Monday, 15 September 2014


Simon Beck. photo courtesy: SB
Once he created an art work the size of 10 soccer fields — that is 108 km; roughly the distance between Bangalore and somewhere close to Srirangapatnam. Simon Beck, 55, 'walked' hours on end, with a compass and some twine, to create this mammoth piece de art of geometrical patterns on a canvas of snow. His drawing instrument — a pair of snowshoes. The result was a spectacular creation that could be enjoyed only from a higher place — mountain top, chopper or a cable car.

The art work lasted for just a few days. Once, Beck did an extremely complicated design that took him an entire day. When he woke up the next morning, it had completely disappeared. 

Photo: Simon Beck
Simon's elaborate designs usually last till the next heavy snowfall. "Most people think I am a bit mad and it is a waste of good skiing time," he says. But most people are not artists. And all artists have a bit of 'crazy' in them; it's the cog that makes their creations astounding.

Simon's tryst with snow art began in 2004 "as a little fun". He took a compass, went to the snow covered lake outside his home and plotted five points. He joined them to make a star; filled the triangles and added some circles. The outcome was impressive. But fresh snowfall wiped away the design. So, Simon made another one — a 10-pointed star.

Simon Beck spent 26 hours to do this snow art
The next day, he went to a bigger snow-covered lake and attempted a larger design. "It was hard work since the snow was too deep, so I bought myself a pair of snowshoes," he says. That was how he came to dabble in snow art. It also became his main form of exercise during winter.

Photo: Simon Beck
Simon, a native of Southern England, has created 150 snow artworks in eight years; around 30 per year. Most of his art activity takes place in the ski resort of Les Arcs in France where Beck owns an apartment and spends most of the winter. He usually creates two designs per week. It takes him a day to make an art work that covers an area of 1.3 hectares. He spends considerable time conceptualising his designs on paper first ("using a protractor and a ruler"); especially if it is commissioned work (he did snow art for Vicomte A and Audi). He draws inspiration from crop circles or mathematical figures. As a boy, he says, he used to "draw a lot of geometric designs".

Photo: Simon Beck
The process of creating snow art is laborious. Simon first sets the design on snow — from centre outwards. Straight lines are made by walking, in a straight line, towards a point in the distance using a compass, curves are made by judgment. When the primary straight lines and curves have been made, points are measured along them using pace counting for distance measurement. Next, the secondary lines are added by joining the points determined by the above process. Usually, Simon walks the lines three times to get them really good. Lastly, the shaded areas are filled in.

Photo: Simon Beck
There's also an element of danger — getting too tired and falling prey to hypothermia — to this art form, which only adds to its mystique. How about the danger of falling through the ice? "Not yet," Simon says.

Avalanches? "Yes, they are a danger too." 

Simon hopes for his snow art to spread the message that the mountains and snow are beautiful and worth preserving. However, there is one thing that he abhors about his art: "At the end of a tiring day, I hate changing into ski boots." But he does, and later listens to classical music.