With only snowshoes and a compass, Simon Beck shows how he created his wintry works.

By Jordi Lippe and Jordi Lippe-McGraw
March 01, 2016

Every painter needs a canvas. Simon Beck? All he needs is a snow storm and a compass. The British artist has made a name for himself creating massive geometrical drawings by snowshoeing across untouched snow. Images can take up to 11 hours to make and can only be seen in their entirety from the sky.

“I wanted to create something outstanding on the internet,” Beck tells Travel + Leisure just 24 hours after completing his latest project at Les Arcs in France.

In the last decade he’s produced over 175 snow drawings, mostly in the Alps, using only a compass and by counting paces. His background as an orienteering mapmaker has made the task easier, but the process is still confounding. As Beck describes on his Facebook page, usually he works “outward from the center. Straight lines are made by using the compass and walking in a straight line towards a point in the distance, curves are made by judgment. Both require a lot of practice to get it good.”

He continues: “Once you have been going about an hour you get quite a network of tracks going through the area of the drawing and you can get from A to B quite easily. You will always end up backtracking because you get hungry to go back to the start to get your food.”

Many of the images are classic mathematical shapes, like the Koch snowflake, the Sierpinski triangle, and the Mandelbrot set, but he’s been commissioned to create other one-of-a-kind pieces for causes like World Aids Day.

The artist was even hired to create a piece as a live performance, using sand instead of snow. To prepare, he spent the summer at Brean beach in Somerset learning how to work with the new medium. “The main difference between beach and snow drawing is that on a beach you can usually walk across it without making much of a track, or any track at all,” he said of the process. “So you can do all the measuring without leaving any unwanted tracks. This makes it much easier than a snow drawing.”

What’s in store for the future for Beck? “Bigger drawings involving teams to help with the shading,” he tells us. “Also, migrating to more of a teaching role.”