watercolor and pastel painting of calla lilies by emily weil

daily painting | kris’s lilies

If you’ve read any of my posts these past few years you know that my soapbox is about making space to grieve in a culture that doesn’t allow it. So — fair warning — I’m climbing onto it again (turn off your hearing aids, pals, I’ve got my bullhorn).

I read a fascinating article about loss in the New Yorker. A woman lost her mom, and tried to function as she had before. It didn’t go so well. So as a journalist she set out to understand her experience.*

I’ve often pondered this experience of grief, and have been very frustrated by these cultural realities. One of the interesting ideas the writer posited is that our American “pursuit of happiness” emphasis may be a factor — no room for feeling bad as we pursue that ephemeral rainbow: “…the ‘pursuit of happiness’ having been turned into an obligation: the challenging aspects of life are now framed as individual burdens… The choking back of sorrow, the forbidding of its public manifestation, the obligation to suffer alone and secretly, has aggravated the trauma of losing a dear one.”

I’m still working my way through these ideas and aspire to accept them. My moods are all over the place, but settling down some; it’s been 10 months since my brother lost his fight with brain cancer. “I’m glad to see your moods are getting lighter!” is something I hear sometimes and it makes me want to scream into my pillow (which I do sometimes). I just want to be myself and feel what I feel on this roller coaster of sorrow and loss. I get frustrated when I’m being monitored to see if I’m starting to feel better as it feels patronizing.

OK that’s my rant for today. Take what you like and leave the rest.

[This painting was done from a lovely photo of calla lilies a very dear friend sent me who knows I love them.]

*The New Yorker Daily: “It’s Mourning in America”

30″ x 22″ watercolor, ink, pastel on paper = $925

 

 

 

watercolor of black and white cat by emily weil

daily painting | benny

I woke up this morning with a revolutionary thought. What if, just for today, I believed that everything I was doing was right and good? If, instead of constantly doubting and criticizing myself, and thinking I should try/work harder, I practiced having complete faith in myself? Now I know from books I’ve read and interviews I’ve heard with brilliant creative folks and personal conversations I’ve had that I’m hardly alone, questioning who I am and what I do. I know an artist who is that rare combination of being both brilliant and financially successful and I heard her mutter to herself words of self-criticism and self-doubt (I don’t think she knew I could hear her, it was a group setting). I was amazed that she of all people questioned herself. So it’s kind of a chronic condition of being human, I think. Especially for someone who bares all, exposing him or herself whether on stage or as a writer or a visual artist. It’s risky. It’s an act of vulnerability, and most of us humans avoid it, creating clever facades of protection. I aspire to embrace the experience, though. To have an open heart and to honor and accept and trust myself and create art from a place that’s deep inside. That’s a helluva thing, isn’t it? Takes ovaries. Wish me luck. I can always pull out my trunk full of Halloween masks if needed.

[This is Benny, commissioned by a friend as a gift to his wife for Valentine’s Day. Benny thinks he’s a dog, has a hilarious parallelogram mustache, goes with the family on neighborhood walks and jumps into the car with mom and dad to go to the drive-through coffee shop where the baristas give him kitty treats.]

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, pastel, pencil 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 by emily weil using pastels, watercolor and ink

daily painting | tempest

I think mourning doves have the prettiest colors. Did you know that they have turquoise eyeliner all around their eyes? I learned that because of the suction-cup birdfeeder on my kitchen window they visited, where I could take a close look (which I had to stop supplying with seeds as the pigeons were clutching onto my window screen, ruining it). I suppose it makes sense I’m fond of a pretty, taupe-colored bird with mourning in its name these days. But don’t get my neighbor started on this species as she hates it when they nest on her front porch; I saw a photo of a dove that had built its nest in the windshield-wiper well of a Honda.

