daily painting | zuri

The Frank Bette Center for the Arts in Alameda (“FBC”) is having a fundraiser; folks sent in photos of their pets and FBC assigned volunteer artists to create artwork of the kitties and dogs and other critters (I was kind of hoping for a turtle). Check out www.frankbettecenter.org. Zuri was my assignment — I’m working on an orange tabby as well, and the paint is drying as I write this. Kind of housebound today — a bit under the weather and this morning I freaked out as I ate some of last night’s dinner salad and it tasted, well, mediocre. Is it my taste buds? Am I sick with Covid? No other symptoms, but I’ll lie low and quarantine for now just in case. I think it was just a rather bland salad as my morning tea was delicious. I suspect it’s because my emotions are raw and my nerves are like unraveling mooring lines; had a fairly dark night last night, wondering if loneliness and isolation could be fatal. It sure feels desperate and horrid and I’m thoroughly sick of it. But then, my darling granddaughter in Sacramento FaceTimed me today and I got to say hello and laugh at her two adorable tots (who are 5 and 2) and hear the latest stories about their antics (like finding a whole jar of vaseline and covering their bodies with it — including hair, bedding, blankets, the dog); it takes serious dish detergent to remove the gooey mess, I learned. Ick. But they all seem happy and healthy and normal, and though my arms ache to hold them and my lips don’t remember what it’s like to kiss loved ones, it was fun to see the fam on my little screen. Sigh. One day at a time. Hope tonight’s dinner is a bit more satisfying. I’ll let you know.

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

 

 

 

 

daily painting | inklings

Sometimes throwing away my usual routines is exactly the right thing to do. The other day in my studio I ripped up a few small sheets of paper and wet them and spattered India ink on them; after they dried I added watercolor and some oil pastel. I finished this small piece today and like it. I really love the way India ink behaves on wet paper — it can make beautiful patterns, and it feels like magic. To create — whether art or a yummy dinner or plans for the future — we must do it. It’s so easy to get sucked into dark places these days. Sunshine, time in my studio, dancing in my living room, being surprised by a shooting star (last night!) all help me keep moving forward. These are very difficult times, and I’m still vertical. More or less.

6″ x 6″ watercolor, oil pastel, pencil on paper = $45

 

 

 

daily painting | over a barrel

Survival is sometimes a challenge as a 6-decades+ old woman during a rampaging pandemic, terrifying insurrections in Washington (is it civil war yet?), watching a Death-Valley-like drying up of my freelance business, grieving a dead sister (did I miss anything?). So afternoons like today boost my heart, give me hope, help me live in the moment. I was graciously invited to join two sketching friends to explore a charming garden in Ballena Bay in Alameda to draw and paint and my god what a tonic. We sat at a table and enjoyed the sun with a spectacular view of the SF skyline at our backs and fun and interesting growing things at our feet. And bushtits hopping about the branches above us. And laughter at a nearby table in the yard as the innovative and hard-working gardeners joked and rested. Conversation sans Zoom! Laughing through our masks! Commiserating about today’s world that seems completely mad! I want more of these conversations and arty afternoons. I feel more sane and hopeful because of today’s gathering. As humans how we need conversation and time together! I will never again take things for granted like parties, meeting friends at restaurants, a good blues club. Even a brief interaction with a neighbor soothes and encourages. Sigh. OK. Soldiering on. Well, maybe “soldiering” is not quite the best word these days. But you get it.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | december fruitiness

Though I painted this last month (it got lost in the holiday shuffle), this piece still cheers me today with its bright pink and red hues. Pomegranates are so bold and unapologetic for who they are — strong colors, tough skin, lumpy shapes, funny little tart seeds, called arils (my mouth is puckering just thinking about them!). Something about things continuing their growth patterns even when the world seems to be collapsing all around us brings comfort; fruit still ripens, flowers still bloom, cute little wintering ducks still dive for food out my window, hilarious finch-fight drama at the birdfeeder. I found it very hard to get through my afternoon yesterday and I can only think it was because my whole body felt immersed in grief. I sat in my chair in my studio and wept. Then it subsided a little and I got back up and grabbed my paintbrush and continued with a small painting. I am riveted by political news today that is both horrifying and historic. So I didn’t head back to my Oakland studio; instead I applied for CA grants, worked on a graphic design project that I received today for the first time since last March, crossed my fingers the E Bay Pump folks fixed the marina pump that whined all night outside my window for a second night, checked in with friends who are ailing, tended to household chores, cleaned up computer clutter. Today I feel no need to be heroic or strong. I am just here. Staggering onward, rejoicing (thank you WH Auden).

