Friday, July 31, 2015


Who says the horizon has to be straight? I painted the horizon here as a straight line in this piece, but I could have shown the curve of the earth and been just as correct.

I remember sitting, mystified, in my car in 1989, the first game of the World Series about to begin, as I watched the horizon in front of me roll up and down like waves. Earthquake, and then fire shortly after left 1989 in tatters.

Who says Vincent Van Gogh didn't see the world as he painted it -- all curved and swirling. As Big Elk said, "We seek circles. Everything is done in a circle."

See the star up there? It is a circle too.

I spend most of my life looking closely at details, which helps make me a better artist and writer. But sometimes, my mind is spinning around from one idea to another and I need to look at far horizons to show me the grandness and the emptiness of the universe.

I'm thinking in circles, but I'm painting what I saw of the horizon at the beach one day. Standing in a place where I can see long distances, I can find that sense of openness that helps to clear my head and allows quietness to come in.

I'm writing of the narrow detailed places and the grand views. Yet, the middle places are the places we mostly live in, aren't they? They are the harder places: between two people, between human being and nature. Even there, in the middle, we can find circles: from childhood back to childhood, holding hands and circling round each other, hugging a tree, hugging each other, hugging, again, is a circle.

I hope sometime this week you can take the time to gaze at a far horizon and open up your being to its grandness. And give someone a hug too.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Have you had a chance to step outside today and take a deep breath of air? What about a walk in a park where you can be among the trees and grasses?

Today at Osage Park, I walk by a white-haired man reading to his son. His son is not young either, but he sits in a wheelchair with a baseball cap on, with his head slumped against his chest. I wonder about the man. How had he found the reserve in himself to sit quietly with his son and read to him long after his son's childhood?

We expect our children to grow, leave our homes, and make their way in the world. As with a few of my friends' children, sometimes that doesn't happen. Instead, intense parenting, including bathing, dressing, and feeding, continues for a lifetime with help during the school years, but after that, little respite. I watch my friends as they struggle with daily life and find joy in small things. They find resources outside their homes to help their grown children and to give themselves the needed breathing room from the strains of daily parenting care.

A lifelong caregiver could easily be filled with resentment and discontent. Yet I have seen my friends open a space within themselves that gives them the chance to have an accepting and grateful life. Not that they don't rail against the sky or ask themselves time and time again, "Why me?"

As I walk by the man and his son, I think that the quiet moments allow them to embrace the life they have in a way they never envisioned for themselves. Seeing them together I can see the beauty and grace in the life they have absorbed. Those quiet times carry with them a sense of peace that I was able to share for just a few seconds on my walk around the park.

I drew both of these sketches on an iPad using the app, Paper 53.

Take a deep breath today.

Peace be with you, Annie.

"Quiet in the Storm of Life" appeared August 12 in Story Circle Network's blog, One Woman's Day. Go to and click on the Online link to find the blog. If you are a woman who likes to write, join Story Circle Network. They offer classes, encouragement, and opportunities for your work to be published.

Friday, July 17, 2015


One of these days I would like to call myself a poet. I can embrace the words 'artist' and 'writer,' but I am still practicing poetry. To me, writing a poem is like painting with words. I like being able to record a moment that made me stop and marvel. While I am practicing, I'll share with you a few of those moments:

A swallow
swoops down to the infield
grabs its catch
soars over the outfield fence.

New construction and new park:
man lying on the grass
stretches his arms above his head.
A moving crane on the road screeches.

A swallowtail
at a cross walk
on a six-lane road
flutters across with the light
reaches the other side,
 just in time:
the light turns red.

On the Iron Horse Trail,
next to the football field,
next to a busy road.
Unexpected music:
a school band plays,
trail walkers pick up their steps,
a car horn blares.

Like a feather in a breeze:
a touch on my leg,
once, twice,
just enough to make me look
down at two inquiring eyes.
My cat,
who rubs my leg,
just enough for attention,
 then walks away.

The flower paintings are etegami, a style I learned in Japan. They are done with watercolor on stiff postcard-sized paper so they can be mailed to friends.

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May peace be with you, Lillian.

Friday, July 10, 2015


Life throws us 'normal weeks' filled with sadness, energy and joy.

