PHOTOGRAPHY: An Interview with Lam Erin

I’ve known of Lam Erin’s art for about as long as I’ve known photography in Second Life exists. Every once in a while, I check back to his Flickr page to marvel at the landscapes that he captures. They are consistently clear and lifelike. His use of dark, bold colors like citrine, garnet and jade is like looking at semi-precious jewels arranged on a page. Because of Lam’s magical winterscapes, in appreciation for all he has done to inspire over the years, and possibly to introduce him to newer artists, we proudly present his art for December 2019! ~ Angela Thespian-Ireland

Angela: Hi Lam! Thank you again for being our FOCUS featured artist for December!
Our tradition is to start out the interview with a fun first question that helps us get to know you a bit better, so here it goes: If you could have lunch with anyone from history, who would that be?

Lam: Being Greek, I would say Aristotle, my favourite philosopher.

Angela: Ah! I didn’t know you were Greek. You have been a member of SL since 2008 and on Flickr since 2013. Did something happen in those first 5 years that inspired you to get involved in taking photos in SL? If not, what did?

Lam: I was taking photos even before creating my Flickr landscape account. Actually, I had a Flickr account since 2009 where I was posting some snapshots from my SL social and business life to share with friends. But it was nothing special. Curiously, though, being a SL photographer was one of my first jobs in SL. In 2007, I had a brief career as a photographer, making images for SL profiles. But I quickly abandoned it in favour of the other business projects.

What inspired me to get involved in photography again was my return to SL following a year’s absence in 2013. After that return I felt that I did not want to pursue new business ventures and that I would use SL, instead, only for fun. And taking photos in SL seemed at the time to be the fun thing to do. And that’s what I did!

Angela: I agree that SL should be for fun. What interests you about SL photography and particularly in landscapes? What inspires you? And are you an artist in RL?

Lam: I always liked visiting beautiful sims in SL. I was fascinated by the realism of the landscaping materials and tools, but also by the talent of SL landscapers and sim designers who created amazing artistic sims. I also noticed when I compared some SL edited and textured photos with RL equivalent that there were no big differences. With proper editing SL photos could look like real and even better than RL equivalents.

SL had also the advantage that it was allowing the photographer to manipulate the scene by moving landscape parts, derendering some blocking items etc. Such manipulation is not possible in RL landscapes. It can be done on Photoshop, but I was not very keen to use Photoshop manipulation (merge different landscaper images, etc.). I thought SL was perfect for creating great raw images where Photoshop enhancements would then be limited to adjusting colors or adding textures.

I am not an artist in RL, but I always had an eye for things. My friends used to tell me that I paid attention to details and had visions of things and scenes that others did not have. So, photography looked like a good platform to demonstrate these skills and visions.of working together.

Angela: Do you have any techniques or routines that you use when taking a photo?

Lam: I have no standard technique of routine except from the use of Photoshop. I approach any new landscape with open mind and I let the landscape guide my imagination. Over time, I developed some broad ways to shoot and edit, but these are not prescriptive. Sometimes I take dozens of shots of a sim before deciding to edit one of them. Some other times I take a few. Also, the editing process does not follow a specific order, is not simple and not always successful. The aim is to try to capture the details and mood of my imaginative scene and this is not always easy to achieve. I have a big number of incomplete images. I only post an image if I really think that it depicts my vision.

Some prominent features of my work include the yellow/gold as a prominent color in spring/summer landscapes. This is inspired from Mediterranean (where I come from) summer sky and landscape colors where the shining sun often combines with dust and creates a yellow horizon effect. I have created a windlight for this.

The other prominent feature is the cloudy sky. This was the result of me not being satisfied with SL sky options. So, I decided to create my own sky on Photoshop as it is very important for the atmosphere and mood in the landscape images. People also use to tell me that they love my monochrome winter pictures: the cream/sepia tones.

Angela: Yes, I do too and we’ll be showing many of those in this winter issue. How do you find sims to photograph? Do you have any favorites?

Lam: Usually I find them from Flickr or from people sending me LMs of new sims. I have many favourites and they are all exhibited in my Flickr.

Angela: Please tell us a little about your store on Marketplace? How did it come about?

Lam: It was a period between 2017-2018 when my partner and I decided to try again some business project. We like vintage fashion and accessories and decided to give it a go. It worked very well, but RL work requirements for both of us forced us to have to choose between SL and RL work. We chose RL work and decided to scale back our SL business involvement, which was also very demanding. But we hope to come back at some point.

Angela: What’s something that a lot of people are missing out on because they don’t know this about you?

