poet

The other end of the paintbrush

“summer solstice” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper and digitally edited. An earlier version of the haiku first appeared in Modern Haiku. A  birthday card version  is available. © Annette Makino 2016

“summer solstice” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper and digitally edited. An earlier version of the haiku first appeared in Modern Haiku. A birthday card version is available. © Annette Makino 2016

Humboldt County is famous for two things: its magical old-growth redwood forests and perhaps equally magical marijuana. But there is a lesser-known feature that makes this area unique: it has more working artists per capita than any other part of California.

Each year in June, some 150 Humboldt artists open their studio doors to the public as part of North Coast Open Studios. Earlier this month, it was my pleasure to be part of the "Seven in Samoa" group that hosted visitors the first weekend. The following weekend, I got to tour nine studios.

In visiting other artists, I was inspired and moved by much of their art. But it was just as interesting to talk with these working artists and learn about what goes on at the other end of the paintbrush. I discovered we are grappling with some of the same issues.

A common theme of our conversations was the tension between making art that purely expresses our creativity versus making art that we know will sell. For instance, one artist is currently drawn to images of melancholy women, but knows there is a much bigger market for her playful pieces of cats.

Another sells a lot of art postcards with inspiring quotes, but her passion project is a scrapbook of sketches and thoughts about silent meditation retreats, though she knows the market for such a book is very limited.

Annette Makino demonstrates her tools and techniques at the Samoa Women’s Club in Samoa, CA as part of North Coast Open Studios in June 2017.

Annette Makino demonstrates her tools and techniques at the Samoa Women’s Club in Samoa, CA as part of North Coast Open Studios in June 2017.

For my part, I sometimes find myself painting simply because it’s time for a new card catalog. Instead of “What do I really want to express about my core being?,” the “helpful” and persistent voice inside my head asks a much less inspiring question, “What would make for a good birthday card?”

Another common theme of my Open Studios conversations was the competing demands on our time: we need to spend time managing and marketing our business, but that cuts into the time to actually create. And it's hard for me to compartmentalize: when I know I have orders to fill or an event to publicize, I can't get into the open, spacious frame of mind I need to paint.

Finally, an underlying issue that emerged from talking with other artists was, what does success mean to me as a working artist? Is it measured by sales? Reputation? Appreciation from buyers? Personal satisfaction from the joy of creating? While it’s surely some combination of all of these, it’s challenging to find the right balance, especially in a culture that confuses money with worth.

Overall, I came away from Open Studios without clearcut answers, yet comforted to know that I am not alone: even the most successful artists struggle with these dilemmas. It was inspiring to meet so many passionate, committed people who have chosen to walk this sometimes difficult path. We may never get rich from our art (though I'm not opposed to that!), but we are certainly rich in spirit.

summer solstice . . .
the skipping stone
all the way across

Makino Studios News

Seven in Samoa: The Eureka Times-Standard ran this story about the group of artists that showcased our work together as part of North Coast Open Studios.

Summer vacation: Happy solstice! I’ll be on vacation from this Saturday, June 24 until Sunday, July 2. While I am swimming and painting at the Klamath River (depicted in the above image), my Makino Studios Etsy shop will be closed for the week and I will not be filling store orders.

Westhaven Wild Blackberry Festival: Rabia O’Loren will be selling a selection of my cards and prints at this festival on Sunday, July 30, 10-4 at the Westhaven Volunteer Fire Department.

North Country Fair: Mark your calendar for this two-day festival celebrating the fall equinox, taking place September 16-17 on the Arcata Plaza!

