When wrinkles inspire: Arcata artist and haiku poet creates work about aging

Eureka, California
April 26, 2013

ARCATA — Creative inspiration can come from unlikely sources. For Arcata haiku poet and artist Annette Makino, 49, the wrinkles and gray hair of growing older have provided an unexpected gift: the idea for a number of poems and paintings.

”The great thing about writing and painting is that you can take whatever is on your mind and turn it into art,” she said. “For me, one of those things was observing and responding to the process of growing older.”

Using a sumi ink stick that she grinds in an ink stone and gansai paint, a Japanese mineral-based paint similar to watercolors, Makino paints images with bamboo brushes on rice paper and writes her haiku on them. This follows a traditional Japanese art form called haiga, in which the poem and image enrich and deepen each other.

”Those of us in middle age and beyond tend to focus on the losses of what we once had,” she said. “Things we once took for granted, like smooth skin and firm flesh, the color of our hair, sharp eyesight and hearing, a reliable memory and unlimited energy.”

One of her haiku reads:

laugh lines, worry lines –
the shifting geography
of this face

Makino reflected that even those in great health eventually have more and more friends and loved ones who are not. Hospice visits and memorial services serve as a reminder that we are all gliding inexorably toward our own end. One of her one-line haiku reads:

shooting star this brief bright life

”The rewards of getting older are subtle and intangible,” said Makino. “They include the wisdom to make better choices, a clearer understanding of who we are and what’s important to us, maybe a bit of serenity. Those compensations are not anything you can see in the bathroom mirror.”

However, Makino said that she has gradually come to realize that there is a different way to think about getting older that is equally valid — and more encouraging. No matter how much we age, it’s a gift just to be “alive and kicking.”

In one of her paintings, the haiku under a radiant yellow sunflower reads:

whispered message
of each new wrinkle
rejoice! you’re still here

Another painting combines a close-up of cherry blossoms, a symbol of spring and renewal, with the words:

you’re younger now
than you’ll ever be

Her art appears to have struck a chord. Greeting cards of her paintings are currently sold in more than 20 stores, including several in Arcata, Eureka, McKinleyville and Trinidad.

As of this spring, they are also available in three East Coast locations: the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, N.Y., an educational retreat center with more than 20,000 visitors each year; Zen Tara Tea, a specialty tea shop in Bethesda, Md.; and Politics & Prose in Washington, D.C., which the Wall Street Journal has called the country’s most successful independent bookstore.

On a recent visit to Washington, Makino visited Politics & Prose and was delighted to learn that most of her designs had sold out within a month. The store soon reordered, including a number of her two cherry blossom designs, as cherry blossom season was just beginning.

Locally, people can meet the artist and see her paintings on the first weekend of North Coast Open Studios, June 1 and 2. Makino will exhibit her work and demonstrate her Japanese ink painting technique at the Samoa Women’s Club along with four other women artists. These include painter Tina Gleave, beeswax collage artist Gigi Floyd, silkscreen artist Cindy Shaw and ceramic artist Marty Flora.

Makino will also have a summer art show at Persimmons Garden Gallery in Redway during July and August. In addition, people can view and purchase her paintings, prints and cards any time through her website, www.makinostudios.com.

Meanwhile, Makino will be reaching a milestone of her own.

”As I approach my 50th birthday this summer, I am focusing less on all that I am losing and more on my vitality, creativity and wisdom,” she said. “Maybe I’ll even earn a few more laugh lines along the way!”