watercolor of apples by emily weil

daily painting | holly’s apples

I splashed some paint around yesterday with our artists’ group, Brushes by the Bay. We meet, paint and discuss our work every week, and provide support and encouragement to each other. Holly brought these nice apples for subject matter. 

That I could function at any level was encouraging, for I am grieving my brother who died several days ago after a long, 16-month journey with brain cancer. I am happy for him that he’s done and I’m heartbroken. For a couple of days I felt him near. I felt his love for me. I think he’s looking after me (I told him before he died that he’d better).

It’s kind of like being on hallucinogens, intense grief. How can it be that I lost all my siblings in less than three years? What? I looked at a to-do list I’d written and I might as well have been watching ants crawl across a piece of white paper. Concentrating on anything is useless. Everything is upside down. I’m trying to remember how to do basic household chores; simple tasks confuse me. I’m disoriented. My ears are ringing. I’m nauseous. I suppose I wouldn’t be so shattered had we not loved each other so much. So maybe I’ll focus on that. The miracle of that.

I sound like I am feeling sorry for myself. Please forgive me. I think it’s more like shock. But self-pity works too.

I think I’ll go lie down.

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor on paper




watercolor of snapdragons by emily weil

daily painting | lucy’s snapdragons

Such a quiet, peaceful, soothing Sunday. Soaking it up. No errands, no driving anywhere, just resting, feeding my news-junkie cravings, listening to Roberta Flack while I paint. 

I took a snapshot of Lucy’s snapdragons which were today’s watercolor subjects. I only cried twice while listening to Flack’s lovely ballads.

Then I called the bro to check in and now I’m feeling raw sadness as he was quite confused. His befuddlement is accelerating which is so hard to observe, but it doesn’t seem to bother him, so how cool is that?

Wish I could brush off his brain-cancer symptoms as easily.  

An announcement: From mid-Aug to mid-Sept I’m in an art show at Falkirk Center in San Rafael. If you are in the mood (and in the area) there’s a reception this Thur there at 5pm. 

I have to tell you that background story as it makes me giggle a little. Some of you know about a service provided by Café. You sign up to get their emails which list many art shows and exhibitions with links on how to apply. I often submit work to local art shows, and I was happy to get the notice that I was accepted into the Falkirk show. A wonderful honor. So the process is, you send a few digital images of paintings you hope they consider. The show’s curator selected an abstract on paper. That I couldn’t find anywhere! I have so many pieces, they fill flat-file drawers and pile up in corners. I looked everywhere. Incredibly embarrassing and humiliating.

So I wrote them and apologized profusely. They selected another painting after looking at my website.

Nope, it’s gone as well (I think I cut it up, which I do sometimes when I’m not crazy about a painting, to make cards).

Flustered and abashed! Twice!

Another email to the curator, more apologies and promises-to-self to catalog my inventory. I’d written off the whole project as a lesson learned. Then the lovely woman emailed back. She really likes my work, she said, and could I submit a couple more digital images (obviously of works I could get my hands on). Success! She loved the painting I sent (she also said that my name was already printed on the program, which was a motivation for them to select another painting but I am choosing to believe her when she says she appreciates my art).

That’s today’s blah blah. Hope your weekend was cool as a creek.

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, pastel on paper




watercolor of shallots and onions by emily weil

daily painting | shallots & onions

My phrase for the day: self-compassion. As per usual, I woke up feeling skinless. Raw and half-crazy. Kind of the norm, but once I’m up and sipping my Earl Grey tea and taking care of various things on my to-do list, I feel like my joints get lubed up and forward motion has kicked in. I’m in gear.  

Kristin Neff has a wonderful website with meditations on self-care. It’s really helping me push back on the voices in my noggin that tell me I shouldn’t feel bad, I’m just feeling sorry for myself, I shouldn’t be so bothered by my brother’s decline and coming death, I should move on (even typing this I see how ridiculous those thoughts are, good grief!). I put my hand on my heart and say, 

May I be peaceful. May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be kind to myself. May I accept myself as I am.

Very calming and soothing. Bro is declining more quickly these days, so it’s anyone’s guess how much longer he’ll be on the planet. He’s getting noticeably more tired and confused, plus he’s having more scary falls (no matter my lectures on using his walker to go into the bathroom). Somehow the angels are watching over him for he gets by —  so far — with bruises and scrapes. And he’s a tall man (was 6’6” in his prime) so it’s a long way down.