Lam: I do not know. I guess some of the things I do in RL where my life is in some aspects different than in SL. But I do not and cannot copy aspects of RL Lam’s life in SL and vice versa. Conditions are different, although my persona remains the same.

Angela: Lastly, how has TSFTG (Too Sexy for This Group) affected your SL?

Lam: I was invited to join very recently (I think 2-3 months ago), but I can say that I have seen there a lot of activity and membership by some of my favourite Flickr artists so I keep following announcements of events and other news. It is definitely a very vibrant community and I am happy to be part of it!

Angela: Thank you so much! We definitely are a very vibrant community and growing so quickly. And thank you for your time, answering these questions. I hope that our readers are inspired to check out both of your Flickr pages: your Lifestyle page as well as your Landscapes page. It’s artists like you who take the time to share and continue to open our eyes to more possibilities in SL art!

FOCUS & TSFTG’S Monthly Photo Contest

THEME FOR April 2020:
Landscapes!

The Fine Print

  1. You must enter your photos to our flickr group:
    https://www.flickr.com/groups/tsftg
    AND send a copy to Angelathespian in world
  2. Please name your picture “FOCUS Monthly Photo Contest”
  3. Images must fit the theme
  4. Only ONE image per person
  5. Images can be taken at any time, anywhere in SL
  6. Tasteful nudity or erotic is fine, but no full-frontal nudity, porn or violence.
  7. Images must be submitted by midnight the night before the event.
  8. Only approved images will be included in the challenge

MEMBERSHIP: Focus on MADD Modelz

Founded in April 2018, MADD Modelz is a group of some of the strongest, most dedicated and multi-talented professionals in the SL fashion industry on the grid. They share one mission: to “create moments in SL that make people smile.” With this mission in mind, on November 2nd they celebrated the grand opening of Modelz College where they will be sharing their combined experience and eclectic, honed knowledge of the fashion industry and beyond with anyone who wants to get the utmost out of their Second Life. Classes range from fashion to blogging and advanced PhotoShop skills. Patrick and I invited them to FOCUS to talk about their exciting new path!

Patrick: Thank you, ladies, for meeting with us and so early in the morning! I have my coffee in hand, so if you’re ready let’s dive right in. I’d like to direction this question to all three of you. How did you get involved in second life?

Adriel: I discovered it through friends I went to university with. When she moved away, we used it to stay in touch and I loved it! So 10 years later I’m still here. I get bored easily so I love that I can choose to do something new on a moment’s notice in SL. I think that freedom is why I stick around.

Chey: I came to SL originally for Gorean RP and then I started designing clothes, which kept me busy. And then I began modeling. And now I stay because Jess threatens me with my life. 🙂 I’m just kidding. I stay because I have lots of friends and I love my modeling and my blogging.

RedJess: I came here about 2011 when my late husband was working in Guam. A local friend suggested it because she knew I was social and home with a young child. My friend said “Oh I’ve got something for you!” Then, within 2 hours of logging in, I no longer looked like a noob because I met people and someone said I looked like a model and directed me to Costa Rica sims modeling academy and I never looked back. That’s how I got involved in the SL fashion industry.

Patrick: What are your goals in Second Life? What is it that you want to accomplish?

Chey: I find that some people can be a bit headstrong in SL and they don’t want to share what they know with others. My personal goal is to share everything I know about modeling, blogging or building – really anything I know and have learned. And that kind of goes with the goal of MADD Modelz. We want to give people a place where they can learn somewhat at their own pace and they’re not going to be limited to what people do and do not want to share. They’re going to get all of the relevant and up-to-date information we have to offer. There are so many people with lots of different things they are good at and we will combine all that knowledge into one place where others can come and learn.

RedJess: You know, Adriel and I don’t even have to say anything. Chey just answered it for us.

Chey: You’re welcome. LOL

Adriel: I just want to add that everyone comes to SL for a reason. It’s our little escape from the day-to-day of real life. So, my hope is that we are all more supportive of each other rather than separate from each other. I see it especially so much in the modeling world that there are cliques – cliques based on where you’re born, what country you’re from and who you know. I’d love to erase those lines so we are all supporting one another rather than working against each other.

RedJess: I agree. The cliques are quite established. And, let’s be real: we’re not going to be able to erase them. But that doesn’t mean we won’t try! We want people to feel accepted at MADD Modelz. We want to be trailblazers of a different path. We all came into fashion in different ways and different modeling schools, and we’ve all grown into our own niche. Like, Adriel is a creator and Chey is a serious blogger. I am very much into production and teaching MADD Modelz is very much about pulling all of these different talents together and sharing the wealth. And most of all, MADD is about having fun and making SL better for everyone who joins us.

