Month: May 2011

The story behind the logo of the World Championship of Sand Sculpting

The story behind the logo of the World Championship of Sand Sculpting

 To the average person looking at this logo for the first time, it may seem a bit unremarkable. The very nature of the design doesn’t necessarily bring sand sculpting to mind, but  show this logo to most professional sand sculptors  and you will get an immediate reaction. This simple design, that was officially reintroduced to the world of professional sand sculpting in the summer of 2010, symbolizes the very best of professional sand sculpting.  

The story of just how this logo came to be starts in the mid 80’s when a man by the name of Joe Maize had the design  etched onto t-shirts at one of the very first professional sand sculpture events in Harrison Hot Springs, BC.  I never had the opportunity to meet Joe, but just ask anyone who has and you will get a sence of what kind of impact he made on everyone he came in contact with. His outrageous sence of humor and dry, say it like it is attitude were his personal  trademarks. Sadly, the world lost Joe to cancer in August of 2006. He was just 52.

Photo Courtesy of Carl Jara

When I learned that the World Championship was moving to the US in 2010, I immediately asked how I could help. Because I had experience with  graphic design, I was tasked with designing a website and more importantly restoring the logo that Joe had created all those years ago. The original drawing I had to work with was nothing more than a grainy scanned image. Suzanne Altamare a friend of Joe had gotten the copy from another friend of Joe’s, Charlie Beaulieu. Suzanne had been attempting to clean up this fuzzy image in her spare time. The image below is what I first saw. I imagine it was in much worse shape before Suzanne spent many hours  cleaning it up.

Joe Maize

The first part of the process was to create a black and white line drawing in illustrator followed by a careful color selection process. For the logos that were to be used in digital print and  the website, I added some shadow and lighting effects. The total process took several days of testing and tweaking. In the end it was worth all the hard work. There are several variations that reflect the specific area that the contest (s) will take place in as well as an official qualifier logo. They are all derivatives of this primary design. (other logo variations not shown here) The results are seen below.

Worlds Logos

This year the 2011 World Championship of Sand Sculpting will  be celebrating  25 years. To commemorate this milestone I’ve added a few  new features to the logo that reflect the silver anniversary of this amazing event. I consider it a great honor to have been trusted with the task of restoring this iconic symbol. Special thanks to Charlie, Suz, Doc, the countless others who have given their time and of course, Joe Maize for creating the original design. May your sand stand…. One Grain at a Time! 

 25-years World Championships

Share on Facebook
The Hammer of Thor

The Hammer of Thor

I am a self admitted comic book geek. When I saw the  most recent movie version of Thor, there was one thing that stood out to me. Many of the coolest super heroes have  a prop that is uniquely their own. Batman has his utility belt, Spiderman has his web, Wonder Woman has her golden lasso and Thor has his hammer. The prop artists did such a great  job reinventing something so simple.  When I first saw it, I thought to myself, ” That is a work of art!”

Being a professional sculptor and full-time artist, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to create a digital 3D model of this iconic hammer. Below I have posted a few photos of the finished project that I created in Cinema 4D.

 The coolest thing about being able to create a digital file like this, is that technology actually exists that allow me to have this file transformed into an actual physical 3D proto-type. 3D printers have been around for a while now. It wasn’t until a small company in the Netherlands was formed, that 3D printing really started to hit the main stream. The technology is advancing at a rapid pace and getting better and more cost-effective every day. Check out Shapeways to find out more on this awesome technology. In the mean time I hope you enjoy these photos. Remember, whosoever holds this hammer, if he be worthy, shall possess the power of  THOR!

