watercolor and ink drawing of hollyhock by emily weil

daily painting | peralta hollyhock

As I left my therapist Lucy’s office on Peralta Ave in Albany the other day I noticed this lovely hollyhock towering in a yard across the street (snapped a photo). There’s something about these flowers — I only see them in the summer, and they seem quite accessible and almost pedestrian but also very gorgeous. They are not sophisticated or aloof, like a perfectly grown rose or an elegant lily. Which is why I think they are magnificent. Lucy is helping me walk through this very difficult chapter in my life (and in my family) — death, dysfunction, addiction, estrangement, cancer and suicide lurk. And death is a natural — even miraculous — part of life. And those of us left behind get out our mops and try to clean up the bloody bits of our beat-up spirits. Lucy advises me to keep my heart open. Which often seems impossible. But when I do, and choose to see the love and magic in the world that surround me, my steps are a bit lighter — I appreciate the red-shouldered hawk that flies overhead when I have conversations on the Mill Valley patio with my brother as we sit under a huge, blooming magnolia tree. Bright scarlet dragonflies zoom around outside my houseboat, skimming the estuary waters. Red tail hawks in a nearby Monterey Pine dodge dive-bombing crows. I get to see golden eagles have kids in the Sunol hills. Finches and sparrows mob the bird feeder on my deck. And, best of all, I absorb the warm hugs and loving affection from my brother. It’s a beautiful world.

OK now I am going to follow the steps a counselor suggested years ago when we experience hard times: Dial 911, step over the body, and do the dishes.

10″ x 7″ ink, watercolor on paper

 

 

 

daily painting | sketches

Ahhh… nice to be back on my lily pad in Alameda. I live here in a floating home in Barnhill Marina, across from Jack London Square and we residents are trying to get the word out about our lovely, caring, tight-knit community. It’s a joy to live here, and we want the Bay Area to know about us. Pass it on, would you please?

I recently returned from a road trip to the Grand Canyon and other interesting spots in AZ. I have been painting away — Red Rock State Park near Sedona, cute, spiky barrel cacti, glorious crimson rocky peaks. For all my slopping cadmium reds around in my watercolor sketchbooks, I’ve produced nothing I want to post. Ah, well. Such is art. Having a getaway was the best, though. A change of scenery is always good for the soul, and the dry deserts of Arizona couldn’t be more different from my watery life here on my houseboat. Had a ball; will share more on that in future posts. 

Today’s sketches in a pleasant park in Berkeley, Cedar Rose Park, were fun to do. I was killing time as my car was being serviced nearby. It was an hours-long wait, but time moved quickly on this temperate, breezy, sunny day as I roamed through the snapshots in my head of roadrunners, flowering prickly pear cacti, a lovely butterfly enclosure in a botanical desert park my dear friend Kerry brought me to, and the gloriousness of the full moon rising in Rimrock, AZ. So many moments of deep gratitude.

ink drawings in small moleskine sketchbook

 

 

 

watercolor and pastel painting of sailboat by emily weil

daily painting | for dominic

I felt honored to participate in a plot instigated by my neighbor to create a surprise gift for her husband. Dina and Dom are sadly moving away from our marina, and they will be missed by everyone on B dock. As an appreciation to her husband who lovingly supports their move for her exciting new job, Dina gave me a photo of Dom sailing his boat with their beloved floating home in the background (the upper left corner shows the silos, used during WWII to store cement for ship-building, in our parking lot). It was a wonderful, big juicy secret and I was a happy part of the conspiracy. Their love for each other touched me and it was great fun.

Another thing about Dina — some months ago she posted on the marina FaceBook page a photo of an otter she spotted early one morning, hanging out on the docks not far from my boat. It was terribly exciting! Recently I had my front door cracked open on a warm day, and heard a funny, watery, plopping noise so I went out to investigate. A river otter (ID confirmed by helpful folks at the Marine Mammal Ctr)! On the houseboat deck next door. It nosed around and then defecated on a coiled hose, officially making this my neighbor Nancy’s poopdeck. I scrambled to take a few pics and then Steve (named by another neighbor who has seen him before) slipped back into the water and away he went. Little Stevie River Otter. I was thrilled and completely smitten. Hope he stops by again.

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21″ x 20″ watercolor, pencil, pastel on paper

 

 

 

daily painting | christmas still life

You know you are an artist when you roam the produce dept at Berkeley Bowl looking for still life material instead of recipe ingredients. In this case I “shopped my refrigerator” and put this together on this most remarkable Christmas Day, the first day in my 68 years to have a solo quarantined December 25th. Wow, I must say it’s been pretty damn interesting. And amazingly happy. I knew it would be a quiet day here in the marina (neighbors’ remodeling projects temporarily stilled), and I’ve been paying attention to and appreciating a complete lack of family drama. Is that a good thing? Am I destined to become a recluse? Who knows. But I admit I am glad to observe my adaptability to this somewhat sequestered life. And I completely enjoyed a rainy, windy holiday walk on Crown Beach with a good friend. As I sit in my slightly rocking houseboat enjoying a winter storm’s arrival, anticipating putting together a Christmas feast just for one, I am standing outside myself a bit and watching my life as an aging woman. Content, surely. Filled with grief — how could I not be? Flexible, sturdy and rolling with the 2020 punches. Merry Christmas everyone. Though, as a dear friend said, “Merry” and “Christmas” are not exactly a well-matched pair this year.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | december persimmon

I think most of us would agree that this is a December unlike any other. For the first time in forever I will be locked down at home instead of in San Diego for Christmas with grandkids — so many Americans will be quarantined as well, lonely for family. I am grieving my sister, who was taken out by cancer, but I cannot ask my friends for hugs. I watch in horror as Covid death numbers rocket through the stratosphere in the US. I worry myself sick about my daughter’s family. I watch politicians deny and subvert the truth. It’s like trying to breathe after having been swept off the mountain by an avalanche, crushed under eight feet of snow.

And yet. Small treasures keep my focus on the glory of just being alive today. Bike rides to Crab Cove to meet a kind and warm friend and together watching leggy black-necked stilts at the water’s edge (I looked them up!). Spicy, hammy bean soup in the crock pot. Getting out my tray of watercolors and painting this persimmon I set up on a flowery napkin I lifted from Uncle Fuzzy’s kitchen. Doing mindless chores like laundry which soothes me. Celebrating my health. Drinking my sister’s favorite brand of tea I ordered on Amazon, brewed in the little metal teapot she used every morning that her wonderful husband mailed to me. Netflix series about spies in WWII. Green herons out my kitchen window. Inhaling fabulous apple-cranberry homemade pie a friend made. Marveling at the hopeful news of vaccines. Dancing lights on my ceiling, reflections from the water outside my boat. Finches fighting at the birdfeeder. These are small slices of life that keep me from being squished, giving me a breathing tube that reaches up through the suffocation of snow into fresh air. I know I am quite sturdy, all-in-all, but Jesus, Mary and the Pips what a year.

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