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Fleeting shapes in the sand at Ocean Beach

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Jim Denevan Sand Painting
Artist Jim Denevan creates mesmerizing patterns in beach sand that, much like life, are meant to be enjoyed in the moment. (Erin Williamson/Flickr 2010)

UPDATE Friday 5:01 p.m. Jim Denevan tells SFBay that Saturday’s forecast has improved and he expects to be at Ocean Beach on Saturday as originally planned. 


Not many artists allow observers to peer over their shoulders at their every move while they create their art.

Even fewer allow you to drag a surfboard across their fresh creation, or play frisbee with your dog all over it.

Not many artists, though, work on the sweeping public scale of Jim Denevan.

To the Santa Cruz-based Denevan, an entire beach is his canvas. Denevan carves enormous patterns, spirals, shapes, lines — whatever strikes the time and place — into the sand with a stick, rake or other apparatus. Sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate, but always engaging and of course, always fleeting.

Richmond SF got a tip that this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Denevan will use the north end of Ocean Beach near the Cliff House as his canvas. The roads and bluffs near the Cliff House give spectators an interesting perspective down upon Denevan’s work.

Denevan is known to draw on Ocean Beach from time to time, and spoke to the Bay Citizen last month about his work there:

I really appreciate when people have come into the artwork and experienced it for themselves, and the comments that they make, and the appreciation they have for what I’m doing. It’s a little overwhelming. It’s probably why I don’t do it all that much.

Ocean Beach is showing a low tide for 2:22 p.m. on Saturday afternoon, which should give Denevan plenty of time and space to do his thing.

Jesse Garnier
Jesse Garnier is the editor and founder of SFBay. A Mission District native, he also teaches journalism as assistant professor at San Francisco State University.

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