Thor's Hammer

The Hammer of Thor



Share on Facebook
Judging a Master Sand Sculpting Contest

Judging a Master Sand Sculpting Contest

Currently, there is no unified judging system in use at professional level sand sculpting competitions. What that means is that each contest sets its own judging criteria and appoints its own judges. As you can imagine, this has generated a lot of discussion and a great deal of criticism regarding the outcome of many  contests over the years. Imagine for a moment going to a baseball game in one city, with one set of rules. You then race off to another city with, you guessed it, a completely different set of rules. Now, I’m not trying to simplify the issue by saying sand sculpting is somehow like baseball. In fact the two couldn’t be more different. With any competitive process, there needs to be a set of standard rules in place in order to add legitimacy to that process.

The lack of a unified judging system is not the result of any lack of concern from organizers or sculptors. In fact the pursuit of the ideal judging system itself may be contributing to the lack of unification.  In order to shed some light on this complicated subject, lets take a look at a few different types of judging panels

Sculptor Judging This system is pretty much what it sounds like. At the conclusion of the competition, competitors judge each others work.  Pros: Sand sculptors are the best qualified to judge due to their understanding of the medium. Cons: Fierce rivalries can  lead to vote shifting, the practice of placing a perceived rival artist at a lower position in order to boost the score of another artist.

 Celebrity Judging You guessed it. The judging panel is made up of a mix of local news anchors, politicians and even costumed team mascots. Pros: Can provide an unbiased opinion of all the completed sculptures. Cons: Lack a clear understanding of the intricacies of sand sculpture, often voting with their personal tastes rather than for artistic or technical merit.

Organizing sculptor lead judging panel This panel is composed of various individuals, with varying artistic backgrounds, not necessarily related to   sand sculpture. The panel receives all of its instruction, regarding judging, from the  event’s organizing artist. Pros: Panels artistic background can be helpful in the overall judging process. Cons:  There is always a chance that the organizing artist’s personal opinion will weigh too heavily on the judging panel.

People’s choice I don’t actually know of an event that relies solely on this method but it deserved mentioning. This method is simple, spectators cast votes for their favorite sculpture. Pros: A  larger number of votes can  add validity to the end result. Cons: Potential for a local artists to benefit unfairly due to  the home team advantage factor.

Now that I’ve covered the judging panels, lets take a closer look at how the votes are cast and calculated.  In most case judges are handed individual  voting sheets for each sculptor. These voting sheets vary from event to event.  Some systems use  the numbers one to ten, others use letters A through D. Both represent how well the artist has met the criteria  for that specific category. Most events have basic categories that an artist must score highly in to place in the top three places. Here are a few examples of those categories.

  • Artistic impression
  • Technical difficulty
  • Originality
  • Execution of carving skills

These categories can vary greatly from event to event, especially if the contest in themed based. In this case the artists are bound to create  sculpture that related to the theme of the event.

As sand sculpting contest progress and expand in the US and around the world, the need for a unified judging system is needed now more than ever. Here are a few things I would like to see in a unified system. 

  • Transparency: All judging results should be clearly posted for open viewing, including the names of the judges.
  • Every sculptor judged:  Every competitor deserves to know where they rank at a contest, not just the top five
  • Certified judging panel: An intensive certification process should  be established for judges.
  • Creation of sculpting genres: Architecture, contemporary, classical and eclectic should be separated in larger events
  • Best overall: Best over all should be selected from the top works from each genre
  • Simplified judging criteria: Quite simply, we do not need to reinvent the wheel.

 If you have any suggestions please add them in the comment section below.

Share on Facebook
Wonder Woman Still a Classic

Wonder Woman Still a Classic

NBC is not hot for Wonder Woman, having cancelled the show before it even aired on the network. You can read more about that here. I must admit I was a bit skeptical when I saw the new outfit that was previewed  a few months ago,  but it would have been nice to see at least a few episodes. The new series was to star Adrianne Palicki as Diana Prince, a.k.a. Wonder Woman. I must say I have fond memories of the original series that stared the lovely Linda Wagner. That show defiantly had a very campy feel but seeing Linda in that outfit week after week certainly made up for the goofy feel of the show. You can see a side by side shot of Linda and Adrianne below.

