Saturday, August 12, 2017

turns out it was the summer of sand sculpture

Who knew?  Sometimes you name the summer and sometimes the summer names itself.  This summer started out as "The Summer of Free" in the hopes that we would be able to find free adventures all summer.  The summer budget is a mess here.  There's a big Costco trip right before I get my last paycheck at the end of the semester and then we have a contest to see how many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we can eat until I start getting paid again in the fall.  The Summer of Free sounded pretty good in May.  

And we had some free or very cheap fun over the summer.  Farmer's markets and lots of breakfasts at home, lots of state parks with cheap admission.  Free art museums with only a couple of dollars for parking.  Waterfalls, four wheeler rides and hikes.  All qualified for The Summer of Free.  

But in my last weekend of summer break it occurs to me that I made a lot of sand sculpture this summer.  I was lucky to have spent 3 weeks on the sand with time to create.  So while I made a few steel sculptures and finished several new drawings and even read a good number of books, this summer was definitely "The Summer of Sand Sculpture".

"The Summer of Sand Sculpture" started out properly enough with a sand sculpture class at Litchfield Beach, SC.  We started our week off with a group sculpture.  I mostly supervised.

As the students took to the new material I was able to play around a bit too.  I made a functional wall to protect Slagle's first sculpture and eventually turned it into a long weenie dog.

 He was tough enough to survive high tide and later that day I turned him into a skeleton weenie dog...but I don't seem to have a photo of that one.

 The next day was a crazy bird skull in the mid tide range.

 Another day allowed for a weird sand head.

 Side view of weird sand head.

 Collaborated with Slagle for a cool spiral death skull at Huntington Beach State Park.



And on our last day we made a huge group collaboration which resulted in a very large, very strange beach creature.

 My contribution was the tighty whities.

A couple of weeks later it was family beach vacation.  The sand skull is a mandatory part of the week.

But there was also a sand Spongebob.

 And a sand Homer Simpson.

And then a big sleeping dog.

Blue and Violet for scale.

And a sand hot dog with chili and relish.

Blue and Violet for scale.

The following Monday Blue, Violet and I had to daytrip down to Charleston to pick up artwork.  How could we be expected to not hit the beach for the afternoon?  Mandatory sand skull with bucket hat.

And then there was the end of summer trip back to the beach.  On the first day I made a big bird skull eating a surfer.

The second day featured an old school castle for Violet.

Violet for scale.

Then it was a giant cartoon dog.

 ...and his butt.

Handlebar mustache man.

 Violet for scale.

A big bird man at the request of a little girl who made sure to ask what I was making each day.

 Alternate view of bird man.

And then we tried an installation on the last day of 6 bald human heads buried in the sand along with an unlucky bird head.

 Alternate view.

 Detail of bird head.

Quotes from strangers:

"How long does it take you?" - Depends on the size of the sculpture but 2-3 hours for any of these above.  

"What are you making today?" - I usually figure that out after I start piling up the sand.  Or when a kid from a family I've never met suggests something.

"I could never make anything like that" - Prove it.  Pile up a little mound of sand and give it a try.  Start with a smilie face.  Or a stick figure.  

"Are you an artist?" - Well, sorta.

"Did you make that?" - Depends on what kind of mood I'm in.  Sometimes yes, other times my kids made it.  Sometimes I point at a stranger and blame him.

"How did you do that?" - Sign up for my class next May and I'll show you.  But this is not rocket science.  What you learned when you were making sand castles at age 3 is still the same basic premise.  Pack the sand and use your imagination.

"What is it?" - It's usually a skull.  Or a bird.  Or a creature with human features.  Or a dog.  

"How can you sculpt in public when you hate people?" - I truly do not know.  I draw and sculpt in my studio at home and it is a completely solo activity.  I do not want people around.  I love the time alone in my head.  On the beach people are watching you, taking photos of you and, horror of all horrors, they will come over and talk to you.  I do know that I love to make people smile.  As cheesy as that sounds, it's a real, honest statement.  There is a way I go about chasing that goal in a gallery or fine art setting.  But here, on the beach I get to see a gut reaction to what I've created.  After it's finished I will retreat to the umbrella or the balcony for some lunch and from there I can watch as some of the beach neighbors will casually get up from their chairs and walk over to take photos of the sand sculpture.  Some will bring their kids over to inspect it.  They all smile.  Some will go bring other family members over as well.  But the beach walkers give the best reactions.  They've headed out for a stroll to the pier or to burn off some of their kids' energy and they're all up on it before they notice.  They slow down, smile, then stop and point for the benefit of their walking partners before they grab for their phones.  Some will back up or walk around the sculpture discussing it.  Then they'll take a quick look around to see if anyone is claiming it.  I have my sunglasses on and hat pulled down so it looks like I'm asleep.  Something unexpected has gripped their attention, interrupted their boring walk.  They smile or laugh and then continue on their way.  This summer I noticed several different people walk by every single day.  Some of them talked to me and told me they came specifically to see what I was making that day.  One lady posted pictures on her Facebook every day so her friends back home could see.  And the best possible reaction is when other people on the beach see the sculptures and begin to make their own.  Some kids beside me one day came over and told me they were going to make a cat.  They did and then they brought me over to inspect it.  It was great.  Later in the week a big sand turtle popped up.  Then a shark.  It was awesome.  

