New year, new chapter

pile of books with New Year greeting

“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.

Artist with large painting of beach scene

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?

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4 Comments

  1. Posted January 2, 2016 at 3:51 am | Permalink

    Love that you are experimenting. I want to do the same this year. Simply have fun doing what I love so much. Great post – got me thinking…..

  2. Posted February 20, 2016 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    for me sadly there is no ‘if’ about it.
    and I don’t really know what to do for final excitement.
    I find that my pictures show a tendency to hide behind the past. Not having energy enough to seek new thrills, I try to be statisfied with small daily pleasures, like eating icecream or touching the rain on the window. I feel a great affinity for Masaoka Shiki’s “By?sh? rokushaku”
    You are idealizing the problem of having a known limited time ahead of one.

    • Posted February 20, 2016 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

      Joanna, Thanks so much for your comments. I caught up on your blog just now, and I am so sorry to learn of your diagnosis.

      I am abashed to realize how light-hearted and superficial my question was — you have reminded me that for many people, it is not the least bit hypothetical. And of course, with a serious illness to contend with, it would be a tall order indeed to summon the energy to start something brand new.

      But I find your latest haiku have real depth and even a sort of Zen humor (“watching a dragonfly”). I love the Shiki poems you posted, many of them new to me. And I’m glad you can still enjoy the simple pleasures.

      Take care.

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