Wonder Woman
Adrianne Palicki and Linda Wagner


So you’re  probably reading this thinking, ” ok, what does this have to do with art?” Well  the answer is simple. I have always been a fan of comic book art. Prior to taking up ephemeral art, primarily sand sculpting,  I spent countless hours drawing and doodling. One of my favorite characters to draw was Superman. I can also recal drawing the likes of Batman, Spiderman and even the Silver Surfer. Then I realised that I have never done a drawing of a single female superhero. When I heard the story  about this new show, I thought I would give it a go. What better first subject tto try than the ultimate female super hero, Wonder Woman. Below is a photo of my creative process. First I start with a basic sketch to determine the pose and scale. I will note that all my work is done on a pressure sensitive tablet. This allows me the freedom to make corrections while  at the same time conserving paper. I then import the sketch into illustrator and make a clean vector outline. The next to last step is to add the basic primary shading for the character.

Wonder Woman Process
Sketch done in Photoshop, line art and color done in Illustrator


Once I’m happy with the finished piece. I import the file back into Photoshop and add the detail. I’m not going for photo realism here. The idea is to stay true to the genre of comic book art. I use the airbrushed and smudge tool primarily along with a few applied masking techniques.  Below is the finished piece.

Wonder Woman Final
Wonder Woman Final
Share on Facebook
The Happy Couple and the Sand Castle

The Happy Couple and the Sand Castle

I have worked for many private clients over the years. I can tell you honestly,  that few clients have left as big of an impression on me as the families of Jim and Beverly.  It all started  a  few months back with an unassuming call from Marie, the sister of the groom. We talked for several minutes about what she was looking  for at  her brother’s wedding.  I could hear the sence of importance in her voice. I would later learn that Marie along with Adela, Jim’s personal assistant had done a great deal of searching for just the right person to create a  sand sculpture for this special day. At some point in the conversation something happened that was quite unique and remarkable,  Marie began to share the story of Jim and his fiance Beverly along with the fact that Jim was widowed, having lost his first wife  who was only 50.  I was moved beyond words. I explained that a majority of my projects take several days to complete, but that I was willing to take on this single day project, should she decide to move forward.  Marie concluded the conversation on an upbeat tone expressing her excitement about the project. She now planned on pitching the idea to a small group of collaborators that included  Adela, Jim’s assistant.

A few days later I heard back from Marie, this time by way of email. Again there was a overwhelming sence of excitement, even evident  in her digital transcript. She had gotten the approval from the family members that she was seeking.  The project was on. It was at this time, that I began to share in her own sence of excitement.  Just knowing how important this sculpture was to her and  for both families raised my heart rate more than just a few beats.

Failure is not an option & anything is possible  Are not just words or even  just a slogan to me. It is a philosophy that I adhere to and take very seriously every day. On a follow-up call to discuss the design of the sculpture, Marie had hesitantly mentioned the possibility of incorporating an airplane into the sculpture because of Jim’s love of flying.  After responding immediately with “YES!”, I followed up with the question” what type of airplane?” Within minutes I got a photo of a scale model of Jim’s personal plane from Adela, who secretly snapped the photo, I imagine, right under his nose.

Jim's Plane
Jim's Plane

About a week later, I received a sample of the sand from the beach that I would be creating the sculpture. While the sand was crystal white and  clean, it lacked the physical properties of good sculpting sand. Many sculptors at this point might have called the client and cancelled the project or convinced the client into a more expensive and time-consuming option of importing sand to a public beach. Instead, I simply altered the design slightly to accommodate for the less than stable sand. The final design that I submitted to Marie for her approval included all the options she requested. First was the classical enchanted  sandcastle, second was Jim’s airplane. The whole design was unified with  clouds  and a banner trailing behind the plane with the names of the bride and groom. A few moments after submitting the design for approval, I received a call from Marie. While the sketch was quite simple, she immediately saw my vision for her idea and shouted, ” I love it!” I can tell you, it really feels good to connect with a client  like that with the very first design submission.

