Nova Scotia

Painting, hiding rocks a 'random act of kindness' that has global reach

A Halifax artist says he's overwhelmed by the response he's received by turning a ubiquitous everyday item into works of art.

One Halifax artist says he's 'overwhelmed' by the response to his painted rocks

Diane Smith's seven-year-old daughter, Serena, found one of Ross Lawrence's rocks in Shubie Park recently. (Diane Smith)

You're walking in the woods and out of the corner of your eye you spot something colourful.

Hiding in the crook of a tree or under a bush, and often on the back, there is a friendly note: "Post to Halifax Rocks on Facebook. Keep or rehide."

According to the Halifax Rocks page, "ralking" — painting, hiding and finding rocks — is a "random act of kindness, a gift to a stranger to keep or re-hide."

In a few years, the Facebook group has grown from about a dozen of founder Ivan Graham's friends and family to more than 17,000 members.

"I'm not an artist by any means, but I thought I could do that and I could certainly set up the Facebook group," he said. 

Global following

Graham said ralking has garnered a global following.

"They're all across the country," he said. "They're big in the U.S., they're big in Europe. We've had contact with groups in Switzerland, and some people here — when they used to go to the Caribbean — would leave rocks there and they'd be found by folks in Europe and take them back to Scotland or England or Germany or whatever."

One of Lawrence's creations placed along a trail. (Ross Lawrence)

Response 'overwhelming' at times

The artwork of Ross Lawrence, who works as a residential counsellor with Metro Community Housing by day, has become popular among rock seekers around the Halifax region. 

"Some days it's kind of overwhelming. It really kind of takes me aback sometimes to actually see how many people really admire my work and ask me if I ever do commissions," said Lawrence. "It really makes me feel good about myself as an artist."

Lawrence recently painted a collection of winter and holiday-themed rocks to hide around the HRM. (Ross Lawrence)

He recently painted a collection of winter and holiday-themed rocks that included a certain talking Christmas tree resurrected this year. 

"I kind of thought it would probably be fun to do a Woody rock and put that out there and see what people think," he said.

Some avid searchers weren't far behind after he posted on the Halifax Rocks page that he was heading to Shubie Park in Dartmouth to hide his creations.

One woman said in a post she rushed over to the park to find one for herself. She came up empty-handed despite logging more than 8,000 steps. 

Smith and her seven -year-old daughter, Serena, say they plan to keep the Woody rock and display it for years to come. (Meaghan Downey/MNEO Designs)

Sometimes it's just about timing. For Diane Smith and her seven-year-old daughter, Serena, the timing was just right. 

"The people who painted it [the Woody rock] were standing by it and I asked mommy if we could take the rock and they heard me and they said yes," said Serena.

Smith said it was her daughter's first time hearing about Woody. 

For those who don't know, Woody the talking Christmas tree delighted and terrified children for more than 25 years at Dartmouth's Mic Mac Mall before he was retired in 2007.

The Hali-famous tree made a comeback last week — looking like he's had a facelift, some Botox and lash extensions.

"It was a nice little walk down memory lane," Smith said.

Growing up in the fishing village of Prospect, N.S., has left its mark on Lawrence's art. (Ross Lawrence)

"We're going to keep it forever and ever and ever," said Serena. "It's really neat."

There are a few rules to follow if you want to participate. People are also asked not to remove rocks from parks and beaches and to stay off commercial properties.

Lawrence says he draws inspiration from everywhere, such as the creation legend of Glooscap. (Ross Lawrence)

Bob Ross an inspiration

Lawrence said he draws inspiration from many places but landscapes hold special meaning for someone who grew up in the sea-swept area of Prospect, outside of Halifax. 

"Growing up I enjoyed watching Bob Ross and how Bob Ross used to do his paintings, so I kind of draw some inspiration from his artwork," he said.

You never know where you might stumble upon Ross Lawrence's artwork. (Ross Lawrence)

Lawrence said it takes him anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours to paint his creations using acrylic paint and varnish to preserve the work. He said about 70 per cent of his rocks are found and tagged in the Facebook group.

"I am really happy that people are enjoying my rocks and I really enjoy reading the comments that people are making, especially those comments about how they make a personal connection with it," he said.

"I really like the fact that my work is really touching people in so many different ways."


Seasick marine biologist, turned journalist. She lives in Halifax. In 2018 she helped lead a team of reporters and editors to win the RTDNA Ron Laidlaw Continuing Coverage Award for work on the Deep Trouble series. The series delved into the plight of the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale. She can be reached at, on Twitter @cassiehwilliams