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Therapy through artwork: Dawson woman creates rock art despite painful disease
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Dawson native Vickie Croft has painted over 600 rocks in the past two years. She has already distributed 300 to local parks and playgrounds for kids to find and enjoy. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Vickie Croft has been artistic her entire life, but after being diagnosed with Lyme disease, she was worried she would never be able to fulfill her passion to create art.

That is, until she discovered a painted rock in Cumming.

While out with her sister nearly three years ago, the pair found a perfectly painted rock perched under a lamppost and Croft knew then what she wanted to do.  

Croft went to a landscaping supply store and bought a truck bed full of rocks for $45 which has lasted her for nearly three years.

So far, Croft has hidden 300 rocks around Dawson County at Rock Creek Park, Veterans Memorial Park, the Dawson County Library, North Georgia Premium Outlets and in the front bushes of many big stores.

She still has over 300 rocks ready to be dispersed throughout the year.

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Vickie Croft paints an assortment of subjects on her rocks. From animals to cars to inspirational phrases, Croft paints whatever inspires her that day. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Croft began taking art classes at the senior center after she retired from a 20-year nursing career at Northside hospital, excited to find a new artistic endeavor she never tried before.

“I had never painted in my life and so I started painting and I just loved it,” Croft said.

She found that painting took her mind off her joint pain and that painting was an easier hobby than her passion for creating mosaics.

“First I did canvas, but what am I going to do with them all? I have every inch of every wall in this house covered so then this rock thing – I just love it because it doesn’t take up any room,” Croft said.

For the past two and a half years, Croft has painted hundreds upon hundreds of rocks and hidden them out in the community as little surprises for those who find them.

Painted rocks have become a fun and popular way to bring communities together over the past few years, and many encourage rock finders to pass the rocks along while some choose to take their newly found treasures home.

“It’s really fun when you see them on Facebook,” said Croft. “I love it when they post them but not very many people do.”

On the bottom of all her rocks, Croft writes “Dawson County Rocks,” so that those who find them can post photos online in the “Dawson County Rocks” Facebook group.

“They have travelled all over. One lady posted (online) and she found one in North Carolina,” said Croft. “One lady found some and she was taking them back home to Indiana. It’s just kind of cool.”

When Croft has good days and can leave the house, she likes to go out with her family to hide rocks and watch as children excitedly discover the beautifully painted pieces.

“One day I took a bunch up to the outlet mall – my sister and I. I had a day that I felt decent and we went to the outlet mall and we took a bunch and we hid them all in that little playground area and we sat over on the bench and watched and that was fun,” said Croft.

Croft told a story about one little boy who was about three years old, who was excited to find several big rocks Croft painted and left at Rock Creek Park one day. He happily carried the heavy stones and proudly lined them up then put them in a box to take home. Due to the size of the rocks, his parents wouldn’t let him take them all home so he chose the ones he wanted to keep and hid the rest back in the playground for other kids to find, according to Croft.

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Vickie Croft’s kitchen table is currently filled to the brim with medium sized rocks that she’s painted, counted and catalogued. She will be spreading them throughout the local community for people to find. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Due to her pain, Croft is often unable to leave her house and painting rocks has given her something to do and look forward to every day.  

“I can just sit there and paint and watch TV and when you’re painting you don’t realize you don’t feel good because you don’t think about it,” Croft said.

Croft will paint four to five rocks at a time. After cleaning them, she brings them to her coffee table and visualizes what she wants to paint.

“Some of the rocks, you know, just look like something so they have to be painted that,” Vickie Croft said as she picked up a rock painted as a car.

After deciding on her designs, she sketches them in pencil before whipping out her acrylic paints. Once the rocks are completely finished, Croft treats them with polyurethane so they hold up in the elements.

Always finding inspiration, Croft never runs out of ideas. From lovable characters like the Despicable Me minions, Disney cartoons, the Muppets, Spongebob and the Peanuts characters to puns, inspirational phrases and movie scenes, Croft paints just about anything. She’s painted large rocks to look like stone cottages and gnomes to be placed in gardens, and she’s painted tiny Easter and Valentine’s Day rocks for her daughter’s students at Robinson Elementary. But what she really loves to paint are Christmas rocks that she gives away to friends and family.

“I need to do a lot of Georgia ones because that’s what people have been asking me for,” said Croft.

Though she doesn’t charge anything for her rocks, Croft said she will take donations so that she can get another truckload of rocks and can continue spreading her artwork in the community.