Non-American Icon: Simon Beck
One step, or perhaps, one snowshoe at a time. That’s how Britain’s Simon Beck measures success.
Trudging quietly and patiently through the snow, the 58-year-old will spend anywhere from three to 11 hours in the bitter cold in the name of art, creativity and athleticism.
His intricate designs, all made by foot, started in December 2004 when, on a whim, he decided to draw a star on a frozen lake. That was the genesis of what has become a one-of-a-kind craft that has inspired hundreds of thousands of fans worldwide.
Since then, Beck has created 240 pieces of what is termed snow art; since 2014, he has made another 70 pieces in the sand. Not only is snow (and sand) art his passion; it is his job, having taken him to Norway, Russia, China, Japan, America, Argentina and Canada. His work has been featured on CNN, NPR, the A.V. Club, National Geographic and BBC, just to name a few.
Earlier this year, he was commissioned by Sky Atlantic to create a direwolf, along with the phrase “Winter Is Coming” in advance of the season 6 premiere of “Game of Thrones.” It took 13 hours and nearly 65,000 steps to complete, all in the name of House Stark.
With winter officially here, American Sunglass caught up with Beck to talk about his fleeting works of art.
American Sunglass: You started doing snow art in 2004. How has your process evolved since then?
Beck: It was five years before I decided to take it seriously and another two years before I hit the Internet, when I was out of action after a hernia operation and used the time to put my photos on Facebook. I was amazed to find no evidence that anyone else had produced comparable drawings. Of course, now, I wish I had taken it seriously from the word go.
In the early days I used to choose designs for their simplicity of measuring, but gradually the drawings became more complex. When people started giving me gear and even money, I could rationalize it more. It is still boring and careful work, but the activity has become a job. Still, you don’t get something for nothing so a lot of drawings need to be done again and photographed with a better camera.
AS: Some of your creations take 13 hours to complete. That’s a staggering amount of time and energy to devote to something that will be short-lived. What is it about this type of art that inspires you to go to such lengths, knowing that your work is temporary?
Beck: The aim is to get the photos and perhaps the drawings should be regarded in the same mentality as a film set: once the job is done, then it has served its purpose.
Also, I like making the drawings. Sure, the initial measurement is boring, but soon it starts to take shape and I like walking in the mountains. And I like to have something to show for my efforts at the end of the day.
AS: In looking back at the past 12 years of your snow and sand art, what are you most proud of accomplishing and why?
Beck: There are a few that stand out, but to me the one thing above all else was the drawings I did for Skoda in China last December. This was a charity gig and I asked for an outrageous amount of money and they agreed to pay it, then decided I had to be someone important so they booked me a business class seat for most of my flights. That money paid for one of the new bells for the local bell tower [at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Taunton, England]. My drawings may be temporary, but the bell should still be there for hundreds of years.
AS: What do you hope people take from your art?
Beck: It started as an environmental crusade: the beauty of the mountains, the need for cold weather and snow, and less urban development. Too many people focus on money because they can only focus on things that can be measured; the concept of something that is shared by everyone doesn’t seem to make sense to them.
To learn more about Simon Beck and his magnificent works of art that use the natural world as his canvas, visit his website here. And to explore the wonders of nature – and perhaps create (or discover) your own art – check out Costa sunglasses, a brand perfect for those who love the outdoors. Costa is rugged and durable enough to withstand the elements (including snow) while providing the best in polarized technology for those long days spent outside.
Words of an Icon: “There are still things that have not been done before. I think my experience proves it.” – Simon Beck