Walking on the Shore to Create Art in the Sand October 26 2020

San Francisco-based artist Andres Amador has been drawing large-scale designs on sandy beaches since 2004. His patterns range from geometric designs to mandalas to watery currents—all of which disappear when the waves return to shore. While his environmental art practice began in Northern California, he now creates his artwork on coasts around the world.

“Coordinated Chaos II,” California, 2019


“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.”



“Substructures V,” Half Moon Bay, California, 2009


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 a 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 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.


“Disk,” Greyhound Beach, California, 2017


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 and 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. It's 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.



“Flow II,” Stinson Beach, California, 2015