Patrick: A big part of FOCUS, obviously, is photography and for me, that is my artistic outlet. Each of you have artistic outlets as well, like blogging and creating. Can you tell me what draws you to those particular interests and what you love about them?

Chey: Well, when I first started blogging, I followed a lot of bloggers on places like Facebook and I kept seeing comments from people asking “where is that hair from?” or “where are those shoes from?” and I’d say probably 80% of bloggers don’t credit that stuff. They’ll wear a top and pants and that’s all they credit. They give no information about what else is happening in a picture and that would drive me crazy. I am one of those people who would go searching for those things. So, there aren’t a lot of descriptive bloggers and when I started blogging, I knew I’d be one of them. I don’t just post a picture and give credit. I talk about what I’m wearing.

Adriel: For me, I tend to get bored easily so I love to have opportunities to create new things. I also came from modelling and I noticed that a lot of models take the safe route, and I didn’t want to. I wanted to be different and I wanted to stand out so I started to make my own clothes and my own accessories. I could get as freaky as I wanted to. Then people started to ask me “Hey, can you make me this or that” and eventually it turned into my store, Prey. I never liked to see people wear things straight from a box so a lot of my items had different parts that people could choose from and make their outfit unique. But Prey had to go on the back burner due to real life for a while but there just might be something coming in the future.

RedJess: Well, you know I am a recent graduate of Visionaire photography school, and Adriel was a graduate long before me. I really think that Visionaire is the best L$20k I have spent in SL. I highly recommend it. It’s been wonderful to have photography as my SL artistic outlet, especially when RL gets in the way of my RL artistic outlet of sculpture.

Patrick: Please tell me about the MADD Modelz Infohub, what it is and what your hope is to accomplish with it?

RedJess: Our infohub is our latest “brain child.” It’s a way to be a source of information for people and to offer learning opportunities not just from MADD but from other’s events as well. If someone has an event in the fashion industry, just contact Adriel and let her know and we will put it on our universal calendar so we can all plan our events so that they don’t coincide with one another. Also, we will have direct teleporters to events like fashion events, hunts, shopping events and more at the Infohub. And all for free! We have a good amount of traffic at our Infohub as it is, and we hope that more people will become involved and use the calendar as a resource. As a continuation of the infohub, we are also developing our idea for a school of our own that I really think will take off in the new year. We will of course have people teaching classes about modelling, but we will also offer other helpful courses like photoshop and blogging essentials. And there is no defined course path. Everyone can choose whatever classes appeal to them and choose their own path based on their interests. We are dedicated to being an ALL inclusive school – open to anyone from any walk of life who genuinely want to learn. And we’re looking forward to learning more ourselves from this experience.

We’re having a grand opening for the school on November 2nd and classes begin in January. We hope that as many people as possible attend the grand opening to see what we’re all about.

Patrick: Thank you all so much for this interview. You all – including the rest of your team – are good friends to FOCUS and Too Sexy for this Group. Can you tell us how being a part of TSFTG has affected your SL?

Chey: For me, TSFTG has connected me with a lot of new people who share a love of photography as I do. I used to be one of those who just snapped a picture in-world and then photoshopped the hell out of it for hours if not days and called myself a photographer. When I started blogging and got into chatting with others from TSFTG it helped me take more pride in the actual “photography” of SecondLife. Anyone can learn to manipulate photoshop, but being able to share and learn from others about what true photography is, manipulating those windlights, angles, focal points etc. That’s what makes a person a photographer. Photoshop isn’t photography, hence why it’s called an “editing program.” TSFTG has opened the door to so many photographers to come together and grow, share and truly enjoy a common interest.

RedJess: TSFTG is a group that we stumbled across and since we stumbled, it’s been nothing but a great experience. We have met new friends, expanded our circle, and included more into our Madd family, and overall, it’s just a fantastic and evolution of the new SL members. We welcome all! Thank you, TSFTG for EVERYTHING you do for the creative people in sl! We love you for it!

Patrick: Please don’t miss visiting the MADD college, and I look forward to taking a few classes at MADD College beginning in January!

Feature Article: Burn2 – Burning Man in SL

If you’ve never been to Burning Man in RL, and you don’t see yourself traveling to the playa in Nevada any time soon, you can find the next best thing in SL!

It’s called Burn2.

This time around, Patrick and I were very fortunate to be invited by Lee Olsen to share his plot to exhibit and display Patrick’s surrealist art. Without much of a plan, we began to build a monstrous maze that evolved from some research about the principles of Burning Man, and some suggestions from friends. In the end, truly almost like magic, we ended up with an amazing build that embodied the theme of this year’s Burn2 which was “Metamorphoses.”

