Painting Rocks to Create Connection and Happiness

April 2, 2019
By Beth Herrild

We moved and moved our office to Whidbey Island in September. Whidbey Island is one of the many islands off the coast of Washington. It is located about 30 miles north of Seattle, and lies between the Olympic Peninsula and the I-5 corridor of western Washington. One of the things that attracted me to the island is its thriving art community, but eight or so months into this transition, I keep discovering new reasons to love it.

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I heard that painting rocks was a big thing here and then I began to notice painted rocks while hiking. People paint rocks and hide them, or sometimes, place them in really obvious places, for others to find. The movement began in 2016 and the Facebook group, Whidbey Island Rocks, now has 27 thousand members! The stated purpose of the Facebook group is “spreading kindness and joy through painting, hiding, and posting painted rocks. That is the simple foundation of our thriving community that has grown to encourage creativity and mean so much more than just rocks to so many people. This activity is fun for all ages and all abilities; it is getting families doing things together, getting people outside, and helping people find creativity in themselves they didn’t know was there.” That is music to my ears – spreading kindness and joy and helping people find creativity that they didn’t know they had! The beautiful rock photos posted in the group range from mostly words to children’s art to amazingly intricate beautiful museum worthy works of art!

The idea is simple, you paint some rocks with acrylic paint or paint pens and seal them with some type of a waterproof sealant. Then, you hide, place in fairly obvious spots, give or trade your rocks while being respectful of nature and private property. The local craft store here even offers a discount on paint pens if you purchase them to paint rocks! They instruct everyone to write the Facebook group name on the back and ask people who find them to post pictures and then keep or re-hide them.

According to an article in Whidbey Life Magazine, November 23, 2016, “A couple on the verge of divorce found a rock while walking the beach. The walk was meant to be a time to discuss their separation, but the rock turned the tide on the conversation and sparked a new mutual interest. A woman found Whidbey Island Rocks as a new mother and lost 20 pounds by hiding and finding rocks (and added a nice outdoor break to her routine). And numerous visitors found rocks by accident, investigated Whidbey Island Rocks, and created their own versions upon returning home.”

My sister, Lou Ann, has lived on the west side of the island for three years. She has a camp for her grandchildren every summer. Two of the boys started finding rocks with her when they were four years old and then began collecting rocks at the beach and painting them. They are now six years old and rock painting has become one of their favorite parts of camp! They each received a book about rock painting and paints for their birthdays this year, Stone Painting for Kids: Designs to Spark Your Creativity. Both would say these were among their favorite gifts! Lou Ann says that in the beginning they enjoyed finding rocks and painting them, but developmentally, couldn’t really embrace the idea of hiding the ones they painted in order to spread joy to someone else. Now that they are older, she believes that they will be able to understand the idea of giving their creations away.


If you’ve been meaning to dip your toe into something creative and would like to also spread kindness and joy, maybe you should start a rock group in your local community this summer?