I remember being blown away by the pioneering Bryce 3D landscape-rendering software when it first came out. Particularly the almost unfathomably complex, multi-layer and deep, deep interface, which felt like the future and the promise of imagined worlds made real, not only in the creation of visual imagery but in the way we manipulate computers.
The other day Picturelife showed me an image I had made many years ago with Bryce. Picturelife has pulled every image from my computer to cloud storage and every day it sends me a small selection of stuff from my past, which is sometimes annoying but often a nice reminder of people I knew and things I did years ago.
When I started out, my artistic ambition was to be a science fiction illustrator, but I emerged from 5 years at art school as a fine art painter. Years later, Bryce gave me a chance for a nostalgic revisit to the fantastical imagery of my young imagination. I wasn't really interested in making sci-fi imagery as such any more, but sometimes I couldn't resist. This was a major mainstay of many 'brycean' artists, some with amazing talent (and many with none, but hey, they had a go making pictures and that's always good) so it was persuasive to explore this kind of thing for me too.
However, the problem with a lot of CGI (and particularly back then) is the lack of polygons / resolution leading to very straight edges and sharpness that I just don't see in the real world. I tried to get around this by hand drawing a lot of the objects to make them feel handmade, weathered, and spookily uncanny in a way that didn't have the hard edges of a lot of CGI. I think my most successful example of this is Winter Palace (below) which is a very direct interpretation of a simple line drawing from my sketchbook. Looking back at it now I think I was on to something.
Although I spent many, many frustrating hours playing with Bryce and producing loads of achingly slow renders on underpowered hardware, I realised I never really was going to get close to what I wanted to achieve, and that it was never going to be worth my time. It was shortly after that I got into photography and discovered that the real world contained what I was looking for after all, and when it didn't, I could paint it.
This however is one of my favourite (and last) images, the one Picturelife found for me:
Look how small these images are - the minuscule processing power and resolution of turn-of-the-century computers are to blame - they filled my screen once. There is so much modelled detail in some of these structures - invisible due to the scale - hours and hours of work. I haven't got the original files anymore, but I came across this folder of more tiny renders. Some of which still hold up, and some that are just quaintly naive to me now. They do however, mark a milestone in my journey, so here are the best of what I have.