You’ve probably made a few sand castles at the beach in your time, but Andoni Bastarrika has taken it to the next level. He’s made sand his preferred medium, and has become a hit on the beaches of Basque Country, Spain. He works with his hands to create large-scale human features and animals in nothing but sand. They’re so detailed, it’s hard to believe they’re not real.
From sharks and dogs to human feet and giant faces, Bastarrika creates realistic sand art that’s making waves!
1) The giant octopus
This is definitely one of my faves. The details and coloring are incredible and the aerial shot looks so cool! It looks like a real octopus.
2) Lounging with an elephant
Ahh, what it must feel like to relax with a sand elephant after hours of hard work! How does he plan these ambitious pieces of art? I can’t even draw an elephant, let alone build a 3D version of out of sand.
3) The great orangutan
Orangutans are the largest arboreal mammals, and believe it or not they share 96.4% of our genes! They can only be found in the Sumatra and Borneo regions of South East Asia… and apparently on the beaches of Spain.
4) Iguanas like the beach too
Most iguanas live in rainforests, but a very special species can survive under water. They have only been found in The Galapagos islands, off the coast of Ecuador. Until now! Bastarrika has found a way to bring them to live in Spain. Even the claws look real!
5) A majestic bull
Bastarrika lives in Basque Country, one of the Northern regions of Spain. It’s also right next to Pamplona, the city that hosts the world famous and controversial running with the bulls festival! He created this piece and left a caption describing what a bull represents to him. It can be loosely translated to:
“To me, the horns that generate controversy represent everything. A whole life is written on them. A life of a fighting bull, in them is all his suffering like the rage produced by the attitude of the unconscious man. Their bravery is as their incredible resistance to that suffering caused by man. They still fight to the end, until the moment they die with dignity.”
View this post on Instagram
CUERNOS Y MAGIA Para mí esos cuernos que generan polemica representan todo. En ellos eta escrito toda una vida. Una vida de un toro de lidia, en ellos está todo su sufrimiento como la rabia que le produce la actitud del hombre inconsciente. Hay están también sus bravuras como su increíble resistencia ante ese sufrimiento causado por el hombre. Ellos aun así luchan hasta el final, hasta el momento que mueren con una dignidad sobrehumana. Quien, que ame el toro desde el corazon no le haría un reconocimiento, acradecimiento y homenaje a ese magmifico alma en animal? Esto es lo que he hecho yo desde eson pitones. El alma del toro portador de esos cuernos ahora es libre, ahora es parte de la playa, el mar lo mantendrá eterno. Todo esto gracias a los cuernos y su magia. Lo importante no es lo que piensas y crees. LO IMPORTANTE ES LO QUE HAY DETRÁS DE ESOS PENSAMIENTOS Y CREENCIAS. Autor escultura realista con arena y el escrito sobre ella : Andoni Bastarrika Artista Autora de está increible forografia: El Taller de Arbil
6) A …sand leopard?
Forget a snow leopard! This is the even more elusive sand leopard. They only appear when talented artists like Bastarrika take the time to create them from scratch on the beach.
7) Land shark
Ahhh, look out, a shark! Oh… phew, it’s just a land shark. Nay, a sand shark.
Is there a more fitting animal to create in the sand? No, but it definitely requires a second look. Imagine falling into this hole while walking down the beach in the dark!
8) Save the turtles
Bastarrika used his artistic medium to draw attention to the terrible plastic crisis facing the ocean and all its wild life. By using plastic he found washed up on the beach, he surrounded the turtle in garbage to represent the state of the ocean, and encourage people to clean up after themselves!
9) Women and dolphins
This beautiful piece is more like a painting than a sculpture, even though it still includes some beautifully sculpted shapes. There’s something very maternal and protective about this one. And the photo being in black and white makes it all the more dramatic!
10) Such a good boy
Here Bastarrika is posing with his life-sized sand doberman. Life lesson: if you can’t convince your partner to get a pet, just make one at the beach! The best part? You don’t have to walk them, clean up any poop, or pay for expensive dog food. It will, however, take you 100 hours.
11) A sleeping horse’s head
12) A wrinkly dog
How does one mimic wrinkles using sand?! That’s an insane amount of detail that must takes hours of work to perfect.
