By: Diane Feen Contributing Writer
If you’ve seen a massive sand sculpture of a regal lion on the Beach in Delray, it’s the handiwork of Lee Stone. The sand sculpture artist has been making massive creations on the beach in Delray Beach for the past 11 years.
They are often left long after Stone makes his deep jungle impressions. Though they look like they might take days or weeks to make, his artistic talent is a sidebar to the genius of this Renaissance Man.
“It takes me about an hour to make the lion, I get a pile of clean sand and carry two-five-gallon water buckets at a time to soak down the sand,” said the Pennsylvania native.
The tools to his trade are quite simple – a plastic room card from a hotel. But his sand sculptures are anything but simple. His lion is eight feet wide and his polar bear, seal and Grisly bear with a salmon in his mouth are massive. They are not only large in scope, but they seem to bear the trappings of emotionality.
Though Stone is prone to hiding his emotions under his sleeve, or inside his massive sand animal kingdom, he explains himself with stark clarity. “My sand sculptures make people happy; how can I not do them? People talk about them all over the world and they get photographed. These pictures last forever.”
The sand sculptures in Delray often last for only one day, even though they seem to take such artistic acuity and visual brilliance. But one day is fine with this easy-going self-contained writer, who spent 30 years of his life living in Alaska.
“I don’t feel bad that the sand sculptures are gone after one day. I am never happy with what I do, and I always see something that could be better,” said the white-haired blue-eyed Delray resident.
Though Stone may see imperfection, others only see perfection in the authentic characters from the Wizard of Oz, Santa Claus, Mermaids, Disney characters and the wonders of nature.
This incredible talent might have lain dormant if it wasn’t for Stone’s forgetfulness one day. “People go to the beach to read, walk, swim or sleep. I went one day and forgot my book. I thought to myself, ‘what am I going to do?’”
As Stone sat watching people on the beach he noticed three children making something out of sand. He wondered, “Why are these children having more fun on the beach than anyone else?”
Stone jumped up and joined the children in their pursuit of sand creatures. Pretty soon Stone was creating a dachshund and a cat for them (from memory) and then toys, teddy bears and trains.
“The kids were elated, and the parents were thrilled. I decided the next time I went to the beach I would make something. For the next four years I went to the beach three or four days a week and made a sculpture in the same place on the beach in Delray.”
He also makes large sand sculptures in his annual trips to the Abaco Club in the Bahamas. They are so excited about Stone’s arrival – and his sand crafted jungle characters – that they leave piles of sand on the beach when he comes (each winter).
Stone’s sand talent is a far cry from his stellar accomplishments off the beach. Though he is reluctant to talk about his life, other than the four novels he has authored (Free Fish Friday, Slacker Mills, Once Upon a Tee Time and The Student Council) Sone has a varied background.
He was a sports columnist for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, as well as a commercial fisherman. He owned a seafood restaurant and worked in the Legislature and as a lobbyist in Alaska. He also worked with the Alaskan people to showcase (and sell) their art in Kotzebu. “People need to know they’re special – unhappy people don’t realize or appreciate their special talent, and everyone has a talent,” said Stone.
Stone may not be on the beach every day making sand sculptures anymore, but he is still a creature of the sea. He can be found (on occasion) at sunrise on the beach in Delray with a fishing rod, a net and a bucket (you can catch bait, he said). If you catch him at the right moment you might even be able to upload his unique brand of common sense and celebrated wisdom as well.