Meet the Former Engineer Who Makes Mind-Blowing Land Art With Nothing But a Pair of Snow Shoes and Some Simple Math
Simon Beck has been creating elaborate outdoor art since 2004.
Earlier this month, in the saddles of the Rocky Mountains near Silverthorne, Colorado, intricate artworks the size of football fields started cropping up across enormous fields of snow, as if overnight.
From a distance, they look like geometric doodles, the kind you make by drawing simple fractal shapes. And in fact, that’s more or less how these ephemeral artworks were made.
The elaborate installations are the work of one man, Simon Beck, who charts out detailed designs with simple math, then realizes them by walking in the snow.
And they’re not done at night. They’re usually done over the course of a day (if not several), and the steps, if he counted them, would surely tally in the tens of thousands.
Beck, a former engineer from London who now lives partly in the French Alps, has been in Silverthorne since early January. The resort town commissioned him to trot out his artworks onto the winter landscape for two weeks, in a kind of Rocky Mountain residency. But conditions thus far haven’t been ideal.
“The main memory I’ll take with me is the soft snow, the way it blows around in even a light wind,” Beck told Artnet News over the phone. He was calling from a site in mountains, battling the wind and coughing from the cold. “It hasn’t been like it is at home in the Alps.”
Days into his Silverthorne stint, Beck has only finished a couple of “drawings,” as he calls them. The wind has thus far wiped away everything he started, and on some days has even prevented him from going out altogether. But that’s the nature of the job, and he’s used to it.
He says the question he gets asked most often is whether he gets frustrated by the temporariness of his creations, which can take him an entire day to make, but can be destroyed in just moments with a change of the weather.
“As long as the weather holds long enough for us to get pictures, I consider it a job well done,” the artist says.
Beck first started making his snow drawings in 2004. It started out as a kind of exercise: he would place a marker in an open patch of snow, a nucleus around which he would chart a series of equidistant points, then he would connect the points with his own tracks and patterns would emerge.
In 2010, he launched a Facebook page to share the fruits of his new hobby. The aerial photos of his drawings, taken from a drone or adjacent mountainside, gained widespread attention online.
Meanwhile, the drawings grew more and more complex, covering hundreds, then thousands of square feet. His largest piece to date—a four-leaf clover on a frozen reservoir in France—was the size of six soccer fields. It took him 32 hours across four days to complete.
Overall, Beck has created several hundred snow drawings around the world. (He has also experimented with sand.) His Facebook page boasts over 284,000 followers, and patrons—like those in the city of Silverthorne—pay him to travel around the world to make his work.
See more examples of his work below.
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