watercolor and mixed media abstract by emily weil

daily painting | fluidity

I was in the mood for creating big wet puddles of watercolor on paper the other day, so I decided an abstract was the appropriate choice for my kitchen counter art production. This kind of work takes a bit of time as I have to wait for each layer of paint to dry (sunny days help and yes I could use my hair blower but when I perch my soggy, paint-saturated sketchpad in the sunny kitchen window it creates some time to do things like scrub my bathroom tiles or give my guinea pig Buster a sweet pepper snack — multitasking central, over here). But the thing was to let the art flow which coincides with letting my emotions tumble freely through the canyons of grief and loss. News junkie that I am, it’s hard to turn off the latest reports of frightful European war news, but I did, putting on my headphones and listening to Sting’s latest album. His lyrical, romantic tunes are beautiful and they help me keep my heart open. And the music is a soothing balm. I seem to feel safer at home, as I paint and emote, and I’m in a bit of quandary about whether to keep my studio as financially it’s not making a lot of sense right now. But I will get it sorted.

Plus I want to enjoy my house! My marina was recently sold to developers with dubious motives, so we are fighting for our community here. Our small, slightly funky floating home village on the San Francisco Bay estuary is charming and lovely and we want to keep it that way. Stay tuned.

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

 

 

 

watercolor and ink painting of iris by emily weil

daily painting | purple iris

If you read my posts, you know that I am currently the Grief Queen, as I have been diving deeply into the grief process after losing my sisters, riding its currents to healing and a peaceful heart (if a sore one). What baffles me today is why every U.S. citizen isn’t staggering down the street weeping at the loss of nearly a million Americans to Covid. It is human nature to say, Hey, c’mon, let’s move on and leave the pandemic behind — who doesn’t want that, for god’s sake? But I do hope we can at least stop for a minute and digest and acknowledge the actuality of these horrific losses. It’s important to take in this tragic reality and not sweep it aside (“denial is not a river in Egypt”).

OK! Stepping down from my soapbox. This iris was blooming in the scruffy yard behind my art studio in Oakland and I decided to do a bit of a close-up of it (I took its pic last year). Such rich, gooey hues of purples and violets — stunning. How do those silken, velvety petals hold so much pigment, when it takes about three layers of watercolors to even slightly suggest the deep, amethyst tints? It’s miraculous. Having a sense of wonder at the gorgeousness Mom Earth offers to us is the best, isn’t it? It gives me joy every day.

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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of hollyhock by emily weil

daily painting | carmel hollyhocks

I was so encouraged, reading my dear friend’s book, Skipping Church: notes from an accidental minister’s wife. Sue’s husband’s denomination sent them to a small Iowa town where they were both reluctant to go. Reading about how Sue worked out that difficult and lonely challenge (acceptance!) was heartening and inspiring. In a book Sue also gave me, The Book of Soul, I came across this encouragement: “Meaning, truth and kindness are our constant teachers. They help us live through fear, pain and disappointment. They are the flames that light the heart.” Yet again, with great unwillingness, I stand (I should say, kneel) in surrender. “I relinquish all resistance to the present moment,” Eckhart Tolle suggests we repeat to ourselves in his book, The Power of Now; he writes that surrendering to this moment transforms pain and suffering into peaceful acceptance. But I resist not resisting. I want answers. I want to know why so many things are completely effed up and why I (and my family) can’t just float along on calmer waters, at least for awhile. Because sometimes current circumstances just suck. So, while I struggle and fight and thrash around, what brings me inner quiet is finally arriving at acceptance. I am disillusioned to find that at this stage of my life, things aren’t smooth and perfect and sweet (I want that cliche of enjoying the rocking chair on a safe and quiet front porch). And for the zillionth time, embracing reality and asking for help from the Divine comforts and soothes my turbulent, worried mind. And, once again, I have to learn again how to let go (bit of a steep learning curve, over here). I’ve perched on precarious, crumbling cliffs many times over. I always figure out a safe way to get solid ground under my feet; my life is as it is. And it is glorious.

