She WAS the Storm

I have had this picture in my mind for a very long time. I actually took the original photo for it last year and have been slowly working on my GIMP skills in order to get it somewhat close to where I wanted it to be. Truth be told I will always look at my pictures and artwork and think they are not finished and see their imperfections. I have a tendency to see what they are not, rather than what they are. However, there comes a time when you just have to stop and move on and for me that time is now. This picture has taught me everything I needed it to teach me, so now it is time to let it out into the world and show you what I have been working on so I can start a new and more ambitious project.

This photo was highly edited using the GIMP program. I love this as editing and drawing software. I can hear your groans and exclamations of, “WHY DON’T YOU JUST USE PHOTOSHOP?!?!” Well…umm…just because ok?? I like GIMP, I am familiar with it and I like supporting open source software and developers whenever I can. Also…I’m a poor art student and am too cheap to fork out for the photoshop subscription. Add to that, GIMP is a powerful tool when used properly, it can do some really amazing visuals and I’m really impressed with how it performs. So yeah, you can just keep your GIMP complaints to yourself.

I can’t even begin to explain what I did in order to get it to this place. However, over the course of doing this photo I have learnt a whole lot more about using layers correctly, different ways to use gaussian blur, inserting backgrounds, choosing different brushes for different effects and playing with colour curves and gradients. I’m going to link some GIMP tutorials I have been following down below for my own records and also for anyoone who is interested in learning some basics and new techniques.

But for now, that’s enough blabbering from me..here is…

Title: She WAS the Storm.
Artist: Mangrovejane
Medium: Digital Online Photography (manipulated)
Size: 4448px x 2355px

She WAS the storm//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

What the heck is she wearing? (Body) Maitreya; (Head) Akeruka Lulu; 
(Hair) Tableau Vivant - Summer Hairplay - Coromuel;
(Eyes) Buzz Gleam Eyes; 
(Outfit)Wiccas Wardrobe Naesala Armguards, Belt, Dress;
(Shoes)The Forge Livia Sandals

For further reading/watching:
GIMP 2.10 Basics: Complete Overview Tutorial for Beginners 2018
https://youtu.be/2EPIUyFJ4ag
GIMP Tutorial 5: 5 things you didn't know GIMP could do
https://youtu.be/oxUMtv07Sys
How to Blur Backgrounds in GIMP 2.10 - Shallow Depth of Field Effect
https://youtu.be/AfM9uMIkZoU
How To Blur The Background In GIMP (Create Shallow Depth of Field)
https://youtu.be/GpGfcHcSX4s
GIMP tutorial: Using the blur filters | lynda.com
https://youtu.be/mog3Bnnc2a8
Mastering Layers & Masks in GIMP
https://youtu.be/GIon0DgCCOI
Gimp Clone Tool Tutorial - [ gimp tutorial for beginners - gimp clone stamp tool ]
https://youtu.be/5p7mqkQ7YzM
GIMP Basics 2018: Intro to Layers and Advanced Layers (GIMP 2.10)
https://youtu.be/pCyBF0NwIDU
Editing with Cassie: Color Burns and Overlays
https://youtu.be/lSicScnglnc

Making a (Linden) Dollar in Second Life by Reselling Gacha

 

Let’s talk about gacha reselling. This is apparently quite a controversial thing in Second Life for a few reasons. Gacha are basically machines in SL that hold a set of items by one creator. These items are transferable, most times modifiable but not copyable. These sets contain common items as well as rare(s) and you pay a certain amount of Lindens to play for the items you want. They have multiple events (Arcade (1), The Epiphany (2), The Gacha Life (3), Gacha Garden(4)) based exclusively around gacha and they have proven to be quite popular. Gacha have become a huge part of the culture in Second Life, economically, socially and visually, and so, I have done this little video explaining the whole thing and what I do with my gacha in order to make some extra (Linden) Dollars.

For me, I get a kick out of reselling gacha items because I kind of like to see it being used by someone else who can get some use out of it rather than having that item sit in my inventory. It’s like second hand goods…I genuinely also like having items in RL I no longer need or use either sold, donated or given away as well.

I like having a little shop that I can go to, stock with items and sell things in that other people may want. It keeps me out of trouble and amuses me when I am having some down time and its fun to set things up the way I want. In all honesty, you could probably make a much better living out of gacha reselling than I do if you were really serious about it and worked at advertising and bumped your prices up a bit more, but that’s just a bit much like hard work for me.

My own gacha store (5) is located on one of the Gimme Gacha Sims. I chose this particular place for a few reasons. For a start, I liked the layout and the look of the sim. It seems to get a lot of traffic through. They have lots of incentives for people to buy there such as a rewards scheme and giveaways. They are competitively priced. I pay 1000L per month which works out to be 250L per week for 250 prims. Management is really active here so if you have a problem or need some advice, they is usually someone on hand to talk to.

So that is my take on one of the ways to make a Linden dollar in Second Life and the whole gacha situation. What do you think about gacha? Do you love them or hate them? What do you do with all your extra gacha if you play?

The Gacha Shop

What the heck is going on here? (Pose) Ana Poses Sydney; (Hair) Magika First Light; (Head) Akeruka Lulu; (Body) Maitreya Lara; (Skin) Lara Hurley Abby; (Eyes) Atelier Pepe; (Glasses) =Rebellion= Savant Specs; (Top) Tres Blah Carrington Cardigan and Undershirt; (Pants) Pixicat Classy Pants; (Necklace) Maxi Gossamer Violette Cut Bead Boho; (Shoes) Empire Flax 

References:
1. The Arcade http://thearcadesl.com/
2. The Epiphany https://www.theepiphanysl.com/
3. The Gacha Life https://www.evilbunnysl.com/
4. The Gacha Garden https://www.thegachagarden.com/
5. My own gacha resell store, “All The Things” http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Pelvoux/128/203/2496

The Ending of One Year and the Beginning of Another

Ugh. Dammit. I wish I was one of those people who could come up with a catchy title at the drop of a capital letter. But I’m not. I’m one of those people that just throws a title down, rolls it around a little bit, changes it completely, hates it, then changes it back in exasperation. And that’s what you get. Sooo that’s a thing…now onto what I am actually supposed to be talking about in this this post. What was I talking about? Ohhh yeah…It’s THAT post. You know the one where I am going to ramble for awhile about all the things that happened this year and then talk about the things I want to happen next year. Yeah yeah…I know… Just feel free to like the post, comment about how much you loved it and then move on to a blog post about how to use the sex furniture in SL if you like…

Right…You still with me? Then let’s get on this thing!

