watercolor of rodent skull by emily weil

daily painting | african skull

In South Africa we stayed in one humble, funky and slightly shabby lodge that, as with all the places we visited, had breathtakingly beautiful birds. I called it the Zombie Moth Palace because there were dozens, maybe hundreds, of moths flittering about the outside lights at night, and there were no screens on the windows (only saw windowscreens in one place we stayed). They dive-bombed you while you were in the shower and drowned in the small lake that formed outside the half-broken shower stall (some places we stayed were nicer than others; this one was memorable in many ways). 

But. Just outside our window, in a tree only 20 feet away, there was a nest of an African hoopoe bird. Spectacular! I watched both parents flying to and from the hole in the tree, feeding hidden little ones. They were cinnamon-colored with dramatic crests and black and white chevron-like stripes on their backs. Took my breath away.

So I was standing at the window, admiring the doting parents, and I looked down and just outside our window were big owl pellets. Likely an owl roosted in the eaves just under the roof, ate its meals, and coughed up the hard little pellets (kind of equivalent to furballs of a cat). In the midst of that collection of chucked-up owl stuff was this little rodent skull which I wrapped up carefully and brought home. I painted it a few weeks ago (of course now I can’t find it). 

Oh what a trip that was! Kind of seems like a fever dream now. So many adventures — some amazing, some wretched. Glad I went. Unforgettable.

10″ x 10″ ink, water-soluble graphite on paper

 

 

 

watercolor of briones meadow by emily weil

daily painting | meadowpalooza

Here’s another painting from the series of commissioned paintings of Briones Park, part of a trade for my new roof (blessings to art-loving roofers!). I wasn’t quite sure I would pull this off, but I think now it works — a number of layers of watercolor, ink, and pastels. This was from a photo of a lovely meadow bursting with flowers. It’s large, 3.5 feet square.

Speaking of landscapes, mine has been so transformed that I’m checking lat and long and getting my bearings. Death and loss does that — changes everything. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it does require adapting and adjusting. Priorities change. Life-views are altered. And so on. 

I’m resilient though. As soon as I find myself on the map I’ll let you know where I am.

42″ x 42″ ink, watercolor, pencil, pastel on paper

 

 

 

watercolor of onions by emily weil

daily painting | february onions

I love onions. Their papery skins that flake off, the wonderful flavors they add to recipes, the dark purply colors of the red ones, the lovely aromas that fill the house when I slice and caramelize them in my iron fry pan. The little hairy caps of unruly, fibrous strands that I’m learning online are called “adventitious roots.” Who knew? (This is making me hungry.)

Anyways, I created a small oniony still life in our Brushes by the Bay art group this afternoon. It’s a comfort to be with other artists, as making art is an isolating experience (not necessarily a bad thing; it’s just a fact).

It’s getting quite chilly and blustery out there. Maybe I’ll go warm up my toes in a hot bath. Thank you all divine powers for fixed hot water heaters.

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, pencil on paper = $100

 

 

 

daily painting | wild lily

So I’m kind of into pastels these days. I think it’s because I am liberally using them in the commissioned series of paintings I’m in middle of. Also it’s fun to use the pastels with abandon when I’m finished with a watercolor I’m not excited about — if I have a painting that’s kind of, well, meh, I can’t wreck it by getting fast and loose with these bright chalky pigments. Which is what happened with this lily bouquet this afternoon.

Today was a day of peace. A fun meeting with my fellow golden-eagle-watching pal as we figured out the new software to file reports (did you know that the concentration of golden eagle nests here in CA, between the Carquinez Strait and Morgan Hill, is the highest in the world?). We work with the East Bay Parks district to collect data so that new wind farms are not built near nests; the blades kill more eagles than the birds can replenish (they also kill thousands of other birds, and bats). So the biologists in the park system try to work with the wind turbine companies to keep eagles safer. And dear Jonathan came by to finish up details with the new water heater. He’s a doll.

My heart feels full and, at the moment, whole (sometimes it’s quite shattered and that’s just the way grief works). I am grateful and content. And I can take hot baths again. 

10″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, pencil, pastel on paper = $150

 

 

 

watercolor and pastel painting of briones park by emily weil

daily painting | briones

Well. (This exclamation makes me remember my mom exhaling this word, usually to voice disapproval — funny thought to photo-bomb my brain). This is kind of today’s pause to reflect on my life situation. Lots going on — changes and hope and healing and surprises and absorption of the reality of my world in this present moment. That my brother is no longer on the earth. That my heart is healing and is open. That I get to paint every day. That I’m sometimes a reluctant grownup having to deal with things in my house that break.