I have to say that during our experience displaying art at Burn2, surrounded by people who truly take the meaning and message of Burning Man into their hearts, both Patrick and I felt a connection to everyone there and a common purpose: to share, to give and to be our true selves as wildly as we wanted to be while maintaining respect for others.

In fact, there are 10 principles that are followed precisely. A few of them are “radical self-expression,” “radical inclusion” and “radical self-reliance.” By the use of the word “radical” they mean not just a little bit. They mean include EVERYONE. No matter the differences that sometimes keep people apart. Another principle is “Immediacy” which I understand as living in the absolute NOW – not over-thinking what people may say in response to our art, not limiting ourselves to standards for fear of being considered brazen. This is truly an event where people are encouraged – and even expected – to be as weird as you want to be! It is the manifestation of the words the poet, Rumi, when he wrote “Don’t you know Yet? It is your light that lights the World.” It’s not just my light or your light. It is the communal light we produce that lights the world. The light that so many of us are hesitant to uncover. When immediacy is added to the mix, there is no time to be anything but happy, and free – in a radical way.

There are long-time burners there that keep the noobs from breaking the rules like ‘Decommodification” which is a great big SAT word that means no commercialization, no selling things – taking the monetization and consumption right out of the picture. Alternatively, gift-giving is encouraged. A gift is a gift. There is no commerce exchange. A gift is given and hopefully accepted with the intended effect of creating more happiness.

Lastly, there is a burning down of the art installments. Patrick was not at all a fan. It was a fun period of time where people enjoyed the gifts we had to give, and we actively enjoyed the gifts of others. And to destroy it seemed like the destruction of all that effort to him. But one of the principles is “leave no trace.” Our fun was had, but when it was time to move on, we had our memories and peace in the knowledge that next year, we will build something just as fun again. However, we DO have pictures to remember it all by, kindly taken by Radioactive Rosca. Here is a link to his album. BURN ON!

Feature Article: Who is Alaia Fashionable for Men?

Alaia Fashionable was born on Flickr as a group for bloggers, photography lovers and enthusiasts. Men’s Fashion was born out of necessity. Guys love to look good too. One’s physical appearance in Second Life is like a business card, just as it is in Real Life. The care you take in creating and dressing your avatar is another’s first glimpse of who you are on the inside. The problem is that men’s fashion tends to suffer as women’s fashion takes center stage in Second Life.

Cynthia Lenoir is a young woman who loves fashion so much she made it her work in Real Life as well as a make up artist. In SL, she studied successfully at the My Light Fashion Academy, and from that experience a beautiful and fruitful collaboration was born. Alaia has grown to include 15 Models, 2 Assistants, Managers and Administrators of all respects, 2 Machinima, 2 DJ’s, and 2 fantastic choreographers.

Cythnia is full of dreams about the future of Alaia, and she continues to dream happily, about combining Art and Fashion into perfect harmony. She couldn’t have enjoyed as much success without her talented family and associates.

Cynthia Lenoir
Cynthia Lenoir

Caesar Langer ƛƦƖƧƬƠƇƦƛƬ’s life in SL has been a quite long journey. He came to SL because people were speaking about the experimental character of virtual creations, like visual arts and architecture, allowing one to build and create simulating RL situations as well as fictional ones. When he first joined, he wasn’t sure what to expect but he knew he wanted to have some kind of relaxing occupation. He accidentally casted for a magazine and won a spot in the model crew. After that, he found himself more involved as a stylist and that is what he still does now. He’s trying develop skills in photography, and thanks to the fashion industry, met his husband.

Sαian ƛƦƖƧƬƠƇƦƛƬ Langer didn’t plan to be a model. Then one day he did a casting for the fun of it and was hired. Step by step, he met amazing people and grew as model. His husband, Caesar, was crowned Mr Virtual World 2015 and encouraged Saian to try a contest as well. He entered MR SL contest and was crowned MR SL 2016. Since then he has worked a lot shows and was very involved in the Miss SL organization. He has recently joined Alaia as a collaborator.

Kaid Hawker is a designer and founder of Hawker’s House stores. When he first began designing, he knew nothing of GIMP or Photoshop, or designing in Second Life. He just knew he had a love of fashion, color, and fabric, and designing seemed to be a passion. It gave his creative mind an outlet and a focus in SL. His goal with Hawker’s house was to make everyday clothing that was affordable for the majority of SL residents. He recently completed modeling classes to get a better idea of designing from a model’s perspective.

