watercolor of guinea pig by emily weil

daily painting | peeking out

I recently heard a conversation on NPR between one dad with a couple of kids and a soon-to-be father. Dad #1 asked dad #2, “You mean to say you voluntarily signed up to have your heart ripped out of your chest EVERY SINGLE DAY for the rest of your life?” I laughed, as it was funny, but damned accurate. I’ve been reading different reviews and articles about how our culture is just beginning to consider previously unspoken points of view on parenting, particularly motherhood. Books are published, movies are made, and intelligent TV series are broadcast exploring how mothers deal with inner, searing conflicts about raising kids. Until now there have been two models of motherhood — the sacrificial saint, a madonna laying down her life for the children, and the bad mom — abusive alcoholic or, god forbid, a selfish career woman who abandons her kids (but usually, in the Hallmark movie, comes to repent and mend her ways). How hard is parenting? Nothing harder. I don’t care if you are CEO of a huge global enterprise, or have climbed Mt Everest 10 times, or are a Pulitzer-prize winning war correspondent. I have two adult children and still I have to practice letting go every single effing day, as they live their own lives and walk their own paths. So I applaud all the moms and dads out there who fumble along and do their best to raise their kids to be healthy, functioning adults. And I am glad women are finally breaking taboos and speaking up about how difficult it is to mother — the self-doubt, the confusion, the resentment, the heartache, the fear you took a disastrous wrong turn. I hope our current cultural climate begets honest conversations about this inner tumult. Because it’s there, even if concealed under the blankets of our sore hearts. And once again I am up on my soapbox! (Please forgive me.) It’s just that I have a fierce longing to be honest and embrace difficult feelings and say them OUT LOUD. Because, well, yes.

Speaking of mothering, this is Buster, my little rescue guinea pig, and I’m his mom. He’s super low maintenance. No drama or worries about his life choices. And he makes the cutest little squeaks (I think his piggie noises translate into, Hey Mom, thanks for the lettuce and cucumber sandwich). You’re welcome, Bubbie.

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

 

 

 

abstract drawing by emily weil

daily painting | doodlebugs

I had written up thoughts on parenting, set to post with a small abstract I was working on, but the painting turned out to be shite. So then I started this one, and it worked out better (I’m practicing moving slowly in a painting, which isn’t my style but a good exercise). I will likely blab about being a mom in a future post, but for today I want to express how I am learning (and relearning) to interrupt a dark descent down the rathole. Today I felt the suck of depression and grief pulling on my ankles, so I forced myself (really, I was not in the mood) to go to a nearby park and walk. It was a wonderful tonic. Such a simple thing. I’m becoming quite fond of Shoreline Park in Oakland, where the estuary merges into San Francisco bay; the park is surrounded by dramatically gigantic container ships and cranes. Big and sprawling, with tons of room and extended walking paths and few humans. Thanks to my wonderful new walking sticks, I can walk longer distances without back pain, so I just kept going, taking in SF skyline and Bay Bridge views, watching seagulls drop shellfish on the concrete surfaces to break the shells (they do that on my roof too, which always cracks me up). Wintering ducks were diving in the small cove there, bug-eating phoebes snatched insects out of the air, families hung out on a pier with fishing poles. Beautiful gentle breezes swirled, and finally a spectacular sunset showed itself off behind the city skyline. While the sun set, hundreds of starlings flew around in flocks, settling into rows of palm trees for the night. Lots of chattering and squawking and rustling as they slipped into the dried palm fronds at the top of the tall trunks. A real treat for the senses, and I gratefully took it all in, glad I got my behind out of the house, breaking the dark spell.

9″ x 12″ watercolor, ink, pastel, acrylic, pastel on paper = $140

 

 

 

watercolor of peaches by emily weil

daily painting | casita windowsill

The way light hits luscious, spherical summer fruits poised on a windowsill always enchants me. If I recall, my gracious host Nancy gave me these Trader Joe’s peaches when I stayed in her San Diego casita last August, and I put them on the sunny sill as they weren’t quite ripe.

I roamed around my photos collection looking for painting subjects and found this snapshot I’d all but forgotten. Peaches in particular are spectacular, don’t you think? Slightly fuzzy, rosy-hued, filled with the promise of drippy, sweet juices. One summer when I was a teen, dad’s peach trees produced such a mouth-watering crop I ate them until I was sick (I’ve never been so thin). I’m becoming more patient with my watercolors — taking more time. A sign of getting older, I guess. What’s the hurry? My world is upended with loss and grief and family upset. Yet painting a scene of summery fruit soothes and comforts my heart. How fortunate I am, to skid into my magical world of watercolors.