Thought I’d post this recent painting which is part of the series of commissioned paintings of Briones Park as a partial trade for my new roof. I’m happy and excited to be an artist — this series is boosting my confidence as a painter. Three done, two to go.

Life is a crazy rocket-ride! I miss my brother every day and the tears sometimes ambush me and I’m OK with that. We loved each other deeply and this grief is part of that love. I often think about our time spent together while he was sick, so grateful for the sweet connection we shared. And today I’m also thankful that I can now call my brother’s friends mine too. So cool. Life is rich. I’m very fortunate.

24″ x 48″ ink, watercolor, pastel on paper

 

 

 

watercolor of poppy by emily weil

daily painting | briones poppy

“Grieving is a full time job.” So says my wise and wonderful therapist who is herself grieving her dad who died recently. This helps me relax a little. Oh that I could be that fictitious genteel Victorian woman who would be sent off to a year-long tour of Europe to recover from her loss. What a wonderful dream.

But no. We live in modern times and very few of us can take twelve months away from daily living to work through painful losses. Which is why I’m absorbing the reality that I have things that break in my house and they need to be fixed despite how I feel. Life problems present themselves (broken water heater) and it feels like the end of the world! Which of course it isn’t. And yes these are first-world problems. Which wipe me off the road in a messy mudslide.

So? And now? Well, practicing self-compassion. As I’ve ranted about before, our culture gives us about three weeks to get over a death. Move on, people say. Don’t live in the past. (SO helpful.) Which makes one withdraw more deeply into the grief process, which can be horribly lonely. But, you know what? I have compassion for those who have had painful losses. It can take years — YEARS — to work through grief. Which is a sign of a big heart  — if we didn’t love deeply, we wouldn’t feel the pain of loss. Yay for us.

So I’m deeply grateful that what’s in front of me is creating art. I’m working on a series of commissions, and I completed this one today. I’m doing large paintings from photos of Briones, as a partial trade for my new roof that was installed last year. The client has been exceedingly patient with me, as I took time for brother-care and then did some traveling late last year. And now as I work daily on this project, I’m grateful to experience the joy of being an artist. Once again I am thankful to Leigh Hyams and for her Esalen art workshop I stumbled into in 2008. She gave me a whole new life direction. And it’s good.

32″ x 32″ ink, watercolor, pastel on paper

 

 

 

watercolor of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | january blooms

So today is about accepting limitations with as much grace as I can muster. OK I’m going to try not to be hideously boring here. My floating home (or “flouse”, a term I like) only has so much electricity feeding into it from the dock. I have no way of upping the amperage. Which means the tankless water heater Jonathan installed uses too much juice (we both researched it ahead of time but we missed the fine print). So we are going to try a different water heater, but it hasn’t arrived yet (today I hope). To make a short story long, this morning I ran out of hot water mid-shower while my head was full of shampoo and it was 45° outside. I grabbed a bathrobe and did a quick rinse of my hair in the kitchen sink with cold water, then ran out to switch the breakers back on out on the dock. Then I unplugged everything electrical in my house and tried again. Hot water in the shower! Yay! Which ran cold again while my drippy locks were full of conditioner (literally rinse and repeat! ha!). And yes it was sunny and not -3° as is forecast this weekend in Iowa. So there’s that.

This is not a life-threatening problem. These are first-world challenges, however unpleasant. One thing I’ve learned from years of therapy and support groups is that there are always solutions to problems — I might not like the answers, but I’ve been around long enough to know that I can trust myself (and trusted helpers) to resolve things one way or t’other. 

Which reminds me of going to a 12-step meeting in San Francisco eons ago and laughing my butt off when a woman talked about how, as a child of an alcoholic, if she gets a flat tire she doesn’t call AAA but suicide prevention hotline. Today I follow a therapist’s directive from long ago: Dial 911, step over the body and do the dishes (even if in cold water). 

[I did this painting in our Brushes by the Bay group yesterday, referring to a crisp, brightly-colored Trader Joe bouquet in my cute fiesta-ware teapot. I wasn’t thrilled with the piece, but it improved some after I cropped it. It was a blustery, chilly and wet January day. I like real weather.]

8″ x 6″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

watercolor of honeycrisp apple by emily weil

daily painting | honeycrisp

Oh it felt good to take my paints out today. After December travels followed by holidays and then the unwelcome visitor of a flu bug on New Year’s Eve (clever little arsehole; it’s making the rounds) I pulled out my trays of the gooey, brightly-hued pigments. I’ve been doing ink drawings, but it was a delight to perch this apple on my counter and find the largest pad of watercolor paper I had and wet the big brush after weeks of monochromatic artwork.

