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Saturday, March 18, 2017

The School of WrenNoir: An in depth interview with SL Artist WrenNoir Cerise - Dean Lawson reporting



WrenNoir Cerise is a Second Life Artist who creates incredible images using her skills as a mesh designer and her exploration of Second Life. I had the good fortune to chat with WrenNoir and learn more about the process by which she creates her images.
Dean : Could you tell me about your artistic experience in Second and Real Life?
Wren : I entered SL reluctantly at the urging of a friend. The reluctance was not because I didn't think I'd like it, but rather I thought I'd like it too much.  When I eventually relented, I found my expectations to be justified and maybe even overly so. As a visual artist in RL -- I have a Master's in Art Therapy --  the beauty of this world captured me and I immediately wanted to capture it right back. I began by taking photos of my avatar and soon friends were asking for photos. Then businesses asked for photos for vendor images, eventually I was hired as a photographer for various SL magazines, and then on to exhibit at SL art galleries. Throughout, I found people were hungry to find out how to create better images, but received few answers as many talented photographers are busy honing their craft. In the Spring of 2013 together with Nariko Okawa, I started an SL photography school where we teach everything we know from how to use the SL tools, composition, lighting, and how to truly SEE. I don't see this as creating competitors, but rather as supporting future colleagues who will push me to always improve my own craft. You can find information about the school, Visionaire, here: www.visionaireSL.com

Dean : Could you tell me about your artistic influences in Second Life and Real Life?
Wren : I am not sure you have enough room here, Dean! There is such a huge number of creative people just in SL never mind RL. If you take a look at my Flickr stream, you will see that I follow over 500 people. But I will try to name a few for you since you asked. I love the work of Deborah Lombardo (https://www.flickr.com/photos/harborgalaxy/) she has the most amazing way of using color... and that's no easy! People get Ph.D.s in RL for color theory! It's hard! Needless to say, my work is nothing like hers but I hope to one day approximate it. I think pretty much everyone also loves Anouk Anna (https://www.flickr.com/photos/anoukanna/). She is incredible with crips clarity, lights, and shadows. A brilliant image maker. Nic Bour is another amazing image maker (https://www.flickr.com/photos/102433698@N06) who is a genius of the use of light, as is SL Senna (https://www.flickr.com/photos/65872974@N03/). I honestly could name so many more: Laura (Mrs. S), Magissa Denver, Isa Messioptra, Lil' Frenchie elo, Nimoe Constantine. Ah, I see a pattern now, the ones I truly admire are using the SL image-making tools to the utmost to showcase the beautiful lights and shadows and colors we can achieve.
As for RL, I love Vermeer, Chagall, Magritte, even Dali. But what influences my SL image-making is not painters, but photography from the fashion industry. I love being able to represent people/avatars in a way that just grabs a viewer.

Dean : I’m impressed by the use of texture and shadows in your images. Do you use an editing software such as Photoshop? If so could you elaborate on what software you use and what types of adjustments you make to your Second Life images?
Wren : Thank you. Shadows are completely done in SL and SL gives us tremendously beautiful shadows. People don't realize just how powerful the SL tools are for image making, and I think it might be hard to believe that I use exceptionally little post-processing software in my images; however, when I do, it's Photoshop all the way. Sometimes, I just get a bug and want to push playing around with Photoshop, so those image are well worked over. My favorite things are layers. I usually take many snapshots of exactly the same image but with different lighting conditions, I layer them, and then use masking techniques and layer modes, to combine the layers. Sometimes I overlay textures for extra oomph, and those are images that I pull from the internet making sure they have the proper rights. www.pixabay.com is a great source as is Flickr. People just need to be sure to respect the usage rights of the image creators.
Dean : The avatars featured in your images have great detail as do the clothes they are dressed in. Are there avatar and mesh clothes designers you would recommend to photographers who are starting out in Second Life?
Wren : Thank you again. Yes, it really is important to choose good work from SL creators because in the end that saves you from having to 'fix' things in post processing programs. Skins in SL are a big thing if you want to photograph avatars. A cheap skin can look flat and cartoonish, but a well-crafted skin can show off skin pores, moles, highlights, and look natural. Some of my favorite skin designers are Lara Hurley, League, The Skinnery, YS&YS, Atelier Pepe, DeeTaleZ, and the very artsy Kooqla. I am enjoying the introduction of mesh heads very much too. This saves you from once again 'fixing' the SL classic avatar from showing all the triangular planes. With mesh, the curves are really curves, rather than flat small planes arranged to look like a curve. As for the clothes, that is a completely mixed bag. Since mesh bodies came about I stick strictly with mesh clothes. Applied textures are still not crisp enough for me. You will will I have lots of stuff on the avatars' heads, those flowers are from Lode and LaGyo, while the jewerly is often from Mandala.

