I’m very excited to share this interview, that Awesome Horse Studios were so kind as to agree to, but first a little introduction:
Awesome Horse Studios is a collaborative effort between four professional illustrators to pay it forward to the community. Through a weekly livestream they share their knowledge, experience and feedback with the viewers.
The livestream first started in October 2011 and is now running on its’ second season. It is a great source of information both for students but also fellow artists, so if you have not watched an episode yet I highly recommend that you do so.
Awesome Horse is unlike any other livestream out there, but what is it that sets it apart from others? I have watched quite a few different livestreams by many different artists and what really sets Awesome Horse apart is that it is truly designed to be for the viewer. You are not just watching professionals paint; you are being engaged in a two way learning experience where your input makes a difference.
Do not just take my word for it though, tune in on http://www.awesomehorsestudios.com/watch-now/ at Saturday 2 pm and see for yourself.
Now let us jump right into it – what is behind the four horsemen and how did it come to be?
Q. Please introduce yourself, your artwork and your working experience.
Marc: I’m Marc. I live and work freelance in Brooklyn, NY. I love representational art and am currently working to integrate more abstraction into my work.
Cynthia: I’m a full time freelance illustrator hailing from Northern VA. I specialize in figurative illustration for books and games.
Aaron: I’m a full time freelance illustrator living in Chicago, IL. I specialize in figurative illustration for books and games.
Noah: And I’m the kid. I’m currently based in central VA and paint landscapes and such all day.
Q. How do the four of you know each other?
Aaron: I met Marc at the Illustration Master Class and met Noah and Cynthia at Illuxcon a year later.
Marc: Same here. I ended up at the Master Class because I overheard Mark Winters telling another artist about it. My career took a massive shift and I haven’t looked back.
Cynthia: I met these three blokes at IlluXCon in 2009, during their first annual Showcase event. Since then we’ve all kept in touch as friends and colleagues, and we spend lots of time critting each others’ work and giving each other healthy doses of grief.
Noah: Aaron doesn’t remember the first time we met (I complimented him, believe it or not). Cynthia was being friendly at her table (and eating a burger, I think). And Marc offered me some whiskey. So our relationships pretty much all started out on the right foot.
Q. How did you come up with the idea of Awesome Horse Studios? Why the name Awesome Horse Studios?
Marc: I’m pretty sure I can’t tell you that without paying some kind of serious penalty
Cynthia: The first rule of Awesome Horse is you don’t talk about Awesome Horse.
Aaron: What Cynthia said. I don’t want to break the rules.
Noah: We all have our secrets.
Q. Given there are a few illustration podcasts out there, what spurred you to combine the podcast aspect with a livestream?
Aaron: Noah I believe had spurred on this idea with Marc Scheff. He had previously done a few livestreams that went very well. It just seemed like a natural next step to take with such a visual field.
Marc: Yeah. I had been tossing around some ideas for a collaborative project, and when Noah showed me his livestream I asked if I could join. It went so well, we pulled on Aaron and Cynthia and a badly drawn horse logo was born!
Noah: The trial run with Marc and myself was a lot of fun. I was so pumped afterwards that I knew we had to do something like this–and often.
Cynthia: I had done a few live demos for small groups and, in short, I really enjoyed it. I feel like showing/experiencing is important when it comes to teaching art. No one learns to ride a bike by listening to someone tell them how to do it.
Q. You mentioned during at the livestream that you did not have a target audience to begin with, who do you feel your target audience is at this point?
Aaron: It does appear we are hitting a younger and less experienced audience. And it does fit that students will have a bit more time and impetus to view these livestreams.
Marc: True, and I think the audience is also made up of peers, even occasionally mentors. The Livestream medium works really well for this. Our demos speak to students, our audio speaks to just about anyone. The questions we get range from foundation skills, to pro tips, to business ideas, even to stuff about our own lives. Since we keep it fun, lots of people seem to enjoy it.
Cynthia: I think that’s true. Or rather we had expected that the audience would be made up of a higher concentration of peers and established pros looking for something fun to do on the weekends, but our format and crits ended up attracting a lot of students too, and that has turned out to be extremely fun and rewarding for us.
Q. What do you hope your audience takes away from your show?
Marc: A stronger sense of community, and more knowledge about how to be an illustrator. That might be more skills, more business savvy, or just more confidence that they’re not alone and everyone in the room wants everyone else to win.
Cynthia: I want the viewers, especially the students, to have at least one “a-ha!” moment. It would mean a lot to me if sharing some of the stuff I’ve learned through years of practice could help an artist overcome even just particular hurdle they’re struggling to get over.
Noah: A much dirtier vocabulary, probably. And to get better at art. I know personally that few things inspire me more than hanging out with my fellow artists and painting. Hopefully students will get that feeling through our show and be excited to go and do their own work.
Q. How do you personally benefit from the livestream experience? What do you take away from it yourself? Is it rewarding?
Marc: I love teaching. If we inspire one person a week to make progress, it’s worth it. Other than that, teasing the other three is really its own reward.
Cynthia: I’ve never considered myself to be a great teacher or public speaker, so part of it is therapy for me, learning to become better at those things through just doing it. Also fun. I may not have mentioned earlier, I got into doing this to have fun.
Noah: It’s incredibly rewarding. Getting the responses from our viewers on how much they’re enjoying what we do and learning from it means so much to us. And nothing beats insulting Aaron on a weekly basis.
Q. Do you intend to keep Awesome Horse Studios as teaching solely or have you considered collaborating with one another and turn it into an actual studio for hire?
Marc: You can already hire us, we just don’t advertise. firstname.lastname@example.org is the way to get us for a project. Studios no longer need to be co-located. We often work together on a group Skype session and this works really well for sharing ideas and moving quickly on images that might otherwise take longer. I have been amazed at how well this works.
Cynthia: What Marc said.
Q. One of your episodes created quite a bit of fuzz because of the lightbox technique you showed. Are you concerned with how the methods you show affect your audience?
Aaron: The technique is nothing new to the industry or the arts for centuries. Anyone having read David Hockney’s book “Secret Knowledge” will be enlightened to how far back optics have been used as an aid. What we didn’t expect was that our audience was so new to the field, that this would be seen as a replacement for a strong drawing foundation. No different than mentioning the use of Google SketchUp to speed along perspective drawing but again, is no replacement for learning perspective.
Marc: Absolutely. We want to share methods that move our audience forward. The one thing we can’t do on Livestream is sit with each viewer and see what they do with the information we give them. So we are very grateful that the community reaches out and asks for clarification on topics like this.
Cynthia: Short answer, “yes.” We are concerned with how people interpret what we tell them. Most of the feedback we got about that particular episode was respectful, and made us think about the way we approach sensitive topics, or dig into why they’re sensitive in the first place.
Q. Where do you hope to take Awesome Horse Studios in the future?
Marc: Wherever our mission takes us. We all love art education, and sharing what we know. Livestream is a great medium, and it does have limitations. We are actively looking at ways to get more to the people who want it. Without giving too much away, we think that the future for Awesome Horse Studios requires sunglasses.
Cynthia: I feel like that’s up to our audience as much as it’s up to us. In its current format I could keep going for a long time, but we’re also looking to grow our capabilities and maximize the entertainment and education value of the show.
Aaron: I’ve been taking it one Saturday at a time. This has been giving us some new ideas.
Noah: I’ll give away one sneak peak: a lot of us are going to workshops/conventions this year and we should have some killer content coming out of those. And then there’s all of the secret stuff.