So what the heck happened this year? Well…SO much happened. I’m going to try to be as honest as I possibly can be for reasons I will get to when I get to the bit where I am talking about where I want to go next year. This is more difficult than I thought it would be so please excuse any ridiculous rambling and weird turns of thinking….

My Real Life stuff…

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I’ve always had some seriously blurred lines when it comes to my First Life and my Second Life stuff so I’m shoving this stuff in here real quick so you kind of understand the things that happened in my Second Life as a result of my First Life.

I guess I’ll start with the biggest and most difficult thing I’ve been dealing with this year and that is that I had a bit of a mental breakdown about halfway through the year and ended up being sent to a clinical psychologist for diagnosis and treatment. It has been a really difficult journey and I am still working really hard on my mental health. I feel a huge amount of shame and embarrassment about what I perceive as my failure to keep myself together so even now I downplay a lot of what happened. Basically, most of my anxiety stems from this idea that I can never be good enough…or even just enough. And so I will work myself to the point of exhaustion and then just keep going until eventually I fall over. There are other things connected with this but I won’t bother you with them right now because I think I have given this part enough page space but if you would like me to talk about this another time, let me know and I will try to fill you in with my progress.

I have achieved a lot this year. I managed to win first place in a competition with one of my SL photos. I took part in a group exhibit, put together a pop up gallery and curated and held my first solo exhibit. I spent a year studying audio at the Conservatorium of Music. I developed a new idea that had been tossing around in my head for quite some time in order to make interactive paintings by adding proximity sensors and audio compositions in order to augment the reality of the viewer. To transport them, if you will, into a different space. I currently also have audio compositions at Southbank that I made in order to allow people to experience the place through my memories of it through time. These are triggered using a mobile phone app and headphones.

I spent some really long days and nights recording in different types of forests. It was pretty exhausting but ultimately satisfying. I’d really like to explore some more environmentally based artworks that rely on the recordings of the natural world and work more with audio composition but I may have to wait a little in order to do so due to the heavy workload I have coming up this year.

My Second Life Stuff…

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Wow…where to even start with this. It’s been…a journey. I started the year sitting on a BVN discussion panel about non-traditional blogging (in which I had great difficulty getting my in game voice to work to start with…so THAT was a bit embarassing)¹. I then continued on to guest on a Podcast called, “The Avatar’s Voice” with my good friend Mondrian talking about all things virtual world related². I showed up in a article called Casja’s Choices³. I managed to take part in two art exhibits in world. I kept up the photography and showed my work in RL exhibits. I kept up with the videos (sporadically) and the blogging (even more sporadically).

I lost a friendship that was very dear to me. I was…incredibly hurt and confused for a quite awhile and so spent a lot of time avoiding people in SL. I felt my social anxieties kick in and I tried reaching out to a couple of people but couldn’t stop beating myself up long enough to let them in. So yeah…screwed THAT one up too. But then…there were the people who stayed. The people who kept hammering at me no matter how many walls I put up to hide behind. People who just quietly persisted in being who they were and called me to them time and again and to those people, I am truly humbled and thankful.

I managed to make 17 videos. 15 of which were totally SL related content. The other two were about my RL art which is always related to my SL art. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but each time I did a video I tried to learn something new about editing or presenting a video or audio. I’m proud of that and its really nice to see that my subscribers have doubled over the year.

Onwards and Upwards…
So, it’s at this point I’d usually split this blog post into two parts because this one is getting pretty long, but I’m not going to do that today. If you have made it this far…WOW! Good on you!! If I meet you in RL, I owe you a drink. The drink will probably be water. From a tap. But I’ll put ice in it to fancy it up a bit for you!!

I know a lot of people don’t like setting New Year’s goals because a lot of goals get left undone, but I have to say…I am that SUPER goal oriented person. I love working towards a goal. It gives me a sense of achievement and control and allows me to focus on one thing at a time instead of in a million directions at once. So..here are my life plans for 2019…

