daily painting | loss

Grief sucks. She’s a powerful bitch that mops the floor with you. She eats you for lunch. She puts cement shoes on your feet in the mornings. She flops your brain around until you don’t know your name, what day it is, how to prepare a meal (not that you have an appetite). It gets even more confounding when the person you loved, who died, was someone you struggled with in your lifelong relationship. It muddles things. I’m not very coherent today but I can write down the feelings that are fizzing through my veins and leaking out my pores: rageful, sad, angry, peaceful, resentful, grateful, confused, sorrowful, doubtful, betrayed, frustrated, agonized, tenacious, lost, wrecked, sturdy, disbelieving, broken, in searing pain, outraged, content, wretched, regretful, distressed, desolate, flattened, furious, despondent, incredulous, volatile, bereaved, exasperated, defeated, hopeful, squashed, depressed, panicked, funky, deranged, thankful.

My belief is that it’s best to hand yourself over to this process and feel every last damn mother-flipping feeling. It moves through you better if you don’t fight it. When my mom died, almost exactly 15 years ago, I experienced a “complicated grief,” according to counselors. I didn’t get along with Mom, and neither did my older sister. I felt the need to protect myself when I was around her; she could be cruel and demeaning. But my younger sister, who died a week ago, had a better relationship with her and was always loyal to Mom. Which was a tense, sore spot in our sisterly relationship. But it was the truth of our family dynamics, and I learned to accept it.

Making things even more murky, Kay and I could never talk about the painful moments of our childhood that we suffered together at the hands of our abusive, raging dad. That is a sadness I carry today, deeply. Always will, I suppose.

Thank you for reading through this long treatise on mourning with all its criss-crossing metaphors. It reveals the contents of my heart, and I appreciate your kindness and compassion for this life experience I am having.

Oh, about this painting. I worked on it over the weekend in my studio and it is helping to contain my grief and pain. I actually felt joyful, painting in my space again. But oy, you should see the spatters! I actually wrecked a small painting that was against the wall, too close to the Jackson-Pollock freewheelingness of it all.

22″ x 30″ acrylic, India ink, pencil, crayon on paper = $795

 

 

 

daily painting | blue berries

OK this is going to feel a little weird. Here goes.

During my almost 3-week stay in Washington, most of that time with my sister in Seattle who was dying of cancer, it was so interesting to walk through her neighborhood (Fremont) and see various front yards. I’ve never before seen anything like this bush which had neon-pink flowers with blue berries at the center. Like the berries had turned into some kind of magenta fireworks. They were gaudy, even — colors looked cartoonish. But they were so cheery to see during my chilly November strolls.

What is strange as I post this is it will be the first time Kay won’t be reading it. She enjoyed reading my blogs every day, which meant I had to be sensitive in how I wrote them, if I mentioned her. She passed away two days ago, Sunday morning after a battle with breast cancer that lasted on and off for 21 years. She was mostly healthy and cancer free after that first diagnosis and the subsequent and innovative treatments (a cancer clinic in Seattle was set up based on things medical professionals learned from her regimens), and she was grateful for that bonus time, for the initial diagnosis was quite dire. But she beat it. For awhile.

Kay was never bedridden but the pain was increasing and the nights were getting pretty rough. Just a few days before she passed we had a long walk through Seattle and her stamina exceeded mine. She was really something.

Goodbye, Kay. You and I had a difficult relationship at times, yet we loved each other very much. And it was an honor to be with you in your final days. I am so happy you are no longer being painfully savaged by that awful disease and are now at peace.

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

 

 

 

 

daily painting | second-hand boat

Near the beach at Fort Worden, a state park in Port Townsend, WA, a small boat rested in the dunes, relieved of duty (a retired lifeboat, perhaps? curious that it has chains at both ends — maybe it brought shipwrecked fishermen to safety). It completely charmed me. One of the reasons I loved this sandy scenario is because I was visiting my dear friend Claire who lives in that part of the gorgeous NW and together we roamed the beach there a couple of times; one day was sunny and bright and we identified Mergansers (cute diving ducks with punk hairdos), marveled at the soothing sound of beach waves washing over pebbles and collected shoreline stones smoothed by the swells of the Strait of San Juan de Fuca (ha! accidental alliteration!). Another day we set out to collect bits of driftwood and it was so windy it took both my hands to open the car door. I really love the wildness of this watery corner of the US, with its fierce storms, soaring bald eagles, brilliant night stars and island-hopping ferries. My precious times with Claire those few days will long be cherished and tended to in my memory banks.