Monday morning at the crack of dawn my summer break if officially over.  It's been an excellent one.  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

oops we did it again

 The last beach trip of summer is done.  It felt like the days flew by but when I think back on the events of the week, we packed a lot of stuff in those 7 days.  No wonder we were tired when we got back home.

This photo pretty much sums up the week.  First, we have to talk about the weather.  The humidity was very low and there was a stiff breeze just about all week.  The temperatures were wonderfully comfortable.  Violet wore a jacket just about every morning.  Normally in August you sweat just from walking outside.  This week was a welcome change from that.  I only sweated when I ran each morning and a couple of days while I was sand sculpting, and if you know my Olympic level sweating, you understand how odd that is.   

 Beach days start early.  My internal clock gets me up just before sunrise almost every morning to run.  At home I can't drag myself out of the bed before 7:30 but beach rules are different I guess.  There were some great sunrises this week and more and more people seemed to be out each morning taking sunrise photos.  I ran through as many of them as possible.  I figure hundreds of people had to delete photos of some bald buy running through their pretty sunrise this week.  That photo shows the still damaged Surfside pier.

 We got cheap admission into the aquarium.  Blue had been before he was old enough to appreciate it.  Violet had never been.  They both loved it.  We touched stingrays and sharks and jellyfish.  We marveled at the sharks.  Violet got to talk to a mermaid.

 Stingrays look funny from the underside.  I guess humans do too.  The beach inspired the very first Buttdrawing Monday last year and with the addition of Belly Busting Bonanza drawings, there was a lot to look at on the beach.  With the late summer crowd crammed onto the thin high tided beach, it was like having hordes of free models.  I did a little drawing, a little writing and a little reading.  

 Early this summer I read Rob Bell's book, "How to Be Here".  It was pretty inspiring and generally good.  I downed another couple of books and finished one last week just before leaving for the beach.  On our first day I was able to snag Bell's latest, "What Is The Bible?"  It was really interesting and thought provoking and I finished that one before heading home.  Maybe you'll read it and we can discuss.  

Overall, happiness ruled the week.  We ate well, had free fireworks every night, and laughed a lot.  Violet and I even did yoga on the beach with total strangers one day.  There was one incident though.  While helping the kids try to save a sand castle from the approaching tide on Wednesday, a wave splashed salt water onto the pocket of my swim trunks.  My phone was in that pocket.  I took the phone out, wiped it off and put it in a towel.  It still worked.  Worked the rest of the day too.  But when I got up the next morning to run, the phone was having none of it.  Wouldn't open the running app, wouldn't take a photo of the best sunrise of the week, wouldn't do anything.  Then it went black and stayed that way the rest of the week.  It lived in a bag of rice until yesterday when I dropped it off at a fix it place.  If you'd cross your fingers for me on that I would appreciate it.  I don't believe in phone cases (Steve Jobs did not have the iPhone designed so minimally only for you to screw it up with a bulky case) and if given a choice, I do not believe in insurance.  With that in mind, having my phone on the beach at all was probably not very smart.  In my defense, I've had a case-less iPhone since the iPhone 3 and while I almost lost one to the Ravenel bridge in Charleston, I've never cracked a screen or submerged one.  This put me on an involuntary phone ban which was kinda nice.  I'm sure I've missed some text messages this week and if it was you, I apologize.  If I ever get my phone back functional again, I'll respond then.  In the meantime, email.

 Sand is everywhere.  As tourists, we don't know the tricks to keeping sand out of the house.  It's on the running shoes, the beach bag, my feet every night as I get into bed.  Somehow it's on the counter and the TV remote.  But it's also all over the beach and it packs down and stacks up so nice.  We enjoy the sand as much as we enjoy the water.  We made a few drip castles and we made a new sculpture each day.  

 Spending a week in the same general area as several other families allows you to recognize their faces.  By mid-week you speak and wave as you pass.  This is as much social interaction as I want on any given day but on day two of sand sculpting people start talking to you.  Mostly they're kind enough to wait until you're done.  The best part is watching the beach walkers from the comfort of your shaded beach chair.  They don't know you made it so you get to see a true reaction.  First there's the double take.  Then they slow their pace and take it in.  Some will stop completely.  Some will turn around and walk closer.  Many will take their phones out and make photos.  (They have their phones on the beach and no one is giving them crap about it.)  But the one thing that almost all of them do is smile.  This is becoming an important thing for me.  I want to make strangers smile just for the sake of making them smile.  

Throughout the week people would check in each day to see what I made.  Some would make the walk from several buildings away.  One lady came down from her "sick bed" just to see what I built that day.  Another lady checked in every single day, taking photos and sending them to her friends on Facebook.  A little girl came over each day to ask what I was going to make and she'd come back later to tell me how she thought I did.  Several people around us made their own castles and sculptures.  It all brought a little joy to our little part of the beach.  

And all that digging and working helped keep the pounds off while we ate our way through vacation.  

One more week of summer break before going back to the real world.  We don't have a beach here at home but hopefully we'll have some fun adventures before I have to start setting that alarm clock and wearing pants again.