Off to the beach Over the next several weeks Marie continued to stay in contact, discussing the details of the wedding. Prior to my departure for the project she had one last request.  Because I was going to be building this sculpture on the beach in the middle of the setup for their ceremony, there was a  need to inform the groom to avoid any awkward confrontation during the build.

The Plan We decided that I would meet the families at a local beach bar the night before the wedding. I introduced myself as long-lost cousin Sean from Poughkeepsie. I’m not one hundred percent sure, but for the most part, the family members  initially bought the story. I knew things would be a bit tougher when it came to introducing myself to Marie’s brother Jim, the groom. Jim definitely wasn’t buying my story one bit but was a great sport about the prank and played along. I could tell Jim was feeling a bit un easy by my presence. Perhaps Marie  has a history of pranking her brother?

Jim & Beverly
Jim & Beverly off the hook

Off the hook  After about an hour it was time to reveal my true identity to the whole family. Marie and Adela gathered both families  at one of the larger outdoor tables and I made my announcement. ” I’m actually not long-lost cousin Sean  from Poughkeepsie, I actually don’t even know where that is”, I said. ” I’m actually a world-famous professional sand sculptor that had been commissioned to create a wonderful  sand sculpture for Jim and Beverly on their special day.” It was pretty cool to see the look of both relief and excitement in Jim’s and Beverly’s eyes. Jim would later tell me that he thought I was a comedian sent in to give him a good roasting! The rest of the evening, I was able to spend some quality time getting to know all the family a little better. Some family members  actually continued to refer to me as cousin Sean. That was pretty cool.

A perfect day  The next morning I got off to an early start. Having examined the sand samples weeks earlier, I knew I had my work cut out for me. The crew at the Portofino Island Resort where the wedding was to be held, provided me with everything I needed to complete my sculpture. They even  gave me a crew of extremely hard-working laborers who tirelessly filled my water buckets. Collectively they hand delivered over six hundred gallons of water to the sculpture site. About seven and a half hours later the sculpture was finally complete. I had  a few minor scares during construction. At about the midway point the entire sculpture shifted almost six inches but remained completely intact. If I didn’t see it myself, I would have never believed it possible. Had the weather not been as perfect as it was that day, the wind a little stronger, the temperature a little higher, all of my hard work that day would have ended with disaster. I definitely had the assistance of a higher power that day.

The random encounter  One of the coolest parts of my job is meeting and getting to know new people. Sometimes completely unexpected circumstances create truly memorable moments. Prior to the ceremony, I was clearing the area around the sculpture  when a woman and her two young boys walked up to the sculpture.  She mentioned how she had heard some people down the beach talking about this cool sculpture and had to come and check it out. I could see that the sculpture had an immediate affect on her. It was obvious that it had brightened her day. We talked about the art of sand sculpture and how my daughter had inspired be to get into this business  almost twenty years ago. It was at that point that she revealed to me that she had recently lost her two-year old daughter to leukemia. Dealing with that type of tragic loss is a  struggle that she must face every day. Knowing that even for a few moments my sculpture lifted her spirits was a  very special moment. 

Jim and Beverly's Wedding
Jim and Beverly's Wedding

The ceremony   As the ceremony got under way, the sun was just beginning to set. As the bride to be made her way down the aisle, the sun seemed to follow her. By the time she met her future husband at the end of the aisle the sun cast a magical spotlight on the wedding party. Officiating over the ceremony was Jim’s future brother in law John. I’m not sure if this was his first time officiating over a marital ceremony or not but  he did an amazing job. Once the nuptials were read and the wedding was official, the bride and groom made their way to the ocean’s edge followed closely by the wedding party and guests. As the couple passed the sand sculpture, they both caught my eye and flashed the thumbs up sign as they admired the sculpture. When they reached the water’s edge,  sea shells were ceremoniously tossed into the surf. I had never before seen such gesture at a wedding. What a fantastic idea.

