watercolor of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | holly’s bouquet

I choose today to let Madame Grief do with me as she wishes. I believe she has healing powers, but surrendering to her is the only way to access those outcomes. The catch is that she roughs you up along the way. Because I have a technicolor basket of things to mourn, it’s best, in my opinion, to just let go and trust this path, shitball nightmare that it is.

This is my soapbox, as you know (my name is engraved on the side). When my mom died almost 20 years ago, it was a similarly intense experience, grieving her. We had a complicated relationship. I thought I was losing my mind. But I emerged, afterward, stronger, clearer, and more confident. So I guess feeling all the raw pain today is a kind of investment, right? Hoping for a stronger, healthier me? I suppose so. It’s quite isolating, these beliefs. Our culture doesn’t exactly encourage warm hugs and comfort. Lots of people recommend drugs. But I want to be alert for this and see it through. Maybe I’m a masochist. I’m OK with that. Maybe I will come out the other side with increased strength and joy and clarity.

And boy howdy it sucks. Every effing minute. Some days I wish my broken heart would just stop beating and save me from doing this one more day. But maybe my heart is just getting sturdier. Maybe I have the ovaries to see this through.

[Regarding this artwork — my dear friend brought me a spectacular bouquet from her stunning garden and it was my subject matter today for our artists’ group, Brushes by the Bay. I find great comfort in making art with other creative folks.]

6″ x 6″ ink, watercolor on paper = $45

 

 

 

watercolor, ink, pastel of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | naples

I’m going to start this without knowing where it will land so here goes. I’m seeing an image in a movie — someone gets caught in the mud, and then their clothes are sticky and thick with the brown goo, and then it dries and cakes. I feel that heaviness — an outer crust that restricts movement and is cumbersome. Like wearing a coat made of bricks. I think the muddy, calcified jacket is something I’ve worn since childhood. I’ve been aware of it, but unconsciously concluded it was permanently attached, and I had no choice to but to get used to it.

The air we breathed in our family in Mill Valley in the “mid-century” (as the 1950s and 60s are now called) was lonely and loveless. Mom and Dad were injured humans who couldn’t properly parent. Because children need reasons for things, in order to make sense of the unimaginable, what I came to believe was that love was not available for me. Other people could have it, but I was behind the door when love got handed out. In my mind scarcity was a reality, and my only choice was to adapt to it, and, as I was told, be grateful I had food and shelter.

There is something about the sweet and loving connection I have with my brother that is healing me and I think it’s healing him too. Mud and sticks and dried leaves and caked-on dirt are washing off. We have intimate conversations about dying (I thought my heart might quit a few weeks ago) and about family and about our dead sisters. He tells me things he remembers that trouble him and I tell him the same. We confirm and agree on what Mom and Dad were like. 

He will be going at some point — he wasn’t supposed to last through October, let alone May, and may get a CT scan soon, even though he’s in hospice care, to see why his longevity after a very dire diagnosis of aggressive brain cancer continues.

In the meantime, with Jamey’s help, I’m removing some of the outerwear that weighs me down. It’s the damnedest thing.

[About this painting. I was invited to teach a private watercolor lesson to a woman I met months ago; she was outside Frank Bette Center in Alameda with her darling greyhound. I’ve had several greyhounds in my life so I introduced myself, and the artist asked me into her home where we could paint, and where I instantly fell in love with Naples who fell asleep with his head on my foot. She had these flowers in a vase which we used for subject matter.]

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

 

 

 

watercolor of dog by emily weil

daily painting | daisy-may

I really like my Sunday mornings. I watch the news shows because I’m a junkie, sip my tea, watch Buster, my guinea pig, chow down on his morning salad and delight in the dancing shadows on my living room curtains of finches at the bird feeder. I’m getting more skilled at self-care, allowing myself to rest after almost 11 months of looking after my bro — his brain cancer is advancing, but slowly. He is in good hands; I don’t need to be there every day. I feel guilty, but am noticing how beneficial it is to not be so worn out. I’m no good to him if I’m a wrung-out old dish rag.

Jamey and I often have amazing conversations. Last week we had a difficult discussion about the secret abuse my little sister and I suffered at the hands of our fury-spewing dad. Jamey is 9 years older, so he was mostly gone, doing teenager things, when I was a kid. He wasn’t home when dad would go into his rages — he was worried he had been there but either didn’t realize what was happening, or chose not to intervene. I am certain my funny, kind older brother wasn’t around, as I don’t think Dad would’ve dared the abuse if he’d had witnesses. These hard facts weigh on my brother. He’s an engineer, not exactly conversant with his emotions, but his love for me is clear. I believe that more than anything he wishes he could have prevented those horrors experienced by his two little sisters.

