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."

rock art wolf
Nakata does not alter the shape of a stone. She lets the stone's 'spirit' tell her what animal it is. (Photo: Akie Nakata)

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."

polar bear rock art
Unlike paintings, Nakata's stone art is meant to be viewed from all angles. (Photo: Akie Nakata)

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."

alligator rock art
She lets the natural hues of the stones shine through in her art. (Photo: Akie Nakata)

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."

koala bears rock art
Sometimes she can fit two animals on one small stone. (Photo: Akie Nakata)
otters rock art
An otter holding on to her pup. (Photo: Akie Nakata)
raccoon art
Sometimes, Nakata only paints part of the stone like on this raccoon stone. (Photo: Akie Nakata)
brown bear rock art
Nakata can even transform a triangular shaped stone into a bear holding a teddy bear. (Photo: Akie Nakata)
mother and baby owls rock art
Nakata has painted many variations of owls. (Photo: Akie Nakata)
bird rock art
While most of her art is subtle in color, this peacock is one of her more lively stones. (Photo: Akie Nakata)
penguin rock art
Nakata manages to blend colors so seamlessly that the stone no longer looks like a rock but more like a painting. (Photo: Akie Nakata)
lion rock art
A lion laying down peacefully. (Photo: Akie Nakata)
rock art elephants
An elephant and her baby. (Photo: Akie Nakata)
north american badger rock art
A badger resting on top of a stone. (Photo: Akie Nakata)
tarsier rock art
Sometimes, Nakata will only paint a tiny part of at stone like this tarsier. (Photo: Akie Nakata)