Diary of a Rock Balancer ::

Stone Balance Art created and photographed by Michael Grab — 02 May 2019 — Calgary, Canada ::

. . . a study in PATIENCE versus INSANITY

How much patience is TOO MUCH patience…? Where’s the line before “insanity”. . .

People always want videos of the process, perhaps imagining that it takes less than a day for these more technically advanced, large scale, balances to materialize…  So, in the spirit of studying the process, I’m going to share some hindsight through a sequence of steps that illustrate the evolutionary growth of this final sequence, including various rock attachments, design attachments, and a sprinkle of “insanity”.

Although the above photo was shot on May 2nd, the first links in the chain were on April 13th. Seen Below.

I quickly developed an attachment to the pink/purple/reds, which were the most solid (and beautiful), but also the least friction.

Enter #1:

essentially testing out the slip angles of some favorite finds that day. Note the large winged bottom rock oriented LEFT. THAT upward angle of orientation was immediately the most resonant with the cityscape, as well as my favorite face of that rock. However, The challenge became balancing its large size, design-wise, while keeping its face and angle the same.

Enter #2:

Success in both respects — base, as well as the orientation, tip, and size of the top. . but it eventually became too basic for my current taste, mostly in a design respect… the idea of building that large top higher was quite daunting at first… you know, potential energy of falling rocks = risk.

Enter #3:

a slightly more complicated arrangement in exchange for a smaller top, which didn’t entirely satisfy my design intent in several respects… but the timing of it all became perfectly aligned with a brilliant sunset that evening. (see previous post)

According to the final creation, pictured at the top, #2 originally left the biggest impression, sharing four of the same rocks in roughly similar positions. . .

also for forensic reference, the final creation at the top includes two rocks from #1, four from #2, three from #3.


One prominent challenge in Calgary is the more sporadic wind patterns. So, in response to that plus an overwhelming selection of beautiful rocks, I channeled the creative flow into a ground based mosaic seen below. It includes three rocks from #1; one of which appears in #2 & #3. Also this mosaic includes three rocks from the final creation.

Water Level

A large influencer of the mosaic was the rising river levels during those several days. the river flooded the first, triggering a need to make a second (pictured below), which ultimately became a week long ‘dance’ with slowly rising water. That is, until the second also submerged, at which point i let it go entropic. . .


I also got mixed up shooting a family of local great horned owls in the nearby park… But eventually, to my surprise, the water went back down to the original level when i was balancing, and so it seemed natural to continue the scratching the balance itch. I took my desired rocks from the mosaic, set up my stone chair, and continued my balance odyssey with a renewed perspective, framed equally by mosaics and detailed owl observations.. (see earlier post).

As you can see, the renewed approach fixated on developing #2’s dominant features… LEFTward lower wing, alternated upper wing, and pinpoint V-top.

Enter #4 (29-April. v1of2):

A good step forward up top, which are the same top four rocks in the final version. But it lacked the proper angle in the lower wing. In addition, probably the hardest obstacle in using the disk-like rock, 2nd from the top, was the subtle shallow notch it had to hold the top stable.

Enter #5 (02-May):

Improved base (to a fault) — the main challenge was finding that tipping point of the lower wing’s angle versus the immense weight counterbalancing it on the right. Essentially, the middle became too linear, partially from a clumsy replacement of the disk-rock (to stabilize the top’s point in the wind), and also 1 too many rocks in the mid-section, throwing off the vertical proportion. But it blew over anyway in the wind.

Frustration. Hopelessness. Doubt. Thunderstorm.

Intermission – – I went home because I thought the day was lost to wind and storms and i felt too physically cold and emotionally exhausted to continue. To continue pushing actually felt INSANE and #4 was close enough, I thought.

But as i got home, i saw the distant sky clearing, and rain beginning. which followed an earlier premonition of sunlit brilliance. As a result, i decided to speed back to the park to photograph my owlet friend. . .

Everything (the wind) was completely serene upon my re-arrival. and i filmed the owls while they dried themselves out in the late day golden hours — daylight had only an hour or so left. But — eventually decided to leave the owls and risk my time and patience one last time, feeling more hopeful with a relative silence of wind and mind.

Enter #6 (02-May):


Essentially the final creation, minus the upper disk rock (felt too risky for those late day hours), and a clumsier edge for the top. This stage spoke to me in a beautiful way. For instance, it was relatively stable, proportional, and the new orientation of the top flowed nicely with the overall curve. However, the top contact was too big to settle. and one last spurt of curiosity had me dismantling slightly in order to combine all the envisioned elements, despite the risk of losing the day to a fumbled readjustment.

Enter #7:

the final creation — up to this point, using the shallow edge in the disk rock, resulted in collapse every time within 1 minute. However,  i was pleasantly surprised that this final attempt lasted until after i left that night. glowing with satisfaction.

I hope this gives a better idea of process, and why making a simple video is a little difficult for articulating the evolution. rebuild time for this final arrangement would be in the realm of 30 minutes to an hour… mostly due to the immense weights involved which tend to create an exponential unpredictability in build time. In addition, something unique about this wiggle was stretching the stages out around so much interwoven experiences, such as the mosaic tangent, as well as the more significant owl tangent, which became a daily process in itself.

I included myself as a size reference.


1 Response
  1. Ivan

    Pretty nothing to write, because all we are came here to see your art… but… Great job! Really. I think you are one of a kind who can not only put the rocks one on another, but capture them and make it beautiful!

    My respect!