watercolor of wilted rose by emily weil

daily painting | droopy blossom

A wonderful and supportive friend brought me a lovely bouquet from her garden the other day, including a lush and gorgeous rose. The rose was getting droopy today, and I wanted to paint it. As a follow up to my sister Diana’s rose drawing in my last post. A rose that is done. Over. Spent.

If you have read my last blog, you will know I lost my sister Diana to suicide several days ago. And here is my request, my dear friends — please toss out hesitancy to talk about mental illness. Diana had any number of diagnoses, from depression to schizophrenia to anxiety disorders. A long list. She suffered a great deal and was hospitalized at times. While I am angry she could not or would not be more aggressive about her own care, it’s important to break down the taboos about being mentally ill. It’s essential we talk about it; most of us have been touched by it either directly or indirectly. I have had my own battles with depression and as a teenager considered suicide but decided it was too scary; I knew where mom’s full bottle of Seconal was (one of the things that pushed me close to that cliff was idiot parents of fellow teens in high school who gushed, “Oooh, these are the happiest times of your life! Enjoy them!” I thought, jeez, if this is as good as it gets I think I’ll check out now). Instead I found solace in the born-again Christian belief system which I no longer practice. People who commit suicide don’t want to die. They want the pain to stop.

It’s good, to be honest about these things and discuss disturbances and disorders and craziness and suicidal ideations. Put it all out on the table; there is nothing to be ashamed of. Someone who is bipolar or schizophrenic didn’t choose that any more than someone chooses a brain tumor or cerebral palsy. It’s physical. It’s a messed up brain. 

So. Please talk amongst yourselves.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | diana

Diana Elizabeth Weil Randrup, my older sister, took her own life yesterday, Friday, May 7, a week short of her 76th birthday. She used a gun. I have no more sisters, now. Diana was burdened by mental illness and anxiety and suffered a great deal throughout her life. She leaves behind two grown children, three grandchildren, and one great-grandson. She lived in Crescent City, CA. Her daughter and granddaughter had tried to convince her to use more peaceful means, but she had long collected guns and threatened suicide. She was finally successful. Her adult granddaughter, who lived with her, had to endure the shock of finding her body.

This lovely drawing was created by Diana, who had deep oceans of artistic talent. It was a wedding gift to my daughter. 

She was exquisitely talented. I tried to convince her to draw and paint more, but could not. She wrote hilarious send-ups of visits from mom that she shared with select family members. She did beautiful drawings and yarn creations. 

And she was broken. 

In her last few years she refused all contact with anyone outside of her daughter and grandkids who were in the same town; she became agoraphobic and stopped driving. She was paralyzed by terrors and panic attacks. I would send her occasional notes and cards, knowing she would read them even if she didn’t respond. A few years ago, I wrote her a note that may have been more heartfelt than others (I don’t remember) but I about fell over when she wrote me back! I was thrilled that she reached out — very unlike her. After I read the card I tucked it inside my bra so it would be close to my heart and kept it there all day, crying with gratitude. I hadn’t seen her in 20 years, as she refused all family contact. 

This began a correspondence that lasted about a year, which thrilled me. We would exchange political views and anti-Trump rants, mostly. It was a point of connection, obsessing about politics, and we were both news junkies. Her granddaughter Karen told me she would put my cards on the mantle in the living room. I am so grateful to have had that thin thread of connection; she finally stopped writing, saying in her last card it was too stressful.

So, goodbye, Diana. I am enraged you put Karen in this position. And your daughter. You could’ve listened! We could have helped you have a more peaceful death. But you were in too much pain to think of anything but ending your misery. I get that, I do. I hope you are at peace now. We certainly are not.

 

 

 

illustration of willie mays by emily weil

daily painting | say hey

Since this version of my digital illustration of Willie Mays was rejected by the “Mays team” (licensing and bureaucratic and indecipherable legal reasons), I can post this now. I was thrilled (I mean, couldn’t-sit-still-ecstatic) to be called on to create a digital illo to be used for a logo being created by my lovely and talented freelance colleague who often creates designs for the SF Giants. The Giants front office loved my work but sadly Mays’ lawyers didn’t; they will use a silhouette of Mays that has been used (and approved of) in previous marketing materials. The logo was to be for a new program, “Willie Mays Scholars”, a non-profit group created by the SF Giants to support high school and college kids, timed to launch for Mays’ 90th birthday this month.