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

 

 

 

 

daily painting | cross-wise

You know how strange bumps in the wee hours morph into a life-threatening disaster in your brain? And then, in the light of day, your fears seem silly? Last night was that night. Today, I understand my upset. We are all besieged and frightened right now for a zillion reasons. So if a funny mechanical noise at 1am sent me into a terror spiral, I can understand and have compassion for my battle-weary brain. Explanation: I live on a houseboat and depend on electrical pumps to discharge wastewater from a holding tank under my floorboards into another larger tank, operated by my marina, that connects to city sewage facilities. That marina tank is outside on the dock next to me, and I do hear it, but it isn’t noisy or annoying. As I drifted toward slumberland last night, I heard a strange noise — like something mechanical was trying but not working. It sounded strained. Immediately I thought of my own sump pump under the floor. The noise was regular, about every 20 mins. Now, dear reader who must be bored out of your mind by now, if a pump fails, you can imagine how disastrous that can be; if my electricity goes out, I do not run water or flush the toilet for fear of overflow (it’s happened and is messy). So. I was completely freaked out — imagining the mess, the expensive repairs, the inconvenience. In the middle of the night it felt life-threatening and horrific; rationality had long since flown out the window. I laid down on my floor, knowing if my pump was stressed out and breaking down, I would hear it under me. The noise happened again, and I could tell it was outside my house. PHEW. So then I thought it was probably the marina pump in the tank near me, not working. After a fitful night (the whining motor noise was really bothersome), I woke up and opened my windows to better hear if the marina pump was the source. The marina pump seemed to be working normally. And the noise stopped and hasn’t repeated itself since.

If you’ve suffered through this useless information so far, you probably know I’ll get to the punchline at some point. The lesson is — these are dark times. Full of grief and loss and threats. It makes sense that my stressed brain would pour miracle-grow onto a puzzling sound in the night and turn it into catastrophe. Once again, as I keep reminding myself, gentleness and compassion are the answers. To soothe myself I walked on Crown Beach this afternoon. I painted in my studio (results above). I will do whatever I can think of to comfort myself and hope that it doesn’t have long-term destructive consequences. And there it is. Bob’s your uncle.

18″ x 18″ ink, watercolor, pencil, pastel, oil pastel, crayon, acrylic, on paper = $425

 

 

 

daily painting | blues

Finding words is a challenge today, five days after insurrectionists tried to violently attack and disrupt our democratic process, egged on by a sitting president. I’m shocked, stunned, speechless. Having a hard time shuffling through tasks and chores and January plans. I’m sort of sure we’ll be OK. But never in my six decades have I questioned that our democracy would continue — until now. I’ve always taken it for granted, even if unhappy with voters’ choices and flaws in how we govern. Now, I’m rattled. Now, I’m unsure of our future. While I do believe we will get past this dark moment as a country, I have no pollyanna notions about how hard this will be and it was already severely challenging. I’m dodging puddles of grief and loss and isolation and loneliness. And facing worries for the country I didn’t know I loved so much. So today I counsel myself to employ gentleness and kindness toward myself and others. If foggy I will turn on the headlights. If knocked sideways I will get up and keep going and find my path again. I will keep taking sheets of paper out in my studio and “painting out” my overwhelming feelings. And if all I can manage is to vacantly stare at ocean waves at a Marin beach, that’s what I will do. As I talk to friends about these events, I know I am not alone in my stupefaction, which I just decided is my new favorite word. Tenderness and love for ourselves and each other will help us get through this. And rage.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | amaryllis sprout

