STANDARDS

CCSS: 3.G.A.1, MP1, MP4, MP7

TEKS: 3.6B


Sand Sculptor

Sue McGrew creates stunning artwork out of sand

Graham Denholm/Getty Images

McGrew and a teammate built this sand sculpture titled Atlantis in Australia.

You may have built a sandcastle or two before. But your creations probably didn’t look like what Sue McGrew makes.

McGrew is a professional sand sculptor who lives in Seattle, Washington. She carves incredibly detailed sculptures of everything from giant animals to ancient cities. McGrew travels the world to create her sand artwork.

McGrew started sculpting sand when she was in high school. She attended a local festival, where she saw a master sand sculptor working on a piece. McGrew started making a dragon in a sandbox next to him. The sculptor noticed her work and offered to teach her the basics.

Have you ever seen a sandcastle? It is a structure made from sand. But your creations probably didn’t look like what Sue McGrew makes.

McGrew is a professional sand sculptor. She lives in Seattle, Washington. She carves incredibly detailed sand sculptures. She has carved giant animals and ancient cities. McGrew creates her sand artwork all over the world. 

McGrew started sculpting sand when she was in high school. She attended a local festival. There, she saw a master sand sculptor working on a piece. McGrew sat next to him. She started making a dragon in a sandbox. The sculptor noticed her work. He offered to teach her the basics.

After college, McGrew started building sand sculptures professionally. She has created artwork for festivals, concerts, and other events. In 2014, she worked on a record-setting sandcastle in Brazil. It towered more than 40 feet high!

To start a sculpture, McGrew builds a rectangular wooden frame, called a form. She fills it with sand mixed with water. Then she packs down the wet sand with her feet or a machine that pounds on the sand. Tightly packed sand holds its shape better.

McGrew stacks more sand-filled forms above the first one. Then she starts from the top and removes each frame one by one. This reveals a stack of molded sand blocks.

Next, McGrew sculpts the blocks with tools like shovels, spoons, and brushes. McGrew carves the basic shape of each part of the sculpture before adding details. It can take her many hours—even days—to complete a sculpture.

McGrew loves the feeling of satisfaction when she finishes a big project. But there is one annoying thing about the work. “I have sand everywhere—in my bags, in my computer, in my phone,” she says. “It’s not a job you can do if you don’t like sand!”

After college, McGrew started building sand sculptures professionally. She has created artwork for festivals, concerts, and other events. In 2014, she made a sandcastle in Brazil. It towered more than 40 feet high! It set a record.

To start a sculpture, McGrew builds a rectangular wooden frame. This is called a form. She fills it with sand mixed with water. Then she packs down the wet sand. She uses her feet. Or she uses a machine that pounds on the sand. Tightly packed sand holds its shape better.

McGrew stacks more sand-filled forms above the first one. Then she starts from the top and removes each frame one by one. This reveals a stack of molded sand blocks. 

Next, McGrew sculpts the blocks. She uses tools like shovels, spoons, and brushes. McGrew carves the basic shape of each part of the sculpture. Then she adds details. It can take her a long time to finish a sculpture. Sometimes it takes many hours. Sometimes it takes days.

McGrew loves finishing a big project. She feels very satisfied. But there is one annoying thing about the work. “I have sand everywhere. It’s in my bags, in my computer, and in my phone,” she says. “It’s not a job you can do if you don’t like sand!”

Sue McGrew drew the sketch below for a sculpture of author Jules Verne. The red shape outlines one of the layered wooden forms she planned to fill with sand. What is the red shape?

A. square

B. rectangle

C. rhombus

D. kite

Sue McGrew drew the sketch below for a sculpture of author Jules Verne. The red shape outlines one of the layered wooden forms she planned to fill with sand. What is the red shape?

A. square

B. rectangle

C. rhombus

D. kite

Courtesy of Sue McGrew

McGrew planned to carve Verne’s nose within one layer of sand. How would you classify its shape, outlined in yellow above? Explain.

McGrew planned to carve Verne’s nose within one layer of sand. How would you classify its shape, outlined in yellow above? Explain.

In the finished Jules Verne sculpture below, which of the outlined shapes are quadrilaterals?

A. the yellow and purple shapes

B. the purple and white shapes

C. the white and yellow shapes

D. all three shapes

In the finished Jules Verne sculpture below, which of the outlined shapes are quadrilaterals?

A. the yellow and purple shapes

B. the purple and white shapes

C. the white and yellow shapes

D. all three shapes

Courtesy of Sue McGrew

The Eiffel Tower is a famous landmark in Verne’s home country of France. How would you classify the shape that forms the base of the tower, outlined in purple, above? Explain how you know.

The Eiffel Tower is a famous landmark in Verne’s home country of France. How would you classify the shape that forms the base of the tower, outlined in purple, above? Explain how you know.

Bonus Art Article

Continue your lesson with a hands-on art activity.

 

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