watercolor of guinea pig by emily weil

daily painting | peeking out

I recently heard a conversation on NPR between one dad with a couple of kids and a soon-to-be father. Dad #1 asked dad #2, “You mean to say you voluntarily signed up to have your heart ripped out of your chest EVERY SINGLE DAY for the rest of your life?” I laughed, as it was funny, but damned accurate. I’ve been reading different reviews and articles about how our culture is just beginning to consider previously unspoken points of view on parenting, particularly motherhood. Books are published, movies are made, and intelligent TV series are broadcast exploring how mothers deal with inner, searing conflicts about raising kids. Until now there have been two models of motherhood — the sacrificial saint, a madonna laying down her life for the children, and the bad mom — abusive alcoholic or, god forbid, a selfish career woman who abandons her kids (but usually, in the Hallmark movie, comes to repent and mend her ways). How hard is parenting? Nothing harder. I don’t care if you are CEO of a huge global enterprise, or have climbed Mt Everest 10 times, or are a Pulitzer-prize winning war correspondent. I have two adult children and still I have to practice letting go every single effing day, as they live their own lives and walk their own paths. So I applaud all the moms and dads out there who fumble along and do their best to raise their kids to be healthy, functioning adults. And I am glad women are finally breaking taboos and speaking up about how difficult it is to mother — the self-doubt, the confusion, the resentment, the heartache, the fear you took a disastrous wrong turn. I hope our current cultural climate begets honest conversations about this inner tumult. Because it’s there, even if concealed under the blankets of our sore hearts. And once again I am up on my soapbox! (Please forgive me.) It’s just that I have a fierce longing to be honest and embrace difficult feelings and say them OUT LOUD. Because, well, yes.

Speaking of mothering, this is Buster, my little rescue guinea pig, and I’m his mom. He’s super low maintenance. No drama or worries about his life choices. And he makes the cutest little squeaks (I think his piggie noises translate into, Hey Mom, thanks for the lettuce and cucumber sandwich). You’re welcome, Bubbie.

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

 

 

 

abstract drawing by emily weil

daily painting | doodlebugs

I had written up thoughts on parenting, set to post with a small abstract I was working on, but the painting turned out to be shite. So then I started this one, and it worked out better (I’m practicing moving slowly in a painting, which isn’t my style but a good exercise). I will likely blab about being a mom in a future post, but for today I want to express how I am learning (and relearning) to interrupt a dark descent down the rathole. Today I felt the suck of depression and grief pulling on my ankles, so I forced myself (really, I was not in the mood) to go to a nearby park and walk. It was a wonderful tonic. Such a simple thing. I’m becoming quite fond of Shoreline Park in Oakland, where the estuary merges into San Francisco bay; the park is surrounded by dramatically gigantic container ships and cranes. Big and sprawling, with tons of room and extended walking paths and few humans. Thanks to my wonderful new walking sticks, I can walk longer distances without back pain, so I just kept going, taking in SF skyline and Bay Bridge views, watching seagulls drop shellfish on the concrete surfaces to break the shells (they do that on my roof too, which always cracks me up). Wintering ducks were diving in the small cove there, bug-eating phoebes snatched insects out of the air, families hung out on a pier with fishing poles. Beautiful gentle breezes swirled, and finally a spectacular sunset showed itself off behind the city skyline. While the sun set, hundreds of starlings flew around in flocks, settling into rows of palm trees for the night. Lots of chattering and squawking and rustling as they slipped into the dried palm fronds at the top of the tall trunks. A real treat for the senses, and I gratefully took it all in, glad I got my behind out of the house, breaking the dark spell.

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

 

 

 

watercolor of peaches by emily weil

daily painting | casita windowsill

The way light hits luscious, spherical summer fruits poised on a windowsill always enchants me. If I recall, my gracious host Nancy gave me these Trader Joe’s peaches when I stayed in her San Diego casita last August, and I put them on the sunny sill as they weren’t quite ripe.

I roamed around my photos collection looking for painting subjects and found this snapshot I’d all but forgotten. Peaches in particular are spectacular, don’t you think? Slightly fuzzy, rosy-hued, filled with the promise of drippy, sweet juices. One summer when I was a teen, dad’s peach trees produced such a mouth-watering crop I ate them until I was sick (I’ve never been so thin). I’m becoming more patient with my watercolors — taking more time. A sign of getting older, I guess. What’s the hurry? My world is upended with loss and grief and family upset. Yet painting a scene of summery fruit soothes and comforts my heart. How fortunate I am, to skid into my magical world of watercolors.

