Moving Sand Pictures: A New Kind Of Storytelling Magic

moving sand pictures

Written by Tim Grable

March 4, 2017

You’ll never know how powerful a story can be until you see it in a moving sand picture from Joe Castillo. In this innovative art form, a sand artist creates an image that keeps changing, using just their hands and a little bit of sand. It is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Watching  moving sand pictures is dynamic and relaxing at the same time, like watching an artist’s mind in action. In just a few minutes, the artist uses simple materials to craft a picture that captures the heart of any message.
moving sand pictures

Whether it is telling people about the organization or entertaining people at the event, Sand Art create a one-of-a-kind show that people just can’t take their eyes off of. The incredible storytelling magic draws people in every time. From sports stories to non-profits to the American Dream, these quick clips will spark your imagination and touch your heart.

Joe Castillo Proves Sand Is More Than the Sum of Its Parts

Sand under a microscope is a collage of turquoise swirls and serrated stars, enigmatic blackstones and faceted crystals. However, sand in the hand becomes beige and lifeless – that is, unless it is in the hands of a sand storyteller, in which case it takes on the color and life all its own.

Lightbox, sand, fingers: the three ingredients required for sand storytelling. Sand Artists as far away as Su Dabao from China and Kseniya Simonova from Ukraine tell wordless stories using only sand. Animators spread granules on top of the lightbox and push, sprinkle and dab the sand into fluid pictures, often accompanied by theme music. Sand storytelling is a one-size-fits-all event: artistic therapy, talent show, event accompaniment, homage performance, simply amazing!

Moving Sand Pictures from Joe Castillo

Drama and a lonely little boy become a dream for a better world in this Make a Wish sand story. A young boy’s hope transforms the world into a happy place where dreams can come true. It reminds us that we can change each others’ lives for the better, one person at a time.  The story concludes with the Make-A-Wish foundation logo, a typography swash that reaches into sky and memory. The Make-A-Wish foundation has operated since 1980 granting special experiences to children with critical medical conditions. On average, the organization fulfills a wish every 38 minutes.

Created for the X-Factor talent show, “Read All About It” is a story of love and life, a dazzling performance suited for corporate meetings and public speaking performances. Surprise. Delight. Spontaneity. All these emotions and more are guaranteed by a Castillo sand storytelling performance.

This sand story that begins with love and ends with a happy little girl. At the Ronald McDonald House, working together to find a place to call home is at the heart of what they do. The best part of what makes a house a home is the people and the love inside.


True to its name, the Circle of Life sand story shows us the dawning of a new day and the creatures of the world. Moreover, last but not least is the role we humans play. This story even takes its inspiration from the American values of freedom and country.

For the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation, it is not all about the trophies. It is about working together and building relationships with your fans, young and old. This is another great “dreams come true” sand story, one that leaves you guessing until the very end.

You can almost hear the swoosh of the net in this New York Knicks moving sand pictures. Of course, it’s got a basketball, but it has a little music and the energy of the game thrown in, too. The Statue of Liberty tops it off for an authentic New York sand story.

One of the best-known stories from author Roald Dahl is “Matilda,” the story of an exceptional child with rather unpleasant parents. This fast-paced performance, accompanied by music from Matilda the Musical enthralls audience members both young and old. Matilda springs to life from Castillo’s nimble fingers, making this a perfect performance for family events.


In 1963, Kenya declared its separation from Britain. Fifty years later, Joe Castillo celebrated the nation’s independence by setting the story of Nairobi, its capital city, to the song. The story of its acacia trees and booming metropolis, white and black residents, makes history three-dimensional. Castillo’s performances called SandStory, have been seen in all 7 continents, across 43 countries and translated into 35 languages.


First presented at the Burger King Global Convention, this spackled sand story animates the history and success of Burger King. Along with the hamburger magnate, Castillo has performed for Mercedes-Benz, Disney Marketing Group, the Bank of Dubai and for other corporate events, holidays and conventions.

Everyone has a story to tell. Moving sand pictures tell that story like nobody else. Seeing this unique form of sand art at an event or gathering creates excitement that lingers in the minds of viewers long after the show is over. It is a sure thing and gets the “oohs and ahs” in a way that everyone can relate to, no matter what their story.

Amazing Sand Art of Joe Castillo

If Joe Castillo is the man telling a good story, expect music, a light table and sand to take center stage. The Sand Art of Joe Castillo is considered one of the most gifted sand animation artists in the world, Castillo discovered his talent for on-the-spot creativity when he accidentally bought sand instead of mulch at a hardware store. Now, the national storyteller uses the art form to convey corporate messages for clients.

When Joe Castillo is working live before an audience, he strategically sprinkles, scatters and etches in the sand to create evolving images using sand animation. Onlookers see faces, landscapes, buildings and other structures come to life through sand art as they are projected onto a big screen. Perhaps one of the most fascinating aspects in the Sand Art of Joe Castillo is the way he uses his hands. In order to disperse the sand across the light table, he gathers the granules into his fists. Then he uses both the gaps between his fingers or either open end of his fist as an organic funnel to control the release of sand. This technique helps to layer the evolving picture with texture.

Heavily sanded areas become a thick surface for him to carve, and thinly sprinkled sand seems strewn at just the right angles to suggest the small details that bring the pictures to life. Joe Castillo is very skilled with standing his palm vertically against the lit glass and cupping his fingertips to use his hands as a wide chisel. He scrapes his nails against the table to make tombstones, the Statue of Liberty, servicemen and servicewomen in battle hats with guns, the U.S. flag or the dark waves in a woman’s hair. Audiences are tense anticipating the next turn of the picture unfolding before them, and they do not hesitate to spring to their feet for a standing ovation when the work if finally done.

The Sand Art of Joe Castillo is a unique approach to storytelling has earned praises from clients like Toshiba, TEDx, Apple, Lucent Technologies, the BBC, DirectTV, Pfizer, ExxonMobil, Lexmake, NBC, Million Dollar Round Table and Walt Disney. His talent even earned him a finalist spot on the television show America’s Got Talent. He currently has three categories of presentations: ArtStory, WordStory and SandStory. In addition to the work he does on a light table, Joe Castillo is a frequent keynote speaker.

Castillo has credited his father as the source of his love for storytelling. Castillo’s father died when he was 15, but he spent his last moments encouraging young Castillo to pursue a life in art. However, before taking on the journey of motivational performance art, Castillo used his father’s words to build a career in commercial art and advertising. He has admitted that he believes this was a cop-out that consumed more than 20 years of his life. His New Mexico bilingual upbringing makes it easy for him to give presentations in both Spanish and English. So far, the uniqueness of his work has enabled him to perform in more than 14 countries around the world. This work enables him to leave people in his audiences a little bit better than he found them.

Joe Castillo is a finalist on the seventh season of America’s Got Talent! Castillo has been involved in art since his first class at the age of five. After 20 years in advertising, Castillo sold his advertising agency, attended Ashbury Seminary and dove headlong into art and oratory.

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