Phoo, this is heavy stuff. My apologies. My point is that I am grateful for the sweetness of my times with my only remaining sib. These incredible moments would have never happened but for his illness and being confined in a nursing home where I can visit and spend time with him. He often surprises me, bringing up family topics I assume he would rather avoid. These exchanges heal us both. Isn’t that somethin’?

[About this painting — a dear friend’s sweet little Daisy May moved on to happier hunting grounds recently and this is a tribute to her.]

6″ x 6″ ink, watercolor, acrylic on paper

 

 

 

watercolor and pastel abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | butterfly party

I woke up this morning feeling lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon-wheel rut and then I got up and sat on my couch with my Earl Grey tea marveling at the manic energy of the house finches and sparrows outside my window mobbing the bird feeder. Their lives are precarious — huge amounts of birds of all species don’t survive their first year. Obviously I think a lot about life cycles these days. And my discomfort in this time of loss is huge. And is nothing in comparison to the catastrophe in Turkey and Syria as those losses are incomprehensible and shocking. Yes, my roof leaked and now I have a new roof and a smaller retirement nest egg. And I have a house. With a roof.  

So, back to my bed (where I do my morning meditation). The conclusion I landed on is to accept what is. No resistance. This calms me and helps me not go down the self-pity rabbit hole.

[You might want to skip this next bit as it may sound preachy.] I recently had a conversation with my lovely niece who also seeks healing and wholeness and self-knowledge (we certainly relate to each other, having grown up in desperately dysfunctional families; her mom, my sister, was severely mentally ill). We talked about the wondrous and mysterious process of a caterpillar that is transmogrified into a butterfly and how, once in the cocoon, it somehow morphs from a little wiggly, crawly thing into goo and then into a glorious creation with painted wings. It’s amazing! From squishy glop! As we talked together about the discomfort of transformation, she noted, “Cocoons are narrow.” So brilliant! As my life feels very confining right now. And my goodness I hope I am changing into a splashy creature that can fly and help make my corner of the world a bit more colorful.

[About this painting — I was rooting around my files for Feather River Art Camp, where I will be teaching a Mixed Media class this June, and found the start of a watercolor of a lily that wasn’t so great so I added pastels and worked it into an abstract.]

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

 

 

 

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 | NFS

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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 | blues

Finding words is a challenge today, five days after insurrectionists tried to violently attack and disrupt our democratic process, egged on by a sitting president. I’m shocked, stunned, speechless. Having a hard time shuffling through tasks and chores and January plans. I’m sort of sure we’ll be OK. But never in my six decades have I questioned that our democracy would continue — until now. I’ve always taken it for granted, even if unhappy with voters’ choices and flaws in how we govern. Now, I’m rattled. Now, I’m unsure of our future. While I do believe we will get past this dark moment as a country, I have no pollyanna notions about how hard this will be and it was already severely challenging. I’m dodging puddles of grief and loss and isolation and loneliness. And facing worries for the country I didn’t know I loved so much. So today I counsel myself to employ gentleness and kindness toward myself and others. If foggy I will turn on the headlights. If knocked sideways I will get up and keep going and find my path again. I will keep taking sheets of paper out in my studio and “painting out” my overwhelming feelings. And if all I can manage is to vacantly stare at ocean waves at a Marin beach, that’s what I will do. As I talk to friends about these events, I know I am not alone in my stupefaction, which I just decided is my new favorite word. Tenderness and love for ourselves and each other will help us get through this. And rage.

22″ x 30″ pencil, pastel, ink, watercolor, acrylic, oil pastel, crayon on paper = $795

 

 

 

daily painting | splash zone

I was watching a documentary about Keith Haring and loved seeing him do his line work. I’m already crazy about my oil pastel sticks, so I couldn’t wait to take a break from watercolor and head into my studio and take out fresh sheets of paper and mark them up. The sticks are gooey and thick with pigment but take forever to dry, so I do hesitate to use them at times. But not last weekend. This drawing will be sticky for months, but that’s OK. Working like this taps into a deep part of me, and is quite healing and cathartic. Abstract works are helping me work out complicated feelings about my sister who died in November. Why did we fight so much when we were little? How much childhood pain & trauma did she subsume into her chanting practice? I know she suffered during her teen years, as did I, with depression and despair and we both found ways to comfort ourselves. Today I feel deeply saddened by the dramas that played out in our family with our parents who were terribly wounded souls. I am glad for the mental and emotional stability I have worked hard for, and I am sad for the ways Kathy and I acted out, as little ones, the unspoken frustration and rage in our family. Today I feel peace and heartbreak at the same time. Emotions can be so confounding. Best not to argue with them. [Note: after I posted this, I watched this 16-min TED talk and was a bit blown away by it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KVnwC-taQXM&feature=youtu.be or look up, “Through the Mud We Rise | Michelle Esrick”]

15.5″ x 18″ pencil, oil pastel, crayon on paper = $360