Inspired by the natural curves and crevices of each pebble she finds, Japanese artist Akie Nakata draws out their character further with her paintbrush. Stones are transformed into adorable critters that can be held in the palm of a hand.
A self-taught artist and rock collector since childhood, Akie has been turning stones into palm-sized pets since 2010. She believes that each one has its own predestined character, and a story to tell. Akie’s project began when, while walking along a riverbank, she stumbled across a stone she thought resembled a rabbit.
“Stones have their own intentions,” she told Bored Panda, “and I consider my encounters with them as cues to go ahead and paint what I see on them.”
Here are a few of Akie’s miniature masterpieces:
Describing the painting process as a “dialogue,” the artist adjusts the viscosity of the acrylic paint for each stone, considering every contour and every meticulous brush stroke as she goes. Akie speaks to her creations, hoping that their eventual owners will love them in the same way she does, “because we all stand on the same earth, and we come from the same earth,” she said.
The animals range from mice as cute-as-a-button, to deep-sea dwellers, to tall giraffes. Some portray furry moms with adorable babies cuddling together.
Akie’s extensive pet rock collection also includes: sleeping cats, cuddling otters, lions at rest, birds, owls, and an entire opossum family on one stone. The artist shares her collection on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, where many pieces are also for sale.
In March, a tiny polar bear lounging on the ice found a home in the United States. Sharing a photo on Instagram, Akie posted, “Resting polar bear painted on found natural stone. He looks [relaxed] on his favorite ice, and it’s minimum size polar bear with I have ever encountered [sic]. He is only 18mm.”
Meanwhile, some of her tiny pets are more or less life-sized.
On principle, Akie never processes stones or shears edges to alter their shapes. The artist believes they possess life.
“Stones may fall outside our usual definition of living organisms, but 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,” she explained philosophically.
The eyes of Akie’s creations are notable for their depth and detail, and are always the last thing she paints. Each stone critter is brought to life with a tiny finishing touch.