What started out as a lazy day at the beach ended up as an unexpected discovery of a new medium.


The beach we were visiting had very little sand and was comprised mostly of medium-to-small size rocks. Many of them were shale, a sedimentary rock that peels off in thin layers. Many of these pieces were dark gray flakes, resulting in lots of interesting shapes, from long finger like splinters to flat plate shaped slabs. I collected a few with intriguing shapes, admiring the smokey gray smoothness of their color. I kept them in my pocket as I walked down the beach. When reviewed my collection I was surprised and disappointed to see that they all now appeared scratched and worn. The initial beauty of their appearance was now lost.

I wet my finger and smudged one to see if I could buff out the scratches and they easily disappeared. Inspired I took one of the other pieces and scratched at it again. A clear light line resulted. I scratched more, and found myself sketching little pictures on the rock.

Shape play

After a little bit of practice it was easy to sketch almost anything on the rock. I picked up another piece. It had a different shape and it struck me that the shape should suggest the picture. Kind of an arbitrary constraint but a creatively useful one. I didn’t let the shape dominate the image, but it definitely suggested a start. I sketched out half-a-dozen pictures before we had to leave. I enjoyed the little stone image canvases that I collected a set of stones to continue making stone sketches at home.