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The following interview with Jeffrey K. Bedrick is archived here from a 2000 interview in Cybertown's e-zine Virt during Bedrick's employment at Cybertown as Lead Artist. Bedrick created most of the 2D graphics for Cybertown's web pages including this one.

In Cybertown, Bedrick's online nickname was Snants.

A CONVERSATION WITH CYBERTOWN ARTIST, SNANTS

By VIRT Staff

There has been a boom in Cybertown of late. We have Sunset Beach, the new City Hall and now the new Plaza. Obviously these are major projects that require a collaborative effort. One of the key people behind rapid progress in Cybertown is Lead Artist, Snants. Snants was gracious enough to spend a few moments with us to talk about his past, present and future creations.

VIRT: Your web site displays your work as far back as 1982, you must have started very young. Where did you grow up, and did you study art in college?

Snants: My family moved from New England to Northern California when I was ten. I began a private apprenticeship with a well-known Visionary/Surrealist named Gage Taylor when I was sixteen. Later, I was a film major at San Francisco State University where I studied live action and animated filmmaking.

VIRT: A lot of your art seems to focus on the surreal, how would you characterize it?

Snants: My style grew out of the early influence of the psychedelic era in the early seventies. I was the youngest member of a school of painters known as the California Visionaries whose art and philosophy focused on spiritual and Utopian "visions." However, I soon began to incorporate more classical and romantic painting influences from the Renaissance up through 20th century.

VIRT: I saw you have a painting entitled "The Persistence of Dali," which is a reference to his "Persistence of Time." What artists do you see as a big influence on you work?

Snants: My many influences include the Renaissance period, the French Baroque period, the Pre-Raphaelites, the Surrealists, the 20th century masters of fantasy illustration like Maxfield Parrish and N.C. Wyeth. "The Persistence of Dali" was actually a part of my playful "pop icon" series - a radical departure from my more well known romantic style. More contemporary artists like Andy Warhol, Peter Max, and Keith Haring influenced this series.

VIRT: I know you designed the Inner Realms Forest and Sunset Beach. It seems to me that your style really shows through in these worlds. Can you tell us anything else you are working on?

Snants: Those were my early forays into the realm of 3D while I was just beginning to learn, with no expectation of them ever being worlds in Cybertown. Since the futuristic style of Cybertown was already established, I was interested in trying something a little different. Naturally, I'm pleased that the founders and citizens of Cybertown appreciate my creations. More recently, I art directed and co-created the new Plaza with my colleague known as Os. I also built the renovated City Hall. Coming soon are the renovated Theater/Performing Arts Center, which will have changeable sets; also the long awaited jail is soon on the way. There are many other new projects in the works as we are constantly looking for new ways to improve and upgrade Cybertown. Most of these are in direct response to community requests.

VIRT: I saw the Metropolis painting on the wall of the CT studio, was that an inspiration for how you and Clean depicted being "beamed out" in the Neo battle?

Snants: Also part of my "pop icon" series, it depicts the famous robot Maria from the classic silent film Metropolis surrounded by oscillating blue rings of electricity. Now that you mention it, the effect is similar, but coincidental.


VIRT: Do you have much time to paint these days?

Snants: Not much, but still do concept sketches for work to be completed in other media. On rare occasions, I accept commissions for illustration work.

VIRT: What other kinds of hobbies and interests do you have?

Snants: I am very interested in writing and filmmaking. I'm also an avid reader of books on theoretical physics. In fact, have corresponded with Brian Greene, the professor and author of "The Elegant Universe" about the possibilities of illustrating his theories about super-string theory in Cyberspace and/or animation. He was very interested. My wife is also an accomplished artist, though our styles are very different. We're expecting our first little one in September, so I expect that being a dad will become my major pastime very soon.

VIRT: The new Plaza is amazing. What was your specific involvement with this?

Snants: I designed and art directed the new Plaza. That included doing all of the preliminary concept sketches, writing spec documents, creating all of the texture images and overseeing production and modeling of geometry, which was skillfully executed by my colleague, Os. Special VRML coding was done by Imagica with VRML consultation by Clean and final approval by Hawk.

VIRT: What can we hope to see as far as improvements in the 3D environment within the next year or so? Can we ever hope to have a world that will look as realistic as some of your great 2D work?

Snants: My 2D fantasy art can be found on my web site (see location below). We could easily make worlds like that today, but only people on DSL with P3 800's could enjoy them. Our only real constraint is bandwidth. We must "optimize" our 3D world files to look as good as possible but to also be as small as possible so that people with modest systems can still experience them over dial-up modem connections. That means low polygon count, small textures, few animations and sounds. As the general population upgrades their computer systems, we can gradually introduce more complex and detailed worlds. There is also some preliminary research in the direction of providing 3D content for high bandwidth on CD's.

