watercolor and ink painting of flower by emily weil

daily painting | mill valley posey

Sometimes a complete collapse is the only reasonable thing to do. Since I am voluntarily isolating myself after five cases of Covid broke out in my brother’s assisted living home, where he is in hospice care, I’m making sure I am not infected and of course not visiting Jamey’s residence (doubtful they’d let me in anyways, though they did on Friday; that place isn’t the most organized).

Deep depression and alienation is how I’d describe my last couple of days. The I-can-hardly-move, wearing-lead-shoes kind of dark stupor. Big black clouds encase my head; visibility severely limited. This morning when I woke up, I performed my usual routine of grabbing my headphones and doing my guided meditation (though I can barely concentrate on it these days). Afterwards I was far, far away. Kind of comatose. So I didn’t fight it and lay in bed, letting myself be drifty and exhausted. Two and a half hours later I came to (my poor little guinea pig had a delayed Sunday brunch).

So many reasons to feel pulled into the muck. Catastrophic Supreme Court decisions, the loss of both of my sisters, politicians who care only about power and not Americans, strife within my family, my brother’s aggressive brain cancer, more than a million Americans dead from a cunning pandemic (as the kind counselor with hospice says, any one of those things would flatten a person).

And today, I just can’t fight it off. So my activities will be simple. I will go for a bike ride, call my brother, and get out my paints. This crumpling of my spirit will not be resisted. “There’s beauty in the breakdown,” is a line in a song from the movie, Garden State. Today I am ravishing.

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor painting of old farm house by emily weil

daily painting | lonely house

I have a delightful student named Harvey. We meet for private lessons and he brought me a photo of an old, isolated farm/ranch house (I think taken in the eastern Sierras); he had started a painting of the scene, and I did a demo painting of the snapshot to show technique (students either love or hate my loose style of painting; I think my approach to watercolors is growing on him). I’m posting this today as a kind of a test as my automatic RSS feed stopped working (that’s a fancy way of saying you who have signed up for emails when I upload a new painting weren’t getting the notices). So I’m wearing my IT hat today and hope the Mail Chimp issues have been resolved.

So many ups and downs these days — to be expected I suppose. I bounce from deep depression about my brother’s grave illness to joy at the love of the visitors for my brother. My darling niece Melody and her husband and two little girls visited the bay area from Seattle several days ago and without her mom’s presence — Kay had a very strong personality (she died 19 mo ago) — we could have a marvelous visit. Funny how death and life work themselves out. With pain and loss come gifts and unexpected blessings. OK we’ll see if the link to today’s posts reaches the inboxes of my fan club. Thanks all. Time to head over to Mill Valley to hang out with the bro.

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor and ink painting of old farm house by emily weil

daily painting | cota street studios

Feels like eons ago now but in early April I got to join a watercolor workshop in Santa Barbara and it was such a blast. And the timing! A week or so after my return, the crisis of bro’s brain cancer crashed into my family. I could fully enjoy my week in Santa Barbara without worry, thanks to the generosity of my dear friend Sue who gifted me the workshop (and also because my kind neighbor Beth took good and loving care of my guinea piggy).

Anyways, we had a wonderful afternoon painting at Cota Street Studios near downtown — a marvelous and quirky apartment building designed by an architect who definitely colored outside the lines — chimneys atilt, iron balcony railings full of wondrous twists and turns, hidden little alcoves built into the stucco filled with delightful surprises. Here is a door of one of the apartments; the entrances to the residences (each apt worth millions) are accessed from a wonderful and lush courtyard. Very peaceful and beautiful and quirky and lively (and yes I misspelled Cota). Here’s a link: www.jeffsheltonarchitect.com/cota-street-studios

7″ x 5″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor and ink painting of leaf

daily painting | feather river leaf

The class I taught at Feather River Art Camp for which I created this quick demo was Watercolor and Ink. The week at camp was such a blast — I can’t believe I actually pulled it off without a major crash-and-burn after seven weeks of brother-brain-cancer crisis (and I was quite pooped once I returned home). Really had fun and was thankful for the schedule that allowed me to teach in the mornings and nap in the afternoons; luckily the weather didn’t get hot until the tail end of the schedule, and it was also fortuitous that the cunning Covid bastard didn’t ambush us until two days before we were set to go home (thankfully I dodged that infected bullet). 

These days I mostly feel upside down, as with great difficulty I embrace the reality that my brother is soon leaving the planet but for now he’s stable and more or less lucid; the hospice folks are supportive and professional and he’s got such a huge fan club he has frequent visitors. And I also enjoy just hanging out with him as we read the newspaper together or watch a Giants game. My emotions are a pinball machine, and I accept that (and I keep Kleenex close by at all times). We have tender moments and he still cracks wise and makes me laugh. I am deeply grateful for our connection and my heart will shatter when he dies but that’s the way things are as you get up into these senior years — people we love leave their bodies. And hopefully that passage into whatever follows death is the terminus of a rich life that was well-lived. That’s my goal in however many years I have left — to live with cheeky gusto and large portions of saucy irreverence. Because! Yes!

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

abstract painting on claybord by emily weil

daily painting | feather river

Walked in my door about an hour ago, returning from Feather River Art Camp up in N California, NE of Chico, in the beautiful hills of Plumas National Forest (3500 ft). It was an honor to be invited to teach at the camp and I had a ball and my students said they did too. I taught “Mixed Media,” meaning I did a watercolor class on one day, a drawing class another day, and so on (camp lasts 7 days with 5 days of classes and workshops). Such open-hearted, enthusiastic artists in my class — age range from 16 to hard-working art-enthusiasts in their 70s (maybe older; I didn’t exactly ask their birth dates). The camp has been operating for years, and there are a number of offerings given by fabulous teachers from ceramics to bead-making to plein air painting to creating art with bleach (marvelous — the teacher uses black paper). Check it out: www.featherriverartcamp.com.

Anyways not a lot of posting these days as I spend considerable time with my brother in his nursing facility in Mill Valley where he’s in hospice care with aggressive brain cancer; was hard to be gone for a week, but he was in good hands, and the art camp was on the calendar since last year. And I could nap in the afternoons. Then I could mosey down at dusk to Spanish Creek and enjoy the tranquility and the wildlife (and sometimes the company of my fabulous young assistant, Nolan). The wild creatures took my breath away — a merganser duck with 8 ducklings trailing behind, a resident beaver, dragonflies and songbirds and fish jumping and, two evenings ago, a young rattlesnake (not very big, small rattle) saw me (10 feet away) and twisted into the bushes but not before giving me a good shake of the rattle. It was marvelous.

But then there was Covid. The camp directors were exceedingly careful with us when we arrived — we provided proof of neg Covid test, they took our temps, etc. and all activities were outdoors. Still, three people became ill and tested pos; thankfully it was the last day of classes but it did kind of empty out the camp. Understandably. I’m isolating and testing every day and so far feel fine.

I did this abstract as a demo for the abstract class. The way everyone dove in to the exercise — so impressive and inspiring. All participants did amazing pieces, all week. Hope I get to come back next June. And I hope you will come too!

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

 

 

 

watercolor, pastel painting of abstract calla lily by emily weil

daily painting | abstract calla lily

Hanging out here at Smith Ranch nursing/rehab facility in San Rafael with my recovering brother, Jamey, three+ weeks after he had a sizable malignant tumor removed from his cranium, similar to John McCain’s. I did this abstract calla lily about a month ago, before this frightening avalanche hit, working with watercolors and ink and pastels. Really enjoyed it. Haven’t painted much since then as I’ve been mostly camping out in my brother’s hospital room. He was moved to the rehab spot last week (surgery was at UCSF), and the PT teams were working him, getting his muscles stronger and helping him de-wobble. Which meant I could take out my paints a bit and catch up on laundry.