1. Finish my Masters program. This is by FAR the things that weighs most heavily on my mind. I am now 2 years into my designated 3 and I am at the point now where I am looking forward to the end.
2. Strive to make my mental health a priority. I am working on this. Every day I remind myself, one moment at a time. Stop. Breathe. Catch and stop the negative thought cycle so you don’t spiral out of control. I owe it to myself and I owe it to the people around me. And most of all…POSTIVE…MENTAL….ATTITUDE is my new mantra.
3. Make more time for friends and family. Even to just spend 10 -15 minutes every week or two reconnecting with each of my friends and extended family (not my immediate family, my partner and children get unlimited access to me unfortunately for them) and listening. Just to let them know I am there, thinking about them and that they are important to me.
4. Be more transparent. I started this blog and my videos in order to document my process and my journey from the beginning days of my time in SL and I feel like I haven’t done a great job of that. It’s all a little bit scattered and I kind of lost my way somewhere. I’d like to bring that more into line with my original goal of documenting my journey which brings me to…
5. Increase the consistency and frequency of my vlog and blog posts. Ideally I’d like to post once a week but I know what a heavy workload that is with everything else going on in my life so I would like to aim for once every fortnight. That would bring me to 26 vlog and blog posts for this year.
6. Interact more with my SL community. I stopped halfway through writing these goals to read Strawberry Singh’s new blog post (as aside, I was totally thrilled and delighted to hear of her big news which I won’t spoil here but go check it out with this link)…and I am taking this idea from her post and really want to do it. I know that when someone comments on my blog or my vlog, it gives me a thrill every time. It’s really lovely to have someone reach out to you. So…this year, I would like to stop being a lurker and make sure I am commenting at least once a week on someone else’s blog or vlog.
7. Publish one article in a peer reviewed journal. Yup. Another academic goal. Can’t be helped because I need it to achieve my next goal…
8. Find and secure a supervisor to take me through the next stage of my academic studies. Finding a supervisor that suits you and is going to be what you need for what you are going to do is like going on a long and exhausting dating show. This is someone who you need to get along with and who will be what you need to get through a rigorous course of study over a long period of time. So you really need to spend some time searching out that person and making sure you both suit one another and can work together. And now…for me, it’s time to find that person.
9. Enjoy and explore both worlds. I have spent some time this past month getting out and going places in RL. I felt like I needed to step back a little and reconnect with the world I lived in. In a lot of ways, I feel like I also need to do that in SL. I miss that joy of exploring and finding serendipitous things. I want to show people these things and let them feel that same sense of wonder for themselves. Expect to see some blog and vlog posts about that 😉
10. Lastly, but not leastly…Don’t forget my physical health as well. I am starting this by having a dry February. No alcohol this month. After the first week, I will add to it the no C (caffeine), R (refined sugars), A (Alcohol) and P (processed foods) 6 week plan that I completed last year. It was one of the best things I did for myself to kick start a health plan and I want to do it again. Throughout the year, the most important aspect of my health I need to take charge over is my sleeping. I do it very badly. Just those things. It’s not too much, but it’s enough.

So there you go…that is the end of one year and the beginning of another…Wherever you are, however you have come to me, I hope this finds you hopeful and joyful. I hope your 2019 continues to be hopeful, joyful, incredible, delightful and wonderful. And for the moments it is not, I hope for you strong hands to pick you up, and the courage and strength to keep walking on.

Then Ending of One Year and the Beginning of Another
What the heck is in this photo? (House) Scarlet Creative Daylily Cottage; (Couch) Merak Patio Couch – Monotone; (Body) Maitreya Lara; (Head) Akeruka Lulu; (Hair) Magika – Reading; (Eyes) Atelier Pepe Dreamy Eyes; (Top) Vinyl Ephixa Leather Jacket and Hoodie; (Pants) zOOm Candy Love Jeans; (Shoes) AsteroidBox Wonho Shoes

References:
1. Bloggers and Vloggers Network Live Presentations #30 https://youtu.be/02aWVZQpUXM
2. “The Avatar’s Voice: Mangrovejane” Podcast by Mondrian https://youtu.be/XbR21UAytlc
3. “Cajsa Choices: MangroveJane, RL Artist Whose SL Art Is Featured In A Real Life Gallery” https://nwn.blogs.com/nwn/2018/02/perceptions-of-reality_invite-sl-pics-rl-gallery.html

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – The SL Christmas Expo Part 2. The Jingle Bells Sim

BREEDABLES!! I have a fascination with breedables. I think it’s pretty incredible that in a virtual world we make things that simulate life in some way and that can recreate one another. There was even a whole sim once called SVARGA that had the most incredible array of simulated life. It was an artificial ecosystem that reproduced itself. Plants grew, insects pollinated plants…or so I am told. I wasn’t around when the original SVARGA was built in Second Life but I have toured the new Svarga. It is still a place of impressive beauty and thought and a wonderful testament to what once was. But…I digress…I was talking about Breedables.

So Breedables, for those not in the know are virtual pets that can be fed and bred to make brand new pets. Some of the offspring will be rare and you can make quite a decent amount selling the rare ones. I am unashamedly particularly fond of the Buildables Breedables, which are robots. Not only do they come in all sorts of incredible designs (Check out the One of a Kind buildable at the at the Auction…it’s seriously fabulous) but the community are super friendly and the creators/managers are top notch in their customer service.

If you head out to the Jingle Bells sim though, you will find all kinds of breedables from horses and cats to robots and fairies and even Cannabis plants!!! There were definitely breedables there I had not come across before and it was just kinda nice to walk around and see what is available.

OH! And don’t forget the dates for the auctions that are being held here too….

The Silent Auction runs from the November 30th at 9am SLT to Sunday, December 9, 10am SLT and you can put your bid in and see the One of a Kind breedables at this Slurl:

Live Auction bidding will open Sunday, December 9, 10am slt. The opening bid is the final silent auction bid.

SL Christmas Expo - The Jingle Bells Sim

What the heck am I wearing? (Makeup) Tone 2 EyeGloss,  Tone 2 Festivus Pallette Lipstick; (Skin) Lara Hurley Abby; (Hair) Magicka Sparkle; (Eyes) Atelier Pepe; (Head) Akeruka Lulu; (Body) Maitreya Lara Clothing: (Boots) Charisma Designs Ankle High Heel Boots; (Top) Charisma Designs Nina Cropped Sweater; (Pants) Charisma Designs Nina Leggings; (Jewellery) Meva Boho Gacha Belly Chain Silver; (Pose) Ana Poses Sydney 1

References:
SL Christmas Expo Website https://slchristmasexpo.com/
Buildables http://mybuildables.com/
Evo http://www.evosl.com

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas – The SL Christmas Expo Part 1. Sleigh Ride Sim

OK….so I’m not saying I’m doing Vlogmas this year…but I’m basically doing Vlogmas. Now I know I swore blind last year that I wouldn’t do it again because it’s a lot of pressure, so that’s why I’m not SAYING I’m participating in Vlogmas ok?? Yeah, soooooo now I have justified the fact that you are about to be spammed with multiple blog and vlog postings over the next few days, let’s sit and chat about the reason I am here today! So, maybe a month or so ago I applied to blog for both the Second Life Christmas Expo and the Winter Art Showcase for a few reasons.