This mythical mermaid looks like she’s had a rough day. Or maybe she just wanted to lay out in the sun and get some vitamin D and a bit of a tan. Either way, it would be quite a sight to see a mermaid washed up on the beach! I bet visitors had to double take when they saw this one at first.
14) A playful pup
This friendly-looking furry dog looks like he’s almost melting into the sidewalk. His welcoming face drew these kids’ attention, and they marvelled at this larger-than-life pup! Pretty impressive.
15) The naked man
I’ll be honest, there’s another version of this on one Bastarrika’s Instagram page that doesn’t include the Speedo. He must have added it later to be more family-friendly. The work is so realistic that the man even looks like he has hairy legs!
16) Watch out for the crocodile!
This would be a little alarming to find on the beach if you were walking alone! Bastarrika even got the coloring down perfectly, and the details of the scales, claws, teeth, and eyes are incredibly realistic! But it didn’t seem to scare this brave little boy!
17) The resting horse
Horses are known for sleeping when standing up but they actually end up laying down when they’re ready for a proper REM sleep. Bastarrika seems to be taking a little nap with his equestrian friend after what must have taken hours to create him in the first place.
18) A naked woman
Most people struggle to even draw mediocre fingers and toes on a human. Imagine what it takes to sculpt them so perfectly from sand. The details of the woman’s body are so refined that everything from the spine down to the toes looks so real!
19) A human face
This one is so real it’s almost creepy! This larger-than-life face seems like it’s emerging from the ground. I wonder if he worked from an image, or used the face of a person he knows for inspiration. Bastarrika almost never provides a description of his artwork to Instagram, so it’s hard to know exactly where he gets his inspiration from for each piece!
20) Lazy boy
Bastarrika really nailed it with this one! I’ve always loved how adorable dogs look when they sit with their legs straight out behind them. And look at that lazy little face! I’d pet him but… I’d be terrified that all the sand would fall apart. That’s an occupational hazard when you work with sand I bet!
21) The niqab
Spain has been been wrestling with the issue of whether or not to ban muslim veils like the niqab, ever since France did in 2010. It’s a controversial topic all across Europe, so its likely that Bastarrika is using his medium to express his support for a woman’s right to choose what she wears.
The detailing on both the veil and every nook and cranny in the woman’s skin is so incredible.
If you thought you loved the full-sized animal sand sculptures, just get a load of this little guy! It looks like Simba himself has come straight out of the ocean, ready for a little nap on the beach.
23) The emerging hand
This mysterious hand certainly begs a lot of questions. Where is this coming from? Who does it belong to? What does it want? What else lies below the surface of the beach? Spooky!
24) So lifelike!
This dog can barely tell the difference between sand and reality. He looks so happy to be posing next to his big sandy impersonator.
You’ve probably made a sand castle or two of you own, but what about a sand hippopotamus? Bastarrika’s talent allows him to make it look like this guy is wading in a pond, even though it’s on solid ground. It’s honestly mesmerizing.
26) Textured detailing
Bastarrika plays with details that show off the textures and imperfections of different animals’ skins. And he does it all by hand! Like with this elephant for example, which appears cracked and rough, to give a greater degree of realism. This little elephant guy even has a facial expression like he’s had a rough day.
27) A giant snake
Anaconda? Boa? Is it the dreaded sea snake? How has this amazing artist made the sand look so smooth? It’s texture has totally changed!
28) Sand tanning
If I didn’t know any better, I would assume a naked person decided it was time for a nap, or time to get their tan on at the beach. Spain is a little more loose with their nudity laws than the United States (topless tanning is socially acceptable and legal), but being fully naked probably wouldn’t fly. Good thing it’s just made of sand!
29) Floating face
Just look at the insane detailing on this one! Beach-goers had to get a close up to really get a feel for this one. From far away, it probably looks like a face floating just above the surface of the sea. I can’t get over the fact that it’s just sand.
30) Watch him work
Here you can see a close up of the level of detail Bastarrika puts into his sand-creations. Every curve, lump, shape works together to pull off the life-like animal he’s recreating. The details on this octopus hold up even when you’re looking right up close.
31) Baby rhino
A rhino’s tough skin is complex. And yet, somehow, Bastarrika has made this sand sculpture look just like a real rhino! He looks so real that he seems like he’s ready to get up and start walking.
32) Custom pet pieces
The artist has recently started offering to recreate people’s pets! From anywhere in the world, you could send him an image of your beloved dog and have it recreated in the sands on the beaches of Basque Country. Zumba here was the first time he’s taken a custom dog order. Looks pretty good if you ask me! If I had a dog I’d be sending a pic over to Spain ASAP.
33) Big bear
This happy lookin’ fella looks like he’s visiting to say hello. Bears make great swimmers. And in most cases, it should be mildly terrifying to find a bear swimming this close to you. But when it’s made of sand, it’s just cute.
34) Not just on the beach
Bastarikka got extra creative with this one and built a little elephant on a a rock out at sea. If I didn’t know he was made out of sand, I’d be worried that he was stranded out there!
35) Shark attack
This one takes you to another world where sharks can attack straight out from under the sand on the beach. Thankfully, that isn’t the world we live in. But it looks so realistic here!
36) Sea turtle
This is one of my personal favorites. The stones and shells that Bastarrika chose to decorate the turtle with add such a beautiful flair. He looks like he’s come straight out of the ocean.
37) The beauty of impermanence
This is the unfortunate reality of working with such a temporary medium like sand. It eventually falls apart. Whether the ocean tides come in and tear it down, or a child or pet runs into it by accident, the sculpture will eventually fall apart. But there’s something so beautiful about their impermanence.
38) Double trouble
This seems like the truest test of an artist’s skill: mimicking the fat rolls of a Shar-Pei. And not just one, but two. This mama and baby are too cute for words! I feel like I could almost pet them… or rub their rolls around or whatever you do for a Shar-Pei.
39) Lion head
Ah, the majestic lion. The king of all animals. Their manes are so thick, and trying to mimick that with sand of all things must be so challenging! And yet, this amazing artist has made it look effortless. It even looks like the bit that reach the ground are dipping under water. Mind blowing!
40) Curvy mermaid
Who decided all mermaids had to be skinny? Certainly not Bastarikka. He created a beautiful, if not unusual, version of a mermaid on the beach. It looks like the hair on the head is an actual wig and not just sand. But honestly with everything else I’ve seen here, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was sand too.
41) The art, the muse
These beautiful pups must have been so excited to come across a larger-than-life sized version of themselves at the beach! That’s a new Facebook profile pic right there.
42) The Great White
Great White sharks are the last thing people want to see when they’re at the beach. Unless, however, it’s a sand sculpture like this one! This just looks so real it’s almost scary!
43) Hammerhead shark attack!
Hammerhead sharks are only marginally less scary than Great Whites (let’s be real, all sharks are scary). But the details on this piece are amazing – it must have taken ages to get right.
How can the head be held so securely off the ground? I don’t get it. It’s probably magic. That would explain a lot about this guy!
This amazing creation looks so realistic… even though it was never real to begin with! I think the most amazing part (besides the detailing on the tail) is the mysterious head! Is it a fish? Is it a person? I need to know!
45) Sculptures for the kids
This is so life-like that the kids on the beach aren’t sure what to make of it. Those wrinkles in the arms and on the trunk look amazing, and whatever the artist has done to create such a realistic eye is impressive.
46) A resting horse
What I love most about this one isn’t the incredible detailing, or the star patterns, but the hair accessory. Yes, this sand horse has had it’s hair done à la My Little Pony. It’s got highlights, a feather, and a hair clip. Very chic for a horse made of sand!
It’s almost impossible to believe that this bison is entirely made from sand! The horns and hooves are definitely additional materials, but that fluffy mane is somehow made from a rough texture like sand. Incredible!
48) The giant’s foot
Another insanely life-like sculpture. Bastarikka mostly focuses on animals, but his ability to recreate human features is incredible too. This foot (with an uncomfortably long big toenail) is so realistic that I’m worried about what’s going on with the rope around the ankle.
50) A man at work
Here you can see Andoni Bastarrika at work. He must get absolutely covered in sand every time he makes a new sculpture. He doesn’t give details about how long it takes him, but it must be hours of focus and detailing to bring these amazing sculptures to life.
Antonio has been working at his craft since 2010 and is famous along the beaches of Basque Country. But has recently amassed a following of almost 10,000 people on Instagram from all over the world.
In an interview with Bored Panda, Bastarrika talked about his art and love for animals.
“There are a lot of reasons why I like to make animal sculptures as well, but one is the fact that animals are free spirits. Humans can reflect and learn from them.”