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

 

 

 

daily painting | meanderings

Graphite crayons, oil pastels, pencils, chalk pastels and crayons are in the top tray of my art therapy toolbox these days. I love how the marks wander through a square of white paper. They are helping me walk through unknowable mysteries of intense emotion.

I’m reading a book called The Dog Stars by Peter Heller. I have an assortment of books lined up by my bed, waiting for me to discover their magic. Having books I look forward to absorbing is like having money in the bank — I know I can relax because great reads are piled up in my fat book account. I’ve had Dog Stars for awhile. Heller is one of my favorite writers, so when I go to Walden Pond Books in Oakland I head for the used book shelves in the back corner and see what they’ve got (Louise Penny always, Louise Erdrich, Heller; his book Celine is an all-time fave). Last summer I pulled Dog Stars out of my stack, but the description on the back had the word “pandemic” in it and at the time I thought better about reading a post-apocalyptic story. Too close to home. But it’s perfect for today. Heller’s books have themes of grief and loss running through them, but they are not dreary or bleak. Just the opposite — he writes of connection and humanity and love and beauty in the midst of loss and sadness and I find his words especially comforting in these times. The protagonist, Hig, makes no apologies for his feelings — or his weeping — and I’m attracted to that kind of fearlessness. I aspire to it. So today I follow my own inner knowing, my deep need to allow mourning to take me down her river. I know I will find dry land again. I’ll be OK. And I have a fierce desire to be true to my heart, for that’s where wholeness is. Isn’t it hard to give ourselves permission just to feel what we feel, regardless of what it is? To make room for it? I find it takes terrific courage and trust. And it is often quite isolating. But for me it is as essential as breathing. Today, I follow this encouragement by Eckhart Tolle: “I relinquish all resistance to the present moment.” That brings me peace, even in pain. Thank you for witnessing my journey.

9.25″ x 9″ oil pastel, chalk pastel, pencil, ink, crayon on paper = $110

 

 

 

daily painting | headlong

Lately I’ve been obsessed with making marks on paper with chunky graphite pencils, crayons, pastels and big fat oil pastel sticks which are vibrant and messy and slippery and full of pigment. This one also has ink, watercolor, and acrylic paint. It’s an abstract smorgasbord. Using all these different media (mediums?) is great fun, and takes me out of my thinking brain and deep into my instincts, intuition and emotions; I let the artwork guide me, and it tells me what it wants. These processes of creating art, as I have said a million times ’til you are bored to tears, dear reader, are essential to keeping my head on straight, a challenge more pressing than usual right now, grief being the gorilla sitting on my chest most days. Sometimes she weighs me down so heavily I question if I’m mentally unhinged. And then she lets up some. Or maybe not until the next day do I feel it’s OK to still be breathing. But I know it will pass and it takes time. Months. Years. Read this last night in the book, The Dog Stars by Peter Heller, a favorite writer: “Grief is an element. It has its own cycle like the carbon cycle, the nitrogen. It never diminishes not ever. It passes in and out of everything.” I’m cycling through, wishing it was on the gentle setting instead of heavy load.

6.5″ x 6.75″ ink, watercolor, acrylic, pastel, crayon, oil pastel, pencil on paper = $60

 

 

 

daily painting | gardenias

My baby sister and I went out exploring one day in the nearby woods when we were little. Mill Valley hillsides are covered with thickets of poison oak, and we were too young — or too careless — to appreciate its dangers. We soon had horrid rashes, but Kathy in particular suffered so badly her swollen eyes were all but glued shut and she had to get medical treatment. This morning I feared similar eye socket puffiness, as I sobbed so hard during various moments of Biden’s inauguration yesterday I feared my neighbors would knock on my door to see if I was OK. I didn’t quite understand the fierceness of my weeping and at first thought it was because I am in a time of grief. I’m sure that was a factor, but more was going on (and that’s my Rachel-Maddow-style-where-the-hell-is-she-going-with-this intro).

I’m really good in a crisis. I don’t panic and I meet the situation with a clear head. Then, after things have become calmer, I fall apart and feel all the emotions of the difficult moment. I think the relief of having Trump gone was the reason for my strong emotion as I got a better sense of what so many of us have been feeling for the four years of the hellish Trump administration when we felt assaulted daily with blatant white supremacy, tens of thousands of lies, unapologetic misogyny, careless incompetence, greed and corruption. Don’t need to remind anyone of what it’s been like and yes I am absolutely and without apology stating my views of the shocking horrors that came with pumpkinhead’s administration. We’ve been enduring it for four very long and trying years, and now Biden, a grown-up who gives a damn, is in the White House. And the feelings of reprieve washed over me and I wept.

And my peepers are mostly working today. Swelling not too bad. I feel like a wrung out dishrag but I’m fine with that. Congratulations, America. You did the right thing and this is a huge moment. We’re a bit shaky, but we’ll keep bumping along. Good luck Mr President and Madam Vice President. You’ve got this. [I worked on this painting yesterday when I wasn’t going through boxes of Kleenex.]

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

 

 

 

daily painting | inklings

Sometimes throwing away my usual routines is exactly the right thing to do. The other day in my studio I ripped up a few small sheets of paper and wet them and spattered India ink on them; after they dried I added watercolor and some oil pastel. I finished this small piece today and like it. I really love the way India ink behaves on wet paper — it can make beautiful patterns, and it feels like magic. To create — whether art or a yummy dinner or plans for the future — we must do it. It’s so easy to get sucked into dark places these days. Sunshine, time in my studio, dancing in my living room, being surprised by a shooting star (last night!) all help me keep moving forward. These are very difficult times, and I’m still vertical. More or less.

6″ x 6″ watercolor, oil pastel, pencil on paper = $45