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

 

 

 

watercolor, ink painting of dog by emily weil

daily painting | jake

Sometimes the world is so gorgeous it makes my eyeballs hurt. Driving from Alameda to San Rafael the other day, the east bay skies were a dark, cold gray. But as I drove up I-80 through Berkeley I could see Mt Tam and the greening Marin hills across the bay, covered in a sunny mosaic and it made me appreciate the delightful surprises that photo-bomb my days. When I returned back home, it was a beauty sandwich — the entire bay had become quite cloudy, but again from the Berkeley freeway a stunning orange-peach sunset developed on the other side of the Golden Gate bridge — like someone used an exacto knife, slicing the clouds to let the beauty spill out.

This is quite a journey. And I am proud of myself, and I hope not in a smug way, of showing up for this colorful, painful, baffling, aggravating, glorious, heart-searing, soul-healing, psychedelic passage.

So about this artwork — Jake was great fun to paint. Jake’s daddy is Michael, my brother’s best friend since 3rd grade. Michael has had wrenching physical challenges for months now, and I thought since I’ve done a few pet painting commissions I’d do Jake as a get-well present. When Michael returned home from one of his many surgeries, Jake was nervous about the walker his dad was using. The photo he sent me really captured Jake’s uncertainty.

10″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, acrylic on paper

 

 

 

watercolor, pastel, painting of lily by emily weil

daily painting | lilypalooza

This started as a watercolor, and it just needed a few explosions of firecracker hues to brighten it up. So I went at it with pastels and my graphite stick. It’s always good to toss out expectations of a good final result and let the chalky pastel pinks fly; you just gotta let go of hoping for a keeper and go waaaay outside the lines, you know? This is a source of great pleasure for me. It’s all-out fun, chucking out the rules and flinging them into the dumpster. So, artists and art fans, let’s keep doing that. It just might be your superpower.

6″ x 7″ ink, watercolor, pastel on paper = $55

 

 

 

watercolor and ink painting of yellow flower by emily weil

daily painting | sunny yellows

I wanted to paint this yellow flower as it is as bright and comforting as the chilly but welcome sunshine here in soggy California. A dear friend who is especially kind to me in this time of loss brought this bouquet to me along with yet another bountiful bag of delicious lemons from her tree. So I did this simple card to say thank you.

My living room is looking a bit more comfy and orderly in the absence of buckets and bowls and puppy pee pads and soaked upholstered chairs, as the rains have subsided for now. Looks like a new roof is soon on my horizon and I admit that a drippy ceiling during the atmospheric river pushed me over the edge into the drink (I think it was putting plastic bags and towels on my bed that turned me into a screaming meemie). And yet, these are not big complaints as my home wasn’t carried away by a mudslide, my business didn’t get inundated by the Pacific Ocean, a tree didn’t crash into my bedroom and I am still upright (while driving across the San Rafael bridge in those storms to see my brother was a bit nutty).

I feel unhinged most of the time, and I’m learning to just accept it. My brother is slowly declining, and I had the shock the other day of realizing he could be here a few more months so I have to adjust my caregiving accordingly as I’m pooped; in my wildest dreams I didn’t see him making it to 2023 (he was diagnosed with aggressive brain cancer last April). But he’s still mostly lucid (though very fatigued) and we have sweet and intimate conversations and I will forever cherish these times.

I feel awful most of the time. And I am often swept away by moments of deep gratitude (like right now when the reflections from the water outside do magical dances on my kitchen ceiling). What a mix! Life is so nutty. And I’m showing up for it. Every effing day. 

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

daily painting | seattle sunflower

Drip management. That may sound like a description of online dating, but it’s about my roof. I’ve had four contractors up there over the past two years smearing sealant around but still I need to line up the bowls and buckets on my living room floor. Fingers crossed the seemingly competent roofer that came last week to inspect and offer advice will arrive to finally and literally seal the deal. And soon.

This kind of stuff can really freak me out — my home! It’s violated! I do enjoy that lovely chorus of raindrops on my roof, even if accented by the splashes of the leaks plopping into the bowls. I strategically line up the puppy pee pads on the floor in case the drips migrate and miss the bowls (terrifically absorbent; I use them for the bottom of my guinea pig cage).

But now that I’m a relic of “mid-century” (born in the 1950s), I’ve learned a few things. Like how life always has challenges and problems to figure out. And how to adapt and fix things and relax; a solution will sooner or later present itself. Might as well keep going and enjoy life’s amazingness.

Like a good book! I’ve decided that since I’ve never read them, I’m going to read the Harry Potter series; now’s a good time as my brain operates at about the level of a third-grader. And they’re terrific. Good to read about magic and wizardry and owls that deliver the mail. A lovely relief from grief and death. I tell ya, I’m learning a few things.

Happy New Year.

[painting from photo of sunflowers taken in October in my sister’s neighborhood in Seattle]

10″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, pencil, acrylic on paper

 

 

 

watercolor of dog by emily weil

daily painting | loki

I hope your holidays are sane and warm and safe and that you did not spend Christmas in an airport (wouldn’t it be nice if the airlines treated us like humans?). This little guy Loki was a commission for a Christmas present, and much fun to paint. 

