You may have heard of the Pet Rock, but the novelty gift from the 1970s has nothing on these hand-painted stones. Japanese artist Akie Nakata transforms found rocks into handheld animal sculptures that look as though they could come to life at any second.
Collecting rocks was a favorite childhood pastime for Akie, but it wasn’t until 2011 that she started painting on them. Back then, she came across a stone that she thought looked just like a rabbit and was inspired to make her vision come to life. “Stones have their own intentions,” the artist told My Modern Met, “and I consider my encounters with them as cues to go ahead and paint what I see on them.”
Today, Akie has created an entire zoo of stone animals, and she continues to create new ones every day. From domestic animals like cats and dogs to wildlife like cheetahs and gorillas, each animal is painted to suit the contours of the rock. Before she brings out her paints and brushes, Akie asks herself, “Am I positioning the backbone in the right place? Does it feel right? Am I forcing something that disagrees with the natural shape of the stone?”
Once she’s decided on which animal the rock will become, Akie uses acrylic paint to make her idea a reality. Lifelike eyes, fur, feathers, little noses, whiskers, and more are meticulously rendered one paint stroke at a time. Akie knows she’s finished when she can see the character staring back at her. “To me, completing a piece of work is not about how much detail I draw, but whether I feel the life in the stone.”
The resulting works look just like real animals, and Akie even finds “furever homes” for her pebble pets through exhibitions and online sales. Check out Akie’s animal-inspired stone paintings below and follow her on Instagram for updates on her next sale.