Seven Stunning Sand Sculptures

Professional sand sculptures are a long way from the sandcastles created by children, of whatever age, on the beach. But the principles of their creation are similar. Take a look at what can be achieved with skill and patience, and learn the tricks to apply to your own constructions.

(This article was originally published at Quazen.com on 27 July 2009.)

Most of us remember sitting on a beach as a child, with a bucket and spade at our disposal, creating a crumbling pile of sand we called a castle. But by using a few tricks learned from professional sand sculptors, we could create much better constructions.

Location

Sand Sculpture in Victoria, Australia

Sand Sculpture in Victoria, Australia

For an amateur sandcastle builder the ideal location is anywhere with plentiful supply of clean sand. This can be a sand pit in your back garden or, ideally, a beach. (Tip: For some inexplicable reason, golfers do not appreciate the sight of a sandcastle in their bunkers. Some people just don’t value art.)

Professional sand sculptors are not constrained by the availability of sand as they can have it brought to wherever their project is being constructed. And this can be a lot of sand. Some large sculptures have used over 100 tons of sand and taken many weeks to complete.

Building Materials

Sandcastle by Magnum35

Sandcastle by Magnum35

At the simplest level, the materials are just sand and water. The trick is in how these materials are used to create a solid structure. As with any building, the foundations are important. Select a level area on the beach, not too close to the sea or the tide will destroy your castle before you have finished. Drench this area with water to provide your structure with a solid base.

Next, create a platform for your castle on top of this base. The key thing to remember is that the sand should be wet and compacted as much as possible. This compacted sand will become relatively solid as it dries in a similar process to that which takes place in the creation of sandstone.

At the end of the building process other materials can be used to improve your castle’s design, such as flags or model people or trees, as in the picture above. Remember to take these accessories away with you when you leave.

Building Tools

Sancastle by Sandytales

Sancastle by Sandytales

Building tools start with the essentials for a child at the beach, a bucket and spade. But these will only give you isolated towers. Larger structures will need to be sculpted from a large pile of compacted sand on top of your platform. Ideal sculpting tools are your hands, plastic cutlery, paint brushes or shells.

Professional sand sculptors also use these types of tools and whatever else they can find. In addition, they use a lot of wood to make crates, or forms (see below), to compact their sand and provide scaffolding.

Using Forms

Temple at Abu Simbel, Egypt by Paulo Juntas

Temple at Abu Simbel, Egypt by Paulo Juntas

Forms are wooden crates with no top or bottom. Large sculptures are created by building sand towers held within these forms. Firstly, the largest form is placed on the base and filled with sand and water which is compacted as much as possible, sometimes using heavy construction compactors.

Once the first form is complete, another, slightly smaller, form is placed on top of it and filled with compacted sand in the same way. This process continues until the sand has reached the required height. At this point the sculpting can begin.

Sculpting

Neuschwanstein Castle by Paulo Juntas

Neuschwanstein Castle by Paulo Juntas

Sculpting starts from the top and works downwards, so it is important to have an idea of what your final castle will look like before you start. For a small beach castle, pile layers of compacted sand on top of your platform. Use a similar method to the professionals but without the use of forms. Once the layers are complete, start carving.

The professionals are able to reach the tops of their tall structures by using the forms as scaffolding. The uppermost form is removed from around its compacted contents and caving begins. The sculptors can stand on the forms below. Once the top layer is complete the next one down is revealed and so on until the entire sculpture is finished.

Surviving the Elements

Nativity Scene in Sand

Nativity Scene in Sand

How long your sandcastle survives will depend on where you build it and how well it is constructed. A structure built below the high tide mark will be destroyed as soon as the sea reaches it. Sometimes, seeing the forces of nature at work on your construction can be just as satisfying as building it.

Sculptures that are not damaged by the sea can last for weeks if they are not vandalised. Light rain will cause little damage, but a heavy downpour will start to wear away the surfaces. Professionals coat their work with a water-repelling sealant to help protect the structures for longer.

The longest lasting structures are those that are created inside, like the one above. A sculpture like this, protected from the elements and vandals, may survive for many years, perhaps indefinitely.

Choosing a Subject

A Sandman Relaxing in a Bath

A Sandman Relaxing in a Bath

Although castles are the most common structures made of sand, many sculptors create other forms, like the one shown above. Humans, animals, other types of buildings or pleasing shapes have all been sculpted from just sand and water. Ultimately, the only restrictions on what can be created are the imagination and skill of the sculptor.

Building a Sandcastle Online

So now it’s over to you. Go to a beach somewhere and see what you can achieve. If you have no beach close by, or the summer weather keeps you indoors, try this online sandcastle building game and see what you can create from the comfort of your own home.

Be Sociable, Share!

Join the discussion