A series of unfortunate events

 “merry & bright” is available as a print or card. It is based on an original 11×14 painting in sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on rice paper.

“merry & bright” is available as a print or card. It is based on an original 11×14 painting in sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on rice paper.

It was a very trying couple of weeks. The first thing to go wrong was that mice invaded our kitchen and bathroom, leaving their droppings in most of our drawers and cabinets. Just days after I finished cleaning and sterilizing everything from that episode, the dog did his business on the driveway, my husband stepped in it wearing hiking boots, and voilà— a trail all through the downstairs that even a human could track by smell.

After cleaning the evidence off the carpets and floors, I updated some software for my website—and much of the sidebar text disappeared. I naively thought it would be simple to restore it from the nightly backup, but my web guy said that what with the reconfiguring and testing, it would actually be faster for me to recreate the content. There went another big chunk of the day.

Next up, my digital security service notified me that my Gmail account had been compromised. As advised, I dutifully changed the password. But this foiled only me, as the account could then receive email, but no longer send.

A couple days later, the front door permanently locked while open. We spent 24 hours with blankets draped over the top and side of the door to keep out the chill until a locksmith came to replace the failed lock

During this period, I noticed that the house alarm system was indicating a low battery. When I called the company that had installed the system, they had no record of our account

The way my luck was going, it was just par for the course when I picked up the lid of a ceramic butter dish and part of it broke off in my hand.

As each new calamity arose, I got farther and farther behind on my to-do list, just at my busiest time of the year. Instead of painting and framing art, while my husband was off teaching and the kids were at school, I spent many long and tedious hours cleaning and fixing things that I usually take for granted, like front doors that close, email that both sends and receives, and kitchen cabinets where you can safely store food.

 “peace on earth” is 5×7, painted in sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper. It is also available as a print or card.

“peace on earth” is 5×7, painted in sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper. It is also available as a print or card.

It was a small mercy that this series of unfortunate events happened just before Thanksgiving. Even while lamenting all the time I was losing, a part of me remembered to be grateful to have a home at all. I told myself that many displaced people—from Syria to the Philippines to downtown Arcata—are facing situations far more dire than a little mouse poop in the silverware drawer.

Beyond that insight, I am not sure what else to take from this run of aggravations, except that sometimes in life, poop happens. Then you just clean it up as best you can and carry on.

With everything running smoothly in our household once more, this past week I found time to paint several new holiday pieces, including the persimmons shown here. I’m now busy catching up and preparing for holiday fairs over the next two weekends.

Who knows what else might go wrong (what is that weird sound coming from the dishwasher?). But the little white Christmas lights are up and the mood here is turning merry and bright. Here’s wishing you delightful and aggravation-free holidays

warmly, Annette

Makino Studios News

Humboldt Holiday Fairs:

  • Humboldt Artisans Crafts and Music Festival at Redwood Acres in Eureka, CA, Friday through Sunday, Dec. 6-8. I’ll be offering new paintings, prints and holiday cards. The Makino Studios booth will be in the sunroom of the Home Economics building.
  • Arcata Holiday Crafts Market at the Arcata Community Center, Arcata, CA, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 14-15.
  • Pierson Christmas Fair in Eureka, CA, now through Dec. 24.

Poetry & Honey: My new 2014 wall calendar has been selling much faster than I expected and is currently on its third printing. You can order copies online at my Etsy shop, find them at select Humboldt County stores, or get them at the fairs above.

Holiday Cards: My newest designs can be found in the card section of the Makino Studios Etsy shop.

Arts Alive Holiday Show: Several of my framed prints and cards are in a group show at the Mateel Cooperative Gallery, 773 Redwood Drive, Garberville, CA through December.

New Retailers: I’m happy to share that you can now find a selection of my cards at Eureka Natural Foods (see the special card rack in the center of the candle section), and at St. Joseph’s Hospital Gift Shop, both in Eureka, CA.

Haigaonline Show: Eleven new haiga (haiku art pieces) will be featured in the next issue of Haigaonline, coming in late December.

