Patti Vinson: Artist’s treasure hunt for hand-painted stones delights kids

Carrie Sharp likes to keep her designs seasonal, but “Peanuts” pieces are close to her heart. Photo by Rasy Ran
Carrie Sharp likes to keep her designs seasonal, but “Peanuts” pieces are close to her heart. Photo by Rasy Ran

“It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become,” says the Lorax, Dr. Seuss’s sneakily radical environmentalist, disguised as a children’s book character. In much the same way that the Lorax saw seeds as trees, East Dallas artist Carrie Sharp sees rocks as canvas for art.

Sharp, who is entirely self-taught, had been quietly painting and selling her rocks for a few years when she decided to up the ante. She posted plans for her first-ever “rock hunt” last Halloween on the “Lakewood, Dallas” Facebook page.

After delicately detailing rocks with hand-painted “Peanuts” comic characters, grinning pumpkins and other spooky designs, she walked the blocks, hiding them for neighborhood children (and art-loving adults) to find. Parents showed their gratitude by posting photos of their grinning kids clutching rocks emblazoned with Snoopy and witches.

She’s planning another hunt, appropriately scheduled around Easter — but more on that later.

Sharp’s path to the paintbrush was winding and unexpected.

Artist Carrie Sharp started on canvas and incorporated rock painting into her pallette. The painter spends about an hour painting each rock, and hides them in local parks for children to find. (Photo by Rasy Ran)
Artist Carrie Sharp started on canvas and incorporated rock painting into her pallette. The painter spends about an hour painting each rock, and hides them in local parks for children to find. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

While she grew up in Rockwall, most of her weekends were spent at White Rock Lake with family and friends. When she married Little Forest Hills resident Matt Sharp 28 years ago, they made East Dallas their home. College came in fits and starts, but Carrie Sharp earned an associate’s degree in accounting. “Of all things,” she laughs. “I never used it.”

Instead, she toiled in the insurance industry while raising three children.

“I was the best coloring mom at night,” she remembers. “That’s what I did to relax and unwind — I colored. The kids had their own coloring books and I had mine. I’ve always liked to draw and color, but never thought about it as a job.”

By 2009, her kids were grown, and Sharp was a bit restless. As a favor for a friend, she agreed to paint faces at a party. That simple act sparked an epiphany. “I found what I had been missing: a paintbrush,” she says.

She became involved in local art groups and was thrilled to put brush to canvas, painting “happy and bold and colorful flowers and abstracts.”

In 2013, she had her first show at Art Love Magic. “I could not breathe at this point without a paintbrush.”

Three years ago, she was leaving a taco joint with her granddaughter Mackenzie when, in a moment of serendipity, the young girl picked up a stone from the restaurant’s rock garden and said, “Nana, can you paint this rock for me?”

She got permission to take the rock and headed home to embellish it with a ladybug. The unconventional medium hooked her instantly, and the artistry poured out of her.

Soon Sharp was selling sealed, weather-proof rocks with all sorts of designs — birds, lizards, fish, intricately detailed hedgehogs and labor-intensive turtles with mandala shells. In addition to the natural inspiration, her art reflects her fondness for all things “Peanuts,” along with a tribute to the Beatles with rocks painted of John, Paul, George and Ringo.

When she found herself with some leftover inventory last year, the idea of the treasure hunt was born. “Instead of selling them, I decided to give them. But to make it interesting, I thought it would be fun to hide them, kind of like a scavenger hunt,” she says. “Get the kids out of the house, get some fresh air, get off the video games and TV.”

In the weeks leading up to Halloween, Sharp used the Lakewood Facebook page to post photos of rocks and where to search for them: Tietze Park one week, Lindsley Park or Lakewood Park the next — she did her best to cover the neighborhood. Judging from the many smiling photos, local children enjoyed swarming the parks to find treasures on benches, paths, picnic tables and slides.

Sharp’s next artistic rock hunt will lead into Easter, so keep an eye on the “Lakewood, Dallas” page for details. In the meantime, she continues working on commissions as well as paintings and rocks for upcoming shows at Kettle Art Gallery in Deep Ellum and Art Love Magic, plus stocking the shelves at Gallery Schloss in Ennis and The Hobbit House in Rockwall.

Like any artist, Sharp finds it gratifying to sell her work. But it’s clear she has a soft spot for children and sharing her love of art with them.

“When I teach the kids’ workshops at Art Love Magic, I always want to do it full time. That’s when the wheels start turning. My dream is to have a little space somewhere here in Lakewood to teach the kiddos how to paint rocks,” she says. “I think I’ll continue to do the rock hunts for Lakewood because the kids adore hunting for rocks, and it’s my way of giving back to the community. I wish I could afford to paint rocks for free all the time. It is truly a joy to see their little faces when they find a one-of-a-kind painted rock. It’s like a little treasure they have to hold onto.”

Patti Vinson is a guest writer who has lived in East Dallas for over 15 years. She’s written for the Advocate and Real Simple magazine, and has taught college writing.


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