Joy$ Cuttita likes the idea of an agency aimed at the male audience. She feels that here in SL, fashion in general is aimed at women and she was struck by the idea of concentrating on men’s fashion.

John Noone is the Director of Museum Island, a museum of that began 10 years ago with an idea by Carlolello Zapatero who built a beautiful collection of some of the most awesome monuments of Mediterrean Area and Middle East. To keep the museum relevant, they host SL artists and special events. Last, but not least, they support 2lei which is dedicated to the great issue of violence against women. Their friendship with Alaia will create a connection between art and fashion, because fashion is culture and art, after all.

HaRLeY NooNe is an Administrator and Assistant to Alaia Fashionable for Men, and proudly says she is very busy but loves it as the Fashion Agency is still new. She is also CEO of Museum Island, sharing the goal that it be an inspiration for people, encouraging them to discover more either in second or real life, and a place to learn, to have fun, and to socialize.

Raquel Wild started with a market stall in Manchester, England and paid her own way through a Fashion and Design degree in London. She is a buyer and marketing
consultant. For her, SL is a fascinating world of fast fashion and exciting designers where she can relax, play and create. In RL, Cynthia came to see her finals show and they have worked together for some of their most creative projects. In SL, they love to work with each other and it is part of the creative spark that is Alaia.

Luka Benton is a professional model, stylist, blogger, and photographer in Second Life. He began his modeling career, after graduating from Furelle Academy. Since then, he’s appeared on the catwalk and taken photos for several agencies, organizations, and publications. He also takes part in theatrical productions, doing fashion theatre, musicals and rock shows as an avi look-alike.

Feature Article: Alaia Fashionable for Men

Beginning on November 2nd at 1:00 pm SLT, Alaia Fashionable for Men will be holding the first of three exciting contests featuring 4 male model finalists who will compete to win a educational course for models at the My Light Fashion Academy. The first event will formally present the challengers, and they will be choosing their own fashion for the runway. The first theme of the evening is “Represent yourself” and the second is “50’s Rockabillies.”

Lichi Moonwall, one of the best known DJ’s in SL, will be emceeing the event.

There are two more events for the competition on November 9th and 16th – both also beginning at 1:00 pm SLT. These events will be a spectacular – and incredibly rare – opportunity for men who are fashion conscious in SL to see what clothes and stores the professional male models choose from. There are so few stores for men, and even fewer male models. Any man who cares how about his avatar’s appearance will want to attend!

Lastly, on November 30th Alaia Fashionable for Men is holding a Fall/Winter fashion show. This event will feature Alaia’s seasoned models as well as feature the winner of the first three competitions of the month. Then event will also at at 1:00pm SLT, which is a bit early for Americans – as many of the models, coordinators and attendees are European. However, it will be held on Saturday so hopefully the event will have an international attendance.

If you’d like more information about the events or about Alaia Style and Men’s Fashion, the best Models and trends for the refined and elegant Avatars in Second Life, please contact Cynthia Lenoir, Owner of Alaia Fashionable Agency for Men and Co-Owner of MyLight Fashion Agency. See you there!

PHOTOGRAPHY: An Interview with Jos Yohkoh and Nikki Herron

Once in a great while, you meet a person that has such a bright light that is truly beautiful, and you are attracted to this light for it’s inspiration and brilliance. Then you meet their significant other and this person, too, is like a breath of fresh air. Together, both Jos and Nikki Herron-Yohkoh, create incredibly creative art. Both are an inspiration to me personally, and I couldn’t be more honored to have them as our featured artists for November’s FOCUS!

Patrick: Just so we can get to know you a little better, as is our tradition at FOCUS, let’s begin with fun icebreaker: Tell us about one thing that at first bothered you about the other, but now you can’t get enough of that part of their personality! Nikki why don’t you begin and share what that might be about Jos.

Nikki: Thank you for having us Patrick! Well, this question is easy! It’s his ability to read me like a book. He seems to know almost everything without me having said a thing! Not that is a bad thing, mind you. We often say we were lost soulmates because I don’t often have to explain – he just gets it. He knows! I remember once asking – and even found myself looking around – “Do you have a camera somewhere, Jos?” I admit it bothered me at first, but now, I love that I can stop mid-sentence and he knows how I am feeling or what I want to say.

Patrick: Jos, now it’s your turn.

Jos: First, I want to express my gratitude towards the whole FOCUS team for inviting us both this month as your featured artists.

