Bring Home the Beach and Paint It

Large rocks at Heceta head

The beach at Heceta Head.

Like all kids, Anna loves the beach. Playing in the sand, digging holes, building sandcastles, and best of all running up to the waterline right before the tide comes in then running back up the beach laughing like crazy.

Like all kids, Anna loves art too. Coloring, drawing, and painting. And if she makes a bit of a mess she can always clean up afterwards.

Summer is a great time to bring these fun activities together, to bring home the beach and paint it.

Oregon’s beaches are uniquely beautiful. Their impressive cliffs and rock formations are the result of ancient lava flows from the Cascade volcanoes. Those lava flows aren’t just responsible for the spectacular scenery. They also left millions of dark grey basalt rocks strewn throughout the sand and the surf. The tides have worn these rocks smooth and often flat, making them a perfect medium for painting.

Anna looks at rocks.

“So many rocks!”

So step one is to collect rocks. All you’ll need is two good eyes, the patience to find the right size and shapes of rock, and a bucket to carry them back in. Typically, Anna finds the rocks and Julia or I carry them. Be sure to bring a strong bucket that can hold several pounds. Once your day at the beach is done, collect up your chairs, towels, sand toys, and rocks, and bring everything back home.

The next day, after the sand, salt, and sunscreen have been showered away, it’s time to paint. Acrylic paints (available at local art supply stores) work best for porous surfaces like ceramics, wood, and yes, rocks. As with all art projects, be sure to lay down plenty of newspapers, and dress your child in a smock or an old shirt (old adult sized t-shirts make great smocks for kids). If your child has long hair—like Anna does—be sure to tie it back. Set up the paints, the brushes, and a container of water to clean the brushes., Then get creative.

Three rock in stages of painting

Unpainted, painted, and finished rocks.

After painting the rocks, you’ll want to seal them so the paint doesn’t run or chip. Aerosol acrylic sealant works best, but you’ll want to spray the rocks in a well-ventilated area and leave them alone to dry as the fumes are pretty overwhelming. If you have a child who likes glitter, you can buy glitter sealant. It’s a bit more expensive, but it’s worth it.

When you’re done, you’ll not only have the memories of a fun day at the beach to get you through the rainy winter months, you’ll also have some wonderful souvenirs.

Photos © 2013 by Julia M. Ozab

A version of this article appeared in the Portland Examiner in September, 2009. Our most recent trip to the beach inspired me to revisit it today.

Do you have any favorite art or craft projects? Tell me about them in the comments.

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