Creativity is abundant in Wilmington, but the act feels trickier than ever since artists must adapt to COVID-19 mandates. In-person gigs have been canceled, and audiences required to stay home. However, local musician Tyler Mckaig and artist Cammeron Batanides have found a way to interact with fans without ever leaving the house. Together, the two are hosting a pair of livestreams of Mckaig playing her original songs while Batanides creates a live painting inspired by the music.
The concept isn’t altogether unfamiliar to Batanides, who has painted in front of both virtual and physical audiences since 2005. The UNCW studio art grad works in liquitex acrylic gouache and Grumbacher watercolors, and has done fundraisers, reggae shows and the Port City Salsa Splash.
“[Live-painting and painting in private] are two completely different forms of creation,” she describes. “Although you’re still creating a painting, everything else is so extremely different: the energy, the vibes, having a timeline etc. It’s really nice to be able to switch it up and stay fresh. It keeps me inspired and excited about creating.”
Mckaig and Batanides have put together an hour-long livestream that showcases both of their talents simultaneously. Mckaig has been singing for as long as she can remember, in school choirs and in talent shows as a kid. She started guitar lessons at 16 and joined Cape Fear Community College’s jazz band while in college. Over the years she has recorded two albums—“Tyler Take One” and “River to Sea”—and is currently working on a third.
“Tyler Take One” consists of both originals and covers she performed with the jazz band. Her jazz professor Marc Seigel accompanied her on several, and Leroy Harper recorded the album. The album is a blend of jazz, soul and folk.
“River to Sea” features a mix of Mckaig’s original songs, recorded with Carl Blackmon. “‘The title track is about my now husband,” Mckaig reveals. “He was going on a long trip at the height of our relationship, and it was the moment I decided, ‘I’ve got to go with you.’ It’s about the growth of a relationship and folding into it. Plus, we met on the Cape Fear River, and we both love the ocean, so it just seemed fitting. The river leads to the sea.”
Family remains an important inspiration to Mckaig’s work overall. That inspiration can be heard in the “River to Sea” track “Family.” “That song is for my friends and people in my life who have become like family, particularly the step siblings I grew up with,” she tells. “It has the lyrics, ‘You know I will always love you / You can count on that,’ which I think is a good reminder for the ones you might not be physically close with [during this time of social distancing].”
Batanides spent about a week developing the idea for their collaboration but was thrown for a loop each time new restrictions were announced due to COVID-19. Determined to make it happen, she reached out to friend and local musician Randy McQuay for advice.
“He shared with me a lot of his experiences [with livestreams] and allowed me to bounce some ideas off of him, which was incredibly helpful,” Batanides says. “That’s when I decided to contact Tyler. She worked so hard and found a way for us to be together via split screen and communicate in real time. It’s really a beautiful thing when artists of all kinds can get together to create something like this.”
Getting the livestream up and running took a lot of trial and error. But the duo persevered to adapt to this new normal.
“We encountered test sessions where I couldn’t hear her, or she couldn’t hear me,” Batanides says, “but Tyler would go in and find a solution. We got a little nervous, but it all worked out and in the end. I’m really happy with our first livestream.”
During the livestream Mckaig sings while Batanides works on her painting. The pair often take breaks in between songs to interact with each other and viewers. Batanides completed a painted portrait of Mckaig during their performance. The final product shows Batanides signature style of a faceless form: Mckaig in front of the microphone, guitar in hand. The background shows a crowd of fans cheering her on in different shades of blue. Another guitar bears the title of their series, COVID Compliant.
The painting, a 20”x16” acrylic on canvas, is for sale at the discount price of $150. Interested parties can contact Batanides via social media or her website. “It’s the first time I’ve ever completed a live painting in one hour!” she says.
Continuing to share creations is a healing process for the artists, who thrive on their audiences. Mckaig and Batanides appreciate the empathy and sheer joy it brings. “Live streaming is a way we can get some of that feeling back,” Mckaig expresses. “It is also a way to connect with my fans, friends and collaborators while we’re all stuck at home.”
“For the artists, it makes us feel normal again,” Batanides adds. “We get to continue to create/perform and it gives us something to look forward to. I hope for viewers it will provide a positive break from all of the things going on in the world right now.”
Upcoming dates for future livestreams have not been set, but the plan is to host them once a week on Fridays from 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. After another session with Mckaig, Batanides has plans to collaborate with other local musicians like Randy McQuay and Travis Shallow. She also hopes to work with Jamaican artists, as reggae is her lifeblood.
Viewers can watch live on Facebook and find previous broadcasts any time on their Facebook page, as well as on Batanides’ YouTube channel, ArtByCammeron: I’m With the Painter. Tips are welcome and can be made via the artists’ Venmo accounts: @Tyler-Mck and @Cammeron-Batanides. 20% of tips from the first two livestreams are going to the employees of Gravity Records, to help support a staple business in Wilmington’s music scene.
Livestreaming original music with Tyler McKaig and live painting with Cammeron Batanides
Viewable at YouTube (ArtByCammeron: I’m with the Painter) and Facebook (@artbycammeron)