Just when you thought it was safe to venture out of your house without being run down by the herds of Pokemon chasers, along comes a new fad. You will be relieved to know that this one does not involve technology. This activity involves rocks, plain old “from the wild” rocks, the kind you find outside. In case that doesn’t sound too exciting, hear me out. The rocks are painted with designs and then “hidden” around town for people to find. It is an art movement billed as “Free Art.” The trend is spreading all over the U.S. via social media.
The movement started locally when someone got the idea from a Facebook friend in Tacoma, Washington, who got the idea from who-knows-where. A Facebook group was created and the movement started. The idea is not to paint rocks for personal gain, in fact, advertisements or promotions are strongly discouraged. Free art is intended only to give joy and perhaps a smile to the finder, who may hide the rock again, or keep it if unable to give it up.
Studies have found that the act of creating art improves mental health, creates a positive effect and reduces negative emotions. It provides a distraction that reduces stress levels, much like the recent coloring books trend. In spite of all these psychological benefits, however, most people seem to do it primarily for the fun.
“Most people don’t think of themselves as ‘artists,’ but everyone has a little art in them.” says Monica Etschman Ash, founder of a group in Tennessee. The level of excellence is not important. It is the act of creation that matters. Pictures of art rocks on social media show crudely rendered paintings, but a few are true works of art, signed and worthy of a place on your desk or living room coffee table. People can paint rocks as a solitary creative practice, as meditation, in a group, or with kids. The Art Rocks movement provides a social network with other “rock artists” as pictures of rocks that are found are posted to the Facebook group.
The rocks are painted with craft paints found in discount or craft stores, or you can use whatever supplies you have on hand. Paint pens or sharpies are great for drawing. Even fingernail polish works. Participants say that the best stones are smooth, rounded ones such as those found at creeks or streams, but any old rock will do. Designs are limited only by your imagination. If you need ideas to start the creative juices flowing, you can search online for “painted rocks” in social groups such as Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram for examples.
After rocks are painted and sprayed with acrylic sealer to protect the paint, then what? “Then you go out for a walk and hide your created rocks in plain sight in areas where people frequent, so folks can find them. You can put them in any public spaces,” says Monica. “The placing of the rocks is almost as fun as creating them. It gives you a little exercise too!” Rocks have been found at places like libraries, public squares, festivals, parks and landmarks. The mystery of why a rock is painted is solved when, sooner or later, someone finds it and looks at the back of the rock where the creator has written the URL of the sponsoring Facebook group.
Why should other people have all the fun? If you want to get people excited about art and are interested in starting a Tiny Art Movement for your community, go to Facebook and create a group. Name the group (Your City)ROCKS, post the instructions for painting and hiding, and get to painting.