The spiral path

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A few weeks ago, I flew to Washington state for a three-day haiku conference. When I first attended the Seabeck Haiku Gathering a year ago, I was fairly new to the whole world of haiku, and it was very exciting to meet other serious haiku poets for the first time (see Finding My Tribe). This year, the conference deepened and expanded my understanding of this deceptively simple art form. Circling back to the same place a year later, I was also able to see how I have progressed as a poet and artist since then.

I was happy to be invited to do a poetry reading and present a digital slide show of my art, including the seashell painting at the top of this page. Following are a few of the conference activities, followed by my haiku.

The first morning, author and teacher Margaret McGee had us create large spiral labyrinths made of branches, autumn leaves, and oyster shells. She then led us on a contemplative walk into and out of the spirals, and over the weekend we dotted them with our haiku.

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spiral labyrinth . . .
still hoping for a shortcut
to enlightenment

Terry Ann Carter, the president of Haiku Canada, led a workshop based on nature essays by Canadian writer and painter Emily Carr.

sleeping naked
all winter long
the maple

Jacqueline Pearce, the author of several historical novels for children and teens, gave a talk called “Time Travel with Haiku,” where we wrote historical haiku as well as “scifaiku” about the imagined future.

earthrise . . .
the world we left behind
so blue

Poet Alice Frampton led the group on a forest hike to the historic Seabeck cemetery, which inspired many poems.

eventually
we all arrive
graveyard gate

The days were long and full, with some activities running past 11 p.m. I wrote the following haiku at the end of one such day. (It later tied for second place in the kukai, an anonymous haiku contest in which all participants vote on their favorites.)

flannel pajamas
my cell phone also
recharging

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There was much more besides, including haiku bingo, a talent show, presentations by haiku poet Marco Fraticelli, and anonymous haiku workshops. On the last day, cartoonist-in-residence Jessica Tremblay of Old Pond Comics delightfully summarized the whole Seabeck gathering in cartoon form.

As with the labyrinths we made, the Seabeck conference left me reflecting that progress is rarely linear. It’s more like a spiral, where we repeat certain actions and experiences over and over, hopefully improving a little bit on each pass. The challenge is to stop looking for shortcuts, take a few breaths, and just enjoy the journey.

My thanks to Seabeck organizers Michael Dylan Welch and Angela Terry of Haiku Northwest for this fun and inspiring gathering, and to all the other participants who made it such a warm and rich experience.

“listen—the song” is 5" x 7", painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors (gansai paint) on heavy textured paper. It is also available as a print or greeting card.

Makino Studios News

Poetry & Honey: A new 2014 wall calendar features 12 of my paintings. This mini-calendar is now available online and at selected Humboldt County stores.

Humboldt Holiday Fairs: Look for my Makino Studios booth at: •    Humboldt Artisans Crafts and Music Festival at Redwood Acres in Eureka, CA, Dec. 6-8 •    Arcata Holiday Crafts Market at the Arcata Community Center, Arcata, CA, Dec. 14-15 •    Pierson Christmas Fair, Eureka, CA, Nov. 19-Dec. 31

Arts Alive Holiday Show: I will have several pieces in a group show at the Mateel Cooperative Gallery, 773 Redwood Drive, Garberville, CA in December.

The truth about being an artist

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I have been having trouble with frogs. Not actual frogs, which I kind of like, in their funny, damp way, but with trying to capture them on paper. To get the image I wanted for the piece shown here, in a long, frustrating process lasting two days, I painted a frog on a lily pad twenty-three times.

Still, each of my paintings fell short in some way. In many there was a problem with the neck, as my 12-year-old, an avid frog-catcher, helpfully pointed out. Others were out of proportion—froggy arms too long for the body, or feet too small. And in a couple, the ink ran in the all-important eyes, ruining the whole piece.

I wasn’t going for anatomical precision—that’s why God invented cameras—but I was still looking for that elusive “aha!” that tells me I’m done.

Exhausted by frogs, I put them away for a couple of weeks, letting the images percolate in my brain. And when I finally got up the gumption to tackle the piece again, I allowed myself to sketch it in pencil first, contrary to traditional Japanese technique.

Aha! Got it.