But I’m not super crazy about this painting, so I’ll likely do another one once I’m home. Getting low on watercolor sketchpads here in my sister’s digs in Seattle and I am soon heading back to California, saying goodbye to my sister who got the short end of the breast cancer stick. She’s well-cared for here and deeply loved and her husband, daughter, caring friends and hospice team will look after her with empathy and tenderness. Which gives me peace as I head back to my Alameda life. [There were no authentic, accurate expressions of loss and sadness I could conjure up today. So I got out my paints.]

7″ x 10″ watercolor, pen on paper

 

 

 

daily painting | kay and camera

My sister Kay here in Seattle is finishing up her memoirs as she gets ready to leave the planet. She asked me to create some artwork for the cover of her book, and gave me a black & white shot taken of her with her camera, circa mid-1970s, to use as reference. I’m honored to have my painting on the cover of her life story, and I’m fond of this image of her looking through her viewfinder, as her life has been lived with curiosity and hunger for knowledge and beauty. I love you, Kay.

10″ x 7″ watercolor, pen on paper

 

 

 

daily painting | lenka’s rose

I have a very sweet friend and her name is Lenka. Originally from Prague, Lenka is a kind, giving and supportive person. Before I headed up to Seattle a few weeks ago to be with my ailing sister, she came over and brought me this gorgeous rose from her garden. It bolstered my heart and charmed and warmed me. I’m not super crazy about this painting, but it cheered me to paint from the photo I took before I headed up to this chilly and wet and gorgeous part of the world that is Washington state. Time with family and time with dear friends. A sad, rich, love-filled, heart-wrenching, vital, sorrowful time.

10″ x 7″ watercolor, pen on paper

 

 

 

daily painting | fremont fuchsias

I am feeling celebratory for the first time in what feels like decades this Saturday morning. Here in Seattle, walks through this charming Fremont neighborhood are very pleasant, and I’ll take another stroll today just to feel the air (or maybe rain) on my face and bask in gratitude. America feels great again.

Anyways, on a walk yesterday I spotted these lovely fuchsias in a neighbor’s front garden. Took me back to my Mill Valley childhood when my little sister (in whose house I am now a guest) and I would pop the pink bulbs with our chubby child-fingers before they opened. These vibrant pinks looked amazing against the leafy greenness of that yard and the beautiful, dark stone wall, lined up like ballerinas.

I’ve got my paint kit here (obviously) in my sister’s house in these luxurious surroundings she set up for me — she is an expert at Thai massage, and part of her house is set up as a spa complete with big roomy areas and a sauna and an exquisite shower; a massage table works perfectly for my laptop. Because she is retired, I am very comfy and have tons of privacy in the spa/guest bedroom. Painting in this climate can be a challenge as the dampness means it takes forever for paint to dry. I’ve discovered here on the counter a perfect solution — a towel warmer! Tuck the watercolor sketchpad in, and it safely dries the paint (don’t tell Kay). So far I haven’t ruined any furniture with my paint spatters. Talk about purple rain!

10″ x 7″ watercolor, pen on paper + $90

 

 

 

daily painting | perky

A hundred years ago when I was a young mom living in a small Oregon coastal town, I hit a very painful wall; memories of childhood trauma came boiling up with accompanying PTSD and I struggled to keep my bearings (mixed results on that). At the same time I was taking watercolor workshops, and doing bright, colorful paintings of flower arrangements. I still can’t quite understand that, as I was sinking from depression, terror, loneliness and confusion. Which brings me to this painting which I worked on over the weekend. It seems quite chipper to me — albeit with darker notes. And this is such a challenging time for our country, for my family, for the world. And yet! Hope leaks out.

I have to tell you another story. Back in the early 90s I was a graphic designer for the then-young company, Electronic Arts (as in, EA Sports — videogames). As part of the creative services group, we were a fine lot of production artists, designers, managers and writers. I’ve never had so much fun at work. At one point, an idea was floated to do a yearbook for the current employees (idea was dropped; the company was growing very quickly and it was too hard to keep up). I asked creative writer Michael Hume to please write for me the required blurb that would be the caption under my photo. He wrote, “16 personalities and all of them perky.” Or something like that. It was brilliant. I still miss that team. A flash of light long gone.