But still! Willie Mays himself looked at MY artwork, which absolutely sent me over the moon, regardless of the results and I’m still getting a little choked up about it as I write this. It took me back to my mom putting the Giants games on the kitchen transistor radio when I was a girl, when I fell in love both with baseball and the Giants. Mays is one of the greatest sports legends ever, and I adored him and the rest of that remarkable 1960s roster — in the early 2000s when the Silicon Valley dot-bomb disaster wiped out my design biz, I took on many odd jobs to survive, including counting money for Roberts Market in Woodside. When I was prepping money and checks for a deposit (I went home at night with green fingers), a check from Willie McCovey was in the stack and I about fainted. After that, the nice gals in that office where I worked PT would point him out when he came shopping (you could see the market entrance from the upstairs office). They wouldn’t, um, let me copy his check but it was exciting just the same (Shirley Temple came almost every day, and when I saw her at the deli counter I smiled and said hello and she smiled back). Love of our heroes is a fun part of being human, yes? Though with apologies to SF Giants greats, no one could ever outclass Eleanor Roosevelt in my personal pantheon. And, may Mays live forever.

 

 

 

acrylic abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | skylines

Did anyone see the PBS show, “American Masters” about Oliver Sacks? I was floored and inspired by his transparency and openness about his life—his missteps, his insights and honesty. And his incredible empathy (I watched it twice). He talked about his journey without hesitation or obfuscation. Which is helping me feel bolder about my own blatherings about my personal adventures and challenges. As I struggle to wrap my mind and heart around the reality of my younger sister’s death, and how difficult it was to connect with her, it is becoming clearer how my childhood wounds shape me. I have healed a great deal and worked very hard for my wholeness. At the same time, wispy fragments of longings as well as my aching quest for human connection that haunted me as a child float through my soul, and I see how I have felt ashamed of these normal and human needs. Like somehow I should be above the desire for intimacy. I should buck up, or something asinine like that. Ridiculous. Today I embrace my humanity and natural and beautiful desires. What is more precious than human connection? Yet I have often thought this was a deep flaw. Boy howdy am I letting that one go!

I worked on this small abstract on the weekend. I didn’t feel like painting at all. But it was a tonic to be in my studio and work with colors and shapes and wet gloppy paint without any attempts to make it pretty. It was a soothing experience, even with tears mixed into the chromium blues.

9″ x 12″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil on claybord = $140

 

 

 

watercolor painting of california wildflowers by emily weil

daily painting | headlands wildflower

Here’s another Marin Headlands wildflower from a recent hike (I’m wondering if my series of small flower paintings would be a good grouping together, framed on a wall?). Flowers like these are so damn cheery. I love them. This morning as I did my regular practice of prayer and meditation, my heart felt so shattered I placed my hand on my chest for comfort, which helps. Sometimes grief just sits on me, like a chunk of granite. Other times it’s in the corner, glaring at me but not possessing me, and I know at some point it will be done with me and head out the door. It’s a conflicted relationship, but I believe full surrender is best.

Note: please check out my events|classes page for info on a show at Terra Gallery in San Francisco next week! 

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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | courthouse posies

My day of jury duty last week in Oakland was brightened by finding a secret stash of blooms tucked behind a metal fence next to one of those big, cold, gray commanding buildings near the Alameda County Courthouse. It was a very chilly, overcast day, and we were not allowed to stay inside the building for lunch, so I wandered around a bit hoping for a spot to land. It was a challenge as lunch spots are all take-out due to Covid, and damn it was nippy and breezy, which made all those official buildings near Lake Merritt even more imposing and coldly intimidating. But here was this little gem of a bush, sporting flowers I’d never seen before and they cheered me. I hope the other members of the jury pool enjoyed these too, as we filed out of the assembly room and looked for somewhere to perch for an hour and then some — I felt spit out into the concrete jungle where there were no warm havens. Glad I layered up. Which is different from being lawyered up. Ha.

