Akie Nakata has always had a love for nature and art. Ever since she was a little girl, she has collected stones and drawn animals. But it wasn't until she stumbled upon a river stone shaped like a rabbit that she was inspired to combine her two interests.
But stones aren't just inanimate objects to be painted over. They are so much more than that to her. She believes that stones have souls just like animals.
"When I think of the long time it takes for a stone to change from a huge boulder in the mountains to the size and shape it has, as it rests in my palm, I feel the history of the earth that the stone has silently witnessed over the millennia, and I feel the story inside it," she tells MNN. "I feel the breath of life inside each stone."
Nakata doesn't alter the shape of the river rocks or arbitrarily paint any animal on them. She lets the stones "speak" to her. She feels their essence and from there knows which animal to paint.
"When I find a stone, I feel that stone too has found me. Stones have their own intentions, and I consider my encounters with them as cues they give me it's OK to go ahead and paint what I see on them."
Nakata's work is never rushed. She is careful to make sure she isn't "forcing something that disagrees with the natural shape of the stone."
To her, painting is a "dialogue with the stone." She lets the stone dictate what animal it should transform into.
"I want to paint the life, the living spirit of the being I feel inside the stone."
Nakata only considers her painting complete when "the eyes are now alive and looking back straight at me. To me, completing a piece of work is not about how much detail I draw, but whether I feel the life in the stone."