abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | embers

Art as therapy is my world these days. Here’s another big abstract, a painting from several years ago I reworked. It’s satisfying, being in my studio and slinging acrylic paint around, consciously sidestepping rational thought (on composition, color balance, and so on); most of the paint actually lands on the canvas. It’s an emotional process, and digging into feelings and tossing them onto a paint surface is mending me. I’m very grateful — for my studio, that I stumbled into Leigh Hyams’ workshops in 2008 which exploded me into a serious art practice; for glorious, vibrant paint colors, for headphones that supply rock and roll. Grief is a helluva rabbit hole to tumble into — I’m upended. I disappear into it, and at times I even have hope I’ll emerge with all my body parts. I’m sometimes satisfied, strengthened and exhausted, sometimes frustrated, spent and humbled. But always, always more whole.

68″ x 60″ acrylic, oil pastel on canvas (stretched) = $5600

 

 

 

acrylic abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | 2020

Wacky wanderings is how I’d describe my world today. I’m finishing up the book, Proof of Heaven, about a neurosurgeon who had a near death experience (NDE) and writes about his journey into a place of love and joy and acceptance and connection to the divine while he was in a coma he wasn’t supposed to recover from. I couldn’t put it down, and it’s making me rethink everything, and in a good way. I’ve had faith for most of my life in a spiritual presence or higher power or Spirit or God (though I don’t like that term, it connotes male patriarchy and confining religiosity). Reading more about NDEs (I’m going back to the library for more) is boosting my beliefs and giving me more confidence to have faith and trust in the divine, western intellectual culture be damned. It’s like I’m learning that what I’ve always hoped to be true but was afraid to completely believe is real — there is an unseen, miraculous world that our limited human brains cannot access. A world of Spirit and consciousness and a loving, supporting, expanding universe. Because I’m in a stage of life where my “past is growing and my future is shrinking,” and because of recent deaths of my sisters, all these other-worldly concepts are on my mind, and I’m finding I’m in a place of, “Oh eff it, I’m going to leap off that cliff into total surrender and faith.” A place not exactly supported in our culture, but a stance that deeply comforts and encourages me. So, there. I’m reaching more deeply into my beliefs, dammit. It’s not a popular way of thinking, here in this world. But I’m more convinced every day that there is a higher being (or beings) that support me in this human life. And today I consciously choose to practice radical trust. This is difficult for me to share, as it makes me feel vulnerable. So I hope you are OK with that.

Which is kinda related to this painting. I took an older abstract I wasn’t crazy about and made a new one out of it. I’m doing larger works these days, as the over-sized canvases are better at holding all the swirling emotions that whip through me these days. I titled this painting “2020” as it felt appropriate. It contains all the roiling, messy feelings from that ridiculously crazy, painful year.

55″ x 65″ acrylic, oil pastel on canvas (stretched) = $4900

 

 

 

watercolor and ink drawing of pear by emily weil

daily painting | solo pear

In between my Friday chores I pulled out my paints to do a quick study of the Bosc pear in my fruit bowl (before I devoured it). More fun doing this than laundry, I tell ya. And a tonic after doing some writing this morning as part of my crunching through painful feelings regarding my relationship with my sister who died last Nov. As part of the wonderful support Death with Dignity in Seattle offers, the organization that helped my sister end her life, I joined the weekly support group Zoom sessions as a way to help work out my complicated feelings about my younger sister, and the facilitator suggested we write a letter to our lost loved one, and perhaps even try writing a response. So I did it this morning (I should buy stock in Kleenex® for god’s sake). I expressed anger. I wrote about frustrations with her as she resolutely refused to talk about what happened when we were kids and suffered violence at the hands of our raging dad (she was not on speaking terms with her feelings). I kind of let it all out on paper, and was a bit surprised at how much better I felt (I was thinking, OK, yeah, done this before); the response letter, which I also wrote, was loving and honest. Yes, her letter to me was imaginary. But very comforting and healing.

Grief just takes a big stiff steel brush and scrubs off the rusty bits, leaving me raw and roughed up. It is taking me more deeply into pain from a wretched family dynamic when I was small, and my heart is mending. Today I have a welcome opportunity to “go deep” and forgive and make peace with all this turbulence. Not a pleasant journey by any stretch. But I chose this pot-holed path and I think I can slough off part of my painful family’s legacy, and that’s a gift. Our brains, man. So complicated. So full of possibility.

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

 

 

 

pastel, pencil drawing of yellow pepper of by emily weil

daily painting | class pepper

Saturday I taught a painting/mixed media class at Frank Bette Center in Alameda, a workshop that includes working with watercolor, pencil, pastel and other media. At the end of the class while we were winding down I did a quick take with chalk pastels of a solo pepper I plucked from the still life I’d set up. I don’t think I’ve ever started with pastel; usually I add it on top of a watercolor. Anyways, this turned out to be a chipper pepper, which is interesting to me as the colors that show up in my paintings/drawings are usually bright and primary, rarely reflecting my sad moods these days. Curious, but I’m good with it.

After class I was cleaning up, and out the window of the classroom I noticed a man walking with a person who seemed to be his son; I’ve seen them before on that block. The son, probably in his 30s, seems to be quite mentally impaired and must need constant care (for example, maybe reacting to the restraints of outerwear, he likes to remove all his clothes when he goes outside, prompting his dad to make sure he stays decent). The two of them usually walk around the block, and the affection the dad shows his adult, ailing son brought me to tears as I watched them — they stroll arm-in-arm (sometimes pausing so the young man can embrace a tree). Once I saw the dad lean down slightly and kiss his grown son on the forehead. The dad seems entirely devoted to the well-being of the young man and that show of unconditional love cracked open my sore heart. What a thing of beauty; how lucky I am to have seen it.

