Impromptu Vocabularies

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Jim Denevan's large-scale, natural works of art engage a vocabulary of sticks, sand, and line. Both his art and his artistic process communicate an art for living. For a dose of inspiration, read Cameron's reflection on Denevan's work.

Impromptu Vocabularies

Impromptu Vocabularies

by Cameron Brooks

Photos courtesy of Jim Denevan

Jim Denevan's immense works come and go within a day's time, but for the viewer, an impression remains long after the tide has washed away any semblance of human presence.

Denevan's inscriptions conjure images of rhythmic carves across the face of a perfect wave, so it comes as no surprise that his first love is surfing. While waltzing across the beach with nothing but a stick of driftwood in hand, or dragging a rake behind an old bicycle, fluid, arching lines become impulsive and beautiful large-scale works of natural art.

Most of Denevan's ephemeral pieces are completely impromptu, emerging organically as he walks barefoot across the sand. Watching his bodily kinesthetic process is like viewing a monk meditatively navigating a fractal labyrinth. Denevan spends hours walking miles across his sandy canvas, impressions in sand providing a rich vocabulary for communicating the impromptu and ephemeral.

To view Jim Denevan's miraculous work, including photos from space of his latest and most ambitious to date (9 miles across!), visit his website at, or watch Thread, a film that reveals Denevan's process.