STEEZ for Curated Flame: Interview
By BadKaleb (@musicofcarolina)
Edited by @nicejewboy
A musical artist’s aesthetic in 2018 is almost as important as their music quality. The key to standing out in today’s digital noise is investing in a creator who can bring your image to life. Platforms like Instagram allow potential fans to discover anyone on the come-up through coding (amount of likes/comments). Anyone can be looked at even without coding if you know a name or search a hashtag.
Still even with the prevalence of using social media to promote content a lot of musical artists stand out fall short of getting their 15 minutes of fame, because they don’t incorporate the right artwork that will capture potential fans attention. This is where Steez. comes in to play.
STEEZ, aka SteezDesigns, or Steven McCracken, is an artist who’s versed in the design world. From crafting hand-drawn and digital designs, heading a clothing brand and coordinating with some of the hottest names in the underground, STEEZ possesses a diverse skill set. He’s also looking to make a lasting impact on the scene in unique ways. Paid commissions were taking up most of STEEZ’s week but I was fortunate to get some questions answered amid his creative process.
Read the interview and check out his art below.
-What influence does Washington have on your creative process?
I used to hate being in Washington honestly, I felt like the entire scene I wanted to be in was in LA and I was missing out. I’ve been thinking about it recently though and I see the value now in being from a smaller town. Spokane’s definitely not tiny by any means but the entire time I’ve been here I’ve only met a select few with the same mindset as me, and I think we’re going to be a hard team to ignore. The other thing Spokane taught me is that I don’t want to stay there my entire life, going anywhere you see a thousand people doing the same thing they do everyday, they dress the same, talk the same, I think it’s the fear of ending up like everyone else in my city that drives me so hard to make it out of there.
-Do you have a way to describe your aesthetic style just yet? Last I read you were searching for the ‘correct’ description.
I still don’t, but I’ve been thinking about it more and more. I’m still all over the place experimenting with different styles, a lot of days I’ll sit down and just force myself to make something different as a warmup. My overall aesthetic though is kind of the same as it’s always been, still love doing pieces with darker themes and messing with nostalgia. I still think the idea of an aesthetic is limiting in a way too, I’m not in the same mood all the time so my arts not going to look the same all the time, I usually don’t know until I’m making it.
-You’ve created art pieces for Chris Travis, N3ll, Warhol ss, Uno, Fauni, OG Maco, Nedarb, Lucki, Matt Ox, Chxpo, Cris Dinero, and more. What can you personally share about art placements? Anything helps upcoming creatives.
It 110% comes down to two things in my opinion, working on your craft, and networking while you do it. I started two years ago and I think I’m just starting to get good. I used to send artists my covers and spam their DMs and one day it occurred to me that if I put half the effort I put into promotion into my art that I could get really good really fast. Soon as I stopped hunting for placements the placements came to me. The only other thing is making sure you get paid, it’s obviously dope to get art for a rapper you really like but what’s more important is establishing yourself as a business not a charity. I still struggle with this because it’s hard to turn down an artist you really like, but just keep your priorities straight and if you’re doing free art just make sure it’s definitely being used, it’s an artist you ACTUALLY like (otherwise what’s the point), and make sure you’re being credited. I’ve done more free art than I like to admit but knowing the value of my art is something I’ve really been working on.
-What’s the most important business-related characteristic you look for in a client (other than being PayPal/Cash App ready)?
Biggest thing honestly is respect my time, I’ve had guys paying me $10 ask for 20 changes in a row, at that point I just want to get it over with and it’s not going to look good. The other thing is I love when people give me some sort of general or idea they have or vibe and let me do the rest, too many people think they know exactly how it should be and then there’s no room for me to make it a good-looking cover.
-How can associating a brand’s name make a piece of art better?
There’s so much incredible art that goes completely unnoticed on Twitter and it sucks but that’s just the way it is. People don’t want to look through all of your random pictures to find your art so having a profile dedicated to your arts always been a good idea to me. I’ve always had the end goal of creating a brand anyways as well so why not start now
-Why are people like @PAPIKODONE, @AustinSteiner, and @Killastrator influential to you?
Kodone was just the first artist I saw really blow up and take over through social media, and he’s a little younger than me too, shits crazy inspiring and just made me feel like I could do it too. Steiners from my city and I’ve fucked with his art forever, gotta pay respect to the people who’ve been putting on for Spokane. Killastrator just has some of the most fire art I’ve ever seen, he’s the level I aspire to be at and reminds me of my style.
-What online and offline creative programs do you prefer?
I pretty much only use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop right now, but I’ve been getting into Cinema 4D and Adobe After Effects too, I want to start doing more animated pieces.
-Where do you draw the line in streetwear for flipping logos (‘ripping’)?
I honestly love some logo flips, but it’s such an easy area to start looking cheesy so I try to avoid it for the most part. At the same time though if you can do them well they can be crazy successful, @CLEAN_George and his flip of the Mr. Clean guy is one of my all-time favorites. SUPERRRADICAL has always done a good job too in my opinion.
-Do you sponsor anyone with your clothing?
Not yet I’m too broke to lmao, but soon as I get my inventory up I plan on sending some gifts to my favorite rappers, just as a thank you.
-Why does Virgil Abloh spark your creativity?
He’s a legend to me, especially now with the Louis Vuitton announcement, he started with album art, went on to do his clothing thing, and now just landed a job as the lead designer of one of the most successful clothing brands ever. My dreams to work on something with him one day but we’ll see if that happens haha.
-What must you tell creatives in your field?
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF, WORK ON YOUR CRAFT UNTIL ITS PERFECT, DONT GIVE UP, AND HELP OUT OTHER CREATIVES
The hardest part is always going to be not giving up, and the best way to get over those thoughts is to sit down and create until you make something better than you ever have.
-Do you believe in mentors?
The idea of mentors has always been dope to me, I still kind of wish someone bigger up in the industry would take me under their wing because I still have so many questions. At the same time though learning everything myself has really imprinted those lessons in my brain
-Any shout outs?
Shoutout my family, my homies, all of Spokane, Homebase everyone on Twitter showing me support <3 I couldn’t do any of this without you, and I’m about to make all of you proud.