We learned during our time together as a couple in RL and a team in SL, that we both have personalities with a strong tendency to focus and get caught in what we are doing. At first, I have to admit, it was difficult for me to grasp this dedication Nikki has since it resulted often in me chatting away and getting no answer back. Now, we laugh about it. Nikki dedicates her heart and soul to her works and yes, this is one of her many admirable qualities that I respect and appreciate.

Patrick: Where does much of your inspiration come from, and – knowing you both share in most of your photography – does sharing challenge you to be stronger artists?

Nikki: For me, I am very much a romantic and sensual person. I also love to show my emotion –which can lead to some more dramatic pieces from time to time. It all depends on how I am feeling in the moment. Some- times, something will come to me whilst away from the computer and I ache to get back there to create what is in my mind. Other times I can be somewhere in SL and think, “I see a picture here.”

Jos is very inspiring and supportive to me here. We are both each others critiques as well as support and will sometimes make suggestions.

Jos: Most of my works are born out of little moments or a “flash” idea that pops-up, fueled by a certain circumstance. This doesn’t guarantee that my idea will materialize since I tend to change whilst building. I reckon one can call this self-inspiring? One idea triggers another.

As Nikki is more the story telling part of us in her emotionally driven-scenery and portraits, I go for another edge. I work with symbolism, puzzles and unusual ways of colouring and WL settings. Often, I try to dare the viewers to see beyond what I seem to present at first sight. My art tends to be a bit quirky. I like to explore my ability to express emotion through an image powerfully enough to incite a response.

Nikki and I share our raw works with one another – often several versions – and ask each other to comment on it and discuss opinions. We also can learn and improve ourselves by observing each other and discuss works from other artists.

Patrick: I know, Jos, you use a lot of music and poems in your presentation. Tell us a little about that process and how your themes and ideas are influenced by other artistic mediums.

Jos: Yes. The combination of image and sound (i.e. music and lyrics) completes the image. For me, it changes an apparently self-contained image into a composition. As if one is linking prims to build something in SL! In this way music and their lyrics combined with a strong, emotion-driven poem, related to the subject and/or the message I want to send, takes a picture from a prelude to a suite, as in classical music.

Patrick: Nikki, you are so beautiful in each of your compositions. What artists have given you inspiration?

Nikki: Thank you! Music is very inspiring to me and definitely affects my mood. How I am feeling in the moment will almost always come through in my work. I am very diverse with my tastes although I think I annoy Jos that I don’t really know many early 70’s musicians. I am an 80’s gal! That was my wild time. So, to really answer your question, I like anything from Indie to pop and moody love songs to rock. It is more the words I am listening to in a song. I could be listening and think “OMG, this is exactly what I am trying to bring through in my work!” Then I will add the song in hope that people will “get it” a bit more.

Patrick: In your work, what excites you about the creative process the most?

Nikki: Truthfully, I hate setting up for a shoot whereas I know Jos loves that part of it. You are more likely going to find me wandering SL sims than Jos. I absolutely love playing with windlight and rely on that to do most of my work. I love post editing. That is the most appealing part to me. I like to call it “tidying up.”

Jos: Nikki is so right here; I LOVE setting up scenes. You will not find me wandering around in SL with the intention of posing unless we are together. And let us not forget the fact that being able to share our work with others is inspiring. What is a painter without an audience? Or a poet without public?

Patrick: So many of us enjoy seeing your pictures as a couple. How do you come up with your ideas when working together?

Nikki: When we are taking pictures together, we both snap away madly. I love poses that mimic RL. We do have to put a lot of edit time into our poses because, as most are aware, poses are not a one size fits all. We’ve invested in editing tools for poses which are very worthwhile. We have our own ideas but we are very much a team. Jos is definitely the more experimental one and will use settings leaving me wondering “what will he do with that?” We have a rule now: not to publish the same picture of the same angle or windlight. We both grew into our own with how our pictures are presented anyway, so we’re not likely to take the same shot.

Jos: Nikki and I definitely differ in how to approach a shot as it comes to angles and WL settings. We avoid publishing the same works but if we can combine in a more funny way, we do. A good example of this is linking to each other’s work to complete a story, where one can see Nikki waving in the distance in one picture and then see Jos from Nikki’s point of view in linked work.

Working together is about communicating constantly about ideas and how to present. It may be also that sometimes we “borrow” Nikki or Jos to complete an idea when the other is not available due to our difference in time zone, as we do have a huge ocean in between us. But often, Nikki poses while I am the one with the camera or the other way around. We seem to have reached a perfect co-operation in this. It even stretches to “you pose and sort inventory” events. But this is also part of the fun of working together.

Patrick: Do either of you have a background in art or photography?

