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What’s up Doc, Carrot Sculpture

Yup, the title says it all! I’ll leave it at that and let you check out my recent experiment in carrot sculpture. By far it has been the most stable ephemeral medium to date. If you are looking for an inexpensive carving medium to hone your carving skills then this is the medium for you. Hey, at least you won’t be a “starving artist”.

I hope you all enjoy!

Vetetable carving

Carrot Sculpture

carrot carving

vegetable centerpiece

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Ever thought of destroying a sand sculpture? Better think twice!

I have been creating sand sculptures at public and private events all over the world for almost 20 years now. It has always been in the back of my mind that someone  might not be able to resist the urge to destroy one of my creations. I could not even imagine how I would react if that had ever happened. Unfortunately I was about to find out.

At a recent public event in Yarmouth MA, vandals destroyed roughly 40 hours of hard work that my team and I had put into a centerpiece sculpture for the Summer Kick Off Celebration. My team and I were just finishing up breakfast and getting ready to hit the beach for our second day of carving when I got the call from parks and recreation director Pat Armstrong. I could tell by the tone of Pat’s voice that something was wrong. ” You’re not going to see what you left last night” , she said, noticeably upset. “It’s pretty bad.” My first reaction was to remain calm and try not to over react.  When we arrived on scene, we found that the top three feet of our ten foot sculpture had been knocked off and all of the carved detail that we had done the day prior was wiped clean. In its place were scratch marks, gaping holes and the word sorry scratched into the surface.

Yarmouth sand sculpture

 At that point my team and I could have given up and  explained to Pat that recovery from such a devastating attack was not possible. What we did do, after the police had finished with their initial investigation of the scene, was get right back to work with our trademark “failure is not an option” attitude. Fortunately for us, we had done such a good job prepping the sand, that it was  difficult to do little more than surface damage to the sculpture. The main body, less three feet in height, was still intact. We made a promise to Pat and the residents of Yarmouth that our finished design would be even better that our original plan. That  same spirit was also reflected in a particular group of life guards who volunteered to hold nightly watches over the sand sculpture to prevent the possibility of future attacks.

Over those next two days, as we completed the sculpture the outpouring of support from the community leaders , residents, media and tourists was incredible.  What ever the vandals were trying to achieve by destroying our hard work, they failed. The one thing they did do was bring added attention to sand sculpture as a legitimate form of public art.  Thousands of people turned out to view the progress of the sculpture and many more will continue to enjoy it over the next few weeks. Yes, I think we kept true to our promise to Pat and the Town of Yarmouth.Our sculpture was received very well by the thousands who came to see it. We were even able to include an additional element into the sculpture to pay tribute to all the life guards that graciously volunteered their time to watch over it each night.  There were a few people who were quick to blame the attack on the irresponsible young people. I will make the point that this group of young people, under the direction of Pat Armstrong, were some of the most admirable group of people that this artist has ever met.



Yarmouth Sand Sculpting

sand sculpture yarmouth

The police are still investigating the incident. While it is not the crime of the century, destruction of public art is considered a felony in most states. If the suspects are caught, I would suggest to the judge hearing the case to consider having them volunteer to help us prep all the sand for next year’s event. Perhaps if they experience all the hard work that goes into creating a sand sculpture , it will make them think twice about ever destroying one  again…One Grain at a Time.

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Bad berries Strawberry carving

Occasionally, I get carried away when it comes to carving new forms of ephemeral art. This day was no exception. I still have no idea if there will ever be a demand for this type of art but I said the same thing 20 years ago when I started sculpting with snow. So here it is, my first attempt at strawberry carving. This piece was completed in about 5 minutes. He looks a little grumpy but I can assure  you he was very sweet!

strawberry carving


bad berry strawberry carving


carving strawberries

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Tips on hiring a professional sand sculptor

Just to make things clear, yes I do own a professional sand sculpting company and yes, I do want you to consider my company when ever you think about hiring a sand sculptor.  However, there are many times when I will refer a client to another company if I know they will be in good hands, treated fairly and get the same consideration that I would offer them.  Due to my busy schedule, there are some projects I must turn away. Rather than let my client endure the painful search of finding a sculptor that will satisfy their needs, I would rather refer them to someone who I know operates on the same high level of standards that I follow. I have forged many great client relationships following this rule and feel that this practice  benefits not only the client and the artists involved  but the industry of sand sculpting as a whole. That is  where the idea to write this blog post came from. I realise that many clients will miss the opportunity to contact me for one reason or another. Hopefully by reading this post it will give them the tools to help them during the sometimes confusing process of hiring a professional sand sculptor. So here are some top tips from Fitzy the Snowman that will surely make your search for a great professional sand sculptor a little less painful.

