Monday, March 19, 2012

Virtuosity! Salon (Edited transcript)

Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: Guten Abend, everyone. The Time Travellers' Ball has attracted a large crowd, so we may have fewer on hand today.
Herr Kondor will receive the contents of the tipjar after Questions and Answers at the end of his presentation. Bitte, show your appreciation as you can.

Steadman Kondor: Thank you everyone, it is wonderful to see you all here.
Firstly I want to thank the Aether Salon for inviting me to speak today. This is definitely going to be a highlight of my second life career as a photographer/artist.

Firstly I would like to explain what I titled this talk Virtuosity. ‘Flights of Virtuosity’ is the name I gave to a collection of my SL photography exhibited at the 2010 World Science Fiction convention. *Virtuosity* alludes to my artworks' origin in the virtual world. *Virtuosity* alludes to the notion of virtuoso, the effort and commitment it took to express what was a ‘flight of the imagination’. Lastly, *Virtuosity* also expresses the purity of vision, expression and emotion that I aspire to in my photography. (interchangeably I call them my art)

When I was first rezzed in SL, just over four years ago, my Typist had no design qualifications, limited skills and experience. However, since then I have been fortunate enough to enjoy artistic recognition beyond my hopes and wildest expectations:

I exhibited alongside Oscar winner artist Shaun Tan at the 2010 World Science-Fiction convention in Melbourne, Australia. The next year, I was accepted by jury to exhibit at the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego alongside professional artists and illustrators. (The guests of honour were Neil Gaiman and Peter S. Beagle). My poster 'Meet Your Muse in New Babbage' won a poster competition organised by Marion Questi and has since been hanging in Caledon Oxbridge. Then Mayor Tenk posed for me in Clockhaven, as part of my secret project, a series of avatar portraits titled Unreal Avatar. He liked the final result so much it is used for his profile pix and the complimentary picture I sent him hangs in City Hall. So much for secret project! This year, my poster for the Carnivale d'Lunatiques was featured in the Second Life Editor's destination picks.

You might have noticed how many of my highlights are New Babbage connected. I didn’t specifically single out NB highlights. This is testament to how wonderful this city has been for encouragement and fostering of creativity.

This talk is an examination and reflection of my journey as an artist, from novice to recognition, and I hope you will find it an entertaining account. Maybe this will inspire some of the budding artists and photographers to persist and make advancements in their own creative journey.

My typist never planned for me to be a graphic artist, when I was born in March, 2008. He has a degree in literature and then later, computer science. His ambition is to be fiction author. SL began as an exciting means of exploring Victorian fantasy, one of the genres he was writing in. Then he discovered steampunk and joined the Steamlands community.

Roleplaying as a Victorian Publisher was a natural step. I set up Steadman Kondor Publishing and wrote whimsical Walking Guides (with streetmaps) for Victoriana and Steelhead. My Typist had basic photoshopping and design skills, with only some experience cropping RL photographs and creating profile pictures for Livejournal. After I published the walking guides, I brought out a collection of Robert Burns poetry, From A Mouse To A Louse, which include three poems liberally ‘reinterpreted’ by me. My photography and graphic work was functional from the start. I designed simple business logo’s, book covers and posters for vendorboards.

I encourage the budding artists among you to consider creating SL art in terms of ‘solving problems’. This is a concept I am stealing from Isaac Assimov, who when asked about how he wrote, he explained it as lots of thinking and problem solving. (no magic key to writing success) The graphic problems that I worked on solving included: cropping and turning a photo of a sim into a square shape; carefully laying out street names, choosing fonts; choosing contrasting yet complementary colours;and dealing with multiple layers on a photoshop file.

2009 - I was recruited to start Victoriana Times. It was an exciting time, writing and preparing the photographs for five short articles a week. I enjoyed the interaction with residents that being an editor/journalist entailed. (i'm a chatterbox as some of you might know) I had no idea how to make clothes or create animations, but I enjoyed taking photographs for events. I dubbed them 'society photographs'. you know, like socialites snapped going out for the night? No clothesmaking or pose-making required. The modus operandi were: keep my graphic resolution high, pay attention to all the guests, and zoom in and out looking for the million dollar shot. it's like hunting season! And in the meantime have fun at the event. Some of them are on the blue/green board to my right, behind miss rosca. In the middle row, you see a progression of newspaper cover shots. One of my favourite is the one in the middle, which i nickname 'Beauty and the Beast'

Sometimes I have been the backup or stand-in for preparing posters advertising social events. But my skills were not up-to-par, and I stood waiting in the wings.

