abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | fluttering

Non-resistance is my phrase du jour. Today’s emotional tornado is about an EF4, but I’ve got a pretty good shelter under my house (which means a wet suit and scuba gear but I’m well-equipped). It’s OK though. I “yield to overcome” (Eckhart Tolle). That kind of stance helps me through the storms when whirlwind emotions twirl me up into the air. It’s a natural tendency to stiffen up and fight these experiences but it just prolongs the grief process (this makes me think of being in labor and breathing; I do feel kind of like I’m birthing a new me). I’m amazed every time I practice acceptance — it’s so effective and helpful for it gives room for the storm to pass by. For me, it’s important to not fight the shitty feelings and god they just feel awful. Sadness, anger, shock, depression. Ugh. But I know I’m moving through them. They’ll be back tomorrow, and that’s OK. I surrender to this journey. Painful and unpleasant. Eventually, though, the weather will change. I hope. I think so.

[This painting started as a watercolor of… I can’t remember. Flowers, I’m sure. Wasn’t going well so I added splotches of ink, and then pastels. Can’t overstate how making art helps me stay upright. That and screaming out the open car window on the freeway.]

8″ x 8″ watercolor, ink, pastel on paper = $85




acrylic abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | storms

I think I’ve written about this before so if this is a repeat — well, too bad. After my first sister died several years ago I became a bit obsessed with the death process (I haven’t really moved along from that). I read every book I could get my hands on about NDEs, Near Death Experiences. Some were boring or preachy but the book I liked the most, Dying to Be Me, by Anita Moorjani, stayed with me. After her NDE she returned to this life knowing she had to be herself — fully. She had a very courageous journey which inspired me.

As I’m in this rock-tumbler of life experiences and losses right now, I am inspired by Ms. Moorjani’s book. In grief there aren’t milestones or street signs or maps and I am bumping along. But the main thing for me today is to be the most technicolor me I can be. Without apology, and with audacity and fierceness. I am certain I piss people off and I am annoying and cranky (think Roy Kent in the TV show Ted Lasso, who has a marvelous growl). I’m fine with that. I call on my sisters to both support me from wherever they are and to come get my dying brother before he truly suffers. I have some wispy moments where I feel them with me and they comfort me from the unseen world. I’m hardly alone in this experience of loss but everyone grieves in their own way and today my way is to be pissed off, defending my territory, pushing back on anyone who says my emotions are wrong and I should move along. That’s OK. I worry about my mental health but my therapist says I’m fine. I choose to believe her, because the last thing I feel is fine — my emotions flip upside down every 10 mins and rocket all over the landscape. Completely incorrigible, they are. Last week I was over the moon about a possible overseas trip in December and the next morning was so sad I couldn’t stop crying (to be fair, it was my sister’s birthday). So far the seat belt is holding.

30″ x 24″ acrylic, oil pastel on stretched canvas= $950




acrylic abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | believers

“A thing about Tommy that we had in common is liking to draw. His doodling he called it. For him, though, it was like blood, this thing that came out of him whenever he got hurt.” That’s a quote from the novel I’m reading by Barbara Kingsolver, Demon Copperhead. The protagonist is a 10 year old boy who has had nothing but hard luck and gosh I hope his fortunes change or the rest of the book will be a bit of a grind; I’m about a quarter-way through. But Tommy survived his foster-care miseries by drawing. Tommy’s a boy after my own heart, as I often had a pencil in my hand as a kid. And today painting and drawing continues to comfort and soothe. It’s another world I can visit, that is safe and familiar. Tommy and I are both very fortunate for having discovered the Art Planet.

Here’s a small abstract that I worked on over the weekend. I was grateful for studio time.

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




abstract mixed media painting by emily weil

daily painting | incoming

Grief is supposed to be something you get over. That you move on from. Oh, that it would work that way! Instead, you fold it in, incorporate it into your day and into your being while doing the dishes and emailing clients and taking your car in for a tune-up. It does not go away, probably not ever. But you make peace with it, inviting it in, giving it a seat at the table. There’s no use fighting it — those feelings will just pop up somewhere down the line, maybe in the form of physical distress, if you avoid or deny or minimize them.