Election Edition

“redwood time” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is also available as a  greeting card  or print. © Annette Makino 2016

“redwood time” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. It is also available as a greeting card or print. © Annette Makino 2016

Apparently there is some sort of election coming up. Lately I’ve been grinding my teeth at night and, although this could be one of Hillary Clinton’s secret conspiracies, I prefer to blame it on Donald Trump.

campaign sign
the dog registers
his opinion

Last weekend I attended the wonderful Seabeck Haiku Getaway in Washington State. Sprinkled among the presentations and activities, there were several “Write Now” sessions in which we had five minutes to draft haiku on a particular topic. Here are a couple from a session on the elections:

swing state
leaves land on both sides
of the fence

kissing the baby still undecided

This is truly one of the most bizarre, unpredictable and ugly U.S. elections ever. Each day has brought new revelations and accusations. It will be very hard to heal the nation after this divisive process.

campaign season
geese practice leaving
the country

But when I look out my window at the forest outside, I am reminded of another time frame, where a four-year election cycle is no more than a breath.

redwood time . . .
the steady journey
from earth to sky

No matter the outcome on Tuesday, I am rooting for common sense, compassion and a sense of perspective.

warmly, Annette Makino

(“campaign sign” was first published in Haiku News, Vol. 1, No. 44, November 2012)

Makino Studios News

Senryu award: I’m honored that this poem, which I wrote in Japan, recently won third place in the annual Gerald Brady Awards for Senryu held by the Haiku Society of America (HSA). (View all the winners plus judges' comments):

sacred shrine
worshippers raise
their selfie sticks

Haiku award: And this haiku won second honorable mention in the HSA’s prestigious Harold G. Henderson Awards for Haiku (View all the winners plus judges' comments):

our easy silence
every puddle
sky-deep

Annette Makino’s  2017 mini-calendar  of art and haiku features animals, landscapes, and other scenes from nature. The calendars are $11.99 plus tax and shipping on Etsy.

Annette Makino’s 2017 mini-calendar of art and haiku features animals, landscapes, and other scenes from nature. The calendars are $11.99 plus tax and shipping on Etsy.

Free shipping through November: Use shipping code FREESHIP2016 for free shipping through November on orders of $15 or more from the Makino Studios Etsy shop. There you will find my 2017 calendar, laser-engraved wooden keychains, holiday and everyday greeting cards and signed prints.

Arcata Holiday Crafts Market: My only public event of the holidays, this fair includes many local artists and craftspeople, plus music and food. It runs Saturday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sunday, Dec. 11, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Arcata Community Center, Arcata.

Pierson Made in Humboldt Fair: November 15-Dec. 24. Ongoing fair of arts, crafts and specialty foods handmade in Humboldt County. Pierson Garden Shop, 4100 Broadway Street, Eureka.

Exploring art in old Japan

“maple leaf” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper and digitally edited. It appears as a page of a 2017 calendar of art and haiku. © Annette Makino 2016

“maple leaf” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper and digitally edited. It appears as a page of a 2017 calendar of art and haiku. © Annette Makino 2016

Besides a grand family adventure, my trip to Japan earlier this summer (see Journey to Japan) was also an exploration of Japanese art and haiku—and a chance to stock up on hard-to-find art supplies.

A major highlight of the trip was a visit to a famous art supply store in Kyoto, founded by a painter in 1863 and still run by his descendants. At the one-room Saiun-do (“Painted Clouds”), I found the fine brushes, made of weasel hair and bamboo, for which I had spent years searching. I also scored a fragrant new sumi ink stick and several ceramic pots of special "gansai" watercolors that are found only in Japan.

Later, I painted the Japanese maple leaves shown here with my new brushes, delighting in their smoothness on the page. How liberating to find brushes that work with me, not against me!

Through sheer serendipity, I was able to see woodblock art prints by one of my favorite artists, Hiroshige, at four different museums around the country. Ukiyo-e (literally, “pictures of the floating world”) were hugely popular in the Edo period, when the merchant class enjoyed decorating their walls with prints of beautiful geisha, kabuki actors and landscapes. "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" by Hokusai is probably the best-known example of ukiyo-e in the West.

It is estimated that in the 1850s, four to five million ukiyo-e were printed every year! The visual style, in which thin black outlines were filled in with blocks of color, was the forerunner of manga (Japanese-style comics). It also deeply influenced the beautiful anime (Japanese animated films) by director Hayao Miyazake, among others.

Annette Makino buys Japanese art supplies at Saiun-do in Kyoto, Japan in June 2016.

