They look otherworldly – like beautiful crop circles in the snow. But these intricate works of art are not stamped on frozen landscapes by mysterious beings. Amazingly, they’re the work of one man: Simon Beck.
Simon was inspired to create this unique take on natural art when he was living in Les Arcs in 2004. He marked out a star on a small frozen lake in Arc 2000 and, when he saw the impressive effect on looking down at it from a ski lift, decided to make a more complex pattern after the next snowfall.
Snow art was born.
SImon says: “It started as a bit of fun one afternoon. Gradually I started taking it more seriously and in 2009 decided to make the drawings my main form of exercise in the winter months and build a collection of photos with the aim of producing a book.”
The book was released in 2014 to worldwide acclaim. The impermanence of the drawings, their setting in a magical snowscape, and their sudden emergence in such harsh conditions – all mean his works capture the imagination. “Nobody else is making drawings in the snow. So that may be why they are popular – and because they look so good,” Simon says. “I don’t know why this hasn’t been done before; perhaps a lot of the people who might have don’t like the cold conditions.”
Optimum conditions for his dramatic creations are predictably found in the dead of winter.
Now and then I score a really good drawing in perfect conditions, and that makes it memorable.
“All of these have been between Christmas and the end of February, so I wonder whether it is a waste of time to attempt drawings outside this period.”
Many of his drawings have been done in Les Arcs – Lac Marlou is a favourite spot. In 2015, he was commissioned to create the iconic Val d’Isere eagle symbol below the Borsat chairlift.
A large drawing the size of 3 football fields takes up to 12 hours to produce. If the weather remains good, it is often extended until it covers an area of up to 10 acres. Simon wears snowshoes to walk and run up to 30km – almost a marathon – to mark out the pattern. Bear in mind he produces around 30 each year, mainly here in the icy Alps, and his description of his works as ‘both artistic and athletic performances’ makes total sense!
Creating these mainly geometric frescoes involves mathematical precision planning. But how does he know exactly where to tread? That’s where his background as a freelance orienteering map-maker comes in. He uses only a compass to get his bearings, starting from the outside and working in so that the only steps he takes form part of the picture. Even so, Simon insists his drawings are
easy to make, but also easy to get wrong.
And when you’re working out in the open it’s not just the elements that can conspire against you. “I was tempted to poke out the eyes of one guide who led his group of snowshoe walkers across one of the drawings,” Simon says.
Now, Simon gets invitations to produce his works of art all over the world. Earlier this year, he was commissioned by Corona to draw a stunning 140-metre version of their logo on a frozen lake in Argentina. He’s diversified into beach drawings “as an experiment, as there’s a really good beach near my parents’ home”. He even has his own clothing line by New Zealand label Icebreaker, which features Merino wool clothing patterned with his art.
He was out and about in Les Arcs again this winter, in January 2016.
Here’s a new video of the making of his impressive Maserati logo:
And some more designs created in the Sunset Bowl:
Inevitably, the more he designs the more intricate they become. Simon says: “They are chosen according to least time for the measuring, which is the first stage of creating them. But of course they get more complicated as I run out of simple designs to make. And a lot of the early designs need to be repeated now that I have bought a better camera.”
So if you see a lonely figure pacing the snow this winter, look carefully and you could be lucky enough to witness Simon creating his next masterpiece.
|Buy the book Simon Beck Snow Art, containing over 200 of his art works, online at http://snowart.galleryKeep up to date with his creations on his Facebook page, which has over 280,000 followers.|