7″ x 7″ pastel, pencil on paper = $75

 

 

 

watercolor + pastel painting of snowy egret by emily weil

daily painting | snowy egret

This snowy egret with its yellow slippers often stalks its fishy treats just outside my window on the muddy edges of the San Francisco estuary. This is commissioned painting #2 for my dear neighbor; this bird is a favorite of hers, with its wispy, snow-white feathers and careful search of watery prey at the water’s edge (OK and my apologies but here’s a favorite joke: “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted”). Anyways, thought I’d share this on my daily paintings page as I have been spending time in my studio working on large paintings again. Stay tuned.

15″ x 20″ watercolor, ink, pastel on paper

 

 

 

watercolor painting of night heron by emily weil

daily painting | visitors

Late at night I will sometimes sit out on my deck, enjoying the midnight hour and watching the black-crowned night herons hunt on the docks (William, a young one still in juvenile plumage, often comes by and I saw him with a small silvery fish in its beak, but curiously he didn’t swallow it right away. I’m pretty sure William loves me). It’s peaceful — no construction noise, no clackety dock carts rolling by, no motorboats being rinsed off in the washing area, no neighbors coming and going. Last night I was admiring the gorgeous moon hanging out above the parking lot silos (and is that Jupiter up there?) — it’s still and calm. I noticed a disturbance in the water, just below the surface — then a harbor seal popped up, taking in the scene. I could hear it breathing. It was the coolest thing — harbor seals are not unusual out in the estuary, but this is only the second time I’ve seen one visit B dock. What a wonderful nocturnal hello.

This painting of a night heron (with its mating-season flirt feather on display, stilting through the mossy mud) was commissioned by a lovely neighbor who wants to take our birds with her as she may move north. I hope she stays. Neighbors like her don’t grow on trees.

15″ x 20″ watercolor, ink, pastel on paper

 

 

 

watercolor painting of trumpet flowers by emily weil

daily painting | front yard

Trumpet flowers have magical, drippy shapes that capture my attention every time, especially the light-colored ones that seem to luminesce in the afternoon sun. This scene was in a yard a block off Park St in Alameda, and I did a couple of passes at it with watercolors; adding ink and pastels livened up the painting.

I am enjoying my houseboat here in the marina on this peaceful, overcast, weekend afternoon. Neighbors are out, finches are chirping at the feeder (hoping for the oversized, always-ravenous pigeons to move along). Waiting for a friend to drop by for a yogurt-and-fruit-and-cookies visit. I have been writing “my story” in my journal, as advised by the skilled and compassionate facilitator of the Death with Dignity online grief support group that just started up. This dead-sisters-grief-process is pretty much still turning me inside out, so I try to just sit with all this heart-turbulence, but not without resentment that my nerves are still raw hamburger. I suppose this will all pass at some point (please feel free to remind me of that). Different tools help me get out of bed in the morning — painting, hiking in the redwoods, zumba class, banding hawks in the Marin Headlands. But Jesus, Mary and the Pips, this is a time.

7″ x 10″ sticks-and-ink, watercolor, acrylic, pastel on paper = $90

 

 

 

abstract acrylic painting by emily weil

daily painting | skitchy

Sometimes I look at abstract works of other brilliant artists and I’m stunned by the lively beauty that is there. Gorgeous, lyrical compositions of light and color. I don’t think my abstracts are beautiful. Some days I wake up and look at a freshly done, still-sticky painting and think it’s hideous. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t finished and shouldn’t be shown to the world. Even if that world is small. Generally my acrylic creations contain raw emotion, which in my opinion makes them authentic, if not visually pleasing. Is that what my art should be? An honest expression of what’s happening on my insides? I don’t know. Really, I have no idea. But I need to paint them, even if no one ever looks at them twice or finds them appealing; few people would look at one of my large pieces and say, Ooh, that would look nice hanging over my couch.

But this is my process and my need to do this work boils in my gut. Even if my paintings are never seen, they are still mine and necessary to create, especially during this moment in my life that is smashed up with grief.

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

 

 

 

watercolor and ink drawing of red pepper by emily weil

daily painting | upstanding pepper

I may have previously stated that I adore the shapes of bell peppers. I couldn’t help but do another pass at this guy before he ends up as dinner. It sure seems the fewer expectations I have for a “keeper” painting, the more happily surprised I am with results — I put my watercolor pad and paints out on my kitchen counter as in between appointments and chores and phone calls and errands I just wanted to enjoy the messy creative process. I so love the rounded, twisted, bent shapes of this savory (and sometimes sweet) vegetable! Whether applying ink-and-stick or watercolor or pencil (or, more likely, all of the above), it’s a fabulous subject to rest my eyeballs on, and my splashing around with ink and cadmium red paints is a delight. And my day was made even sweeter by a thoughtful text from a grandchild. OK now I must get back to preparing a roast chicken dinner and putting together a lunchbox for banding tomorrow. What a goofy, rewarding, wonderful old-lady life this is. [I’ll post a pic at some point of the magnificent adult red tail hawk we banded last week; see ggro.org if you are curious.]

12″ x 9″ sticks-and-ink, watercolor, acrylic on paper = $140