When doubts creep in

“plain brown bulb” is 8x10, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper and digitally edited. It is available as a  birthday card reading “happy birthday to the one and only you.”  © Annette Makino 2016

“plain brown bulb” is 8x10, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper and digitally edited. It is available as a birthday card reading “happy birthday to the one and only you.” © Annette Makino 2016

A woman I recently met at a dinner party told me that she has one of my cards on her altar, right next to a card featuring the Dalai Lama. (The card is shown below.) I am honored and touched that my art means so much to her.

Her story comes at an opportune time, as I must confess I’ve been having one of my periodic phases of doubt about my art business.

I sold more than 12,000 cards last year, plus 500-plus calendars and many paintings and prints. Yet I still wonder: is this art gig worthwhile? Yes, it’s incredibly rewarding to create art that touches people. But as chief cook and brush washer at Makino Studios, I also do an awful lot of accounting, order fulfillment, and marketing, among other uninspiring tasks.

again these doubts
a fresh crop of mushrooms
sprouts on the porch

My inner critic has a few more pointed questions, such as: Is your art really any good? Is it truly original? At a time when our country and environment are in peril, is this the best use of your energy? Does the world really need more pretty pictures and poetry?

I’m not in it for the money— just ask my tax accountant! But with freedom from financial pressure comes the work of deciding your values and priorities. When you can spend your days doing (almost) anything you want, that leaves you with some big choices to make. 

In some ways, it sounds pretty appealing to just lie on the couch nibbling chocolate all day. But as the late Mary Oliver asked, “Listen—are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?”

Say I manage to shoo away the inner critic and affirm that creating art and haiku is my top priority. It’s not so simple to define or measure the success of my work. Is it the satisfaction of creative expression? Positive responses from customers and fans? Increasing sales, haiku publications and awards? Feeling I am making a difference in the world? 

Thinking about it, I realize that all of those elements are happening to one degree or another—and they are all intertwined. If these are my markers of success, then never mind the profit/loss statement: I believe my art biz is flourishing and my time is well-spent. Or at least until the next crop of doubts pops up…

plain brown bulb
the mystery
of becoming

“through sun and cloud” is 5x7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is available as a  greeting card . © Annette Makino 2013

“through sun and cloud” is 5x7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is available as a greeting card. © Annette Makino 2013

Makino Studios News

15% off greeting cards: In January I raised my card prices for the first time since starting my business in 2011. Single cards now retail for $4.50 each. But you can use promo code 6CARDS at checkout to receive 15% off any six or more single cards. 

Custom Paintings: You can order a custom piece to honor a life passage like a birthday, wedding, or birth. I will talk with you to understand what is unique about this person in your life, and then create an original painting for the situation, with or without a haiku, as you prefer. Sizes and prices are variable.

Studio visits: I don’t have any public events planned right now, but you can visit my studio by appointment; just email or call me at the contacts below. I look forward to connecting!

Every day is a gift . . .

“evening stars” is 11x14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is also available as a  signed print , or as a  greeting card  reading “peace be with you.” © Annette Makino 2018

“evening stars” is 11x14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is also available as a signed print, or as a greeting card reading “peace be with you.” © Annette Makino 2018

Well, I wanted to write a heartfelt and inspiring new year’s message, one that summed up this crazy year and offered sparks of hope for 2019. 

Despite the madness emanating from the “very stable genius” in the White House and his enablers, despite the increasingly dire consequences of climate change, there is much for which I’m grateful. That includes my family, a beautiful and supportive place to live and meaningful work as an artist and haiku poet.

evening stars . . .
one by one counting
our blessings

Among these “blessings” was an unexpected and speedy way to drop those holiday pounds: a bout of food poisoning! As one of my cards says, “every day is a gift—sometimes it’s fruitcake.” 

Consequently, I don’t have the energy to write much today. So let me just cut to the chase: thank you for supporting my art, and here’s wishing you all the best for the new year!

“every day is a gift” is 5x7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is available as a  greeting card . © Annette Makino 2014

“every day is a gift” is 5x7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is available as a greeting card. © Annette Makino 2014

Makino Studios News

Haiku award: I’m honored that the following haiku, published in Frogpond 41:3, has won the Museum of Haiku Literature Award, presented by the Haiku Society of America:

fog-shrouded coast
we listen
to the view

2019 calendar of art and haiku: Could you use a small 2019 calendar which serves as a rotating monthly art show? I’ve still got a few in stock!

Thank you cards: With the holidays over, it’s time for thank you cards! I offer boxed sets of eight sweet little wildflower notecards with kraft envelopes.

Happy heart today

I just read this great tweet: “So my 3 year old appears to have misheard the phrase ‘happy holiday’ this morning and has been going round wishing everybody ‘happy heart today’.” 

Isn’t that just perfect? Beyond the presents and parties, this kid has perfectly distilled the essence of the holiday spirit—to wish for everyone a happy heart. 

At the Arcata holiday fair recently, I got to connect with a number of my fans. It’s a lot of work, but I do these occasional in-person events in part because they provide a great opportunity for me to understand my customers and to market test designs. The gradual emptying of my shelves and the swelling of my money belt is the most elemental form of market research!

More importantly, by hearing stories from customers and getting feedback on what they love about my art, I find renewed inspiration for doing the work that I do. Since I am not in this business for the big bucks, the deeply felt compliments mean the world to me!

So this holiday season, I just want to say thank you to all my customers and friends near and far for your support of my art. You make my heart happy. In these turbulent times, I feel especially blessed to have meaningful work creating art that inspires, delights and connects. Here’s wishing you all happy holidays and a happy heart today.

may peace
in our hearts
spread peace
in the world

Artist Annette Makino in her Arcata studio.

Artist Annette Makino in her Arcata studio.

Makino Studios News

Raffle winner: Congratulations to Katie U., who won $40 in store credit at the Makino Studios raffle at the Holiday Craft Market in Arcata, CA.

Made in Humboldt event: You can find my calendars, prints and boxed notecards at the “Made in Humboldt” event at Pierson Garden Shop in Eureka, CA through Dec. 24.

2019 calendar: This 2019 mini-calendar of art and haiku makes a great holiday gift—and a thoughtful present for yourself! Contact me about discounts on two or more.

For Humboldters: You can find a wide selection of my prints at Blake’s Books in McKinleyville. You can also visit my studio between Arcata and Blue Lake by appointment.

Holidazed and confused

Happy holidays! It’s been very busy around here. We’ve been remodeling our kitchen since September—so long, peeling 1994 formica! I’ve also been helping our son with college applications, planning for a couple of trade shows next month, filling holiday orders, and rehearsing for concerts with my choir—all while my husband and helpmate has been sidelined by a back injury.

So we don’t yet have a Christmas tree, nor have I done my holiday shopping. But last week I finally managed to heave our Halloween pumpkin into the woods, so there’s that!

If your holiday season has been as full of hustle and bustle as mine, you might appreciate some ideas for meaningful gifts. Makino Studios is offering free shipping on US online orders of $20 or more thru Sunday, Dec. 16 with promo code JOYFUL2018.

Humboldt folks, you can find these featured items and more at the Makino Studios booth at the Holiday Craft Market in the Arcata Community Center this coming weekend (10-5 Saturday and 10-4 Sunday). I hope to see you there.

Whether the holidays have got you merry and bright or dazed and confused, here’s wishing you all the best of the season!

warmly, Annette

P.S. My 2019 calendars, boxed notecards and small prints are also available at the Pierson’s Made in Humboldt fair thru Dec. 24.

On horrors, heroes, and a rescued kitten

“forest clearing" is 5x7, painted with Japanese watercolors and sumi ink on paper. It is one of the new pieces in  my 2019 calendar.  A greeting card version reading “all is calm, all is bright” is available as a single card or set of eight notecards. © Annette Makino 2018

“forest clearing" is 5x7, painted with Japanese watercolors and sumi ink on paper. It is one of the new pieces in my 2019 calendar. A greeting card version reading “all is calm, all is bright” is available as a single card or set of eight notecards. © Annette Makino 2018

Perhaps it’s the dark times we’re living through, but lately I have been drawn to stories of heroes and rescuers. Like this New York Times piece titled “The Japanese Man Who Saved 6,000 Jews With His Handwriting,” which describes the work of Chiune Sugihara, who ran the Japanese consulate in Lithuania during World War II. 

Defying his government and sacrificing his career, he issued transit visas to Jews fleeing German-occupied Poland, writing as many visas in a day as were normally issued in a month. His wife would massage his painfully cramped hands every evening.

When he was finally forced to leave the country, he threw visas out the train window to refugees on the platform. The article says that more than 40,000 people are alive today because of this one man. 

He once explained, “I told the Ministry of Foreign Affairs it was a matter of humanity. I did not care if I lost my job. Anyone else would have done the same thing if they were in my place.”

The photoblog Humans of New York recently ran a series on heroes of the Rwandan genocide. I was especially moved by the story of a brave pastor who hid more than three hundred people in his church, saving their lives. 

An excerpt from his story: “The next time the killers came, there were fifty of them. All of them had guns or machetes… Every time I recognized a face, I called to him by name. I said: ‘When I die, I am going to heaven. Where will you go?’ … Some of the killers grew nervous. They began to argue amongst themselves. Nobody wanted to be the first to kill… And they began to leave, one by one, until all of them had run off.”

Most of us will never have our courage tested to this extreme. Day-to-day, our heroism may consist of nothing more than rescuing a spider from the bathtub. But when the need arises, we can step up however we are called. 

Amelia and her friend Austin feed Renaldo with a dropper at two weeks old. (Photo: Maya Makino)

Amelia and her friend Austin feed Renaldo with a dropper at two weeks old. (Photo: Maya Makino)

For example, my daughter’s friend Amelia was out running last month when her dog alerted her to a two-day-old kitten abandoned by the side of the road. She took him home and spent weeks feeding him formula from a dropper every three hours, day and night. 

Renaldo at four weeks, eyes open and ready for adventure.

Renaldo at four weeks, eyes open and ready for adventure.

Despite all her care, it was not clear if this tiny hairless bundle would survive. But now he is a healthy, curious five-week-old named Renaldo who is busy exploring his world. A world that includes its share of suffering, but also people who show great compassion and courage in times of need. And for that I am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!

forest clearing
the tenderness
inside us all

Makino Studios News

Thanksgiving sale: Use promo code TAKE20 to get 20% off all orders over $20. Sale runs through this coming Monday, November 26.

Made in Humboldt event: You can now find my calendars, prints and boxed notecards at the “Made in Humboldt” event at Pierson Garden Shop through Dec. 24.

Holiday fair: Makino Studios will have a booth at just one fair this holiday season: the Holiday Craft Market, Dec. 8-9 in the Arcata Community Center. 

New holiday notecards: Check out my four designs of boxed holiday notecards!

2019 calendar: This 2019 mini-calendar of art and haiku makes a great holiday gift—and don’t forget one for yourself!

What the world needs now…

“dappled day" is 11x14, painted with Japanese watercolors and sumi ink on paper. It is one of the new pieces in my 2019 calendar. A greeting card version reads, “in wilderness we find our way home.” © Annette Makino 2018

“dappled day" is 11x14, painted with Japanese watercolors and sumi ink on paper. It is one of the new pieces in my 2019 calendar. A greeting card version reads, “in wilderness we find our way home.” © Annette Makino 2018

It’s been a really tough week in the news. Twisted people have aimed to kill perfect strangers simply because they were Jewish, or black, or Trump critics. It’s hard to fathom so much hatred.

Against this backdrop, I appreciate my friends and customers even more. Because you are an exceptionally thoughtful and caring group of folks, you give me hope for our world.

As an artist, some of my most rewarding work has come in the form of commissions, most always as a heartfelt gift from one person to another. It’s truly meaningful to be invited into the story of a relationship, whether between mates, friends, colleagues or family members. 

This summer, a longtime customer in Virginia asked me to customize an existing painting with an original haiku. The finished piece, below, is a wedding gift for her best friend from college and his new husband. They got married at their home in a very private ceremony—with the only guests their two golden retrievers, one gold, one red. This is their poem:

kindred spirits
take many forms—
love is love

Here in Arcata, another devoted customer asked me to create a special piece for her husband to celebrate their thirtieth wedding anniversary. She explained that they met through their mutual love of contra dancing and that they also love hiking in nature. She shared that their life path has taken some unconventional twists and turns through the choices they have made. In the piece above, their version of the haiku reads:

this dance with you
the way the river
weaves through stones

“kindred spirits" is 11x14, painted with Japanese watercolors and sumi ink on paper. A greeting card version reads, “lucky in love.” © Annette Makino 2017

“kindred spirits" is 11x14, painted with Japanese watercolors and sumi ink on paper. A greeting card version reads, “lucky in love.” © Annette Makino 2017

When doing a custom piece, typically I first talk with the customer about what makes that relationship unique and what they want to recognize about that person. Next I draft a few haiku options for them to consider. Finally, I paint the art and add the haiku.

My friend Lindsey Lane, after commissioning a piece for her daughter, commented, “The questions you asked me about my daughter were so insightful that you captured her essence in the first haiku you sent me. It is a lovely, rare moment that a mother's love about her child is understood so completely by another. Every time I go in her room and see the piece, I remember the day she opened it and burst into tears because she knew she was loved and understood.”

In the custom pieces I have created over the years, I have noticed that whatever the words and image turn out to be and whomever it is for, the underlying theme is always the same: I love and honor you. What a gift it is to be a part of such an exchange! 

If you might like to commission a piece for a holiday gift, birthday, anniversary or other occasion, I’d be delighted to hear from you. Because these days, the world needs love in every form it takes.

warmly, Annette

Makino Studios News

Raffle winner: Congratulations to Rebecca K., who won the raffle at the North Country Fair for $40 in Makino Studios store credit! The raffle jar will appear again at my next fair.

Holiday fair: I am doing just one in-person fair this holiday season: the Holiday Craft Market, Dec. 8-9 in the Arcata Community Center. You can also find my calendars, prints and boxed cards at the “Made in Humboldt” event at Pierson Garden Shop November 13 through December 24.

New boxed holiday notecards: I have two new holiday notecards coming off the press tomorrow, in addition to five ongoing boxed set designs. 

2019 calendar: My 2019 mini-calendar of art and haiku is now available online and in selected stores. The calendar includes an artist’s bio and some background on haiku and haiga (haiku art). These make excellent holiday gifts!

New single cards: Have you seen my new and updated card designs? There are holiday, birthday, sympathy, thank you and everyday cards.

Connecting: I always love hearing from readers. Thanks for taking the time to leave me a comment!

And finally: As you may have heard, there is a very important election this coming Tuesday, Nov. 6!  If you haven’t already, please make sure to vote!