VIRT: I know you worked for a gaming company, would you consider yourself a gamer?

Snants: I have played a few 3D games, but am not a fanatic like some of my younger colleagues. Nevertheless, I respect the potential of the medium while seeing it as still being in its infancy. What interests me is when the cutting-edge of interactive 3D games, online communities, "dark" rides, holography and cinematography all start to merge into one medium - "metaholography," if you will. Then what we're talking about is like the holodeck on Star Trek. A fully immersive 3D experience for all the senses. That is the long-term dream that I think we are all striving toward.

VIRT: We have had the Neobattle and now Outlands. What kind of future gaming possibilities can you envision for Cybertown?

Snants: Getting back to what's realistic in the foreseeable future, I'd actually like to see a lot more competitive activities in Cybertown. Basic shooters like Neobattle and Outlands are a good start, but there is so much more that could be done. Personally, I like mystery, strategy and puzzle games, but would like to see them integrated more into the overall Cybertown experience. Even though Cybertown is essentially a Utopian society, there still needs to be drama, conflict and something to strive for. Accomplishment equals privilege. Like in some of the online roleplaying games, I think that most Cybertown citizens would enjoy more competitive activities, especially if it meant that they could attain greater abilities and privileges as they go. For example, the most popular activity in Cybertown now is the trading of objects in the Flea Market and Mall, but what if some of those objects granted their owners special powers or abilities? Some people might think that it wouldn't be fair, but I'm not sure whether it's fair now that newcomers can do pretty much all the same things as our elder citizens. Status and experience points are nice, but I think that we can offer the most motivated citizens more interesting incentives.

VIRT: What kinds of other interests do you have in Internet technology as it relates to art - or just in general?

Snants: My general interest in the Internet is about the same as most people's I guess: it's an incredibly convenient channel for information of all kinds. As to how it relates to art, I have enjoyed a whole new audience for my art with my website. Most inquiries I receive are from people who want to use my work to decorate their own web site, but it occasionally generates sales of originals or commissions. That's always nice.

VIRT: Much of your art seems to be in the genre of fantasy or even sci-fi, have you always had interest there - or were you aware of Neal Stepehnson and Snow Crash and that whole concept of the Metaverse before you came to work here?

Snants: I was vaguely aware of the cyberspace concept before working for Cybertown, but not that anyone was really working on it, much less that I ever would.

VIRT: What PC tools and software do you use to create your work, in both VRML and 2D? Do you have any pointers?

Snants: After twenty years of traditional painting and illustration, I started quite late in digital media. My wife convinced me to buy an old Macintosh a few years ago. It already had Photoshop installed, so I played around with it until fairly fluent. Then I landed my first staff position as an entry-level digital artist at a game company in San Francisco. There, I had to hit the ground running on Windows platform computers and 3D Studio Max. Those are the main programs I still use now. With no formal training, I still rely a lot on my colleagues at the studio for technical pointers. I also have been learning some simple VRML text coding. My only pointer is to work with people who know more than you do and ask a lot of questions!

VIRT: I know you did all of the Morph avatars and they were very popular. Did you use blaxxun Avatar Studio to create these? If you did it, did you edit and add accessories outside of Avatar Studio?

Snants: Yes, I have been also using blaxxun Avatar Studio to create avatars for Cybertown. It is extremely simple to use, like playing with dolls. The accessories were added outside Avatar Studio in 3D Studio Max by my colleagues Veion and Clean.

VIRT: You seem to be the biggest expert on making avatars with Avatar Studio that I have seen, do you have any secrets or tips that may help us rookies?

Snants: I wrote a column called "31 Tips for blaxxun Avatar Studio" for the Daily News. Each tip was published one at a time on each day of December 1999 (see special re-print of these tips in this issue of VIRT).

VIRT: Do you have anything else you would like to tell us about your work, yourself, or Cybertown?

Snants: I invite anyone who has read this far to visit my web site: http://jeffreykbedrick.com/. There are galleries in seven categories including my latest addition of a 3D gallery where visitors can find a few of my worlds created for Cybertown, plus my film noir style detective's office. http://www.jeffreykbedrick.com/thumbnails/3d.htmPlease feel free to sign my guestbook or drop me an email. I am also very interested in seeing more cooperative ventures with major media partners in Cybertown. For example, it is conceivable that Cybertown citizens may soon be able to visit and interact with 3D worlds based on their favorite TV shows or movies. As each of these possibilities develop, my job at Cybertown keeps getting more interesting.

If you have ever wondered just what kind of talent goes into the creation of our virtual setting, perhaps now you have a better idea. Snants is obviously an extremely gifted artist - and now world builder. What is even more amazing is he is just one of us. I am sure all of you cannot wait to see what he dreams up next.


 

 

 

 

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