Nature can be fleeting in its beauty and winter can be particularly ephemeral. Enter Simon Beck, an artist who captures the season’s elusive beauty by carving intricate geometric designs into snowy landscapes. Using his own eyes for precision, Beck tramps across white mountaintops and frozen lakes in France simply wearing briquette snow shoes.
Recently, we spoke with the artist about his snowscapes, his process and his plans for future pieces on a warming planet.
Pictured above is a piece he did at the Les Arcs Ski Resort in the French Alps.
One imagines it would take days to complete such complicated designs, like this one completed at Les Arcs, France.
However, Beck says that each piece averages about 10 hours to “really do it properly,” though he will leave a design unfinished if his feet become too uncomfortable.
Beck, who is an experienced orienteer, explains that the setting out of the design is initially done using a simple handheld orienteering compass. Next, he determines the appropriate distances on his designs by using pace counting or measuring tape. Curves are sometimes judged using a clothesline attached to an anchor at the center of the design. Then Beck adds in the remaining lines and shadings by eye.
All photos courtesy of Simon Beck
Just how long do these designs, like this one created at Les Arcs, France, last in the snow? Beck says that they usually stay in place until the next heavy snowfall and occasionally even longer.
“At one extreme in 2011, the first design of the season, completed on Jan. 3, was seen as a ‘ghost’ underneath up to three later designs for the rest of the season,” Beck says.
But sometimes, the opposite is true. “On the other side, a design I completed at half past midnight on Dec. 19, 2011, had completely disappeared by the time I got up the next morning,” he says. Luckily, Beck did get some reasonable night photos of the ill-fated Dec. 19 design.