Firstly, I freaking LOVE Second Life Christmas. Seriously…my house explodes into this crazy sparkling example of all things Christmas and I go NUTS hopping from one advent calendar shop to another. I hang around at all the Christmas and Winter Sims I can find and if there is a Christmas event, I will sleuth that thing out, throw on my gaudiest Christmas gear and party on like the happiest Christmas elf ever. I have a problem alright?

Secondly, you all know I am doing my postgraduate studies in online worlds. You’re totally over hearing about it…I get it. But here’s the thing…I am here because of those studies and it’s kind of important that I do some things that follow along the course of those studies and reveal aspects of reality within the world. So I wanted to be able to show what Christmas was like in the world through a series of posts and videos which is why I chose and event that covered all the bases. I chose to do the Winter Art Showcase as well because I had really wanted permission to be able to show an Art event as well as I know this is something that really confuses a lot of my academic peers.

Thirdly, I wanted to be able to give something back. Christmas is the season of giving and both Events I am covering have connections with really important charities, which undoubtedly, I will talk about in future posts as well. The Winter Showcase is affiliated with Team Diabetes in SL and The SL Christmas Expo is one of the largest fundraising events for Relay for Life. I can’t give a lot in the way of money, I am a poor art student after all, however I CAN give my time and my skills. And so, it is my honour and my privilege to be able to do so.

SL Christmas Expo - The Sleigh Ride Sim

What the heck am I wearing? (Pose)Elephante Poses ‘Tis Autumn (Hair)!Oleander – Billie, (Head) Akeruka Lulu, (Skin) Lara Hurley – Abby, (Makeup: TONE 2 triumph Eyes Palette, TONE 2 Shine on Lips Palette, (Top) Blueberry Minnie Winter Coat, (Jeans) Blueberry DWL Jeans, (Shoes) White River Co. Eventide booties,

Alrighty then, so where did I go with this particular VLOG/BLOG? I hopped on over to one of the SIX SL Christmas Expo Sims. Now this took me WAY longer than I thought it would in the editing so I am a little behind at this moment. There was a ridiculous amount of cutting and editing and I had some audio issues to do with my new set up where my Mic is next to my keyboard, so it picks up EVERYTHING. Every tap of my keys, every movement of my mouse…and it was LOUD. And as it was, I’d had to turn the gain right down in order not to get the sound of the very loud birds that were partying in the tree outside my window, so in the post processing, I had to boost the vocal volume of a thousand little cuts of audio. Ahhh the fun and games of editing video and audio.

But back to the SL Christmas Expo, the SLEIGH RIDE sim is the merchant Bazaar where you can find over 30 fine creators selling their wares. At the stalls you will find items that give back a certain percentage of the proceeds of sales going back to Relay for Life in order to raise money for cancer research. It’s a great place to go shopping for Christmas fashion, homewares, decorations, poses and all sorts of stuff. You will find a lot of great bargains and you can feel good about spending because really, you are GIVING!!! Aren’t you a wonderful person!!!

Come Sit With Me
Come Sit With Me…

What is going on in this picture? (Milk Motion) concrete house with piloti, Magnum Opus Sidetable, .:TM Creation:. Xmas C12 Tree Merry ChristmasLlama Inc. Candle TreeCleo Design Luna SofaSerenity Style- Mozart Spring TableAbsinthe and Others Candy Cane Martini GiverPurpleMoon – Set of Domes with lights & SnowmanDekute Dekor Christmas Player Piano NaturalLlama Inc. Photo Tree
What the heck are we wearing? He: (Hair) Stealthic Obscura, (Head) Akeruka Julian, (Body) Signature Gianni, (Top) Not So Bad TESEO sweater, (Jeans) {COLD-ASH} Mens Riley Boot-Style Jeans, {COLD-ASH} Mens MESH WOODCREEK BOOTS  She: (Hair)!Oleander – Billie, (Head) Akeruka Lulu, (Skin) Lara Hurley – Abby, (Makeup: TONE 2 triumph Eyes Palette, TONE 2 Shine on Lips Palette, (Top) Blueberry Minnie Winter Coat, (Jeans) Blueberry DWL Jeans, (Shoes) White River Co. Eventide booties

Some really important sites you need to connect to:
SL Christmas Expo Website and Blog
https://slchristmasexpo.com/
This will give you all the information you need to plan your trips to the expo. Check out all the events happening because there are so many you are bound to find something you like!
SL Christmas Expo Twitter
https://twitter.com/SLChristmasExpo
Some really important information about the cause
Kenyatta Patient Navigator

Slurls:
Sleigh Ride Sim https://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Sleigh%20Ride/108/12/23
There are too many merchants to list here but if you head on over to their stalls at the merchant Bazaar, you should be able to find a LM giver to their shop from there!

A Day in the Second Life

I’m always interested in the sort of things people do with their days. I’m a bit of a reality voyeur and busybody like that. I actually had a list of things I wanted to do in SL today. But I think I only made it about halfway. Some days, that’s just how it seems to go in both my RL AND my SL.

The way I spend my days in SL are a bit different to how I used to spend them when I first started two years ago. I actually wrote a blog post at the beginning of last year, a few months after I first landed in world about the rhythm of days (1) that I will link you down below just in case you want to see what my days used to look like. I like looking back sometimes and seeing what I used to do and get up to. That girl who wrote that blog post a year and a half ago…she is in for some adventures! Some things changed during the past year and a half, but some stayed the same. For a start, I now know how to dress myself…although it may still take me just as long…

Which brings me to the first part of my day…getting dressed. Whenever I log out at night, I always get dressed into pyjamas, get into bed, set the windlight to midnight and THEN I log out. It’s just something I have done since I got my first place to call my own. My first place was actually an apartment (2).

view-from-front-door_001I remember it being quite cheap but I only had about 50 prims to play with. Luckily it came fully furnished and it had a control panel that allowed you to change the look of the apartment as well, which was great for me because at the time I had no furniture. So I mostly used that apartment for logging out and into as well as ..getting dressed and trying on clothes.

