If you were a regular visitor to the Praia Maria Luísa in Albufeira in 2018, you couldn’t have helped but notice the odd imaginative sculpture that kept appearing on the beach and surrounding cliff faces.

Whoever the mysterious culprit responsible for these natural exhibits was, he seemed to be experimenting (or indeed playing) with anything he found at the seaside. There were things like stones piled ‘sky high’ on top of each other, bamboo sticks forming elaborate pyramids and even, quite impressively, rocks balancing in an almost gravity-defying way on top of sticks stuck in the sand.

Nobody knew who was responsible for making their seaside strolls a little more amusing until this elusive artist decided to try something else and, in the process, stumbled upon his true passion. Nowadays, if you make your way around the cliffs of this rather hidden away beach at just the right moment, you might suddenly come around the corner and see that, for a brief flash of time before the sea invariably wipes it clean again, the sand has been decorated in the most incredible way, and written in the sand next to these beautiful drawings is the name of the artist that finally decided to reveal himself: Vítor Raposo.

This spectacular sand show doesn’t happen all the time though as, unfortunately, Vítor doesn’t actually live here in the Algarve. He is originally from Minas de São Domingos (lower Alentejo) but has lived in Barreiro (Setúbal) since he was 18. He wishes he could live here here in the Algarve. permanently, but for the time being he has family in Albufeira and comes to stay with them at certain times of the year (like Christmas, Easter and other holidays). Everybody knows when he’s in town though, as the strips of sand that usually sit blank and idle suddenly become the canvas for his extraordinary imagination.

As hard as it is to believe, Vítor told me he had never done anything creative like this before. However, he has always loved being at the beach and it was on one of these trips to visit his family that, as I said before, he started experimenting with all kinds of things until he eventually decided to have a go at scribbling on the sand. When he climbed back up to the top of a cliff and looked back down, he was simply amazed at what he had been able to create. Ever since then he’s been hooked.

The sand painting business is more tricky than you might think though.

Since these humble beginnings, Vítor has painted on many different beaches along the Algarve (and even back in Barreiro) but you need the sand to be just the right amount of wet and compacted, not to mention how you need to be able to get up to a vantage point in order to take it all in from above. And, it turns out it’s quite difficult to get all these conditions quite as good as at this little beach where he first started out.

It’s also a very ephemeral art, with the forces of nature ever present and waiting to rush ruthlessly in and remove it almost as soon as he’s done. However, thanks to the magic of photography, Vítor manages to catch these magic moments before the wind and waves inevitably come howling and crashing back in. He started to put them on Instagram and Facebook where they have taken off in ways he couldn’t ever have imagined - in some cases his photos have been shared around the world.

He uses his newly found fame and incredible natural talent to spread the message about subjects he’s very passionate about like global warming and plastic pollution in the oceans. He also pays homages to people in the public sector like health care workers, firemen and lifeguards, as well as public figures like Greta Thunberg, Cristiano Ronaldo, Kobe Bryant and many more. He keeps his ear to the ground on what’s going on in the world and his messages are normally ‘on-point’ with current events. He also gets inundated with requests and (if you ask him nicely) he will write personalised messages, including birthdays and, this is my personal favourite, marriage proposals. It’s very exciting to see your name in the sand and I can’t imagine how this could fail to make somebody very happy and, indeed, sweep them off their feet (as long as you get the timing right, of course, and the tide doesn’t sweep the message away first).

Vítor is a friend of mine and I was very lucky that he took me out with him one day last year so that we could work on a drawing together. Vítor has an old but faithful dog called Pipocas (‘Popcorn’ in English) who has been with him since the beginning of this adventure, offering plenty of moral support and helping make sure nobody accidentally stumbles through his hard work. The three of us made our way down to the sand where Vítor made it easy for me by drawing some circles to help get me started and I basically just did my best to colour them in. I certainly need a LOT more practice to get anywhere near even the same realm of what Vítor can do, but it was a lot of fun and gave me a real feel and insight for why he loves it so much, as when we had to make a mad dash up to the cliffs to get the pictures before the sun set (the whole project really is a race against nature) it was truly remarkable to see how, with the slightest touch of a rake (he works mostly with a collection of garden tools), you can have such an intricate and profound effect on the seascape.

On his latest trip down to the Algarve in June, he was rushed off his feet as usual with requests. The moon tends to set a rather demanding schedule as, because of the nature of the tides, Vítor has to get to the beach at just the right time, and fairly often this means starting work at 6 am. He did however find time to write The Portugal News in the sand before he left for which we are all thrilled and very grateful.

If you would like your feed to occasionally be filled with these magnificent artworks, as well as pictures of his stone features that are normally topped off by a glorious sunset (and sometimes even a seagull) you can follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vitor.raposo.376 or on Instagram at www.instagram.com/vitinha_rr

Sand Art