love

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!

Light in the time of darkness

“’Twas the night”  is available as a greeting card or small matted print. © Annette Makino 2015

“’Twas the night” is available as a greeting card or small matted print. © Annette Makino 2015

As you may have heard, the holidays are upon us. Amid the Christmas muzak and urgent appeals to buy mass-produced widgets, it’s easy to lose sight of the true spirit of the season. There is such pressure—to buy the perfect gifts, to cook lavish meals, to decorate the house festively, to have the most wonderful time ever.

toobusytostophamsterwheel

(Prune Juice, July 2015)

But I believe that behind all that, there is a simple urge. We are looking for meaning and connection with the people we love. Even if we’re not particularly religious, in the darkest time of the year, we are seeking light: the spark of magic at our holiday gatherings, the light on the faces of our family and friends, and at the most primal level, the return of the sun.

My sister once did some custom work on a house that had a special closet just for storing the family’s artificial Christmas tree, with the ornaments attached. It just needs to be carried out and dusted off each December.

The mind reels.

Instead of that painfully efficient and bloodless approach, today we are going to put on some holiday music and decorate our old-fashioned, real spruce tree with quirky ornaments. There are charmingly awkward clay decorations that the kids made in pre-school. Odd mementos from our travels, like the satin girls and boys holding their Little Red Books that my husband and I once bought in China. A family of gray and pink velvet bats that my mother once sewed for us, just because.

“naughty or nice”  is available as a greeting card or small matted print. © Annette Makino 2015

“naughty or nice” is available as a greeting card or small matted print. © Annette Makino 2015

The bottom 37 inches of the tree will be left bare because my curious two-year old nephew is coming to town, along with my two sisters, daughter, and mother. There will be much cooking and feasting, piles of presents (several handmade), and wintry walks on the beach. In this time of deepest darkness, such light.

Happy holidays to you and yours.

warmly, Annette Makino

Makino Studios News

Holiday Craft Market: Makino Studios will have a booth at this fair in the Arcata Community Center in Arcata, CA this Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 12-13. This is my only in-person fair this season.

Made in Humboldt: A selection of my cards, prints and calendars is available at the Garden Shop of Pierson Building Center in Eureka, CA through Dec. 24.

2016 calendar: You can still order my wall calendar of art and haiku, featuring twelve of my paintings of landscapes, animals and flowers. For US addresses, order by December 14 to receive by Dec. 24 via standard mail.

Happily ever after, and other fairy tales

“…and they lived happily ever after” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolor on paper.

“…and they lived happily ever after” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolor on paper.

We all know the fairy tale about the frog prince. In the traditional version, once the princess lets the frog eat from her golden bowl and sleep in her bed for three nights, he turns into a handsome prince. (In the modern, instant gratification version, the transformation happens as soon as she kisses him.)

The Brothers Grimm account concludes:

“They then took leave of the king, and got into the coach with eight horses, and all set out, full of joy and merriment, for the prince's kingdom, which they reached safely; and there they lived happily a great many years.”

Nice story. But closer to real life, I think the couple might be just as happy foregoing the fancy coach, the grand castle and all the expectations of a perfect fairy tale life. Instead, they could spend their time together as two frogs in a pond, catching flies in the sunshine and enjoying each day as it comes.

For the past 21 years, I’ve been blessed to be married to a kind, brilliant, funny and warm-hearted man who is also my best friend. We don’t lead a fairy tale life—our Toyota and Subaru “coaches” both date from the last millennium, and we spent part of yesterday pulling weeds and scrubbing toilets. But we deeply appreciate each other and the sweet, everyday world of home and family we have built together.

“three-leaf clover” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolor on paper. Published on DailyHaiga (Dec. 14, 2012).

“three-leaf clover” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolor on paper. Published on DailyHaiga (Dec. 14, 2012).

Last night, as we were watching the BBC series, “Sherlock,” with our 13-year old son Gabriel, I got a text from our 17-year old daughter Maya, who is off at a journalism workshop: “I’m having a moment of appreciation for you and dad because you’re both genuinely good and cool people. I’m proud to have you guys for parents.”

No prince or princess could ask for more.

for better or for worse
our lights and darks
tumbling together

The Heron’s Nest XVI:1 (March 2014)

 •

Makino Studios News

Savor the Day: There is a reception for my solo show this Saturday, August 2, 6-9 p.m. during Arts Alive at Humboldt Herbals in Eureka, CA. Seabury Gould and Frank Anderson will play old-style acoustic blues. There will be new cards, prints, and a 2015 16-month calendar for sale, plus free refreshments. The show runs through August.

