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

 

 

 

abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | visibility

I kept fussing over this painting I worked on over the weekend. Too many moving parts and I was ready to toss it in the dumpster. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the process — tunes in my earbuds, slapping paint around, adding bits of collage, playing with color patterns. Finally I got frustrated and decided it needed a big black mark at the bottom. After I brushed on the E with India ink, I figured, Well, I guess I need to be seen more! (So, an “E” for Emily, maybe? Dunno.) I feel most comfortable in my little cave, being an artist, quietly doing art. But at the same time I wish a Peggy Guggenheim would come along and convince the world to pay gazillions of dollars for my brilliant works of art. Ha. Well, that’s an honest admission, anyways. I need to mix things up, so I’ll do a series of these small works on boards. We’ll see what happens next and now I need to wrap this up as it’s dinnertime and I’m getting cranky and I want to enjoy my happy hour and give Buster (my cute little guinea pig) his dinner salad (red leaf lettuce is his fave). Until next time.

12″ x 12″ acrylic, pencil, collage, India ink, crayon on claybord = $185

 

 

 

watercolor and abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | on-ramp

This new painting, “On-ramp,” seems to capture all my thoughts and feelings about this year. Busy, crazy, colorful, confusing, shadowy, nerve-wracking, jumbled. But, intact, right? Still here, woot! Can’t believe we’re going into a new year — and the 3rd year of the pandemic (curse that damned ComiCon variant!). So, getting back to talking myself through each day. It works, only doing one day or one minute at a time, letting tomorrow’s worries take care of themselves. It eases my mind. Since life these days feels like skating on thin ice, let’s have some fun and lace up our skates and buckle on our life jackets anyways and Hans Christian Andersen ourselves around the frozen pond. Oh, and here’s a relevant quote I recently heard (thanks Claire and Virginia!):  

“… birthing is hard

and dying is mean–

so get yourself a little loving in between.”

— Langston Hughes

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

 

 

 

abstract acrylic painting by emily weil

daily painting | roughage

Well lately I’ve been spending time in my studio creating/redoing large abstracts. My space, in the Temescal neighborhood in Oakland, is perfect. I can splatter paint and make messes, I can store large paintings, there is a sink for cleaning out brushes drippy with acrylic paints, I have a cushy chair I can sit in and cry when I need to, and my landlady kindly assists in installing shelves and rag racks. Yesterday I finished up this painting, and again I’m curious about choosing those crazy colors in this dark December when family grief sits like a heavy cloud on my head. I watched a documentary about Bob Ross last night (Netflix, I recommend it), and his joy in painting was genuine. And his demos creating a “happy little tree” attracted thousands of viewers to his TV show, bringing encouragement and hope (and, in one case, the prevention of a suicide). I’m not going to paint on TV any time soon (not to mention I can’t stand being observed while I paint), but I get the excitement at creating art. It absolutely heals and buoys my soul, and today a cherished neighbor sent me a loving, kind text, complimenting me on a small painting she bought from me yesterday. Though today I am frustrated and discouraged that my many attempts at fixing a leaky spot in my roof have failed (drip drip in the living room), and my heart aches from painful family legacies, I can always paint. This colorful corner in my life fills me with gladness; I can always go there and make splashy puddles of wet pinks, yellows, blues and greens on canvas and paper. And I will. Like, right now.

28.5″ x 31″ acrylic, oil pastel on canvas (stretched) = $1295

 

 

 

abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | tumbles, bumbles and rumbles

A large fan set on low is starting to blow away the grief fog. It’s not super close, but it’s on. I can feel the cooling, gentle breeze. Waking up in the morning is less dreary (today’s bonus — images in my head from an early morning dream when I was making out with Brad Pitt). I look forward to the events of my day more than I have in many months. Hope drifts around my body in little wisps. I have not posted much lately, as I’ve been working on this large painting in my studio. Also my gut is sometimes wonky and occasionally I have to just take a nap instead of getting my watercolors out. Oh well. But I want to tell you this story. 

The other day I sanded down a plank of wood to use as a shelf for my TV. I rooted around in my cupboard for a leftover can of wood stain I was certain I had, but, nope. Not there. Mumbling and grumbling (I was happy to just stay home all day), I headed to the local hardware store. Near my house, I saw a gorgeous adult red-shouldered hawk in a tree so I stopped to admire its beauty before it flew off (I swear those birds were designed by Walt Disney). After securing my small can of Minwax® Gel Stain, I drove home and set up a spot on my porch to apply the stuff to the wood. Then, a hawk calling! I recognized the call of a red-shoulder. It was nearby, so I tried to spot it — it was atop my neighbor’s sailboat mast, supervising my work, for sure. When I took out my binos to look for the vocalizing bird, I saw another hawk atop the cement silos in my parking lot — a Cooper’s hawk that sometimes sits there (which may explain the red-shoulder’s calls, perhaps territorial). I was sandwiched by two hawks, watching over me; the bird on the mast may have been the bird I spotted earlier in the tree. I was thrilled and glad I had to go to Pagano’s Hardware. The presence of these birds! Magnificent and heartening.

62″ x 72″ acrylic, oil pastel on canvas (stretched) = $6100

 

 

 

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