I'm in the mood for something out of the ordinary, something historically captured and exceptional in detail.
My selection is made in Second Life’s destination guide. I arrive in a unique architecturally designed island with steampunk, fairy, antique and Roman influences. It is whimsical and stunning as the guide states. The textures are elegant and its main store is called The Curious Prim.
Walking up to the first exhibit on a marble floored display is Uncle Irvin Chatbot. The 41 prim stationary bot is so clever in his appearance. Grey Kurka needs to be recognized for his steampunk creativity. Uncle Irvin 's brain is encased in a covered tank floating in water, electrical-like pulses generating. His blinking eyes on each side of the square tank appear to look right at you. His body is formed from a steampunk typewriter with scrolled paper. It appears an adjustment knob is on the side of his propped up body. His legs are a three-legged tripod with wood grain. To the right is an old canvas bag and matching fedora. Nothing less than enchanting.
Off to the next exhibit I find "The Night Palace," a 230 prim, copy-modify build. You can teleport to the building to explore its multi-use structure. Grey's notecard informs me that it can be used as a residence, store or exhibition space. Its footprint is 50x50. All unique textures and sculpties are used throughout. It can be used for a role-play environment or an attention getter. Across from it is a Luxury Store which is designed as an elegant space to be used as a store or exhibition hall. It includes ceiling lights, urns with acanthus plants and a sculpty Venus statue. Only 138 prims with a 40x40 footprint. Front and center is a magnificent reproduction, the image of elegance, perfect for a musical recital. The white Harpsichord Princess has a French look to it. It is exhibited with a smaller model. Propped up in the center, you'll find the sheet music. Casting light to read the sheet music is a tall candelabrum. Love it.
I could not resist the lure of an air ship close by. A short flight and I touched down on its deck to cast my gaze across the sim.
Returning a day later I found more wonderful creations. A Green upholstered Regency couch and chair set, a dark wood gothic table with lighter wood top and benches, an ornate gilt mirror and portraits, a leather covered trunk. Everything is rich in textures, unique and beautiful. The content creator deserves an award in creativity.
I had to touch base with this man who has somehow reached into my dreams and created the fantasy world I desire. Grey Kurka is The Curious Prim's creator. The first incarnation of his store was at a charming corner lot in the Rue Dantibes shopping district. It was nestled next to Barnesworth Anubis and Cory Edo, two talented early Second Life creators. The store opened early in 2008 and after a year or two it was expanded to a larger parcel in the Otherland Continent which is now gone.
"I settled here in Mythopoeia in July of 2010, so all told I have been in business with the Curious Prim for nearly four years. I also started using the SL Marketplace from the beginning and that has been a great help," he told me.
Kurka didn't choose to work on any specific genre. He merely let his inspiration and sense of whimsy be his guide. His love of fantasy illustration led to his creation of "Fairypunk."
"That term sums up my love of fantasy and Techno-Baroque funk," Kurka explains. "Because Second Life tends to be composed of different role play communities it is easier for them to identify work that fits an intended environment. However as a designer, I feel free to let my imagination roam at will."
Kurka's ideas are generated from real life objects. He tries to avoid looking at how other 3D artists have solved a certain design question and prefers to study as many actual artifacts as possible. Then he lets his imagination and ability with technology work to their best advantage.
“My Manor House, for example, was inspired by a boathouse designed by an architect named Julia Morgan, but it was greatly modified,” he explained. “Most of my stuff has some antecedent in real life to give it a context, but is then made personal through reinterpretation.”
In terms of how long does it take from prim to texture to fine tuning, Kurka said that if his drawings are sound, and he has gathered decent reference photos, the actual construction phase moves along fairly quickly. For example, a chair takes two three hour sessions. He’ll make three prototypes for every final.
“However, the research, design, and animation creation can easily take three times as long, not to mention scripting and all the preparation for sales in world and on the web,” he mentioned. “So, from idea to actual display, a week or more.”
Kurka does not enter contests. He finds it’s a difficult fit for designers that create for commercial venues. He said the designers that role-play as fine artists in Second Life tend to have a culture of “monastic abstinence when it comes to selling their work, perhaps perceiving that it compromises the purity of intention.” However, real life galleries work on the assumption that the artist expects remuneration, and the average income of any designer in Second Life is basically on a token level as far real economies are concerned.
“To be fair, we are all illustrators in here, creating visual equivalents for our own fantasies and dreams,” he said. “When I first started working in Second Life, I used to visit a sim called Dreams. They have speed-builds and building contests. I had a lot of fun working with a talented group of creators and teachers, a great way to learn. I would suggest everybody should visit and get creating or just support their wonderful efforts.”
What does he find most rewarding?
“For me the true reward of finishing a new design is knowing that it enhances the immersive experience for someone and adds some visual interest into their play. It is the use of an object in a role that completes the intention and gives context to the work.”
Asked what he would love to create, he replied that he would like to see a feature where the hand of the artist could be used directly in Second Life. Having a simple set of "paint" tools, a brush, pencil, paintbucket, etc. would bring the studio into the grid in real time. Surface textures could be added to objects or artists could work directly creating 2D work on a virtual easel.
“For me the experience of doing a landscape painting from within Second Life would be so much fun.”