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Rock Art, Painting 'Spirit Stones', The Story Behind Ours and How You Can Paint Your Own

Updated: May 22, 2020

‘The boys and I are happily engaged in painting our ‘Spirit Rocks’ in the lazy afternoon hours at the lake. I am so grateful for the quality time, and rewarding family interaction crafting brings to our day here.’

A Spirit Stone.

Bear Paw Spirit Stone representing strength. (Paint got splattered on it.)

There I was in the gift shop on the ferry, travelling across the ocean inlet on a leg of my journey to get to my beautiful little lake. As a mother, and a creative person by nature, I am always on the lookout for inspiration for activities and things I can do with my children while at the cabin, or for things I can do, that will feed my soul in a creative way when I am in residence at my tiny out in the forest, cabin.

It has always gone without saying that with no power there has never been a TV for us up here, I never had one as a youngster, nor did I miss one. As for my children’s generation growing up, they are used to one at home, but there is no TV here, that is just part of cabin life and leaving the technology of the city behind.

Time with my children then is to revel in the outdoor activities on nice days, and to play physical games like cards games and board games on rainy days inside or in the evenings. Thankfully, we do have a covered wrap-around deck and then often sit outside even in the rain. In the past few years there has been the introduction of solar reading lights, and they are fabulous for adding additional light in a cabin for activities. I place one or two now on the dining table when we play cards or games at night. It a good boost of light in addition to the one propane light that we have hung up above the table.

So, as I was on the lookout for inspiration that day, I saw a tiny little black and white book in the ferry gift shop. On further inspection, I see that it is an informational book that has simplified pictures of symbols, native and coastal, images that are roughly drawn shapes referred to as ‘Spirit Stones.’ The designs depict animals, reptiles, birds and other many natural shapes. The symbols represent a spirit meaning in relationship to the animal. For instance, a bear paw picture represents ‘courage’ and ‘mobility’, a seagull, represents ‘freedom’, a deer, ‘love’, goodness’, and ‘kindness’. There are so many others, lizard, snake, moose, bear, mouse, loon, etc. Today, you can find similar reference illustrations of these simple on the internet. I ran into more than one chart depicting the designs as I went looking recently.

And so, that day I purchased the small-sized book with the native pictures to take to the cabin. The images depicted were simple shapes, and would be easy for my boys to replicate as a painted craft to do on rocks. As I already paint rocks at the cabin, (there are more posts on that), then this would naturally be an easy addition to our crafting library. I also liked the fact that the native symbols had a spiritual meaning attached to the symbols. I believe teaching your children to have beliefs that encourage and introduce supportive things is a positive influence. These symbolic pictures also represent many of the types of creatures we have living with us around the cabin, in the forest and at the lake.

Fun shapes, some Spirit Stones and some invented designs.

Please note that my kids decided to also paint rocks that started out like the Spirit Stones, on occasion, but then they injected their own wonderful creativity to make some very fun rock designs with paint. One little friend of my son’s did the ‘Banana’ Rock, and I did the ‘Ghost’ rock and the ‘Snake Head’ rock because that is what I thought the rock resembled or reminded me of. The real point of these activities is to have fun with your kids. We now have these fun rocks in a bucket inside the cabin, on a dresser, and we put some of them out on the railings and on the paths when we are in residence at the lake. Today my children are in their 30’s, but I still have those rocks at the cabin so I can enjoy them and savour the memories every time I am there.

Lots of creativity from my kids and their friends.

Ghost Rock. This rock just looked like a ghost.

Below I have listed what you need to have in your craft cabinet for doing this activity. Have fun with your family and spend quality time being creative together!

A creative kid's version.


Materials required for the project:

A rock with a flat surface to paint on (its best to have a younger child use one they can manage to hold)

Water-based acrylic craft paints in black and in white

A selection of small paint brushes

A chalk pencil with a fine tip (optional, as these shapes are very easy to reproduce)

A jar or old can or cup for water to clean brushes as you go

Paper towels

A piece of cardboard or plastic (I used to flatten the empty cereal boxes for craft projects)

A pie plate to put the paints on as you work (any aluminum pie plate, muffin tin, or old ceramic plate can be used to hold your paints)

A clear top coat protector (I use a spray Varathane, as a sealer, but there are many craft sealer products that can be sprayed or painted on, you may also use white glue if you just have that)

A chart or picture of a Spirit Stone for reference

Also helpful, but optional,

I use a round small bottle or jar caps to balance the rock on so it won’t stick to the painting surface

I have a paint apron, you can use an old cloth, towel, or bag for the children, if you don’t have a craft apron

I have a small spinning Lazy-Susan I found in a thrift shop so I can spin my paint project rocks easily

How to Paint the Rock

1) After finding the rock you want to paint on, wash it thoroughly and completely dry it

2) Have your picture ready of what you are trying to paint

3) If you have the chalk, roughly draw an outline of your project shape on the rock

4) Squeeze out some black paint to your pie plate

5) Add the paint to the rock to depict your shape

6) Let dry, you may need to add a second coat or more of black paint, dry thoroughly between coats

7) Add white paint for the details as illustrated in your reference picture, repeat white paint coats if you need better coverage

8) When the rock is dry, you might wish to add your initials, name, or date on the back of the rock, and you want to add the rock’s meaning as it relates to your animal, (for example in the image of a bear paw, it means ‘strength’), again, let it dry

9) Lastly, spray seal or paint a sealer on each side of your rock, letting each coat dry thoroughly, do one side, let the rock completely dry, and then do the opposite side


1) if you are using a spray sealer it is advised to wear a protective face mask, and protect the surrounding surface where you will be spraying your rock to limit overspray on other things

2) always let your project dry in a well-ventilated area that is protected from sand, dirt or debris landing on it on it

3) coat the project in a shady spot, and not in any direct sun

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