For all the WoW players who sink into Azeroth to escape the travails of the world outside are others who seem set ablaze by the ideas, energy and connections sparked during their gaming. Among the inspired: Aislinana of Cenarion Circle, whose casual interest in assembling a sweet character portrait of a guildmate has morphed into a growing passion, with a growing fan base clamoring for their own portraits.
15 Minutes of Fame: Tell us how you got started doing character portraits – because you're not actually a professional artist or long-time hobbyist, are you?
Aislinana: Well, we were hanging around in Black Temple after a raid finished up, so I snapped a screen cap of my friend's priest, Kallindril, and said I'd spruce it up in Photoshop. Little did I know that it was going to turn into an obsession for me. I mean, I've always loved taking screenshots. I take them all the time to capture something awesome looking, much like I do with my own digital camera. So I've had an eye for this stuff. I just started to retouch/edit and then eventually started painting in effects in Photoshop.
Around 10, I'd say. Small number, certainly, I'm not quite a prolific person yet, but these things take a little time. Some are currently "works in progress" -- and once I'm done with those, around 15.
Are you still working on portraits for guildmates, or have you moved into doing "public" shots from your realm forum post yet?
Mostly working on portraits of guildmates/friends, and there's been a portrait or two of a random person I saw around that I just had to do. I originally started this as a way of "gifting" the officer crew of Guild of Guilds with pictures, so I'd like to honor that first and foremost. I'm not sure I'd have the time at the moment to do a public shot thread, between raiding, Arena-ing and levelling my shaman. I do want to do it very badly, though. I love an artistic challenge.
So if you do go "public," will you be charging for your work?
I'm still reading over Blizzard's TOS about that, honestly. I don't think it is entirely legal to charge, even in-game gold for a commission. But at the same time, it would be nice to receive compensation for my time, so I'm thinking of arranging some sort of crafting/favor bartering system. Again, this is all speculative, as it is probably not kosher with Blizzard. Don't Smite me, Blizz devs! I'm not really interested so much to generate a profit from this, certainly, but the compensation would also work on limiting requests. Doing stuff for free tends to create a mountain of work immediately.
What's your favorite portrait that you've done so far?
This is hard, because I really do like all the pictures I've done so far. If there had to be technical favorite, it would be this one. I like the composition, the attitude and the vivid coloring, first and foremost. It was an insanely easy picture to "shoot" (capture), and I had a lot of similar ones that would have looked equally as awesome. What was fun is that I could use my flying mount to get some awesome angles. But what stands out the most to me as being my favorite thing is just the weapon effects. Those look really spectacular, and I'm most proud of this picture in terms of skill.
However, this one is the best in terms of exemplifying the character. I'm a nerdy roleplayer at heart, and this was a pretty easy shot to set up and wasn't heavily edited. But it really exemplifies who I feel Fellina as a character is. She's a strong, warm-hearted but determined priestess set on retaking Northrend from the Scourge with her guild. Having her in the midst of Lordaeron seemed appropriate.
Can you share some of your favorite screenshot locations in game?
I only have a few dedicated locations that I'd say were favorites -- because honestly, the entire game is gorgeous. WoW has a lot of detractors given how low-poly (it is), but the game's lighting is truly spectacular. If you're fortunate enough to be able to run with medium video settings, like full-screen glow and specular effects, you will be amazed. But as for favorite screenshot locations? A secret place on top of the Dun Morogh mountains would be my top pick. It overlooks the Ironforge peak and when the sun sets, it bursts with color behind it and reflects off the snow. It is pretty gorgeous. Another favorite spot would probably be Quel'danas.
What locales would you recommend to other budding in-game photographers?
Every place in the game has a chance to be an amazing screenshot, so I don't know if I could suggest some place right off the bat. I would say avoiding zones that have a color mask to them (Moonglade) if you would like to show off people's gear, because their hues get changed (especially reds/blues). But places that always look good would probably be nice clear, white light or golden-hued: Eversong, Quel'danas, Elwynn, Stormwind. If you are up for more exotic looks, try some place with more color! Blackrock Depths is firey and angry, and places like Winterspring are cool and romantic.
What do you do in real life?
I work for a very well-known online archive. One of the things my company archives for public use online is out-of-copyright books. We do high-definition photography and then put the books up in digital formats for everyone to enjoy. I work in one of the national scanning centers as a book loader. A book loader basically oversees all the books coming into the center for scanning and related data. I manage all the meta-data creation and in-house identification for the books we do. I basically sit in front of a web-interface and spreadsheet all day.
Your process of PhotoShopping sounds pretty complicated. What's your experience and background with using PhotoShop? Are you self-taught?
I'm a self-taught nerd, I guess. I've been using Photoshop since PS5 and have grown up with the product in that way. I took a lab class on it in college, but it was mostly things I knew already -- hue correction, lassoing pieces of the image. I know how to do the things I want to do and I'm pretty sure I do them all the wrong way. ;) There's parts of the program I haven't quite grasped yet (pen tool, vectors) which makes me kind of a noob, still. I use Photoshop for my original graphical and traditional digital artwork with a tablet I have, as well. I got started with PS simply because I wanted to make graphical signatures for message boards I was on, and it sorta snowballed from there. How geeky. ;)
I don't think it has inspired me so much as pushed me harder into showing off what WoW screenshots are quite capable of being. There's other artists there doing this sort of fan art type thing -- I know of one person who does these beautiful panoramic "stitches" of WoW locales, and I want to be in the same realm as them. But this is something I've always done, really. I have 9GBs of screenshots on my computer. I should really start sending them in to WoW Insider and Blizzard itself!
I'm a sensible person, but sometimes I like to pretend there would be a job somewhere down the line doing in-game screenshot work for a game company. Mostly, this is just something artistic to do with a game I play too much of. I'm an artist by nature, and this was just an organic extension of that. Is WoW insider hiring for screencap journalists? *laughs*
Have you done a portrait of your own character?
I haven't done a formal portrait, no. I take screenshots of my characters every day, just to document their travels, but never to do a picture on the level of the other stuff I've done. I have something in mind for my main, surely, but I might just wait until WotLK comes out to do what I have in mind. ;)
Here' s a little sample of what some of them look like, though:
My main, Aislinana; this is a little older shot.
My little level 52 Shammy, Sedo.
I try to take amusing, well-composed screenshots every day, but I seem to always miss out on doing a portrait of my own characters.