Many years ago I went to stay at Bishop’s House on Iona with friends. I can’t remember what was wrong with me (other than the usual) but I was unable to join them on long walks about the island. Instead, I would take my book and sit at the little beach at the foot of the garden. I might paddle, or sit in the shelter of some rocks and read, or just gaze across the Sound to Mull. Just like every pilgrim before or since, I gathered some pretty pebbles, knowing I’d probably never be able to carry them all home.
When I was in the local shop I spotted some enamel paints (the ones which model makers use) and thought I could paint something on those pebbles. I did some celtic crosses and friends’ names and handed them out to everyone as a wee memento. And ever since then I have painted the occasional doodle or word on little pebbles.
Then came Pinterest. If you don’t know about Pinterest, google it now. What an amazing resource. So I started to pin religious paintings, Scottish art, nice old gates and doors (a particular favourite of mine), funny quotes, nativity sets from around the world, cute cats because who doesn’t love a cute cat?, crafts to make for church… and that’s where I found my first piece of Rock Art. It was a rock, a stone, a pebble painted with beautiful patterns. I could do that, I thought. And so I did…
To begin with I made mistakes. But you learn from your mistakes. Here are some tips that I’ve learnt:
- Acrylic paint is best but I found that a coat of Gesso does a wonderful job of preparation.
- Brushes have to be just right and I found that brushes specifically for acrylic paints are best of all. I have a zillion brushes but I use only 3 or 4 – 2 flat ones and 2 tiny pointy ones.
- Chalk or a pencil gives you the outline but pencil can show through light colours so don’t press too hard.
- I use my old travel hairdryer to speed up drying if I want to move on to the next colour or do the other side.
- Don’t put down newspapers but use plastic sheets because the paint can pick up newsprint if it’s not completely dry.
- For outlines or fiddly bits use Sharpies pens.
- I’m using a varnish for decoupage just because I had some but you can use exterior varnish if you want to put them outside or Mod Podge.
- There are books you can buy for inspiration but I’ve found Pinterest has more painted pebbles than you can shake a stick at.
- And if you make a mistake or the varnish makes the paint bleed (which it did with some black paint for some unknown reason) you can paint over and start all over again.
- Let the shape of the rock dictate what it will become.
- Sometimes the rock is so beautiful you don’t need to paint it all – just do a little bit.
- If you live near a beach or river then you can find lots of nice rocks. Smooth surfaced ones are best. If you don’t have easy access your local garden centre should have River or Sea Cobbles which you should wash and leave to dry overnight before use.
Happy pebble painting! Here are some of my first attempts.