abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | class demo abstract

I was photographing this painting today and as I edited it to clean up the image in Photoshop I realized it’s kind of a big penis in a salad bowl. Oh well. The unconscious mind at work again.
I was doing this class demo in today’s watercolor workshop I taught, showing different kinds of paper (smooth vs. textured). Then as my marvelous students beavered away on their paintings with great dedication I fooled around a bit more on the composition.
I LOVED teaching the workshop today. A welcome break from brother-care; pursuing my art passions keeps my feet on the ground. One of my lovely students professionally designed commercial displays and many of us have enjoyed his brilliant creations in the Gump’s and Macy’s windows in San Francisco. Another student, amazingly, works for a traffic engineering group for which I worked in the 1980s when in art college; I did admin work for the small office and now the company employs 300+ employees. The founders of that company were very kind to me, and in off hours sometimes let me work on class assignments on their office computers. I’m thrilled at their success.
And life goes on, and isn’t it amazing? Queens leave the planet and kings rise to rule. Enjoyed my day — as I express myself in the arts, at the same time various friends and family members and I support our dear brother as he considers MAID — Medical Aid in Dying; he is experiencing his demise from brain cancer. He reflects often on his life — yesterday he learned that the Mosquito Fire in the Sierra foothills consumed his previous home and ranch where he lived with his first wife — we went outside to enjoy the gardens at his nursing facility yesterday and the smoke was in the air and he pondered if he was inhaling his burnt-up house.

8″ x 7″ ink, watercolor, pastel on paper

 

 

 

watercolor, ink, pastel painting of morning glory by emily weil

daily painting | pill hill morning glory

I can’t remember why I was driving over Pill Hill in Oakland last week; trying to get to the freeway after getting a 2nd booster shot at Kaiser I suppose (Pill Hill is what folks call the area off Broadway that is chock-full of hospitals and medical facilities). But I pulled over for some reason, I think because my purse was on the back seat of my car and the seat belt sensors are ridiculously sensitive and Michelle was yelling at me (Michelle is my wonderful new RAV4). 

Anyways these enormous morning glories, the size of large saucers, with their pointy, lavender tips, were profusely blooming on the corner so I snapped a few pics and painted the scene a few days ago. They were just so healthy and gorgeous. I always get a kick out of seeing lush gardens in urban areas, and that corner of Oakland is about as urban as you can get.

Anything that is part of the natural world comforts me enormously as I watch my brother slowly fade and decline from brain cancer. Last week I visited my wonderful friend Sandy who very recently lost her husband to a heart attack. I was so glad to see her and left the house (the house I grew up in) at dusk. As I went out to my car on that wooded Mill Valley hillside I was surrounded by bats! They danced around me and over my head and I was frozen in awe and wonder, listening to the whooshing of their wings. I love bats. It was bat magic.  

10″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, pastel on paper = $130

 

 

 

abstract pastel, watercolor painting by emily weil

daily painting | corpuscles

Today grief is a giant python, circling my neck. Some people I know are afraid of strong emotion so they avoid feelings. I don’t seem to have that ability; today my heart is just a messy, bewildering puddle of loss.

This is one stormy bitch of an ocean to navigate, as most Americans freak out at expressions of pain and sadness. “Don’t get stuck there,” some advise. Others helpfully share admonishments to not “feed the energy” of anguish or rage. Which makes me feel even more alone with my very intense, bright-red feelings. I feel branded. A scarlet letter, tattooed on my neck. Stay away, the letter warns. She’s very emotional these days. She might be overwrought. Out of control. Angry and bitter.

I don’t fear for my sanity (well, sometimes I do, but I’ve been here before). I know that fully embracing the losses of one dead sister from cancer and another sister who committed suicide and my only brother dying from aggressive brain cancer inside of two years is where I am and need to be; feeling every last damn molecule of shock and sorrow. While I hose off the spatters of family dysfunction that regularly spray around the room and forgive me for my metaphor soup.

