Photo Gallery in Second Life

So I created a place for people to come and see my artwork in Second Life.  I plan on creating a virtual comic book and have it available to anyone who would like to read it.  This space also houses my photography studio, for times when I need a special background or no background.

It is nestled away on my sim, down the street from the apartment I put my private stuff into.  It is a small place but I really liked how it turned out!

This is the back room where the comic will be once I have it scripted.  It has comfy couches and some warm candles to brighten up the room.

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Nostalgia in Second Life

A few days ago, I was thinking about how long I had been a part of the Second Life community.  It’s been a really long time!  Over 9 years!  That is a long time to be a part of any virtual community.

It also got me thinking about how far the graphics have come!  And that led naturally to the evolution of my Vedis Seid character.  Below you will find a picture from one of her very first builds.  This is not my first avatar, by far, but it is when Vedis became that black eyed beauty so many fell in love with.

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2011?  Yeah, that was a while ago, for sure.  Layered clothing, and not much of it.  She had already become a part of the Legacies 1981 sim in Secondlife at this point and was starting a very small brothel there.  Legacies 1981 was a lovely little Victorian fantasy sim run by the amazingly innovative Trijin Bade.  (His LARPs HUD was one of the few HUDs in Secondlife I can actually tolerate.)

Her story really blossomed in this sim and it is, hands down, one of the favorite stories I have told in Secondlife.  She is one of the characters in the comic, though we will never know the fullness of her story there.

This character introduced me to some of the most wonderful of people, who helped shape my life in very real ways.  Because of the importance of that I felt like I couldn’t truly leave her behind.  So for the past few weeks I have been updating her, when I can.

Check out what she looks like now.

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Oh, hello there.

Vedis has gotten an overhaul for sure!  Mesh body (SLink Hourglass), ears (*~*Illusions*~* Fairy Elf Ears) and clothing (*Just BECAUSE* Venom Gown) makes a big difference.  Those tentacles (Xoph’s Tentaculus Exoticus) are the same though I have changed the texture.  The eyes (FATEeyes) I have had for several years now, but not back as far as the first picture.  The horns are much more modest due to in character reasons.  Maybe someday I’ll write that story out.  If there is interest.

But the best part of her new look?

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Her mesh head not only has facial expressions, but facial expressions that LOOK NORMAL.  I have been waiting YEARS for that.  The facial expressions with regular avatars are so limited it really made taking photos difficult if you were trying to express emotion with poses, rather than just fashion pictures.

Bento has added even greater benefit with the ability to curl fingers and have more realistic movement of tails and the like.  I haven’t found a tail replacement for her yet, and sadly the tail she is known for looks horrible against this build.  Even more than the tentacles they stick out like a sore thumb, so until I can find someone who can reproduce it with the Bento bones, I won’t use it.

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Oh yeah, these photos look SO much better.  Don’t you think?

I’m sure she has more stories to tell, she never could stay dead.

Hello from the Middle of Chaos!

Hullo!

I have some amazing things planned for the comic and I am actively working on them. However, I am caught within a month of insanity. Between work commitments and personal commitments I am trying to find time to even write blog posts.

The Talon is one of the few avatars that is still housed on someone else’s account so I am having to try and schedule photo shoots around their schedule. They are playing heavily in the upcoming storyline so I am trying to get as many photos as I can with each shoot. It’s a challenge to bring it all together!

I haven’t forgotten about the comic! Quite the contrary I am working hard on getting the next several pages questions up and ready to go. I even have some exclusives just for my beloved Patrons! Let me know if you would like another Facebook live session where I can answer all your comic related questions!

All of this is coming soon!

It is Okay to Blink

As many of you know, my day job is running a post-apocalyptic LARP.  Its a world of horror, community building and no little amount of fake blood.  It allows folks to immerse themselves in a world outside of the normal and be someone they are not.

The problem is the last few weeks have been stressful for so many of my players.  The real world has become even scarier than my horror LARP.  Many of my friends are terrified about what is going to happen to them now that Trump is in power, both conservative and liberal alike.  Now, I don’t like getting into politics online.  I feel such things are better left for face to face conversations, but you know its got to be bad when the uniting force between liberals and conservatives is the insanity that is our government right now.

