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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of bald eagle by emily weil

daily painting | BAEA

I felt moved to do this rendering of a Bald Eagle (“BAEA” is the scientific abbrev.), one of the most amazing, in my opinion, birds of prey ever hatched (but I share that passion for Peregrine Falcons too; well hell, I guess that applies to all raptors). For me eagles are a representation of the divine — Great Spirit, God, Goddess, The Universe, Being, whatever term suits you. Last week my marvelous eagle-watching pal Paul and I observed both Golden Eagles and two (TWO!) Bald Eagles in flight in Sunol. We even got to see the GOEA and the BAEA get into a tussle; we think the GOEA wasn’t appreciating that the BAEA wanted to perch on the same electrical tower (to our amazement, the bald ended up perching on the tower just below the golden — another more experienced eagle watcher posited that the bald placed itself there as it was out of reach to the golden).

I am always so nervous about sharing my spiritual path publicly but I’m going to anyways. I feel a powerful connection to Spirit. It feeds my soul, keeps my feet on the earth, gives me stamina when I am wilting, and helps me keep hoping when I feel lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon wheel rut. So today, a grateful tribute to Eagle and its embodiment of Spirit. 

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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of wildflowers by emily weil

daily painting | vargas wildflowers

Yesterday I finished up the commissioned painting (which I will post once the loving gift of the artwork has been received) and as I putzed around my studio and sprayed the piece with fixative (outside, very toxic) and waited it for to dry, I pulled out my phone to view my photos and decided to do a quickie watercolor and pastel of the lovely wildflowers just starting to bloom in the East Bay hills at Vargas Plateau near Sunol where I had plopped myself down at a viewpoint hoping to spot the resident Golden Eagles. Saw many more cows than eagles (along with ravens and meadowlarks and red tails and kestrels!), and a bovine portrait or two might end up in a future painting. In that park, ridges of rocks pop out of the hilltops looking like dinosaur spines and since these days parks are way busier than usual, I got to say hello to few hikers and bike riders while there with my scope. I took a few pics of these very pink, small flowers, growing like a mat on the ground, and since my main watercolor supplies live in my home, not my studio, I improvised with colors I don’t usually use, adding chalky pastels once the paint was dry, keeping things quick and spontaneous. It was more a time-filler than anything else, which supports my theory that the less I try to produce “good art,” the better the results as I liked how this one turned out.

And here’s another puzzle — my moods currently ping all over the room, in my time of loss and grief, and I’m mystified at how I can flip from joyful dancing and painting and arting with the tunes of Otis Redding or the Temptations in my earbuds to, 5 mins later, sitting in my studio chair, weeping. We humans are weird. They were good days last week, both out in the hills and in my studio.

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9″ x 9.25″ watercolor, pencil, pastel on paper = $85

 

 

 

daily painting | this old house

A falling-down house on the backside of an Alameda parking lot. Windows askew, roof curling at the corners (this painting is only slightly exaggerated). Really cool stuff. I’m feeling a bit dilapidated too but I think it’s because it’s day 53 of house arrest. I am thinking about creating an adjustable button I can wear, like the signs you see in workplaces sometimes that boast they have been accident-free for however many days. “Day 53 of Covid Isolation!” and wear it proudly. It feels kind of macho. I think it is a contribution to the health of our community, though. Spoke to a friend in another part of the state and people are quite relaxed about socially distancing there. I will refrain from political statements here. At least for today. “I’ve gone 1.5 days without complaining about Trump!” My 2nd button. So many possibilities.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | pink dance

This was a work in progress that started from an older painting that seemed outdated. I tacked it up on the wall of my studio and asked it what it wanted. I often have these dialogues with my abstract paintings, and they tell me which colors to add, which media, what shapes. A conversation with my deeper self, I suppose — it’s cliche, but I trust my intuition as I move through the process of painting. I lose track of time, sometimes have to sit down and cry and work through grief that bubbles up, and, once I feel the piece is done, alternate between loving it and loathing it. Ping ponging around from confidence to satisfaction to despair to self-doubt,  which is the game of being an artist. Because my studio in Oakland is safe, as I am usually the only one there, I am glad to have it as an alternate space to ride out house arrest. It’s a container for me that holds me and shelters me and is dedicated to imagination and creation. I am endlessly grateful for that spot, and to Patricia, the landlady who generously helps improve the space and make it more comfortable.

44″ x 34″ acrylic, collage, pencil, oil pastel on canvas = $1945

 

 

 

daily painting | easter tulips

This Alameda front yard was bursting with Easter color, and the tulips in particular were so sensual and copious they almost made me blush. Rose-colored and violet and plush pink against the white picket fence — full of life and hope. Hope helps me work through these days of house arrest; maybe we are halfway through, who knows (today is day 31)? The Transamerica Pyramid has its beacon on at the top as a way of saying thank you to medical workers on the front lines and a “hang in there everyone!” for those of us who feel isolated and cooped up. At high tide I can go out on my deck and see that particular slice of the San Francisco skyline, and that pulsing light does indeed make my heart feel better. Any shred to hang onto that makes me feel encouraged, lighter, happier. Funny! Such a simple thing, yet it helps. In a fit of thankfulness I wrote an email to Ms Chan, a manager there to express my appreciation. She wrote back right away to thank me. A brief, warm connection that brightened my day.