Annette Makino buys Japanese art supplies at Saiun-do in Kyoto, Japan in June 2016.

But it was only on returning home this summer that I realized how much my own art owes to ukiyo-e. Though painted on paper rather than carved into wood, my paintings typically consist of thin outlines of black sumi ink that bound areas of color. And my art, like Hiroshige’s in his day, is mainly intended to be printed and enjoyed by many, rather than hung in fine art museums.

I came to Japan to study the old masters—and found a part of myself.

rice paper moon
pine trees brush
the inky sky

Makino Studios News

North Country Fair: Humboldters, come celebrate the fall equinox at the 43rd annual North Country Fair on the Arcata Plaza this Saturday and Sunday! The fair runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. both days. There will be 170 art and craft vendors, three music and entertainment stages, local food booths, activities for kids, and a daily parade at 1 p.m. Come visit my Makino Studios booth on G Street near Moore’s Sleepworld!

New2017 calendars: For the fourth year in a row, I have created a mini-calendar of my art and haiku. Featuring animals, landscapes, and other scenes from nature, the 2017 calendars have just come off the press and will debut at the fair. They can also be ordered through the Makino Studios shop on Etsy.

New keychains: I have designed two different wooden keychains featuring my art and haiku, one of a playful dog and one of a Humboldt redwood. These laser-engraved keychains will be offered at the fair this weekend and are also available on Etsy.

New card designs: Heirloom tomatoes, redwood forests, and river landscapes are the subjects of some of my latest greeting cards, due off the press this week. Check them out at the fair or the Makino Studios Etsy shop.

Seabeck Haiku Getaway: This fun and inspiring haiku retreat takes place Oct. 27-30 in Seabeck, Washington next month. I will be presenting on my trip to Japan with photos and haiku. I look forward to playing and learning with other haiku poets in a beautiful natural setting!

Journey to Japan

“the time we are given” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. © Annette Makino 2014

“the time we are given” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. © Annette Makino 2014

Well, I’ve been back from Japan for almost a month now, and I still can't begin to describe this heart-expanding trip. Much as I had planned and anticipated the journey (see my last post, Eastward ho!), it was even better than I could have imagined.

Over three weeks in June, my family and I explored serene Zen gardens and bustling city streets. We spent one day hiking the ancient Nakasendo trail between post towns, and another day hiking through ten thousand vermillion torii gates at a shrine in Kyoto.

We climbed to the top of a 400-year old castle and we soaked in mountain hot springs. We shopped in glitzy malls, a temple flea market, and a tiny paintbrush store founded in 1863. At an alley bar with just nine seats, we heard a Japanese duo play American jazz. Inside the moat of a wooden castle, we happened on a free concert by a popular boy band. We hiked through bamboo forests and flew past rice paddies on bullet trains.

There are about ten thousand gates at the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto.

There are about ten thousand gates at the Fushimi Inari shrine in Kyoto.

We were mystified by the high-tech toilets with explanatory signs only in Japanese—a member of our party, who wishes to remain anonymous, learned the hard way that the big red button is not for flushing, but to call an attendant in case of emergency! One day at a busy Kyoto subway station, we encountered about a hundred massive sumo wrestlers, all wearing colorful summer kimonos and top knots.

We were amused by the odd English translations, like the restaurant offering “pig hormone soaked in a pot.” At the Meiji shrine in Tokyo, among the hand-lettered prayers for good health and high exam scores, we found one we could relate to: “I pray that America doesn’t elect Donald Trump.”

Kenroku-en garden in Kanazawa is considered one of the top three gardens in Japan.

Kenroku-en garden in Kanazawa is considered one of the top three gardens in Japan.

Our 19-year old daughter Maya, whose main exposure to Japan had been the animated films of Hayao Miyazaki, kept exclaiming, “This is so frickin’ dope! It’s like anime, only real life!”

Our 14-year old son Gabriel ate everything in sight, from breakfasts of grilled fish and pickled vegetables to chunks of battered octopus passed among bar patrons. But he passed on the sardine tea offered at one ramen joint, even though the sign promised, “Tastes like a junior high student.”