More than once I have heard folks state that they need their ‘zombie camp’ now, more than ever and it’s gotten me thinking about how the arts become such a huge part of people’s lives when the world is in the shitter.  People need the escapism.  They need the ability to turn away from the real horror and soothe themselves with the fake horror, even if for only a few minutes.  We cannot keep up the good fight if we are exhausted.  It is why things like LARP, RPGs, comics, books and movies are so important.  Why the arts themselves are so important.  It allows us to express our fear and discontent in a healthy way, a way that won’t end up with us driven mad with fear.

Don’t get me wrong, done to extremes escapism is harmful, we cannot turn a blind eye to the atrocities being committed around us, but we do need to blink once in a while.  I am happy to provide that moment of rest and respite.  I am not a front lines fighter, never have been, and with any luck I won’t have to be.  But I am a helper, a healer, and a friend.  I hold safe spaces for the wounded and give folks something to think about that hopefully eases their daily burdens.

I hope this comic can be an enjoyment for people too.  I certainly find the trials and tribulations of the crew of The Jeweled Heron to be amusing, and putting the comic together has been of great enjoyment thus far.  I know it isn’t the same as marching on the front lines and hitting the pavement with sign and raised fist.  But it’s still important.  It’s still needed and I for one am happy to provide.

Mild Spoilers – More Scenes!

I spent Sunday working on the next set that is needed.  The homestead of Boyd and Eudora.  So many of my writing teachers have said “show, don’t tell.” so that is exactly what I am going to do.

The picture below is a bit of a spoiler, but you’ll have to keep reading to find out exactly why it’s a spoiler.

It’s so pretty!  I’m not happy with the garden yet, nobody has made mesh vegetables, so I’m having to use prim vegetables.  These vegetables are basically pictures on multi-layered surfaces and the pictures bleed through each other so they don’t look quite what I was hoping they would look like.  But unless I find something better it’s all I’ve got.  Luckily, I can make it work by setting up the shot properly and post processing.

It’s not perfect, but it will certainly do!

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The Process of Creating a Comic Part 2

So I have the raw photos from Second Life, the graphic program I use to make this comic.  They look fantastic, right?

Not usually.

They  usually are too dark, or missing props, or I like the look of one pose in one picture and the face in another picture, or the sky isn’t right, or the lighting is off.

There is a whole host of reasons why I use Photoshop on these pictures.  Now that I have my own half-sim I can make sure most of the props are in the right spaces, which helps, and I can move backgrounds to get the perfect composition.  But as I said in the last installment, it is better to make sure you get the brightest picture you can and create the lighting in Photoshop than it is to try and get the right lighting in Second Life and hope that you can use the photo as is.

Here is an example of before and after:

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As you can see, I had to crop the picture for the panel size I needed, add shadows, add the box in Talon’s arms because I couldn’t rez it on the sim itself, color adjustments and a better sky. This was on a sim that wasn’t mine, so I had to be careful to take out things that didn’t belong in the comic, like the poster on the right that says “Touch for a Landmark”.

Not exactly something you can do in the world I’m creating.

I lay out the comic in Photoshop making sure every panel is sized correctly for the page, and if any special panels are needed I work those up as well.  Below is an example of a special panel.  Rosabelle’s bust in the lower right hand corner is called an overlay, and requires a careful touch to get just right.

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After the layout is set up I get the word bubbles set up.  Laying out the words before I surround them with the bubble is an easy way to make sure they fit properly.

I use color to distinguish between characters only for artistic purposes.  It is certainly not a requirement.  Because I create these comics digitally I can use any font I want.  I choose to keep to an easy to read comic font.  You can have the best script in the world and if folks can’t read it, you are going to lose out.

I am by no means an expert when it comes to making comics, but this is my current process, and it is being refined every time I create a comic.

The Process of Creating a Comic – Part 1

Some of the most fun, and time consuming, moments in the creation of this comic is the set up and photography sessions.  I can spend several hours making sure the scene is just right so that I can get the photos I need.

Let me show you a bit of the work that goes into creating a comic page.

First, you have to have a world in which to set your stage.  Recently I purchased half of a sim and have spent the last week or so building the world I need to have to fill all my needs.  I am nowhere near done but Clio’s forest and the hovel that she lives in has been set up.  While I am sure there will be some tweaking I won’t have to recreate it for each photography session.

