Art that Rocks! (A fun creative project), by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

“Rock Art” seems to have become a “thing” in recent years.  In schools and kindergartens, in particular, you often see colourful painted rocks, created by students and teachers, brightening up gardens and playgrounds.  My five kids and I and a friend recently went to a “rock art” workshop and had great fun.  Here is what we did and how we did it, so you can have a go too.

Seven year old daughter and I painting rocks in the workshop.

  1. Choose Rocks…..For those of us in the Southern Hemisphere, it is Summer now (November, December, January), and a good time to “choose rocks” when out and about.  Rocks washed smooth by streams are great.  It’s better if at least one side is smooth.  If it’s winter where you are or if you can’t find any smooth stones or rocks, garden shops often have them for sale in bags.  The workshop we went to had some of these.  They are not always especially large, it’s good to have an idea of what size you want and where you’d like them to go when you’ve completed them.  Although we did ours at a workshop, we also did more at home later, including some larger rocks we already had in the garden.
  2. Choose Paint….. oil based paints are not ideal when allowing kids to paint.  A good exterior paint is fine.  Tester pots are great for saving money and getting lots of different colours.
  3. Our 10 year old engrossed in rock art

    Paint!…..   It sounds very logical, but, after this just paint!  Kids tend to use excessive amounts of paint, so a prepared palette with some of each colour can help prevent paint waste.  Or a good plan to salvage unused paint at the end of the activity.  My daughter kept quoting her art teacher who, she says, always tells her students that “a little paint goes a long way”.  A good motto which helps kids remain mindful of waste.  The themes on the rocks are up to your imagination.  I found it was best to give the kids “free reign” in this area,  I had a plan for our rocks and didn’t mind how many they painted.  It was great to see them experimenting with lots of different ideas.  The rocks can be completely covered in paint so you can’t see the original, or a small image with the rock “background” still visible.  If you’re really stuck for ideas, here are a few: ladybugs; cats; dogs; people; flowers; butterflies; snails; mushrooms; fairies; caterpillars; trees; rainbows; korus; balloons; emoji faces…. Another good idea is to use a vivid marker afterwards (when the paint is dry) to create clear outlines.

  4. Varnish…  it’s far better to do this than not.  If your rocks are going to sit in the garden or in an out door area, they will be exposed to the elements.  A friend painted a beautiful rock for me a couple of years ago which, because it wasn’t varnished, now has the paint almost completely worn away after just two years of “weather” exposure.  Rain in particular is hard on the unvarnished paint.  The best varnish to choose is an ultraviolet resistant polyurethane or similar, which protects colours from fading.  I chose a gloss finish which gave the rocks a “wet look” and made the colours stand out brightly. Leave the painted rocks for a day or two after varnishing, to be sure any colours are completely dry.  As I said before, kids tend to use a lot of paint and sometimes the thickly coated rocks take a while to dry.  The varnished rocks will then need to be left for at least another day before they are ready to set up outside.

I love that when we step out on our deck now there is a colourful (almost “magical looking” array of rock art.  It’s Summer here now, but I imagine that this will make us feel warm during the cold days of winter and will maintain a “splash of colour” in our garden even after the flowers have died down.  Thanks to whomever first picked up a rock and turned it into art… perhaps in a cave thousands of years ago.  Perhaps our rock art will be discovered and analysed many years in the future.  Perhaps children will find it and say, “that looks like fun!”







2 thoughts on “Art that Rocks! (A fun creative project), by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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