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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of oranges by emily weil

daily painting | adrian’s oranges

About this painting — a dear friend asked me to do a still life of oranges from her back yard tree. And it’s a good thing I didn’t eat any of them before I got my watercolors out or there wouldn’t be any left to paint. Tastiest, juiciest oranges I’ve ever had (I think it’s time for another one).

Monday musings — I’ve been chewing on this idea for days. Heard it in a snippet from an NPR interview with a woman who I think teaches poetry classes to prison inmates (only heard the last few mins of the story). Trying to get incarcerated young men to write poems in order to think beyond their current circumstances. To believe in their strong hearts and in hope and in a future.

She asks people to consider: “If I believed one positive thing about myself, how would it change my life?”

So I am practicing believing I am a good artist. A REALLY good artist. And the resistance I feel in my body to that thought! Lordy! Arguments in my head from years of conditioning as a female. That’s boastful. That’s shameful. Quiet humility is best. Shut up and be quiet. Don’t be arrogant or vain. Don’t make noise. Mediocrity is just fine, you wouldn’t want to threaten anyone, especially a man. Don’t aim too high.

What if I did this thing? Believed without hesitation in my abilities to create art? What if you did the same, believing in yourself? In just one thing? It’s so audacious I can hardly digest it. And damned if it doesn’t make me stand taller and square my shoulders and step into sunlight. Talk about going against the current. Well, I can paddle. Got a sturdy canoe. Join me.

7″ x 10″ ink, watercolor, acrylic on paper

 

 

 

watercolor painting of split pomegranate by emily weil

daily painting | barnhill pom

In 2008 I stumbled into Leigh Hyams’ art workshop in Big Sur, CA where she split me open like a watermelon. It was there, with her guidance, that I began to take myself seriously as an artist. She pushed and prodded (sometimes gently, sometimes not) and somehow had a gift of getting her students to reach deep inside and create authentic expressions of art. It was magic and I’d never met anyone like her. I became a devotee on the spot and took every workshop she offered for the next few years, including studying with her in her casita in Mexico, where she died peacefully when in her 80s. She changed my life, and now that I too am teaching art, I aspire to also inspire, though I would never compare myself to her and her gift of teaching. So when I took out this photo of a split pomegranate I had taken near my home, it made me think of being opened up. Of life and how it cracks and breaks us apart, and how we try to let the fissures spill out the juicy stuff (like that saying, our wounds are where the light gets in). 

Recently I came across an article I clipped about Kelsey Grammer, the actor who was on “Cheers” and had his own show, “Frasier” (I may have mentioned him before in a post; if so, forgive me). His motto is, “Stagger on rejoicing,” which is from a W.H. Auden poem. When he was 15 his dad was murdered and his grandfather died later that year. His sister was attacked and killed and his two half-brothers died in a scuba accident. And he continues to live his best life despite more losses than anyone should bear. I am glad I stumbled (or maybe staggered) across that bit of newsprint from several years ago. I’m up. I’m vertical. I continue. I may have a few messy wounds that need stitching up, but I keep my first aid kit nearby (mostly filled with tubes of paint but there might be some Neosporin® in there too).

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

 

 

 

figure drawing painting by emily weil

daily painting | eva

Another Bay Area Models Guild Marathon happened on zoom last weekend, and the quick sketches (short poses) were the most satisfying to draw/paint. But damn I am SO over zoom, are you? (I was tired of it 5 mins into the pandemic, though.) I seriously hope the ComiCon variant of Covid spins itself out, but it feels like we’re back in a discouraging cycle — wash, rinse, repeat. The news is all a bit dismal, so I distract myself whenever possible with things that don’t veer too close to self-destruction, like drawing and painting and taking walks and spending time with caring friends until they are sick of me. I use “notebook therapy” — writing out feelings in a journal. I love to cook, so I make myself comfort-food meals which I look forward to. Let’s see, what else? Oh, right, taking my binos out to the shoreline to try and figure out the difference between sandpipers, plovers and rails, crossing my fingers a local peregrine falcon will stop by, hunting and scattering the little guys poking around at the water’s edge (not that I want any bloodshed, but peregrines are beyond amazing). If you want a fun walk, go out to Chavez Park in Berkeley next to the marina and see the burrowing owls that winter there — extraordinary! OK that’s my Christmas week update. I accept my lessons of today — to keep my heart open, to trust, to dig deeper into my spiritual practice, to believe every day in life’s magic. It’s a challenge, as I default to gloom and doom (I can tell how much I am fighting depression by the state of my house, which is currently messy). But I did totally get out of bed today. 

