Artist creates 100ft sand sketch of Greta Thunberg on a beach – using two rakes

It took the artist three hours to create the huge sand portrait
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A sand artist has created a 100ft sketch of Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg on a beach - and he said it divided public opinion.

Sean Corcoran, who is an environmental artist, used two rakes and also a horse-riding lunge stick to create the huge portrait. It took him three hours to make the impressive sand art, before the tide came in and washed it away.

He created the drawing on a beach at Copper Coast Geopark in Waterford in Ireland, by using inspiration from a photo taken of Thunberg when she was 16 by Michael Campanella. Thunberg, who is now 20, gained worldwide attention five years ago for challenging world leaders to take immediate action against climate change.

Environmental artist Corcoran said he enjoyed people watching him as he made the sand art: "I created a digital version of the iconic picture first on my phone from a black and white photo of the portrait. I made up a grid before I started creating it on the sand, it was like paint by numbers.

"It’s actually an anamorphic drawing that only makes sense from a precise vantage point on the cliff from where I took photographs and a time lapse. I did it with just two rakes and a horse riding lunge stick and it took me about three hours. Normally people don’t see my artwork because it gets washed away but people on the beach could see what I was doing, which is what I wanted.”

He is accepting of the fact that his art is only temporary, calling it a “mindful experience”. He added: “People think it will be sorrowful when the tide washes it away but it actually feels very uplifting. I stayed until about 6pm to see the tide wash it away and it feels like giving back to nature.”

Artist Sean Corcoran has created a 100ft sketch of Greta Thunberg on a beach using two rakes. Artist Sean Corcoran has created a 100ft sketch of Greta Thunberg on a beach using two rakes.
Artist Sean Corcoran has created a 100ft sketch of Greta Thunberg on a beach using two rakes.

‘At least conversations are being had’

Dad-of-two Corcoran said that the art had created a divide between people as Thunberg is a controversial figure, but that he hopes she will see the pictures herself. “I do hope Greta sees the picture. People either love her or hate her but, either way, she’s saying what needs to be said at the moment - and her age makes it all the more poignant.”

“I have had really positive and really negative reactions to it, there is a big divide about Greta and what she is doing. But I think that’s a positive thing because at least conversations are being had. In the portrait she is pushed right up against the rock, which I think represents where Greta is – between a rock and a hard place.

“Love her or loathe her, Greta Thunberg is at the centre of the climate crisis debate. In my opinion her bravery and persistence is admirable. Her outcries have certainly encouraged so many others to stand up and be counted. That for me is worthy of applause and the reason I decided to create this portrait of her.”

Who is Greta Thunberg?

Greta Thunberg was born in Stockholm, Sweden, on 3 January 2003. She first gained public attention back in 2018, when at the age of just 15 she began protesting outside the Swedish parliament. She called for the Swedish government to meet carbon emissions targets while holding a sign which said “School Strike for Climate”. Her campaign became a global protest, and then thousands of schoolchildren across the world organised their own strikes.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg attends a Youth Climate Activist Rally in Glasgow during COP26. Picture: Lisa FergusonClimate activist Greta Thunberg attends a Youth Climate Activist Rally in Glasgow during COP26. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Climate activist Greta Thunberg attends a Youth Climate Activist Rally in Glasgow during COP26. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

In the last five years Thunberg has continued to protest about climate change and the importance of looking after the environment, including a speech in Glasgow during the COP26 summit in 2021 (although she called the main event a “failure”).

The young campaigner has landed herself in trouble with the law during some of her protests. Most recently, she was detained by police in January during an environmental protest in Germany. She was taken away by riot police officers after taking part in demonstrations against the demolition of the village of Luetzerath, which is due to be removed to make way for the expansion of a local coal mine, Garzweiler.

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