Black Tusk Village is experiencing an extra dose of whimsy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brightly coloured, expertly painted rocks have been popping up on lawns around the neighbourhood, thanks to Cary Campbell Lopes having a little extra time—and no shortage of creative energy—on her hands.
Campbell Lopes and her husband Paulo had work lined up for their costume design and body paint company Paintertainment when the pandemic hit and cancelled all of them.
"We went from working to zero," she says.
Inspired by a friend in the U.S. who had been painting rocks and tucking them around town for others to find (Wild Rocks of Durham), she decided to do the same around her home.
"I thought, 'I'm going to do something here where I encourage kids to paint the rocks,'" she adds.
So she began collecting rocks and turning them into vibrant critters in her yard with the hopes of inspiring neighbourhood kids to make their own.
Then the rocks started finding her. Shapes she'd stumble across would spark an idea and she began to paint them with specific neighbours in mind.
"I've been here 20 years now. There are a lot of neighbours I've known for a while. I've started doing things that represent the households around here," she says.
One rock transformed into a plaid shirt for her long-time lumberjack neighbour. Another series turned into Winnie the Pooh characters for a family that used to babysit her kids and always dressed like Pooh and his pals for Halloween.
"I'm looking for ideas for different people and I find rocks that suit them," Campbell Lopes says. "It's got to inspire us."
Most recently, she found a large, flat rock that was undeniably a chocolate chip cookie. That one she planned to slip into the yard of a chef in neighbouring Pinecrest.
"It's half eaten," she adds. "It's pretty cute. We'll leave that in their yard."
While she hadn't witnessed any of her neighbours discovering their lawn gifts, she has overheard kids walking by her house and finding her personal art rocks.
"We have our balcony, so we overhear them when they stop, get off their bikes, and take photos," Campbell Lopes says. "It's creating a buzz, but because it's so brand new, I don't know if anyone has finished [their own rock] yet. It's really just starting."
Painted rocks have been popping up in the forests of the Sea to Sky corridor and around the world during the pandemic. The motivation seems to be brightening up the days of community members in this challenging time.
Campbell Lopes thinks it also taps into people's secret desire to paint.
"It's just being out in the wild and there's this splash of colour," she says. "A little bit of art in their world—and everyone secretly wants to paint something."
She has some logistical tips for anyone wanting to get in on the fun. First, it's all about the rock itself.
"Any smooth rock [will work]," she says. "You don't want to get lumpy, gritty ones. The smoother the rock, the better. Take it home, wash it with soap and water and let it dry in the sun."
Ideally, she adds, paint a light colour base coat with acrylic paint—though really any paint will do if you use a non-water-based varnish on it afterwards.
"I've found stones this year which have been in my garden for 15 years and they're still covered in paint," she says. "We used to paint them solid colours and I'm still finding them all over the place."
While she's deep into her rock-painting project, Campbell Lopes has also channelled her creative energy into elaborate lace necklaces under the name Trace of Lace during the pandemic as well.
"I picked up a piece of beautiful lace on a trip back from a job in Amsterdam," she says. "I've been cutting that up and dyeing it and making it all colours. The themes keep evolving."
She adds with a laugh, "the problem with artists is there's no shortage of ideas; it's the shortage of how do you make a living out of all of this."
To see her rock art visit @wildrocksofblacktusk on Instagram or Facebook. To see the necklaces visit @traceoflace on Instagram or https://trace-of-lace.myshopify.com/.