- Arts and Design
Decorative Painted Garden Rocks
I paint rocks.
I don’t paint those adorable and sometimes very realistic looking animals that make people go “WOW! I thought that was REAL for a moment, there!”
I paint abstracts, scenery and flowers. Daisies and roses are my favorite flowers to paint. Not only are these fairly simple, one can use one's imagination to create a different kind of daisy.
I was on a landscape craze for a couple of years, during which I painted dozens of ocean and beach scenes. I've painted dragons, symbols, birds and insects...
I call my line of insects Peace Bugs. Every bug has at least one peace sign on it.
Peace Bugs by Karla Whitmore
I've managed to pile up a fair amount of finished creations in my home. I have considered selling them. I’m just not really good at setting up as a vendor and doing the shows. Besides, these don’t fit in any particular category. Some would look good in a garden, while others are best displayed on a shelf or used as decorative doorstops.
The smaller ones may sell online, but when it comes to the bigger rocks, shipping would cost much more than the rock itself and there aren’t enough to justify spending money on the marketing. I have sold a few on consignments.
I have moved back to Tucson and I had to leave most of my beloved rocks behind, but I have been managing to fill our home just enough to irritate my husband. ;-)
My sister asked me if I ever felt bad about not making money off of my rocks. After all, with all the time I spend on them, I should get SOMETHING in return. The truth is that I do get something out of it. I love to create.
I never work off pictures. Everything I paint comes out of my mind’s eye, which explains the unidentifiable flowers and the bejeweled fungi, but I don't have a particular type, other than my bugs.
I paint rocks because it is easier than not painting, and in all, I’ve probably put in two or three hundred dollars for the paints, brushes and sealer. That isn’t bad for the amount of hours, well, years that I’ve put into this enjoyable hobby.
I only use rocks that I find in nature and never take from other people’s property. It was easy to find rocks in Michigan. My mom’s house is made of stone and so there are several stone piles out back. It’s like a “canvas” smorgasbord.
I’m not claiming to be an artist and I am certainly not a photographer (see my photos), but there are some things people do just because they enjoy doing it. That would include me and my decorative garden rocks.
More Rocks and More Rocks...
The funny thing about painting on stones is watching people react to them.
Some fall in love with my flowery rocks while others think those are “boring”. Some will go on about my abstracts as though I’m some kind of genius (if they do represent anything, it is the mood I’m in when I paint). I overheard one person complain that a five year old could have done as good a job and I’ve gotten other comments that I should be selling them. People think what they think, but in truth, I don’t paint for other people. I paint whatever comes to mind.
Yes, whether or not people like my rocks matters to me. I hope most people like them, but I paint because I enjoy the activity.
I have managed to fill up the shelves, corners and even the coffee table in the living room before having to start storing them in my bedroom. Now, most of them are on my patio.
One summer, I spent many, many hours sitting at the outside table, brush in hand , eyes squinting just a bit, and tongue peeking out from my lips. I placed most of them in and among the flowers in my mother’s flower bed.
Fifteen of those that were in my mother’s flower beds are now missing. They vanished into thin air at some point. Somebody must have really liked those rocks.
Painting Your Own Stones
Painting on rocks can be be enjoyable from start to finish because they are inexpensive to make, fun to create, and easy to display.
You don’t have to be particularly talented to paint and when you paint on rocks, you have a special advantage over using a canvas: You can wash it all off with soap and water if you don’t like what you’ve done, provided you have not already sealed it with polyurethane.
What You Need
- A package of paint brushes ranging from the teeny-tiny detail brush to 2 inch wide
- Acrylic paints – You can buy the craft acrylic paints for much cheaper than the paints in the tubes and these go much further. Buy all the primary colors, plus brown, silver, gold and shades of other colors. Of course you will be mixing some colors, but there are certain hues that are just easier to buy. I have over 20 colors in my “paint box” and two containers of every primary color.
- A 24 to 48 ounce container filled ¾ full of water
- A palette – I use Styrofoam or cardboard egg cartons
- Plastic wrap for placing over your palette
- A chalk pencil (optional – for sketching out your design)
- A rock – The perfect rock for making a garden stone is smooth on all sides and round, or perfectly flat on one side. However, I have used rocks with varying shapes and formations. Sometimes you can use the bumps and grooves as part of the scene.
- A can of polyurethane sealer
- A well-ventilated area for sealing your rocks - I like to paint outside whenever possible, but a room with plenty of open windows will do just fine
- Lots of newspaper
- A flat surface
- A comfortable place to sit
Start by washing the rock with soap and water and drying it with paper towels. If you have chosen a rock that has has a rough surface, use a scrubber to get the dirt and grime out of the pores.
Once you have decided what it is you would like to paint, you can either sketch it out with a chalk pencil or just start painting.
If you don’t like what you have done, it is easy to wash off the chalk or paint using warm water, soap, and a rough cloth. You can even paint over it after you have used a sealant. Just be prepared to use at least two coats of paint to cover the original paint and then reseal it.
You do not have to finish it all in one sitting. You can take a break whenever you like and come back to it as you choose. Be sure to rinse your brushes well, pour out the paint-saturated water and refill your container with clean water. Don’t forget to cover your palette with plastic wrap and carefully seal it around the edges. This keeps your paint from drying out too quickly.
Once you are satisfied with your creation, place the rock on a flat surface covered with newspaper. Shake the can of polyurethane ten to fifteen times and spray evenly in a back and forth motion, keeping the nozzle 8 to 12 inches from your rock. This keeps it from concentrating too much in one area.
Leave it to dry for an hour or so and then spray it one more time.
If you do not want to use polyurethane spray, you can also use a mod podge sealer. I like to paint two coats of sealer on my rocks with the second coat going on half an hour or so after the first. Yes, it dries that fast :)
If you are going to display your painted rock outside, bring it in the house when the temperatures drop. As your rock gets cold, it will contract and the paint will chip. While one winter may not be enough to cause chipping, continuous exposure over a a couple of years will cause the paint to chip.
If you live in an area where the sun shines the majority of the day, make sure your rock is in the shade. The sun can fade the color.
If needed, you can dust your rock with a dry towel or carefully wipe it with a damp towel.
If You Don't Know What to Paint...
Buy books on how to paint. Many of these focus on particular things such as flowers, animals, insects or landscapes.
Work from a picture, a model or your own imagination.
If you are planning to put your rock in a garden bed, flowers, butterflies, birds and inscriptions are nice.
Of course, you don’t have to put it in a garden. You can use rocks for paper weights, doorstops, or use them to decorate as you would with nick-knacks. In this case, the possibilities for what you put on your rocks is endless.
I have painted many ocean landscapes, dragons, abstracts and desert scenes. If you are especially talented (I’m not), you may even want to paint a portrait.
Not ready to try your hand at "free" design? Stencils are an option.
Fast Food Fun
Painting rocks may become addictive. I have personally painted dozens of rocks that vary in sizes from “itsy-bitsy” to the “I can’t believe you lifted that thing!” size. I have also been known to paint for hours on end and have five or six finished rocks sitting all around me at the end of the day.