watercolor painting of calla lilies by emily weil

daily painting | april callas

“I relinquish all resistance to the present moment.” That’s my mantra today (thank you Eckhart Tolle); I stumbled into Monday morning feeling drugged. I think someone slipped me a grief Mickey. My vocab is that of a demented magpie and I seem to be in the intense process of rooting out family sorrows, which is all mixed up with my sister’s illness and death. Slogging onward, but progressing. This too shall piss. Uh, pass.

But still, aren’t calla lilies amazing? I am madly in love with them and my ardor is not fading. They are all over the place, growing in many unexpected corners, and the gorgeous Georgia O’Keefe simplicity of the unfurling blooms takes my breath away. I am quite greedy for them. This arrangement, gracing my coffee table, inspired me. I hesitated, thinking, Jeez, haven’t I done enough calla lilies, already? Nope. They are endlessly lovely, and I will keep painting them. Spring gifts — beautiful bird songs out the window, swallows returning to build their mud nests, grassy green hills, explosions of California poppies. What wonderful feasts for the senses. And I’m hungry.

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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of bouquet by emily weil

daily painting | bike ride bouquet

Just noodling around today. Keeping myself distracted helps keep me a safe distance from the grief sinkhole, and getting out my paints is probably my #1 choice for staying occupado (nabbed a few flowers from a recent bike ride which provided today’s subject matter). I poke my nose into news shows occasionally, plan dinners, go to the beach, make dates with friends. This morning I HUGGED MY SON. Wow! First time in a year (outside, masks on; I am fully vaccinated, he had Covid months ago). It was heaven as he’s the best hugger on the planet. It was great to see him as he kindly helped me lug heavy propane tanks, my source of heat on the houseboat. Now there is a lovely cool breeze, I can hear bird songs out the window, and the laundry is getting done and my house is peaceful. Thanks for stopping by today.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | happy boat

Living in a marina makes for fun & sometimes surprising little scenes in the corners of the parking lot, including this small motorboat with an orange windscreen. I suppose the owner might not appreciate my thinking his boat is cute, but, well, it is. I added a lot of acrylic ink blots to liven it up; it was kind of a dull painting.

I spent part of my afternoon up in the redwoods in the Oakland hills as I needed soothing today. This damn grief bus sometimes runs me into dark alleyways. But the trees whisper kind words and help to receive my sadness. I am so grateful for these nearby spots that give me so much comfort.

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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of shipyard by emily weil

daily painting | red ladder

Yesterday, Easter Sunday, the photo I took in this Port Townsend, WA, shipyard, called to me. A man on a red ladder, dwarfed by this ship, working on the hull of this massive vessel and it was just very cool. Talk about a deep draft! So much hull. Maybe it’s big so it can hold lots of fish, as it works the waters of the Pacific Northwest. Maybe it goes up to Alaska. Maybe it does other things I have no imagination for. 

The chunky mass of this boat! The man on the ladder looks like a toy. I did the painting, then decided it was a bit too stilted so I spattered ink and paint to loosen it up, which improved it. 

I guess I can’t get enough of ships and water and boats. Even though I live on a houseboat I go to a coffee shop on the water so I can be next to the estuary. In my plodding, often sodden journey of loss and grief I am reminded of the words of Jesus addressing his disciples, freaked out as they were in a boat as a storm kicked up: “You shall not capsize.” I don’t even know if those words are in the New Testament, really (my born-again past is showing itself), but I will imagine they are as they soothe me during this wild ride. Don’t know where I’ll come ashore. But I’m still afloat, trusting.

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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of boatyard by emily weil

daily painting | papery poppy

I keep going back to these papery poppies I photographed on a hike. This particular view of them seems hopeful as the blossoms are so wide open, which is what I aspire to. An open heart, open mind, open being. Though I’m certain you are likely quite fatigued with my writings about grief, painting this scene helped me get through a rough week; I want to heal and not be bitter. I acknowledge being angry and frustrated and sad and I want these feelings to keep moving through me so that I don’t attach myself to them. These emotions do pass — like clouds drifting overhead. The trick is to let them storm through, then let them go and enjoy the fresh air that follows. The tears still come easily, and I let them (just checked my Kleenex supply). And my moments of pain and loss are peppered with lovely joys that come unexpectedly — a new species of bird at my feeder, a red shouldered hawk flying overhead as I do volunteer chores in Marin, a warm and understanding friend. And bike rides and yoga and Zoom Zumba and a bowl of cereal with fresh strawberries and trying a new roasted eggplant soup recipe. Life is juicy. Happy Easter.

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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of lifeboat by emily weil

daily painting | lifeboat

My goodness I’ve never written and rewritten and thrown out and edited my blog as many times as I have for this post. Took two days. How much to share? Will it offend? Should I just shut up, already? Beats me, so here goes, with apologies for its length.

I recently learned new details of my sister’s death, as she took the legal Death with Dignity cocktail to end her life; too much pain from cancer that was killing her. I was fortunate to have stayed with her in her final weeks in Seattle last Fall, and she and her husband were generous and very hospitable. She was never bedridden, and lived large until she died. When I flew home that Friday night in November I had understood that she wasn’t quite ready to call it quits and would try to make it to Thanksgiving, the following week. Or maybe even early Dec. I was unprepared for the call I got two days after I came home that she had died; I had no idea she’d taken the cocktail the morning after I left. It took 17+ hours to do its work.

What I found out in the last couple of days was that she had planned all along to leave the planet that weekend. She chose not to tell me. Was this her choice? Absolutely. She had every right. But, jeez.

