watercolor painting of cows by emily weil

daily painting | curious cows

Cows. So fun to paint. These interesting (and interested) blocky-headed creatures gathered around our car in rural Sunol, where several of us who are E Bay Parks volunteers ventured out to the hills to observe golden eagles. Cows are curious, and they were likely wondering when the bales of hay were going to emerge from the backs of our vehicles. They kind of lined up, staring. Cracked me up. Ben, the biologist who has much experience with both the birds and the rural areas we visit, said that once he’d parked his truck and traipsed off to look for eagle nests and when he returned the cows had licked every inch of his truck clean. Including the windshield which, after this bovine tongue-lashing, was clouded and made his ability to drive impossible. No clue as to why the cows considered Ben’s truck delicious.

I love these outings to rural areas to track the birds. Paul, my volunteer birding pal, is great company and as we look to see if our pairs of birds have had kids we solve all the problems both in the world and in our families; politicians should give us a call, as we’ve worked through every kind of global issue and we definitely have all the answers.

I’m an artist. I am beyond lucky. And I get to appreciate local raptors. And I get to teach art to open-hearted students. And I get to enjoy my lovely home on the water and chuckle at my guinea pig Buster Posey’s little noises (nothing cuter than a guinea pig sneeze). And today I watched the tugs nudge a container ship up to the shipping cranes along the estuary with the foggy SF bay as a backdrop. I was funky today, as I come to terms with visitations of memories of childhood loneliness. My belief is that when these visuals surface in my brain, it is an opportunity for me to love and comfort that little girl who was so bewildered and confused. She’s mine now. I protect and love her and we heal together. The possibilities are endless.

10″ x 14″ watercolor, ink, acrylic on paper = $200




watercolor painting of ribbon tree by emily weil

daily painting | box of sunlight

Sometimes brief life-moments make me stop and take in unexpected sparkles of beauty — like this morning when I was in the shower, and sunlight was streaming through the bathroom window. The steam flowed and swirled and the droplets formed a rectangle of misty light. Oh it was lovely, and I paused the sudsy rituals to marvel. 

I woke up in a complete funk so this helped bring my chin up a little. I fumble around sometimes, feeling a bit overwhelmed by loss or family worries or emotional firebombs (why did I tune into that documentary about the abuse of kids in a Baltimore Catholic school?).

So I’m following Hillary’s advice — get up every day and keep going. I vacuumed the floors. I made some tea. I packed up art supplies to join this morning’s sketch group at the Albany Bulb. “Dial 911, step over the body, and do the dishes,” a therapist from years ago used to say. I’m embracing this perfect July Saturday, knowing how fortunate I am.

[I enjoyed the sketch group outing. Always great to hang with other artists. The Albany Bulb, an old landfill created almost a century ago, pokes out into SF Bay and people go and bring their dogs and bikes and create art out of the concrete chunks dumped there. Funky and fun; this tree was adorned with flowing ribbons and busy with chitting chickadees.]

7″ x 10″ watercolor, ink, acrylic pen on paper = $100




watercolor of tree by emily weil

daily painting | crinkly tree

Gratitude Monday. I’m so thankful to be in my comfortable, safe, and mostly quiet home. The birds are squawking (herons), the pigeons are hoovering up birdseed out on my deck, my fridge is full of food, I slept a solid eight hours last night in my cushy bed, and today I played with paint. This little thing, which is meant for a greeting card for an old friend and neighbor who babysat myself and my little sis, came from getting sucked into Instagram art demos. You make a puddle of paint and then crinkle plastic wrap onto it, and it dries with some texture. I’m not a big fan of painting trees so maybe I’ve found a way to avoid my aversions. 

Carolyn (babysitter) often enlightens me on childhood events. I asked her recently what her observations were of me as a baby/toddler when, as a way of fixing my lack of hip sockets at birth, I was in casts and braces for my first two years. Carolyn remembers the metal brace and how I thunked it against the floor when I was lying on my back (my brother reminisced about how I would slam it against the wooden slats of my crib, splintering them). Sheesh, I must have been a handful for my mom! But I’m extremely fortunate, for I’ve had a physically normal life. Carolyn also is helping me understand the family dynamics of our home — I fought constantly with my little sister. I always thought it must’ve been my fault — maybe I bullied her. No, Carolyn says. She was fussy and picked fights and was difficult to manage. I guess I’m never too old to try and figure out childhood relationships.

Anyways since I was down for the count over the weekend with the shingles vax side effects, I was happy today to feel some energy and enjoy my life and its daily activities. Life is a feast.

7″ x 5″ watercolor on paper




watercolor and pastel painting of calla lilies by emily weil

daily painting | kris’s lilies

If you’ve read any of my posts these past few years you know that my soapbox is about making space to grieve in a culture that doesn’t allow it. So — fair warning — I’m climbing onto it again (turn off your hearing aids, pals, I’ve got my bullhorn).

