painting of rose in brown ink

daily painting | rose in brown ink

It’s a lovely May Saturday. My neighbors are out watering their plants and washing off their decks and complaining about bird poop from the night herons (one had apparently occupied my front porch overnight and left a puddle of poopy whitewash which I found hilarious; my neighbor does not share my delight but I loved the thought of a heron looking out for me while I slept). I’m thrilled that my heart feels better and that my taking time to rest is paying off as my energy is starting to return. So I hosed off my deck too. And there was a beautiful gray-blue feather in my geranium pot, a gift from one of our nocturnal visitors.

I’m enjoying, between naps, preparing for Feather River Art Camp which begins in a week (which makes my finding a feather outside very funny). The river is running high, as is Spanish Creek, the river’s offshoot, which runs through the camp. Unlike a year ago, when the brother-brain-cancer-crisis was only 6 weeks old, I will be better prepared to teach my class both physically and emotionally. 

I’m amazed almost every day at life’s crazy ride. I’m learning not to fight its twists and turns, and to accept that there is no nav system, much less a tattered old paper map. And my bro is still alive and kicking, and this journey with him has been terrifically bonding. I wake up in the morning happy for the love we have, an intimate connection I could have never imagined.

Maybe it’s best to relax and trust how life unfolds.

About this painting — I have a bottle of marvelous brown ink that called to me yesterday, so I did a quick sketch of a scrappy single rose I’d plucked by our parking lot which I’d put in a little bud vase in my kitchen windowsill.

6″ x 6″ ink on paper




watercolor, ink painting of clematis by emily weil

daily painting | clematis

I have a spiritual practice. It holds me up. I am challenged these days to nurture a sense of wonder. Like a child delights in daily things that spark her curiosity. I take notes on these bright spots and go back and read them when I’m wearing iron boots and can’t move. 

These are my twinkly moments from yesterday: 

• The stunning red-tailed hawk I saw on the light post, hoping for a prairie-dog lunch. 

• The pleasant afternoon I enjoyed with my brother, as we visited the Homestead Valley Community Center in Mill Valley, where my dear friend Sandy is showing her beautiful watercolors. Sandy met us there and brought the sweetest, fattest grapes I’ve ever tasted. Kids were outside doing an exercise class to Beatles’ tunes; the school next door used to be Homestead School where I went to kindergarten.

• Email correspondence with Jordon the roofer, who had just approved of my idea of creating an arrangement of large paintings of Briones for his large office wall in exchange for part of my roofing bill.

• The crescent moon setting in the western sky.

• The happy anticipation of teaching art for a week in June at a camp in Plumas County.

• Laughing as the “poker boys” crack wise on Zoom as I got my brother set up for the Tuesday night online poker game.

Tuesday’s wonders. My heart is happy.

[This is a painting done from a photo sent to me by my friend Diane who is an amazing gardener; I’m doing well if I don’t kill my jade plant.]

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




watercolor, ink, pastel of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | naples

I’m going to start this without knowing where it will land so here goes. I’m seeing an image in a movie — someone gets caught in the mud, and then their clothes are sticky and thick with the brown goo, and then it dries and cakes. I feel that heaviness — an outer crust that restricts movement and is cumbersome. Like wearing a coat made of bricks. I think the muddy, calcified jacket is something I’ve worn since childhood. I’ve been aware of it, but unconsciously concluded it was permanently attached, and I had no choice to but to get used to it.

The air we breathed in our family in Mill Valley in the “mid-century” (as the 1950s and 60s are now called) was lonely and loveless. Mom and Dad were injured humans who couldn’t properly parent. Because children need reasons for things, in order to make sense of the unimaginable, what I came to believe was that love was not available for me. Other people could have it, but I was behind the door when love got handed out. In my mind scarcity was a reality, and my only choice was to adapt to it, and, as I was told, be grateful I had food and shelter.

There is something about the sweet and loving connection I have with my brother that is healing me and I think it’s healing him too. Mud and sticks and dried leaves and caked-on dirt are washing off. We have intimate conversations about dying (I thought my heart might quit a few weeks ago) and about family and about our dead sisters. He tells me things he remembers that trouble him and I tell him the same. We confirm and agree on what Mom and Dad were like. 

He will be going at some point — he wasn’t supposed to last through October, let alone May, and may get a CT scan soon, even though he’s in hospice care, to see why his longevity after a very dire diagnosis of aggressive brain cancer continues.

In the meantime, with Jamey’s help, I’m removing some of the outerwear that weighs me down. It’s the damnedest thing.

[About this painting. I was invited to teach a private watercolor lesson to a woman I met months ago; she was outside Frank Bette Center in Alameda with her darling greyhound. I’ve had several greyhounds in my life so I introduced myself, and the artist asked me into her home where we could paint, and where I instantly fell in love with Naples who fell asleep with his head on my foot. She had these flowers in a vase which we used for subject matter.]

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




watercolor of tulips by emily weil

daily painting | tulips from lisa

I want to start this blurb by saying thank you to the tiny sliver of a crescent moon that was beautifully perched over Mt Tam several weeks ago. One of my favorite sights, and my worried heart felt full and grateful as I watched the scene out my fancy hospital room picture window (Oakland Kaiser). I’d had heart palpitations the night before, and my heart wouldn’t calm down so the Kaiser advice nurse said I should head for the hospital, so I did, thanks to the chauffeuring from my kind and loving neighbor Beth (old lady advice — if you want to be admitted to the ER in a hurry, tell them you have chest pain). So into the hospital room I was rolled after a day in the ER, now in the reverse situation from my brother, as I’m usually rolling him in his wheelchair in his facility in San Rafael. 

Tests and tests and blood draws and heart monitors and x-rays and nuclear machine scans later, it seems my heart is just fine. I went home the next day. In fact, all indications are I’m damn healthy for an old broad.

So my task is to compassionately care for myself and catch my breath. For a year I have looked out for my beloved, remaining sib Jim, caring for him and loving him and doing my best to provide him comfort. And my heart is yelling at me, Emily you’re pooped. You need to recharge. The staff and doctors said my body was reacting to stress, and my panic attack in the night, triggered by a nightmare, that made my heart flop around in my chest like a fish on a dock was likely sparked by family worries. Makes perfect sense. 

So now I’m rebooting and learning to pace myself and take naps and watch movies and lie on the couch with my book and peer out my window at the delightful Barn Swallows, who are like winged rockets — they flutter over the exposed low-tide mud in the marina and collect the slippery stuff in their beaks and then race off to build their nests — so delicate and graceful and skilled. I ask them to fly my guilt away. But Jim’s in very capable hands. And he loves me and wants me to be well.

[About this painting. I am happy and delighted every day to be part of my floating home community. A lovely and kind neighbor got wind of my hospitalization and left these on my doorstep. Oh, and want to hear something completely cray-cray? While I was in the hospital my dock caught fire! My house was closest to the conflagration, which neighbors and the fire dept put out; a small outbuilding was destroyed. Super happy I missed THAT excitement.]




watercolor, ink, pastel, acrylic abstract by emiliy weil

daily painting | kitchen counter abstract

“Grief’s a crafty little f**ker. Sneaks up on you.” This salty quote by Harrison Ford’s character is from the TV show “Shrinking” which is my new entertainment fave (Apple TV; I signed up for Ted Lasso and got sidetracked). It’s funny, illuminating, sweet and irreverent and makes me feel slightly less like an odd duck for having had about a billion dollars’-worth of therapy. Ford plays a therapist, and this bit of wisdom was encouraging and true. Grief can convince me I’m crazy. I’m not. Um, I think.

Speaking of ducks, here’s today’s amazing moment. Was washing up my dishes this morning, and outside my window a mama duck was shepherding her new babies — a dozen tiny little puffball ducklings, seemingly recently hatched. They were all over the place — the beginning of the learning curve. Quite adorable and heart-warming. And as happens every year, they will likely be lunch for other predators before too long. Nature’s food chain. But this charming vignette is great fun to see, however temporary the scenario.  
[Enjoyed being home today. Did this small abstract in my kitchen.]

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




watercolor of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | april flowers

So I’m gaining some skills these days. Like how to stand back a bit and get some distance on emotional whirlwinds (I’m picturing an image from that tornado movie, Twister, of Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton desperately hanging onto pipes in the barn while being sucked into the vortex). It’s satisfying to grow and learn and stack up some healthy habits, you know? For example, Monday was a magical day — when I arrived to be with my brother, he’d just had a visit from the hospice grief counselor, and wrote down things he wanted to discuss with me. I was blown away; we talked about our relationship, our family, how we see each other. It was phenomenal. I was floating for the rest of that amazing day, and felt so close to my brother. Then today I’m on my knees groping through the weeds, feeling desperately low. Such unpredictable weather. 

The other day I painted this flower bouquet, wanting to keep things fast and loose. Today I added pastels. Smudges of pink and yellow pigments on my fingers make me happy. Art supplies are keeping my feet (or knees) on the ground.

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




watercolor of flowers by emily weil

daily painting | scarlet flowers

A friend recommended Judy Collins’ album “Feels Like Home” which is a lovely soundtrack for my Sunday afternoon. “When I Go” is the song I was encouraged to listen to, and is a sweet and moving song about leaving the planet. And yes, as my friend described, it brings tears and I welcome them.

I’m enjoying a quiet weekend, catching up both on chores and rest. I am devoted to my dying brother, and know my role in comforting him at the end of his life is an important one. And it’s exhausting. And he really appreciates me. And I need days off to soothe and restore myself and today is really filling that bill.

So I pulled out this inexpensive pad of watercolor paper to give it a test run for I’ll be using it to teach a class — at a birthday party! How fun is that? Anyways I tried it out (to see how much it would curl when wet) and did a loose interpretation of scarlet flowers I photographed at my brother’s nursing facility. I also played nurse to my little guinea pig who has a sore foot — he didn’t mind the warm epsom-salt soak in the sink. His little paws are crossed, along with my fingers, that he heals up.

So in a bit I’ll grab my walking sticks and go stroll along the water on this lovely Spring day, right after I make a dent in a few weeks’ worth of the Sunday Times. And Judy Collins’ rendering of Leonard Cohen’s song “Hallelujah”, now playing in my ear, is a perfect background for this comforting moment.

13″ x 8.5″ ink, watercolor on paper = $140




abstract painting by emily weil

daily painting | caving

Have you ever read about Winston Churchill talking about The Black Dog? He was referring to his visits from depression. I like that metaphor, as visualizing that helps me see it coming so I can at least step out of the way, or hope it doesn’t stay too long. Today was one of those days, as I watch my bro decline and eyeball a challenging Easter. Thankfully I had to go to my art studio to meet someone so that was helpful — once that appt was done, I took out some paper and worked away. I’d love to tell you my depression dispelled instantly. It didn’t. But I’m learning stuff — like when I feel bad to just keep going. One foot in front of the other, as my mother used to say. Good advice for today. If nothing else I’m becoming quite good at perseverance.

13″ x 8.5″ ink, acrylic, watercolor, pencil, oil pastel on paper = $145




pen and acrylic drawing of spring flowers by emily weil

daily painting | spring

Making art is making magic. Even if I paint something I wouldn’t even show my guinea pig, this act of creation feels today like my heart is full of blooming wildflowers.

Either from a cold or hay fever (I suspect allergies with all the green growth from rains and the high winds that seem to blow trucks off bridges once a week), I’m just feeling cruddy. Not awful, just, well, Bleah. So as I roast cherry tomatoes in my oven at a low temp with thyme for tomato sauce (delicious aromas) and satisfy my news junkie urges this afternoon I’m struck by how even from my comfy couch (too enervated to stand and paint) when I picked up my bird-nerd diary (it was within reach) and grabbed my pen to sketch a vase of lovely Spring flowers on my coffee table my spirits rose almost immediately. That isn’t always the case — often making art is exhausting and frustrating — but today when I’m kind of low and haven’t painted in a week it I’m finding this sudden lift in spirits miraculous.

5″ x 4″ ink, acrylic pen on paper




watercolor and ink painting of rose by emily weil

daily painting | ripe rose

Embracing what is in front of me is my lesson these days. Not resisting. Which I do with reluctance and no small amount of resentment. But the dear bro is continuing to fade, and he’s not done yet with his life, and there must be reasons why he, with that amazing brain of his, is soldiering on. And I love him, and he loves me, and that alone is a bit of a miracle, after our childhood experiences.

Some time ago I read the quote,“People are like tea bags — you don’t know what’s in them until they are in hot water.” It was Nancy Reagan who supposedly said it but I’ve heard that nugget of wisdom ascribed to various other folks, including Eleanor Roosevelt (my true hero). First Lady Nancy wasn’t my favorite person, but these days I’m thinking about this apt description of humans under pressure.

What’s in me? Is it strong enough to make a good cuppa? I guess I’m finding out. I think today of Turkish earthquake survivors and Mississippians who saw a tornado devastate their town and thousands of others whose lives have been upended. I feel like a heap of twisted metal (certainly with plenty of sharp edges), but something stronger will be rebuilt in the aftermath. I’m certain of this.  

And thank you for reading these posts. I know they are often dark. I appreciate your caring observations.
[This painting is of a rose I photographed at Aldersly retirement community where my brother resides.]

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