Beach Art: Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

What were you doing on Super Bowl weekend? My husband and I spent much of this time on Cardiff Beach, a wide expanse of smooth sand that encourages long southerly beach walks, even at not so low tide.

On Saturday February 12, we were surprised to notice a group of people with rakes making rather whimsical patterns in the sand – very different from the kind of sand squiggles we sometimes see. We did our usual three mile walk and on the way back we stopped to take cellphone photos of what appeared to be a whole sequence of large scale geometric patterns.

We were just in time to see the leader of the group do some sort of closing ceremony and recognize one of the attendees – Encinitas-based art therapist Ellen Speert, director of the California Center for Creative Renewal, and now, with her husband Paul Henry, co-owner of PHES Gallery, a new contemporary art space in Carlsbad.

Turns out the beach art was part of a day-long workshop that started and ended at the Speert Retreat Center, and the leader was Andres Amador, a Northern Californian who was l one of the artists featured in the gallery’s most recent exhibition, “Impermanence.”

An overhead view of workshop participants with their completed artwork.

(Andres Amador)

The patterns in the sand, like the Buddhist mandalas, were part of a process that includes the creation and dissolution of works of art, with total commitment to the work of creation and a full understanding that the art will disappear with the rising tide.

This is what Amador is known for. Over the past 15 years he has become an acclaimed master of the impermanent art, creating “Earthscapes” in various locations, most often on beaches. He smirkingly referred to what he does as “capturing impermanence” because although high tides wash away all of his works, he uses a drone to photograph them from above, so there is a record of their existence.

Amador has a background in environmental science and art is his way of expressing his empathy for the natural world. He and Speert originally met on the beach in Torrey Pines years ago, and they’ve done several workshops together since then.

Drone view of the finished solo piece.

Drone view of the finished solo piece.

(Andres Amador)

“Every beach is a canvas,” he said. “All the materials are there, but the window of time is narrow. If I have one message, it’s the importance of getting out of our heads, interacting with the world around us with our whole body, and entering into the joy of being alive. Creativity is a joyful act and recognizing impermanence encourages us to be present in every moment, to connect with others, and to discover new ways to find joy.

This Saturday workshop was just the beginning of Amador’s artistic weekend. On Super Bowl Sunday, we saw another beach workshop in progress, and on Valentine’s Day, he was back to do one of his solo creations, with a young boy from Scholastic International Publications as assistant. After our ride, we were lucky enough to catch him photographing with his drone.

He had another event on Tuesday. For eight years he has come here to create a commemorative coin for the beloved son of a local family whose birthday was on this day. Each time he tries to include other projects in the area, and this year luckily our beach walks coincided with three of them.

Mark your calendars for mid-February 2023, check out his website a few months before, and you might just get the chance to do the same next year.

For more about the artist and his Earthscapes, see To learn more about Ellen Speert’s workshops and special events, visit

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