From the outside, being an artist may seem like a dream job. To have a career that is all about expressing your creativity, to enjoy the freedom of pursuing your passion however you choose, to share your talent with the admiring public, to leave your mark on the world in the most personal of ways . . .

 A few of my failed frogs

A few of my failed frogs

There is truth to all of that, and I do appreciate the opportunity I have to walk this path. But the dirty little secret about being an artist is that it is also hard. Really hard.

First there is the overwhelming problem of trying to make a living as an artist, which deserves a whole separate discussion. Then there is the fact that—as rewarding as it is to create a successful painting—on any given morning, it is far easier to check email, Facebook, and Twitter, do laundry, or even (shudder) clean the bathroom, than sit down in the studio and paint.

It takes focused concentration and a mind uncluttered by the demands of a to-do list or a tight schedule. That's a tall order right there.

More fundamentally, although my creative vision is usually clear, my technical skills lag behind. In that gap lies self-doubt and frustration—not to mention a whole lot of wasted ink and paper. I’ve been involved with art and graphic design since childhood, yet some part of me still questions whether I can really call myself an artist. If so, would it really take me twenty-three tries to paint a simple frog? And must the whole process involve so much hair pulling?

And yet . . . I know that it's only by reaching beyond our comfort levels and throwing ourselves into the difficult and unknown that we leave open the possibility of grace. In the case of this particular painting, grace takes the form of a meditating frog, distracted by its many wandering thoughts, peeking an eye open.

Is this goofy painting to be part of my legacy to humanity? Well, so be it. Ribbit.

“in meditation” is 5" x 7", painted with sumi ink and gansai paint (Japanese watercolors) on paper. It is also available as a print or greeting card.

Makino Studios News

North Country Fair: Humboldt folks, please stop by and say hello at my booth at the 40th annual North Country Fair in Arcata, California this coming weekend, September 21-22, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. The Makino Studios booth will be near the Hot Knots corner on G Street.

Seabeck Haiku Gathering: I will be presenting examples of my haiga (art with haiku) at this fun haiku retreat taking place in Seabeck, Washington October 10-13.

Hello, Oregon: As of this month, the independent bookstore Soundpeace in Ashland is the first retailer in Oregon to carry a selection of my cards.

Twenty golden years

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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.

Spacious skies

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The Fourth of July has got me thinking about what it means to be an American. Like many who live a bit outside the mainstream, I don’t automatically identify with all things American: the flag, baseball, hot dogs, Hollywood and so on. I must confess that I don’t know how to blow gum, I’ve never heard of most of the celebrities in People magazine, and I have yet to grasp the rules of football. But at the same time, because both of my parents chose to leave their homelands of Switzerland and Japan to emigrate to this country, I have a bit of an outsider’s perspective that gives me a special appreciation for all that this country offers.

For my parents, America truly represents the land of possibility, where people are freer than anywhere else to express themselves and to live their lives as they choose. They left behind the rigid social structures and narrow possibilities of Old World Europe and Japan in favor of this big, beautiful country. They understood that this place attracts the world’s most innovative, ambitious, hardworking people and allows them the freedom to fail or succeed on their own terms.

And so it was here in America that a Japanese man met and married a Swiss woman, here where he become a nuclear physicist and she an artist, here where our family raised pet rabbits and llamas, lived in A-frames and yurts, and shaped our lives as much as possible to our hearts’ desire every day.

Of course, this country has some deep-rooted problems, and the promise usually falls short of reality. But as Winston Churchill once said, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.”

As a second-generation American, I take none of this for granted. I feel fortunate beyond measure that the best of America—the sense of space, freedom, and abundance—is my inheritance. Under these wide skies, anything seems possible. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll even learn how football works

Meanwhile, happy Independence Day!

“Fourth of July” is 5" x 7", painted with sumi ink and Japanese gansai paint on paper.

Makino Studios News

Art Opening Friday: For the months of July and August, I will have an exhibit at Persimmons Garden Gallery, located at 1055 Redway Drive in Redway, California. There will be an opening this Friday, July 5 from 6-9 p.m. with live music by the SoHum Girls and the Fabulous Resinaires. For details, see this story in the Redwood Times.

