jacaranda tree

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!

Stories you told me

“through sun and cloud” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper. It is also available as a print or card.

“through sun and cloud” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper. It is also available as a print or card.

In the nonprofit world where I used to work, funders were always asking for “success stories,” examples of how their support was making a direct impact. While those kinds of stories could be hard to come by, in my current life as an artist and writer, I hear them all the time.

One reason I like to do fairs is to market-test new designs before I offer them widely to stores. Another reason is for the chance to talk directly with my customers. So let's say for a moment that you are a billionaire philanthropist and patron of the arts. These recent stories collected from my customers will serve as my year-end report to you.

• People have given the above painting of a jacaranda tree in bloom as a sympathy card, as an anniversary card, and to friends going through chemotherapy. A few weeks ago, a woman told me she had had a fight with her sister. She first called to apologize, and then sent her this card:

through sun and cloud
I hold you
in my heart

• At a holiday fair last month, a burly guy in a skydiving sweatshirt bought seven of my cards, all for his wife, who loves my art. He explained that whenever he goes out of town, he leaves her one card for every night he’ll be gone.

• Every year, two women friends who live far apart buy the same calendar so they can share the same image each month. For 2014, they chose my “Poetry & Honey” calendar.

• A 93-year-old woman who is housebound ordered ten of my calendars as thank you gifts for all the people who bring her meals and otherwise help her.

• A beekeeper in Hawaii received one of my handmade bee books for Christmas, and loved it so much she is ordering honeybee-themed prints and books for her honey store on the Big Island.

• A father sent his daughter off to college on the East Coast with this framed seashell print for her dorm room, to remind her to stay true to herself:

listen—
the song of your heart
is playing

“river flow” is 6×4, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper.

“river flow” is 6×4, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper.

• An artist sent my “river flow” card to a family member who was going through a difficult but necessary divorce, and it was just the right message:

river flow
returning me
to myself

While I pass tedious January days counting up inventory and wrestling with year-end accounting, it’s stories like these that sustain me. The running thread is that my work is helping people to find joy and meaning in their day-to-day lives, and, through sun and cloud, to deepen their bonds with the people they love.

To you, my customers and friends, thanks for your support and for sharing your stories. And please keep them coming! You may not be in a position to give out six-figure grants, but you are surely rich in stories, and in spirit.

Makino Studios News

New Art Featured: Eleven of my haiga (haiku art pieces) are appearing online for the first time in a web-based gallery on Haigaonline. (At the bottom left, click "online gallery," then click "Annette Makino.") I would love to know if you'd like to see any of these as cards, not necessarily with the same words.

New Store: The sparkling Holly Yashi Store in Arcata, CA now carries my cards, prints and handmade bee books. If you’re in town, you can also watch them making their beautiful jewelry.

Unfortunate Events Update: I appreciate all the sympathy and suggestions in response to my last post, A series of unfortunate events. I’m glad to report that the bizarre streak of misfortunes ended just before I wrote that account!