10 x 10 abstract by emily weil

daily painting | dances

Today is mother’s day for me. By that I mean that adult-mom-Emily is looking after little-girl-Emily, my inner child (I know, that term gets laughed at a lot). This approach works for me. 

Sometimes little Em is feral. Fierce, angry, defiant. She had to grow up without direction or guidance or comfort and has had to figure out how to be a functional adult, and she’s a teeny bit pissed off. I’m fortunate that I have had counselors in the form of therapists and spiritual directors and grief counselors to help me find a stable way to live in this world. I’d be dead but for them. But I’m also plucky and resilient, and am finding meaning in this time of grief and loss. I am permitting myself to feel however I feel, regardless of people who are in a hurry for me to feel better (I’m waaaay past the point of taking care of other peoples’ feelings). The month of May has been a bit brutal as it’s the anniversary of my sister’s suicide, and her birthday a week later. It knocked me sideways, so I’m back to the basics of finding ways to soothe myself — journaling, taking walks, making art. Collapsing in a puddle of tears when necessary. Mainly just doing what’s in front of me. Practicing self-compassion (I recommend Kristin Neff’s website).

And one more note — did you know there’s something called a “warm line”? Different from a hot line — call options for folks who just need a little support (this info is for CA): https://www.mentalhealthsf.org/warm-line/ These days we need all the help we can root around for, like pigs digging up truffles. Thankfully I have a sensitive schnoz.

10″ x 10″ inktense ink sticks on paper = $140

 

 

 

abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | where the light is

Grumpy Gus over here is digging around looking for something to lift my spirits. It isn’t working so good, so I’m creating small abstract works using marvelous Derwent “Inktense” blocks thanks to a gift from a generous friend. Art distractions are helpful. I think it’s a frustrating and pointless use of energy to try and cheer myself up when my heart is so heavy with grief, so I focus on other things and allow myself to feel. It’s tricky. I want to rub this experience in my hair, but not get caught in self-pity or doom and gloom (which is my default).

Beaches help a lot, as do redwood trees. And a good book, or a Netflix series (I got caught up in the Icelandic show, “Katla”). Cooking myself a tasty meal. Seeing a grief counselor. In this life-classroom, my teacher is adversity. Everyone deals with it. It’s part of being human in this world. I do hope I am learning to accept my life circumstances with grace and to keep things in perspective: I am not hungry. Bombs are not dropping on my head. My home is safe (except for broken appliances; do not ever buy from Best Buy, ever). I am staggering onward. This is the way.

7″ x 10″ inktense ink sticks on paper = $100

 

 

 

daily painting | free-flowing freesia

You know what I long for more than anything? Honesty and transparency. Yesterday I had the wonderful privilege of having lunch with a new friend, the widow of Gene, a dear friend of my brother, who died eight months prior to my brother’s death. So… we talked grief. About sudden and surprising weeping, about grief bombs. About feeling like crap most of the time. About people who want to help, but really just apply pressure for us to get over it (“I hope the next time I see you you feel better!”). About the isolation of grieving, as feeling awful just isn’t OK. We laughed and bitched and bonded. I had a ball. How refreshing it is to be able to just be myself in all my gory glory, without worrying about humans who want me to hurry to get over my sorrows or to tastefully camouflage my open, bloody wounds. I just want to be me without having to perform, or hide how I feel. I’ll never be the same after losing all my siblings in just a few years. That’s reality. I am a new me.

My friend had heard good things about my caring for my brother from her husband, before he quickly died of fast-moving cancer (Gene was a doll, a professional photographer who visited my brother and took the best photos of Jim and his pals). I think she expected a halo to be hovering over my mop of gray hair. So when we both laughed about wanting to bitch-slap someone who patronizingly says, “I’m glad to see your moods are improving,” it was a tonic.

It’s liberating to be able to share my insides with abandon and without worry of a positivity lecture. To just tell the truth. And make jokes about it.

Yes, this is a rant. Too bad. And yes, I am influenced by a recent interview I listened to with Fran Lebowitz. God bless her snarky views of us wobbly humans. An icy glass of sweet lemonade on a muggy, suffocating day.

6″ x 9″ watercolor, ink on paper = $75

 

 

 

watercolor of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | spring 2024

I’m waving my white flag in grief’s general direction. Been seven months now since my brother’s death, and of course both my sisters died in the prior years. The shock of it all is wearing off, but feeling generally crappy continues. I think it’s all part of this process and I tell myself not to worry or be impatient, as everything is running its course. My heart got broke. More than a couple of times. It takes time to mend.

Sure sucks at times. Especially since I can’t control grief and sorrow and loss and the way they wipe the floor with my hair.

So, no resistance here. I won’t fight it and I will brush aside advice that I should take pills to make me feel better. This is a natural, beautiful, normal, healing, extraordinary process. I embrace it. Even while I feel stinky. Ugh. I really like something I recently read about a woman experiencing painful loss — her answer, when people ask how she’s doing, is, “I’m here.” Yep.