Except I just found out this morning his next move is into hospice, as he’s not strong enough for radiation — it would weaken him and only would buy a bit of time. Time which would be miserable.

I’m kind of numb, really. Spending lots of time with bro as he struggles to understand what’s happening. His brain has served him well throughout his life, so since it is now turning on him, it’s confusing and upsetting for this accomplished brainiac. He’s an MIT grad (with scholarship) and got his PhD at UC Berkeley in engineering (and he tells great stories of working as a house painter to pay for grad school in the 1970s, including being part of a team that painted Francis Ford Coppola’s office building in North Beach in SF which involved some intricate problem-solving). Always been quite brilliant and good at figuring shit out — he worked as an administrative law judge for the CA Public Utilities Commission (among other career accomplishments) and fought for all of us when Pac Bell or PG&E wanted to unfairly hike up our rates. He’s my one remaining sibling, and has always been my hero (he’s nine years older and as a little girl I worshipped him) and he’s getting ready to leave the planet and I hardly know how to soak up this information. He turns 79 next month. The same age as dad was when he died.

But at the same time I am happy to be with him and help look after him. We have many lovely tender moments, as he lets me into his heart. He sometimes recounts memories — he’s fuzzy on his current situation, but one afternoon talked about our childhood neighbor Carolyn’s grandfather, Grampa Louie who taught meat-cutting classes for years at San Quentin to the prisoners. Not kidding. And dear Carolyn, who babysat me and little sister when we were very young, got a kick out of hearing me recount that story.

Life and death and sickness and here we are, living and dying. I am surrounded on all sides by loving friends and family members who root for me and my brother. Jamey may not be long for this world, but he is loved and respected and adored by many people. And they love me too. And I am grateful for this large and rich and multi-layered existence, truly.

30″ x 22″ ink, pastel, pencil, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor and ink painting of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | tumors & tears

Well I’m not sure where to start this post. I’m sitting in my big bro’s hospital room on the neuro-care floor at UCSF, looking over at the row of incision-closing staples that snake through the top of Jamey’s noggin like an aerial view of a row of dominoes set up to topple. The incision stretches almost ear to ear, and indicates where surgeons entered his skull last Friday to remove an avocado-pit sized malignant tumor, of the same variety as John McCain’s. He’s sleeping a lot which is good, so when he does I get out my laptop and do my life. 

I spend most of my time here (good timing on NBA playoffs which he loves) and he’s a little better every day though still stuck in bed and unable to walk. His sentences are getting longer and he’s a bit less confused. But progress is very slow as he recovers from this “insult to the brain”. It will take time, and he’s 78 years old and has Parkinson’s (he assumed his sudden symptoms were his Parkinson’s getting worse). He’ll go into a rehab facility in a few days and treatments will be discussed in a week; palliative care may be in his near future but we can’t know quite yet. 

Will I be the last sib standing? It’s entirely possible, but my own brain can barely take in this information. 

But I’m good in a crisis. I stay clear-headed and know what to do (or how to find someone who does). Then at some point I melt down, which I did when they wheeled him down the hall for pre-op last week. I completely fell apart, not sure I’d ever see him alive again. A kind nurse held her hand on my shoulder as I sobbed. As I started to recover, a Cooper’s Hawk flew past the hospital window. A bit later I sat outside in the sun, near the hospital, having a latte and collecting myself, and the SF parrots flew overhead (they are hard to miss, very noisy). Since surgery would take hours and hours I went to Ocean Beach, not far from here, as beaches always soothe. After my ocean visit, as I drove home on Lincoln Ave which is alongside Golden Gate Park, I was stopped in traffic and I looked over at the thick greenery on the park’s edge and saw a Peregrine Falcon perched in a tree. I cried some more but got home safely. 

[Did this class demo for a watercolor workshop several weeks ago.]

