New ‘rock stars’ in town

Heather Latter

business started
by local trio

They call themselves “rock stars,” but not because of their musical talents.
Instead, Diana Nixon, along with her sister, Neen Martin, and niece, Marley Morgan, have started up a rock-painting business called “Critter Quarry,” where they turn stones into exquisite creatures of all sorts—from owls and chipmunks to tigers and koalas.
“I had bought my sister a book called ‘The Art of Painting Animals on Rocks,’ but she didn’t have time to do it, so I asked for it back and started painting myself,” noted Nixon.
“When she saw I could paint, she started, too, and it’s been a competition ever since to see who can paint the most rocks,” she added.
That was back in May. And when Morgan came home for the summer, she joined forces with the two women and began painting on rocks, too.
“When I saw what they were doing, I said, ‘I can’t do that,’” Morgan recalled, saying she had done art before but had never painted on rocks.
“It’s different because it’s not like painting a picture that you envision,” Martin explained. “Instead, the rock is the animal and you have to determine which animal and bring that out.”
Morgan gave it a try and discovered she had inherited the same artistic talent.
So the trio has been collecting—and stockpiling for the winter months—rocks of all different shapes and sizes, finding them anywhere they go.
“We’ve stopped and picked up rocks from just along a dirt road,” Morgan remarked, noting they’ve found many along the shores of Rainy Lake and the Rainy River.
“We’ve even had people who know we are doing this drop rocks off and ask if we can use them,” Martin added.
Martin said after they have the rock, the next step is to determine what animal it is.
“Sometimes I see three or four different animals in it,” she explained. “But I just keep looking at it, visualizing it, and it comes to me.”
Some rocks have an indentation or a ridge that helps the artist discover which animals it is since the special marking becomes the creature’s arm or tail.
“It makes them all unique, original, and one-of-a-kind,” she stressed.
Nixon said only the smooth rocks that they make into fawns will look similar, but even then the painting always will vary.
Once they’ve determined which animal the rock will be, it is covered in a base coat and then they sketch the outline onto it.
Nixon admitted she can’t always see the animal the rock should be and often has help from her sister.
“I have to have instructions,” she said, noting Martin doesn’t need to refer to the book that started this hobby.
“I have her draw on the outline and show me which way the fur goes.”
The process to complete the critters varies, taking about three days for the larger rocks and about a day for the small ones.
“Painting the fur takes the longest because they are tiny brush strokes and they have to go the perfect direction,” Martin explained.
The trio will be holding a show to highlight their work this Friday (Sept. 11) from noon-4 p.m. and again on Saturday (Sept. 12) from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. in front of Diana’s Needle Art Embroidery (335 Scott St.), with about 35 critters on display.
The animals also will be for sale, or rather up for adoption.
“We’ve sold a few so far and say that they were adopted by a friend of a rock,” Nixon remarked. “So if a grandparent, say, doesn’t have a pet, they can adopt one of our rocks.”
They said the painted rocks are great for decoration around the home or tucked into the garden. They even make perfect door stops.
“And we’re having the show early so that we can take orders for Christmas gifts,” Nixon stated, adding people also are able to bring them a picture so they can paint a pet or favourite animal.
The painted rocks range in price from $150-$200 for the large ones while the smaller stones start at around $40.
During the show next weekend, there also will be a silent auction for a particular rock painted as a cheetah, with the bidding starting at $100.
As well, Morgan will be on hand painting a critter to demonstrate how it is done.
“I really enjoy doing this,” Martin stressed. “I wish I could do it for a living instead of a regular 9-5 job.”
For more information on “Critter Quarry,” contact Nixon (274-3636) or Martin (482-1512).