Renee Boyce usually creates mandala art in the evenings after her two-year-old son is asleep. The string of white lights brighten up her small studio. Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group

Renee Boyce usually creates mandala art in the evenings after her two-year-old son is asleep. The string of white lights brighten up her small studio. Photos by Patricia Guthrie/Whidbey News Group

Freeland artist not just dabbling in lots of dots

Renee Boyce rocks the trendy mandala market

Rocks, dots and mandalas.

When Freeland stay-at-home mom Renee Boyce decided to combine those three elements into pieces of art, she hoped for a few online sales.

Instead, she happened upon a top-selling crafts craze that’s keeping her in lots of dots.

Under the business name, Freeland Art Shack, Boyce is rocking the mandala stone market. (Yes, there is such a thing and it’s huge.) Her meticulously painted rocks covered in dot patterns are flying off shelves, both virtual and real.

Boyce is a hit on Etsy, where there’s no shortage of amazing mandala stones for sale, and she’s making a name for herself at the new Clinton store, Whidbey Wonders.

“It’s going great. I’m selling stones constantly,” said Boyce, 32, who moved from Marysville to Whidbey Island about two years ago with her boyfriend and baby boy.

Her stones range in price from $18 to $140. Some of them can take up to nine hours to create; all need to dry in between the many layers of paint that are applied.

Boyce’s images are in the pattern of a mandala, circular with a center starting point that radiates out. Designs are complex, symmetrical and almost hypnotic. Some look like sea urchins.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning “circle.” In recent years, this spiritual and ritual symbol of Hinduism and Buddhism started showing up on clothing, in adult coloring books and on hunks of hard earth.

Boyce’s patterns pop with hues of colors and layers of acrylic paint that look like 3-D beads from a distance.

But it’s all dots. Dozens and hundreds and thousands of dots, thick, tactile spots of dots.

Dot paintings have long been associated with Australian aboriginal art. They are both aesthetically beautiful and drawn to disguise sacred meanings behind stories in the paintings.

Elspeth McLean, an Australian artist and art therapist now living in British Columbia, is credited with launching a modern form of “dotillism” which she paints on stones and many other surfaces. This differs from pointillism, which uses tiny dots of various colors to blend together to form an image and trick the eye.

“I use super fine brushes and metal-tipped dotting tools,” Boyce said, dipping the tiny tip into bright pools of turquoise and green paint. “There’s a whole array of dotting tools. I think they were usually used before for fingernail art.”

In the evenings after her 2-year-old is asleep, Boyce turns from mom to artist and melts into the meditative art form in her tiny studio. She took drawing and art classes when she was younger and also created abstract pop art with spray paint.

Looking for a way to supplement family income with art, Boyce said she became intrigued with online images of mandala stones.

“It just called to me. I think they are ridiculously beautiful,” she said. “I thought it looked fascinating. But I was pretty horrible at first.”

But she got better and caught the eye of Parrish Jefferson, a Texas art promoter who keeps an eye out for new and talented artists selling online.

“Renee’s work I’ve featured a number of times due to her meticulous and precision dotting skills,” said Jefferson, who admits to having a collection of about 400 painted and mandala rocks.

“She is truly gifted.”

Carie Elder, owner of Whidbey Wonders, a collective with more than 80 artists and growing, also reached out to Boyce and asked if she wanted to sell at the Ken’s Korner store.

By summer, Boyce hopes to also be selling her creations in a glass shed that came with the 100-year-old house. The former owner sold glass art from the roadside stand.

Originally from South Carolina, Boyce said she probably wouldn’t have much success selling her new art form in the land of smooth beaches and Charleston sensibilities.

So she’s thankful to be on Whidbey Island, land of many rocks.

Residents here paint rocks, residents hide rocks, residents find rocks. Beaches are nothing but rock. Whidbey’s moniker is The Rock. But Boyce claims she’s didn’t know about any of these craggy connections.

“I had no idea Whidbey Island Rocks was a thing until I moved here,” she said.

Whidbey Island Rocks, one of hundreds of global groups connected to the the Kindness Rocks Project, now has more than 28,000 people on its community Facebook page.

Boyce occasionally joins in the joy of leaving and finding unexpected treasures by placing some of her bright stones in hidden crevices, under trees and along trails.

“Or I leave them on the playgrounds for the kids,” she said. “Then, sometimes I hide behind a tree and wait for one to be discovered. That’s so much fun.”

• For information go to www.etsy.com/shop/FreelandArtShack or email Freelandartshack@gmail.com

Renee Boyce uses tiny metal-tipped “dot tools” to paint complicated and colorful mandala patterns on beach rocks.

Renee Boyce uses tiny metal-tipped “dot tools” to paint complicated and colorful mandala patterns on beach rocks.

For Valentine’s Day, artist Renee Boyce plans to make more stones with mandala heart patterns (top rock.) She sells online and at Whidbey Wonders in Clinton.

For Valentine’s Day, artist Renee Boyce plans to make more stones with mandala heart patterns (top rock.) She sells online and at Whidbey Wonders in Clinton.

The studio space for Renee Boyce keeps shrinking as her house is slowly renovated. She works in a narrow porch space surrounded by wraparound windows facing Holmes Harbor.

The studio space for Renee Boyce keeps shrinking as her house is slowly renovated. She works in a narrow porch space surrounded by wraparound windows facing Holmes Harbor.

Smooth rocks found around Whidbey Island and the Olympic Peninsula beaches work best for mandala stones.

Smooth rocks found around Whidbey Island and the Olympic Peninsula beaches work best for mandala stones.

Many layers of paint and the patterns make the rocks appear beaded.

Many layers of paint and the patterns make the rocks appear beaded.

Prices range from $18 to $145 for mandala stones made by Renee Boyce.

Prices range from $18 to $145 for mandala stones made by Renee Boyce.

Prices range from $18 to $145 for mandala stones made by Renee Boyce.

Prices range from $18 to $145 for mandala stones made by Renee Boyce.

A work in progress. Renee Boyce sells her creations under her business name, Freeland Art Shack, at Whidbey Wonders in Clinton and Etsy.

A work in progress. Renee Boyce sells her creations under her business name, Freeland Art Shack, at Whidbey Wonders in Clinton and Etsy.

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