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

 

 

 

sketch of jury room by emily weil

daily painting | assembly room #100

Yesterday was a gray, chilly April day in Oakland, and as a member of jury group #1010 I was required to show up in the Alameda County Courthouse (I argued I am self-employed, which sometimes gets me excused, but no). Here are a few sketches I did as I fought stultifying boredom, hoping I didn’t hear my name called over the speakers (but I hasten to add I believe in this kind of civic duty, and if chosen I will embrace my responsibilities — I served on a jury for a fascinating federal case years ago involving a confiscation of 70 tons of hashish on the high seas). It was an 8 hour day, and after the Chauvin trial folks on all sides are skittish, so jury selection for a trial that involves a Black man, a gun, a robbery and lots of cops is taking quite a long time. This courthouse is famous for the photos taken during the Huey Newton trial in the 1970s with the Black Panthers holding rallies on the front steps. One photo has legally-armed (at the time) Black Panthers outside the front doors; can you even imagine what would happen if that took place today? Bloody hell, that’s what. 

But that was over 50 years ago and my god I’m old. I’m reminded of comments a racist family member made, who was a judge in the 60s-70s, opining about Angela Davis. Chilling and nauseating. But I won’t rant here about racism in the US as I get kind of riled up. (Side note: I was lucky enough to have Davis as a professor for a Women in Music class at CCAC in the 1980s and she was incredible; don’t think I’ve ever met a more intelligent or thoughtful woman in my lifetime. She was the antithesis of the scary Black woman firebrand militant the media painted her as in those days, and that bit of history looks quite different in light of the Chauvin trial, yes?)

Let’s all wake up, OK? White supremacism and bigotry is real, dangerous, and rotten and needs to be rooted out, especially in police departments and courtrooms. And in our own hearts.

 

 

 

watercolor painting of plumeria by emily weil

daily painting | plumeria

Went into the wayback stash of photos for this painting; I believe it was a shot of plumeria in a San Diego yard. The pinky yellows were really luscious, as were the big leaves with interesting patterns. I’m having an emotional afternoon, after hearing the Chauvin trial verdict. I was happy for the outcome and yet we have a long ways to go as a country with racism deeply dyed in our wool; I was passing time waiting for tires to be mounted on my car and was checking emails and saw the news on the trial and I was glad the waiting room wasn’t close to the lug nut experts as my eyes were leaking for the pain and sorrow and loss and ugliness of the raw facts of the challenges we face as Americans — we are marinating in old, difficult, painful, seemingly intractable issues. If I was queen of the universe I would make all of us open our hearts, be willing to see truth, and be kind. I do not have royal blood, so I’ll just try to be considerate to the folks I encounter during my day.

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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of morning glory by emily weil

daily painting | headlands glory

Have you ever had Stevie Wonder singing to you in your headphones and managed NOT to dance? (I dare you to try.). This past weekend as I went to my cache of photos of wildflowers from the Marin Headlands, brought out my paints and cranked up the music, I had to take multiple dancing breaks from my watercolor expressions. All my curtains and doors were open, so I went into my bedroom where I could have a private Songs in the Key of Life dancefest. It was great (and terrific exercise), and I gratefully soaked up those moments where life felt like a celebration again. I always feel happy to see the swallows coming back in Spring, too — they collect mud in their beaks at low tide just out my window, to build their nests up on the Barnhill silos. They do this fluttery dance while they harvest the gooey stuff, never quite landing. It’s beautiful and balletic.

So the end result of my painting/dancing afternoon was this guy, complete with its ant visitors. Do head for the hills if you can as the flowers are spectacular. Oh, and one more thing — Alcatraz is partly open again. Please visit, and bring friends, as revenue from this tourist spot supports GGRO (and other GGNRA programs) and we are struggling to survive, due to the pandemic. Thank you.

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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of morning glory wildflowers by emily weil

daily painting | morning glory

I loved the rich and nuanced purples and lavenders of this morning glory that soared above a fence near me in Alameda. It was as if this flower was reaching high, thinking big; had to lean back and take the pic as it was way above my head. It inspired me — it seemed bold and barely supported. I wanted the paints to do their thing yesterday, to see if the purple puddles dried in interesting ways. Which is the magic of watercolor, and why I love it so. Not much to report here — following Hillary’s advice, Get up every day and keep going. My daily commitment to verticality.

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