watercolor painting of twisty bark trees by emily weil

daily painting | twisty bark

You never know what you’ll discover roaming around the funny, funky corners of Alameda Point, home of a former navy base. On a bike ride, I spotted these fascinating, rough-barked trees that were so rich with texture and shadow and twisty-turny shapes. Painting and drawing these wonderful trees with their beautiful bark patterns comforted me today as I am trying to take in the info that we live in a country where we really like shooting each other. Gack. Too horrific to contemplate. Makes me remember standing in line to board a BART train years ago, while a couple of young Australian backpackers/travelers stood behind me, marveling at what they’d experienced as they traveled the U.S. They were agog at how we Americans love our guns, having just visited a shooting range. Sure made me stop and think about how visitors view our culture. As kids we used to shoot cans off tree limbs out in the country and I really enjoyed it. But, seriously? What is happening here?

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

 

 

 

daily painting | sidewalk pumpkins

Walking down Spear St. a few weeks ago in San Francisco to meet my small, tough group of friends and family to do the Bay to Breakers (Covid-style, no crowds), a vendor had a pumpkin stand and was calling it a day and putting away the baskets of these orange lovelies. It was an incongruous and delightful sight, and I snapped a few photos, thinking, “Where am I, Half Moon Bay or downtown San Francisco?” Anyways, that B-to-B group had way more grit than I did! My fierce brother outwalked the group, even with Parkinson’s (his 49th Bay to Breakers!). My sister is being beat by breast cancer, and she soldiered on to the finish line, as did her son and my brother’s two friends, the Michaels. I petered out after 4 miles as my hips were complaining too much and I don’t even have an illness to blame it on. Not so tough. But it was a blast. SF is a great walking city. Now, let me switch to another walking story, which will make this post a bit lengthy and thank you for your patience.

My ailing sister, who is squeezing every last drop out of her life (who on earth gets kicked out of hospice, twice? Because she wasn’t done traveling? She’s a rock star!), was recently visiting from Seattle and doing, in her words, her Farewell Tour. She wanted to walk around our old neighborhood in Mill Valley, and I asked to join her. I was a bit reticent, as there are memory-bombs around every corner, and many are awful. But I also very much wanted to go, especially with her.

We had a ball, sharing funny memories and remembering stories about childhood friends and neighbors. We walked to our house at the end of Homestead Blvd, which is now nicely paved instead of gravelly and filled with potholes. Kay knocked on the front door, asking the owner if it was OK to walk through the yard, and she graciously invited us in to see the house.

Lordy, it was amazing. Sandy has lived there now 50 years! And it’s beautiful. It is filled with light and love and art and paintings of birds instead of pain and loneliness and abuse. It was a wonder. It hasn’t changed a lot (a few added skylights), but it is transformed, as Sandy is a warm, kind woman (and a birder and an artist!). It was a seminal moment for me, as now I think of that house, that contained so much sorrow when I was a child, as a place of joy and beauty. It was one of those marvelous curveballs life throws at you — and it became a surprise home run. Score!

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

 

 

 

daily painting | alameda dahlias

Sidewalk blooms flourish outside urban Maker Farm near my marina (these dahlias are from a summertime photo). Spent better part of weekend slopping drippy wet paint around, using my kitchen counter as an artboard; I have new paint spatters decorating my laptop. Had to make myself turn off TV news and put on headphones (blues channel, Amazon Prime station) so I didn’t grind my teeth as I painted. I worked on 4 or 5 paintings and only got one “keeper.” Which is fine, I am not so concerned with final results, but it is nice to get one I want to show here. I felt elated to have cooler breezes and improved air quality, and gosh am I getting good at adapting to this Covid-infested world. Grateful for friends with whom I can visit at a safe social distance. Glad for walks through Mill Valley with my sister, stomping through our old neighborhood and having the current owner of our childhood home invite us in, everyone wearing masks (we knocked on the door to see if we could walk through the yard; I’ll write more about that amazing experience in another post). Happy for times with Claire as she works on getting Uncle Fuzzy’s house cleaned out. So pleased to have talks on the phone with grandkids. Life as an old lady is pretty good even in this 2020 shit show. Worth it to put on my rubber gloves to dig through yuck and look for the sparkly things.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | fuzzy’s apple tree

