10 x 10 abstract by emily weil

daily painting | dances

Today is mother’s day for me. By that I mean that adult-mom-Emily is looking after little-girl-Emily, my inner child (I know, that term gets laughed at a lot). This approach works for me. 

Sometimes little Em is feral. Fierce, angry, defiant. She had to grow up without direction or guidance or comfort and has had to figure out how to be a functional adult, and she’s a teeny bit pissed off. I’m fortunate that I have had counselors in the form of therapists and spiritual directors and grief counselors to help me find a stable way to live in this world. I’d be dead but for them. But I’m also plucky and resilient, and am finding meaning in this time of grief and loss. I am permitting myself to feel however I feel, regardless of people who are in a hurry for me to feel better (I’m waaaay past the point of taking care of other peoples’ feelings). The month of May has been a bit brutal as it’s the anniversary of my sister’s suicide, and her birthday a week later. It knocked me sideways, so I’m back to the basics of finding ways to soothe myself — journaling, taking walks, making art. Collapsing in a puddle of tears when necessary. Mainly just doing what’s in front of me. Practicing self-compassion (I recommend Kristin Neff’s website).

And one more note — did you know there’s something called a “warm line”? Different from a hot line — call options for folks who just need a little support (this info is for CA): https://www.mentalhealthsf.org/warm-line/ These days we need all the help we can root around for, like pigs digging up truffles. Thankfully I have a sensitive schnoz.

10″ x 10″ inktense ink sticks on paper = $140




abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | where the light is

Grumpy Gus over here is digging around looking for something to lift my spirits. It isn’t working so good, so I’m creating small abstract works using marvelous Derwent “Inktense” blocks thanks to a gift from a generous friend. Art distractions are helpful. I think it’s a frustrating and pointless use of energy to try and cheer myself up when my heart is so heavy with grief, so I focus on other things and allow myself to feel. It’s tricky. I want to rub this experience in my hair, but not get caught in self-pity or doom and gloom (which is my default).

Beaches help a lot, as do redwood trees. And a good book, or a Netflix series (I got caught up in the Icelandic show, “Katla”). Cooking myself a tasty meal. Seeing a grief counselor. In this life-classroom, my teacher is adversity. Everyone deals with it. It’s part of being human in this world. I do hope I am learning to accept my life circumstances with grace and to keep things in perspective: I am not hungry. Bombs are not dropping on my head. My home is safe (except for broken appliances; do not ever buy from Best Buy, ever). I am staggering onward. This is the way.

7″ x 10″ inktense ink sticks on paper = $100




abstract drawing by emily weil

daily painting | drumbeats

I would like to be queen of the world with magical powers. I’d create a product called “FamPoo,” a fantastical healing potion you wash your hair with and it cleans out all painful childhood memories. But then maybe that’s not a good idea, for I think my past experiences, and how I have worked on healing old wounds, is probably making me a better person. More compassionate, perhaps? But at times I still long for a frontal lobotomy. I go to the model of being the loving mother of that hurt inner little girl, which works for me. I meditate and ask her what she needs? To be seen, she says. As a small child, I was invisible — I worked hard on blending in with the wallpaper. It was safer. But oh how I wanted someone to truly see me and know how I was feeling.

So I give myself that today. I see that bruised little one and I hug her and love her and sometimes buy her ice cream. It’s powerful medicine.

Apologies for the therapy theme, but it’s apt today. I suppose losing my sibs triggers fears and loneliness. And likely I’m influenced by seeing an interview with Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle, who eloquently wrote of a childhood of abuse and unstable parents and how she brilliantly survived by her wits, and how she found love and comfort. I don’t want to hide my past, nor do I want to ooze all over anyone. This is my story, and it’s good to talk about it. I’m resilient. And proud.

5.25″ x 5.5″ inktense ink sticks on paper = $40




abstract on paper by emily weil

daily painting | stitches

A kind artist friend gave me a set of “inktense blocks” and yesterday I pulled them out, took the plastic wrap off the tin of sticks and dove in. They are like pastel chalks in shape, are dense with vibrant pigment, and are water-soluble. I experimented with them and created this small abstract.

Oh, how making art calms my mind and heart. The act of creation is healing, and I am grateful.

I was also inspired by a recent trip to SF MoMA, where large paintings fill entire museum walls and those works give me permission to be myself and create art pieces that are only mine, not derivative of a popular style or trendy art fads. I feel very fortunate to be able to zip across the bay on the ferry and see such vividly painted canvases. 

