Painted Rocks by Cindy Thomas

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unique nativity sets and nativity scene figures hand-painted on Colorado river rocks and stones

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Rock Painting Fun for All Ages

By Lin Wellford

If you're looking for an inexpensive art or craft activity for yourself or to share with kids, consider the art of painting on rocks. Rock painting may be man's original art form, but these days it is probably the easiest and most fun way to learn to paint. The reason is simple; painting on something that already has shape and dimension is like taking a shortcut to great results. Compared to the challenges of creating a lifelike image on a flat surface, figuring out perspective, filling in foregrounds and backgrounds, trying to achieve the look of dimension, all are things that tend to be intimidating for new painters. On the other hand, painting on a rock that already has a shape and dimension is so much simpler. In fact, one painter noted that painting on rocks is more like coloring, and, after all, 'anyone can color!'

Finding good rocks to paint is a big part of the fun of this activity. Where else can you find such exciting art material lying around on the ground? Look for rocks that have smooth shapes. River tumbled rocks are excellent, but more angular 'side-of-the-road' rocks, or broken field stones can also be turned into exciting things like little cottages and vases or planters of flowers.

To get started, you need only a handful of basic colors. Acrylic paint works best and some brands even have a built in sealer so that the paint will hold up well even if the finished rock art is displayed outdoors. Get the primary colors, plus black and white, and you'll be able to create just about any other color you may need. A few inexpensive brushes (I love the stiff, white bristled ones you can pick up at those 'everything for $1.00 stores in sets of 4 or 5), plus at least one narrow liner brush for making lines, are generally all you need to get started. Lay out old newspaper to protect your surface and slow down spills. The lids from plastic margarine tubs make fine palettes for mixing colors, but Styrofoam picnic plates are also good.

Use a pencil to sketch on the details. You might start with something as simple as a ladybug or butterfly, drawing on the round or triangular designs with a pencil. Fill in the shapes with base colors, then, when the paint is dry, go back with a smaller brush and add the details that will make the piece come to life; the spots on the lady bug's back, or the dots and patterns to decorate the butterfly wings. There is no right or wrong way to paint a rock, and anything you don't like can be wet down and lifted up with a paper towel if caught quickly. Otherwise, just let the mistake dry, then paint over it. You simply can't 'ruin' a rock! Rocks are not intimidating the way more traditional art forms can be, so new artists tend to relax and enjoy the process more. This, in turn, helps them to achieve even better results, because creativity flourishes when you are not feeling fearful. Many rock painters got their start with very easy pieces and progressed quickly to making more challenging artwork.

"I used to think I couldn't even draw a stick figures and now people call me an artist!" is something rock painters often tell me.
Whether you are longing to uncover your own hidden artistic talents or just want to have a fun time with friends or family, discover the fun and pleasure of rock painting. I guarantee you will never look at rocks the same way again!

Lin Wellford has been painting rocks since 1978. She has appeared on The Carol Duvall Show, Smart Solutions, Your Home Studio and more. In addition, she is the author of eight books and a video on the art of painting rocks. Her newest book, Rock Painting Fun for Everyone! has just been published. You can see all of her books at After seven books with a large publisher, she decided to establish her own company, ArtStone Press, and she plans to add more rock painting books to her line.

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