Thursday, April 09, 2009
Dave was sitting alone in his studio one night in early April 2008. He had a portrait commission to complete and was, in his own words, "afraid to get into it. Those blank canvases are still intimidating to me, even after over 30 years of creating art."
David R. Darrow is an illustrator-turned-fine-artist, who hasn't done a commercial illustration job in over a decade.
And Darrow is also the host of the free, online broadcast Dave the Painting Guy and tells how the monotony of a quiet studio, the dark of night, and a highly-distractible mind were the beginnings of his popular internet show.
"I was avoiding starting an important portrait commission, using that old subconscious delay tactic called if I don't start, I can't do it wrong. I had stretched the canvas, sketched in the two figures, placed it on my easel, and stalled out for hours. I washed the dishes, vacuumed, made some coffee... and then an open Firewire port on the back on my PC made me wonder if I could connect my mini-DV camera and use it like a webcam and maybe talk to my then 79-year-old mother 400 miles away and show her my face, via Skype."
After Darrow got it up and running, it was too late in the evening to call his mom to give it a test, but another idea popped into his mind; he had heard of uStream.tv which lets users connect a webcam and broadcast "a show." Wanting to test the video connection with his PC Darrow created a new account on uStream.tv, and in a matter of minutes was broadcasting whatever his camera was pointed at.
To no one.
First he pointed the camera out the window at the lights on the hill across the way from his Oceanside, CA studio, then at the little kitchenette inside, and finally spun it around at his canvas. "There was my canvas right there in a little viewing window on the Internet. I was intrigued. And I wondered if anyone would want to watch a guy paint pictures in his studio. So I pulled the big 36 x 40 canvas off the easel and tossed up an 11 x 14 and started scribbling out a figure painting in oil on this fresh canvas. I had just started when one generically-named ustream user popped into the chatroom and typed a question into the chatroom interface.
"What are you doing?" the person typed.
"Can you hear me?" Darrow asked, wondering if the video camera's mic was picking up his voice.
"Yes," came the typed reply.
"Well I am just starting a painting, and I will see if I can get it done in less than an hour."
Over the next hour a few other uStream.tv users dropped in and out, commenting, chatting to each other and typing questions to Darrow, including "WIll you be on tomorrow?"
Darrow agreed to turn the camera on again the next day, and the next, and the next -- discovering that the "audience" and the "conversation" made the hours pass more quickly, and helped him focus on his paintings more. "I found I tended to stick at it and solve my inevitable painting problems when I knew there were people watching over my shoulder."
By the time he'd finished the commissioned portrait, Darrow had 15 - 20 viewers tuning in regularly to say hello, watch his progress and chat with each other. "Since I started my art career in the early 80s, I have always introduced myself to people as 'David' but I started jokingly calling my broadcast "Dave the Painting Guy," creating show graphics for it and trying to lend it some legitimacy."