With a lot of help we got my bro into friend Sue’s house for a fabulous Christmas feast. It took some doing — wheelchairs are cumbersome and he’s a tall man — and was a bit risky, for he gets fatigued easily, and crashes hard once tired. But it worked! And I had much help. I think it was fun for him — he wore a very dapper derby hat with a red feather and looked quite handsome.

This is Jim’s last Christmas, and his demise is slow as the brain cancer advances, but I’m told there may be a tipping point in the next weeks with a possible sudden decline. I would welcome that, so he’s done with this awful march of glio sarcoma through his neurons; he’s going into the 9th month of this sorrowful journey. My heart feels like it’s in a box of broken glass, but so far my homicidal urges have been restrained toward certain callous, cold-blooded individuals in Jim’s orbit. And such is the grief path I am on. I am getting more skilled at showing myself compassion as my emotions take me down this bumpy, harrowing path. I’ve given up on trying to be warmly social in human gatherings and I’m OK with that. I’m civilized — that I can manage; I haven’t snarled at anyone in awhile. One helpful outlet is to open my window while driving on the freeway and scream. Very cathartic but it makes my throat scratchy (no one notices, ever).

Grief is hard. There’s very little room in this world for expressions of raw pain and emotion. So it’s pretty lonely sometimes. And it’s weird but I also am finding this to be a time of amazing healing and love and connection, for my moments with my brother are sweet and precious and as we hang out together I find that some of my childhood pain is mending. And as I write this I am chuckling at the purring noises my guinea pig makes when he hears the chirping mobs of finches and sparrows outside at the bird feeder. They are conversing. 

Sending new year love to you all. Isn’t it something? We keep showing up and putting one foot in front of the other. I’m proud of that.  

8″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, pencil, acrylic on paper

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

watercolor and acrylic abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | december.

Well sports fans get out the bucket and hang it on the tree for I’m about to get sappy. Some people scoff at the popularity of the movie, “Love Actually,” which came out 20 years ago. I’m in love with it. I usually watch it every year as I enjoy its Christmas theme (and Bill Nighy’s performance is priceless) and frankly it helps me keep my heart open so I can better see how much love is in the world, and in my life. I’d frankly rather be cynical and be a self-protected hermit — it’s safer and is usually my default point of view (John Donne may have said that no man is an island, but some of us are inner tubes [I stole that line from a book]). In my time of grief, I tend to tuck myself in and keep my distance as I nurse my wounds and soothe my sadness. Which is appropriate and it’s often what I need (like today when I have the energy of a dead slug). But I aspire to live my life wide open and with love and trust and faith as that vulnerability is rewarding and surpising, in happy and sparkly and unexpected ways.

May our holidays be sane and that we notice small, wonderful, miraculous moments that bring us hope and connection and comfort (one of my treats a few days ago — watching a soggy and healthy-looking Cooper’s Hawk on a telephone pole with its wings out and its tail feathers spread, drying off after the rains; it was a gorgeous bird).

[Finished this painting at home today. Don’t forget to stop by Frank Bette Center in Alameda for the Holiday Boutique sale this coming weekend and check out my small paintings and other artsy holiday gifts!]

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

 

 

 

ink and watercolor painting of berries by emily weil

daily painting | berries

As I write this, a watercolor painting is drying in the sun. I thought I would post this class demo done a few weeks ago (a quick one of red berries) and say hello (join my next workshop, “Watercolor and Sticks and Ink” at Frank Bette Center in Alameda in January!). 

Here’s today’s book review (I know, you’ve been holding your breath). I’m reading Auntie Mame, a memoir written by her orphaned nephew, Patrick Dennis. I was expecting a fun romp and an inspirational read about a one-of-a-kind woman who lived life on her terms. And it is an interesting recollection about a lost era in Manhattan, but it also has dark undertones and an undercurrent of sadness, for Patrick had lost both parents, Auntie Mame was a bit of a self-absorbed hedonist even though she loved her nephew, and I suppose I am projecting my own biases when I say that the characters of the book are a bit shallow and racist (if fun, and fun-loving, and interesting). The Broadway play based on the book seems to have been a sanitized version of the story, as was the movie with Rosalind Russell (but her performance was stellar). 

So… why was I attracted to this book, after I’d read a reference to it in the NYT? I think I wanted to read about a strong woman (and boy howdy she was that). And I wanted to have a read that would take me away into another world (checkmark next to that item as well). So why does it make me feel slightly melancholy? Well, duh, lots of things make me sad these days. But Auntie Mame for all her vivaciousness and ability to survive seems hollow and someone with the depth of a paper towel. She just doesn’t grab me. But I’m not done with the book yet. 

OK, going back to my painting. I surely am enjoying my quiet, sunny house today and soon I’ll head out for bike ride out in the lovely but chilly sun. Then I’ll come home and make a nice dinner and have a happy hour cocktail and feed my guinea pig and tomorrow will return to brother-care, something I am grateful to be able to do.

10″ x 10″ ink, watercolor 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