My 94-year old mother-in-law is failing. She has had a long and full life. Right now, she is an old woman who needs comfort, attention, touch, and love. Life seems to come back around, doesn't it? Just like my mother-in-law needs to be cared for in the way we care for babies.

At the same time we are on alert for news of her, I am trying to complete two different art projects for submission before the deadline next week. In the midst of this normal, hectic week, I received an email from a friend that made me laugh as soon as I opened it. She sent me these two images:

Photos by Pam Okasaki

I'm not a big believer in heavenly angels, but I do think that people are the angels in our midst. How many times have you been slogging along with daily existence when you have been startled by someone who makes you pause, makes you laugh, or makes you smile: a respite from your daily grind. Here's to all the earthly angels out there! And if you have images of faces that you would like to share, send them to me at

The New York Times ran a feature article recently about adults coloring in coloring books to gain tranquility. Growing up, I loved to color in coloring books. I could wile away a whole afternoon filling the pages with color. I've just received news that a Zen Doodle that I made will be included in North Light's new coloring book, "Zen Doodle Coloring Book". That's exciting for me, and has renewed my interest in coloring books. Now I am working on some drawings that I hope will become a coloring book of my own.

I am using photos that I have taken (all of those hundreds of photos of flowers that I have taken finally will be put to good use) and converting them to coloring book drawings. Here is an example of how I create a workable drawing.

The original photograph

I made a photo copy of the photo

From that, a pencil tracing. Here is where I eliminated unnecessary or confusing shapes.

Then another, cleaner tracing.

Finally a drawing on velum using Pentel's Tradio Stylo Sketch Pen, which I love because of the flexibility of its nib. (caution: the ink is not waterproof)

Now I need your help. I need someone who loves to color to color this drawing. I need to know if the shapes are clear. Can you tell which is a leaf and which is a flower petal? Is it fun to color? What are your suggestions?

You can scan your resulting coloring to me at You will be one of my angels!

Check out Zen Doodle Coloring Book at 

Friday, July 3, 2015


Walking on the Iron Horse Trail, I pick up oak galls along the way. The galls are created when wasps deposit their eggs in the crust or foliage of an oak tree. The oak, protecting itself, wraps around the irritation and forms what looks like balls on its limbs, like a skin tag, like fruit, but the galls are not edible. Inside they look like the rest of the tree: wood. They are dry and seem to be useless, except that calligraphers have made ink from them for a long time. Oak gall ink was commonly used by monks to write in the Middle Ages. People in that era also used oak gall and walnut inks to identify thieves. They would submerge their hands in the ink, which is hard to clean off. Shakespeare makes reference to the oak gall ink in Twelfth Night:

"Go, write it in a martial hand; be curst and brief; it is no matter how witty, so it be eloquent, and full of invention: taunt him with the license of ink...Let there be gall enough in thy ink, though thou write with a goose-pen, no matter: about it." (Sir Toby Belch, Twelfth Night, Shakespeare, 3.2.42)

Looking at the dry innards of the galls, I wonder how anyone thought that ink could be made from them. Here is a recipe to try:

In equal amounts add chopped up oak galls, water, ferrous sulfate, and gum arabic. Let the mixture sit for a couple of weeks, stirring occasionally.

 The Internet is full of ideas about making oak gall ink. An inventive person suggested using steel wool in place of the iron sulfate (if you have an aversion to using toxic chemicals like I do) or placing the galls and water in an old iron pot to soak. Another alternative would be to soak iron nails in vinegar first and then add them to the mixture.

In folklore medicine, oak gall extract, without the ferrous sulfate, is used to improve woman's vaginal health. But I use the ink to draw with because I love its warm sepia tones.

I walk along the trail collecting the many galls that have fallen recently. The gall's outside is a smooth yellow ochre except where the wasp larvae dug out of their bed. Like an egg, something wonderful, and difficult to paint as you can see from my first attempt.

I'm having trouble making the galls look round and three-dimensional so I draw one because I know I can make that happen with a pencil.

Now at last, I am beginning to realize the shapes. Just a sketch, but good practice:

Today is a day of looking closely at something I've collected, to understand how it is formed and what its uses are. What do you collect that makes you want to know more about it?