I have to admit, it takes me ages to get dressed, especially if I am getting ready to do a photo. Today, I’m getting ready to do a new photo in a series I have been doing every week. I’ve been documenting the SWAGGRAB clues every week (3,4). It’s just a good way of keeping me doing a photo regularly when I have been too busy in my Real Life to set up and do a lot of photos on various themes. So once I am in an outfit that isnt’ the same as any of the others I have used in previous photos ( and sometimes I have to actually look on my FLICKR page just to make sure) and its sort of appropriate for where I am going I will pull up the Teleport point and head on over.

The first thing I do when I am there is put on my gift grab HUD and grab the gift before scoping out the place. Now if you haven’t got the gifts from the previous 8 weeks, I am afraid you are out of luck because they are limited time only. The HUD was one of the things I got from the welcome area of SL15B when it was on and so it is also not available now. However, one of the things I really enjoy about this hunt is that I have visited so many places I never knew about and had some really fun experiences. I’m still trying to get through some of the games…oh who am I kidding…I’m stil trying to get through ALL of them..But they do keep me coming back time and again to these places that before this, I knew nothing about.

Once I have explored a bit, I find a spot to take a photo, usually pretty intuitively. And then the next part is all settings and Windlights, posing and camera angles.

Swag Grab Clue 9 A New Day
A New Dawn

Once I was done looking around and taking photos at the Swaggrab location, I thought I would check out a location that my friend, Wavie had set me on to. The owner of the Sim, Dema Fairport had contacted me as Wavie had told her I have an interest in libraries and art. So I headed over there to check it out and it was SO beautiful. I can’t even describe the wonder of this place. The landscaping is exquisite and there is a gorgeous view around every corner. The SLurl (5) for this is down below and I BEG you to go see it.

Before you go though, there are a couple of things you should know about the Athenaeum. Athenaeum is an artistic adult environment, focusing on the bdsm/kink friendly community. Now, I know that I don’t usually visit the sex sims in SL but watch the video and trust me…this place is GORGEOUS and tastefully done. You don’t have to be Rp’ing to be here, you don’t have to be about to get into the sexy times…but you DO have to be respectful and aware that some people WILL be.

On that note, you should also be aware that this is an ADULT RATED sim. As such, child avatars are not allowed and age play is also not allowed. Not only is this against the TOS, but also that is just common sense. Just as there are some places in RL that a child shouldn’t go, this is a place in SL that a child avatar should not be.

The Athenaeum is also home to the Carter/Johnson Leather Library in SL which is a RL library featuring the collective history of various communities who have chosen to live and love differently. There is a gorgeous café, places to sit and meditate and it is beautiful day or night. It is a place of quiet moments, inspirational views and cosy spots to think and smile. Bring your lovers or your friends or just come by yourself and take some time to enjoy the scenery. You should also check out their Flickr group for some truly captivating photos of the sim! (6)

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So that is what my day in SL looked like today. Photos and exploring. It’s a fairly typical day for me at the moment and takes probably a good 4 hours to do all that. Sometimes, like today, I don’t do it all at once, I just log in as I can during the day and do bits as pieces as my RL schedule allows. It’s rare these days that I will get a solid block of 4 hours to do everything all at once. I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to, but I am happy with what I did get to do and well…that just leaves me more things to look forward to tomorrow.

The World is Full of Wonders
The World is Full of Wonders

Credits:
Body: Maitreya Lara
Head: Akeruka Lulu
Hair: Magicka Fight Sleep
Jacket: //Ascend// Molly Jacket with Fur – Espresso
Jeans: Vinyl Halsey Smoker Bootcut Jeans
Shoes: !Aphorism! Brogue Boots

References:
1. Rhythm of Days Blog Post https://alisonjamesart.com/2017/04/11/my-avatar-my-self-and-the-rhythm-of-days/
2. My First Apartment Blog Post https://alisonjamesart.com/2017/02/15/my-first-apartment/
3. Swaggrab Location SLurl https://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Volterra/144/215/21/
4. My Swaggrab Flickr Album https://flic.kr/s/aHsmijLM7o
5. Then Athenaeum SLurl http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Athenaeum/13/176/25
6. Atheneaum Flickr group https://flic.kr/g/GaGqp
7. Dema Fairport’s (owner of Athenaeum) MP Store https://marketplace.secondlife.com/stores/52960

On the Value of Friendship…

“The connections we make can define our lives, and learning how to choose which people we invite into our lives is worthy of the deepest thought.”(1)

For the longest time in Second Life I kept to myself. I didn’t really put myself out there and try to meet anybody or start a friendship. I guess because I wasn’t sure what I was really doing or where I was going with my time in world. I kept myself at a distance because I was distracted but also because I was worried.

Alicia's New Years Eve EVE party
I’m not really a social butterfly or a party girl. I live a quiet second life because a lot of the time, I am simply working or I am logged in, but tabbed out. People will message me and sometimes I don’t get back for hours, either because I have forgotten I am logged in or I am absorbed in something I am doing. I always feel terrible for that. It takes a REALLY patient and understanding person to deal with my long in world silences. And some days are just hard for me. Some days social interactions are filled with a minefield of insecurities and paranoia and stress. I go over every conversation I have had that day and remember every word and hate myself for them. I physically cringe and have to try to breathe through moments of sheer panic and try to go through different logic techniques to talk myself down from the anxiety attack.