I’ve been pondering the powerful forces of grief and loss (well, duh). Life-changing, for most folks. And no one is exempt from this experience. We are reshaped by deaths and painful losses — for some into despair and bitterness and rage and for others into growth and clarity and greater strength. This fascinates me, how we develop and evolve both as humans and as a country. I want more than anything for the deaths and losses in my life to make me stronger and more resilient. And kinder. And more compassionate. And less encumbered by childhood pain. Losing my sibs has upset my apple cart forcefully, affecting everything. Everything. Last night I couldn’t sleep and was mentally acknowledging various shipwrecks in my life — in my family, in my relationships — and visualized climbing into the lifeboat, rowing away, finding solid land. I can’t imagine feeling dry and safe again, but I suppose I will.
[Did this abstract in my kitchen today.]

9″ x 12″ ink, watercolor, pastel on paper = $140

 

 

 

watercolor, pastel, painting of lily by emily weil

daily painting | lilypalooza

This started as a watercolor, and it just needed a few explosions of firecracker hues to brighten it up. So I went at it with pastels and my graphite stick. It’s always good to toss out expectations of a good final result and let the chalky pastel pinks fly; you just gotta let go of hoping for a keeper and go waaaay outside the lines, you know? This is a source of great pleasure for me. It’s all-out fun, chucking out the rules and flinging them into the dumpster. So, artists and art fans, let’s keep doing that. It just might be your superpower.

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

 

 

 

abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | class demo abstract

I was photographing this painting today and as I edited it to clean up the image in Photoshop I realized it’s kind of a big penis in a salad bowl. Oh well. The unconscious mind at work again.
I was doing this class demo in today’s watercolor workshop I taught, showing different kinds of paper (smooth vs. textured). Then as my marvelous students beavered away on their paintings with great dedication I fooled around a bit more on the composition.
I LOVED teaching the workshop today. A welcome break from brother-care; pursuing my art passions keeps my feet on the ground. One of my lovely students professionally designed commercial displays and many of us have enjoyed his brilliant creations in the Gump’s and Macy’s windows in San Francisco. Another student, amazingly, works for a traffic engineering group for which I worked in the 1980s when in art college; I did admin work for the small office and now the company employs 300+ employees. The founders of that company were very kind to me, and in off hours sometimes let me work on class assignments on their office computers. I’m thrilled at their success.
And life goes on, and isn’t it amazing? Queens leave the planet and kings rise to rule. Enjoyed my day — as I express myself in the arts, at the same time various friends and family members and I support our dear brother as he considers MAID — Medical Aid in Dying; he is experiencing his demise from brain cancer. He reflects often on his life — yesterday he learned that the Mosquito Fire in the Sierra foothills consumed his previous home and ranch where he lived with his first wife — we went outside to enjoy the gardens at his nursing facility yesterday and the smoke was in the air and he pondered if he was inhaling his burnt-up house.

8″ x 7″ ink, watercolor, pastel on paper

 

 

 

watercolor, ink, pastel painting of morning glory by emily weil

daily painting | pill hill morning glory

I can’t remember why I was driving over Pill Hill in Oakland last week; trying to get to the freeway after getting a 2nd booster shot at Kaiser I suppose (Pill Hill is what folks call the area off Broadway that is chock-full of hospitals and medical facilities). But I pulled over for some reason, I think because my purse was on the back seat of my car and the seat belt sensors are ridiculously sensitive and Michelle was yelling at me (Michelle is my wonderful new RAV4). 

Anyways these enormous morning glories, the size of large saucers, with their pointy, lavender tips, were profusely blooming on the corner so I snapped a few pics and painted the scene a few days ago. They were just so healthy and gorgeous. I always get a kick out of seeing lush gardens in urban areas, and that corner of Oakland is about as urban as you can get.

Anything that is part of the natural world comforts me enormously as I watch my brother slowly fade and decline from brain cancer. Last week I visited my wonderful friend Sandy who very recently lost her husband to a heart attack. I was so glad to see her and left the house (the house I grew up in) at dusk. As I went out to my car on that wooded Mill Valley hillside I was surrounded by bats! They danced around me and over my head and I was frozen in awe and wonder, listening to the whooshing of their wings. I love bats. It was bat magic.  

10″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, pastel on paper = $130

 

 

 

abstract pastel, watercolor painting by emily weil

daily painting | corpuscles

Today grief is a giant python, circling my neck. Some people I know are afraid of strong emotion so they avoid feelings. I don’t seem to have that ability; today my heart is just a messy, bewildering puddle of loss.

