book that chronicled my early journey, my pain, and, importantly, my connection to Great Spirit, which is the name I choose to use for God or Spirit or The Divine or Higher Power. This page illustrates the serendipitous event of having stumbled into Leigh Hyam’s art workshop at Esalen in 2008, without knowing anything about her. She opened me up and it changed the direction of my life. It was definitely meant to be. OK going back to the book now. More pages to complete.

8″ x 5″ watercolor, pen in sketchbook




daily painting | airwaves

This large abstract, acrylic on canvas, isn’t exactly a “daily” — took longer to finish, but it’s my latest large one. Because I worked on this over the course of days (weeks, really, but not every day), it has a lot going on. Sadness (sickness, cancer in the family), rage (same reasons), joy of life. I kind of like this one. It feels like a wild expression of human emotion and the journey of being in this world.

58″ x 61″ acrylic, pencil on canvas = $4500




daily painting | gardenia

Here in San Diego, looking after grandsons Heath and Mason, the weather has been lovely and mild (temps in 80s, not 100s — what a relief!). Heath (8) and I had a paint-out in the back yard yesterday and I gave him a pair of scissors and asked him to scout around the yard and find blossoms for a still life. What a lovely surprise to see him bring me a gardenia, which he found in the back of the gardenia bush under a tree. I’d never have found it. So we went to work, me with my watercolors and Heath with tempera paints while little French bulldog Rocco, who is in our care this week, wondered why Heath wasn’t throwing the ball for him. It was a perfect afternoon.

8″ x 6″ watercolor, pen on paper = $60




daily painting | studio Q nasty

I was out in the overgrown, gnarled and wonderful garden patch outside my studio in Oakland spraying fixative on a pastel piece and a few nasturtiums were valiantly rising up in the tangle. The shapes and colors were such fun — even in urban Oakland there is a wildness in that corner though it is surrounded by industrial garages and cabinet shops. “Nasties” are so basic, with an elegant simplicity. Made me remember walking home from school as a kid in Mill Valley (no long lines of cars of parents picking up kids in those days, for sure!) and one of the front yards exploded with them and I learned how to suck the sweet nectar from the flower’s stem. A nice after-school treat. No one ever came out to yell at us kids dawdling on the way home.

6″ x 8″ watercolor, pen on paper = $60




daily painting | dad…

After teaching a watercolor class last month at Frank Bette Center I unwound by going up to the estuary near the Fruitvale Bridge in Alameda to sketch and relax and hopefully spot the peregrines who live on the bridge. A family came along, including a quite precocious little 4 year old (maybe younger) peppering her dad with questions. She climbed up on the railing and I only wrote down a couple of things she said — she was mesmerized by the water and so curious and cute (her little toddler brother loudly objected to his older sister climbing on the railing, though, as it scared him). She was bubbling over with questions and her dad, obviously used to her inquiries, patiently addressed each one. It was a charming family scene and I was so happy there was a little girl in this world who was embraced by her parents and who honored her inquisitive mind. A happy and refreshing scene; I wanted to follow them just to be around the little girl’s wonderment. Oh how I aspire to approach each day with such open-hearted curiosity!

I’ve been under the weather with an infection this week so I apologize for not posting. Am on the mend. Looking forward to teaching the acrylic abstracts workshop tomorrow at Frank Bette.

small ink drawing on paper




daily painting | peppery fantasy

I canNOT get enough of peppers. The globular shape (great word but it sounds like a tumor), the deep reds and oranges with tinges of green, the perky stems, their sensuality. I love looking at them. I love painting them. I love eating them. Yesterday I was eager to take a pepper to my studio and do a large one with watercolor on paper. I finished it off today and got a bit wild with the pastels, but it was satisfying and fun, things painters don’t often feel. I started another one and it is in progress, a green squished one with a terrific shape. We’ll see if that one works but I like its start.

30″ x 22″ watercolor, pencil, ink and pastel on paper = $795