San Francisco-area based landscape artist Andres Amador creates amazing large-scale sand paintings on beaches using only a rake and some help from volunteers.
Since 2004, San Francisco-area landscape artist Andres Amador has been printing on sand his large-scale organic drawings inspired by fractals. Equipped with just a rake, the artist etches his massive illustrations on the sand during full moon nights, when his canvas reaches its largest potential. As the tide goes up, the massive-scale, intricate sand paintings disappear shortly after they are created, like a kind of modern, living sand mandala.
My dream is to do my artwork in locations around the world and to bring more people into the creative act with me,” says the artist.
According to Amador’s website, the artist and his pupils have only 2 hours to do their thing before the tide returns.
While his environmental art practice began in Northern California, he now creates his artwork on coasts around the world.
“The focus of my work for the past 15 years is the ever-evolving Earthscape Art series, inspired by my study of calligraphy, ancient architecture, and science of all disciplines,” writes Amador. “
The artwork can span over 100,000 feet, achievable only during low tide when the beach is revealed.” These etchings in the sand create a dialogue between the art and the environment, and similarly, between the artist and his own work. The ephemerality of Amador’s process invites him to meditate on topics beyond it.
“Through this art form I have come to value the contemplative act of creation for its own sake,” he continues. “The entire act becomes a meditation on being in the moment, of celebrating and being at peace with life and death.”
“It is a race against time,” he says while assembling his tools, and there is little time to waste. The tide that is retreating as he begins will soon regain its ground, sweeping over his work just moments after it is created. But, that is, after all, part of the point.
“People have a hard time with this feeling of impermanence, of doing something that seems like it has no real purpose – which really is all art on some level,” he says, explaining that he tries to play the part of a contrarian. “But I am fully bought into the idea that there’s a much bigger thing occurring and the art plays a much bigger role than humanity, or at least our society, gives it credit for.”
Amador has sketched his sprawling artwork into sand across California, in Mexico, and on the other side of the world in New Zealand. The designs are always different but the results the same. Beach joggers, laughing children, and soggy dogs pause their seaside revelry to ponder the lanky man in a sunhat, who moves rhythmically, bouncing over large rocks jutting out of the shore, raking the sand as he goes.
At first, the winding lines don’t look like much. But, with a quiet intensity, he soon rakes them into shape, working with care and precision to produce the fleeting piece of art that will astound those who chance upon it.
While his work was originally inspired by geometric shapes and constructed with straight lines, he has since expanded his technique, taking cues from the environment. His patterns and process, Amador says, replicate those that occur in nature. “In that sense, there is really a science component to the artwork.”
The point is personal: the 47-year-old spent most of his life seeing himself as more scientific and than artistic. Growing up in San Francisco, he rarely visited the beach. Instead, Amador says, he explored the city streets, finding inspiration in the scenes and structures. He got a BA in environmental science, served in the Peace Corps, and became a computer technician. That was, until a life-changing experience at the desert festival Burning Man gave him permission, as he describes it, to create just for the sake of creation.
“I had to let go of stories I had within myself around who can be creative and what art is and what the value of art is,” he says, adding that part of his mission is to help others come to their own realizations. “In the past few years, I have come to understand my path moving forward, aside from the art, is teaching people about the creativity they have and the value everyone has to express it.”
He first began drawing in the sand with a stick while on a trip in Hawaii. In 2004, he created his first Earthscape art in the sand at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Ten years later, his passion became his full-time job – he now makes a living selling prints, creating commissioned art, and conducting workshops that help others experience and create their own beach pieces. The work has shaped the way he sees himself and engages with the world around him.
“It has been a huge evolution for me. The art has been guiding me within my own life, helping me let go of certainty and absolutes, instead being open to the mystery of what can emerge,” he says.
The finished piece on the beach stretches for thousands of feet and stops passersby in their tracks. With a drone, he takes a picture of the work from above, smiling at what was accomplished and humbly answering questions from the excited crowd that’s gathering. The water is already beginning to wash away the edges, but the day’s work is done.
Even if it is all soon going to wash away, “getting the idea out of my head and seeing it actualized is its own reward,” he says. He hopes his work will inspire others to appreciate the moment and to have the courage to express their own artistry, for its own sake.
“There is something deeper inside that we all have to offer, that doesn’t exist yet in the world,” he says. “The world deserves to have it.”