Snow Mandalas: Talking to Simon Beck

In 2012, I got the chance to write about snow-artist, Simon Beck, for a piece for Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine.

Simon Beck KMC 2012Passionate and quirky, he was hoping to secure some form of sponsorship, so he could keep leaving his marks in snow, improve his camera equipment and work on a book. Well, it looks like his tenacity has paid off. His self-published book was released this week. He’s been invited to present at TEDx events around the world, on topics ranging from ethics to creativity.

Simon Beck Snow Art book

Icebreaker collaborated with him to debut their Art of Nature series, producing twenty garments featuring his snow-shoe-stomped designs with proceeds going to Protect Our Winters (POW). It’s a media-marketing win for the brand… but I think what makes it so successful is that perfect alignment of brand values – all the more reason for brands to be really clear in knowing what they stand for.


 

Here’s the 2012 article:

Tracked Out: Artist Simon Beck Has a Message and He’s Writing It In Snow For All the World To Read

Most people I know love fresh snow and want to leave their mark in it – usually in the form of a figure eight, a figure 11 or a big arcing S. Simon Beck watches the powder forecast with as much fanaticism, but a different outcome in mind.

He wants to make mandalas, crop circles and other ephemeral art, on the 1.3 hectare expanse of a frozen lake in the French Alps, by spending 6-10 hours going round and round in circles in his snowshoes.

The British artist and retired mapmaker has been making his art, and name, at Les Arcs, since 2004, when the then 45 year old, a competitive orienteer, wanted to skive off his usual evening training hike. Instead, in an inspired fit of procrastination, he took his compass, plotted 5 points on the frozen lake behind his apartment, and tramped out a pentangle. Augmenting it with little triangles and circles, he realized how beautiful his giant snow doodle was when he looked at it from the chairlift nearby.

When he subsequently quit orienteering, he decided to take snow art seriously and make it his main form of winter exercise.

Using snowshoes, an old school handheld orienteering compass, a clothes line (to make the curves, just like your elementary school protractor), and counting out his paces, he tramps out famous geometric designs like the Koch curve, Mandelbrot set and Sierpinksi triangle, without the aid of GPS, mostly by eye-balling aiming points. Beethoven and a ridiculous level of physical fitness also help him complete the designs, which often disappear by the following day. “God makes the rules. Mankind will never be above the laws of nature,” he says philosophically.

Increasingly famous on the interweb, Beck says that his current focus is to “maintain my position as world leader in my field and work towards the goal of producing a coffee table book that I hope will sell a million.” He fantasizes about acquiring a remote controlled aircraft to take aerial photographs of his art. Aside from avalanches, hypothermia, and wayward dogs messing up his tracks, getting a photo is the biggest hurdle he faces. He estimates that he has remade at least a quarter of his designs from scratch because of a failure to get a photo.

Like all true iconoclasts, he hopes to use his fame ultimately for good: “Most skiers think I am mad.. But I hope to spread the message that there are better things in life than spending time doing things you don’t want so you can spend money you don’t have to buy things you don’t need to impress people you don’t like.”

It’s the point of powder, after all. Revelling in its fleeting perfection and leaving a momentary mark. Simon Beck’s mark just happens to be art.

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