About this painting — dug into my trove of photos for this watercolor. Last summer a loving and sweet friend took me to Carmel to give me a break from life and grief and pain. It was beautiful — I can still feel that silky white beach sand between my toes. This lush hollyhock was blooming across the street from our little apartment.

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

 

 

 

watercolor of peaches by emily weil

daily painting | casita windowsill

The way light hits luscious, spherical summer fruits poised on a windowsill always enchants me. If I recall, my gracious host Nancy gave me these Trader Joe’s peaches when I stayed in her San Diego casita last August, and I put them on the sunny sill as they weren’t quite ripe.

I roamed around my photos collection looking for painting subjects and found this snapshot I’d all but forgotten. Peaches in particular are spectacular, don’t you think? Slightly fuzzy, rosy-hued, filled with the promise of drippy, sweet juices. One summer when I was a teen, dad’s peach trees produced such a mouth-watering crop I ate them until I was sick (I’ve never been so thin). I’m becoming more patient with my watercolors — taking more time. A sign of getting older, I guess. What’s the hurry? My world is upended with loss and grief and family upset. Yet painting a scene of summery fruit soothes and comforts my heart. How fortunate I am, to skid into my magical world of watercolors.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | american kestrel

“Allow” is my word for today, the first anniversary of my sister Kay’s death. Unsurprisingly, my feelings are bouncing all over the place, so I think my best practice is to not resist today’s emotional road trip. I love the bullet points in “The Mourner’s Bill of Rights,” sent to me by a wonderfully supportive facilitator who comforts family members of those who chose “Death with Dignity.” A sampling:

• You have the right to experience your own unique grief

• You have the right to feel a multitude of emotions

• You have the right to experience “griefbursts”

Aren’t these marvelous? I will keep this card handy today as so far I am really needing it; my brains are scrambled and I’m upside down, so I’m just going with it. My little guy Buster greeted me this morning with his usual “Wheek! Wheek! Wheek!” which means Good morning, I’m hungry in guinea pig. I scratched his head and gave him some cucumber (his little purring noises crack me up). So far I’ve needed one trip to Berkeley Vacuum and Sewing Center to clean out the shavings from Buster’s cage that clogged my vacuum. He’s worth it, though my house smells like a barn from the small animal hay he eats, but it’s a nice smell. With all the death in my family and in the world lately, I am especially grateful for the miracle of life. In all its forms, including guinea pigs — warm friends who walk with me and hug me when I need to stop and sob for a few minutes, the wonderfully feisty falcon (American Kestrel, shown here) we banded last week, the butterflies visiting the plants on my deck, the occasional bat rays (that look like sting rays) gliding in the shallow water at low tide in my marina, the optimistic Cooper’s hawk that perches on top of the cement silos in our parking lot, playing I-Spy-With-My-Little-Eye (which is probably a gorgeous paprika color) a nice small songbird happy-hour hors d’oeuvre. I am happiest when I am 100% focused on this moment, this second in time. Because I am alive, and so are you, and isn’t that amazing? 
NOTE: Raptors are handled and banded at GGRO with appropriate state, federal and IACUC permits. 

 

 

 

abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | circus

Emotion central ovah heah (think Carmela’s voice, mobster Tony Soprano’s wife on “The Sopranos” which I’m enjoying again for the 4th or 5th time). You’ve been patiently reading these ongoing posts about my grief. Stormy, wet, weepy, sad and there you go, Bob’s Your Uncle. Still here. But rains cleanse and renew and refresh and make things grow. I’m into growing. I’m becoming stronger and more sturdy. I’m resilient and I am shedding crackled, dried up old skins like a snake. Dark childhood shadows drifting off into the ether. Six months since my sister Diana’s suicide now, and it’s getting easier to get out of bed in the morning, so healing does in fact happen even when you feel like the drippy technicolor emotions will drape themselves all over you forever. Life is such a carnival ride at times, but I’m strapped in and hanging on and fully here for the adventure, even when I’m screaming bloody hell on the roller coaster. As I get older I aspire to be myself. Only myself. It’s liberating, and it’s happening. This is good.

