60-year-old walks for hours and hours to create impressively elaborate snow art
D.G. Sciortino

When Simon Beck looks out on a winter’s field he sees an open canvas.

His feet are the brush. Snow, sometimes sand, is his medium.

When these elements converge, the outdoor enthusiast and cartographer create stunning large-scale geometric patterns.

Beck uses his feet inside snowshoes, a ski pole, and other tools like ropes and anchors to draw lines, circles, and triangles into the snow or sand over large swaths of land to create elaborate designs and 3D effects that can only be fully visualized from above.

They have the look of crop circles and the impermanence of mandalas. Several hours of labor spent over several days can all be altered or wiped away entirely in an instant if Mother Nature decides it’s so.

Beck first plans his design on paper which can take an entire day to map out.

He accounts for one millimeter on paper as one step on the ground.

Then Beck sets off for different locations, like lonesome mountain ranges or snow-covered sports fields, around the world to create his marvelous works of art.

Beck says that this kind of genius was something he just stumbled into.

“It happened more or less by chance. I made a few drawings for fun, but with no digital camera and no access to the internet, it was not for a while until I realized there was nobody else doing anything similar, and it had apparently not been done before. In 2009, I made the decision to take it seriously and make it my primary form of winter exercise (replacing training for competitive orienteering), and give the snow drawing priority over skiing when conditions were good,” he told My Modern Met.

Beck says his background as a cartographer helped him to learn to accurately use a magnetic compass and how to determine distance by counting his paces.

It also got him used to spending hours just walking.

If he makes a mistake, Beck says he just improves and changes up his design. He also uses his art to make political statements from time to time.

The Sierpinsky triangle he and his friends made in Brean Down, which is off the coast of Somerset, England is among those pieces.

“There are 81 small triangles to be shaded, so we shaded 4, leaving 77 that were half shaded, representing the 77 countries worldwide where LGBT people are given a hard time,” Beck explained on Facebook.

Beck says he enjoys the impermanence of his work, but not for the philosophical or spiritual reasons you might think.

“Of course, the impermanence means it is impossible for a professional to come over and take photos and then sell them, so people have to go to me to get their photos from me. If one took it really seriously one would destroy the drawing after one has one’s own photos. I wouldn’t do that, but maybe if someone did try to steal my work by taking his own photos and making money out of my efforts then I would consider doing it,” he explains.

Sometimes those photos don’t always come out so great.

The clouds can sometimes get in the way.

“The key is to get the photos, and the usual reason for failure to get the photos is clouds. The drawings work because of the shadow in the footprints. So no sun equals no result, or a poor one, and the drawing would most likely have to be made again some time,” says Beck.

Learn more about Simon Beck’s art and see him in action in the video below.

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