This is one stormy bitch of an ocean to navigate, as most Americans freak out at expressions of pain and sadness. “Don’t get stuck there,” some advise. Others helpfully share admonishments to not “feed the energy” of anguish or rage. Which makes me feel even more alone with my very intense, bright-red feelings. I feel branded. A scarlet letter, tattooed on my neck. Stay away, the letter warns. She’s very emotional these days. She might be overwrought. Out of control. Angry and bitter.

I don’t fear for my sanity (well, sometimes I do, but I’ve been here before). I know that fully embracing the losses of one dead sister from cancer and another sister who committed suicide and my only brother dying from aggressive brain cancer inside of two years is where I am and need to be; feeling every last damn molecule of shock and sorrow. While I hose off the spatters of family dysfunction that regularly spray around the room and forgive me for my metaphor soup.

“I resist nothing” is today’s mantra. That’s the best path. When my mom died my brother’s wife admonished, “rub it in your hair” — fully experience all the grief and sadness. Good advice. Today my gray locks are filthy with ashes. Unattractive but very, very real.

7″ x 7″ ink, watercolor, red wine, pastel on paper = $65

 

 

 

pastel, pencil drawing of yellow pepper of by emily weil

daily painting | class pepper

Saturday I taught a painting/mixed media class at Frank Bette Center in Alameda, a workshop that includes working with watercolor, pencil, pastel and other media. At the end of the class while we were winding down I did a quick take with chalk pastels of a solo pepper I plucked from the still life I’d set up. I don’t think I’ve ever started with pastel; usually I add it on top of a watercolor. Anyways, this turned out to be a chipper pepper, which is interesting to me as the colors that show up in my paintings/drawings are usually bright and primary, rarely reflecting my sad moods these days. Curious, but I’m good with it.

After class I was cleaning up, and out the window of the classroom I noticed a man walking with a person who seemed to be his son; I’ve seen them before on that block. The son, probably in his 30s, seems to be quite mentally impaired and must need constant care (for example, maybe reacting to the restraints of outerwear, he likes to remove all his clothes when he goes outside, prompting his dad to make sure he stays decent). The two of them usually walk around the block, and the affection the dad shows his adult, ailing son brought me to tears as I watched them — they stroll arm-in-arm (sometimes pausing so the young man can embrace a tree). Once I saw the dad lean down slightly and kiss his grown son on the forehead. The dad seems entirely devoted to the well-being of the young man and that show of unconditional love cracked open my sore heart. What a thing of beauty; how lucky I am to have seen it.

7″ x 7″ pastel, pencil on paper = $75

 

 

 

daily painting | abstract amaryllis

I tried to ignore the impeachment trial today. I really did. And I failed. But then I did turn it off for a bit and crank up a few blues tunes and work on the deliciousness of yet another blooming amaryllis stalk, v. 2 from the bulb I received as a gift. The first set of flowers faded and dried up and were replaced by these! And there’s another shoot visible, popping out. Woot! I wanted to be super loose with this painting and use bright colors and pastels and be freewheeling and splashy, so I started with sticks-and-ink, then added big splotches of watercolors, followed by pastels and acrylic pens. Didn’t really care if you could ID the subject. I couldn’t tear myself away from the news so I did this at home, and that was fun too though I often suffer from quarantine cabin fever. But I’m safe. Vaccines are on their way and I’m ready. My gosh I’ll be squeezing my kids and grandkids and great-grandkids until they squawk. Not soon enough. Oh! And Happy Valentine’s Day! You know what? Here’s another thought. Such a damn loaded day of the year, right? I’d always longed for a romantic celebration of this day. And I’m truly fine with what is. And I got wonderful prezzies from my daughter in San Diego (which included a darling mug printed with the words, “Best Effin’ Mimi Ever” [I’m Mimi to my grandkids]). So sweet and it makes my heart so full. Accepting what is is the best. I resist so much, often. But trusting, and letting go, and “non-resistance” equals contentment, and — dare I say? — joy.

16″ x 12″ watercolor, pastel, sticks-and-ink, pencil, acrylic ink on paper = $250