Unique Sand Art by Andrew Clemens

Andrew Clemens is an Iowa-born artist who died 120 years ago. That’s a small sample of his work above, and no, it’s not Photoshop. The images inside the glass was created by carefully pouring colored sand into the glass in layers. Spill some the wrong way and you’ll have to pour out the whole thing and start from scratch. At the age of five, Andrew suffered from a bout of encephalitis which left him completely deaf and mute. He started his sandpainting career when he was thirteen. He would collect naturally colored sand during his summer vacation and carefully separate them into different colored piles. He would then pour them into used medicine bottles using hickory sticks and fishhooks.

As his skill progressed, his designs started getting more complicated. Andrew started adding names. Perhaps the names of those who commissioned the piece. The next thing he did was to write short phrases with the medium. When he’d mastered that, he started creating realistic looking portraits of flowers, animals, presidents, and locomotives. Just to show off, he did some of them upside down. The tops (bottoms?) of the bottles were then stoppered and carefully sealed with wax. My favorite one show a gentleman riding a horse. Look at the detail of that thing. He even managed to paint grass, bridles, and fur using sand!

A few of Andrew’s more intricate designs took more than a year to complete. What makes his work unique is that he used no adhesive in his work, trusting instead to gravity and pressure to hold the design together. In his day, his work sold for around $5-$7 each. And because no one has ever managed to replicate Andrew’s level of skill, the few surviving samples of his work are worth tens of thousands of dollars today.









See more of his work here.