Jay Bellamy, Seaside Artist - Messages in the Sand
May 23, 2019 09:21AM
By Rebecca Parsons
by Rebecca Parsons
Jay Bellamy never considered himself much of an artist. Drawing, painting, and other traditional forms of art were never his forte and it wasn’t until he found himself mixing cement and water on a construction site that he discovered his hidden talent: sand sculpting.
The son of a two-star air force general, Bellamy and his family moved to San Clemente in 1972 and he planted his roots in the seaside town. He went to junior high and high school in town and after graduation, began doing ceramic and tile work for a local company. On the job, he learned to pack sand and water together and got a feel for the texture and consistency needed to hold it together. Everything was going well and his life, it seemed, was right on track.
Twenty-three-years-ago his world came crashing down. It was two days before Christmas and his sister, Jodie, was hit and killed by a train near the pier. Bellamy was devastated and for years he couldn’t bring himself to visit the beach. Five years after the accident, Bellamy quit his job at the local Albertsons, and decided to visit the site of the accident and spend the summer at the beach relaxing, and healing.
One day into his summer beach stint and Bellamy was already bored and questioning his decision. He began playing in the sand and carved out a dolphin, in honor of his sister’s memory. Much to his delight, it turned out just as he had pictured it in his head.
Bellamy returned to the beach every day that summer and each day he created something new. He started with sea creatures and when he ran out of ideas he moved onto woodland animals, crafting elephants, crocodiles, and hippos, juxtaposing the beach landscape. After that, he moved on to characters and soon the beach was treated to Winnie the Pooh, Spongebob Squarepants, Shrek, and Santa Claus, until the sculptures ultimately washed away with the tide.
“Every day, I did something and it turned out from what I had envisioned in my mind,” says Bellamy. “I never really had any artistic talent but I always had a creative mind and I loved doing things with my hands.”
During his younger years, Bellamy was a drug addict and it wasn’t until he found Jesus Christ that he cleaned up his act. He became a devout Christian and involved himself with the Talega Life Church. His pastor, at the time, asked Bellamy if he would sculpt Jesus on the cross for a Good Friday service. Bellamy agreed and carved an image of Jesus into the sand at the San Clemente pier, while beach and churchgoers alike were awed by his creation.
For the next seven years, Bellamy was at the pier on Good Friday, creating his masterpieces. Each year, the service attracted more and more visitors until Bellamy decided to move to his sculptures to Baby Beach in Dana Point. The harbor attracted visitors from near and far and the sand was powdery soft and fine, the perfect place for doing his art.
After starting the Good Friday sculptures, Bellamy started making other tribute pieces for Memorial Day, 9/11, Veterans Day, and the losses of loved ones in the community. All of his pieces have a theme of peace, love, and unity and have been well received by locals and tourists alike.
“It’s unbelievable what happens down there,” says Bellamy of the harbor and his work. “It’s absolutely incredible the response I get. People say they’re so inspired by what I do-it’s touched many, many lives.”
In 2018, Bellamy was voted one of the Orange County Register’s top 100 influential people. Over the years, Bellamy has had many people come up to him and share stories of how his work has affected them. People have approached to share stories of loved ones they’ve lost to war, 9/11, or how they relate to his faith in some way. For Bellamy, it’s just something he does and he gives all the credit to God.
“It’s God that works through me,” says Bellamy. “I give him all the glory. I’m blown away that I can even do this.”
Bellamy has entered a number of contests over the years and each time, he’s blown away by the crowd the contests draw and the planning competitors put into their work. Bellamy likes to keep it simple. He shows up with a bucket and shovel. He forms a big pile of sand, soaks it with water, packs it down, and repeats the process a few times. He then uses his hands, sticks, feathers, and anything he can find on the beach to carve out his masterpieces. Each creation takes him anywhere from three to five hours.
“I love doing it,” says Bellamy. “When I’m doing it, I’m in a different place-my mind is totally clear; it’s kind of like my meditation. It’s a labor of love.”
Next time you take a walk in the harbor, keep an eye out for Bellamy and his incredible work. Like others, it could just change your life.