Artist Spends Hours on Sand Paintings that Disappear Within Minutes

UK-based artist Tony Plant has become an internet sensation for his elaborate ‘sand paintings’. Using a standard garden rake, Tony creates giant swirling designs in the wet sand below the tidal zones where his marks are more contrasted. Perhaps the most compelling part of all is that the incredible, geometric designs only last a few minutes before they are washed away by the changing tides.


Tony, however, offers a new perspective on his work that might first be conceived as quite ephemeral. To him, his sand paintings have a certain permanency he discovered when trying to record his works coming to life on film with clunky gear from surrounding cliffs.

“People will come up to me who have been watching me work from the cliff top and they’ll start talking to me, and they tell me stories of why they’re there, whether it’s a journey of remembrance or discovery. But the narrative that is associated with that landscape isn’t ephemeral for them. I had a guy come up to me once about three or four years ago with his two girls and said, ‘I’ve never seen the tide come in, so we had to stay and watch the picture go,’ and I thought that that was just fantastic. Now the piece wasn’t ephemeral—it was locked into a collective narrative between the father and two daughters.”


Plant grew up on the Cornish Coastline and developed a deep connection to the ocean and beach as a child. He would spend time before and after school everyday foraging at the water’s edge for treasures that had washed up. This love for the coast has never faded. Tony is a life long surfer and surf photographer, often working with the NGO’s the Plastic Project and Surfers Against Sewage.

He has a great sensitivity for the inherent beauty of his surroundings and is careful never to impose a piece of work onto an existing landscape. Instead, he likes to create works that fit into or are an extension of a given place. The delicacy of his works, he says, is what makes them special.


Although the beach paintings are really big, they’re less than five millimeters deep—they’re like scratches, and literally the only thing you see is a shadow. If you’re in the wrong position to see the shadow, you’re not going to see a thing. You can be in the middle of a 500-meter drawing and be totally oblivious to the fact that you’re even there. I’ve seen people do it, and it’s amazing when they realize. They stop and freeze in their tracks because they don’t know what to do.”


Tony’s work also extends to photography, painting, sculpture, other temporary interventions and video. He recently had an exhibition at the Royal Cornwall Museum titled Walk. Stop. WalkThe exhibition included a range of works that showed the significant impact the Cornish Coastline has had on the environmental artist, including paintings that were completed in the middle of the night on every full moon, to capture the magnificent light.

Below is a film made by Tony called ‘Forever Skylarks’, documenting the process of one of his works. Check out more of his art at

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