My head was spinning as I tried to take this in. It felt like a gut-punch. But my sister was mostly unknowable and a closed book. Emotions were not expressed; she had no tolerance for them or any kind of vulnerability. She was in charge, always. Someone much smarter than me helped me figure out that the likely reason she didn’t tell me her final exit plan was to avoid an emotional conversation — I have no trouble expressing feelings and it made her very squirmy. So I believe she made sure that interaction didn’t happen.

As I have shared before, Kay and I were violently abused by our raging dad. He just didn’t like kids or kid noises. My view is that Kay’s way of coping and surviving our shared childhood trauma was to shut down emotionally. For life. It just hurt too much to embrace those feelings, so she bottled them up. Seeing her in this light, as I continue to grapple with my sister’s life and death, helps me see what happened and what was true. I detest lies and denial and plastic masks that look pretty and conceal the rot underneath (Trump’s administration was lots of fun that way). Probably because of family denial and my mother’s smiling insistence that our family was just lovely and weren’t we so lucky to have a dad that brought home a paycheck, I have been a determined (and probably demented) truth-seeker most of my life. I want to know what’s under that damn rock and please get me a flashlight. Nancy Drew was a detective and figured shit out. I wanted to as well (loved those books as a kid).

So, a lifeboat? Yes. I think my lifeboat after I survived childhood was faith. Can’t define it really; it’s my own design. But a spiritual practice sustains me and I think it has my whole life, though it has taken on various homemade flavors. I have worked hard to heal, and I aspire to keep my heart open as it makes life bright and satisfying, even though it means pain is included in that package. I’ll take it, though. I don’t want to miss anything. That’s me, poking around out there with my Eveready®, being annoying.

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

 

 

 

watercolor by emily weil of shipping parts made into flower pots

daily painting | recycled shippy bits

As I rode my bike through the old navy base on Alameda Point near the USS Hornet, a gate was open into what looked like a former shipyard. Cool stuff! Like these giant pipes, maybe once part of the exhaust system on a big ship, repurposed into flower pots. I explored and took lots of photos, a treasure trove for me to use as painting subjects. This part of Alameda is a favorite part of the island — the former base is full of innovative businesses from distilleries to drone makers. It is rusty and dilapidated and unpolished and slightly dangerous, with many fun corners to discover. I worry that new condos and Starbucks cafes will soon take over this wonderful area that still is uncrowded and wide open and fun to poke around in. So I will enjoy it as much as possible, with its spectacular SF skyline views and the occasional peregrine falcon flying overhead. To be mobile and enjoy these small adventures makes me deeply grateful. As did getting my 2nd vax shot a few days ago (mild flu symptoms the next day). As I rolled up my sleeve for the vaccination I burst into tears just at the thought of hugging my grandkids again. Hope is perching on my shoulder, a bit warily, chirping in my ear.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | eli

Years ago I thought that if reincarnation was real, I’d like to come back as my sister-in-law’s dog. Talk about the life! Roaming around out in the country chasing squirrels and raccoons, hanging out with horses in the barn, getting good food regularly and with a cushy spot on the couch and no rules. This little cutie, Eli, was a beloved pet that I got to paint as part of the Frank Bette Center fundraiser. Eli is no longer with us (maybe reincarnated as a lucky dog up in the mountains). Perhaps in truth I am also being reborn into a new life as I burn through the crucible of loss and grief. It is transformative, excruciating, gob-smacking, informative and even hopeful (the hope part may be related to getting my second vax shot tomorrow). We have all been through the mangle these past difficult years (looked up the phrase “through the ringer” and found this phrase I like better). I know you know what I’m talking about. I am completely delighted these days to be bored rather than panicked by presidential speeches and to mark my calendar with dates to hug my grandkids. So, cheers, everyone, to this new day, to Eli, to hope and becoming stronger through trials by fire. We may be charred and sooty but here we are. Still vertical. Mostly.

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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of twisty bark trees by emily weil

daily painting | twisty bark

You never know what you’ll discover roaming around the funny, funky corners of Alameda Point, home of a former navy base. On a bike ride, I spotted these fascinating, rough-barked trees that were so rich with texture and shadow and twisty-turny shapes. Painting and drawing these wonderful trees with their beautiful bark patterns comforted me today as I am trying to take in the info that we live in a country where we really like shooting each other. Gack. Too horrific to contemplate. Makes me remember standing in line to board a BART train years ago, while a couple of young Australian backpackers/travelers stood behind me, marveling at what they’d experienced as they traveled the U.S. They were agog at how we Americans love our guns, having just visited a shooting range. Sure made me stop and think about how visitors view our culture. As kids we used to shoot cans off tree limbs out in the country and I really enjoyed it. But, seriously? What is happening here?

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

 

 

 

acrylic painting of nasty by emily weil

daily painting | back yard nasties

Aahhh… staycation. I’m feeling its restorative effects deep inside my bruised, weary, grieving heart. Spent time last weekend continuing this loose work that, until I got back into my studio, I’d forgotten about. I was attracted to a nasturtium blossom that was clinging to the dark fence in the scruffy yard outside my studio, and the contrasts of golds and yellows against the wooden slats were lovely. Thought I’d bring out my acrylics instead of watercolors, just to play and see what happened. So I finished this up with more paint, India ink and crayon while also starting another watercolor painting that was complete shite (OK to toss that one in the recycle bin). Soon it will be time to head to Crown Beach with my lawn chair and my book and soak up the soothing scenes of bay waters and gentle waves and cute little snowy plovers. Pretty sweet. I hereby pledge to continue to renounce all attempts at adult responsible behavior. For at least a few more days.

11″ x 12″ acrylic, pencil, crayon, ink on paper = $170