Simon Beck is not your typical artist; his mesmerizing geometric designs are not illustrated on canvas with pen or paint. In fact, Beck uses the cold expanses of the Alps as his canvas, and his chosen instruments are his feet. But you won’t believe what this artist can create out of little more than snowflakes.
The effort that actually goes into creating the art, though, is perhaps just as impressive as the art itself. Beck may, for example, walk more than two dozen miles through deep snow in order to lay down just one of his illustrations.
Plus, Beck will typically spend a little under half a day on each pattern, crisscrossing through his “canvas” wearing snowshoes. This will normally result in an image that measures roughly an incredible 300 feet squared.
This all begs the question: how did Beck get started? As it turns out, Beck stumbled upon this unique art form in 2004 almost by chance. In fact, he was initially only doodling in the snow as a way of working out.
Indeed, in 2014 Beck told The Guardian, “Part of the rationale of making snow drawing my winter exercise was because my feet were [damaged] and I couldn’t do the running I would have done. It was a lower injury prone activity.”
Mind you, Beck also said that the process was quite instinctual. “When you have a blank piece of paper you draw on it,” he told The Guardian. “So drawing on a blank snowfall seemed like a natural thing to do.”
However, what began as exercise is now his profession. Indeed, the U.K.-born artist heads up to the Alps each winter to create around 30 snow “paintings.” He has also produced beach paintings during the British summer.
But Beck wasn’t always an artist. He actually attended Oxford University as a student of engineering, and his previous profession was that of a self-employed orienteering mapmaker.
This, of course, means that Beck has had experience with a compass, which is one of the crucial tools for creating his impressive works of snow art. The engineering background probably doesn’t hurt either, as the majority of Beck’s designs are mathematical in nature.
Beck explained his process to The Guardian. “Making these drawings is map-making in reverse,” he said. “You start with the map, and you need to make the ground agree with the map.”
When Beck gets to the snow, then, he must first establish the most significant elements of the design. “Once you have been going about an hour you get quite a network of tracks going through the area of the drawing and you can get from A to B quite easily,” he told The Guardian.
And the way in which he gets “from A to B” is by consulting his trusty compass and simply counting his steps. It’s thought that Beck can walk around 40,000 paces in order to complete an image.
This will also include time where Beck has had to reverse over his tracks for fear of ruining the design. “You will always end up backtracking because you get hungry to go to the start to get your food,” he said to The Guardian.
As you can no doubt imagine, this method of working can be extremely tough on Beck’s lower limbs. Certainly, he has had to abandon some drawings due to his feet experiencing too much pain.
Another potential hazard can actually occur following the completion of an illustration. Indeed, Beck will usually have to be careful not to injure himself when skiing back down a mountain in the dark.
But he has said that this process does have its benefits when compared to traditional art. “You can get to drawing much sooner,” he told The Guardian. “You can do it from memory. And they just look the best.”
That’s not to say that Beck is in any way pretentious about his work. “When you go to ski resorts you frequently see drawings in the show that kids have made,” he said to The Guardian. “The only difference is that I do it on somewhat a larger scale.”
Even so, Beck’s complicated patterns are probably more of a challenge than a teenager’s crude etching. “It takes a lot of practice,” he admitted to The Guardian. “But I have these skills as an orienteering map-making expert.”
The way that Beck makes a living off of his snow drawings is to sell top quality pictures of each of his completed designs. He has also released a book of his works called, simply, Simon Beck: Snow Art.
And in 2014 New Zealand-based clothing label Icebreaker released The Art of Nature Simon Beck Collection. This was a range of shirts and even underwear that featured Beck’s creations.