30″ x 24″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil on stretched canvas = $975

 

 

 

daily painting | bloodsport (redo)

Are you watching poll results and predictions and breathless reports on the 2020 election like I am? Well, honestly, I have to limit my news-watching (I take breaks to watch something violent on TV). This painting got reworked and renamed, and the title seems appropriate for this completely insane year of politics and everything else. I’m 99% sure it’s done; when I have a dialog with it (something I do with my paintings), it says, Enough already. I’m soon heading out to my studio to work on another painting which is one of the only ways I am staying sane. These works hold a lot of my insides — sadness, grief, vitality, hope, loss. My life. I think I finally reached that spot where I don’t give a damn if anyone sees it or likes it or wants to show it. This is my work. If it sucks, so be it. It’s completely mine.

OK I have to tell this related story as it’s relevant and incredible [Kay, if you read this, I hope you will forgive me]. My sister Kay is soon leaving this world, as many of you know who have been reading my blogs, as cancer is taking over her body. Want to know how she is determining timing? She wants to know election results. She’s in pain, a lot of it. But that’s who she is and how much she cares. I love you, Kay, my hero.

41″ x 43″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil on unstretched canvas = $2290

 

 

 

daily painting | birthday orchid

I thought I’d post today (don’t usually do on weekends) as I’m soon heading up to Seattle & can’t predict my coming days in terms of painting and blogging. And I wanted to share this painting I did today. I’m sitting writing this on my couch, hoping some trick-or-treaters come by who live in the marina. I just love the darling costumes. [Here’s a Halloween memory — living in a kid-filled neighborhood in OR when my kids were small, two costumed kids knocked on the door and I still remember them — that area used to be a big logging area, and the little boy was dressed like a logger, with a plaid shirt, a pillow to indicate a big belly, a hard hat and big boots and drawn-in stubble on his chin. Adorable. His “wife” was in a ratty bathrobe, fluffy slippers and curlers in her hair.] But I digress. This orchid, a generous gift from my amazingly wonderful neighbors who took me out for lunch [outside seating] for my birthday, has vibrant, show-stopping magenta and purple blooms. I hope to keep this plant alive (2 ice cubes a week, I’m told). Anyways! Life in upside-down, crazy 2020. I had a truly terrific birthday, which is amazing these days. I felt happy and celebratory that I was born 68 years ago. OK back to my couch. Dinner’s in the oven, it’s a beautiful clear October day, hummingbirds are at my feeder, I had a fun bike ride today to go see the big container ships on the estuary, and I appreciate the countless gifts in my life today. Thank you for reading my posts, as it means a lot to me. Happy for this vivid, interesting, unpredictable existence.

10″ x 7″ watercolor, pen on paper + $90

 

 

 

daily painting | she

I painted this female wolf as a tribute to animals that sometimes visit me and bring me their medicine in my meditations and dreams. She is powerful, wise, fierce, brave, protective and takes no bullshit. I painted this from a photo in a book about the packs of wolves in Yellowstone Park, some of whom I got to see on a winter trip there years ago.

I have always been attracted to top-of-the-food-chain predators. Wolves in particular fascinate me, as they are social animals, family-oriented, robust and stick together (if you are similarly interested, I highly recommend the book, Never Cry Wolf by Farley Mowatt). This is more than I usually share about my spiritual journey, as it is such an intimate experience, but I draw a great deal of strength from my prayers, meditations and contemplations. Which makes me sound waaaay more spiritual and noble than I truly am (I swear like a sailor and like cocktails). But I have learned to develop these practices and they heal me and give solace and direction and joy. It’s kind of my own designer religion, Created by Emily.

You can probably tell from this painting that I love this creature. She comforts and guides me, and I’m kind of outing her by sharing this but she won’t mind and I wanted to honor her. The journeys I have had over the past weeks have been memorable and heartening as there has been a convergence of life events that are healing old childhood wounds of loneliness and lovelessness — spending time in Mill Valley where I grew up, visiting with my sister who is dying of cancer, and today is my birthday. I always hated birthdays; they made me feel alone and isolated but today I truly celebrate my birth, and believe I belong to this glorious family of humanity. I welcome that little baby, a boomer born into the world in 1952. This is a great leap for me, and I am proud of these soul-celebrations.

OK now it’s time to go frost the birthday cake I made today and have my own little party. After that I’ll do a ritual, letting go of old, stinky, mouldering beliefs that I’m done with. I will forgive myself, forgive my parents, and welcome my future.

10″ x 7″ watercolor, pen, acrylic ink on paper