New cards: I’ve listed nine new card designs in my Makino Studios Etsy shop, plus the new 2015 calendar.

North Country Fair: Humboldt folks, come celebrate the fall equinox at the 41st annual North Country Fair on the Arcata Plaza September 20 and 21. I'll have a Makino Studios booth on G Street near 9th.

Feedback: I love to hear from my readers and I respond to every email or blog comment. Thanks for all the insights and encouragement after my last blog post, “Yeah, but is it art?” I look forward to exploring your reading suggestions on the nature of art and being an artist.

Yeah, but is it art?

“love you till the cows come home” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolor on paper. It is one of several new pieces showing at Humboldt Herbals in July and August, and is also available as a card or print.

“love you till the cows come home” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolor on paper. It is one of several new pieces showing at Humboldt Herbals in July and August, and is also available as a card or print.

The head of a local gallery once turned me down for a show, saying my work was too "popular" and not a good fit for his gallery. "Come back if you do something different," he said, "maybe something more from your soul." 

Ouch.

A nationally recognized artist put it in more positive terms: "Your work is very accessible."

As I've been painting a new series and preparing for a solo show in July and August, titled "Savor the Day," I've been pondering the question, "what is art?" And I've been feeling some insecurity about my work. Is it really art if it works as a greeting card? Is it art if it's not that technically skilled? Is it art if someone buys it for their mother in Oklahoma?

Of course, the question of what is art has been argued for a long time. The Impressionists once appalled the Paris art world with their loose, naturalistic approach.

About thirty years ago, my Swiss grandmother, who was born in 1899, told me she'd gotten my mother an art calendar for Christmas: "One of those modern painters . . . Monet."

She and my Swiss aunts, discussing a Picasso exhibit that was then visiting Basel, agreed that his work was "verrückt, verrückt!" (crazy).

In his seventh grade art class, my son recently learned about the work of Andy Warhol. When I asked what he thought of it, he replied, "Soup. A lot of soup. That was the dominant impression." It took a long time for the art establishment to accept those Campbell's soup cans as art, and clearly some younger critics are not yet convinced

Every class in Japanese or Chinese brush painting starts with learning to paint bamboo. The particular brush strokes for the trunk, the leaves, and the twigs have been handed down for centuries.

“savor the day” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolor on paper. It is available as a card or print.

“savor the day” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolor on paper. It is available as a card or print.

It's said that once you master the art of painting bamboo, you know the strokes to paint just about anything. The catch is that it takes a lifetime of painting bamboo to get there, or at least a decade.

And bamboo is just one of the Four Gentlemen that every aspiring brush painter is supposed to learn properly before painting anything else, along with the orchid, chrysanthemum and plum blossom. (As my daughter observed, "Four Gentlemen? Those don't sound very manly to me.")

Though my art draws on the tradition of Japanese ink painting, I've come to realize that I'm not terribly interested in mastering these ancient tools and techniques. Instead, I have learned just enough to adapt them to my own purposes.

I enjoy grinding my sumi ink stick in an ink stone and painting with bamboo brushes, but in a simple style that doesn't take years to master. And while I started out painting on rice paper, lately I prefer using watercolor paper and other sturdy paper, so I can saturate my paintings with color.

As for subject matter, I have yet to find anything to say about bamboo. Instead, my new show features flying chickens, lovestruck cows, and smiling frogs.

Is it true art? Who is to say? And does it matter? But I do know that my work, now sold in 30 stores in four states, is given to friends and lovers, shared with support groups and classes, taped to bathroom mirrors, and stuck on refrigerators.

Helping people feel more connected to each other and to the world around them: that is my soul's work. My mother put it succinctly last week, as I was sharing my uncertainties: "Your art makes a lot of people happy."

I like to think that if she were still alive, even my art critic grandmother would agree.

Makino Studios News

Savor the Day: I have a solo show opening Saturday, July 5, 6-9 p.m. at Humboldt Herbals in Eureka, CA. There will be live music and free refreshments, and I'll have new cards and prints for sale as well as my brand-new 2015 16-month calendar. The show runs through August.

