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Painting on Rocks

Painting on rocks is enjoying a resurge in popularity.

Rock painting is a relatively cheap and fun hobby that can occupy both children and adults from the amateur to the more advanced artist. There is apparently no subject matter that cannot be painted on a stone from animals and flowers to houses.

Part of the enjoyment of this art form is finding rocks to paint on. A trip to the beach or to a river can mean you spend many hours searching for just the right "canvas". Soon the eye becomes accustomed to looking for stones shaped like curled up cats or hedgehogs and square shaped rocks that would make charming houses and cottages. Even the most unlikely shape can inspire the imagination to create an unusual work of art. However not all areas have a ready supply of stones or perhaps the beach or river in question is protected and the taking of stones is prohibited. In this case it is necessary to buy rocks from a landscaping business. The best idea here is to shop around and find the best price.
The first step in creating your rock painting is to thoroughly wash the stone with detergent and hot water in order to remove any dirt, dust, or in the case of rocks picked from the beach, sea salt. Leave the stone to dry for a few days in order to ensure that the paint you later apply will not flake or bubble. Some people recommend baking the rocks in the oven, but this is a matter of personal choice.

It is recommended you use acrylic paints for their quick drying time. There are several ranges of folk art paints that are suitable; also artist's acrylics are useful. For rocks that are going to be left outside, Patio Paints are found to be hard wearing and more forgiving of the elements. After the rock is finished it is usual to leave it a few days to cure and then spray or paint on a clear varnish for protection. This can be either matte or gloss, depending on preference.

Synthetic brushes are ideally suited for rock painting for both their versatility and their toughness. Having said this, however, it must be remembered that due to the roughness of the stone your brushes will not last as long as they would if you were using them on paper or ordinary canvas. Keeping them clean by washing in water and lying them flat to dry (in order to preserve the shape of the bristles) will ensure that they last slightly longer. Even when the brush's bristles have splayed out and they're no longer useful for fine work they can still be used to create certain effects such as fur.

If you wish to create a perfectly smooth surface to work on you can use a wood filler to even out any bumps and edges in the stone or alternatively you can use these imperfections as part of the design. Some artists use gesso as a base coat before they even draw their design while others prefer painting straight on the rock. There are also a variety of techniques from realistic "portraits" to folk art styles. Rocks can be either painted in 3D (using the entire stone) or 2D with the picture painted just on one side.

There are a variety of books to help the beginner. In particular Lin Wellford's range of titles from "Painting Animals on Rocks" to "Painting Flowers on Rocks" is helpful in giving step-by-step instructions for a variety of projects. She demonstrates how to place the subject on the rock and the correct way to mix colors through to creating fur lines when painting animals. Several artists specializing in rock painting also offer classes including some online.

Once you begin painting on rocks it becomes an all-consuming passion from the search for new stones to developing an individual style and learning new techniques. The resulting products from your efforts make great gifts and family heirlooms.

 
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