WHEN the Chinese tunes started playing in the background, Bee Ghee Leng gathered fistfuls of sand from the sides of the illuminated frosted glass-topped table.
As his hands moved swiftly above the table, he loosened his grip to let the grains fall on the glass.
With the table covered with a layer of sand, he began to “draw.”
His only tools were his hands. Using his forefinger, he outlined a tree and then he flicked the sand with the side of his hand to create a butterfly wing.
To add eyes onto a face, he just had to carefully apply a pinch of sand.
For the next 10 minutes or so, Bee focused on creating a series of images on his “canvas.”
The images told the tale of a well-known Chinese legend, the Butterfly Lovers, which is a tragic love story between Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai.
The scenes progressed as Bee added or omitted certain objects, or scattered a new layer of sand on the table for the next image.
What the 33-year-old demonstrated was sand animation, or sand art, made popular by renowned artists like Ferenc Cako from Hungary, Ilana Yahav from Israel, Su Dabao from China and Chuang Ming Ta from Taiwan.
“About half a year ago, I watched Su on television in a talk show.
“I was really impressed with this kind of performing art. The drawing process is synchronised with rhythm and music to tantalise our senses,” said Bee, who is a hairstylist by profession.
He researched on the Internet and found a lot of sand animation websites and videos.
From there, he gradually learned the ropes of the art, from the equipment needed to the best material, and the techniques in rendering the images with the versatile sand.
He tried different types of grains and discovered that the natural sand was still the best.
“It has the right weight to fall nicely on the surface while others were too light. The particles were too far from each other to form a line or pattern,” Bee, who is popularly known as Loong Bee, explained.
Besides Butterfly Lovers, he has also created a sand animation on Titanic.
“I am now watching Disney cartoons like Tarzan and Lion King to pick 10 to 15 important scenes to be made into sand animations.
“I normally draw the scenes and the transitions on paper, then try it out on the frosted glass,” he shared.
Bee said the animation should be synchronised with the rhythm and music to enhance the mood.
When a sand artist performs for an audience, a video camera would be fixed above the table to capture the process, to be projected onto a screen.
Bee was approached to do live performances and he was considering spreading the green message through this art.
“The art itself is environmentally friendly. No art paper is wasted and no chemicals are used,” he said.
To view his sand art, search “Titanic sandart by Loong Bee” on Youtube (