watercolor, ink, pastel of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | naples

I’m going to start this without knowing where it will land so here goes. I’m seeing an image in a movie — someone gets caught in the mud, and then their clothes are sticky and thick with the brown goo, and then it dries and cakes. I feel that heaviness — an outer crust that restricts movement and is cumbersome. Like wearing a coat made of bricks. I think the muddy, calcified jacket is something I’ve worn since childhood. I’ve been aware of it, but unconsciously concluded it was permanently attached, and I had no choice to but to get used to it.

The air we breathed in our family in Mill Valley in the “mid-century” (as the 1950s and 60s are now called) was lonely and loveless. Mom and Dad were injured humans who couldn’t properly parent. Because children need reasons for things, in order to make sense of the unimaginable, what I came to believe was that love was not available for me. Other people could have it, but I was behind the door when love got handed out. In my mind scarcity was a reality, and my only choice was to adapt to it, and, as I was told, be grateful I had food and shelter.

There is something about the sweet and loving connection I have with my brother that is healing me and I think it’s healing him too. Mud and sticks and dried leaves and caked-on dirt are washing off. We have intimate conversations about dying (I thought my heart might quit a few weeks ago) and about family and about our dead sisters. He tells me things he remembers that trouble him and I tell him the same. We confirm and agree on what Mom and Dad were like. 

He will be going at some point — he wasn’t supposed to last through October, let alone May, and may get a CT scan soon, even though he’s in hospice care, to see why his longevity after a very dire diagnosis of aggressive brain cancer continues.

In the meantime, with Jamey’s help, I’m removing some of the outerwear that weighs me down. It’s the damnedest thing.

[About this painting. I was invited to teach a private watercolor lesson to a woman I met months ago; she was outside Frank Bette Center in Alameda with her darling greyhound. I’ve had several greyhounds in my life so I introduced myself, and the artist asked me into her home where we could paint, and where I instantly fell in love with Naples who fell asleep with his head on my foot. She had these flowers in a vase which we used for subject matter.]

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




watercolor of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | april flowers

So I’m gaining some skills these days. Like how to stand back a bit and get some distance on emotional whirlwinds (I’m picturing an image from that tornado movie, Twister, of Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton desperately hanging onto pipes in the barn while being sucked into the vortex). It’s satisfying to grow and learn and stack up some healthy habits, you know? For example, Monday was a magical day — when I arrived to be with my brother, he’d just had a visit from the hospice grief counselor, and wrote down things he wanted to discuss with me. I was blown away; we talked about our relationship, our family, how we see each other. It was phenomenal. I was floating for the rest of that amazing day, and felt so close to my brother. Then today I’m on my knees groping through the weeds, feeling desperately low. Such unpredictable weather. 

The other day I painted this flower bouquet, wanting to keep things fast and loose. Today I added pastels. Smudges of pink and yellow pigments on my fingers make me happy. Art supplies are keeping my feet (or knees) on the ground.

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




watercolor of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | scarlet flowers

A friend recommended Judy Collins’ album “Feels Like Home” which is a lovely soundtrack for my Sunday afternoon. “When I Go” is the song I was encouraged to listen to, and is a sweet and moving song about leaving the planet. And yes, as my friend described, it brings tears and I welcome them.

I’m enjoying a quiet weekend, catching up both on chores and rest. I am devoted to my dying brother, and know my role in comforting him at the end of his life is an important one. And it’s exhausting. And he really appreciates me. And I need days off to soothe and restore myself and today is really filling that bill.

So I pulled out this inexpensive pad of watercolor paper to give it a test run for I’ll be using it to teach a class — at a birthday party! How fun is that? Anyways I tried it out (to see how much it would curl when wet) and did a loose interpretation of scarlet flowers I photographed at my brother’s nursing facility. I also played nurse to my little guinea pig who has a sore foot — he didn’t mind the warm epsom-salt soak in the sink. His little paws are crossed, along with my fingers, that he heals up.

So in a bit I’ll grab my walking sticks and go stroll along the water on this lovely Spring day, right after I make a dent in a few weeks’ worth of the Sunday Times. And Judy Collins’ rendering of Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah”, now playing in my ear, is a perfect background for this comforting moment.

13″ x 8.5″ ink, watercolor on paper = $140