Artist creates crop circles in the snow

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British artist Simon Beck creates art works with his feet or to be more precise, with his snowshoes. It takes him about ten hours of vigorous walking to stamp out a design the size of three soccer fields, longer if it’s exceedingly large.

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They look like giant crop circles. His favourite patterns are inspired by the Mandlebrot set, the Koch snowflake and the Sierpinski Triangle, mathematical equations Beck turns into works of art. The artist has a degree in engineering science from the University of Oxford which probably explains his love of fractals though he says he’s never tromped out crop circles (still the subject of some controversy) in his native England preferring instead to travel to Savoie, France every winter to stamp out his designs in and around the Les Arc ski resort near the Swiss border. The area is famous for hosting numerous ski events during the 1992 Winter Olympics.

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He started tromping about in the snow in 2004 “for a bit of fun,” inspired, he says, by the temple gardens in Kyoto Japan where sand is raked in patterns. “This is the closest thing I have seen elsewhere to the effect I achieve with snow.” It’s also his way of keeping fit. “I can no longer run properly because of problems with my feet so plodding about on level snow is the least painful way of getting exercise.” Beck is 54.

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It starts with a sketch. Then, using a compass and a rope tethered to a central point to create circles, he stomps out his masterpiece. Each step must be perfect.  There are no second chances. The snow is unforgiving. After the piece is done, he takes photographs to record its completion.

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Beck says his ideal situation is a heavy snowfall up to six inches deep followed by six inches of fine powder on top of a firm base. If the base is too shallow he uses a shovel to create a less detailed pattern.  But Nature can be a fickle partner. A fresh snowfall can cover up an unfinished design, in which case he has to start again, or a snow melt can reveal a previous artwork. Eventually the design disappears.

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Beck says global warming is taking its toll. He finds his tromping about season starts later every year and may have to move to higher elevations. He’s even considered Arctic Norway. Goodbye France, hello Scandinavia.

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