When you meet someone who can deal with all that and be ok with your constant bouts of awkward and long thousand topic rambles, suddenly, you feel less of all that about yourself. So one day, I reached out to someone I had been watching on YouTube and reading her blogs. It started with a sentence…this is my year to be brave. I didn’t want to be alone anymore. I just talked and kept talking, I listened, I was persistent and I reached. I asked way too many questions as I always do, and she actually didn’t think that was such a terrible thing. In giving of myself, I found that perhaps I wasn’t always so very awkward. I found that I could be fun and other people would find that fun too. Friendship is like a mirror sometimes, it reflects back at you those things about yourself that other people see in you.

I am grateful for the few friends that I have made. I am thankful for their patience. I have met some genuinely lovely people. I have talked about them before. Some have come and gone as lightly as a feather touch upon my life. Others have pulled up a chair and stayed. I have friends I have met in other worlds. There is a particularly persistent group who I have been talking to since vanilla WOW. We are a small group but we have many years of fun and fights, caring a consistency. I have met each one of them in RL but that is not what made us close, or even kept us there. It was just a matter of location.

Recently I lost a friend. It didn’t end with a bang, but only a steady silence over the internet seas. There was no huge argument, just a quiet loss, confusion and absence. I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I retreated back to my closest friends, those tried and true. I grieved, because the ending of a close friendship is as sad and heart breaking as ending any relationship. I questioned myself. I questioned my understanding of truth and reality. I thought about words I read about internet friendships and I wondered. I wondered what the reality is.

31.45
Jacques-Louis David, 1787, The Death of Socrates, 1.3 m x 1.96 m, Metropolitan Museum of Art

There have been many philosophers who have pondered what makes a friendship. Aristotle defined three kinds of friendship – of utility, of pleasure and of the good. He pondered that the first two sorts of friendship were short term friendships, derived of a selfish nature for usefulness, practicality or good times. These friendships were short lived because our pleasures and desires change over time and so the friends that are used for such ends also are short lived. The third sort of friendship was the sort that arose from a mutual admiration of the good in another and a striving to bring out the good in each other.

If these are the types of friendship, what DEFINES a friendship? What is so important if we desire the kind of friendship that is long lived and strives for mutual benefit? An entry in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy states:

“In philosophical accounts of friendship, several themes recur consistently, although various accounts differ in precisely how they spell these out. These themes are: mutual caring (or love), intimacy, and shared activity…” (2)

The Vordun with Wavie 1024x768Mutual caring or love, I think is something that grows over time with both intimacy and shared activity. Intimacy in this sense of the word, is not a physical intimacy, but rather a sharing of those things we hold close to ourselves. It is the kind of intimacy that comes only through mutual sharing, of taking a risk and trusting. Intimacy is also formed through shared activity. We all have our “in jokes”, those only the people with whom we have shared circumstances have a part in. So these things are caught together in a feedback loop. They strengthen each other and allow friendship to grow and develop over time. It takes work and understanding. Without these things, friendships fail.

So, I see now. I see where things went wrong and I accept the loss. However, does that mean it wasn’t REAL? When a friendship is based over the internet, when you have met that person online in a virtual world or through social media, is that friendship any less REAL for the lack of proximity? For me, the reality is this…each and every friendship is real and meaningful. I don’t care if it is “real” life or a “second life”, a “physical reality” or a “digital” reality. The feelings are real and the emotions are real. The trauma at facing the end, it feels very real.

Because here is the thing. Our avatars, they may be digital. We may exist as pixels over the internet in virtual worlds, but that picture is just a representation of ourselves. It isn’t real, but I am. It is an image of my reality. Just as my body is a representation of who I am here in the physical world, but it is not the entirety of who I am. And so, for me the value of friendship lies in its shared reality of mutual caring, intimacy and shared activity. It IS real, even when it’s time has passed and all that lingers are the memories and the emotion.

And THAT thought is enough to make me smile, pick myself up, hold the hands of the friends who still stand beside me and try again.

On the Value of Friendship

Credits:

Location:
Baja Sands
Slurl: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Baja%20Sands/227/231/22

She wears:
Body: Maitreya Lara
Head: Akeruka Lulu
Hair: Truth Halona
Eyes: Atelier Pepe Dreamy Eyes
Arm: Shu Mesh N.cc Nuada Arms Implant
Arm Bracelet: Real Evil Arwen Arm Bracelet
Dress: Erratic hanna dress
Shoes: Justice Lotus Boots
Pose: Own Pose

He Wears:
Body: Signature Gianni
Head: Akeruka Julian
Hair: Stealthic Obscura
Eyes: {Song} Sublime Cold Eye
Top: Not So Bad Gabriel Suit Blazer
Pants: {COLD-ASH} Mens Mesh Riley Boot-style Jeans
Shoes: {COLD-ASH} Mens Mesh Woodcreek boots
Pose: Own Pose

References:

(1) From Besties to Bromances: A Philosophical Look at Friendship|The Mantle
http://www.mantlethought.org/philosophy/besties-bromances-philosophical-look-friendship

(2) Friendship (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/friendship/

Some extra reading: Aristotle’s Email- Or, Friendship In The Cyber Age|Issue 61|Philosophy Now
https://philosophynow.org/issues/61/Aristotles_Email_-_Or_Friendship_In_The_Cyber_Age

Picture:
Death of Socrates By Jacques-Louis David – https://www.metmuseum.org/collection/the-collection-online/search/436105, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28552

Just an Ordinary Girl

Just an ordinary girl
This is one of my more altered photos. I usually like to take my photos and publish them raw doing most of my work in the setting up of the shot within Second Life itself. However, I have been playing around in GIMP (1) a lot recently. I like it as image manipulation software. I like that I can customise it so many different ways and that it is open source. I don’t find it more difficult to use than Photoshop and in a lot of ways, I actually find it easier. It is certainly cheaper! Anyway, I digress…What was I thinking when I took this photo? Hmmm…

I’ve been playing around with avatar attachments recently. Wings and cyber components. I found this amazing arm attachment at the Shu stall at SL15B and knew I had to have it. In some ways, I feel like the cyber attachments are more ME at the moment. I feel like when I’m online, that I am neither this nor that. Like some parts of myself are disappearing into the machine. The tools I am using are transforming who I am and the art I make. The parts of my avatar that I am choosing to replace are the parts that I use most frequently in my art making…my arm, my hand, my eye.