Sea shells at the sea shore
Sea shells at the sea shore

The Reception This is the part of the story where I’m  usually packing up my tools and heading off to the airport for the next project.  If this was a typical client on a typical day, that may have been the case. That said,  this was not a typical client and as I mentioned, it was a perfect day. Marie welcomed me to  be a guest the reception.  I must admit I had a great time. Now this may not seem like a big deal to the average reader and honestly I don’t care. This is my blog and I just wanted to let the world know it was a big deal to me. Special thanks to my new friends from your long-lost cousin Sean …. from  Poughkeepsie.

Share on Facebook
Sand Sculpting Ethics 101

Sand Sculpting Ethics 101

When I was first introduced to the world of professional sand sculpting, I marveled at the level of comradery and cooperation I witnessed. There is a wonderful vibe that surrounds you when in the company of such talented artists. For years I believed that the sand sculpting business was somehow immune to the trappings of cut throat practices. Unfortunately, I would soon learn first hand that, while a majority of sand sculptors have exemplary business practices, there are those in the business that make us all look bad.

In any business there are certain ethical standards that must be followed in order to advance the industry as a whole. Those that disregard these practices, may at first glance appear to be unaffected by their actions. Some might even refer to themselves as shrewd business men. I can assure you shrewd is not the word I would use to describe them.

So here they are, the top 5 reasons ( in no particular order)  that you might want to take an ethics class.

  1. You charge your clients $$$$ for additional sand sculptors but you only pay those sculptors $.
  2. You consider drinking and or smoking on the job part of your “artistic license”.
  3. Your idea of business marketing is to check  out your competition’s website calender of events and  then call all their clients.
  4. You’ve actually yelled at a competitor’s client for not hiring you.
  5. You market yourself at a fellow sand sculptors event, saying you could do a better job for less.

I’m sure there are many more  reasons you might need an ethics corse. I would love to hear any personal experiences from other sand sculptors. Please omit any names. The purpose of this blog post is to raise awareness, not to vilify any particular group or individual.

Share on Facebook
Roaring Reinvention: How a Grandmother Started a Motorcycle Shop

Roaring Reinvention: How a Grandmother Started a Motorcycle Shop

A Florida woman is sharing her passion with other adventure-seekers.

 By Vivian Wagner  Originally published in April 29, 2011

For Kathy Tolleson, motorcycles are an empowering symbol of freedom and adventure.

“I’ve always loved motorcycles, from the time I was a little girl,” says Tolleson, a quick-talking and agile woman who grew up riding in rural northern Minnesota , where she was born and raised. Her father, who always had several types of vehicles around — pickup trucks, snowmobiles, go karts — brought home a Honda 50 motorcycle when she was 10 years old. She was hooked after the first ride.

Little did she know more than four decades later she would turn her passion into a roaring business that would help spread her independent spirit to a new crop of women riders.

(Pictured L-R), Tolleson's grandson Jacob, Kathy Tolleson, granddaughter Abigail Romeo, daughter Tara Romeo, granddaughter Lydia Romeo Photography by Vivian Wagner

In 2008, the grandmother of 13 founded Daytona Beach, Fla.-based Roar Motorcycles for Women, which offers customization services and sells motorcycles designed exclusively for women. The official business launch took place during the beach town’s annual Bike Week, a popular event that draws thousands of bikers from around the country. Tolleson, now 57, had been taking part in Bike Week festivities since moving to Daytona Beach about 23 years ago.

Roar was started with a $500,000 line of credit from Tolleson’s bank, which leveraged the personal equity in property she owned with Rodney Tolleson, her husband of 26 years. The business was based on a leap of faith, as well as some sparse statistics that appeared to indicate a potential customer base.

The Motorcycle Industry Council, for instance, found in a 2008 owner that women accounted for about 12 percent of motorcycle ownership in the U.S. that year, up from 9.6 percent in 2003. Yet, few businesses appeared to be catering to this growing group of adventure-seeking women. Tolleson and her husband set out to change that.