Healthy Customers:LifeSource Natural Foods in Salem, Oregon is now carrying my cards. It seems my customers are a healthy bunch, as this is the sixth natural food store to carry my cards. Thanks to everyone who supports my work, wherever you find it!

Traveling: I'm heading to New York and then to a cabin on the Klamath River in Northern California, so my Makino Studios Etsy shop will be closed July 5-26. I'm sorry for any inconvenience.

North Country Fair: Humboldt folks, come celebrate the fall equinox at the 41st annual North Country Fair on the Arcata Plaza September 20 and 21. I'll have a Makino Studios booth on G Street near 9th.

BabyUpdate: Thanks to everyone who responded to my last post, Adoption Journey! My nephew Kai, now five months old, is doing well at home in Tucson with my sister Yuri, and he continues to enchant all who meet him.

Twenty golden years

let-us-live-WP-blog-by-Annette-Makino.jpg

In May, my husband Paul and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. While our wedding vows were “for better or for worse,” it’s been the best twenty years of our lives. We have had a lot of adventures since then. A year into our marriage, before Paul had even secured a tenure-track position at the university, we took a leap of faith and bought land near Arcata, then designed and built a unique house with a 25-foot wall of windows looking out onto redwoods and tree-covered hills.

We have had to contend with the many challenges of country living. At one point early on, our tap water showed high levels of e coli. Turned out our neighbor’s missing dog had chosen the spot just above our spring as his final resting place. (I’m happy to report that we’ve since dug a well.)

Our first child was born right on our sixth wedding anniversary . . . two and half weeks early . . .  at home . . . by accident. After “catching” the baby, my cool-headed husband snapped a photo, and only then called our nurse-midwife for instructions! (Note: If you ever have an unplanned home birth, dry the baby very thoroughly, then cut the tip off an old sock and use it for a baby hat.)

When we were expecting our second child, we felt brave enough to actually plan a home birth. But because my labor only lasted two hours, the midwife was not yet on hand for the birth. So Paul delivered our second child too, by candlelight, in the birthing tub set up in our living room. Well, as he likes to point out, he is a doctor—of philosophy.

Given our growing family, in 2002 we built a two-story addition to our home including a studio apartment, home office, and art studio. My mother moved in to help with the kids while they were small. She brought along her two pack llamas, Shandy and Dancer, and we often joined them on hikes on the timberland that adjoins our property.

Paul and I at our wedding in 1993.

Paul and I at our wedding in 1993.

When the kids were 10 and 6, Paul took a year’s sabbatical. We rented out our home and lived in Maryland and then a small town in northern Italy, where Paul taught an overseas course on the sources of great civilizations.

The kids’ home-schooling lessons included trips to the Coliseum in Rome, the Acropolis in Athens, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Our six-year-old soaked it all up and drew these monuments again and again on restaurant placemats across Europe. Meanwhile, our ten-year-old liked the outdoor markets and the chance to hang out with college students, but was unimpressed with her immersion in European history, summing up, “I learned the history of a dusty old brick.”

In 2009, we embarked on yet another big adventure: after twenty years, I left my executive position in international media development, and Paul simultaneously began the process of semi-retiring from his teaching career. Since then, I have had the tremendous gift of being able to focus my time on painting, writing, and developing an art business. Meanwhile, Paul teaches just four months of the year. As for the rest of his time:

retired professor
spends his days in the hot tub
his one-man think tank

Through all these experiences and more over the past two decades, Paul has been my partner and best friend. The poppy painting above is for my darling husband, who loves California poppies, honeybees, and me. This brilliant, funny man with a heart of gold helps me savor the richness of life, and is the key to all my other blessings.

“let us live” is 5" x 7", painted with sumi ink and Japanese gansai paint on paper. It is available as a print or greeting card.

Makino Studios News

North Country Fair: Look for the Makino Studios booth at the 40th annual North Country Fair in Arcata, California the weekend of September 21-22. I’ll have some new art as well as cards, prints, tee shirts and books of my work.

Seabeck Haiku Gathering:  I will be presenting on my haiga (art with haiku) at this fun and interesting haiku retreat in Seabeck, Washington October 10-13.

SoHum Art Show: My exhibit at Persimmons Garden Gallery, located at 1055 Redway Drive in Redway, California, has been extended through Sept. 11. Come on out and enjoy one of the last summer evenings with dinner and live music in the lovely garden.