I am grateful to be able to catch my breath while 2024 is fresh. As I’ve rested while my body fights the pesky virus I’ve read some great books. I finished House of Broken Angels last night. I could hardly put it down. It’s about Big Angel and his expansive, boisterous, loving, crazy Mexican family. Big Angel is dying (I swear I didn’t know that about the plot when I downloaded the book onto my Kindle) and started a notebook of things he loves about his life. So I started one too. I suppose getting out my paints would fit into that category.

So today I’m grateful for hot showers (my water heater died and will be replaced tomorrow) and hugs from my very tall neighbor and my guinea pig’s hilarious chirps and the night herons that slow-dance through the mud out my window and Facetime calls from my granddaughter and gin cocktails and black-chested African snake eagles and a lovely chunk of soup in the freezer I found today that I’d forgotten about. I woke up so sad today — grief is just part of the fabric of my life, and it’s tough to wrap my mind around the fact that my brother isn’t on the planet any more. I miss him every day. And I’m happy we had so much time to love each other while he was dying. So my mantra today, which helped me get out of bed: 1. Show up 2. Pay attention 3. Tell the truth 4. Let go of the outcome. I did that. And I had a stupendous day.

10″ x 14″ ink, watercolor on paper = $185

 

 

 

drawing of magpie shrikes in south africa by emily weil

daily painting | lapalala farm

New Year’s greetings! Damn I wish I would write down my thoughts when I’m drifting off to sleep at night. I thought of a great opener for this post (or so I remember, and I’m probably full of myself) but sleep was more valuable than taking notes. I want to thank all of you, my dear friends who read my blatherings. It comforts me to write down my stories and know that compassionate folks like you read them. May we have many joys in 2024. For me, my wish is for no funerals.

Sweet to be recovering from a nasty bug that conked me out right through New Year’s. Made me realize how precious my health is, and how fortunate I am. Had a marvelous Christmas that was graced by a lovely visit from my niece Kirsten who is a doll and, when I started feeling crappy, made sure to leave me with a fridge full of foods and juices. Bless her. She even went out to a favorite restaurant in Oakland to get me chicken soup.

So here’s a sketch from South Africa. Lapalala Farm (I wrote the name down wrong) is in the Limpopo province, the northernmost province in So Africa where we spent our time on my recent trip. This farm grew chewing tobacco that was mostly exported to Sweden. The magpie shrikes were hunting on the lawn of the farm where we stayed, looking for bugs and worms (they were shite at holding still). They have these marvelously dramatic long tail feathers. There also was a nearby bird whose call sounded just like, Whatryoulookinfor? I asked our expert if he knew the call but he didn’t (was unlike him with his knowledge of birds). We saw Paradise Flycatchers (also with long, golden tailfeathers), brilliant turquoise Woodland Kingfishers, African Vultures, Red-billed Fire Finches, Fish Eagles (they look similar to balds) and, wowee, Secretary Birds! I still get goosebumps.

Anyways, here’s the area where we were if you are interested: www.lapalala.com. I’d go back in a heartbeat except it costs thousands of dollars and 22 hours on airplanes. Took more than a week after returning for me not to wake up at 4am. Was totally worth it. Life is a brilliant, colorful feast.

4″ x 6″ ink on paper

 

 

 

monochromatic painting of book table by emily weil

daily painting | book table

Looking for a dry and quiet spot for a private art lesson with Mathilde, my lovely young student who hails from France, we landed in the funky but functional meeting room, fondly referred to in my marina as the Yacht Club, where we trade books with neighbors. Mathilde wanted practice drawing and painting indoor scenes so we painted this book table using little cakes of ArtGraf water-soluble graphite which are great fun. We paint side-by-side, as is her preference, so she can observe my choices and techniques. I love these little cakes as when the painting is dry, depending on which color I choose, the results are textured and interesting.

In November, a week apart, we spread both my brother Jim’s ashes (in our home town of Mill Valley) and my sister Diana’s ashes (on her favorite beach in Crescent City). This means that now I have all three of my sibs’ ashes (including Kay’s) in little glass jars on a kind of altar where I light candles and put fairy lights. I’m feeling quite stunned by this little collection, and am wobbling around trying to get my bearings and embrace this reality. Phoo. I’m going to give myself permission today to cry as often as I need to.

7″ x 10″ ink, water-soluble graphite on paper = $90