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Service Guide: Rock Painting Project

When my artist friend showed me pictures of rocks they had painted with inspiration words and messages, I was impressed. It’s something I’d seen for years, especially in the kindness community. I’m even part of a Facebook group of professional artists who paint beautiful scenes and images on rocks and sell them. On my amateur level, it seemed like an activity that had major Smile Project potential, but never something I’d acted on.

Until yesterday. Yesterday, for my #SmileBirthdayGiveback, I invited a group of loved ones—including my original artist friend—to the park to paint kindness rocks. Now I was a little nervous. I’m a words person. So much so that, when I had an extra canva at the end of a college semester of landscape painting, my (very, very, very) patient teacher was dismayed to see I had painted it bright purple with a neon yellow smile and block text that said “Happiness is.” Not the lovely mountain scene my peers had chosen.

Nevertheless, since I was a little girl, I enjoyed getting messy with glue sticks and glitter and figured this was as good a time as any to try something new. Here are my reflections from the day and a short guide to replicating the project with your friends in your community.

First, we picked a location. I opted for a public park with a pavilion and picnic tables. It’s good to check with the park to see if you have to reserve these kinds of spaces. Sometimes there is a fee associated with this.

Next, we gathered supplies. I started with our canvas—the rocks! I purchased them on Etsy and was very pleased with the quality and price. You can also pick them up at most large/national hardware stores.

I knew that if we wanted to open the opportunity for folks to place rocks outside, then non-toxic paint was a must. After doing some research, we purchased FolkArt Outdoor Gloss Acrylic Paint. It’s non-toxic, UV and weather resistant, and can be used on stone. We also picked up paint brushes of various sizes and a couple palettes for folks to mix colors.

Other helpful materials: tablecloths, cups or bowls and rags to clean brushes, and pencils to sketch designs. One final (optional) material is sealant. If you plan on hiding your rocks outside, you’ll want to purchase sealant. Note: you won’t need this for the day of your painting event. It’s something you put on at least 24-hours after they’ve been painted.

Once you have the materials, this event is easy to host again and again. And, it serves as a double service project in many ways—the first being the actual art therapy moment of painting in community with loved ones, and the second being the sharing of the painted rocks.

We gave folks the opportunity to take their rocks or leave them for us to seal and pass out in the community. At some point, we will share a follow-up about what it means to hide kindness rocks in the community (but remember; only do this if you used non-toxic paint and if you sealed them properly!) Have you ever hosted a kindness rock painting party? What tips or tricks would you suggest?

We are looking forward to sharing more Service Guides like this on The Smile Project blog. Do you have a “how-to” for a kindness project you’d like to share? Or, if you’d like to see us trial run a project, let us know and we’ll give it a whirl and report back in an upcoming Service Guide. Thanks, as always, to all who participated in this new initiative and we look forward to sharing more opportunities for service soon.

Love always,



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