daily painting | november

My brother is upstairs dying. He’s dying while playing online poker with his long-time pals. He’s dying while he eats his lunch of “unidentifiable white fish.” He’s dying while I sit in a pocket of thin November sunlight on a lovely patio with views of Mt Tam, listening to the pleasant watery voice of a garden fountain that is murmuring next to my comfy outdoor-furniture perch. [And yes I suppose I should acknowledge that my brother is also upstairs living, which is true and wonderful.]

I am staring through sun-lit branches of autumn reds and yellows, waiting for my grief-tears to catch up with me; it’s pointless to try and absorb the NYT Book Review, for my attention span does not stretch past five sentences. I am immersed in sorrow and that is my present moment that I haltingly, reluctantly embrace. There’s a gray-cloudy peace that comes from this acceptance of wretchedness. It’s awful. I adore my brother and losing him will be like losing an essential body part. I dread that concrete wall of loss I will smash into — but there it is, getting closer. I clutch at hopeful lessons and positive thoughts but they are slippery and fleeting and I’m exhausted and angry from trying to keep my damn chin up. And… last night’s moonrise took my breath away.
[This painting was a quick watercolor class demo]

9″ x 10″ ink, watercolor on paper




watercolor and ink drawing of red pepper by emily weil

daily painting | upstanding pepper

I may have previously stated that I adore the shapes of bell peppers. I couldn’t help but do another pass at this guy before he ends up as dinner. It sure seems the fewer expectations I have for a “keeper” painting, the more happily surprised I am with results — I put my watercolor pad and paints out on my kitchen counter as in between appointments and chores and phone calls and errands I just wanted to enjoy the messy creative process. I so love the rounded, twisted, bent shapes of this savory (and sometimes sweet) vegetable! Whether applying ink-and-stick or watercolor or pencil (or, more likely, all of the above), it’s a fabulous subject to rest my eyeballs on, and my splashing around with ink and cadmium red paints is a delight. And my day was made even sweeter by a thoughtful text from a grandchild. OK now I must get back to preparing a roast chicken dinner and putting together a lunchbox for banding tomorrow. What a goofy, rewarding, wonderful old-lady life this is. [I’ll post a pic at some point of the magnificent adult red tail hawk we banded last week; see ggro.org if you are curious.]

12″ x 9″ sticks-and-ink, watercolor, acrylic on paper = $140




watercolor and ink drawing of red pepper by emily weil

daily painting | pepper

A large bulbous deep-red-hued pepper just gets me all excited to get out my watercolors. As soon as I saw it in the bin at Berkeley Bowl, I knew it would get painted several times before it ended up in my fry pan getting sautéed for a pasta dish (now that they make quite palatable gluten-free pasta). I could do dozens of iterations of this gorgeous vegetable; I need to go back to get yellow and green ones. I think I was smitten with peppers when I first saw Edward Weston’s black and white photos of these guys years ago — so many ways to enjoy their sensual shapes. I’m not even that crazy about this creation, but I will do more — sometimes in the produce dept I am shopping more for interesting still life subjects than dinner. Let me pivot now into gratitude for every day happy events (which includes finding surpisingly shaped veggies), such as joining a lively group of urban sketchers at Urban Ore in Berkeley (one artist recognized my masked-self not by my visage but by my spattered palette, which is like going to the dog park and knowing all the dogs by name but none of the humans). I painted a bin of brooms, which is an OK painting. I was grateful to have a phone conversation with my niece whose loss of her mom to suicide is still so fresh and painful; I’d like to think we comfort each other. I was also lucky enough to be invited to a small, Covid-safe BBQ in a friend’s back yard in Berkeley and the grilled salmon was exquisite, as was the most remarkable pie I think I’ve ever had, along with warm and loving conversations. And then coming home and feeling happy for community but also glad to rest by myself on my lily pad and sitting on my deck under the dim stars while black-crowned night herons squawk as they alight on the bow of my neighbor’s sailboat. There are always problems to solve in life — losses to mourn, conflicts to resolve, questions that will never be answered. But these daily gifts are sparks that light my way.

9″ x 12″ sticks-and-ink, watercolor, acrylic on paper = $140




daily painting | limey still life

Thanks to the bounty of the Berkeley Bowl produce dept I have quite a selection of fruits to assemble for a quickie still life. I hadn’t planned on doing this today but some of my fruit bowl items were so colorful and interesting I needed to pull them out and arrange them on my table. At first I did a painting of one of those funny, pompadour-sporting sumo tangerines with its bumpy topknot but I wasn’t satisfied with the results (the tangerine looked more like an orange with a cerebral tumor). Then I thought I’d compose a quick work with limes and this roma tomato which was fun (I ate the beets. They are gone.). Even though I’m at home for this Staycation, my body is more relaxed, I feel more at ease, and I can sense all my parts — my psyche in particular — mending. It’s hugely comforting knowing I can take care of myself this way and bringing out my paints also is a healing exercise. I’m putting a dent in my stack of New Yorkers, making myself lovely dinners, visiting friends (safely), sleeping late, watching movies (last night’s fare: “African Queen”). Escapism and rest and outdoor fun are my priorities and every day I feel better. I’m filled with gratitude that I am near so many beautiful scenes, from beaches to redwood groves to wildlife on the estuary just out my window. I am absorbing it all and becoming whole.

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




watercolor painting of beet by emily weil

daily painting | beet in a pleat

I know it shows a lack of imagination, doing two beet posts in a row, but I just love the shape of these veggies. So I did another watercolor of the same subject, and since I started it late in the afternoon in waning light, I left the long-tailed root vegetable, a bit coyly hidden behind folds in the napkin, on the table as I planned on continuing the painting today. In the meantime, as per usual, as dusk descended, I chased rats off my bird feeder (a useless activity, they are repeat customers) and as I half-glanced at this still life arrangement on my table later in the evening, it resembled a dead rat with a long tail. Or maybe a sleeping rat. Either way it made me laugh. Rats are OK if it means I also get to have bird visitors. I’ve made my peace with the rodents, though I did shake cayenne pepper on my rubber mat outside as the rats rudely started chewing on it to get bits for their nests. I had pet rats as a kid until the dog killed them, so I’m not averse to their visits to my deck. I’m OK with the squirrel too. Any damn thing with a beating heart.

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




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