Must-see: Man recreates the masterpiece 'Mona Lisa' out of snow in his backyard

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather staff writer
March 22, 2019, 3:19:55 PM EDT

Whenever a fresh snow falls around the Toronto area, clearing sidewalks and driveways may be seen as a chore for some. But for one creative man, a new snowfall is an opportunity to have fun and indulge his artistic side.

For the past six years, Robert Greenfield, 48, has been carving works of art out of the snow on his backyard ice rink.

His snow drawings have taken many forms, from Charles Schulz’s famous cartoon character Snoopy to the "Mona Lisa" to a tribute this favorite hockey team, the Chicago Blackhawks.

robert greenfield snow art

(Photo/Robert Greenfield, YouTube)

Greenfield, who hails from Chicago, and works as an in-house consultant for employment policies for a major bank in Toronto, became inspired to create these elaborate snow designs one day after he scrawled a love note in the snow to his wife.

“I just started by drawing a simple 'I heart you' for my wife one day and then it took off from there,” he told AccuWeather in a Skype interview.

Greenfield quickly discovered carving out drawings in the snow was something he enjoyed and could likely get more creative with going forward.

“Just after a snowfall I realized that I could go out and create something and start shoveling, and you realize it’s creating lines and maybe you can draw something with them,” he said.

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A time-lapse video shot from above showing Greenfield bring to life this winter’s masterpiece, a recreation of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," which has been dubbed the “Snowna Lisa,” has generated some 13,000 views on his YouTube page. But the reach goes far beyond YouTube. Greenfield’s drawings have been featured on BuzzFeed, "Access Hollywood" and the Fox News Channel, as well as numerous international media outlets and local news stations in Canada.

His hockey-inspired illustrations paying homage to the Blackhawks and Nashville Predators defenseman P.K. Subban have been shown on the NHL Network.

Each winter, Greenfield builds a rink, 40 feet by 28 feet in size, in his backyard that his family and their friends use for ice skating. When it comes time to create some new snow art, he typically uses a large and a small shovel, a hockey stick (both sides of the stick come in handy, he notes) and measuring tape. Sometimes he'll even use his feet.

Usually, Greenfield takes about an hour or so to complete his work, but certain creations can take several hours depending on the level of detail and the amount of fine-tuning needed. To watch him work is at once sublime and mystifying. How does he do it and make it look so effortless? It's hard to tell. What's not hard to tell: he has a genuine talent.

snowna lisa

(Photo/Robert Greenfield, YouTube)

Maintaining proper footwork, so as not to leave many footprints, is a key part of the process. If he were to accidentally take a tumble, then the creation would be ruined. That's nearly happened multiple times, he admitted.

"I just try to only step in spots that I've already shoveled or that I know will be shoveled (which is easier said than done!) What you see in the videos shows exactly how I do it -- just by walking back and forth along spots that have already been cleared (or that will be cleared)," he said."

But for the art to come together, the conditions have to be just right as not every snowfall the Toronto region receives is conducive for one of Greenfield's drawings.

“There’s times when [the snow is] either too thin and it doesn’t carve very well," Greenfield explained. "Other times, it’s just too thick and if it’s more than about 4 or 5 inches of snow, you can’t see the design, you can’t see the layout and that also becomes too much work. So the sweet spot is about 2-3 inches,” he added.

snoopy snow art

(Photo/Robert Greenfield, YouTube)

Greenfield usually tries to pick designs that fit the season; the Snoopy skating design was a good example of that, he said. He has other ideas up his sleeve, but with winter coming to an end, they will likely have to wait until next year.

Still, he said it’s been fun and even a bit surreal to see his designs receive recognition around the world. One of the weirdest moments for him was seeing one of his videos show up on his local weather app while he was standing in his backyard.

“Most of [the public reaction] has been really positive and a lot of people just seem to enjoy seeing someone having some fun with the snow and I really enjoy hearing that people like it,” Greenfield said.

“I don’t think I can ever top this -- this has been crazy how widespread it’s gone. “

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