How To Hand Paint Rock Buildings
Decorating Common Rocks
It may be considered kitsch or it may be art, but in either case, painted rocks are a bit of fantasy for your garden or for your curio cabinet. With the rising cost of canvas, rocks provide an appropriate substrate to express talent and whimsy for the aspiring or seasoned artist in everyone.
Rocks are plentiful, usually free for the taking and come in any number of shapes and sizes. Allowing your mind to wander, imagine and picture what could be hidden in a plain old rock is an exercise that is both pleasant and enjoyable.
Choosing Your Rocks
It's good to have an image of some interesting buildings in mind as you walk or hike in your area. Many interesting shapes of rock can be found along railroad tracks, stream beds or old quarries. Fancy rocks can be purchased at your local garden center. If you ask, they may even give you a rock or two.
Foraged for or gifted to you, be sure to wash your rocks! Use the garden hose and some liquid soap on an old sponge or scrub brush and get into all the nooks and crannies of your rocks. You should hesitate washing your rocks in the kitchen sink or bathtub as they have a remarkable tendency to chip porcelain and dent stainless steel. How I know this is not important to this discussion.
Keep a range of sizes in mind if you're going to display the rocks in a grouping or singly. A variety of buildings portrayed as an old-time Main Street, or a vintage neighborhood is a logical and pleasing arrangement for your creations and you would want your buildings to be of similar scale.
Another idea is to use a theme for your creation, such as the haunted house in this article that playfully depicts a book from the Cat Who series written by Lillian Jackson Braun.
Buildings aren't the only thing that can be depicted in rock art. Finding a smooth river rock could be turned into a resting cat or zany turtle with a bit of bright acrylic paint
You will want your rock to stand stably once its decorated, but if it does 'rock' a bit, you can build up the bottom with a small amount of wood filler. Once dry and painted, the filler will appear like a part of the rock itself. Filler can also be used for small details such as steps or chimneys and to fill minor defects in the rock. Your imagination is key to making it a fun project.
The B.J. Lund & Company building pictured is a depiction of an actual structure whose picture was found on the internet and is in Modena, Utah. The rock was chosen specifically for this project as there is something notable and memorable about abandoned buildings from long ago.
I have hesitated further mention concerning the Modena rock. At this time, I'm positive it is a weird coincidence and will tell something about it. A few days after completing this particular piece, I did a Google search on the B. J. Lund Company out of curiosity. Being a very old company, not much was available except for a recent obituary. A fellow had died who had been employed by the company some years before. His passing coincided with the time I was completing the Modena rock. I suppose this aside doesn't really belong in this Lens, but I thought someone might find it interesting.
Lived In Look
Small details such as this tilted garbage can lid can add realism to your painted rock. This is the back of the abandoned building in Modena, UT.
Whimsical rendering inspired by, "The Cat Who Talked To Ghosts"
The Cat Who Series on Amazon
This story was the inspiration for the painted rock house above. Most of the "Cat Who" books are available in audio books performed by George Guidall. He makes the books come alive in his delightful rendition.
The first three books of the series conveniently packaged.
For the one who just can't get enough of Qwilleran, Koko and Yum Yum.
Outlining the Structure
Use a white acrylic undercoat and large, 1 inch wide brush to cover the entire rock and let it dry before laying out your buildings features.
Using some kind of straight-edge or ruler, you will measure and outline your windows and doors keeping them lined up in a logical placement. Having the windows line up much as they would in a real world building, lends a more pleasing look to your finished rock.
Use a fine-tip pencil to outline the features of your building. The pencil lead is easily erased or simply covered in the final paint job. For a bold look and to offset and highlight your doors and windows, use a very fine line black paint marker available from any art supply store. This will look like the wood molding around the real thing, adding a further touch of playful realism to your creation.
Choosing Your Paints and Brushes
Acrylic paints are the easiest to use for this type of project. They are available in small tubes ready to use from your nearby craft store and can be cleaned up with soap and water. Consider what you may have in the basement or garage too. Ceiling paint will make a fine undercoat, and maybe you have a bit of house paint from your own home left over. This would come in very handy if you happen to find a rock that resembles your house.
You should have a couple different sized brush available. A broad one for larger areas and one or two smaller ones for detail work. They don't have to be fancy. A chip brush will work for the larger one and maybe one tapered artist brush.
Paint also comes in very fine tip markers that are great for fine detail work, such as the door molding or brick mortar.
Painting Your Building
It is usually best to start painting from the inside out. ie. paint the trim and the molding, then fill in the body of the building. This helps to even out any overlaps and straighten the lines of the windows, door molding and lentils. Paint the main color of your sign at this point too if you're making a commercial store building.
Pick a color that might be used in an actual full-size building, but brighten it up a bit. The blue millinery shop in this article was finished around Christmas time and has colored lights outlining the windows, much like you might see on Main Street, USA.
Keep adding the details, using window dressings, furniture inside the windows, open or closed signs etc. If you add too much or make a mistake, let it dry and paint over it! It's only paint and remember, this is for fun! Let your imagination flow. Consider dry brushing some tans to show aging to 'weather' your creation.
If your roof is flat, consider a dark gray or black to simulate the old time tar roofs. Shingles on a sloped roof are added one by one and just like real shingles are installed, start at the bottom and proceed to the roof peak, overlapping for that layered look as on a real roof.
Paint your chimney all one color such as red, then using a fine brush or marker, paint in the mortar lines, bringing out each brick.
Pick up your fine tip marker again at this point to sign and date your finished piece. You may never know how far this little building might be passed down through the generations.
Use a good outdoor polyurethane to finish and protect your final project once you have leaned back and admired it for awhile. Since you've used such pretty, bright colors, consider one of the water based polyurethanes that dry crystal clear rather than the oil based product that will add an amber touch to the art. It is much easier to clean your brushes also.
Once dry, your little building is ready to display in your garden, on your curio shelf or it makes a great door-stop too!
Great Books on Amazon
This book introduced me to rock painting and is thoroughly enjoyable. The author takes you in more detail through the rock selection, layout and painting of the rocks and scenes.
Using smooth river rock, the author shows how to depict cute, lovable animals in repose.