Dean : As detailed and compelling as some of your avatars are I also find your backgrounds very interesting, do you create your own backgrounds or do you find them by exploring different sims?
Wren : I do both, Dean. Sometimes I rezz trees and objects I own around the avatar, and other times I go to a sim and pose there. I adore SL. I really do. I will never use a flat, pre-photographed background because you just can't get a realistic depth to it, in my opinion. I came to SL for the promise of visually creativity (which it delivers in spades!) and want to utilize it as much as possible. When I can completely get away from post-processing I do!

Dean : Some of your images contain more than one avatar, do you collaborate with other SL artists?
Wren : It's always a pleasure to work with other people. The only criteria I require from them is patience! hehehe.  When you have more than one avatar, the time for the work doubles as one must adjust shadows, light, objects, and poses for both. 'Night Fishing for Mermaids' and 'When Venus Rises' were collaborations with Alles Klaar who is well-known for having multiple avatars in her work, and little Quintense also makes an appearance in 'When Venus Rises.' SL is a social platform after all!
Dean : You have a lot of positive reviews from students. How could someone contact you regarding lessons? Do you charge for lessons?
Wren : I do teach in SL. Myself and Nariko Okawa founded Visionaire which is an SL photography school. We realized that there was a real thirst for people to learn how to create better images. Many amazing photographers are so busy with creating images that they just don't have time to answer questions or teach, so we decided to carve out a bit of time to be able to do so. In the end, when everyone's work improves, we all benefit. We teach everything we know and hold nothing back. However, nobody is compared to anyone else. We all start at a certain point, and what we want is for people to improve from that point. Classes are intense, though. We meet for a minimum of 2 hours (usually 3), once a week for 10 weeks, then we have a break and a graduation exhibit. It requires real commitment on the students' part as well as our own. Yes, we do charge. My philosophy is that while there is real satisfaction in making a contribution (and I have volunteered in both SL and RL), this level of commitment shouldn't be cheapened. Payment actually insures that the student will stick with it and pay attention too. As Adriel Huntress, one of our graduates said: "[17:05]: ahh i had so much fun and learned so much! i met some fantastic people and got to know you more. I have walked away with not only a better understanding of photography and art but also some very lovely friendships :) I spend money all the time here in sl lol have regretted a lot of it lol but I would have paid double knowing now what I know about your class :) You have an amazing way about you and are so positive and supportive. You really are a fantastic person and have a wonderful skill at what you do :)"
If people are interested in learning more, they can go to www.VisionaireSL.com. They can send an e-mail to www.VisionaireSL@gmail.com or send me a NC if they have any questions or want to be put on an advisory list.  There is a new semester starting on April 23rd and we only teach 2 semesters per year (Spring and Fall).
Dean: Is there anything you would like people to know about you or your work?
Wren : I am super friendly and down to earth. I adore people who want to learn and it doesn't matter to me how far they are on their path. As long as they want to learn I have the greatest respect for them. As for my work, I just hope it resonates with people in some way and that it showcases the tremendous possibilities for beauty in Second Life.
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