When Dale Murdock was a child, he loved Play-Doh.
Although he didn’t know it at the time, the sculptor would move on to creating detailed worlds in a different medium.
In his 22-year career, the accomplished sculptor has amazed crowds with his sand-constructed works of art, some of it larger than life.
During Westerner Days at the Parkland Pavilion, onlookers can see something taking shape in the 26 tonnes of sand that was trucked in from the Red Deer River.
With earphones on, Murdock, 52, concentrates on his western-theme sculpture that he began on Wednesday and plans on completing by Sunday afternoon.
“Everyone likes looking so I want to entertain them and, at the same time, myself,” he said.
“The ability to make art as an artist is paramount. When people see your art, it is nice because a lot of people who work in studios don’t get feedback.”
Murdock was born in Saskatoon and immigrated to France in 1999. With a team of sculptors, he has won the World Sand Sculpture Title and travels all over the world. He has two stepsons and a daughter who live in France.
“When my daughter was born, I pulled back for about eight years and just left in the summers,” he explained.
“When my wife was pregnant, I was six months in different countries. I came back from Australia, washed my clothes, went to Denmark and then went to Portugal.”
Getting into sand-sculpting was sort of impromptu for Murdock, who had seen a sand-sculpting team working at a Victoria beach when he was attending university.
“The very first thing I sculpted was a Volkswagen and they really liked it and they invited me on the team,” he said.
Murdock discovered that sand-sculpting could be his career and decided to not attend architecture school, which was his original plan.
When he works on a project, Murdock says if everything is going well, not much goes through his mind. But does admit a slight nervousness that his art will break.
“As a sculptor, you’re always looking at the fact that it could break and fall so you need to have a lot of patience and not get excited.
“You know that it always works out. Always, no matter what. Even if I have to stay up for 24 hours the last night.”
A close call for Murdock came when he was creating an Aladdin-theme sculpture in Europe. He was carving in a lion’s mouth and massive teeth supported the sculpture on either side.
“Someone yanked me out by my feet because there were cracks appearing,” he said.
“If it had fallen, I would have been dead due to the weight of the sand.”
Knowing that sand is temporary, Murdock says he doesn’t get attached to his sculpture.
“It’s like a painting when you sell it to someone,” he said.
“You can’t go over to their house and see it every time you want, it’s gone.”
In Paris, he had just finished a sculpture of an island for the Ministry of Tourism and a bulldozer was waiting for him.
“I said, ‘Wait, let me grab a picture.’ ”
The artist works in various conditions with many types of sand, wet or dry. He uses many tools, such as brushes, pallet knives, shovels of many sizes and equipment used for forming cement.
With his Westerner Park piece, Murdock says he needs to move fast with only five days of work. He says when he is quick enough, his hands look like butterflies.
“Suddenly you realize that your hands are moving independently and they are doing what they need to do without you thinking about it.”
Murdock will be at Westerner Days until 8 p.m. on Sunday.