I read a fascinating article about loss in the New Yorker. A woman lost her mom, and tried to function as she had before. It didn’t go so well. So as a journalist she set out to understand her experience.*

I’ve often pondered this experience of grief, and have been very frustrated by these cultural realities. One of the interesting ideas the writer posited is that our American “pursuit of happiness” emphasis may be a factor — no room for feeling bad as we pursue that ephemeral rainbow: “…the ‘pursuit of happiness’ having been turned into an obligation: the challenging aspects of life are now framed as individual burdens… The choking back of sorrow, the forbidding of its public manifestation, the obligation to suffer alone and secretly, has aggravated the trauma of losing a dear one.”

I’m still working my way through these ideas and aspire to accept them. My moods are all over the place, but settling down some; it’s been 10 months since my brother lost his fight with brain cancer. “I’m glad to see your moods are getting lighter!” is something I hear sometimes and it makes me want to scream into my pillow (which I do sometimes). I just want to be myself and feel what I feel on this roller coaster of sorrow and loss. I get frustrated when I’m being monitored to see if I’m starting to feel better as it feels patronizing.

OK that’s my rant for today. Take what you like and leave the rest.

[This painting was done from a lovely photo of calla lilies a very dear friend sent me who knows I love them.]

*The New Yorker Daily: “It’s Mourning in America”

30″ x 22″ watercolor, ink, pastel on paper = $925




watercolor and ink painting of iris by emily weil

daily painting | sandy rhonda’s iris

Grief soup! I’m simmering away today. Sometimes I’m not quite boiling over but there are signs I’m stewing a bit. Like when, as today, my living room is covered with loose books because I pulled them off of shelves to clean and dust. A big pile. Sitting there (they will get attended to). Or I find myself crying and staring out a window, unsure of what got the tears flowing (well, I tell myself, my brother’s birthday was this week so that’s a clue). So I muddle along, grateful for moments of joy and beauty. 

Like Thur night! OH EM GEE. I joined a bat talk at the E Bay Parks Sunol Visitor Center. We learned about various species, some teeny, some big, what they eat, where they hunt and so on. Then at dusk we put our chairs around the Bat Castle — boxes mounted on poles that house the bats. Our job was to count them as they flew out to look for dinner. Within an hour they eat 1/3 of their body weight! Sheesh. That would be like eating 100 pizzas. Then they might go back inside to nap and perhaps do more hunting at dawn. That is magical enough, but then, behind the sunset-pink hills a huge moon poked its nose up and joined us. Then the bats starting coming — by the hundreds — against the full moon (or maybe almost full). I could hardly speak (not that I needed to), it was so gob-smackingly amazing.

Sigh. These wonderful, magical moments in life. I eat them up, like the Mexican free-tailed bats gobbling up mosquitoes. Today I’m camped in Gratitude Plaza. And I just signed up for the bat tour up at Yolo County, where bats reside under the freeway and come out by the thousands at dusk. Can’t wait.

[This is a painting of a lovely iris in Sandy’s front yard on Rhonda Way in Mill Valley, my childhood home; to avoid confusion with my brother’s wife Sandra, Jim called her Sandy Rhonda]

10″ x 10″ watercolor, ink, pastel on paper = $140




watercolor and ink painting of flower by emily weil

daily painting | sacto posy

Foo, still tired from art camp! So I’m letting myself rest and relax a bit. Worked on this today, from a photo taken… um, I think in Sacramento where I was visiting sweet Zoe, my oldest grandchild. Dunno. I loved the perky, confident, upward-reaching shapes of the flower’s petals and enjoyed working on a larger-than-usual watercolor sketchpad on my kitchen counter.

I am consciously working on self-care. These past few years have been bumpy, and I’m a bit drained. That’s OK. I am creating space to recoup. I’m working on gentle, loving habits, while turning a deaf-ear to the hungry-ghost voices in my head that tell me I should be more PRODUCTIVE. Horse pucky. I produce plenty. And I’m tired. I will produce rest so I can fill my cup.

10″ x 14″ watercolor, ink, pastel on paper = $200




abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | art camp demo

Aaahhh… home from teaching at this year’s Feather River Art Camp. Even though the week was cut short by two days (an unexpected and tragic death of a camp staff member unrelated to the art camp team), we all rallied and dove into the arty waters and bonded and created and flourished. No massive hail storms this year! No gnasty gnats that draw blood! We did have a couple of very hot days, which made the swimming hole that much more refreshing. 