But no matter. In addition to my newspaper work, I opened Galerie Eichen. I made replica's of ancient oriental porcelain, and curated an exhibition of Japanese screen prints. Some japanese plate from the Edo period, and also Song and Ming dynasty vasesI exhibited the works of Caspar David Friedrich, and turned it into an SL book by mashing (a modern DJ term) it with the poetry of Emily Bronte. In a way it is reusing, but I thought it was fun to cross polinate one project with another. I was thrilled to curate the artworks (scenic and nude series) of Miss Tali Rosca, renaissance cat skilled in the graphical arts, building, mesh-making and the highest calibre scripting, whom I'm glad to see with us here. Her nudes in particular were inspiring in how they showed dramatic shadow work, before Viewer 2 even. Later on, when Miss Rosca joined me in Caledon Mayfair, she would advise me on finer technical points of graphic design as I finished my first mature art works. From her I learned to focus on the composition and cropping, and the harmonising of colours.

In the meantime, I had a new project developing low prim Victorian houses from RL pictures in my Typist’s neighbourhood. My photoshopping skills were expanded as I doctored the photographs before they were uploaded them to SL. Some of these townhouses are in miss panacea's new york sims. She bought 10 of them but i never put them out to the market.

By 2010 I had a quarter sim in Caledon Mayfair. I built a town hall to display art and sculptures, but I had little original art. My best works, the society photographs, didn’t cut the mustard for a town hall exhibition. Traffic was low and later I left the idea. For the New Babbage RFL, Wishing Oil Well theme, I volunteered and built a replica of the Carrington Mooring Tower for airships.

This is to give an idea how I interspersed building with photography, but to convey that a lot of skills in my art, i had developed through solving building texture problems.

In May 2010, a creative watershed happened. I started to work on several horror-themed compositions which came to be exhibited at the 2010 World Science Fiction convention. Two of these are on the green board - my Paper Cranes and Walpurgisnacht Dance (incidentally originating from an SL event). My papercranes was inspired by an SL asylum sim, very spooky. Walpurgisnacht dance you might recognise Mr Eclipse and Miss Elladriene Laval. Mr. Otenth Paderborn was somewhere in the b/ground, and I surgically removed him. This is an example of how during an event, you can get stills of av's in motion, that seems more spontaneous than in a posed picture.

Towards the end of 2010, my Typist visited Tokyo and Kyoto. When he returned, I set up the Tokaido Gallery in Steelhead Shanghai to host the RL pictures. I applied different stylistic touches to them with skills learned from manipulating SL photographs. (and building in SL) I also shot some Japanese themed photographs in the SL Kyoto to add to the exhibition. The combination of the japanese teahouse build, and the RL and SL pictures, mand the media of music and videos... makes this i think my most complete SL project to date. I hope to aspire to this in future exhibitions, combining the art and gallery build, and other media.

In Mayfair I had explored the notion of a ruined watermill build being the venue to exhibit paintings of a gothic theme too. If I may refer you to the picture of the dancing Maiko at the back on the green board. Some of my art is highly processed and filtered, and a lot of posing, avatar design and doctoring. Sometimes I am happy with just a simple spontaneous shot. Here I captured my friend Mimi-san dancing. Her wonderful outfit and appearance is the centre of attention here, and her graceful hand placement. Also the lantern on the top right, as delicate and pretty as her.

If I were to list some of the technical photoshopping skills used in my art, it would be as follows: Can you manipulate light/contrast to properly define your subject? Can you correct colour saturation or use it to effect to unify colour schemes not in harmony? Can you crop a raw shot for an interesting composition? Sometimes I can take up to 100 shots for one picture. Can you perform pixel surgery? Repair, combine two graphics seamlessly? Stretch and distort or straighten...?

For printing to RL, a whole heap of new challenges come in - photographing raw shots with high resolution, correcting pixellation bugs. The SL viewer used to have a bug depicting water with higher than 3000 pixel length resolution. I think that is fixed now - I always ran into problems then with landscapes. Adjusting exposure to address the translation of a screen image to printed. The screen is always illuminated, while in RL lighting in a gallery room can vary. Sometimes it is very poor.

Outside of photoshop skills, as an artist, you need to have an inquisitive mind to investigate your subjects and areas of interest. For me it helps that as a writer, I can overlay a picture with themes and meanings that you don't necessarily need to know to appreciate, but it could be there as a subconscious message. You also need to have good avatar design skills not only for the runway model perfection of male and female beauty, but also for character and variety.

I have Miss Rosca as my friend and mentor. She is very good at pointing out defects my artwork that I have overlooked. Sometimes I dread showing things to her unless I'm very very brave. I also have my good friend nichus Bermann, who offers honesty and enthusiasm in his feedback. Being a writer who has participated in critique workshops, I have learned to take all feedback, good and bad, and trust my own judgment on how to act on them.You can't please everyone, and the most important is to please yourself... Your friends may mostly say nice things, so it is good to balance that with critics who can give impartial feedback.

Thank you for your attention. I am ready to take questions now. Perhaps there might be a painting from the board you'd like me to discuss further, and that's okay too.