I wonder if this is something that is speaking to me from a subconscious level or whether I’m just choosing this because I find it aesthetically pleasing. But then again, isn’t that which we find aesthetically pleasing partially the work of our subconscious? I think both things play and feedback into one another and that another day, I may have to examine that thought a little more closely.

But for today, I’m just enjoying the effect and playing with editing my pictures a bit more to get the effect that I want. I use the Wacom Intuous Art tablet (2) and stylus combined with Gimp. I like the feeling of drawing onto the photo directly, but there are some things I find difficult to adjust to. The discrepancy between where the hand draws and where the image is for instance. I am drawing on the tablet, but the image is on the screen. I find it takes me a little while each time I do this to get used to that mental turnaround. Also, when I draw with paper and a pencil, I turn my paper around frequently depending on where on the page I am drawing. I can’t do that with my monitor. I know there are ways to turn the page in GIMP, but it’s really not the same.

It’s all just a part of my getting used to working with digital art and online worlds. The learning curve is still steep, even 2 years on. But the journey is still fascinating and eye opening and I can’t wait to see what I will learn next.

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The original and the altered version.

Credits:
Location: Prime 3D
Body: Maitreya Lara
Head: Akeruka Lulu
Hair: TRUTH Halona
Left Eye: Buzz Gleam Eyes – Avada
Right Eye: [NeurolaB Inc.] Cyber Eyes EX-5
Left Arm: N.cc Nuada Arms implant -Shu Mesh-

References:

(1) GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) https://www.gimp.org/
(2) Wacom Intuous Art Tablet https://www.wacom.com/en/products/pen-tablets/intuos-art

SL15B

 

SL15B(1) is finally here!!! I feel like I have been waiting a WHOLE YEAR for this and it finally started! This is the second time I have been able to attend and SLBirthday SLebration. I loved SL14B (2). It had such a wonderful sense of community spirit. I remember watching Drax and Strawberry Singh live stream out there.  There were events and art and SO much to see and do and explore.  I think I actually spent a full week just checking everything out. There was a HUGE pile of presents donated by people who have just wanted to GIVE and I can remember thinking what a wonderful community this was.

SL15B Shopping event 3a 1165x748

So when I started seeing callout for musicians and creators to do things at SL15B I started to get really excited because I knew it was all about to start again. Now, for those not in the know, SLB is the annual celebration of the

Second
Life
nth
Birthday

Where “n” is the number of years Second Life has been around. And this year is f course, the 15th year. Fifteen years is certainly a long time for an online world to run with a fairly stable economy and userbase so YAY! CONGRATS Linden Labs and SL for making it to the big ONE FIVE!! I hope both the world and I are around to see you grow and develop out of the wobbly teen years and into adulthood! Did you also know the the 15th anniversary is the crystal anniversary and that is why the theme for this year is all about the crystals. You can even check out the inspiration board used for the event over at the community info site (3).

Shopping event 3 1390x736This year the celebrations can certainly be seen both far and wide over the grid (4). There is the usual huge shopping event at Halcyon, Gilded, Golden and Aurealian. Not only are a lot of prices discounted there but there are lots of gifts by generous designers set out as well. Speaking of gifts, there is also the usual huge gift pile out at the SL15B sims and this year, there is a special gift grab event. For this gift grab event, you need to collect a different limited edition crystal themed birthday gift every week and when you have collected ALL 14 gifts, you get a special birthday gift at the end. This event runs from the 18th June to the 24th September so make sure you start now and get in and collect all those crystals! You also need to make sure you grab the HUD from the welcome area and check back at the blog for news and clues for this one.

Swaggrab 1390x736

This week I had the opportunity to visit bear island. I freaking LOVE the linden bears. I found my very FIRST linden bear out near where I live in Sansara and I am pretty obsessed with collecting them, so when I read in the community blog that all the linden bears would be returning for a short time only on Bear Island (5), I was THERE. IMMEDIATELY. Like you couldn’t even blink as fast as I got there.

For those of us not in the know, apparently one of the great traditions at Linden Lab is that every linden employee must make their own Linden Bear to pass out to residents and if you come across a Linden in world, you can actually ask for their bear which they will then give to you. There is also a list of Linden Bears and their pictures on the SL Wiki (6), so if you are collecting them, that makes it heaps easier to check to see what you still need. Be aware that some of these bears are SUPER primmy so you won’t be able to display them all, unless you have a whole sim to dedicate just to the bears, which would actually be kind of cool. I’d like to see a Linden Bear museum in the world somewhere. But usually I just select one or two of my favourites at a time to display and the rest stay cosily in my inventory where I revel in the satisfaction of just having them there. Shush. Stop judging me. We all have our things.

Anyway, so there is also a SERIOUS amount of entertainment going on at the stages at ALL times of the day or night. The schedules are up and the talented lineup is incredible. You can also catch an episode of the Drax files recording at the auditorium, or meet a linden or listen to one of the great talks given by our residents or even watch a dance show or a cheerleading event! On all the others stages there is a wide variety of DJ’s and musicians playing, so why not pop on over and support our incredibly talented community.

