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

 

 

 

watercolor + pastel painting of snowy egret by emily weil

daily painting | snowy egret

This snowy egret with its yellow slippers often stalks its fishy treats just outside my window on the muddy edges of the San Francisco estuary. This is commissioned painting #2 for my dear neighbor; this bird is a favorite of hers, with its wispy, snow-white feathers and careful search of watery prey at the water’s edge (OK and my apologies but here’s a favorite joke: “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted”). Anyways, thought I’d share this on my daily paintings page as I have been spending time in my studio working on large paintings again. Stay tuned.

15″ x 20″ watercolor, ink, pastel on paper

 

 

 

watercolor painting of night heron by emily weil

daily painting | visitors

Late at night I will sometimes sit out on my deck, enjoying the midnight hour and watching the black-crowned night herons hunt on the docks (William, a young one still in juvenile plumage, often comes by and I saw him with a small silvery fish in its beak, but curiously he didn’t swallow it right away. I’m pretty sure William loves me). It’s peaceful — no construction noise, no clackety dock carts rolling by, no motorboats being rinsed off in the washing area, no neighbors coming and going. Last night I was admiring the gorgeous moon hanging out above the parking lot silos (and is that Jupiter up there?) — it’s still and calm. I noticed a disturbance in the water, just below the surface — then a harbor seal popped up, taking in the scene. I could hear it breathing. It was the coolest thing — harbor seals are not unusual out in the estuary, but this is only the second time I’ve seen one visit B dock. What a wonderful nocturnal hello.

This painting of a night heron (with its mating-season flirt feather on display, stilting through the mossy mud) was commissioned by a lovely neighbor who wants to take our birds with her as she may move north. I hope she stays. Neighbors like her don’t grow on trees.

15″ x 20″ watercolor, ink, pastel on paper

 

 

 

watercolor painting of trumpet flowers by emily weil

daily painting | front yard

Trumpet flowers have magical, drippy shapes that capture my attention every time, especially the light-colored ones that seem to luminesce in the afternoon sun. This scene was in a yard a block off Park St in Alameda, and I did a couple of passes at it with watercolors; adding ink and pastels livened up the painting.

I am enjoying my houseboat here in the marina on this peaceful, overcast, weekend afternoon. Neighbors are out, finches are chirping at the feeder (hoping for the oversized, always-ravenous pigeons to move along). Waiting for a friend to drop by for a yogurt-and-fruit-and-cookies visit. I have been writing “my story” in my journal, as advised by the skilled and compassionate facilitator of the Death with Dignity online grief support group that just started up. This dead-sisters-grief-process is pretty much still turning me inside out, so I try to just sit with all this heart-turbulence, but not without resentment that my nerves are still raw hamburger. I suppose this will all pass at some point (please feel free to remind me of that). Different tools help me get out of bed in the morning — painting, hiking in the redwoods, zumba class, banding hawks in the Marin Headlands. But Jesus, Mary and the Pips, this is a time.

7″ x 10″ sticks-and-ink, watercolor, acrylic, pastel on paper = $90

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

watercolor painting of rose by emily weil

daily painting | small rose

So I wrote a blog entry this morning, and it was fine, and I posted it. But I’m rewriting it to talk about other stuff. Like showing up. Like getting out of bed when I feel completely at sixes and sevens but moving forward anyway and washing the dishes and making my tea. Like meeting a contractor who showed up to bid on my dry rot house repair project and disliking him so thoroughly (arrogant, aggressive, gallingly rude with slight notes of slime) I tried to think of someone I could call just to complain for a minute. Like feeling so out of sorts last night I had to just sit with it, in spite of having dinner with a loving friend who does not quail when I cry, but hugs and comforts me — I was so raggedy even his kindness rubbed the wrong way. Once again I’m talking to myself and remembering that, after my mom died, I felt out of sorts for many months. It’s been 3 months and 9 days since my older sister committed suicide and I’m trying to cut myself some slack, looking to be kind and gentle with that shocked, grieving and heartbroken self. The jarring fact of the deaths of both my sisters still stuns me, so I’m rambling, trying to get a clear focus. On anything. I’m working my way through it and thank you for holding me with kindness and patience. [I painted this small rose from a bouquet I brought for my art students to paint last weekend.]

7.25″ x 8″ sticks-and-ink, watercolor on paper = $75

 

 

 

watercolor and ink drawing of squash blossom by emily weil

daily painting | frilly squash blossoms

I came across a pad of watercolor paper and kind of fell in love with it, deciding to do a whole series using the bonus discovery (I think a giveaway last year at Blick). Back into photos of my neighbor’s lush garden! I was drawn to the pic of these squash blossoms — they seemed to be reaching and stretching up, wanting to be closer to the sky. These golden flowers felt humble and unpretentious and they appealed to me. In the midst of a day of working on a design project, cautiously poking at the idea of writing a book proposal, studying GGRO protocols for the upcoming banding season in the Marin Headlands and doing a bit of cooking, I opened up the notebook of Fabriano Aquarelle paper, pulled out my tray of paints, squeezed out fresh, gooey globs of cadmium and hansa yellow Daniel Smith watercolors and delightedly splashed away, adding stick-and-ink lines and spatters of acrylic paint. A lovely afternoon (which also included a walk near Crown Beach that yielded a treasure — a washed up baby bat ray, fully intact, dried in the sun). And the grief hoodlum hasn’t hollered at me all day.

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

 

 

 

watercolor and ink drawing of lily by emily weil

daily painting | inky lily

I was going to write about my worries for Mom Earth today but it’s too overwhelming; I am grieving for her. She’s suffering and needs our help (I do have faith in humans that we will at some point find answers, though likely not soon; I am reminded of very dark days in the past, such as Hitler’s rampage across Europe, and we stumbled through that grim time, though in the current climate catastrophe the earth will most likely survive while we humans may not). Instead I’ll narrow my focus and write of my challenges to find someone to fix the dry rot in the siding of my floating home. Thought I had that one figured out but today the contractor is hesitant about ladders on docks. Took months to find someone and looks like I have to resume my search. So, about fixes and where to find them. When answers seem beyond my reach (literally). 

Which leads me to having faith — in myself to problem-solve; in my life’s path that I will get where I need to go; in the grand scheme of things, that solutions will pop up like a sun-seeking ground squirrel. But, you know, I’ve gotten this far as I’ve bumped through life — navigated around a number of hurdles, as we all have. Easy for me to revert to a default place of little-kid panic, but I don’t need to go there. I’m here, and still vertical. Onward.

[This painting — one of my neighbor’s lilies; had fun again with sticks and ink and watercolor.]

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