A shore message: Filipino artist creates sand art on Dubai's Jumeirah Beach asking people to stay home

Nathaniel Alapide creates sand art with styles that range from classical to geometric

Nathaniel Alapide's work was commissioned by Brand Dubai. Courtesy the artist 
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Artist Nathaniel Alapide gives the phrase “to draw line in the sand” a whole new meaning. His most recent work is a collaboration with Brand Dubai, which asked him to spread the message to stay home as part of efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

In the early hours of Thursday, March 26, Alapide ventured to Kite Beach in Jumeirah to rake in in the phrase in English and Arabic with a design from Brand Dubai. “Artists are creative and can put out a message in different ways,” he says.

A video of the work was shared by Visit Dubai on its Twitter page with the text: “A message from the beaches of Dubai: #stayhome and stay safe... until we meet again”.

Like many others, Alapide says he is staying indoors and turning to the arts to keep him occupied. “I have my books and a lot of canvas,” he says, adding that the public should heed the advice of health workers to "flatten the curve".

“It’s very important that people stay home … The virus doesn’t move around. It’s the people are moving around and carrying it”.

The Filipino artist, who creates paintings and is represented by Showcase Gallery in Dubai, has been living in the UAE for 16 years. He started out as a waiter then a lifeguard at Wild Wadi before landing a job as an aquarium specialist in Atlantis, The Palm. It was there that he made his first sand art in 2014, carving a tree into the shore as a tribute to his grandmother.

“I found the process very meditative, and it really puts you in the moment. After that, whenever I had time, I would go to the beach and create something,” he says.

He eventually became a full-time sand artist with the hotel, and then moved to Rixos The Palm, where he currently works.

Alapide’s sand art style ranges from Renaissance and Neoclassical masterpieces to abstract and typographic. He explains his approach as twofold, either using a picture as reference or spontaneous.

“I just start with line on the sand and from there, I follow my intuition,” he says.

Nathaniel Alapide recreates Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa'. Courtesy the artist
Nathaniel Alapide recreates Leonardo Da Vinci's 'Mona Lisa'. Courtesy the artist

When he plots out his sandy paintings, Alapide uses specific landmarks and measures the area with his footsteps and arms to get the image right. Even when there’s mistakes, he says, it is part of working with the material.

"It's the mistakes that make the art perfect for me, but I can make corrections as well," he says, summing up his process in a phrase: "All of it is mostly gut feeling".

The artworks don’t last long, but the artist doesn’t mind. The ephemerality is something he has grown to accept. “In the beginning, it was hard. I would spend three to four hours creating it and then the tide comes up,” he says. “The more I did it, the more I realised that it was more about the process … to be able to share it with people. It reminds me of how everything around us in constant change”.