  1. Know your budget Even if you haven’t decided on a final budget for your project, you should at least have a vision of the scale of your project. By knowing the scale of the project and it’s level of importance to the over all event or presentation, the artist will have critical information needed to present several options that will fit that need.
  2. References and examples Don’t be afraid to ask for references. I am always more than happy to provide references on request and have created a whole page of testimonials  for my potential clients to review. Also, ask if the art samples you are viewing  on a company’s website are done by that artist that will be working at your event.  Many companies  use sculptors for hire. This a common practice and one that I do not particularly frown upon unless there is not full disclosure to the client prior to booking. About 95%  of the work featured on my site was created by myself or my very talented  wife of 24 years. If a client is taken by a particular sculpture that was created by one of my associates, I always make the best effort to make a direct referral to that artist.
  3. Know who you are hiring To elaborate on what I’ve mentioned in the previous paragraph, It is important to know who will actually be creating your project. If the person you are speaking with is not the artist who will be creating your project, be sure to ask to see examples  of the artists work and how long this person has been working a professional sand sculptor. There are a few companies that have a history of sending underqualified artists out to projects. Many problems can arise from this practice other than the obvious poor quality of work. It takes many years to develop the skills to operate as a professional sand sculptor. Even if the person is an extremely talented artist, there are many other skills required to make a project run smoothly. Without the necessary experience of dealing with logistical issues, having strong communication skills and the ability to problem solve, new artists can quickly get overwhelmed with a project. I make it a strict rule to only work with the most experienced and talented artists in the industry. We also run extensive background checks on all the artists  that we contract and maintain a no tollerance drug policy.
  4. Best Business Practices Realistically there are only a handful of legitimate professional sand sculpting companies in the US. When searching for professional sand sculpting companies however, you may reveal hundreds of results. So how do you distinguish the real companies from the part-time hobbyist? The easiest way is to ask for a certificate of insurance from the artist. Only companies with active business licences can obtain liability insurance. This will also protect you and your company in the event of an unexpected accident or mishap. I’m proud to report that I have maintained a spotless safety record since my company was established in 2000. That said, accidents do happen and it’s always a good idea to request this document.
  5. Trust your instincts Once you have narrowed your search to a few top results, it’s time to establish your initial contact. Whether you do this by email or by phone, it’s important to pay attention to the details of that first contact and simply trust your instincts. In my experience, a delay in more than 24 hours to respond to an email or phone call is a bad sign. In any business it is critical to maintain an open line of communication with your clients at all times. Of course there are always exceptions to this rule, but if you are having a difficult time on the second or third attempt it’s probably wise to move on in your search.
  6. Look for a diverse portfolio When you are searching for someone to create that perfect sand sculpture you probably have a specific idea in mind. If not, you want to be confident that the artist you are working with will be able to provide a wide range of options. If all you see are castles and you are looking for a classical greek depiction, these guys may not be for you. Another thing to look for are artists that are skilled in multiple mediums. Artists that work in more than one medium tend to be more creative and flexible. This also gives you the convenience of one stop shopping. You may find that in addition to needing a sand sculpture exhibition that you also need an ice sculpture for a cocktail party. At Fitzy Snowman Sculpting , we offer many different carved mediums such as sand, snow, ice, pumpkins and many types of fruit.
  7. Be realistic Calling me or any professional sand sculptor a week before a special event or promotion is not the best idea. Often there are multiple issues that need to be solved, not to mention, there really aren’t a lot of us out there, so the chances of landing someone truly talented are very slim. Also, keep in mind that you are hiring a performance artist. I don’t know this for sure, but I imagine Leonardo may have gotten a little grumpy if you wanted to ask him repeated questions while he was painting the Sistine Chapel. Professional sand sculptors thrive in that enviroment. Your event is our studio and your guests are there for us to entertain. That kind of talent is hard to find, and doesn’t come at discount prices. Sand sculpture represents one of the best values in experiential marketing and performance entertainment. If you follow this simple guide you will get to experience that value first hand. Or just give me a call, I’ll explain  everything… One Grain at a time!
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Green Lantern Power Ring

Another one of my favorite comics is  the Green Lantern. I’m not sure how true to  the original story the new movie will be, but I’m already impressed with the new design for Hal Jordan’s Power Ring.  For those of you not familiar with the story, Hal was the first human to be selected to join the elite corp of Green Lanterns.  I’ve always wanted to design a ring in Cinema 4D so this was a perfect opportunity. Here are a few screen shots of my initial attempts. Once I have the ring prototype created I’ll repost this article with new pictures or the actual ring. For now here are the 3D renderings.

