For self-described “stone artist” Akie Nakata, rocks are more than meets the eye. Foregoing the use of conventional canvases for a more organic approach, Nakata paints realistic and minutely detailed animal depictions on the surface of smooth stones.
From owl chicks to otters, Nakata dabbles in a wide range of animal depictions. Though her selections may seem arbitrary, they are actually deeply meaningful. In what the artist describes as seemingly serendipitous encounters, Nakata personally discovers and collects the stones that she decorates. As she keeps her eyes pealed for potential finds, she does not have specific subject matter in mind. Instead, she finds inspiration in the natural contours of each rock—which she never alters or adjusts in any way—and then decides what creature to create. To Nakata, the shape of every stone—from the tiniest pebble to the biggest boulder—is part of its story and, thus, plays a crucial role in her practice.
Given the amazing amount of detail and depth apparent in each piece, it is no surprise that every painting requires ample patience, effort, and time. Nakata notes, however, that the reasoning behind her meticulous approach transcends technique and artistic accuracy. Her cautious process is also somewhat spiritual in nature. “What I paint on stone is inspired by the stone itself,” she explains. “In order to bring out the living being that I feel in the stone to its surface, I proceed very carefully. I consider step by step, for example, whether I am positioning the backbone in the right place. Does it feel right? Am I forcing something that disagrees with the natural shape of the stone?” Clearly, to Nakata, each stone is so much more than a natural formation or an unconventional canvas.