“I resist nothing” is today’s mantra. That’s the best path. When my mom died my brother’s wife admonished, “rub it in your hair” — fully experience all the grief and sadness. Good advice. Today my gray locks are filthy with ashes. Unattractive but very, very real.

7″ x 7″ ink, watercolor, red wine, pastel on paper = $65

 

 

 

red wine, oil pastel, ink and pencil abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | fermented art

So my brother likes red wine and I’m the supplier. He doesn’t drink much, so the wine sits and spoils in the bottle (I’m trying a new stopper that may help make it last longer). I brought the half bottles home from his nursing home and decided to get out some paper and splash the leftover Syrah around and see if it’s a viable medium. What a hoot! Layers and layers of winey pigments on this piece, to which I added oil pastels and ink and pencil and all kinds of stuff. Took days of adding and dripping and drying and experimenting and today with Van Morrison serenading me in my headphones, and the boat slightly rocking in the breezy estuary, and the sparkles of watery reflections dancing on my ceiling — well it’s a marvelous and peaceful and very pleasant day. Sweet and welcome few hours of rest. 

The Big Bro we hope will move to a nicer nursing home in a few weeks. His brain cancer is clearly advancing as he is getting more wobbly and confused and tired, but he’s still great company and I enjoy being with him. How fortunate I am to have these rich moments. Every day. Wherever I am.

10″ x 10″ red wine, oil pastel, ink, pastel and acrylic on paper =$130

 

 

 

abstract painting on claybord by emily weil

daily painting | feather river

Walked in my door about an hour ago, returning from Feather River Art Camp up in N California, NE of Chico, in the beautiful hills of Plumas National Forest (3500 ft). It was an honor to be invited to teach at the camp and I had a ball and my students said they did too. I taught “Mixed Media,” meaning I did a watercolor class on one day, a drawing class another day, and so on (camp lasts 7 days with 5 days of classes and workshops). Such open-hearted, enthusiastic artists in my class — age range from 16 to hard-working art-enthusiasts in their 70s (maybe older; I didn’t exactly ask their birth dates). The camp has been operating for years, and there are a number of offerings given by fabulous teachers from ceramics to bead-making to plein air painting to creating art with bleach (marvelous — the teacher uses black paper). Check it out: www.featherriverartcamp.com.

Anyways not a lot of posting these days as I spend considerable time with my brother in his nursing facility in Mill Valley where he’s in hospice care with aggressive brain cancer; was hard to be gone for a week, but he was in good hands, and the art camp was on the calendar since last year. And I could nap in the afternoons. Then I could mosey down at dusk to Spanish Creek and enjoy the tranquility and the wildlife (and sometimes the company of my fabulous young assistant, Nolan). The wild creatures took my breath away — a merganser duck with 8 ducklings trailing behind, a resident beaver, dragonflies and songbirds and fish jumping and, two evenings ago, a young rattlesnake (not very big, small rattle) saw me (10 feet away) and twisted into the bushes but not before giving me a good shake of the rattle. It was marvelous.

But then there was Covid. The camp directors were exceedingly careful with us when we arrived — we provided proof of neg Covid test, they took our temps, etc. and all activities were outdoors. Still, three people became ill and tested pos; thankfully it was the last day of classes but it did kind of empty out the camp. Understandably. I’m isolating and testing every day and so far feel fine.

I did this abstract as a demo for the abstract class. The way everyone dove in to the exercise — so impressive and inspiring. All participants did amazing pieces, all week. Hope I get to come back next June. And I hope you will come too!