10″ x 10″ watercolor, ink, pastel on paper = $140

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

watercolor of rose bud by emily weil

daily painting | rose bud

I created this small painting a few weeks ago and thought I’d post it before my schedule gets a bit more busy; we scatter my brother’s ashes tomorrow, I’ll join family members up north for turkey day, and then soon after will have the privilege of going on an exciting international trip.

I’m hanging on during the emoting. The ups and downs are like being on the Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz (just looked at images online and they made my stomach lurch) — so far I’m still strapped in but am a bit dizzy. I am enjoying the sweet company of friends and family who are arriving for the ashes ceremony tomorrow and also when I stopped at the grocery store to buy Thanksgiving pie ingredients I started crying in the dairy section (well, as I write this, that makes sense, as bro was the family’s supreme commander of holiday pie-making). This led to me doubling over in the elevator down to the parking garage (I was alone). Then there was the contentment of arriving home where it is safe and beautiful and dry and I felt the deep satisfaction of knowing I will see more loved ones tomorrow.

I don’t expect Mr Toad’s Wild Ride to be over any time soon (keeping to amusement park references) but I did get a case of Dramamine® at Costco.

Have a good holiday season, everyone. May you enjoy peace and love and fun and contentment. If your heart hurts may you find solace and comfort and places that soothe. 

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

 

 

 

abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | belt it out

So the thing about grief is that it rips your skin off, and then it knifes deeper into your muscles and organs where, with surgical precision, it tears open all the old wounds that you’d rather not look at. This is its gift.

So I kind of celebrate this moment (she said, perhaps masochistically). And I would like it very much if I never again felt like this. But I know things are shifting and re-balancing and I will come out stronger. I’m certain of it. It effing sucks but chains I have dragged behind me my entire life that I didn’t even know were hindering me are rusting through and falling off. Childbirth and open-heart surgery come to mind, to add the list of metaphors.

This painting represents part of my journey.

Broken hearts are more open, I am told.

40″ x 28″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil, cut up scarves, cut paper on canvas = $1450

 

 

 

acrylic abstract painting on canvas by emily weil

daily painting | seventy-one

I’ve often longed for a frontal lobotomy. That desire is fresh again — anything for relief from Nurse Ratched, who embodies the grief that is my daily companion. I hardly know how to explain myself. “How are you doing, Emily?” is a question asked by people who genuinely care. “Doing my best,” I answer. Because it isn’t culturally acceptable to answer the question honestly: “Well, I was writhing in my bed this morning from stabbing pain in my gut and shards of glass in my heart and it feels like my kitchen floor is jaggy with razor blades and I can’t sleep and I sometimes spontaneously sob hysterically in the produce dept. of the grocery store and I wish I knew who put TNT under my mattress and blew me up. But other than that, I’m fine.”

Truly kind people want me to feel better. I get that and appreciate it. But it also adds pressure, like I’d best hurry up with my mourning. So that makes me withdraw, and then the grief process becomes more isolating. 

Just being honest here. Thanks for reading this. I’d like our culture to be smarter when it comes to holding and supporting those who have had difficult losses. It’s just amazingly lonely and takes years. I’m so bored with justifying my technicolor emotions.

And I’m deeply grateful for redwood trees that I can literally lean on because they help absorb the pain. And for a studio full of paints. And birds. And October moonrises.

30 x 24″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil on stretched canvas = $1025

 

 

 

watercolor of convict lake by emily weil

daily painting | convict lake

I hardly know where to begin. I am the grateful recipient of a gift of a vacation in Mammoth Lakes, in the eastern Sierras, an offering from a dear relative who has a place here, and who knows the losses of the last few years in my family. It is a reset button for me — I am resting, crying, grieving, exploring, painting and writing. At Convict Lake, a gob-smackingly beautiful place, I set up a little painting station and chatted with fisher people and other hikers and watched bald eagles catch trout. After painting I walked partially around the lake, and a man stopped me and pointed up to a bald eagle in a tree just above the path! So we marveled and shared our views with other hikers. An elderly couple came by, and I gave them my binocs to get a closer look at the majestic creature. The man said he was 87 and had been in wild areas all his life and this was his first sighting of a bald eagle. I was thrilled for him. 

I am healing. I am absorbing all this beauty and love from the wild. Craggy peaks out of every condo window and aspen trees with changing colors. Stars and the milky way — I’m at 8,000 ft. and Jupiter beams like an incoming airplane. Local natural hot springs to soak in. This is good. This is beyond good. I’m a big grateful, absorbent sponge. 

Don’t want this to be a boring travelog. But boy howdy I am appreciative of this slice of magic wedged between death and grief and mourning and my life in Alameda.

10″ x 7″ ink, watercolor on paper