After being too shocked and news-addicted to paint yesterday on such a humiliating day for our country, I pulled out my watercolors today to soothe myself. Did one of a neighbor’s chili peppers. It bombed. Did another one of my orchid. Disaster. So, as it often happens, I tried one more quickie of the amaryllis bulb starting to sprout in my ceramic pitcher; the bulb was a lovely gift from a kind neighbor. Liked it; a very simple painting but this new growth is a comfort as 2021 begins. Too bad the new year’s promises changed dramatically to showcase shameful behavior by politicians. And lies and shocking violence. I got the hell out of my house today to watch plovers zipping around the water’s edge at Crab Cove with a dear friend (it helped). And we saw long-legged stilts. And diving terns. And dozens of other shorebirds. I’m really too speechless to say much today. But I do desperately want to hope that the truth will win out someday. It always does — always. Sometimes it takes too long. But it always bubbles up to the surface. I am a big believer in telling the truth, however uncomfortable or painful. It’s an absolute necessity regardless of how overwhelmingly noisy the lies are. We will survive this stinky swamp. I believe in us.

7.5″ x 7.5″ watercolor, pen, acrylic ink on paper = $75

 

 

 

daily painting | splash zone

I was watching a documentary about Keith Haring and loved seeing him do his line work. I’m already crazy about my oil pastel sticks, so I couldn’t wait to take a break from watercolor and head into my studio and take out fresh sheets of paper and mark them up. The sticks are gooey and thick with pigment but take forever to dry, so I do hesitate to use them at times. But not last weekend. This drawing will be sticky for months, but that’s OK. Working like this taps into a deep part of me, and is quite healing and cathartic. Abstract works are helping me work out complicated feelings about my sister who died in November. Why did we fight so much when we were little? How much childhood pain & trauma did she subsume into her chanting practice? I know she suffered during her teen years, as did I, with depression and despair and we both found ways to comfort ourselves. Today I feel deeply saddened by the dramas that played out in our family with our parents who were terribly wounded souls. I am glad for the mental and emotional stability I have worked hard for, and I am sad for the ways Kathy and I acted out, as little ones, the unspoken frustration and rage in our family. Today I feel peace and heartbreak at the same time. Emotions can be so confounding. Best not to argue with them. [Note: after I posted this, I watched this 16-min TED talk and was a bit blown away by it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVnwC-taQXM&feature=youtu.be or look up, “Through the Mud We Rise | Michelle Esrick”]

15.5″ x 18″ pencil, oil pastel, crayon on paper = $360

 

 

 

daily painting | dance it out

I love my Zumba classes that are available on Zoom from local dance teacher Lynda Gutierrez. Her classes always cheer me (and make me really sweaty), and she is such a bright and warm presence. She often says, “Dance it out!” Meaning, work out your frustrations by dancing. It helps! And working out my emotions in my art studio helps as well (especially since I managed this morning in my stocking feet on my wood floor to have my foot slide out from under me, pulling something in my hip; no dance class today, must rely on art to work out emotions). Last weekend I was hankering to express myself with pen and pencil and oil pastel sticks on paper, inspired by several art documentaries I watched. It was surprisingly satisfying, and provided grief relief. This piece kind of looks like a dance party on paper, which made me think of Lynda. On this rainy day as I sit on a bag of frozen peas, feeding my news junkie tendencies, sipping my Earl Grey tea and writing this blog, I appreciate the sanctuary my art studio in Oakland provides. I will hobble there this afternoon and keep working.

15.5″ x 18″ pencil, oil pastel, crayon on paper = $360

 

 

 

daily painting | piglets

Wrestling piglets in the straw-strewn dirt — what could be cuter? These inseparable litter mates, I am told, will grow up and get huge. So I really enjoyed their cheeky adorableness out at the new location of Maker Farm next to Ploughshares Nursery. Charlotte’s Web comes to mind, with Charlotte saving Wilbur the pig. I loved those books, Stuart Little in particular. Probably because Stuart could fit into those clever little matchboxes and be safe, a feeling I longed for when I was Emily Little (how I loved those illustrations!). Today’s trip to buy groceries felt far from safe and made me so anxious, with Covid marching through California and getting more clever. Always happy after a crowded store experience to come home and scrub my hands with Clorox and Brillo pads and gargle with Lysol. Ugh. But this too shall piss — uh, pass. Happy Merry New Year, everyone. All the cliches have already been said about 2020, but my wish for 2021 is that our hearts can heal from loss and we can have hope again. And give each other lots and lots of hugs. LOTS.

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