And although a mountain of laundry threatens to avalanche into my living room, I appreciate the week’s experiences — a wonderful group of open-hearted students, a roomy wooden-floored tent, getting to know fellow artists as we tread water together and lowered our body temps in the chilly creek, and a bonus of visiting my granddaughter and her two little girls in Sacto on my way home (she’s a fierce jiu jitsu competitor and was sporting a glorious shiner). Plus the added relief this year of not worrying about my very ill brother.

And I’m aware today that my emotions are a jumble! I think being vulnerable in my role as a teacher is catching up with me a bit, and I’ll be taking care of my heart today.

Now safely returned home I appreciate my comfy bed, a shower that isn’t shared by other campers, privacy in the loo (one morning I watched, on the stall wall, a small jumping spider creep up on a perched mozzie* like a cat and successfully land on it), my own home-cooked meal in the oven and the cooler breezes in Alameda. I am deeply grateful for my full and artistic life.

*British slang for mosquito

[This painting was a demo for our acrylic abstract class.]

10″ x 10″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil on claybord = $140




10 x 10 abstract by emily weil

daily painting | dances

Today is mother’s day for me. By that I mean that adult-mom-Emily is looking after little-girl-Emily, my inner child (I know, that term gets laughed at a lot). This approach works for me. 

Sometimes little Em is feral. Fierce, angry, defiant. She had to grow up without direction or guidance or comfort and has had to figure out how to be a functional adult, and she’s a teeny bit pissed off. I’m fortunate that I have had counselors in the form of therapists and spiritual directors and grief counselors to help me find a stable way to live in this world. I’d be dead but for them. But I’m also plucky and resilient, and am finding meaning in this time of grief and loss. I am permitting myself to feel however I feel, regardless of people who are in a hurry for me to feel better (I’m waaaay past the point of taking care of other peoples’ feelings). The month of May has been a bit brutal as it’s the anniversary of my sister’s suicide, and her birthday a week later. It knocked me sideways, so I’m back to the basics of finding ways to soothe myself — journaling, taking walks, making art. Collapsing in a puddle of tears when necessary. Mainly just doing what’s in front of me. Practicing self-compassion (I recommend Kristin Neff’s website).

And one more note — did you know there’s something called a “warm line”? Different from a hot line — call options for folks who just need a little support (this info is for CA): https://www.mentalhealthsf.org/warm-line/ These days we need all the help we can root around for, like pigs digging up truffles. Thankfully I have a sensitive schnoz.

10″ x 10″ inktense ink sticks on paper = $140




abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | where the light is

Grumpy Gus over here is digging around looking for something to lift my spirits. It isn’t working so good, so I’m creating small abstract works using marvelous Derwent “Inktense” blocks thanks to a gift from a generous friend. Art distractions are helpful. I think it’s a frustrating and pointless use of energy to try and cheer myself up when my heart is so heavy with grief, so I focus on other things and allow myself to feel. It’s tricky. I want to rub this experience in my hair, but not get caught in self-pity or doom and gloom (which is my default).

Beaches help a lot, as do redwood trees. And a good book, or a Netflix series (I got caught up in the Icelandic show, “Katla”). Cooking myself a tasty meal. Seeing a grief counselor. In this life-classroom, my teacher is adversity. Everyone deals with it. It’s part of being human in this world. I do hope I am learning to accept my life circumstances with grace and to keep things in perspective: I am not hungry. Bombs are not dropping on my head. My home is safe (except for broken appliances; do not ever buy from Best Buy, ever). I am staggering onward. This is the way.

7″ x 10″ inktense ink sticks on paper = $100




abstract drawing by emily weil

daily painting | drumbeats

I would like to be queen of the world with magical powers. I’d create a product called “FamPoo,” a fantastical healing potion you wash your hair with and it cleans out all painful childhood memories. But then maybe that’s not a good idea, for I think my past experiences, and how I have worked on healing old wounds, is probably making me a better person. More compassionate, perhaps? But at times I still long for a frontal lobotomy. I go to the model of being the loving mother of that hurt inner little girl, which works for me. I meditate and ask her what she needs? To be seen, she says. As a small child, I was invisible — I worked hard on blending in with the wallpaper. It was safer. But oh how I wanted someone to truly see me and know how I was feeling.

So I give myself that today. I see that bruised little one and I hug her and love her and sometimes buy her ice cream. It’s powerful medicine.

Apologies for the therapy theme, but it’s apt today. I suppose losing my sibs triggers fears and loneliness. And likely I’m influenced by seeing an interview with Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle, who eloquently wrote of a childhood of abuse and unstable parents and how she brilliantly survived by her wits, and how she found love and comfort. I don’t want to hide my past, nor do I want to ooze all over anyone. This is my story, and it’s good to talk about it. I’m resilient. And proud.

5.25″ x 5.5″ inktense ink sticks on paper = $40