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This is the first post in our new Twitch Guest Blogger series. Today’s article is coming to you from ArtStation contributor, Mark Ramshaw. ArtStation is the leading online showcase for games, film, media, and entertainment artists.
Everyone knows Twitch was originally created to share and enjoy gaming content, but since the launch of the Creative category, the platform has become home to a thriving artistic community, including CG Art. Here 2D and 3D artists are able to connect with themselves and fans in new and more direct ways, sharing knowledge in a truly interactive environment. I caught up with Ashley A. Adams and Brendon Isaiah Bengtson, two professional artists currently making their mark in the world of live streaming, for their thoughts on how best to grow a Creative Twitch audience.
Know what you want to get out of streaming
Streaming means many things to many people. Knowing from the start what you want to get out of a Twitch account will help determine how much time and effort to put in, what sort of content to create and who your target audience should be.
“My main reason for joining was to get that extra push and motivation to create when I got home from a long day at work,” says Adams. “I figured I could meet a lot of like-minded people — which I did, and still do! — as well as other professionals looking for the same push.I’d already started before ArtStation began hosting Twitch streams on the main page, but I became even more invested once I was a part of the ArtStation challenge!”
For Bengtson the desire to help like-minded artists while developing his own skills was also a big draw. “I thought, wait, I know I’m not the best artist out there, but doing this I can continue to improve, work on the exposure thing and help people work through all the things I’d learned over the last 10 years,” he explains. “Plus, I thought that having people hanging out with me while I work would keep me motivated to actually get work done.”
Look at what makes other streamers successful
“On gamer streams there has definitely been a standard proven format but on the Creative side it’s still pretty open, so I think everyone including the viewers are still trying to figure out what to expect,” notes Bengtson . That gives artist a little more wiggle room to try their own approaches, but it’s still worth looking to see what approach is employed on successful streams, including those over on the gaming side.
“I believe the only key difference between creative streams and gaming streams is the content,” says Adams. “When looking for inspiration I looked at popular creative and gaming streams for ideas, including practical stuff like handling streaming overlays, follower counts, Twitter access, and even where to put the webcam.”
Look to maximize your audience reach from day one
If you’re lucky enough to be a household name in your chosen field then your reputation will give you a head start on Twitch.But even if you’re not an industry superstar there are ways to bring people to your door.
“It helps when it comes to getting those big viewer numbers, but it’s by no means necessary,” says Bengtson. “Twitch is its own island away from the main social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so it’s important to build as many bridges as possible to help grow your audience. Then, if you are good at what you do then your reputation will speak for itself.”
But don’t expect to be an overnight success
Regardless of your professional standing, you need to prepare for the long haul. “I knew it would take time to get the ball rolling, but for the first few months there were times when nobody was hanging out with me,” admits Bengtson . “This period is kind of awkward. Do you talk to yourself? Not talk at all? Wait for someone to show up and ask some questions? The best advice I can offer is to focus on making good art and being attentive to anyone asking questions. Be helpful and share knowledge, be respectful and consistent and eventually people will come hang out with you more often.”
Observe the rules of supply and demand. Find your niche while also noting what your audience wants
Finding the magic formula for success on Twitch isn’t easy, but chances are it involves playing to your own strengths while giving viewers something they want or need, but can’t find elsewhere.
“There are many amazing tutorials out there but they lack is interactivity, so I set up my stream as an ongoing interactive tutorial for 3D character and prop art for video games,” says Bengtson .
Adams suggests that artists who focus on digital sculpting or painting and texturing are most likely to find an audience. “The technical side of CG art can be quite dry to watch, whereas the quicker pace of creating something before their eyes has proven to be very appealing,” she explains. “3D modeling in Maya, Modo, Max, and the like is also popular when the artist is working fast enough to hold the attention of viewers.”
Once you’re up and running, the question is then how much to let the demands of your audience determine the nature of your streams. “Personally I think it’s important to stick to your guns and be consistent about why you’re doing what you’re doing and how you’re doing it,” says Bengtson . “However, I do try to leave some wiggle room to adapt to what people are interested in. Just remember that it can be a bumpy road when you’re trying to please everyone else.”
Interactivity is the key to a good stream
“Interactivity is the reason why my channel has grown to where it is now,” says Adams. “I find it is incredibly important to interact with my viewers. At first it was hard for me to talk and work at the same time, but as time went on I learned to alternate between working and talking about what I am doing while catching up with chat.”
“I think interactivity is what pushes good streams to the top,” agrees Bengtson . “People can watch regular art tutorials or YouTube videos on their own time. You’re streaming to connect with people.”
A little preparation can save a lot of perspiration. Set up your work area for a stream, plan your session (consider noting the key things you’ll want to communicate and even approximate timings), and then you can focus on creation and communication during your broadcasts. Of course, some prefer a more informal approach.
“What I do is just grab a huge glass of water (since I’ll be talking a lot), make sure my OBS layout is working in a stream preview, throw on some music and then just hit “start streaming”,” says Adams. “I have two monitors, one for my work and the other for chat and references, but other than that, it’s really just how I would work on anything at home right after work, just a chill environment.”
Consider your presentation style
In the world of games streaming, the most successful broadcasters are those that either offer unique content or a winning personality… or deliver a magical blend of the two. While it’s fair to say viewers on the creative side are more concerned with quality than cult of personality, that’s not to say they won’t respond to slick presentation skills.
“It’ll help if you roll high on charisma but it’s not a make or break deal,” reckons Bengtson. “You never know what’s going to stick until you give it a go, so try concentrating on the art side of things for a few streams, then try focusing on being ‘entertaining’. See what works and what you are comfortable with. Every stream is a little different and that’s totally fine. We like variety.”
Be a reliable broadcaster
If you’re holding down a day job and have family or social commitments,maintaining your Twitch presence can be a challenge, but don’t forget how important punctuality and reliability can be for attracting and keeping viewers.
“I used to have a sporadic whenever-I-feel-like-it way of streaming, but I can say with certainty that viewers appreciate a schedule where they can expect to see a live stream at exact days and times,” says Adams.
Bengtson concurs: “It’s incredibly important to be consistent, but if you can’t, then be communicative. No one likes being stood up, but if you’re communicative then people will be more understanding. On a side note, if you are interested in becoming a Twitch partner, they really like when you have a consistent schedule, too!”
Keep them coming back for more
While live interaction with viewers is what makes Twitch tick, it pays to find additional ways to strengthen those relationships when the broadcast ends. “Since making Twitch Partner I have tried very hard to keep a lot of value in the free end of my broadcasts while adding more value to those who can support me by subscribing to my channel,” reveals Bengtson. “I run private subscriber-only workshops and a Discord chat channel, so I can stay connected with my subscribers. I’ve also started gathering other Video Game Artists who stream art by starting what’s called a Twitch Team. It’s a page where people can go to see those of us on the team to see if anyone is streaming or just to find other video game artists on Twitch. You can find it at: www.twitch.tv/team/videogameartists”
A graduate from highly renowned Sheridan College, Ashley A. Adams is a 3D character artist whose more personal creature-based projects contrast with credits on Arc Productions’ animations Barbie Starlight Adventure and Disney’s Elena of Avalor.
Having studied 3D modelling and animation at Cogswell, Brendon Isaiah Bengtson originally forged a career in the medical field until catching the video game art bug at 2013’s Blizzcon event. Having worked on a number of freelance and contract projects he’s currently employed as a 3D production artist on-site at Apple.