Monday, April 26, 2021

Disc II


In my many years of doing this largescale art, I have come up with many techniques for keeping it all together over hundreds of feet. When I develop a new technique, it generally inspires a slew of designs as I play with what the grid enables and then just see what happens. 

The grid in this artwork quite complex. It is a series of expanding rings with spokes radiating out. But then each spoke has parallel lines alongside it, which creates very wide spokes. The artwork is just essentially revealing certain parts of the grid, 

The grid method can either be extremely time consuming as when I must set up a grid that is mostly not expressed (as in the last image below), or it can be quite quick as with the first and second image below (which is not to say that the entire design was quick to make!). Grids allow for alignment and sizing over areas that are not connected, allowing for a large spread out design to feel cohesive.

Here are more designs with grids at their core.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Tutorial- Making a Line Design Star


I was obsessively drew these as a young boy, making all sorts of permutations and complexities. Then, many years later I was creating these in 3 dimensions as kinetic sculptures

Essentially you are connecting points on graph paper. If there is no graph paper, then you are making it yourself, either measured out in advance, or eyeballed in the moment. The graphic below pretty much sums it up. 

Create a set of points evenly spaced out on one axis. Then do that for another axis- whether at 90 degrees, as my example has, or any other angle. Connect your points in the manner shown. Extend the axis, make more spaced points and those and then you repeat this process, shifting 90 degrees each time, each subset section contributing to an overall design.

Here's my sculptural version of it. (You can see more on my website)

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Capturing Impermanence 2021 Calendar

These images are in the calendar I printed in 2020 (order yours here! It is dateless and so never obsolete). 

Each image below links to a page that discusses the design plus topics that the design brings up for me. Enjoy going deeper into my artwork, I think you'll find the topics as fascinating as I do :-) 

This page is a work-in-progress, being worked on in the order of the images from the calendar. 








Friday, November 6, 2020

Coordinated Chaos

The Coordinated Chaos series has been a wonderful exploration into the hazy line between order and chaos. The idea of the series is that I create a framework and develop a set of design elements. Then I use a random number generator to randomly select the design elements and how they connect within the framework. 

It has been a fascinating exploration. The images appear to have patterns within them, but none really exist- just momentary alignments that the brain can focus on, but overall there is no repeating patterns. 

The series is an exploration of the randomness of the real world. So much of the world is occurring by chance. We humans are excellent at pattern recognition- so good in fact that we can't really turn off this ability and can see patterns where they may not really exist. Our biology and mental capacity evolved to enable us to navigate complex environments of overlapping patterns from the living and naturally shaped world. This system finds patterns wherever it looks, an ability that often lead us astray, seeing patterns where they do not actually exist (ahem, any conspiracy theory...).

One thing I love about this series is how much the designs feel like something you might find in the natural world. They feel familiar but you can't put your finger on what you are seeing...

Here are various versions I've worked on.

I've done this series as sand paintings in the smaller scale. Here is a playlist of videos of me doing that:

Portal II


This piece was a test of an idea that spurred its further development.

I made this one during my early years with this large-scale artform. My entry into creating this art was geometry, through which I could achieve such enormous designs in such short time. 

An issue I faced in the early years was that the geometric designs felt static- motionless and lifeless. So very soon I was looking for ways to enliven the designs. 

This design used a simple construction method to create these 'molecules'. Their various orientations give a sense of movement and the semi-overlaid circles suggesting depth.

For my next shot at this design, I shaded in portions and made different sized molecules. The big change was creating a 'mask', an overlay over the design that creates the feeling that an opening is visible to another place where these molecules are floating- hence the name 'Portal'.

Once I had the drone and could take aerial photos, I decided to take another crack at the design. The drone allows me vantage points for photography that enable me to consider the entire landscape. So instead of having a masking layer, the land form itself would be the mask- the molecules would be contained by the features of this beach. To make this piece I brought in friends who worked in groups to enact the design steps to create these elements. I gave each group a different size cord to make their design with and guided where they would work. This final piece has depth enhanced by the layering of molecules in some places. I feel complete with this line of design.

Thursday, November 5, 2020


This artwork was made freehand, using only my rake and my body as a measuring tool. It is thus a reflection of my own body proportions.

Here's a beautiful video filmed by Jonathan Clark, edited by Little Tao.

Friday, October 9, 2020

My Modern Met Interview

For an interview with My Modern Met 

How did you start making sand art?

Before the landscape artwork, I did sculptural work. That work turned out to be highly geometric. In studying about the forms I was creating, I stumbled into looking at methods that our ancient ancestors would have used to design their enormous temples and buildings. Crop circles share many of these techniques, and so my eye as drawn there as well. Then, when on the beach sharing what I had been learning with a friend, it suddenly dawned on me what could be possible with a canvas as large as what the beach could offer.