Bookworm Hienrichs raises her hand for a question.
Steadman Kondor: Yes, miss hienrichs?
Bookworm Hienrichs: How did you pick up your more technical skills--for instance, in Photoshop? Trial and error? More formal classes? Tips from people you know?
Steadman Kondor: I'm not embarressed to say I use a paired down version of Photoshop, lol
Bookworm Hienrichs: Photoshop Elements?
Steadman Kondor: First there was photoshop deluxe, and then elements
Bookworm Hienrichs chuckles. "I've got Elements, too. Still don't know a lot about it, though."
Steadman Kondor: I have found them intuitive. and Ocassionally i refer to the web help. I learned them gradually though, over nearly 4 years
Jimmy Branagh: You might consider GIMP as well. I use it more than I do PS.
Steadman Kondor: So just spending time to play with each new feature is good for the long run. Things that proved useful were the template cookie cutting, also the brushes ...
Bookworm Hienrichs smiles wryly.
Steadman Kondor: I might take an official photoshop class one day ( i am lazy...) but elements is more than enough at the present and it is only one of other important aspects of creating SL art. The most important is feeling, and to really know and love your subject.

Tali Rosca: Have you (in some projects) deliberately tried to emulate a certain style or artist? Or are you always going with your own vision?
Steadman Kondor: I cant say anything comes to mind miss rosca, but i do visit galleries a lot, especially when i am on holidays. The japanese prints really inspired me too - their simplicity. William Blake perhaps is an influence as well--noting that he is a poet as well as illustrator/artist.Steadman Kondor: miss bulmer?
Glorf Bulmer: How important do you consider the uniquecreative possibilities of SL itslef? The abilitiy to construct settings in a way which is, as they say, Not Possible in RL?
Steadman Kondor: well I have some art of gargoyles.. lol. And also in the Unreal Avatar series, you see the one of the Mayor and Miss rosca. My goal is to explore the boundaries of real/unreal with the avatars, to balance the humanity and character of the avatar, with the fact that it is an illusio (the mesh lines). Certainly with avatar design, you can transcend what's possible in RL
Tali Rosca doesn't really need to be in wireframe to be not-possible-in-RL :-)
Steadman Kondor: It is possible i do more 3d types of art in the future. Stay tuned to this space :)
Glorf Bulmer nods: "one of the things that always interested me about SL art was the big installation builds, wehre you are *inside* the artwork and can interact with the artists imagination... internally, as it werer."
Steadman Kondor: Yes, that kind of art inspires me too. I enjoy machinima, but i tend to enjoy the stills, and the big installation builds more, as a general, but also there is the philosophy that less is more. Sometimes with just a few elements, you can suggest an entire world and culture. Just like with a poem, you can suggest an entire universe, and it's all in the viewer's mind! You do all the wonderful / hard work.
Tali Rosca: Yet your pictures seem to be fairly "complete". Not fragments the viewer then have to reconstruct and interpret.
Steadman Kondor: Perhaps, but your completion of the world may be different to mine, or others?
Glorf Bulmer: But, to some extent, the viewer's interpretive mind is always a factor - Jorge Luis Borges used to say that the reader was just as important as the writer....
Steadman Kondor: but i'm glad you find them so. Or roland barthes = the author is dead. But hehe i'm not dead yet!
Rhianon Jameson: Mr. Borges was a smart cookie.

Steadman Kondor: any more questions?
Tali Rosca: Given that I have seen the avatar Mr. Kondor wore for a recent shoot, I am not so sure...
Steadman Kondor: oh.. zombie grandma... would anyone like to see zombie grandma?
Steadman Kondor: it's something more recent i've worked on - a bit more gruesome. My favourite commentary on this is, "I made the doily"
Tali Rosca: Oh, I see you changed the pose!
Steadman Kondor: I'm interested to hear whether ppl see this as a depressing or uplifting picture...
Darlingmonster Ember: the cat lived.... uplifting
Steadman Kondor: i think i have a lot of feeling for the subject, it's been in my mind a long time. Sl allowed me to express it and say so much without a single word. The cat lived, but loves the owner so much, cant bear to feast on her
Glorf Bulmer recalls Robert Bloch....
Steadman Kondor: see also how the painting is lightly glowing - a photoshop effect, and also a separate prim which allows you to zoom in with more detail. The painting within the painting, I mean
Tali Rosca: That is actually a curious idea I'll have to work with now!
Steadman Kondor: The inclusion of the room corner is something I learned from Miss rosca for perspective
Tali Rosca: A smaller prim inside each version, so you can zoom deeper and deeper.
Steadman Kondor: There are many ways of exploring this technique. For the recent carnivale photo comp, i used it for the Seeres Tarot card as well, a recursive tarot image
Tali Rosca: It would also be fairly obvious to do in a 3D build.
Steadman Kondor: nods, but not obvious to the viewer
Tali Rosca: Though I guess people could easily get lost in the non-detailed parts of the space, then.
Steadman Kondor: I think we might be drawing to closing time soon. I want to say how much I appreciate all of you attending, and I hope you continue to enjoy some of my future exhibitions.

Baron Klaus Wulfenbach: Bitte, come next month at this time for SteamFurries! with Herr Blackberry Harvey.

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