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

 

 

 

 

daily painting | quarantine art club

Two-to-four-o’clock this afternoon was a chunk of heaven. Friend and neighbor Liz and I did session four of the Quarantine Art Club (perfectly named by Liz). From a 6′ distance we sit and draw and sketch and paint in and around our marina in Alameda. I loved this little dinghy suspended from the stern of its mother ship and went straight for it. The drawing was the thing here, as I loved the whole scene, and then I added color. A good drawing can easily become an overly complicated painting, and once I was done with the watercolors I thought it was a little too dark and busy so I added acrylic pen to jazz it up a bit and, hopefully, unify the piece. Then it became a party on D dock. The warm sun, the laughter, drawing and painting and relaxing and, best of all, the company of a good friend. Two hours of joy.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | sunny apple

On a recent bright sunny afternoon, the warm rays coming through my window were striking, so I took an apple out of the fruit bowl and positioned it on my dining room table where the sun was saying hello. It actually felt hopeful, all that golden warmth glowing on the apple. It was a peaceful scenario, belying the full-throttled crisis we are all living in right now as Covid19 roars across our country, helped by lagging government officials who pretended it wasn’t on its way. That tricky little bitch! Spreading herself gleefully, often through folks who are infected without them knowing it. So. Here we are, in the thick of it. And as a country we are strong, and we will get through this. And this too shall piss (nope, not a typo). Those of us seniors who live alone are challenged by the isolation (I certainly am) so here are some of my adaptations, in case what I am learning is helpful: • I only do one day at a time. Period. This morning I felt a bucketful of anxiety pressing on my chest, so I got out my headphones and tuned into a meditation recording I use to guide me spiritually. It makes a big difference. Starting my day like that really helps. • In the morning I talk to myself out loud about how I will organize my day — which tasks I will undertake, what art I will create, who I will call, how I will get exercise. It’s like a daily roadmap. • I also write in a journal, which helps me get anxious thoughts out of my head and onto paper. They seem more manageable that way. • I try to remember that hope is the one thing that we all need to get through hard times of any variety. We are made of sturdy stuff and, one foot in front of the other, will get to the other side.

An added note about the painting subject matter — my table has these pretty little fringed table runners on top of the tablecloth. They are delicate and beautiful linens, purchased a number of years ago in Istanbul at an open market. I fell in love with the fine craftmanship of the pieces (probably “craftwomanship” is more accurate) and, though at the time I did not have my own home but lived in an apt. with a shared kitchen, I suppose there was a part of me that hoped one day I would have my own kitchen and dining room table. Hope is a funny thing — I had no basis for that possibility, but it was in me anyways. Keep hoping, everyone. It is fuel for our hearts and souls.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | zooming in

I took Sue’s glorious photo of California poppies and zoomed in to do another painting which I hope is instructional for my dear art student. And I’m oh-so-cleverly punning around (ha!), as using Zoom software for video conferencing is the way so many of us are connecting in today’s upside-down, infected world (STAY AT HOME! STAY AT HOME!). Paints, pens, watercolor paper are all helping me keep my head on, along with my careful ventures to my studio in Oakland, where I am alone and isolated and also safe as usually I’m the only one there; yesterday I started to rework a large acrylic abstract. I am so fortunate to have that getaway. Everything is normal inside my space there.

I got blown sideways last night as I had a full-on panic attack. It’s been decades since that has happened (though I certainly have had panicky moments) so I didn’t know what was happening at first (I was listening to music for god’s sake!). So I am treading gingerly and carefully and lovingly today around my emotions, creating safe mental spaces to get through this viral and exceedingly lonely emergency; the one thing that helps is only doing what’s directly in front of my nose. And breathing. Deeply. And getting outside (safely!). I am extremely fortunate to have a lovely place to live on the water. Which is what I was enjoying last night, out on my deck, admiring the watery views, when the panic ambushed me. Our brains are weird.

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

 

 

 

 

daily painting | sue’s poppies

So my student Sue gives me photos she has taken and we paint them together. We used to do it in the same room, but we’ve had to change our methods. She sent me a lovely pic of California poppies, and today I did a small painting from her lovely shot. I feel guilty, actually — the photo is her creation and I’m taking advantage! But hopefully some learning is taking place (like, I’m learning how to videotape, I’m learning to appreciate social interactions I used to take for granted, I’m learning to only do one day at a time during these lonely days). Anyways, poppies are so cheery and gorgeous and vibrant and floppy. I love them. Thank you Sue for letting me paint from your wonderful scenes. It’s helping to occupy my mind and keeping it from sliding into dark places.

10″ x 7″ watercolor, pen on paper