New Retailers in Santa Barbara and Mendocino: I'm delighted to share that, as of this week, my cards can be found at two new California locations: Gallery Bookshopin Mendocino, which last year marked its 50th year in business, and Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara's leading independent bookstore.

North Country Fair: Look for the Makino Studios booth at the North Country Fair in Arcata, California the weekend of September 21-22. I will be showing some new art as well as offering cards, prints, tee shirts and books of my work.

Ripening into sweetness

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Happy Solstice! One of the things I love best about the advent of summer is all the delicious fresh fruit. You can take your pasta, meat, bread and sweets; if I had to live on only one kind of food for the rest of my life, it would be fruit. There is a series of photos of me at age three, up in a tree in our Southern California backyard, stark naked, blissfully eating apricot after apricot right off the branch.

My idea of paradise still involves lots of fruit trees and berry vines. A few years ago, my husband spent a backbreaking summer planting over thirty fruit trees on our land. Visions of strolling out into our yard to harvest fresh cherries, plums, and nectarines have since given way to the sad reality: our area just isn’t sunny and warm enough for such trees to thrive. What little fruit they produce is discovered first by the birds and raccoons.

Luckily for us, there is a lively farmer’s market on the Arcata Plaza every Saturday. Live music, an array of jugglers and hula hoopers, and half a dozen booths of fresh-baked treats complement the rows of organic farm stands. These days we are gorging ourselves on the tiny, deep red strawberries we find there, each one packed with more flavor and sweetness than an industrially grown version ten times the size.

I am savoring the strawberries and peaches of the season every way I can think of: as an oatmeal topping; sliced onto toasted bread slathered with almond butter or mascarpone cheese; in salads with blue cheese crumbles; combined with Greek yogurt and drizzled with chopped nuts and honey; or eaten whole with a few squares of good dark chocolate.

Hello, summer.

“summer solstice” is 5" x 7", painted with sumi ink and Japanese gansai paint on paper.

Makino Studios News

Summer Art Show: For the months of July and August, I will have an exhibit at Persimmons Garden Gallery, located at 1055 Redway Drive in Redway, California. There will be an opening Friday, July 5 from 6-9 p.m. with live music by the SoHum Girls and the Fabulous Resinaires.

North Coast Open Studios: Thanks to everyone who came out to visit the five of us at the Samoa Women's Club June 1 and 2! The event was very well-attended and it was great fun to share our work and techniques with visitors.

MikkiMoves Living Room Gallery: I have a piece in a group show at MikkiMoves' Living Room Gallery, located at 805 7th Street in Eureka, California. The show runs through June.

Makino Studios Gallery: There are several new pieces in the gallery secti0n, including some I painted in Mexico this past spring.

Scent of Mint

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Summer is almost upon us! Here in Arcata, California, between the redwoods and the sea, the temperature stays fairly constant year-round. A typical summer's day is cool and foggy until mid-afternoon, when the temperature might "soar" into the high 60s. Still, we Pacific Northwest dwellers rejoice in the coming of summer, and all the leaping growth and expansion of this time. Enjoy, and don't forget to stop and smell the mint!

If you live in the Humboldt area, please join four other artists and me at the Samoa Women's Club in Samoa, California this coming weekend for North Coast Open Studios. Tina Gleave, Gigi Floyd, Cindy Shaw, Marty Flora and I will demo our tools and techniques. I will also have cards and prints for sale.

We will be there the first weekend only, Saturday and Sunday, June 1-2, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be free refreshments. We're just four minutes from the Samoa Bridge; details and directions are in this May 24 story in the Eureka Times-Standard, "Samoa Women’s Club hosts five artists for NCOS."

As I'm quoted saying in the article, "I'm very excited to be sharing a space with four other dynamic and talented women artists. We each have such different creative approaches, but we all love to share our work with visitors, and I think it will be fun and stimulating for people to see how each of us makes her art."

I hope to see you there!

Also, you can listen to an interview with me and three others about North Coast Open Studios and what inspires us as artists on Artwaves tomorrow. That's Wendy Butler's show about the Humboldt art scene on KHSU, 90.5 FM, on Tuesday, May 28 at 1:30 pm.