Green Lantern Power Ring


 Green Lantern Power Ring Fully charged

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Happiness is a Decision

Of all the emotions we humans experience, happiness seems to be the most illusive. All of us, or hopefully most of us, have experienced moments in life that we feel truly happy. For many people these moments fade  quickly when they are confronted with the next obstacle, tragedy or dilemma. Just to be clear, I am not a doctor, psychologist or expert on human behavior. What I am, is an observer of life. Having experienced many losses, obstacles and dilemmas of my own, I don’t consider my life experiences unique, but  rather average. You see, as humans, we all have these battles we face in life. We will all at one time or another experience loss, tragedy and struggles. It’s how we deal with these struggles that determine our overall happiness.

 DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF By looking at the big picture and taking time to appreciate the many blessings that each one of us has in life we can shift our perception of overall happiness. If you spend your days focused on your daily struggles instead of taking time to appreciate things like your health, your family and your friends, than your chances for overall happiness drop significantly.  Each one of us needs to take a few minutes each day to focus on one or more positive things in his or her life. By doing this you are making a conscious decision to be happy.

I HATE MY JOB It is a well documented fact that many Americans are unhappy with their current job or position at their place of employment. Being unhappy at your place of employment is similar to having a chronic illness. There are only two solutions to this problem. In order to determine which solution is right for you need to consider the source of your unhappiness. If you like your position and what you are doing, then most likely, the source of your unhappiness is in your work environment or perhaps the process you are required to follow. By first identifying the source of the problem and then making a rational list of possible solutions you will have the necessary tools to confront your employer to initiate positive change. If you simply confront your employer with a blanket statement of  “I’m unhappy and I don’t know what to  do”, you can expect a response that is very similar to your statement. By taking the time to examine possible solution you will, at the very least, be able to start an open dialog to initiate  a solution.

 The other possible source of your unhappiness is that you simply have grown tired, lost interest or simply had a different perception of what your job was going to be like. One of the biggest questions facing everyone is ,”What do I want to be when I grow up?” Many of us choose a career based on financial successes. Too often we overlook the most important question when choosing a career path and that is ” How will this position fulfill my personal goals, dreams and passion?”  The solution to this problem is a bit more complex and requires a lot of self-reflection. By focusing on what you are truly passionate about you will be able to define a clear picture of possible career paths.  Here is a basic scenario. You spent many years going to nursing school, get a job in a prestigious medical practise and after a few days, weeks, months or even years, you suddenly realise that you hate nursing!  You could just suck it up and carry on with your initial career path, or if you really want to be happy you can take action. Perhaps you like painting or riding horses or camping. What ever it is that  you find comfort in, has the potential to become a successful career path. Take a serious look at these passions and consider all the possible ways you could take these interests and support your self  by doing what it is that you already love doing. I’m not recommending that you immediately quit your job as a nurse and jump blindly into the horse breeding business. Rather I’m suggesting that you try new things, experiment with these passions  in your spare time. Most importantly, what I’m suggesting, is that you make time for yourself to try these new things.

OVER COMING FEAR Fear is the number one obstacle that prevents most of us from achieving true happiness. The fear of failure often stands in the way of us trying new things. In order to over come this fear you need to be willing to accept the possibility of not succeeding on your first, second or even 100th attempt. It took Thomas Edison 1400 attempts to invent the lightbulb. Imagne if he gave up after only a few tries.  Failure is a necessary step in success. The important thing is to learn from your failures as well as the failures of other. Research your passion. Talk to others in the field. Don’t be afraid to ask what you may perceive as a dumb question. The only dumb question is the one not asked.

THE JOY IN HELPING OTHERS Sometimes it’s the little gestures in life that can change your day. Holding a door for a perfect stranger or spending time with an elderly neighbor can brighten that person’s day as well as your own. Consider how you can use your talents to help others. Write a blog, paint a picture, lead a class field trip. You will find that perhaps the most rewarding thing in life is spreading happiness to others. Be conscious of people around you. Happiness can be contagious, help spread some today…. One Grain at a Time!

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World Championship of Sand Sculpting Logo

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

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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



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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.

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Wonder Woman

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

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