Tomorrow I’ll visit him and bring a roll of bubblewrap which I will tape to his entire body.

One more thing. I was a bit baffled by my brother’s request that I take down a couple of marvelous watercolors he has had for many years, paintings he bought from another artist. So I did that and put them aside. He then asked me to see if in my studio I had a painting that would fit in that spot. I brought an abstract in the other day and hung it on the wall. Last night when I called him, I asked him how the painting was sitting with him? Did he like it?

He did. I can’t remember his exact words, but I got the message he likes it there because I painted it. It comforts him, my artwork. One more reason I should buy stock in Kleenex®.

[I painted this shallots/onions still life during the very fun inaugural meeting of Brushes by the Bay. Contact me if you want info!]

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




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 and pastel painting of red tail hawk by emily weil

daily painting | red tail

Well, hell. That’s kind of my response to most things these days. But really I can’t complain — I’m safe, and now dry, in my home, my brother’s demise from brain cancer is slow, which creates room for lots of sweet and moving and healing conversations about family, and I’m getting a bit more rest which is leading to more energy for painting. Life is weird and strange and brilliant and wondrous and crazy and stormy and wrenching. All of that. I just want to soak it all up and experience everything, you know? Grief turns you inside and out and shakes you upside down, and the damn bitch has her own timetable. Which is frustrating. And today this is my life, and I embrace it. Often with resentment. But I’m learning acceptance. 

This carnival ride can be lonely. I love the response I heard recently from a counselor who several years ago lost her husband in a tragic kayaking accident; a year later her brother suddenly died. She gave me great comfort, as we talked about how our western world is deeply uncomfortable with the raw emotions that come with loss — you’re supposed to take a pill and chill out, as strong feelings make people squirm. She spoke of her experiences with some people in her orbit who lacked “emotional courage.” Someone told her that she should just “get over it; it’s been long enough.” And, “I’m sorry I didn’t call, I just didn’t know what to say.” Her reply to that was, “Google it! Takes 5 minutes!” which made me howl with laughter.

Giggling is good. Sometimes I seek out a comedy show, as I know laughing will make me feel better. Other times I watch a movie I know will make me weep. Both are healing. And necessary.

[This is a painting done for the president of the roofing company that replaced my roof; I bartered artwork for partial payment for the costs. This juvenile red-tailed hawk likes to hang out on the railing outside his window, hunting ground squirrels.]

30″ x 22″ watercolor, pencil, ink, pastel on paper




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 of dog by emily weil

daily painting | daisy-may

I really like my Sunday mornings. I watch the news shows because I’m a junkie, sip my tea, watch Buster, my guinea pig, chow down on his morning salad and delight in the dancing shadows on my living room curtains of finches at the bird feeder. I’m getting more skilled at self-care, allowing myself to rest after almost 11 months of looking after my bro — his brain cancer is advancing, but slowly. He is in good hands; I don’t need to be there every day. I feel guilty, but am noticing how beneficial it is to not be so worn out. I’m no good to him if I’m a wrung-out old dish rag.

Jamey and I often have amazing conversations. Last week we had a difficult discussion about the secret abuse my little sister and I suffered at the hands of our fury-spewing dad. Jamey is 9 years older, so he was mostly gone, doing teenager things, when I was a kid. He wasn’t home when dad would go into his rages — he was worried he had been there but either didn’t realize what was happening, or chose not to intervene. I am certain my funny, kind older brother wasn’t around, as I don’t think Dad would’ve dared the abuse if he’d had witnesses. These hard facts weigh on my brother. He’s an engineer, not exactly conversant with his emotions, but his love for me is clear. I believe that more than anything he wishes he could have prevented those horrors experienced by his two little sisters.

Phoo, this is heavy stuff. My apologies. My point is that I am grateful for the sweetness of my times with my only remaining sib. These incredible moments would have never happened but for his illness and being confined in a nursing home where I can visit and spend time with him. He often surprises me, bringing up family topics I assume he would rather avoid. These exchanges heal us both. Isn’t that somethin’?

[About this painting — a dear friend’s sweet little Daisy May moved on to happier hunting grounds recently and this is a tribute to her.]

