Streaming Space Art

I bought a nice Logitech webcam last summer with the intention of live-streaming space art, Bob Ross style. We were on a post-bakery closing trajectory and I wanted to add some fun elements to my full-time art schedule. Our farmer’s markets continued to keep us busy so I didn’t get around to setting up my live-stream until last month – just in time for everybody to be stuck at home avoiding the spread of COVID19.

My first stream was on a Tuesday evening, two weeks prior to this writing, and I’ve since had two more. Was I nervous? Yes, I was very nervous, which surprised me because I don’t typically have an issue talking in front of strangers. I’ve had plenty of experience in the software world, and later in the three years that we had our bakery nearby. For some reason, once you know there’s a camera pointed at your face and the entire world has access to you, it becames a bit nerve-wracking. Added to the stress, a second camera pointed straight at a blank canvas awaiting either a masterpiece or a dreadful failure.

I am happy to report that everyone has been wonderful and it’s great to see so many familiar faces. Thank you to all who have joined so far, and I look forward to many more streams.

Typical View Live on Twitch – This is from my second stream

The Setup

I spent a good weekend setting up the cameras, the lights, my drawing table and OBS software to handle the stream. There’s no way to get everything 100% right on your first attempt, but I didn’t want to spend my entire first stream wrestling with lights, cameras, and switching scenes.

Art Table Under Lights – Purple Tape Marks my Video Boundaries

With my one webcam I was able to do a simple setup showing me, and my computer desktop for the times that I show digital art (drawing in Photoshop, Clip Studio etc.). But I wanted a second camera focused on my drawing surface for traditional painting. For now I’m using my iPhone6 connected to OBS and it’s worked out very well. I now have a two camera setup. It’s not so much that I wanted a camera on me to feed my ego. I’ve watched a lot of streams before I started this and art streams that show both the art and the artist to be a bit more interesting to watch. Even if it is just my goofy face wearing headphones.

Finished with my First Stream – Final painting with sketches and camera mount

My studio’s overhead lights are fantastic for painting. They’re powerful floodlights with daylight LED bulbs. But they cast terrible shadows on my art table when all the cameras were set up, so I ended up using tasklamps. I’ve made a few adjustments for each stream but for the most part this setup has worked well.

Making it a Fun Stream

I could have just fired off the camera as I bumble my way through a long painting, and add my own commentary along the way. And to be honest that’s when I’m doing anyway, but sometimes the business of making a painting can be filled with U-turns and experiments which aren’t always the most exciting.

For each session I’ve taken the time to do some practice sketches, and even practice paintings. This helps me isolate the colors and techniques I want to use live. My sketches and sketch paintings are always smaller than the finals that I paint live, and there’s more fun details that I add live during the stream that never showed up in my initial sketches.

Paint Sketches

It surprised me how distracting it can be to run a live-stream and paint at the same time. There’s a lot of multi-tasking going on, and after three streams (as of this writing) I have a newfound respect for everyone who runs a livestream, whether it’s art, or games, or anything else. There’s just a lot to manage. This isn’t a complaint really, and I’m sure it’s going to get easier with practice. But to those who’ve been doing this successfully for a while – kudos to you!

The Streams So Far

Each stream is inspired by an artist or technique that I’ve been fond of over the years and I feel this is a good place to start. For my first, I wanted to capture the look and feel of one of my favorite artists John Berkey, who painted beautiful, colorful science fiction scenes in casein and acrylic.

First Stream Painting – Berkey Style

Casein is a wonderful paint medium – it’s water soluble and it dries fast meaning you can work fast on camera. So I continued using casein for my second painting, which also had a bit of the John Berkey feel but I wanted this one to be more of a moody space scene inspired by artist John Harris.

Stream Two – John Harris Style

My latest stream (again, as of this writing) was a throwback to the 1950’s era of science fiction – chrome moon rockets lit by a solar eclipse from the Earth. To this day no spacecraft has yet capture a view of a solar eclipse from the moon (eclipsed by the Earth) so to a certain degree this remains a science fiction subject. For this painting I went with acrylic paint and I started with a black canvas.

Retro Science Fiction Moon Rocket – Stream 3

Things I’ve learned So Far

For starters, I would really like to upgrade my microphone setup. I have an excellent pair of Razer Headphones with a microphone and it does pretty well overall. But I’m starting to shop for a dedicated microphone and that Shure SM7B is looking very attractive (and expensive). I’m putting that one on the “buy later when I’m a wealthy artist” list.

The lights are just okay so far. They look decent on the stream, but I’m looking at a couple of solutions which will give me better control and avoid shadows and hotspots.

I’ve originally scheduled four hour livestream sessions, but the paintings are somewhat small and it’s going a lot faster than I’d anticipated. In my latest stream I added a section of just drawing, which seems to have helped with the time. Down the road I may make the paintings a bit more complicated so that they take longer, we’ll see. But the last thing I want to have people see is a lot of fiddling about and navel gazing without much art taking place.

Drop In For Live Space Art!

I’ll keep my schedule posted on my Twitch.TV page, which you can find by clicking on the image below or by visiting BlackBirdCD’s Twitch.TV channel.

BlackBirdCD on Twitch.TV

I am getting close to reaching Affiliate status, which means people can then subscribe to my streams and I might start bringing in a bit of income. Any little bit helps, so if you have a Twitch Account and would like to support my channel, please add me as a Follower (following is free!).

If You Missed a Stream

Past streams are archived on Twitch.TV so you can watch them. They run a couple of hours each, but if you’re so inclined you can find them on my page at this link.

Image Links to my Video Archive on Twitch.TV

Now in the Store!

If you would like to own one of these paintings, I have added the originals to the shop! Of course this goes a long way to help support me and my family, so thank you for visiting and I’ll see you on the next stream!

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