“I saw so many women riders struggling with their bikes,” says Tolleson, who raised five children and played a supporting role in her husband’s previous businesses, which ranged from consulting for chiropractors to owning a closed-circuit TV network. Now it was her turn.

Kathy Tolleson with husband Rodney. Photography by Vivian Wagner

“I’ve been a business consultant and entrepreneur all my life,” says Rodney Tolleson, who serves as a consultant to Roar. “When she came to me with this idea, I thought, ‘This is it. This is a winner.'”

The seven-employee company customizes bikes that women already own and creates one-of-a-kind designs by motorcycle builder and designer Gary Lyons and airbrush artist Fern Gadd. Some of the colorful custom conversions have whimsical names like Deep Purple Ice and Root Beer Float.

“Our bikes all have personalities,” Tolleson says. “Our job is to sell a bike to a woman who may never have considered it. We present motorcycles in terms of fit, style, and beauty to make them more attractive to women.”

To do that, for example, Tolleson will take her sales staff to department stores in search of inspiration. They’ll examine how shoes, clothing, and jewelry are displayed in order to attract women — then head back to Roar’s showroom and try to replicate the allure.

Kathy Tolleson in front of here Daytona Beach shop

“I wanted bikes put out in terms of symmetry and colors,” Tolleson explains. “Women’s eyes notice when [colors] go together.”

This attraction to color and design is apparent in the purchases of clients like Maria Avallone, 63, of Ormond Beach, Fla., who bought her bike, Wild Rose, a deep pink Yamaha V-Star decked out with painted roses, from Roar in 2009.

“I loved it,” Avallone says. “It was just so beautiful.”

That sentiment appeared to be reflected in Roar’s sales as well. The first year revenues totaled $700,000, according to Tolleson. During the dark days of the recession in 2009, revenues held steady, and in 2010 they were up 10 percent. Since its opening, the company has fitted and customized more than 300 motorcycles and sold more than 200 theme bikes, with customers from California to New England. When women bring their own bikes in to be customized, the price can range from $3,000 to $10,000. They can also buy custom conversions and one-of-a-kind bikes, which retail from $10,000 to $25,000.

Tolleson, though, dreamed of manufacturing her own bikes designed exclusively for women. And so, during 2009’s Bike Week, she launched a brand new motorcycle she helped design: the WildKaT, retailing around $25,000, featuring a Harley-Davidson engine and a low center of gravity, so the weight of the bike is low to the ground and easily maneuverable with the hips and legs, which in women are typically stronger than the upper body. It’s also a modular-fitting bike, meaning that its seat height, foot controls, and handlebars adjust to fit anyone from 4-feet, 11-inches to 6-feet tall.

“When I can see a woman on a bike that she can handle, it’s all worth it,” says Tolleson, noting that the power and control a woman finds on a motorcycle can translate into greater self-confidence for other areas of her life. “It empowers her. She’s not going to have some guy laughing at her because she can’t back up her bike.”

Share on Facebook
Osama Bin Ladin burial at sea… sort of.

Osama Bin Ladin burial at sea… sort of.

Any one familiar with this series of banana sculptures knows very well that things don’t end well for  OBannna Bin Ladin. After a violent and I imagine quite painful demise, I predict that his final resting place will involve water and a long journey to the sewer treatment plant!

On a more serious point, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the men and women who sacrifice their lives every day in the service of this country. God Bless America!


OBannana Bin Ladin

I’m not always in a rush to destroy my sculptures, but I will make an exception in this case.

OBannana Bin Ladin

I imagine this is what Osama may have looked like when the Navy Seals got a hold of him.

OBannana Bin Ladin

Or maybe like this.

OBannana Bin Ladin

Start to finish, this sculpture took less than 5 minutes

Share on Facebook
Cincopa WordPress plugin