From a Grain of Sand, Getting Creative on the Beach!

The beach! We smile just at the thought of our favorite place: the smells, the sounds, the feel of the warm sand under our feet.  It is a place for inspiration and creativity.  We all have the urge to draw in the sand or build in it – it’s primal!


Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Drawing symbols or words with our fingers or using a pail, shovel and some sea water, we’ve all done it at some point in our lives, as kids or adults. So simple and relaxing. Our creations emerge out of the sand only to be taken later by the tide. But did you know that sand sculpting and drawing is an age old activity that may date back to the Egyptians? (And they certainly had a lot of sand to play with!)

Building sand sculptures isn’t just child’s play.  Many adults have figured out how to actually make a living from it.  In the Untied States, in the early 1900’s it was commonplace to see sculptors create sand castles along the boardwalk in Atlantic City for tips or commissions. By 1930’s, there were so many sculptors competing for a handout from locals and tourists that they became a public nuisance. So, after the hurricane of 1944 took away much of the dunes and walkway, Atlantic City took the opportunity to ban the sculptors from the famed boardwalk altogether. The ordinance banning sand castle building is still on the books today.

The Sandman library of congress

The Sandman, Atlantic City, NJ.  Photo: Library of Congress

Sand sculpting found a resurgence in the 70’s in California with the creation of SSI, (Sand Sculptors International) which set standards for the art world wide. Created by two sand artists, the pair have been designing and building amazing sand creations for over 35 years on the beach and many other locations, often trucking in mountains of sand to do it.  Today, sand sculpting can be a lucrative business.

A story in The Atlantic from 2011 quoted a $65,000 dollar a year salary for one “sand castle consultant” and some who even made $6,000 a week!

The best way to see some amazing sculptures is to find a competition near you. Sand building competitions are typically free events and have a carnival atmosphere. Drawing large crowds, these events thrive on the unique personalities of the sculptors and their creations will have you gasping in wonder at just how did they do that!

sandsculpture company

The Sand Sculpture Company,

Revere Beach Sand Castle fest 2017

Main sculpture, Revere Beach Sand Sculpting Festival 2017,

koi fish 3d sand art nightingale rendu

Koi Fish 3d Sand Drawing by Constatine Nightingale and David Rendu.

Calvin Seibert

Calvin Seibert, June 2017,

Melineige Beauregard

Sand sculpting festivals thrive on the unique personalities of the sculptors and their creations.  Melineige Beauregard from Montreal, Canada believes sculpting with sand is a spiritual experience.  Photo: Revere Beach Partnership

So, how are sculptures done and done so well?  Some say it’s all in the water to sand ratio. According to scientists have cracked the code for building the the best sand sculptures: Use very little water.

Research (yes, there’s actual research!) shows that the water is the “glue” that holds the sand together. Too much water or too little will make you castle crumble and a ratio of one pail of water for every eight pails of sand is suggested.

If you’re really serious about learning the art of sand sculpting you can take a class like Sand Sculpting 101 or you can settle into the sand and just play like you did when you were a kid (but call it experimentation so you can reward yourself for your hard scientific work).  If you are the type that needs a tool for every purpose then there’s a whole site that sells tools just for sand castle building or you can gather some right out of your kitchen drawer. And, don’t forget a bucket for lugging sea water!  So, go get creative! See what you can make with your own two hands and a little water and sand!

Have you ever created art on the beach or gone to a sand sculpting competition?  Share your art or favorite beach with us!