South African calligrapher, Andrew van der Merwe, has taken writing in the sand to the ultimate next level. A professional calligrapher and typographer, Andrew has developed his own technique of carving letters in the sand. Most of the forms he designs are inspired from African writing systems. Utilizing digital photography, Andrew shoots his masterful typefaces on beaches throughout Africa.
Self confessed ‘letter artist” tells of how it all got started….
I got hooked on surfing while at high school and over the years, time spent on the beach always led to scratching in the sand with sticks, which I began shaping for various effects. That is how the beach calligraphy began.
I made my first major breakthrough with a new instrument in 2000 and began photographing my efforts with my cell phone camera. In 2005 I bought a camera especially for the beach calligraphy – a Nikon Coolpix 8800. From there I graduated to a Nikon D70 with an ultrawide Sigma 10-20mm lens. I figured I needed a lens that could take in the work at my feet as well as the sky. That lens opened a whole new world to me. In 2006, my work was seen by Belgian lettercarver, Maud Bekeart and the following year I was invited by the City of Bruges, Belgium, to perform on the beach at Zeebrugge as part of what was to become the WOR(L)DS project. In 2008, I spent the month of July performing there. By that stage I had graduated to a Nikon D80. I now have a Nikon D700 with a 14-24mm G lens. The quality of the images off this camera surpasses my expectations.
Sun, water, sand and wind are strong themes in my work. I particularly enjoy playing with African and other ancient writing systems in an asemic way.