Props and appearance of the avatar are also important.  I have gone nearly all mesh in my build because it looks better in the photos.  A few of my avatars are still not fully mesh, but many of the main ones are.  The lines are smoother and they are more rounded.  They also bend better, and while you still get some clipping, the clothing actually folds with the body rather than glides through the body like sculpted clothing did.

I should do a comparison between when I first started Second Life and the way it looks today.  I’m sure many of you would get a kick out of it.

Poses and facial expressions can express more emotion than words can describe in many instances, and making sure that they are appropriate for each panel is key to making sure the reader gets the intent of that panel.  I have several facial expression HUDs and mesh heads usually have some expressions built in too.  I love the CATWA heads, their animators are great for photography because they allow you to animate the eyes and the lips separately or together.  This makes things SO much easier for a perfectionist like me.  This also usually takes the most time.  Getting everyone set up and their faces emoting properly can take 15-30 minutes alone depending on the complexity of the scene and whether I’m using static poses or animations I have to wait to cycle.

Then with any good photography the lighting and angle of the shot will make or break all your hard work.  Second Life has a lot of lighting options but usually I choose one that casts the right shadows and then edit the photos in Photoshop so that I can get the mood I want without having to flip through the several hundred lighting presets in the program itself.

I take a lot of photos each session, many of which will never be used, all searching for that perfect shot that I want to put into the comic.  I love the feeling of “HA!  Got it!” that you get when you know you have the one.  It’s so rewarding!

You may have noticed that this is the first part of a number of posts.  In the next post I’ll go over how I pick the perfect picture to use and some of what I do in Photoshop to make them a full fledged comic page.

Be seeing you!

Reporting in After a Busy Weekend

This weekend was spent running around in the woods with 70+ other people, trying not to get eaten by zombies, or have raiders steal what little resources our ‘town’ has.  It was great fun and I recommend it for everyone.  Very therapeutic… and cold, frigid, in fact.

Now I have a dry cough.  Good times.  I even went over and above trying to stay healthy, washing my hands, not eating after people, the whole nine yards.  I clearly need to start taking my vitamins again.  Fair enough.

We have a short break in January to run a small 4 hour game at Midwinter Gaming Convention before we are back at it again in February with our season opener!  I love running these games, but I think I will use the time between games as a bit of a break (as much as one can get a break from such things) to try and get caught up on house cleaning and get a nice buffer for the comic.

Second Life has just increased the prims on their sims and homesteads which is news worth jumping up and down for.  Their sims are still amazingly expensive, but now at least I will be able to create the world I need without worrying overmuch about the prim limits.  I know I’ll still hit those limits, I’ve got big dreams, but it’s still good news.  Now to just get Patreon to the level that I can afford to buy/rent that sim.

I’ve gotten all the comics corrected, and now I am focused on uploading them.  They should be done within the next week.

Thanks all for your support of the comic!

Be seeing you!

Happy Thanksgiving

I don’t really celebrate Columbus and pilgrims and all that jazz.  Not when there are Native Americans have suffered and continue to suffer because of this weird mindset that we are allowed to take what we want and ignore the suffering of those caught between us and our prize.  It’s not pretty and it’s not right.   #NoDAPL #StandWithStandingRock

That being said I DO like the idea of giving thanks for the good that is in your life.  Counting your blessings and realizing that despite the darkness in the world there are still things worth living for.

I am thankful for so much in my life and I know I couldn’t list everything even if I wanted to, so here are the most important ones in no particular order.

1.  I am thankful my grandparents are still alive.  They give the most amazing hugs.  I wouldn’t be who I am today without their influence in my life.

2.  I am thankful for a loving and understanding husband who supports my crazy ideas and loves me for who I am.  Even when who I am is cranky and stubborn.

3.  I am thankful that I have a job that I love and that allows me to work from home on my own schedule.  It has done a LOT for my mental health.

4.  I am thankful for creative outlets that keep me sane.

5.  I am thankful for a community of friends who love and support me and the opportunity to deepen those connections into something beautiful.

6.  I am thankful for my health.  So far, so good.  Much better than it has been.

There is so much I would like to add, but it’s late, and I really should be getting to bed.

May you always have something to be thankful for.

<3!