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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 and mixed media abstract by emily weil

daily painting | fluidity

I was in the mood for creating big wet puddles of watercolor on paper the other day, so I decided an abstract was the appropriate choice for my kitchen counter art production. This kind of work takes a bit of time as I have to wait for each layer of paint to dry (sunny days help and yes I could use my hair blower but when I perch my soggy, paint-saturated sketchpad in the sunny kitchen window it creates some time to do things like scrub my bathroom tiles or give my guinea pig Buster a sweet pepper snack — multitasking central, over here). But the thing was to let the art flow which coincides with letting my emotions tumble freely through the canyons of grief and loss. News junkie that I am, it’s hard to turn off the latest reports of frightful European war news, but I did, putting on my headphones and listening to Sting’s latest album. His lyrical, romantic tunes are beautiful and they help me keep my heart open. And the music is a soothing balm. I seem to feel safer at home, as I paint and emote, and I’m in a bit of quandary about whether to keep my studio as financially it’s not making a lot of sense right now. But I will get it sorted.

Plus I want to enjoy my house! My marina was recently sold to developers with dubious motives, so we are fighting for our community here. Our small, slightly funky floating home village on the San Francisco Bay estuary is charming and lovely and we want to keep it that way. Stay tuned.

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

 

 

 

abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | under water

I shook my fist at God today. Inspired by my dear friend Suzanne Kelsey’s book, Skipping Church, I lost my temper and yelled and cried and rebelled. I am doing everything I need to be doing, I sobbed. So why is this road so full of car-eating potholes?  

Well there are no answers (except, probably, to cinch up my seatbelt). But at least I can tell you about Sue’s book. Anyone who has ever gone to church, or who knows anyone who has attended Sunday morning services, should read this. With my born-again Christian background and my experience as a pastor’s wife in Oregon, I find her story especially compelling. One day years into their marriage, Sue’s husband announced he was called to be a Methodist minister. The book is Sue’s story of her own path as she detours around the expected role of a minister’s spouse and embarks on her fierce journey of spirituality, motherhood, writing and teaching in her beloved Iowa. This powerful, open-hearted woman finds her own, intimate way of celebrating life and spirituality in spite of church pressures to conform, and diving into her highly-readable book (and I’m hard to please) is like turning LED lights on in a dark closet. Please go buy it (click on image of my painting above to see the book cover).

[This small abstract, Under the Sea, was another kitchen creation.]

6″ x 8″ ink, acrylic pen, watercolor, pencil, pastel on paper

 

 

 

abstract ink, watercolor & pastel by emily weil

daily painting | secret code

Sometimes when I wake up in the morning the howling grief monkeys are jumping on my bed. Today was one of those times, so I did my a.m. meditation practice (calming) and took out my journal to write notes to myself that go like this:

You are good, Emily.

You are sane.

Your brain cells feel like exploding popcorn kernels but you’ll be OK (add salt and butter).

Life is rich and beautiful and you always find your way to your best path (put your headlights on high-beam).

Is this what sanity looks like? I have no idea. What is sanity, anyways? Again, no clue. A grip on reality, I guess. On what’s real and true. Looking eyeball-to-eyeball at the facts (and not the alternative ones). There are times when life feels like being in a batting cage with a pitching machine hurling 90MPH baseballs at you and you don’t have a bat. Or a helmet or knee pads. And that’s just the way things are and you dodge and duck as best you can. I have two dead sisters, a flattened design business because of Covid, wrenching situations in my family that rip my heart up every day, and now my marina has new owners whose intentions are sketchy (where would I go?). BUT! My guinea pig Buster Posey cracked me up this morning with his little purring noises, today I am safe and warm and well-fed, I have loving and nurturing friends (I am so fortunate!), I get to watch eagles soar in the east bay hills with a fabulous birding companion, and last night I had a ball teaching students drawing lessons (they were amazing and very quick studies). Again, balancing things out. Life can be challenging, but as a dear British friend once encouraged (you can imagine her gorgeous accent), sooner or later Zeus will move on and hurl his lightning bolts at someone else.

About this painting — sometimes I’d rather stay home and linger in my PJs than go to my studio which can be a bit chilly and cavernous. So I get out sketchbooks and fool around with ink, acrylic pens, pastels and pencil. Working small like this makes life feel more contained.

PS Apologies for the metaphor soup.

7″ x 7″ ink, acrylic pen, watercolor, pencil, pastel on paper = $65