Tim Maley is a Western Australia artist with a developmental disability. He has shown his work locally in several exhibitions, and has experimented with a variety of art forms and mediums including drawing, painting and film producing.
I was asked to create a butterfly garden above the UWA campus in SL using some crayon drawings Tim made. The project was sponsored by DADAA/stARTSPEAK, as part of their sponsorship of the UWA Freedom Project. The project was unveiled to Tim and the sponsors on July 8. You can see great pictures of the rl occasion on the UWA blog.
The drawings seem childlike at first glance, but I grew to appreciate Tim’s sense of color and design. Each drawing is unique and interesting in its own way. As I invariably discover when I have time to really look at art and to live with it for while, my appreciation for its subtleties deepens. This certainly happened with Tim’s pictures.
I chose nine drawings to use in the garden, selecting for variety of color and also for adaptability to the various techniques commonly used in SL for making butterflies. Several of the drawings are quite asymmetrical, but that seemed not to matter very much in most cases. I took each drawing into Photoshop, aligned it along its central axis, and removed the paper background. In most cases I added a thin black outline around the edges to make them distinct.
There are several ways to make butterflies and I used three basic techniques, mixing them together to make as natural an overall environment as possible. The most common and easy method is using particle emitters. These are best for making lots of butterflies. But I had to experiment a bit so they would not be obviously blinking in and out from a central source. At first the garden wasn’t exactly brimming with butterflies, so I just kept adding more until it seemed rich without being ridiculously so.
At first I had the emitters target an approaching avatar. Unfortunately, when you target an agent it heads for the core of the body, i.e., the crotch area, which was weird and unrealistic. In order to randomize the target, in most of the emitters I set them to target a matching physical rendering of a butterfly. I created sculpted insect legs and body and a set of flexible wings onto which I placed Tim’s drawings. This object is scripted to fly in a random pattern around a given location in a pretty realistic motion. The nearby particle emitter targets the moving object.
The third type of butterfly uses what is called a “track”, which is simply a specially sculpted prim. A butterfly texture is placed on the track and the texture is rotated, which causes it to appear to move in a circle, but also to flap its wings as the texture follows the warp of the sculpt. I did not create the tracks, but purchased a full-perm set.
For the garden itself, I found a large floating “sky island” sculpt and landscaped it with a a few different environments, including a wildflower meadow, a small creek, a rocky area with eucalyptus trees, and forested area with a winding path. There is a gazebo at the landing area with a table and chair where you can sit and draw. On a whim I created a sculpture in the elevated rocky area consisting of a mechanical claw delicately supporting a large butterfly.