Written by S. Bowyer



    In 2009, Keseniya Simonova won Ukraine's Got Talent for her original, soundtracked sand-painting depicting the movement of civilisations during World War II, of which caused judges to cry and the world to take notice of a new form of art. Described as a sand animationist, she shocked her audience by making her drawings blend one into the other to display the changing lives of the characters she featured, a young couple dragged through the years of battle.



     Online, videos of her performance hit over a million views in one day. She was invited to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest and was asked for autographs constantly in her local area. She was asked from all over the world to appear for their functions and shows.

     Other sand artists feature their work on their websites.

     Feng Xian, a Chinese artist, created this work featuring the story of Titanic and the musical track, My Heart Will Go On.



     Illana Yahav does many artworks, including very abstract ones.




     While the above are all done the same way with the same look, there are other forms of sand painting, where the medium and materials differ. Joe Mangrum, a New York artist, creates his with coloured sand on the sidewalks of America, his designs resembling Buddhist mandalas with his own unique inspirations woven in.



     The paintings take up to 8 hours to complete each, and will be blown away by the wind. He appears to be the modern day Bert from Mary Poppins, creating his art to be enjoyed for the weather to ruin it when it sees fit.



     Another movie that is remembered for a sandpainting scene is the Dark Crystal, where Jen's adopted family, the Mystics used sand to represent their spirituality, and believed in greater powers and prophecy. The mystics were the traditionalists, the lovers, and the naturalists.


Sandpaint in Dark Crystal

UrZah, creating a spiritual masterpiece


     Some could say that primitive sand painting was the beginning of this art, however, it's more understood that sand painting -- molding or dropping sand onto a surface, rather than painting onto cave walls -- is a different thing. Sandpainting began in several cultures in humble beginnings including America,Australia, Latin America, Japan, and Tibet, among early tribes and civilizations.

     Navajo Native American Indian tribes, who also called it "dry painting," used it as a ceremonial art where they pour the sand or similar substance onto the surface they have chosen. Their work included ground pigments, crystals and rocks, to extend their range of colours. The colours represented different physical directions and sacred mountains. They used blue (represented South and Dawn on the mountains), yellow (West and Twilight), black (North and Night), white (East and daylight), and red (sunshine and Spiritual life). Sometimes additional colours were made using roots, cornmeal and flower pollens.

     Sand painting was a group activity, up to twelve people working on one artwork. The design and pattern would be designed by the shaman or Medicine Man. They had many symbols and pictographs that were recognised and used in the paintings. As they evolved, soon kept artwork became practiced, rather than pieces that would blow away with the wind. However, photographing does not happen often, as this would interrupt their ceremonies. It is said that sometimes they were created for exhibition, but colours were changed or alternated, as it was considered profane to create artworks for entertaining only -- not used for a ceremony.

     Native Australian people, also known as Aboriginals, were also known for their sand paintings. Their pictures were to mark territory, record history and tell stories of the dreamtime. Papunya artist, Kaapa Tjampitjinpa created the first notable work that won a contemporary artwork.




     Tibetan people created their Mandalas from sand painting after the Tibetan friends bless the area. The artists work over a flat table, taking several days to create their meditation-inducing, spiritual artwork, which is then destroyed shortly after completion. The destruction of it reminds them of the impermanence of the life of man. They use a Vajra (type of metal club with spherical head and ribs) to break the art and collect the sand to offer it to a loal body of water.



     Japanese cultures call their sand painting "tray pictures," and can be solo coloured or multi-coloured:




     People of Netherland created theirs as "sand carpets," where the artwork became a massive tribute, mostly done for special occasions or celebrations.






     Sand painting is an art that is easy to understand, but difficult to master. Anyone can create their own resources, find a place to begin and draw out their design for crafting. However, the civilisations above used skills and traditions that were refined for years.

     For those looking for less mess, but still want to try the beauty of this art, you can try online programs that let you play with virtual sand, such as Betsy's or Thisissand.com.

    Betsy's works on the idea of choosing pre-made designs, then adding your glue and sand to them. The idea of the game is to earn points to unlock more sand and images to colour. It's not a bad port to spend some time on.




    Thisissand is where users pour sand onto the board from the top, like adding a Connect 4 chip to the column. You create from the bottom up. Click the right colour to change it then hold down mouse button to let the sand flow. I tried to create my own piece. Introducing, Mermaid on Rock. Working from the top seems difficult at first, but as you experiment, shapes are more possible.




     Sand painting is considered a spiritual, therapeutic tradition which has modern bonds and opportunities of self-expression. At first it seems primitive, but can actually be highly rewarding, encouraging, and self-reflective.

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