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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of oranges by emily weil

daily painting | adrian’s oranges

About this painting — a dear friend asked me to do a still life of oranges from her back yard tree. And it’s a good thing I didn’t eat any of them before I got my watercolors out or there wouldn’t be any left to paint. Tastiest, juiciest oranges I’ve ever had (I think it’s time for another one).

Monday musings — I’ve been chewing on this idea for days. Heard it in a snippet from an NPR interview with a woman who I think teaches poetry classes to prison inmates (only heard the last few mins of the story). Trying to get incarcerated young men to write poems in order to think beyond their current circumstances. To believe in their strong hearts and in hope and in a future.

She asks people to consider: “If I believed one positive thing about myself, how would it change my life?”

So I am practicing believing I am a good artist. A REALLY good artist. And the resistance I feel in my body to that thought! Lordy! Arguments in my head from years of conditioning as a female. That’s boastful. That’s shameful. Quiet humility is best. Shut up and be quiet. Don’t be arrogant or vain. Don’t make noise. Mediocrity is just fine, you wouldn’t want to threaten anyone, especially a man. Don’t aim too high.

What if I did this thing? Believed without hesitation in my abilities to create art? What if you did the same, believing in yourself? In just one thing? It’s so audacious I can hardly digest it. And damned if it doesn’t make me stand taller and square my shoulders and step into sunlight. Talk about going against the current. Well, I can paddle. Got a sturdy canoe. Join me.

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

 

 

 

abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | visibility

I kept fussing over this painting I worked on over the weekend. Too many moving parts and I was ready to toss it in the dumpster. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the process — tunes in my earbuds, slapping paint around, adding bits of collage, playing with color patterns. Finally I got frustrated and decided it needed a big black mark at the bottom. After I brushed on the E with India ink, I figured, Well, I guess I need to be seen more! (So, an “E” for Emily, maybe? Dunno.) I feel most comfortable in my little cave, being an artist, quietly doing art. But at the same time I wish a Peggy Guggenheim would come along and convince the world to pay gazillions of dollars for my brilliant works of art. Ha. Well, that’s an honest admission, anyways. I need to mix things up, so I’ll do a series of these small works on boards. We’ll see what happens next and now I need to wrap this up as it’s dinnertime and I’m getting cranky and I want to enjoy my happy hour and give Buster (my cute little guinea pig) his dinner salad (red leaf lettuce is his fave). Until next time.

12″ x 12″ acrylic, pencil, collage, India ink, crayon on claybord = $185

 

 

 

watercolor painting of split pomegranate by emily weil

daily painting | barnhill pom

In 2008 I stumbled into Leigh Hyams’ art workshop in Big Sur, CA where she split me open like a watermelon. It was there, with her guidance, that I began to take myself seriously as an artist. She pushed and prodded (sometimes gently, sometimes not) and somehow had a gift of getting her students to reach deep inside and create authentic expressions of art. It was magic and I’d never met anyone like her. I became a devotee on the spot and took every workshop she offered for the next few years, including studying with her in her casita in Mexico, where she died peacefully when in her 80s. She changed my life, and now that I too am teaching art, I aspire to also inspire, though I would never compare myself to her and her gift of teaching. So when I took out this photo of a split pomegranate I had taken near my home, it made me think of being opened up. Of life and how it cracks and breaks us apart, and how we try to let the fissures spill out the juicy stuff (like that saying, our wounds are where the light gets in). 

Recently I came across an article I clipped about Kelsey Grammer, the actor who was on “Cheers” and had his own show, “Frasier” (I may have mentioned him before in a post; if so, forgive me). His motto is, “Stagger on rejoicing,” which is from a W.H. Auden poem. When he was 15 his dad was murdered and his grandfather died later that year. His sister was attacked and killed and his two half-brothers died in a scuba accident. And he continues to live his best life despite more losses than anyone should bear. I am glad I stumbled (or maybe staggered) across that bit of newsprint from several years ago. I’m up. I’m vertical. I continue. I may have a few messy wounds that need stitching up, but I keep my first aid kit nearby (mostly filled with tubes of paint but there might be some Neosporin® in there too).

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

 

 

 

watercolor and abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | on-ramp

This new painting, “On-ramp,” seems to capture all my thoughts and feelings about this year. Busy, crazy, colorful, confusing, shadowy, nerve-wracking, jumbled. But, intact, right? Still here, woot! Can’t believe we’re going into a new year — and the 3rd year of the pandemic (curse that damned ComiCon variant!). So, getting back to talking myself through each day. It works, only doing one day or one minute at a time, letting tomorrow’s worries take care of themselves. It eases my mind. Since life these days feels like skating on thin ice, let’s have some fun and lace up our skates and buckle on our life jackets anyways and Hans Christian Andersen ourselves around the frozen pond. Oh, and here’s a relevant quote I recently heard (thanks Claire and Virginia!):  

“… birthing is hard

and dying is mean–

so get yourself a little loving in between.”