 SL15B Bear Island

Credits:
Body: Maitreya Lara
Head: Akeruka Lulu
Eyes: Atelier Pepe – Dreamy Eyes – 05
Hair: Doe: Sugar – Candy
Top: Neve top – aris heathered
Skirt: Vinyl – Evanescence Skirt Pak BROWN
Shoes: MOoH! Slouch boots with sock Brown
Leg Chain:.::Supernatural::. Janis Lag Chain Silver
Pose: Le Poppycock *Convolutions* B (Askance)

References
(1) SL15B Website
http://www.slcommunitycelebration.info/
(2) SL14B Blog Post with links to all past live streams of the event
https://alisonjamesart.com/2017/07/02/sl14b/
(3) SL15B Inspirations
http://www.slcommunitycelebration.info/our-theme-for-sl15b/our-inspiration/
(4) SL15B Destinations
https://secondlife.com/destinations/sl15b
(5) Slurl to Bear island
https://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/SL15B%20Bear%20Island/134/164/22
(6) Linden Bear Wiki Page
http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Linden_Bear
(7) SL15B Destination Slurls
http://www.slcommunitycelebration.info/sl15b-exhibitors/

The Quiet Days of Digital Trees (Part 1): Conceptualisation

I started a series of physical world paintings called, “The Quiet Days of Digital Trees’, which of course started with just one tree. I took inspiration from this photo that I had taken in Second Life one day when I was exploring the Anduril sim.

It Takes Patience to be a Tree
Alison James, It takes Patience to be a Tree. 2017, Online Digital Photography, 4448 x 2355px

I have always had a thing for trees. I don’t know what it is or why I keep coming back to them. I did an environmental science degree because of my love of trees and forests. My online name has always been Mangrovejane, named of course, after that tidal zone tree, the Mangrove. So when I was considering doing a painting just to get back into the swing of doing some physical art work again…it wasn’t really a surprise to anyone that I would choose a tree as my subject.

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This particular tree was done with a deadline in mind. I finished the painting in just under 10 days. I always like my paintings to be highly textured. I work in acrylics, so this means that I also need to work with a lot of texture paste in order to get the detail I need. I like them to be almost sculptural, reaching out of the page as if they are almost real…without being quite so realistically painted. They need to have almost a dream like quality to them…as if they are dream trees. However this led me to the thought that is constantly on my mind at the moment about playing with reality.

The Quiet Days of Digital Trees
Alison James, The Quiet Days of Digital Trees 1.0, 2018. Acrylic on Cotton Canvas, 75 x 101cm

I play with the idea of reality constantly throughout my postgraduate studies. I wonder how far we can bend someone’s perception of it and how our online presence becomes its own reality. I examine those images in online worlds that are used to construct, maintain and manipulate our online realities, and so this simple image of a tree has become something else. By giving it a physical presence as a painting out in the “real world” it acts almost like a bridge between realities. This concept led me further, looking at the traditional landscape paintings and in particular, how the tree itself is a large part of most traditional western landscape painting.

I thought it would be interesting to play around with the idea of the traditional landscape tree using photos of trees and landscapes I have taken in the online world of second life and present them as physical world paintings. Then to take that a step further…to photograph those paintings of trees and exhibit the photos of the physical world paintings back in Second Life exhibits. I won’t lie…the process takes a little while. When all the pieces are together, they form a forest, each one having its place among the 12. They will all be different sizes just as the original trees also are. But each piece is also designed to stand alone.

Add into that original concept two other things that have impacted the conceptualisation of this series. Firstly, I was commissioned to do my next tree based on a paperbark tree. This is a tree with everything I love about it. It has a beautifully textured bark and a lovely form. It is something that the client wants to go up in their public music studio…and it is large (152.6 x 76.3cm). I can SEE the finished painting in my head. And I can see it as part of the series, but the contention here is that the original source material is not digital…but in the process of making the tree, I will have turned it into something digital through the use of photography rendering it back into pixels. It made me consider that not all the trees needed to come from digital sources and that, in fact, it may play with the concept of reality a little more if they were NOT all from the online world and the viewer did not know which ones were or were not.

Secondly, I have been working on recording sounds and soundscapes. This made me consider the sound of digital trees and how that world is actually quite silent. There are no sounds of wind brushing through leaves or the rain falling onto leaves or even the creaks and pops of the trees themselves as they grow throughout their day in the online world of Second Life. So, I sort of imagined what that sound world would be like and what the day of a digital tree would sound like and I wanted to add that to give the paintings a sense of almost an augmented reality. I wanted the trees to talk and to live in spaces that sounded like it had life and in this way add another layer to the twist on reality I am working through.

I am currently doing a prototype to make these paintings of trees interactive with sound so you HEAR their days which will be a constantly looping ambient sound. On top of this, will be a sound triggered by two things…proximity using conductive paint so when you reach to touch the tree, the sound of the tree itself will be heard getting louder, the closer you get to the tree. Secondly, when the series of trees are together, they will trigger each other to talk. So, for example, if one tree is triggered by proximity, it will trigger another tree in the series to talk back…and this tree will trigger another until the set is talking in a chorus. Eventually, I would like to stitch together 24 hours recordings and set it to time to the actual physical time of day so that at dawn, for instance, you hear the dawn chorus of birds and at dusk you hear the gradual changeover from birds to nocturnal creatures.

The tree in the original painting (The Quiet Days of Digital Trees 1.0) is set to become my prototype. I have to add black conductive paint to it and I am hesitating to apply the paint to the canvas as I like this painting just as it is…and as soon as I apply that paint to it, it will forever change this particular painting. I can’t just be some simple light dry brushing of the paint to the surface either…it needs to be an unbroken shape of it leading to the bottom of the painting and around to the back so I can attach the wires to it. I DID want to repaint some of this painting to cover some of the flaws that have showed through the more I look at it…but this is an extreme touch up that I KNOW I have to get to in the next couple of days in order for it to be ready to show as a prototype. I also know I can paint over it if it really doesn’t give me the look I want in the end.

But…just…for now…let me have this moment of artistic fluttering and panic and I promise I will get it done tomorrow.