daily painting | sibs

Here is Quinn, one of three sisters I was commissioned to paint. It was a gift to their mom, who recently had a big-zero birthday (I am told she loved the paintings). A sibling-palooza! 

Sisters is the ongoing theme of my life these days. I have friends who have precious relationships with their “womb-mates,” and these connections my friends have with their girl sibs comforts me greatly. I was not close to my two sisters who have recently died, and that’s OK. It was more or less the result of growing up in a troubled, cold family. We all tried. Did our best. No lack of love there, but the bonds were thready.

I find this process of grief and loss a jumbled stew — it’s painful, excruciating, fascinating, illuminating, healing and deeply depressing. I know I am shedding things no longer needed during this crucible-like process. I will become clearer, more alive. I’m certain. But for now, the fog wafts around my brain and obscures my vision, for the pain of this loss is unspeakable, after my sister Diana’s violent act of suicide. I am showing up for this process, though. That, I feel, is very important and I think shows courage. Because I often feel upside down (though I mostly stay strapped in).

I loved a phrase I read in a book last night, “holding oneself… in the face of some emotional wind,” describing a character who had survived an intense and threatening experience (Peter Heller, The River). We are frightened, in our culture, of strong feelings. We want them to go away, and soon. But they need to be here, with us, moving around our hearts and minds and bodies until they have exhausted themselves (particularly since we’ve just been through a nightmare pandemic). I often have a hard time allowing myself to feel the grief — my brain says, “Buck up. You’re wallowing.” Or, “This is taking too long. You’re stuck.” Or, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself.” But reality is I am steeped in a profound process of loss, and it will take however long it takes, and I will stay present with the sorrows. I’m OK with that. And I side-step the harsh criticisms in my head that say I’ve lost my way. Because I haven’t.

7″ x 7″ watercolor, pen on paper

 

 

 

daily painting | hollyhocks

“In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and it comes with bitter agony. Perfect relief is not possible, except with time. You cannot now realize that you will ever feel better. But this is not true. You are sure to be happy again. Knowing this, truly believing it, will make you less miserable now. I have had experience enough to know what I say; and you need only to believe it, to feel better at once.” — Abraham Lincoln [lost his son Edward at age 3, another son William at age 11; after his assassination, his son Tad died at age 18].

Written from the grief bus. Destination unknown. Love, Emily.

7″ x 7″ watercolor, pen, acrylic ink on paper = $60

 

 

 

watercolor painting of shipping container by emily weil

daily painting | container

[I’ve been writing this in my head since 4:00 this morning; I hope not to ramble too much.] About 20+ years ago, my dad died. Except for losing our beloved Maggie, the family dog, who died at 16 when I was 17 (my childhood buddy), I had not yet experienced a major death. I remember sitting at my desk after my father passed away, staring out the window as I couldn’t concentrate on anything. Mom died 16 years ago (age 88). It was not unexpected as she was ill. That process of loss and grief upended me; my feelings were so painful and intense I worried I was losing my mind (she was a difficult woman and we had a bumpy relationship). I managed to find a grief support group for women whose moms had recently died and discovered my feelings were completely normal and similar to every other woman in that room where we gathered to heal. What a relief. What I am experiencing today, and remember well from the mom-grief, is frustration as our culture allows very little room for intense grieving. Basically you get about 3 weeks, and then you’d best move on and get over it as it makes people uncomfortable. Shut down that heart-pain. Hurry up. It’s not comely. It’s practically unAmerican.

So I am finding I need to somewhat ferociously carve out space for my grief. To create a safe container where I can thrash around and weep and express rage and shock and heartbreak. The death of my two sisters, both by suicide, within the past six months, has shattered me. My pain is normal, healthy, and even welcomed, as it heals me. This grief is a treasure and I “cleave to it as it cleaves to me. I don’t have a choice about feeling it but I do have a choice to deeply learn from it” (quote from a friend). It is often unbearably lonely.

This extends my post today into the too-long territory, but I feel this poem is important:

On Pain by Kahlil Gibran 

And a woman spoke, saying, Tell us of Pain.

     And he said:

     Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.

     Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.

     And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;

     And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.

     And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

     Much of your pain is self-chosen.

     It is the bitter potion by which the physician within you heals your sick self.

     Therefore trust the physician, and drink his remedy in silence and tranquility:

     For his hand, though heavy and hard, is guided by the tender hand of the Unseen,

     And the cup he brings, though it burn your lips, has been fashioned of the clay which the Potter has moistened with His own sacred tears.

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

 

 

 

acrylic abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | skylines

Did anyone see the PBS show, “American Masters” about Oliver Sacks? I was floored and inspired by his transparency and openness about his life—his missteps, his insights and honesty. And his incredible empathy (I watched it twice). He talked about his journey without hesitation or obfuscation. Which is helping me feel bolder about my own blatherings about my personal adventures and challenges. As I struggle to wrap my mind and heart around the reality of my younger sister’s death, and how difficult it was to connect with her, it is becoming clearer how my childhood wounds shape me. I have healed a great deal and worked very hard for my wholeness. At the same time, wispy fragments of longings as well as my aching quest for human connection that haunted me as a child float through my soul, and I see how I have felt ashamed of these normal and human needs. Like somehow I should be above the desire for intimacy. I should buck up, or something asinine like that. Ridiculous. Today I embrace my humanity and natural and beautiful desires. What is more precious than human connection? Yet I have often thought this was a deep flaw. Boy howdy am I letting that one go!