Nikki: I am pretty much self-taught but I think I have always had an artistic side. Back in 2008, I opened up an SL business designing classic clothes (no mesh then) and everything was hand drawn, shaded and detailed. It was a successful little business for the time but more of a hobby for me and the delight I got from seeing my work on another person was such a nice feeling.

When Jos and I reconnected we were just taking everyday snapshots and popping them into an album on Facebook for us to share with only each other. I recalled Flickr, having used this as a platform years ago to blog my clothing designs and suggested to Jos that we should place them there. So with a big burst of enthusiasm we threw everything and anything of our SL adventures there. It was definitely more about the “Adventures of Jos and Nikki in SL” and were basically many double ups from each others view. We quickly learned not to flood poor Flickr and to put more effort into presenting our works. Then it became a matter of pride and effort. As in my business I had, the delight I feel knowing somebody has viewed my picture and enjoyed, smiled or even added to their favorites is such a nice feeling.

Jos: During my high school period I had the possibility to choose two extra subjects to complete my study and one of them was History of Art. I enjoyed that so much! So, I am a bit familiar with some techniques (theoretically) perhaps, using some here and there at my convenience. Also, I was raised playing the accordion, the grand piano and other instruments with keys to hammer on. So I’m sure all that is influencing my works in the background.

Patrick: What advice would you give a new artist?

Nikki: Don’t be afraid to take many, many pictures of the one scene! I will usually take much more than needed and of course only one will make it but I have been thankful I did as something may not be captured correctly and you may never get that exact moment back.

And practice! It’s all about fun and practice. Once you have learned the basics, you can go on to learn the basics of editing.

Lastly, make a story. People love to see a story in a picture but be aware of the windlights as some can be enhancing or devastating to your composition.

Jos: Keep in mind that art is not a competition. Never be afraid to publish the hard work you completed with the fear it would look “of lesser importance” compared to what already is posted in Flickr groups. It is YOUR picture, YOUR idea, YOUR share with the world. And you deserve respect and admiration. There are no rules. There is no law dictating how the perfect picture should look like. All your work is a gem!

Then let the inspiration flow. Open your eyes and ears and start to discover several ways of presenting. Experiment and learn how one approach can result in different outcomes. And remember to keep notes on how you achieved photos you particularly like.

Patrick: Lastly, how has Too Sexy for This Group (TSFTG) influenced you?

Nikki: The artists in the group are very inspiring indeed. Sadly, due to my timezone I haven’t had the chance to meet many but have had the opportunities to of course admire the works. Your in-world gallery is something for every artist to feel proud of being involved in as one is alongside some of the best. I would love to do a collaboration with someone from the group. I feel it would be refreshing for Jos and I to do something new with somebody for the experience and to perhaps see something from a different view.

Jos: Yes! I’ve met some artists out of the group and discovered their drive and went to see how their works contain and express their passions. Practically on a daily basis, I open up the group and view every last work till the picture appears that I already have seen. There are artists I can tell are on the “same frequency” as me. They might even work like I do and that makes it even more interesting. There was a day I was honored to have a look at your side, Patrick. You were in the midst of creating and that was super inspiring. Perhaps it is an idea to have some “open moments” at a stage of
creating work, where a group member invites interested friends to the scene whilst busy doing it. In my case, this would be a platform for example. Thus sharing “a way” not “THE way, of working.”

Patrick: I’m again, so honored to have this time to get to know you more personally as artists and a loving couple who both share their passions for creative digital art with so many around the world! You are both so inspiring to me, and I continue to grow and get better in my craft from enjoying your gifts!

Nikki: Thank you so very much Patrick! It’s very much an honor for us to be involved in your magazine. We do feel quite proud that we have been
asked and thank you very much for the opportunity.

Jos: Yes! I agree with what Nikki is saying here and it works both ways. We all are inspiring each other and isn’t it sheer fun? We do hope our future works will be appreciated and seen as a source to inspire. Furthermore, I thank the team of Focus for providing us both the platform to communicate with you all and for inviting us to talk a little bit about ourselves.

Ok, in Dutch then, for just one little second, on behalf of us both: Dank jullie wel voor alles!

FOCUS Magazine – From the Editor, November 2019 Issue

Editor's Note by Angela Thespian, April 2019 Issue

Letter from the Editor

It’s another amazing issue! First and foremost, we are still reeling from our incredible October. I can’t shout it loud enough that we had the goal of L$50k and we felt a little nervous about meeting that goal and then because of the gracious and amazing people in this group, we doubled it!