But it’s isolating. Even if never said out loud, some still wish you’d feel better sooner rather than later. Be a happier guest at the party. [Ugh, parties; out of the question! Small talk is impossible!] And if the feelings are overwhelming, and visible, most people run. Hard. And fast.

So here’s my dilemma. How to be vulnerable and honest about my process and my feelings even though I know people are over it? That gets tricky. Grief counseling helps. But I keep going, moving along, showing up, rooting around for that inner strength I’m supposed to have. While some dear ones who sincerely care about me quietly drift into the mists.

Anyways, I think I have courage and am willing to jump into this emotional Cuisinart®. I know it’s changing me — sweeping out emotional closets, burning up musty old baggage. I have hopes and dreams of teaching workshops and traveling and painting and loving; I am not done quite yet. My brother’s life expectancy after his diagnosis of aggressive brain cancer (glio sarcoma) in April 2022 was about 4-6 months. It’s been 14. He is declining, and I’m seeing it. A very slow process at least until now and I am happy for all the time I’ve been able to spend with him. I wish there was something as “pre-grief” — that I could prepare for his death. It will be a wallop, for which there is no armor.

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, pastel, water-soluble graphite, acrylic on paper = $90




watercolor, ink, pastel, acrylic abstract by emiliy weil

daily painting | kitchen counter abstract

“Grief’s a crafty little f**ker. Sneaks up on you.” This salty quote by Harrison Ford’s character is from the TV show “Shrinking” which is my new entertainment fave (Apple TV; I signed up for Ted Lasso and got sidetracked). It’s funny, illuminating, sweet and irreverent and makes me feel slightly less like an odd duck for having had about a billion dollars’-worth of therapy. Ford plays a therapist, and this bit of wisdom was encouraging and true. Grief can convince me I’m crazy. I’m not. Um, I think.

Speaking of ducks, here’s today’s amazing moment. Was washing up my dishes this morning, and outside my window a mama duck was shepherding her new babies — a dozen tiny little puffball ducklings, seemingly recently hatched. They were all over the place — the beginning of the learning curve. Quite adorable and heart-warming. And as happens every year, they will likely be lunch for other predators before too long. Nature’s food chain. But this charming vignette is great fun to see, however temporary the scenario.  
[Enjoyed being home today. Did this small abstract in my kitchen.]

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




abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | caving

Have you ever read about Winston Churchill talking about The Black Dog? He was referring to his visits from depression. I like that metaphor, as visualizing that helps me see it coming so I can at least step out of the way, or hope it doesn’t stay too long. Today was one of those days, as I watch my bro decline and eyeball a challenging Easter. Thankfully I had to go to my art studio to meet someone so that was helpful — once that appt was done, I took out some paper and worked away. I’d love to tell you my depression dispelled instantly. It didn’t. But I’m learning stuff — like when I feel bad to just keep going. One foot in front of the other, as my mother used to say. Good advice for today. If nothing else I’m becoming quite good at perseverance.

13″ x 8.5″ ink, acrylic, watercolor, pencil, oil pastel on paper = $145




abstract acrylic painting by emily weil

daily painting | overflow

Aahhh… back in the studio. I’ve been working on this small acrylic abstract on-and-off while also creating a larger commissioned watercolor piece. So I took out the acrylic paints while the watercolor layers dried. I’m really gratified that as I take a few days off in a row from brother-care, I have more energy for making art. Makes my heart feel better and gives me hope that I have a future that includes painting. Easy to get submerged as a caregiver; it makes my life smaller. But it won’t be forever, and I know that for now my dear bro appreciates my love and company. And the feeling is mutual.

Jim and I both were challenged for several weeks, navigating his roommate situation. Peter, with Alzheimer’s, occupied the 2nd bed in Jim’s room. It was temporary, as yesterday we moved my bro into an Assisted Living studio apartment (for which he’s been on a waiting list since last Sept). The sad, demented roommate often urged my brother to make phone calls and write letters for him; Peter was convinced he was being poisoned and held against his will. My dear bro felt bad about the guy’s tragic situation and tried to help, but Peter was manipulative, and Jim’s cancer prevented him from clear-headed perspectives. The brain cancer may bring increasing confusion and fatigue, but Jim is still his lovable old, compassionate self.