I worked on this small abstract on the weekend. I didn’t feel like painting at all. But it was a tonic to be in my studio and work with colors and shapes and wet gloppy paint without any attempts to make it pretty. It was a soothing experience, even with tears mixed into the chromium blues.

9″ x 12″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil on claybord = $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 | 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

 

 

 

daily painting | blood tangerines

I’m a little nervous about this, but I think I’ll just jump in the deep end and hope I float. It feels important to post this today and let me add here that I worked on these darling little “blood tangerines” today and enjoyed the process very much.

I’ve been looking up symptoms of PTSD online, wondering if I can better understand my psyche these days. Then I heard a snippet of an interview on NPR with an author who wrote an essay about what is ahead for us as we emerge from the pandemic. She spoke of the deep trauma and grief we have experienced these past 12 months even if we haven’t seen a loved one die from Covid or lost our jobs, and that pain and upset are appropriate and common and normal. We are all bloodied and roughed up. That radio conversation helped me give myself permission to admit, mostly to myself, that these upsetting manifestations of loss and suffering are OK — for the first time in over 30 years, I have been experiencing what feels like PTSD. Those decades ago my frequent nightmares, inability to stop crying, panic attacks, lack of focus and general failure at normal functioning pushed me to seek professional help, and in those moments I began my journey of emotional and psychic healing from childhood abuse. It’s been a long and winding path but very fruitful and surprising — I have discovered that there are no limits to my ability to mend. So these past few days have been worrisome, when I have watched the same symptoms re-emerge for the first time since I was in my 30s. Until I turned on the radio.

I don’t think the term “psychic assault” is overly dramatic. I will get more help and will slowly reassemble my body parts; this has been a brutal time in the world, in my family, in my heart; even my body is expressing strange and mysterious reactions. Perhaps my writing of my experiences will be helpful to someone else worried that their sanity is wobbly. We’ll get there. And I know I will find the help I need to recover. You will too.

10″ x 10″ watercolor, pen on paper = $90

 

 

 

watercolor painting of poppies by emily weil

daily painting | bright blooms, sad heart

Decades ago when I was a young mom in Florence, Oregon, I was experiencing PTSD from childhood trauma but I didn’t know it; I had no idea what was wrong (needless to say I have oceans of guilt as I know how my kids suffered too). As I reflect on those years and look at some of the early watercolor paintings I did then, they are bright and cheery. What the hell, I wondered? In some of my darkest days I made art that looked quite happy. Have no idea why. Maybe inside I had sunny, hopeful corners that came out in my art. I feel similarly about this painting done as a demo for a class. After a year of isolation, family troubles, the pandemic and the death of my sister my moods are often mournful. But maybe my insides come out anyways, and I am encouraged by those colorful and hopeful works. Maybe happiness hides in there and will leak out in other ways too.

Last night in a book I’m reading, The Outside Boy by Janine Cummins, the young hero who had tragically just lost his “grandda” says, “I thought maybe grief was like an egg that had to be cracked open, and I just hadn’t smashed mine yet—I was still holding it, cradling it. Careful.” Gorgeous writing. Can’t wait to dive back in and see what happens next in this family of Irish travelers.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | blog test

OK this isn’t a trick; I made some changes in MailChimp regarding daily painting announcements so this is a bit of a test, and thank you for understanding; this obviously isn’t a new painting! The commissioned piece I’m doing this week won’t allow for daily posts, so I thought I’d go into the wayback machine and post this family shot in honor of my sister who died 3 months ago Monday. This was taken on the ferry to Vashon Island outside of Seattle in 2015 where we ventured for a family event. The loss of my sister will reverberate through my body for many months to come; we had a complicated relationship, as sibling connections can be. We chose very different life paths but she lived a large, exciting and happy life and is sorely missed (that’s Kay on the right next to our tall and handsome brother — please note I am the only grayhair amongst the sibs; my sis never had more than a handful of gray hairs, so maybe her choices were smarter than mine).

 

 

 

abstract by emily weil using acrylics

daily painting | january abstracty

I’m working on a commission this week (woot!) and may not be posting much, but since I’m kind of sitting around with my doors open on this lovely day in Alameda, recovering from some digestive woes this morning (it happens sometimes; a super sexy condition), I thought I’d shout out a hello. I did this abstract a month ago, and can’t decide if I like it, so I thought I’d post it anyways. I may or may not toss it, but it was a day in January I needed to express my fierce grief and strong emotion with acrylics and oil pastels and big fat graphite pencils. As always, the catharsis of that process helped me release more sadness and grief. Today I am fully enjoying working on the consigned painting and resting while the paint dries between layers, enjoying various distractions — sparrows squabbling at the bird feeder, catching up on the sad news about Tiger Woods’ smash-up, doing research on making art videos, noticing the local diver walk up the docks in his wetsuit (likely checking out problems in a neighbor’s hull), and reading a scary mystery that’s too creepy to read at bedtime but I have to know what happens. My heart feels full — sure looks like my years as an old lady, should they continue, will be all about making and teaching art. That’s a marvelous thing to contemplate and I am grateful.

12″ x 12″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil on claybord