An interview with Google Plus Hangout innovator Cliff Roth

One of my favorite things about Google Plus is all the innovative uses of Hangouts* we’ve seen. In just three months, a variety creative applications have revealed the possibilities of this phenomenal tool. And as Google Plus matures, we’ll see even more from people in education, business and other fields.

It’s no surprise that artists are among the earliest innovators: creativity begets creativity, after all. And one of those artists is Cliff Roth, who has been hosting “Speedpainting” Hangouts, where he produces portraits of his “fellow G Plussers” in 30 minutes or less. Earlier today, I had the opportunity to interview Cliff about his process, his inspiration for the Speedpainting Hangouts, and more. Read his comments below, check out his work, watch for one of his Hangouts–and, if you like what you see, support him via Kickstarter.

Here’s what Cliff had to say.

Anthony Juliano: Please briefly describe the “Speedpainting” Hangouts you’re been doing on Google+.

Cliff Roth: In my Speedpaint Hangouts I do 30 minute paintings of my fellow G Plussers. Almost all of my Hangouts are public though lately they start out for just my Kickstarter Backers to insure they get a chance to be painted first.

AJ: Please briefly describe the process. What tools/techniques do you use?

Self-portrait by Cliff Roth via Google Plus

CR: I have established a fairly set routine. I start on a textured canvas that I made by over-laying two concrete textures on top of each other and then added different color fields on top of that. I then begin painting on a separate layer starting with the background and working my way into the face ending with the eyes. I use the same textured canvas for all of them which provides unity to the series.

The software I use is Adobe Photoshop CS and the hardware is a Wacom Cintiq coupled with an IMac.

AJ: How did the idea for the Speedpainting Hangouts originate? What was the inspiration?

CR: The first painting I did during a hangout was of a fellow member of the World Artist Network. I was just goofing off and didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until a short time later when a fellow Plusser left a comment on one of my celebrity Speedpaintings, saying “These are simply wonderful! Makes me wish I was famous!” A light bulb went off in my head and the rest fell together rapidly.

AJ: What is your goal (assuming you have one) in doing speed painting hangouts?

CR: My goal in doing these has changed from the start. At first I did Speedpainting to get faster and more confident. Doing them of fellow Plussers during a Hangout was merely a switch in subject matter. As I did them more often, though, it started to become less about me and more about others. I am meeting so many interesting people that I might never have interacted with otherwise. People are really enjoying these hangouts and for me that is key.

It’s strange at first Speedpainting was just a warm-up exercise before working on fully rendered stuff, now they are becoming my main thing.

AJ: Do you have a favorite among the portraits you’ve done?

CR: If I had to choose I would say Dennis Bullard.

AJ: Who’s the most well-known person you’ve drawn?

CR: Easily Guy Kawasaki (as of this writing).

AJ: What has Google+ enabled you to do that wasn’t possible previously?

CR: Interact face to face (well, most of the time they don’t see my face, but rather my desktop–but I digress) with people all over the world. While I have been in video chat rooms before, this is another beast entirely. I have been able to have meaningful connections with a far greater number of people than anywhere else.

AJ: How can people help you via Kickstarter?

People can help by backing my project and/or spreading the word. Without more equipment I am much more limited in how often and how long I can hold the Speedpaint Hangouts.

*If you don’t know what a “Hangout” is, it’s a Google Plus group video chat with up to 10 people. See a demo here.
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