Sand art: Ont. man uses needle and sand to make art

Using a needle and a small spoon, Ontario artist James Sun has built a business creating unique and breathtaking art for clients around the world.

“Right now, I think I can do almost everything,” says Sun. “If I have an image in my mind, I can do it.”

About four and a half years ago, the Markham, Ont. resident saw a video posted online of a teacher making sand art, a practice where sand is poured into a jar and precisely moved around to make images. Sun was mesmerized, and reached out to the teacher asking if he could teach him how to do it.

“So I quit my job, flew back to China,” he said. “That’s crazy.”

It took Sun roughly 55 days to learn how to make basic images. He’s guided by dots he’s able to print onto the glass container. Everything else – from the colours to the shading – is up to him. It has taken practice and a lot of patience to make the intricate pieces he creates for clients.

Sun spends about 14 hours a day in his studio, making everything from logos to portraits to iconic moments in history.

“Every week, every piece, it’s moving forward,” Sun says about his skills.

Sun keeps about three tonnes of sand in his garage, which includes 66 different colours. He often mixes them together, to create the perfect tone or shade. Before he starts a project, he puts small beads of glue into the sand. Once the piece is done, it goes in the oven to help bind everything together.

For Sun, sand art is a labour of love, and even helped him woo his wife. He made her a piece to hang from her car’s rear-view mirror, “so she could think of me every time she drove her car.”

The former mechanic now counts brands like BMW, Nickelodeon and the PGA among his clients. He also does a lot with NFTs. Those clients pay the bills, but Sun’s real passion is recreating moments from history, like the moon landing.

“Sand art is impossible and every iconic moment is impossible, so these two things mashed together, that’s why I want to do it,” he says.

Whether immortalizing history, or whipping together a log, Sun is able to turn every grain he pours into art.

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