Starting to use Photoshop.

I recently turned 25 and for my birthday I received Photoshop as a gift and I am hoping to become skilled enough to the point that I can use it for my site as well as be able to offer my services to producers and rappers. I plan on keeping you updated on my growth and any tips and insights I may have on the platform.

Here’s the first design I made in Photoshop last night;


STEEZ for Curated Flame: Interview

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?


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.


CuratedFlame Links:

BadKaleb links:

STEEZ Links:

Interview with issadrawing, the go to graphic designer for YBN.

issadrawing is an artist and graphic designer who I found on Instagram during my search for graphic designers who met a certain criteria. That criteria being;
  • Do I fux with their artwork
  • Do they have any credits for artists that I like or know of.
Not only does issadrawing have the talent but scrolling through her page I found that she has worked with many artists and is actually a go to / in house designer for thatwhole YBN movement that’s been buzzing lately.  I reached out to issa and she agreed to do an interview! Scroll down to see examples of her work and to find out more about this graphic designer on the rise!image1 (1).png

Any major credits I should list? I’ve been blessed enough to be able to work with YBN Nahmir, Almighty Jay, Rich the Kid, Blaatina, JDPresidente, SmokePurpp, The Farrow, KloudGod, Sammy Adams, Billy Marchiafava, Indica, Goldman, Key Glock, Merch items for Charlie Puth and many more.

Any interesting stories on how you secured your placements? Haha no not really in the beginning I would just reach out to artists I really liked and show them my portfolio and my dedication to my craft to see if we could go from there.

How old are you? I am 21 years old


Where are you from?  I’m from the Bay Area, San Jose and Oakland to be exact

How long have you been designing album / mixtape / song covers? It feels longer but I’ve only been designing covers for about eight months but I have been drawing, painting, even doing graffiti since I could walk.

What are your rates? Currently I go by estimates.

What is the most you made off of one design? The most I’ve made is around 500 off one order.
How did you get into the game? I’ve been drawing all my life but last year around March I decided to get back into painting and sketching and I was mostly drawn to drawing rappers that inspired me, surprisingly one of Kyle I had done got his attention and asked me to send it to him, never got the chance to so instead I brought it to a concert of his, he gave me very inspiring words of encouragement and I decided to pursue on with designing and drawing I even got noticed by his DJ Brick and Jada they all really inspired me to continue and I thank them for that.
Who are your biggest influences? My parents are big ones, both my mother and father have overcome so much in life it showed me that even where I was from and what I grew up in I could achieve anything. Honestly anyone whose out there working hard and creating their own mind inspires me, seeing someone else’s dedication and hard work used can be inspiring for everyone but specifically I’d say Steven @cartoonboomin really inspires me and is underrated as well his vision is beautiful. 
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Want to give any shoutouts? Shout Out to my boy Baby Budden @t00ns.reek and my frank ocean @dirtybutt
What is something about you people would be surprised to know? Probably that I used to be a child actress haha, did a commercial when I was younger and had an audition with Disney I got a part on a show but we couldn’t afford everything they were offering back then, my mother was a single mom taking care of me and my baby brother all by herself so it was just way too much for her.
Who are the favorite artists you have worked with? Definitely YBN as a whole, literally the entire team is filled with inspiring, hardworking people and I’m glad to be apart of it. Every single one of them are really cool people and give great ideas and feedback on designs that helps with creating a lot more fluent piece.
Do you use a particular software? I use a Wacom tablet with my laptop and all of adobe products including photoshop.
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How many designs have you sold in your career? Definitely over 100
How much did you make last year? Not too much as I was starting back in but I’m almost to the point where I can just focus on art as a career, its coming very soon.
What are your plans for 2018? I have big plans for 2018, many already in effect, a lot I can’t say yet but hopefully if I continue to work hard and use my all while staying humble, blessing will continue.


CuratedFlame Links: 

issadrawing links:


Marco Birlan is designing cover art and merch for your favorite underground rappers.

I found Marco Birlan a couple days ago when I was looking for graphic designers on IG. Scrolling on his page, I saw that not only is his work in the same vein as a lot of the artwork that in vogue right now but he also has his own style and has worked for a handful of big name rappers on the underground and soundcloud scene.

I reached out to do an interview and below you can check out examples of his work / placements and find out more about this artist.


Any major credits I should list? (please give examples of the work  u did for the people you r listing)

  • I designed;
  • Soulja Boy “Gucci Durag” song cover
  • Jose Guapo “B on the Head” song cover
  • Jose Guapo “Lingo 2” album cover
  • J Balli, Fatboy SSE & Lar$$en “Turn Up” song cover
  • 24hrs & Jose Guapo “Loose Change” song cover
  • Rich The Kid & YBN Almighty Jay “Beware” song cover


Any interesting stories on how you secured your placements?Actually is one. I got to work with Rich Forever Music, after one of Rich the Kid beat-makers (Narqui$e) accidentally found my Instagram profile and recommended me.

How old are you? I am 23 years old.

Where are you from?  I am from Romania, Europe.

How long have you been designing album / mixtape / song covers? Graphic design was an old passion, but I started this work seriously only in April, last year.


What are your rates? My prices are between 40$ and 70$. I have a detailed list on my Instagram profile.

Do you receive any royalties when your designs get put on merch? It depends. There were times when I was paid strictly for design offered and cases when I received a percentage of product sales.

How did you get into the game? First I worked only in Romania. But after only one month, I came in contact with few underground rappers from USA.


Who are your biggest influences? I follow so much designers all around the world. KD Designz or Moabvillain are a big influence for me.

Want to give any shoutouts? Actually, yes. For many it may seem surprising, but my logo is not created by me personally. It was a gift from a friend who is also a graphic designer, Ionut Cuc.

What is something about you people would be surprised to know? Even if I create art, I just got an Electrical Engineering degree.


Who are the favorite artists you have worked with? Jose Guapo helped me alot and iss one of my favorite artists. Also, I am very happy to work with names like Soulja Boy or Rich the Kid.

Do you use a particular software? I do my all work with Adobe Package (Photoshop, Illustrator or InDesign).

How many designs have you sold in your career? Haha, that`s a tough question. Honestly I don`t know a number but there were over 60-70.

How much did you make last year? Not enough to be my only income.

What are your plans for 2018? I want to evolve day by day, remove all my fears and get it straight to the top!


CuratedFlame Links: 

Marco Birlan Links: