I’m always fascinated to learn how other people go about their work, whether it’s developing cookbook recipes or rehabilitating abandoned dogs. So in the hopes that this is of interest, today I’ll share a bit about my artistic process.
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
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!
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
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!
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:
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.
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:
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
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.
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!
Over the past couple of weeks, our family has completely shifted over to school mode. We now have a senior in high school, a senior in college, and a senior in the Over Sixty program at Humboldt State. Instead of lazy mornings, we dash out the door with shoes untied and breakfast in hand.
Meanwhile, nighttime temperatures have dropped into the 40s and the first maple trees are already changing color. It’s hard to say goodbye to summer, but there’s no ignoring the evidence: autumn is coming.
In the seven years that I’ve been running my art business, a seasonal rhythm has emerged there too. There is the joyful madness of the holiday season. This is followed by the January grind of inventory and accounting, a perfect combination of tedium and frustration.
the cat coughs up
Spring means creating a new collection of designs and experimenting with some new products. Summer is a juicy, expansive time when I relax at the river with my family and go on week-long painting retreats.
mouth of the river
an ever-changing story
told to the sea
And September is harvest season, when my best of recent work comes together in the form of a mini-calendar of art and haiku. It’s so satisfying to hold in my hand the culmination of the work I’ve done over the past twelve months, and to know it will bring pleasure to hundreds of others through the coming year.
“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)
With experience, now I know that seemingly fallow weeks will alternate with intensely productive periods. I know that once I survive the dreaded year-end accounting, I will get to create again. And that art-wise, the bittersweet end of the summer means the reward of “bringing in the harvest." So let me be the first to wish you a happy fall equinox!
that autumn leaf
comes round again
("revolving door" is part of "Passages," a haiku rengay written with Bill Waters and published in Hedgerow #121, Autumn 2017.)
Makino Studios News
North Country Fair: The North Country Fair takes place in Arcata, California the weekend of Sept. 15-16, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. This festive event features 170 art and craft booths, local food, three stages of live entertainment and two parades. I’ll have my newest work at the Makino Studios booth on G Street, plus a free raffle for store credit.
Fieldbrook Art & Wine Festival: Makino Studios will have a booth at this lovely event at the Fieldbrook Winery in Fieldbrook, California on Saturday, Sept. 29, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sneak preview of 2019 calendar: You can see a few images of my mini-calendar of art and haiku online here. Orders will be shipped out the week of Sept. 17.
As I'm painting and preparing for North Coast Open Studios this weekend, I’m feeling excited about showing my art to the public. A painting doesn’t fully come alive for me until it is shared with others. And I love hearing stories from my customers and getting ideas from them.
But there is also a part of me that is feeling shy about the exposure—and not just because I’m an introvert! It feels risky to put my work out there for all to see, knowing I am far from mastery. I look at some of my earlier paintings and feel a combination of embarrassment and tenderness toward my less skilled former self. And I expect that soon enough, I’ll feel the same about my current work.
I'm reminded of the New Yorker cartoon by Gahan Wilson that shows two gentlemen gazing at a child's awkward scrawl. One says, "Of course, it's a very early Rembrandt."
The other day I was listening to an all-Beatles channel on satellite radio that played some fuzzy recordings from their beginning years. I realized there was a good reason I had never heard those cover songs by the Beatles before—they simply weren’t very good! And yet, in those early years, the Fab Four were able to come up with some real gems, like “She Loves You.” Even if the song seems simple, the harmonies and catchy “yeah, yeah, yeah” chorus still convey a freshness and vitality more than half a century later.
Although I could never aspire to the greatness of the Beatles, I can also see a few flowers among the weeds in my early work. The “bright eyes” piece to the right, of my dog Misha, was one of my first sumi ink paintings back in 2011. Since I was just starting my art business, the enthusiastic response from the public was very encouraging.
Seven years later, I can paint dogs much more realistically, as in the watercolor above of my friend’s dog Sukie. And I know my art will continue to evolve and improve over time.
I have to remind myself that an artist’s development is never “finished,” so there’s no point in waiting until my work is perfect to put it out in the world. All I can do is play and have fun with the process. And share it with my wonderfully supportive customers. So bring on Open Studios! Yeah, yeah, yeah!
bright eyes, wagging tail
the universe, in dog form
invites us to play
Makino Studios News
Open Studios: I will join artists Tina Gleave, Jennifer Rand, Amy Fowler and Araya Shon at the Samoa Women’s Club in Samoa, CA for North Coast Open Studios this weekend. We’ll be serving wine and appetizers tomorrow (Friday, June 1) at Art Night from 6 to 9 p.m. The main event is Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be art raffles, demos of our techniques, closeout sales and refreshments. More details and directions in the Facebook event.
Cards for Dads and Grads: Check out the Cards section to find cards for graduation, Father’s Day (June 17), weddings and birthdays.
On Vacation: I will be away on a painting vacation on the Klamath River all of next week and visiting family the week after, so I will not be able to ship out any orders until Friday, June 15.
ukiaHaiku Festival: I’m happy to share that the following haiku won first place in the Dori Anderson Award for haiku about Ukiah at the annual ukiaHaiku Festival last month:
in my hat
Recently I spent a long, boring week in bed with the flu. When not sleeping, reading, or writing whiny haiku about being sick, I did some musing on the nature of time.
There are so many ways that we fight with time. In the short term, like most modern-day humans, I often feel that there is not enough time in the day to do everything I want to do, like paint. So it was frustrating to be bedridden for days, with too much time on my hands but not enough energy to do anything with it!
In the long term, as I get older, I feel a keener awareness of my limited time here on earth, and my finite window to contribute to the world. This, too, can lead to frustration that I am not accomplishing more.
Time can also seem like an enemy because we only experience it flowing in one direction. As a result, it’s natural to compare the present with the concrete and specific past that we clearly remember rather than the misty, unknown future.
And so we focus more on aging and loss: the slim waistline and the full, dark hair we once took for granted, the steel-trap memory grown rusty, the friends who have passed on. Why not focus instead on the fact that we are probably healthier, sharper, and more energetic today than we will be down the line?
you’re younger now
than you’ll ever be
What if, as in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, we aged in reverse? Would we be more enthusiastic about growing “older” if it meant becoming more youthful? Yes, eventually there are diapers, mushy food and babbling at both ends of life. But for some reason this is adorable in toddlers, embarrassing in the old.
Anyhow, Benjamin Button is a work of fiction. As Kierkegaard said, “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”
Maybe we would be happier if we fully grasped the discovery from quantum physics that time is malleable and relative. What if time does not exist in any fundamental sense except as a useful conceptual tool for navigating our world? To quote sci fi writer Ray Cummings, “time is what keeps everything from happening at once.”
Although none of us are evolved enough to transcend time permanently (is that what death is?), we have all experienced the state of “flow” when we lose awareness of the passage of time. It might be while surfing, reading a great book, or playing music with friends. When I am painting—a right-brain activity—I’m focused on color and form, and the hours flow by uncounted.
Paradoxically, perhaps we would feel we had “enough time” if we spent more of our days in this mode beyond time, when we are fully present and engaged in each moment. It shouldn't be that hard to do: as young children, we passed most of the day in this state, fully immersed in exploration and play.
On my way to the beach, I often hike by some cement water tanks that have been covered in graffiti for years. Today I was tickled to see that a county worker had painted it all out except this one line: “Welcome to the eternal now.”
my inner child
2018 Golden Haiku Competition: I’m delighted to share that the haiku below was selected to be featured on a sign in downtown Washington, DC this month! If any of my DC readers sees it, in the Golden Triangle neighborhood between the White House and Dupont Circle, please send me a photo!
North Coast Open Studios: Mark your calendar for the 20th anniversary of this fun, free event, when more than a hundred Humboldt County artists open their studios to the public. I will once again join silk painter Tina Gleave and other artists at the Samoa Women’s Club in Samoa, CA for Weekend 1, June 2-3.
More thoughts on aging: A 2013 blog post, “Younger than we’ll ever be,” uses prose, art, and haiku to explore the theme of coming to terms with getting older.