This month we feature the work of Nikki and Jos Herron-Yohkoh. I have to say that I’ve always enjoyed their art but only now that I have stopped to really look at it from an editor’s perspective do I see how sophisticated and emotionally expressive their art really is. They are a fun couple in timezones that, without SL, it would have been unlikely for Patrick and I to have ever had the pleasure of getting to know.

Next, FOCUS highlights two big upcoming events. One is Alaia’s men’s fashion competition that begins on November 2nd and continues through the month, culminating with a giant fashion show on November 30th. The other is MADD Modelz’ debut of their MADD College, with a grand opening on November 2nd too. It’s a big month for SL fashion! There is also a short story from our group’s friend, CybeleMoon. I recommend not missing it!

Please enjoy.

Angela Thespian

PHOTOGRAPHY: An Interview with Brique Topaz, Chairwoman of Feed a Smile

“Whatever can be done to make life worth living for others will make your life even more worth living by helping.”
– Brique Topaz

Lavender Fields

Angela: Thank you for joining us for this interview in our October Awareness issue, Brique! I’m so excited to ask you a few questions and help our group and other readers get to know you better! My first question is what inspired you to begin with
Feed a Smile?

Brique: As the RL chairwoman of Live and Learn in Kenya International, I am always looking for ways to raise funds for the cause. Besides providing everything that nearly 500 desolately poor children need to go to school, we also provide meals for them 6 days a week. Feed a Smile is a fun, enjoyable and entertaining way to do this – giving the children a reason to smile as well as the Second Life residents who come to the events – and as I always hear from the performers – a joy to be able to really help poor children in a realistic way by doing what they love to do.

Angela: When did you realize SL would be a good vehicle for fundraising?

Brique: I actually joined SL to become a member of Nonprofit Commons. It proved to be a fabulous and well-known platform for charity organizations. After being a member for some months I got the idea to open my SL home to the public for concerts. That led to being given the use of a sim, which was the beginning of the Lavender Field – nearly 10 years ago. Sadly, the sim owner left SL and we were forced to rent a sim. We cut down to ½ a sim to save money. Most of the monthly tier is being donated by a very generous person. The rest is donated directly at the Lavender Field in a donation box designated for the tier. We are able to provide hundreds of meals through Feed a Smile every month. We also give out our donation boards to shops, stores, private people for their parties and venues. They are attractive boards in 3 sizes and people really like having them. Anyone could contact me about having one.

Angela: How do you maintain hope in the face of the impoverished slums, dangerous gangs and crime in Nakuru?

Brique: Where people are forced to live in poverty, there will always be crime. That is just a fact of life – and one that needs to be politically faced, questioned and solved. There is enough to go around for every man, woman and child on this beautiful planet of ours – if only there wasn’t so much greed. Nearly 20 years ago, when I founded Live and Learn in Kenya Int’l, I decided to leave my mark in this world with the possibility for people to pass it forward from generation to generation. What better way is there than through eduation? Knowledge is power. When you know what it’s like to have lived in poverty you use your knowledge to make sure that – at least – your own children will not have to experience it. Our motto is “Education is the Key to the Future.”

Angela: Lastly, I think we’d all like to know what does it feel like when you go to Nakuru and see these heathy kids, knowing you are helping them have a better life?

Brique: When I am preparing to go to Kenya – I take a large group of up to 30 volunteers with me every year – I am too busy to be very excited about the trip. There is so much to organize. I don’t especially like flying – it’s so uncomfortable and the flight is so long… But when our van pulls up. The the Live and Learn in Kenya Education Center and I see all of “my” children waiting for me – I jump out of the van at the front gate and run to to them while they cry out MAMA BRIQUE, MAMA BRIQUE and nearly knock me down. Then I know why I work an average of 8 hours a day, 365 days a year for them! It is a joy to watch them grow. We have several “children” that I guided up the educational path from kindergarten to a university degree. During an annual visit we had a group of doctors come for check-ups. After all of the children had been checked, I asked the head doctor if there was anything else that we could do – healthwise – for the children. His answer was “Mama Brique, I have never seen such healthy slum children in my entire career as a doctor”. It’s a good feeling.

One thing that I would like to make very clear is that everyone at Live and Learn in Kenya International – except for the Kenyan staff who need to live from their work (teachers, for example) are volunteers and receive no money whatsoever. Myself included. In fact most of the members donate a good amount of funds every year to keep things going and to sponsor children.

If you want to see a nice replica of the school, please visit Lavender Fields. We are now raising funds to build the kindergarten classrooms – in RL. Our website in English is: http://llk-selb.de/?lang=en and in German: www.llk-selb.de.