And that reminds me — I’ll send out a notice shortly but my large abstracts will soon be on display in the lobby of 101 2nd St in San Francisco (corner of Mission and 2nd). The show will go up in the next couple of weeks and will be up through September. Slate Gallery, which organizes the show, doesn’t have the budget for a reception, but I’m told I can create my own. Watch this space. And then go watch that space.

6″ x 6″ inktense ink sticks on paper = $50




watercolor of figure by emily weil

daily painting | figure drawing

I have a marvelous new art toy — Caran D’ache watercolor crayons. Yesterday I very much enjoyed joining a figure drawing group (every Tuesday; contact me if you are interested) and brought out my sweet little water-soluble drawing implement. Gameli was the model, and he had the most glorious huge afro and a thick beard and it was all a great reintroduction to figure drawing, something I used to enjoy but the weekly group I was part of disbanded because of Covid.

Such a great distraction, and fun to be with other artists as well, including my old friend Bill, a fellow artist and also a bird bander. I need to focus on activities or I’m susceptible to sinking into dark, broody moods. Staying busy is the key, not to mention having outlets to talk about my grief process and doing healing work around musty and stinky and painful old issues. This is a roll-up-my-sleeves kind of time, moving forward and paying attention (not to mention sorting through mental illness issues in my family, ugh).

There’s a freedom, though, in acceptance. I practice non-resistance every day — and boy does it take practice. To accept what is, and that this is a challenging time, and be OK with it. Life isn’t about feeling good all the time, much as I’d like it to. Growth sucks sometimes. Very uncomfortable. Best to flow along with this river. My little boat is mostly seaworthy.

12″ x 9″ watercolor crayon on paper = $150




abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | coarse texture v2

I like the term, “personal archaeology.” It’s kind of my life-long pursuit. And here’s another analogy from Peter Gabriel — “digging in the dirt.”

I wondered when I jumped into intense therapy what the possibilities would be. I needed help—tons of it. I couldn’t get through the night without terrifying nightmares and painful childhood memories nipped at my heels and all my prayers and Bible readings didn’t make the pain go away.

I learned in therapy I could control my night terrors — it effing worked! The scary giant spiders were no match for my new flame-throwing warrior-goddess-self. So I figured the painful work of self-reflection and honest therapy couldn’t make things worse.

A dear healer/psychologist from years ago encouraged me. This was the ranch I inherited, he said. Start fixing the most broken things first — that falling-down fence, the doors with broken hinges, the impassable road. This has been a life-quest since the 1980s and I’m not sorry I started it. It’s still bumpy but at least the doors work.

I had the idea decades ago that a few years of laser-focused attention on healing childhood pain would be the magical key to happily-ever-after. Nope, it hasn’t worked out that way. But I’m deeply grateful for the ground I’ve gained. Old wounds still bubble up and they are messy, oozing and painful. But when I see them percolating off the starboard bow I can at least ID them and devise a healing plan.

A personal crusade like this isn’t celebrated much and can be desperately lonely. It’s right for me, though. Dammit I want to be as whole as possible. And the vistas I enjoy are so lovely — to paint, to teach, to enjoy the beauty of my floating home and its warm community, to inhabit my confidence, to feel without apology. To try my hand at loving connections, something I fumble around with as best I can.

Phoo! This is an agonizingly long (for you) rant. I appreciate my life; all of it. I am showing up. Thank you for being here too and indulging me.

45″ x 35″ acrylic, oil pastel, pencil on unstretched canvas = $2200




watercolor and pastel painting of briones park by emily weil

daily painting | briones hillside

A steep hillside and a majestic oak in Briones park — the final painting (5th one) in the series of Briones watercolors/pastel works done in exchange for my new roof (I knew I’d chosen the right company when the Lovett & Lovett Roofing truck pulled up in my parking lot with the tagline written on the side, “Since 1886”). I’m quite happy this art-for-trade project is done! And I’m reasonably satisfied with the results. The next thing I need to do is big crazy abstracts to help discharge the intense and painful emotions that are fish-hooked up as I deal with legal issues regarding my brother’s trust. All kinds of old family ghosts are screeching in my brain, poisonous voices handed down by males that females are less-than, unworthy of honor and care, and not to be trusted. It’s ugly and I am again 10 years old feeling dismissed and ignored and labeled and criticized. But this life-circumstance is also medicine, giving me opportunities to heal and honor myself and celebrate my presence in the world. It feels hideous. And this moment is full of possibilities. Bring it.

32″ x 42″ ink, watercolor, pencil, pastel on paper




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