Ryan Bliss is the man behind Digital Blasphemy ( www.digitalblasphemy.com), one of the most popular sites for computer desktop wallpaper on the Web. In this interview Ryan discusses with Crossroads
how he transitioned from an aspiring writer with an English degree to studying computer science, creating amazing digital art, and building and running the e-commerce Web site that showcases his art.
What initially got you interested in computer graphics? I’ve
always been interested in science fiction movies and special effects,
since I was a child watching Star Wars and Close Encounters of the
Third Kind back in the ’70s. Attempting to create my own artwork
was out of reach however, since my lack of manual dexterity kept me
from doing anything more than rudimentary drawings. I focused all
of my creative energy toward writing instead.
This all changed in 1994 when I received my first personal computer
as a graduation present. I had received my English degree from the University of Iowa and my plan was to use the computer to write my first
novel. Instead I became engrossed with the computer graphics programs
that came bundled with it. I remember it came with Aldus Photostyler
and KPT Tools and I used these to create my first planetary scenes.
Using KPT tools led me to try out Bryce 2.0, which was my first
exposure to 3-D rendering. The rest, I guess, is history.
How did Digital Blasphemy get started? My use of the computer
in the mid-90’s, coupled with the dismal job outlook for holders of
English degrees, prompted me to go back to school and study computer science. If Iowa had had a computer graphics program in the
mid-’90s I might have studied that, but the closest I could get at the
time was computer science.
It was quite a shock for a humanities student. I had never fancied myself very proficient with math, and all of a sudden I had to learn a great
deal of it. Actually I came to enjoy studying math and science. It was refreshing to deal with absolutes after four years of subjective studies.
In late 1996, near the end of my BS program, I started interviewing for programming jobs around Iowa City. At one early interview,
for a job I wanted very much, I was asked if I knew HTML. I had to
admit that I didn’t (in retrospect I probably could have bluffed this
answer). I didn’t get the job.
The university wasn’t teaching any web programming at that
time, only C++ and Assembly, so I took it upon myself to learn
HTML. Since I already had a decent collection of renders I thought
it would be a good practical exercise to build a web gallery. “Digital
Blasphemy” was the name I had been putting on all my work so that
became the name of the site. It referred to creating worlds (the work
of God) using the computer. The site went live in February 1997.
Where do you draw the inspiration for the images you create?
That’s a tough one. I draw inspiration from just about everything. I
may watch a movie, read a book, play a video game, listen to a song,
take a walk, or any other random experience. Each experience gets
stored in the brain and becomes a building block for a future project.
Inspirations can come from strange places. Recently I was watching a Cubs game and a commercial came on for a travel Web site.
They showed a brief clip of a path leading to a beach and I thought
that would make a fine wallpaper. I made my own path leading down
to a beach (the wallpaper is called “Island Time”). The finished piece
doesn’t really look anything like the clip I saw on the commercial, but
it was inspired by it.