watercolor painting of sunflowers by emily weil

daily painting | sunny flowers in teapot

Obviously my sisters have been on my mind lately since they have both recently left the planet. Younger sister Kay was a force to be reckoned with — focused and determined; when she had her sights on something you stepped back and got out of her way. I admired that strength, and also was frustrated by it (easy to feel bulldozed by her). Similarly, I think of older sister Diana who only a few months ago committed suicide. She was so shackled and hobbled by mental illness (she had a number of diagnoses throughout her life), paralyzed and tortured by panic and daily terrors. I related to her as I also absorbed a lot of fear as a little one, as our dad, a truly miserable guy, often flew into rages. Which makes me think, well, how would my sisters think of me? And did they see things in me to which I am blind? All too likely (this quote comes to mind from Fran Lebowitz: “Being judgmental, to me, just means I have standards.”). But I so aspire to clear-headed self-reflection. I do not want to live an unexamined life, which brings me to these sunflowers. They have such wide-open faces and seem so trusting. So American, too, being native to this country. Home-grown. My reflexive reactions to life when I hurt are to withdraw, to keep myself safe. Which is the illustration of Diana’s life; she was agoraphobic and painfully tormented in her later years. So it feels risky for me to open myself up to all of life’s myriad experiences with trust and faith and hope, which makes for a richer, often bumpier life. I’ll take it though. 

I am somewhat on that wobbly cliff as I ponder retirement and my future. I’m pushing 70, and in light of my sisters’ deaths, want to live to the max in whatever time I have left. What does that mean? Not sure yet, though art certainly is the hub of that wheel. These past 15 months have been ridiculously challenging and painful, for many reasons. As they have for all of us. Yet I feel extraordinarily grateful for the many gifts I enjoy every day, from my health to my life on the water to creating and teaching art to time with loved ones to holding a wild hawk in my hand (see GGRO.org) to… well, too may things to list. I’ve been encouraged lately to celebrate the life I have designed. OK. Will do.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | buzzy bees

Saturday afternoon painting. I was going to head to my studio, but felt happier/safer here in my home, getting out my watercolors and selecting a photo to paint from, taken on a recent hike in Tilden Park, where small squadrons of bumblebees were collecting pollen in the profuse poppies growing alongside the trail. It was beautiful, magical, hopeful and fun to watch these industrious critters, buzzing from flower to flower, their legs laden down with pods of pollen like fat orange water-wings. Today: disappearing into a tray of paints, listening to the finches sing outside on my deck, greeting warm and friendly neighbors as they walk by on the docks, sweeping up bird feeder leftovers of sunflower seed husks that stick to my shoes when I walk inside, making peace with my life as it is in this moment. Can’t expect too many functional neurons today. That’s OK. My hands remember how to hold a paintbrush. I am alive, breathing, accepting.

7″ x 6″ watercolor, pen, acrylic ink on paper = $55