12″ x 12″ acrylic, pencil, ink, oil pastel on claybord = NFS




watercolor and pastel abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | butterfly party

I woke up this morning feeling lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon-wheel rut and then I got up and sat on my couch with my Earl Grey tea marveling at the manic energy of the house finches and sparrows outside my window mobbing the bird feeder. Their lives are precarious — huge amounts of birds of all species don’t survive their first year. Obviously I think a lot about life cycles these days. And my discomfort in this time of loss is huge. And is nothing in comparison to the catastrophe in Turkey and Syria as those losses are incomprehensible and shocking. Yes, my roof leaked and now I have a new roof and a smaller retirement nest egg. And I have a house. With a roof.  

So, back to my bed (where I do my morning meditation). The conclusion I landed on is to accept what is. No resistance. This calms me and helps me not go down the self-pity rabbit hole.

[You might want to skip this next bit as it may sound preachy.] I recently had a conversation with my lovely niece who also seeks healing and wholeness and self-knowledge (we certainly relate to each other, having grown up in desperately dysfunctional families; her mom, my sister, was severely mentally ill). We talked about the wondrous and mysterious process of a caterpillar that is transmogrified into a butterfly and how, once in the cocoon, it somehow morphs from a little wiggly, crawly thing into goo and then into a glorious creation with painted wings. It’s amazing! From squishy glop! As we talked together about the discomfort of transformation, she noted, “Cocoons are narrow.” So brilliant! As my life feels very confining right now. And my goodness I hope I am changing into a splashy creature that can fly and help make my corner of the world a bit more colorful.

[About this painting — I was rooting around my files for Feather River Art Camp, where I will be teaching a Mixed Media class this June, and found the start of a watercolor of a lily that wasn’t so great so I added pastels and worked it into an abstract.]

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




abstract by emily weil using pastels, watercolor and ink

daily painting | tempest

I think mourning doves have the prettiest colors. Did you know that they have turquoise eyeliner all around their eyes? I learned that because of the suction-cup birdfeeder on my kitchen window they visited, where I could take a close look (which I had to stop supplying with seeds as the pigeons were clutching onto my window screen, ruining it). I suppose it makes sense I’m fond of a pretty, taupe-colored bird with mourning in its name these days. But don’t get my neighbor started on this species as she hates it when they nest on her front porch; I saw a photo of a dove that had built its nest in the windshield-wiper well of a Honda.

I’ve been pondering the powerful forces of grief and loss (well, duh). Life-changing, for most folks. And no one is exempt from this experience. We are reshaped by deaths and painful losses — for some into despair and bitterness and rage and for others into growth and clarity and greater strength. This fascinates me, how we develop and evolve both as humans and as a country. I want more than anything for the deaths and losses in my life to make me stronger and more resilient. And kinder. And more compassionate. And less encumbered by childhood pain. Losing my sibs has upset my apple cart forcefully, affecting everything. Everything. Last night I couldn’t sleep and was mentally acknowledging various shipwrecks in my life — in my family, in my relationships — and visualized climbing into the lifeboat, rowing away, finding solid land. I can’t imagine feeling dry and safe again, but I suppose I will.
[Did this abstract in my kitchen today.]

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




daily painting | grief in technicolor

My heart is full. There is such gob-smacking beauty in the world — earlier this week as I drove home from visiting the bro in San Rafael I was listening to Anderson Cooper’s podcast on grief (highly recommended). His mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, had a rough and lonely childhood and lost one son to suicide yet she embraced art and beauty in her life and loved the crazy juxtaposition of the heart-searing losses in life alongside the beautiful moments she experienced each day (“It’s about what is, not what if”). As I quietly cried, listening to the podcast (while carefully navigating the heavy traffic through Berkeley) I was amazed at how shattered my heart is with grief even as I marveled at the sunset over San Francisco (to my right) and the rainbow over the Berkeley hills (to my left). I am learning with humility to embrace all of life — loss, terror, joy, rage, gratitude, thrilling love and spectacular presentations from nature. It’s all just magnificent. I also heard of a book I must get, Our Book of Awesome, written by Neil Pasricha, a man whose wife left him at the same time his best friend committed suicide. He realized that every day life gives us tiny, brilliant flashes that we can embrace with wonder and awe. In this spectacular moment I aspire to keep my heart open and pay attention.  

10″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, pencil, acrylic on paper = $130