— Langston Hughes

30″ x 22″ acrylic, watercolor, ink, pencil, pastel on paper = $795

 

 

 

watercolor painting of dog by emily weil

daily painting | chico

Sparkly, Christmassy decorations — the lights are so pretty and magical (funny that my year-round outside lights on my deck pooped out the day before Christmas Eve). This year my emotions are raggedy, as I stand to one side and look at fractured pieces of my family. But I am also deeply grateful to enjoy the kindness of friends in my Alameda life — people who share such an abundance of warm care and support and love. I have so many questions as I launch into this later stage of life and old-womanhood, and I’m guessing most of them will remain unanswered. Which is what it’s like, being human. We fumble along, doing our best, trying to be kind and creative and loving and grown-up. I suppose I’m not terribly unique, as I bump through these hair-raising days. I relish my morning cup of Earl Grey. I crack up at Buster Posey’s antics as he does laps in his little playpen (Buster is my Giants-orange guinea pig). I thoroughly enjoy discovering a new favorite author (Amor Towles, and thank you Claire). I soak up sunshine between rain storms (thank god for rain storms!), wheeling through Alameda on my bicycle (today’s ride a bit chilly). And I love getting out my paints. Chico here was a commissioned piece for a dear friend’s nephew for Christmas (Chico’s dad liked to put hats and scarves on him which apparently he didn’t mind). Happy Christmas and Merry New Year, all you kind folks who read my posts and look at my art. Let’s live a little bit larger in 2022 and celebrate each breath. We have more living to do.

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

 

 

 

figure drawing painting by emily weil

daily painting | eva

Another Bay Area Models Guild Marathon happened on zoom last weekend, and the quick sketches (short poses) were the most satisfying to draw/paint. But damn I am SO over zoom, are you? (I was tired of it 5 mins into the pandemic, though.) I seriously hope the ComiCon variant of Covid spins itself out, but it feels like we’re back in a discouraging cycle — wash, rinse, repeat. The news is all a bit dismal, so I distract myself whenever possible with things that don’t veer too close to self-destruction, like drawing and painting and taking walks and spending time with caring friends until they are sick of me. I use “notebook therapy” — writing out feelings in a journal. I love to cook, so I make myself comfort-food meals which I look forward to. Let’s see, what else? Oh, right, taking my binos out to the shoreline to try and figure out the difference between sandpipers, plovers and rails, crossing my fingers a local peregrine falcon will stop by, hunting and scattering the little guys poking around at the water’s edge (not that I want any bloodshed, but peregrines are beyond amazing). If you want a fun walk, go out to Chavez Park in Berkeley next to the marina and see the burrowing owls that winter there — extraordinary! OK that’s my Christmas week update. I accept my lessons of today — to keep my heart open, to trust, to dig deeper into my spiritual practice, to believe every day in life’s magic. It’s a challenge, as I default to gloom and doom (I can tell how much I am fighting depression by the state of my house, which is currently messy). But I did totally get out of bed today. 

10″ x 7″ watercolor, pencil, water-soluble graphite on paper

 

 

 

abstract acrylic painting by emily weil

daily painting | roughage

Well lately I’ve been spending time in my studio creating/redoing large abstracts. My space, in the Temescal neighborhood in Oakland, is perfect. I can splatter paint and make messes, I can store large paintings, there is a sink for cleaning out brushes drippy with acrylic paints, I have a cushy chair I can sit in and cry when I need to, and my landlady kindly assists in installing shelves and rag racks. Yesterday I finished up this painting, and again I’m curious about choosing those crazy colors in this dark December when family grief sits like a heavy cloud on my head. I watched a documentary about Bob Ross last night (Netflix, I recommend it), and his joy in painting was genuine. And his demos creating a “happy little tree” attracted thousands of viewers to his TV show, bringing encouragement and hope (and, in one case, the prevention of a suicide). I’m not going to paint on TV any time soon (not to mention I can’t stand being observed while I paint), but I get the excitement at creating art. It absolutely heals and buoys my soul, and today a cherished neighbor sent me a loving, kind text, complimenting me on a small painting she bought from me yesterday. Though today I am frustrated and discouraged that my many attempts at fixing a leaky spot in my roof have failed (drip drip in the living room), and my heart aches from painful family legacies, I can always paint. This colorful corner in my life fills me with gladness; I can always go there and make splashy puddles of wet pinks, yellows, blues and greens on canvas and paper. And I will. Like, right now.

28.5″ x 31″ acrylic, oil pastel on canvas (stretched) = $1295