6″ x 6″ ink, watercolor, acrylic on paper




daily painting | november

My brother is upstairs dying. He’s dying while playing online poker with his long-time pals. He’s dying while he eats his lunch of “unidentifiable white fish.” He’s dying while I sit in a pocket of thin November sunlight on a lovely patio with views of Mt Tam, listening to the pleasant watery voice of a garden fountain that is murmuring next to my comfy outdoor-furniture perch. [And yes I suppose I should acknowledge that my brother is also upstairs living, which is true and wonderful.]

I am staring through sun-lit branches of autumn reds and yellows, waiting for my grief-tears to catch up with me; it’s pointless to try and absorb the NYT Book Review, for my attention span does not stretch past five sentences. I am immersed in sorrow and that is my present moment that I haltingly, reluctantly embrace. There’s a gray-cloudy peace that comes from this acceptance of wretchedness. It’s awful. I adore my brother and losing him will be like losing an essential body part. I dread that concrete wall of loss I will smash into — but there it is, getting closer. I clutch at hopeful lessons and positive thoughts but they are slippery and fleeting and I’m exhausted and angry from trying to keep my damn chin up. And… last night’s moonrise took my breath away.
[This painting was a quick watercolor class demo]

9″ x 10″ ink, watercolor on paper




daily painting | aldersly rose

Ahhh… the hungry ghost. He’s back. Here I was cooking along on this watercolor — I loved how the rose was developing — and then things got a bit muddy and complicated and the hungry ghost is jabbering in my ear about what a shitty artist I am. I HATE that.

A hungry ghost is a Buddhist concept I heard about in a lecture once. It is perpetually ravenous and feeds on joy, happiness, contentment and self-confidence. I notice that when I feel happy to be an artist or confident in myself as a sister or competent as a GGRO bander, the damn ghostie likes to rob me of my moments of peace and joy.

So I’m going to post this painting anyways. It is from a photo of the lovely rose garden at Aldersly, where my ailing brother resides. Those wonderful folks there told him that if he wished to employ Medical Assistance In Dying (MAID), they would help him do that in their beautiful rose garden (he has brain cancer and had expressed a wish to die outside).

He just told me he has decided not to make the choice for MAID, but will let that damn hungry cancer ghost do its nasty work. And I support him (as I would whatever he chose). Today painting is soothing me (I just started another rose painting) as I take a day off from brother care to stay home and rest. I feel so fortunate. I can paint and enjoy my home where I feel safe and content. Many, many gifts in my life. 

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




watercolor and ink painting of peruvian lilies

daily painting | peruvian lilies

Over the last weeks I’ve gotten my paints out to poke around at being an artist pretty regularly, but without uploadable results. Today after a blast of a morning playing at my new passion, paddling in a dragon boat in the alameda estuary, I came home to draw and paint, doing my best to be heedless of results. Good thing, too — I photographed some lovely sunflowers in Seattle two weeks ago as I wandered through my sister’s old neighborhood (we scattered her ashes in her favorite park), wanting SO badly to produce a good sunflower watercolor. Nope (they were OK, just not up to par). So I decided to do a wet, sloppy painting of these lovely purple Peruvian lilies from Trader Joe’s. 

It’s an excellent October afternoon — a few breezes (not as bad as forecast), slightly overcast skies, comfortable temps, smoke-free air. Enough sun to dry the paints when I prop the painting in the window.

And again I lean hard into the things that keep me right-side up. As my brother fades from brain cancer (fatigue, wobbliness but thankfully no headaches or seizures; he’s mostly still lucid) I find myself feeling skinless and vulnerable and out-to-sea most of the time. I’m learning to accept this state of my mind and heart. It’s exceedingly painful and uncomfortable but I certainly have no control over my desperate, excruciating emotions (and a pox on those who blow “toxic positivity” in my direction — do look that one up). And so be it, dammit. I’m here. I’m showing up. I’m trying really hard not to be an asshole (with splotches of success). Getting outdoors in nature (Tomales Bay was a treat last week) and getting out my watercolors and bending the ears of my compassionate pals are my mainstays. I don’t know where I am on any map. Can’t tell where I’m going; I am without a horizon. But as I write this my guinea pig Buster Posey is foraging in his cage for small-animal hay and making cute noises, I’m roasting some veggies in the oven (the thyme smells deliciously fragrant), the view outside my window of the marina is beautiful and calming, and I wave to my neighbors walking by on the docks. Life is awful. Life is hard. Life is wonderful. Life is amazing. 

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