30″ x 24″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil on stretched canvas = $975

 

 

 

daily painting | hydrangea

Last week the grief fog began, timidly, to lift. I had heartfelt, healing and warm conversations with my niece as she came through town; we talked about family and her mom who committed suicide in May. Just voicing the frustrations with, anger towards and love for my sister Diana felt like a balm that soaked in deep, because Kirsten gets it, as she works through her own shock and loss. It was a welcome gift, to comfort one another. I am so grateful for all the resources I have access to — grief groups, therapists, warm friends, open-hearted family members, writing exercises, painting, and banding hawks. All these are medicines, healing my fractured soul and shattered heart. And joy is starting to creep back in around the edges of my life (and I’ll take it!). The cement shoes that make it hard to get out of bed in the morning are starting to crack and chip. The finches at my birdfeeder make me laugh a bit more heartily, and my new housemate, Buster Posey, my rescue guinea pig (who is Giants-orange) that a friend found abandoned on the side of the road, is hilarious and adorable and tolerates brief cuddles (“cavies” are pretty low-maintenance pets, I am learning). Little puddles of relief. Marvelous.

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

 

 

 

abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | embers

Art as therapy is my world these days. Here’s another big abstract, a painting from several years ago I reworked. It’s satisfying, being in my studio and slinging acrylic paint around, consciously sidestepping rational thought (on composition, color balance, and so on); most of the paint actually lands on the canvas. It’s an emotional process, and digging into feelings and tossing them onto a paint surface is mending me. I’m very grateful — for my studio, that I stumbled into Leigh Hyams’ workshops in 2008 which exploded me into a serious art practice; for glorious, vibrant paint colors, for headphones that supply rock and roll. Grief is a helluva rabbit hole to tumble into — I’m upended. I disappear into it, and at times I even have hope I’ll emerge with all my body parts. I’m sometimes satisfied, strengthened and exhausted, sometimes frustrated, spent and humbled. But always, always more whole.

68″ x 60″ acrylic, oil pastel on canvas (stretched) = $5600

 

 

 

acrylic abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | 2020

Wacky wanderings is how I’d describe my world today. I’m finishing up the book, Proof of Heaven, about a neurosurgeon who had a near death experience (NDE) and writes about his journey into a place of love and joy and acceptance and connection to the divine while he was in a coma he wasn’t supposed to recover from. I couldn’t put it down, and it’s making me rethink everything, and in a good way. I’ve had faith for most of my life in a spiritual presence or higher power or Spirit or God (though I don’t like that term, it connotes male patriarchy and confining religiosity). Reading more about NDEs (I’m going back to the library for more) is boosting my beliefs and giving me more confidence to have faith and trust in the divine, western intellectual culture be damned. It’s like I’m learning that what I’ve always hoped to be true but was afraid to completely believe is real — there is an unseen, miraculous world that our limited human brains cannot access. A world of Spirit and consciousness and a loving, supporting, expanding universe. Because I’m in a stage of life where my “past is growing and my future is shrinking,” and because of recent deaths of my sisters, all these other-worldly concepts are on my mind, and I’m finding I’m in a place of, “Oh eff it, I’m going to leap off that cliff into total surrender and faith.” A place not exactly supported in our culture, but a stance that deeply comforts and encourages me. So, there. I’m reaching more deeply into my beliefs, dammit. It’s not a popular way of thinking, here in this world. But I’m more convinced every day that there is a higher being (or beings) that support me in this human life. And today I consciously choose to practice radical trust. This is difficult for me to share, as it makes me feel vulnerable. So I hope you are OK with that.

Which is kinda related to this painting. I took an older abstract I wasn’t crazy about and made a new one out of it. I’m doing larger works these days, as the over-sized canvases are better at holding all the swirling emotions that whip through me these days. I titled this painting “2020” as it felt appropriate. It contains all the roiling, messy feelings from that ridiculously crazy, painful year.

55″ x 65″ acrylic, oil pastel on canvas (stretched) = $4900