10″ x 7″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor and ink painting of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | workshop bouquet

Last Saturday I taught a watercolor workshop and did several demos, referring to a lovely bouquet of posies I pinched from a few Alameda office building landscapes. It’s a delight to teach a painting class to students who are so open and willing and hard-working. Though I felt sadness from missing grandkids on Easter, coming home to my warm floating home community after class filled up my achey heart — especially when, as I was literally roaming online searching for local bakeries to find a gluten-free treat, a neighbor dropped by to bring me some delicious macaroon-like gluten-free cookies that she knew I loved. Brought tears to my eyes — the timing was remarkable. What welcome medicine that was (I gobbled up the last of them this morning).

Sunday came with an Easter visit from my son. I made us some brunch and we visited and I learned more about his bipolar challenges as he openly shared his thoughts with me. How I wish I could wave a magic Mother-wand and fix his brain, as I could feel his concerns (and he never, ever complains). Lovely moments together with my grown boy and I am happy he was willing to drive from Sacramento for time with his mom. All the bits of my heart and soul and mind are sloshing with thankfulness.

10″ x 7″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor painting of santa barbara courthouse by emily weil

daily painting | santa barbara courthouse

Today is Good Friday. In the Christian tradition, it is the day Jesus was crucified, with Easter being the celebration of the miraculous resurrection. Though I no longer practice these beliefs, I am always heartened by the promising and hopeful message of new life emerging after death. Because I’m kinda tired of death. The daffodils and happy faces of the ice plant flowers blooming in my marina cheer me — every year they pop out, and they don’t care of news of war or pandemics or family strife. They just happily do what they do; I also so love the row of calla lilies blooming in Fort Cronkhite in the Marin Headlands. Here in Alameda we don’t have snowy winters, but still the blooms in Spring boost our hearts. 

And I am sad today not to be with family for Easter, but there are unresolved difficulties still keeping folks apart. Families! Always somethin’. But I believe in love and hope and resolutions and resurrections and reunions. I do a morning meditation every day, where I calm myself and ask Great Spirit to walk with me. Today I visualized my two sisters who have recently left this earth hugging me, happy we are together. Every day I am grateful they are no longer in pain. I think they watch over me, helping me find my way.

About this painting — done at the watercolor workshop in Santa Barbara last week. And hey, I just heard a blurb on the news that today is the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking baseball’s color barrier which is amazing and wonderful — and his widow Rachel, now 99, continues to work to fight racism. Doesn’t that just make your heart light up? Happy Easter and Passover and Ramadan, everyone.

6″ x 9″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor painting of leaves by emily weil

daily painting | kevin’s leaves

On the last day of the Santa Barbara watercolor workshop with Shari Blaukopf, it was a blistering hot day (95°+). I played hooky for the afternoon lesson (painting figures on the streets downtown) as I knew the heat would melt me. Instead I found the shadiest, coolest spot in the back yard of the house where I stayed and painted the gorgeous, large leaves of a big tree (which I forgot to identify). It was fun and relaxing and quiet and cool(ish) and afterward I dipped into the pool before heading to the group’s 2-1/2 hour, mind-fogging farewell dinner inside a restaurant with no A/C (but I really enjoyed my conversation with fellow artist, Anna). Now that I am home, I am just starting to sort through the many lessons and observations from this past week that are ping-ponging around my cranial cavity. 

I felt more joy during those six days in SB than I think I’ve felt in two years (heart-shattering grief does, in fact, subside, in time). And I am deeply grateful my artist pal Sue gave me this opportunity to take her place in the week-long class, and also for my astoundingly generous neighbor Beth who at the last minute was willing to again take care of my little guinea piggie (without her, the trip would have been a no-go). It’s kind of like, How can I begin to count the ways I am thankful? Many, many ways. I think the top-of-the-list insight I’m chewing on is that I now fully inhabit who I am as an artist. I’m my own me. I read in my meditation book last night that I need make no excuse for who I am and how I want to be in this world. Unrestrained girl power, baybee.

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor on paper