toronto artist snow designs

Toronto artist creates massive designs out of snow on backyard ice rink

Robert Greenfield has been working on his backyard ice rink in the Glen Park area since the winter of 2012. The most difficult part of the job, he says, is constantly shovelling snow off the ice — so he found a way to make the process a little more fun.

The Toronto resident has been creating art with the snow on his ice rink for several years now.

He said his very first creation was "I [heart] U" for his wife in 2013, and he's made more than 20 other designs since then.

"It just dawned on me one time that the rink was like a big Etch-A-Sketch," he said. "It just made clearing the snow a bit less tedious to create something out of it. And somehow it turned out I was able to make some fun things with it."

Greenfield's many designs include the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Snoopy, the Mona Lisa, a Chanukah menorah and, most recently, the logo for the Hamilton musical.

"My inspiration for this one was that my oldest daughter became a huge Hamilton fan several years ago and got the rest of the family into it," he told me. "So when we heard the show would be coming to Toronto, making the logo on the rink just made perfect sense."

He said the snowy designs usually take him an hour or two to finish, depending on the details involved. The Hamilton logo, for instance, took almost two hours because of the lettering.

And though it may look like he's simply doing it from memory due to the speed of his time-lapse videos, Greenfield said the designs would be impossible to create without mapping them out first.

"I take the design and overlay it on a sheet of grid paper," he explained.

"Each square is one foot by one foot, so I can figure out far to go with each part of the design. And then once I'm on the rink I use landmarks to figure out where to go. I know that the swingset lines up with the middle of the ice, so the flat part of Hamilton's star just lines up with that, for example," he continued.

"It basically becomes a very big 'paint by numbers.'"

Greenfield said he aims to get two or three designs done each winter. But as long as he finishes at least one, he's happy.

"It just depends on so many things, like when is cold enough to have ice, how much snow we get, how heavy the snow is, whether we want to go skating immediately, and simply whether the design turns out," he said.

Still, he does his best to get as many designs in before the snow and ice melt for the season. And even though it's already almost March, he said he hopes to complete one more before spring.

"Next on my list is to attempt to make Mickey Mouse," he said.

"The forecast isn't looking great but if we get some snow next week, I can give that one a shot. And if it doesn't work out, there's always next winter."

Lead photo by

Robert Greenfield

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