A Makino family cemetery in Kurabuchi, Gunma prefecture, goes back ten generations.

A Makino family cemetery in Kurabuchi, Gunma prefecture, goes back ten generations.

We also visited with my relatives, enjoying their warm hospitality and hearing about the Makino family's samurai ancestry.

A highlight was spending a day at Makino Brewery in the mountains beyond Takasaki, a business run by my second cousin which has been making award-winning sake for 320 years. Near the brewery, by a bamboo grove, is the Makino temple and a family cemetery where ten generations of Makinos are buried.

Annette Makino takes in the peaceful garden at the Nezu Museum in Tokyo.

Annette Makino takes in the peaceful garden at the Nezu Museum in Tokyo.

The beauty of Japan flooded my mind and heart. I’m sure I will draw inspiration from this trip for years to come. It was a great blessing to celebrate Makino Studios’ fifth anniversary with this “bucket list” family adventure. Thanks to all who made this trip possible by supporting my artistic journey along the way!

the time we are given . . .
sparks rise through darkness
to join the stars

(tinywords 14.2)

Annette Makino surrounded by husband Paul, daughter Maya and son Gabriel in Tsumago at the end of a day of hiking the Nakasendo trail.

Annette Makino surrounded by husband Paul, daughter Maya and son Gabriel in Tsumago at the end of a day of hiking the Nakasendo trail.

Makino Studios News

More Japan photos: If you'd like to see more images of our trip to Japan (mostly shot on my iPhone 6S), I've temporarily made this Facebook album public.

Summer retreat: The week of July 30-August 7, I’ll be relaxing and painting at a cabin on the Klamath River. If you would like to place an order through the MakinoStudios Etsy shop, please do so before or after that week.

North Country Fair: Humboldters, mark your calendars for the 43nd annual North Country Fair on the Arcata Plaza September 17-18! I'll have paintings, prints, cards and new 2017 calendars at the Makino Studios booth on G Street near 9th.

Eastward ho!

“mountain meadow” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. © Annette Makino 2015

“mountain meadow” is 11×14, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. © Annette Makino 2015

At the Seabeck Haiku Getaway in Washington last fall, we started with a fun icebreaker: write down five items from your bucket list, then walk around the room and share with other participants. (For more about Seabeck, see The path unfolds.)

After the exercise, my daughter Maya and I compared lists. I definitely don’t share her dream of working a stint as a bartender! But it turns out that we both had the exact same number one wish: to travel to Japan as a family.

Meanwhile, Makino Studios turned five years old in March. Thinking about how to mark this milestone, I remembered the bucket list exercise. It occurred to me that the best way to celebrate would be to use some of my earnings to take our family to Japan. How fitting that a business that draws deeply from the traditions of Japanese art and haiku would enable us to travel there.

So we are off early next month for three weeks of exploration and adventure! This will be the first trip to Japan for our teens; it is the fourth trip for me and the second for my husband Paul. My sister Yoshi will join us for the first and last few days of the trip.

Our itinerary includes visiting Japanese relatives in Tokyo and touring the venerable 320-year old Makino sake factory in Takasaki. We’ll also see the Makino temple and a cemetery there containing family tombs from ten generations.

My mother, sisters and I (standing, left) wear kimonos sent from Japan by my grandparents. (Santa Monica, California, 1969.)

My mother, sisters and I (standing, left) wear kimonos sent from Japan by my grandparents. (Santa Monica, California, 1969.)

I’m also excited to hike along the ancient Nakasendo trail in the Japanese alps, where stone tablets commemorate visits by revered haiku poets Basho and Shiki. We will soak in hot springs and explore Japanese temples, gardens, castles, and museums.

To experience Japanese life more deeply, we will mainly stay in ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) and a variety of homes booked through Airbnb. As lovers of Japanese cuisine, we are especially excited about the food! I imagine I’ll find much artistic inspiration throughout.

