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  • Writer's pictureJean-Francois Podevin


Updated: Apr 23

#1)- First edition hardcover of Snowcrash

The first edition hardcover of Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson was one of my earliest attempts at digital illustration.

In 1989, long before Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop came into existence,

an early computer imaging pioneer named Larry Scher introduced me to digital art.

At the time, I worked with oil, acrylics, gouache, airbrush, and any media that would allow me to meet my deadlines.

In 1991, Bantam Books' art director, Jamie Warren, assigned me to create the cover art for the first edition of Snowcrash. When I said that I had begun to work with computers,

she asked me and I agreed to create the cover of Snowcrash as a digital


It started with concept sketches followed by pencil sketches, and a color sketch for final approval, one of the concept sketches remains in my possession ( see #6).

I painted the different parts of the picture with gouache (see image #7).

Later, I scanned them to have them digitally processed on Larry’s SGI or Silicon Graphics workstation with an ATT software called RIO with which we calculated and programmed the digital filters.

As the deadline came to a close, we ran into technical problems.

I had originally intended to make a photomontage of the composition from large color xeroxes of the digital files. However, the rich high-definition images created digitally came out in a lesser definition in the 35mm slide output. (see 35mm slides #4 and image #3)

I had to be creative!

In the first step, I did as planned and produced color xeroxes from the 35mm slides of the digital art. I composed them in a photomontage (see image #3 ) which is the matrix of the final art.

Next, I made a 20” by 24” photographic color print of the original photomontage also called a direct color print or DCP. I mounted the print on an illustration board.

With the use of Matte Medium as a base, I was able to paint and airbrush the image which in turn became the art that you see. (see image #2B, #1 & #2)

Each pixel, in the "pixely" part of the image, was hand-painted!

I did meet the deadline, and everyone at Bantam Books was thrilled with this newfangled "computer illustration."

Therefore the finished art was part digital and part traditional painting.

while the initial photomontage was a digital work.

The result is a mixed media artwork, which reflects the osmosis between the real world and the virtual reality of Snowcrash, beyond the intent of the image.

Ironically, this incident mirrors the writer's original attempt to create Snowcrash as a digital graphic novel. Writing it as a classic novel instead placed Snowcrash in Time magazine's list of the top 100 books of the twentieth Century in the English language.

Neil Stephenson's visionary dreams have become the future that we live in, with concepts such as augmented reality, Google Earth, and cryptocurrency.

Neil Stephenson brought into all human languages new words such as "Avatar" and "Metaverse". I could have never imagined Snowcrash to become the "1984" of cyberspace.

Jean-François Podevin

Metaverse landscape and the Sumerian Goddess Asherah receding into Snowcrash
#2- Original artwork 20" by 20", mixed media. A Metaverse landscape on the left and the Sumerian Goddess Asherah on the right receding into Snowcrash.

#4- The Output form 35mm slides of the digital files, which data was stored on a Bernouli drive. The software used was ATT/ RIO, and Vista/TIPS

#4B- 35mm transparency slides from the digital files

In addition to the 35mm slides, below are recent photos of the actual original final art and preliminary art.

Acrylics and gouache on an 11"by14"  Xerox of the pencil sketch
#7- Original concept art of the Sumerian Goddess Asherah

Snowcrash Microprocessor
5"by7" photo of circuit board in center of cover image

In the final art I made  the butterfly silhouette more abstract with the butterfly morphing into receding panels. a metamorphosis at the power of two, which  emphasize the core idea of  the Metaverse.
#6- Original concept sketch of the Snowcrash cover. In the final art I made the butterfly outline morph into receding panels. This double butterfly metamorphosis emphasized the core idea of the "Metaverse".

#2B- Original artwork of Snowcrash

#3- Original photomontage of the digital art of Snowcrash

A limited edition of fine art prints of this cover image are available for sale.

Eventually, I will create an NFT of this image to fulfill the Snowcrash cover image's strange destiny that 33 years later, it would rejoin the "Metaverse".

Jean-François Podevin

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