Rock Painting

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.

It’s a spare set-up. All my supplies fit in a small laundry basket that I took in when I was done.

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

It’s exciting to change plain old rocks into something pretty!
Pull the arrows back and forth to see the before and after!

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.

Mandala Rocks

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:

The circular grid stencil that comes standard with many paint dotting sets.

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:

Parts of the mandala “fall off” the edges of a flat, but rough-edged rock.

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:

I like leaving the middle of the mandala open – it makes a good frame for a word.

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