How Painting Rocks Soothed My Soul
A childhood activity may be my new favorite hobby
When my girlfriend told me she wanted to paint rocks to drop at state parks, I thought, “have fun with that.” It’s not because I didn’t like the sound of it, quite the opposite. I have spied these little trinkets left out and about by others; they always bring joy to my hike. It is like happening upon an Easter egg hunt when you didn’t know the holiday was happening. I have even found myself going down a rabbit hole on social media, watching others decorate their pebbles in fantastical ways. My issue was I didn’t feel adequate to do the same.
How could this be true? It is such a simple task with no actual rules! What does it say about ourselves when we convince our inner child that we are not enough? I found the little lies I told myself were stopping me from this activity and others in my life as well.
1. I Am Not Artistic
I have always wanted to be the person that can pick up a pencil, paintbrush, sewing needle, jigsaw, or other tool and amaze others with my raw talent. Instead, my “artistic bone” seemed to be missing, like my removed appendix. I take pleasure in embracing my incredibly simplistic stick figures that are the limit of my drawing abilities because I felt that was the extent of my talent.
It turns out the most challenging part of this experience was just starting. I stressed over what to make. I fretted over picking the right shaped rock. I worried my paints wouldn’t work right and I would ruin my project. However, once I just started, I realized I could make something I was proud of, and being an artist does not mean being perfect.
2. I Do Not Have Patience
Beginning to paint, all I could think was about how long it would take. Ten rocks? Are you crazy?! I have no ideas, and I can’t even figure out how to do one! What do you want from me?!?!
Now that you know the type of dramatics I bring to our relationship, you see how my girlfriend is a saint to include me in anything.
But then I started one rock, and I liked what I had done. Then I started the next rock, and it was a bit more detailed. Suddenly 45 minutes had passed; Kelley had finished her rocks and was trying to clean up for dinner around me. “No, eat on the couch! I’m still working on my penguin!” You would have thought I was Michelangelo working on the Sistine Chapel ceiling; I was so adamant about my craft not being interrupted!
3. Talent Does Not Need Directions
How can I call myself creative if I am not doing something original? This is where my brain becomes my biggest critic. It is not even telling me I am bad at what I am making, and it is telling me I am a fraud for not being a savant! Now perhaps that is a bit extreme, but it is ugly up in this noggin.
I scrolled online for interesting rock designs and finally decided to try and replicate one. It was a small turtle. Make a face. Add some legs and a tail. The rest was all shell. And suddenly I found I was doing it! My design wasn’t perfect. The colors blended, and the shapes were irregular, but I was doing it! My brain kept saying I was just copying a picture, but my inner child finally told my brain to shove it!
I was overjoyed! Yes, I am 40 and painting a rock to look like a turtle, but it was more than that! I was making it; I was creative. So what if I had to look at a picture to see what I wanted to make? It was my hand moving the markers and brushes, making it happen. Suddenly I was off to the races to find more animals to create!
4. I Can Not Be Without Directions
Now I have used other artists’ pictures to help me paint, and I certainly can not do it independently. I am not a Picasso or any other artist whose name I do not know, but I can be creative! Modeling after others gave me my sea legs which helped me have confidence instead of sitting back and not participating.
Yes, this was just painting rocks. I did not turn it into a career as a world-renowned mural artist or a new path to extraordinary artistic abilities. It was just rocks. And yes, we placed them in state parks, and I hope those that stumble upon them get the joy at that moment that I had in that afternoon creating them.
I now can look at that experience to ask myself, what else am I telling myself that I can’t do? What else am I afraid to attempt for fear of being inadequate? Why do we have to compare ourselves to others so often or put ourselves down for something we have never tried. Now I have a small painted rock on my desk that reminds me, I may not always be great at something, I may need help to get started, and I can try new things if only I get started because you never know what joy you might find in a small childlike task.
Want to see some of my rocks? Check out my Instagram at @RoadTripWithOurDog.