Most of your designs focus on patterns. What is your inspiration for these abstract pieces?

Nature is my ultimate inspiration. For the first few years, the geometric work was my focus as that was my entrance into creating at the large-scale. My studies by this time had turned towards fractals and patterns in nature. My geometric work held a huge issue for me- they felt static, lifeless, whereas these new areas of research felt alive and dynamic. I have always been drawn to nature but could never figure out how to decipher what I was seeing. And then I had an epiphany that in nature there are processes occurring and the pattern we see is the result. For instance, at some temperature threshold the moisture in the atmosphere will precipitate and form a cloud. If the temperature goes up then the water evaporates. If the moisture goes up, rain may occur. Its a dynamic process, which can be appreciated by watching clouds appear, shift, evolve as they float past. The cloud doesn't know what it looks like- it's just appearing as a result of other forces interacting. Think also of ripples in the sand formed by water or wind. Or the way tree growth responds to light- each species in their own way, making their own identifiable yet individually unique profiles in the forest. So I began mimicking this apparent complexity by combining simple processes while working- processes that I could hold together over a large area without having to be specific in any particular way (as I would need to be with the geometric work). In this way the artwork would 'emerge' without specific direction or intent. 

These days I have been combining these 'geometric' and 'organic' approaches, acknowledging both the order and chaos side of our existence.

Do you have an idea in mind before you visit a location or do you create pieces on the spot?

For the most part I come to the beach without specific preconception. However, once I have begun work on a new piece I know the process I will follow. So I am not making it up as I go- there is a plan of some sort which allows me to keep it all together over such a large scale. Generally when I arrive at a new location I come ready with various possibilities that I have been working on. Then I decide what would be most appropriate given the conditions of the beach- is the beach wide or narrow, sloped or flat, and so forth. Some designs require more space, some work best when there are natural nooks and crannies to fill in. There are times when I may spend several days at one location in which case I can design for that specific circumstance. There can be a dialogue between the artwork and the landscape,. I can never take for granted how a beach may present- they are all changing throughout the month and year so I must be flexible with what I do.

What is your creative process for each design?

I am always noting and taking photos of patterns I see when out in the world, both natural and human-made, and puzzle over them to understand what is transpiring and what could I learn that could be applied at the largescale. Sometimes an approach I come upon for working at the landscape level will suggests its own possibilities. I'll explore all this in my sketchbook. When a design has evolved into something that feels mature, it goes into a 'pot' of ideas to select from when I am next at the beach. Once able to assess a location in person, I choose the design the works well with the circumstances on the beach. Each design has its own approach. Sometimes I have a better sense of what that will be before beginning, and sometimes the process breaks down in some unforeseen way.

How do you view the ephemerality of your art?

After having done this art for as long as I have, the ephemerality plays less of part in my experience than it did at the beginning. At the start there was a subversive quality to the art. Not that I am special in any way for creating art that isn't meant to last, but as a cultural norm, we view permanence as having more value. But through this art I came to recognize that in the long arc of time, nothing will last- eventually all things I have done and that all humans have ever done will be erased. It had me recognize that at the heart the desire for permanence is a fear of our mortality. How do we choose to spend our time in this limited existence? It is a fundamental question that can be both challenging and inspiring. It took me to the next recognition- what is worth doing other than that which elevates my spirit? That had me allow myself to let the art to take a greater place in my life, investing so much energy in something that almost immediately will begin washing away. My art is a pointer to this larger awareness- to value the life experience as it is happening.

How has your artistic practice changed over time (if it has)?

There are a couple of things I appreciate about the development of my work. At the start of my professional art work, over 20 years ago, I was almost always indoors, often in the near dark due to the sculptures  I was constructing, hunched over doing fine, meticulous work. Working outside and at the beach (barefoot!) was a huge and welcome change. And getting physical with my art- using my body as the brush essentially, brought me in much greater connection to my creations. 

Is there an artwork you are most proud of? Why?

Yes. 'Flow' is my largest piece that works with the specific landscape. My inspiration was Japanese water painting of a river flowing. I designed it on an aerial  photo of the location. Being able to carry through the long curving line as though they were strokes created from way above is quite difficult. For an organic design, I had a specific outcome that looks and feels natural from above, but on the ground its a huge distance and I had to 'feel'.the 'strokes'.

How do you know when a work is finished?

Different designs have different endings. Some need to reach a certain completion. Some can go on and on without end and are finished when my canvas runs out, the waves return, or I'm ready to stop. A design may need a few tries before it achieves completion as a concept.. 

What is the best thing about being an artist?

I appreciate that I get to be creative for a living, doing it on my terms as expresses who I am. It is gratifying to create work that brings joy, wonder, and inspiration to so many.   

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