10″ x 7″ watercolor, pencil, water-soluble graphite on paper

 

 

 

watercolor painting of chicken by emily weil

daily painting | maker farm hen

Chickens. What could be cuter? (Well, living next door to a rooster would probably be annoying, but this coop only has female fowls). Maker Farm in Alameda was the destination of a field trip for the drawing class I was teaching, and I do suggest you check it out (https://bayareamaker.farm). They welcome visitors and have marvelous goats, pigs, flowers, ducks and friendly human farmers. A place of delight for anyone, let alone artists with sketchbooks. I took some photos of those clucking cuties for painting subject matter, and on this sunny day as I reviewed the pics it brought back fond memories of the kind folks there, my delightful drawing class students, the silly and adorable goats and the spotted piggie (who was a bit of a bully and nudged me around). Getting my watercolors out today was fun — I felt joy in creating today, rather than making myself do art (which isn’t a bad thing) which has been my M.O. for the better part of these past 12 months. I feel truly grateful to be alive and experiencing this amazing world. As well as eating the tasty eggs I brought home (ooh, and the lovely colors of the eggs! From a beautiful light blue to golden yellow to creamy white. Gorgeous! Almost hated to crack them open, but I was hungry). Yum-ola.

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

 

 

 

abstract mixed media painting on paper by emily weil

daily painting | weather

Since I was a bit housebound by the Big Howl last Sunday I decided to do a small abstract using materials I had at home (as opposed to hurling drippy acrylic paint at a large canvas in my studio). It kept getting more complicated as I added layers of watercolor and ink and acrylic pen and pencil and god knows what else (maybe spit and string). But it was a satisfying exercise, whatever the results, and in some strange way it holds complicated and detailed thoughts and feelings. It’s a mystery to me how the creative process can soothe (or clarify) emotions by getting them on paper (or canvas) using various media. It’s a bit of magic, really, and I feel very fortunate. Anyways, if you live in CA I hope the atmospheric river didn’t wash you away. It got a bit bumpy on my houseboat, and at one point a big gust blew open the doors that lead outside to my deck (that was a first). But I didn’t end up floating down the estuary or having a neighbor’s sun umbrella spear a living room window. That’s always good.

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

 

 

 

daily painting | hydrangea

Last week the grief fog began, timidly, to lift. I had heartfelt, healing and warm conversations with my niece as she came through town; we talked about family and her mom who committed suicide in May. Just voicing the frustrations with, anger towards and love for my sister Diana felt like a balm that soaked in deep, because Kirsten gets it, as she works through her own shock and loss. It was a welcome gift, to comfort one another. I am so grateful for all the resources I have access to — grief groups, therapists, warm friends, open-hearted family members, writing exercises, painting, and banding hawks. All these are medicines, healing my fractured soul and shattered heart. And joy is starting to creep back in around the edges of my life (and I’ll take it!). The cement shoes that make it hard to get out of bed in the morning are starting to crack and chip. The finches at my birdfeeder make me laugh a bit more heartily, and my new housemate, Buster Posey, my rescue guinea pig (who is Giants-orange) that a friend found abandoned on the side of the road, is hilarious and adorable and tolerates brief cuddles (“cavies” are pretty low-maintenance pets, I am learning). Little puddles of relief. Marvelous.

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

 

 

 

watercolor and ink drawing of pear by emily weil

daily painting | solo pear

In between my Friday chores I pulled out my paints to do a quick study of the Bosc pear in my fruit bowl (before I devoured it). More fun doing this than laundry, I tell ya. And a tonic after doing some writing this morning as part of my crunching through painful feelings regarding my relationship with my sister who died last Nov. As part of the wonderful support Death with Dignity in Seattle offers, the organization that helped my sister end her life, I joined the weekly support group Zoom sessions as a way to help work out my complicated feelings about my younger sister, and the facilitator suggested we write a letter to our lost loved one, and perhaps even try writing a response. So I did it this morning (I should buy stock in Kleenex® for god’s sake). I expressed anger. I wrote about frustrations with her as she resolutely refused to talk about what happened when we were kids and suffered violence at the hands of our raging dad (she was not on speaking terms with her feelings). I kind of let it all out on paper, and was a bit surprised at how much better I felt (I was thinking, OK, yeah, done this before); the response letter, which I also wrote, was loving and honest. Yes, her letter to me was imaginary. But very comforting and healing.

Grief just takes a big stiff steel brush and scrubs off the rusty bits, leaving me raw and roughed up. It is taking me more deeply into pain from a wretched family dynamic when I was small, and my heart is mending. Today I have a welcome opportunity to “go deep” and forgive and make peace with all this turbulence. Not a pleasant journey by any stretch. But I chose this pot-holed path and I think I can slough off part of my painful family’s legacy, and that’s a gift. Our brains, man. So complicated. So full of possibility.

8″ x 8″ ink, watercolor on paper = $85