There is an apple tree in Uncle Fuzzy’s back yard that was lovingly tended to by his neighbor, Penny. These red orbs caught the afternoon sun beautifully, so I snapped a few pics while visiting Claire there recently and soothed my heart by painting them today while embracing my own disbelief that Fuzzy is no longer with us. Death is so damn final. It’s hard to accept, and at the same time I treasure my fond memories of him (and also am grateful for not-so-fond memories of his stubborn, irascible nature). He lived fully and gratefully, and I miss him. [And, dear Fuzzy, if that was you out on the lightpost near me in the form of a gorgeous adult red-shouldered hawk, thank you for visiting!]

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

 

 

 

daily painting | toms

Eons ago I had a relative that used to call women tomatoes (pron. ta-MAY-tas). He thought he was funny; I thought he was an ass. Thanks to divorce I am no longer in that man’s orbit, but as I painted these luscious and sweet toms yesterday I pondered the widely accepted use of sexist labels. So demeaning. It makes me want to throw squishy, ripe tomatoes in his direction. And I do think we all are becoming more aware and respectful. But wow, those colors! (How’s that for a pivot?) So deeply red and gorgeous. I bought more of them yesterday from a produce stand in Mill Valley and they are already arranged on the table for another painting. Trying some new and fun painting techniques — loosely painted areas first, then pen, then more paint if needed and maybe some acrylic pen work. These beauties are a celebration of summer — however hot, smoky, isolated, worried and politics-obsessed my days are, I can still enjoy the bounty of a farm-fresh fruit stand. I’m adding that to my gratitude list.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | trinity

This trio of tall, sturdy trees watches over the Tennessee Valley trail in Mill Valley. They are striking, intertwined, connected, commanding, imposing, confident. Cypress trees, perhaps. I love their gnarled, grooved bark. I walked on this trail last week after visiting my ailing friend who lives nearby. The Bay Area is so amazing for its corners of wildness next door to glass skyscrapers.

So in yesterday’s post I alluded to a moment I had. I’ll do my best here to describe it. I’ve been thinking about metaphors for worries and pains and losses. Bricks on my chest? Wasps circling around my brain trying to build a nest? Howling monkeys swinging from neuron to neuron? Anyways, I felt like my anxieties and griefs were so painful and weighty I needed to do something. It was like I was wearing cement shoes. I’m a big believer in rituals, so I wrote down all the concerns I wanted to let go of. Economic collapse, serious family illnesses, friends with cancer, depression, a list of losses, horrifying politicians, pandemic panic, isolation, loneliness, mental illness (it doesn’t run in my family, it gallops).

I listed the items I wanted to release, drew a circle around each one, cut them out, and did a burning ritual (I couldn’t find my sage, though; better get more). Ceremonies I do like this usually help some, but this one really felt significant. When the wind blew the ashes away as I sat on my deck in the foggy breezes, I felt less burdened. Also a kind of acceptance of being where I am in the world today — an aging woman and painter living on my sweet little houseboat. I’m here. I’m good. And many thanks to dear Sue for the suggestion.

But I have to add yesterday’s story to this post as it can’t wait. Sorry for the lengthiness of my blog today.

Again after visiting Uncle Fuzzy I headed to Ft Cronkhite to walk on Rodeo Beach — the air is less smoky, the surfers are fun to watch, the waves are always cleansing and soothing and maybe I’d find another heart-shaped rock. Yesterday there were dolphins too! 

And a dead body. It had washed up on the beach and as I arrived park rangers and firefighters were there setting up yellow tape around him. Life at once felt so precious and so disposable. He was fully clothed and appeared to be a young, slender African American man. Who was very much dead.

That was a first. I watched the officials with curiosity, took my walk, then left as they were waiting for the medical examiner. I was upset, and it was a jolt, but not until last night did I break down and cry. Who was he? Was he loved? Did he suffer at death? Lots of tears, but they were cleansing.

How’s that for a helluva week so far?

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