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  • Writer's pictureJean-Francois Podevin


Updated: Apr 10

1st edition cover of Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson

I have been a digital artist for 30 years and the cover of the first edition of Snowcrash by author Neal Stephenson was my first published digital illustration.

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

an early computer imaging pioneer named Larry Scher introduced me to digital art. At the time I worked with oil, acrylics, gouache and airbrush, and any media that would allow me to meet my deadlines.

In 1991, Bantam 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


I first drew pencil sketches, I painted separate elements

with gouache over B&W photocopies of my drawings.

I followed by scanning the results and processed the image

on Larry’s SGI 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 to be creative! I had intented to create the image entirely on a computer and produce the result as a print that the publisher could use.

(the Bantam art dpt. was not using computers at the time. )

I was able to generate 35mm slides from the digital files, (these 35mm slides are the tangible proof that this image was digital). I was able to generate color xeroxes from the digital art, and proceeded to create a half collage, half painted color

comprehensive sketch of the image, which resembles so closely the finished illustration, that it is in essence a second original.

Next I made a 20”by 24” photographic color print which I mounted on illustration board and with the use of Matte Medium I was able to paint

and airbrush the image which in turn became the art that you see.

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

I met the deadline, I said nothing of it and everyone at Bantam books were thrilled

with this new fangled "computer illustration."

It is in fact in part digital art and in part traditional painting.

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.

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

He brought into all human languages new words such as "Avatar" and "Metaverse".

I could have never imagined Snowcrash to become the "1984" of cyberspace.

I am thinking of making fine art prints of this cover image for sale on my website.

I was also asked to create an NFT of this image,

It would fulfill this artwork's strange destiny that 30 years later, the cover art of Snowcrash would one day join the "Metaverse".

Jean-Francois Podevin

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