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

 

 

 

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