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Painted rocks bring joy to trail walkers in Collingwood

‘I’ll continue until I run out of stones,’ says 89-year-old artist behind the pandemic project

In the basement of his Collingwood home, Keith Cameron has spent the pandemic painting rocks.

The 89-year-old widower took up the hobby to keep himself busy and safe throughout various COVID-related lockdowns, and to spread some joy. After painting the rocks, he’s left them along various trail systems for trail walkers to find throughout Collingwood, such as the Georgian Trail, near his home.

“About two months after the pandemic started, I needed something to do. I’m old enough now that I’ve had to quit skiing, golf and tennis,” said Cameron. “I had painted and carved in the past, but my eyesight isn’t wonderful anymore.”

“I was out for a walk one day and saw a painted stone. I thought, I could do that,” he said.

At that time, Canada Day was approaching, so his first batch were paintings of maple leaves. Leading into that fall, Cameron switched to painting poppies.

Over the past two years, he’s progressed to painting flowers, birds, butterflies, insects and bees. He’s also painted a series that are well-known cartoons.

“I was looking for something different to do,” he said with a laugh.

Cameron used to live along the Georgian Bay shore in Craigleith, where there was an abundance of flat stones perfect for painting. As Cameron’s son purchased his home before Cameron moved to Collingwood, he still has access to the property, and his son would bring him the smooth stones to be used as canvases.

They have been placed far and wide, and some have been placed along other Collingwood trails and along the waterfront. Some who have picked up his stones have told him that they’ve sent them to friends and family as gifts across Canada and beyond. His stones are all signed with his initials, KC.

“I just give them to people and they, in turn, give them to other people,” said Cameron. “That’s what I want.”

Cameron says his mother was very artistic when he was growing up, however, his own artistic skill is something he’s developed later in his life. He started wood carving when he retired and moved to Craigleith in the mid-1990s. Prior to that, he had been more interested in athletics, however two knee replacements meant he could no longer safely participate in sports, so he turned to his artistic side.

He doesn’t expect or want any payment for the stones and is happy to give them away. However in the few incidences where people have pushed him to take payment, he has asked that instead, they make a donation to the Collingwood General and Marine Hospital Foundation or Hospice Georgian Triangle. The two causes are near to his own heart.

He has also donated stones to be sold by Theatre Collingwood, with funds made off those sales to go toward their programming.

“People want them. It makes me feel good,” said Cameron. “Being the age I am, I don’t see very well. I wear hearing aids. I’m not very steady, but I still have a steady hand, so I can do these paintings.”

Two years and hundreds of stones later, he intends to continue with the hobby for as long as it keeps bringing people joy.

“I’ll continue until I run out of stones,” he said, with a laugh.