While the earnings from my art business are modest, the psychic rewards are incalculable. (I just don’t think I’d feel the same about bartending.) To all my store buyers, customers and supporters over the past five years, I bow in thanks.

salt breeze
all the countries
on my bucket list

warmly, Annette Makino

Makino Studios News

ukiaHaiku Awards: At the ukiaHaiku Festival on April 24, this poem of mine won second place in the Jane Reichhold International Prize, out of 412 entries from six continents:

unconcerned
with divorce rates
mating butterflies

And this one took third in the Dori Anderson Prize for haiku about Ukiah:

a row of raindrops
hanging on the clothesline—

manzanita blossoms

Newest stores: The list of Makino Studios card retailers now includes Down to Earth in Eugene, Oregon; Three Sisters in Ukiah; and Swish Healdsburg in Healdsburg, California. If there is no store in your area, you can order online through my Etsy shop.

Order by June 1: As I’ll be traveling in Japan, I will not be able to fill online or store orders between June 2 and June 28.

Connecting: I appreciate the kind responses to my last post, on International Haiku Day. You can get news, fresh art and haiku on my Makino Studios Facebook page and my Twitter feed.

Publication credit: “salt breeze” was published in Exhaling, the Seabeck 2015 anthology; it tied for second place in the Seabeck kukai (a haiku contest determined by participating poets).

Happy Haiku Day!

April is National Poetry Month, and today, April 17, is Haiku Poetry Day! In celebration, here is a sampling of haiku and senryu I’ve published over the past year. And if you’d like to try your hand at this subtle art form, you might enjoy “The Discipline of Haiku” by poet Michael Dylan Welch.

New year, new chapter

“Happy New Year” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper. © Annette Makino 2015

“Happy New Year” is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on paper.
© Annette Makino 2015

If you knew you had one more year to live, what would you do differently? I sometimes ask myself this question—not out of morbid fixation, but as a simple way to clarify priorities and make sure I’m on track. Recently, I got a surprising answer: “Paint bigger.”

A couple weeks ago, I got the chance to try this out. I was commissioned to make a painting on a 6’ x 4’ sheet of plywood to hang outdoors in Arcata’s revitalized Creamery District. After debating what to paint for awhile, I found my inspiration from a trip to nearby Luffenholtz Beach with my family, where my husband threw sticks for several dogs.

After years of careful work with the delicate and unforgiving materials of sumi ink, watercolor, and paper, what fun to splatter great quantities of cheap house paint onto knotty plywood! I stretched my arm as far as I could reach using big fat brushes, and even used an old t-shirt of my daughter’s to smear on the clouds.

When one of the three dogs I painted turned out too big, I simply painted over it and redid it instead of having to start the piece over completely, as I would have with ink and watercolor. The stakes were low, the rewards were high. I feel the finished painting, pictured below, captures the sense of joy and motion in that day at the ocean. And hopefully also the joyful energy I felt in creating it.

Who knows where this will lead? My pragmatic side has a lot of annoying questions: What would you do with a bunch of plywood sheet paintings? Would they still work for card and calendar art? If not, what then? Are you really switching mediums? How would you reproduce the images? Et cetera.

I am trying to quiet the mind and just let the process unfold. Trying to be OK with the potentially impractical and awkward results. Trying not to think too much about results, period.

Putting the finishing touches on “Luffenholtz Beach,” 72×48, house paint on plywood. © Annette Makino 2015

Putting the finishing touches on “Luffenholtz Beach,” 72×48, house paint on plywood.
© Annette Makino 2015

So, if you had one more year to live, what would you try that is uncertain and new and exciting? What would you do differently? Happy exploring, and happy new year!

warmly, Annette Makino

Makino Studios News

2016 calendar: My wall calendar of art and haiku, featuring twelve of my paintings of landscapes, animals and flowers, is available online and in some local stores.

Best haiku of the year: Red Moon Press is about to publish galaxy of dust: The Red Moon Anthology of English-Language Haiku 2015. I am honored to be included in the 20th edition of this most-awarded series in the history of haiku in English.

fox tracks . . .
who was I before
I was tamed?