Looking Deeply

painting of wild iris with poem fragmentAn art teacher I had in my early twenties, the abstract painter Leslie Kenneth Price, once pointed out to another student that she had carefully painted a face from her mirrored reflection, then assumed she knew what a neck looked like and simply painted two parallel lines. Under a fairly realistic face, the neck looked stiff and awkward. He told her, “Here’s where you stopped looking. Keep looking!”

More than 25 years later, the words “keep looking” still echo in my head when I’m painting.

I love iris flowers and even had a poster of one in my college dorm room, yet I had never really looked at one closely. That changed this summer, when I decided to paint a wild iris from our yard. I was amazed at all the intricate overlapping petals, sepals and markings. The delicate complexity threatened to overwhelm me. But I told myself, “Keep looking!” And for the first time, I really saw the strange beauty of an iris, and managed to capture an approximation on paper.

This is perhaps the greatest gift of making art: it compels us to keep looking. To look deeply at our surroundings, or in the case of abstract art, to look deeply into our own visions. This is also the gift that comes from writing haiku: it reminds me to really see the ragged edge of a nettle leaf, the pattern of tea stains left in a cup, the strange beauty all around us. And the gift is magnified when I am able to share what I have found with others.

You don’t need to be a painter or a poet to keep looking, just keep your eyes and heart open. Ultimately, to look deeply is to live more intensely.

new glasses
all the individual leaves
on the oaks

The wild iris piece above is 5″x7″, painted with sumi ink and Japanese gansai paints on textured card stock. The poem fragment on the piece was written for my husband Paul. This piece will be available as a blank greeting card or small print next month.

Makino Studios News

haiku and sumi painting of forlorn dog with suitcaseShow at Morris Graves Museum: One of my “haiku for dog lovers” paintings will be part of a group show on the human-animal relationship. Proceeds from the “Palettes and Paws event benefit the Humboldt Arts Council and the Sequoia Humane Society. The opening is during Arts Alive on Saturday, Sept. 1 from 6-9 p.m., and there will be an auction event on Saturday, Sept. 22. The Morris Graves Museum is located at 636 F Street, Eureka, California, and the show runs through September.

North Country Fair: Makino Studios will have a booth at this festive two-day fair on the Arcata Plaza, September 15-16. I’ll have t-shirts and new paintings, cards and prints. Look for me on G Street near the Hot Knots corner.

Prune Juice: In July two of my haiga (haiku art) and four of my poems were published in Prune Juice, one of my favorite poetry journals. Prune Juice is focused on senryu, haiku’s wry, funny cousin, and is a fun and entertaining read. (My pieces appear on pages 50-52.)

Buying in Person: Along with carrying my cards, as of today, Blake’s Books in McKinleyville offers a good selection of my prints. A total of 17 Northern California stores currently carry my cards: see the list of retailers. You can also visit my studio by appointment. This past week I even had visitors from Mexico!

Buying Online: Happily, Etsy now accepts credit cards as well as PayPal, so it’s even easier to order from my Makino Studios online shop

Connecting: I regularly post fresh haiku and/or art on Facebook and Twitter. “Like” the Makino Studios Facebook page for a dose of humor and insight. You can also follow @Ant99 on Twitter for more news.

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