Summer 2020 – all over the planet, people are looking for ways to entertain themselves at home. In my quest to stay home and stay safe, our little-used outside balcony beckoned. I have a folding camp table and a couple outdoor chairs – maybe I could make a little outdoor art studio. My sister had given me a set of paint dotting tools to try, and I’d seen that people used them to paint rocks. That sounded just messy enough to be a good balcony art project.
The rocks: I had a small stash of rocks I had picked up from beaches and rivers when traveling, along with a few landscaping rocks I found. Some of my rocks were very smooth, others were not smooth at all.
The paints: I started from my stash of craft and artist acrylic paints. Some worked better than others…I eventually learned that I liked the paint a little runny. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’ve read that adding pouring medium can help get the paint to the right consistency. Part way through my summer project, I discovered paint markers, and that really opened up the creative possibilities.
The tools: Dotting tools, paint brushes, stencils, paint markers
The method: Each week, I’d paint a group of 10 to 12 rocks in a batch. In most cases, I picked 5 to 6 paint colors and limited my batch to just those colors. Painting in a batch let me move from rock to rock, giving my fresh paint time to dry before I returned to any given rock. Each rock got a base coat of paint. The first set all had a white background, the next all had black, and from there it is was mix of black and color backgrounds. Painting a background color gives you a way to “erase” as you add paint – you just paint a little background color over the part you don’t like.
It took a at least 5 or 6 painting sessions to finish a batch. Because I wanted to follow the painting progress with photos, I drew a pencil outline around each rock on the newspaper below it. I made it a habit at the end of each painting session to return each rock to its original position on the paper to capture a photo. After a while, that felt like a ceremony…a really peaceful way to end my painting time.
The first designs I tried were mandalas – the dotting tools lend themselves to that. The dotting tools came with a stencil for a circular grid:
When I first received the paint dotting set, I used the stencil to paint a dot mandala on a piece of paper. To be perfectly honest, the process didn’t capture me then. I was trying very hard to be perfect, and found my self stressed and bored at the same time.
However, I really enjoyed using the stencil on the rocks. Some rocks, that were fairly flat seemed perfect for a stencil-based mandala:
Since the stencil was flexible, I found that I could still use it to pencil lines on pointy or odd shaped rocks. On these, the dot paintings reminded me of beads draped over the rock: