All posts in “Artistry”

[My capture card of choice. SanDisk Extreme: Class 10.]

From SD to the Editing Room / Organizing Your DSLR Footage

How an editor organizes their clips before actually making a cut can tell you a lot about their style. But then again, keeping clips in a certain order, labeled, and named in purposeful ways saves a lot of time when making decisions for your edit. Unless you enjoy scrubbing through every clip, looking for that exact moment when the dolphin at Sea World smacked a clown’s hat off and flipped him the metaphoric bird with his tail, cataloging can save you some frustration during post.

Continue Reading…


Why Being Prolific Is A Good Thing

[Stephen Wiltshire and his New York]


Abundance is the keyword here.

I’ve teetered on the fence for years about whether or not it’s a good idea to be an artist who creates AMAZING work and an artist who creates A LOT of work. That is until I realized you can make a plethora of amazing work. Continue Reading…

The Classic Akai MPC 2000 XL

Button Music


Since the days of the MPC, I’ve been “technically” making music with buttons. This wasn’t my only way of making music of course, I DO play instruments; but making music by hitting those big square buttons on a drum machine or sampler was a fun thing indeed.

There was a bit of programming involved, a lot of selections, and a ton of sound files to create by sampling and/or manipulation (mainly because I wasn’t quite satisfied with the sounds from certain tone generator boxes. And there were almost limitless possibility to play with in the audio-sphere.

I first started seeing MPC and MPC midi controller like the Akai MPD24 (which was my first midi pad controller) in a different light when I first came across a YouTube clip of DJ Egadz playing with one in a demo clip titled “Music Made with Buttons 1.0.”

This wowed the crap out of me on sheer “cool” factor alone. I didn’t even think of doing that with my own MPD. It wasn’t even until a few weeks later that I started to feel I’ve seen something like this before, years before, when I was still going through classes for audio engineering.

Here’s artist Edison with “Music Made with Buttons 2.0” and his setup with Ean Golden of DJ Tech Tools fame.


Now I’m not a DJ in the traditional sense. Give me two turntables and the best that I can do is mark the 2-4 second spot I want to repeat on identical records and replay that part one after another. Oh, and I suck at beat-matching. I don’t think the A.D.D. in me gives me enough time and patience to master beat-matching.

I found my way moving towards using software to DJ. Since I loved Native Instruments soft synths, I thought their Traktor software was damn good when connected to my laptop and a small midi controller I can map out buttons to.

That experiment with software DJing led me to an artform deemed “controllerism” and I LOVE IT! Since turtablism doesn’t seem to be my forte (though I would still love to learn) controllerism provided me the outlet to unleash what I call ‘Audial Angst.’

This is the point when I realized I HAD been introduced to this concept of “button-mashing.” A guy named Moldover was DJing with a keyboard back in 2006, and the video I watched dealt with LIVE REMASHING. I can’t find the exact video anymore but he still has his YouTube Channel @moldover.

Of course the state of controllerism has really boomed since 2006 when I first caught a glimpse of it. I couldn’t even tell you how many different types of controls there are and software to use, along with hundreds of templates and organization structures. But just for the sake of getting started I’ll give you what I did.

The only things needed for controllerism is

  1. A dynamic midi controller. (This is what you’ll be touching, pushing, bashing, etc. Make sure it has all the buttons, faders, and panpots you would probably need. Touch faders are cool too! I started with an Akai MPD24)
  2. A robust trigger-sample software. (My preference is Ableton)
  3. A creative ear.

I didn’t list any of the gear required to get communication to and from controller to computer because as technology intensive as it can get to be, you should already have a good inkling of know-how to set that up. If not, let me know, and I may write a guide for beginners on setting up a digital music studio.

I hope in the future to put out music strictly from my controllerism as well as music videos to go along with it.

Image:  Akai MPC 2000 XL /cicciostoky


Sketching for Practice

You Have To Make Crap Before You Get Good

I wrote a lyric once. Then I rewrote it. I crossed off a few lines and doodled on the corners of the pages. I looked through my book of origami and transformed that one page of lyric into a crane. A badly constructed crane.

I have a sketch book filled with more doodles in the corners along with attempts at human figures. Flipping through it you would see an evolution of stick figures to fleshed-out caricatures in amusing poses. Still not very good, but better.

“The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend.”
– Isaac Bashevis

Writing for the wastebasket is a marvelous skill. Realize, not everything we make is going to be a winner. Some things are going to suck hard. But they’re all important. We’re still developing. Getting good is a process.

Do you have ever get frustrated when the things that you make don’t turn out the way you want? Most of us stop at this point and never pick up a pen, a basketball, a microphone, (enter your dream here), again. It’s okay to be bad at something because we all have to start from nothing.

The key here is to DECIDE to want to be good. Screw that, not just good, the BEST. I only say that because it’s easier to strive for something massive and fall just short than it is to strive for something small and work our way up. The main reason is motivation. I don’t know about you, but achieving something small doesn’t push me very well.

The realist part of me would say to do what comes easiest and natural to me. The dreamer part of me says, “FUCK THAT! You want to be good, well learn how to be FUCKING AMAZING! Yeah, you’re gonna suck in the beginning, but so what, if you stop now you’ll never know.”

I like that guy better.


Art Is Never Finished

The 3-Phase Idea Workflow

Art Is Never Finished

Artists come in all shapes and sizes, so it makes sense that each artists and art has their own way of being born. An idea can come from anywhere and anything. There are probably a million plus different ways an idea finds its way from inception to fruition.

As much as us artists love to let the world know how our ideas just manifest out of thin air for reasons that are unknown to us that we call inspiration/muse/proxy, there is a constant in this equation of creativity.

I consider myself a multimedia artist. What that means is that there are many avenues on which I travel to express myself in my work. What it also means is that I’m attention deficient and can’t sit in one spot to save my life. Good thing I’m not a hostage negotiator.

Alas, being a multimedia artist has given me an insight into seeing how ideas flow. In my experience there are only 3 phases in an idea workflow: capture, develop, and ship.


Ideas can start as an annoying itch you can’t scratch. Something bothering you. Something that clings to you no matter how many times you attempt to brush it off. Maybe a problem that needs addressing and your unconscious mind takes over to play with a possible solution.

I can’t even begin to tell you all the ways that ideas begin. But I have noticed, not just with me, but countless others I collaborate with that most of the time it happens at the most inopportune moments. When there’s no pen in sight, or phone to type into, or napkin, or toilet paper (yes, toilet paper). Hopefully you make it to a place where you can jot it down before it escapes or mutates.

Most ideas happen when you shut your brain off. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, depending on how you see it, the flow of ideas pour out in a steady stream. If you’re unlucky, like me, ideas bum-rush the crap out of you like a fire hose that finally got the kink out.


By this time, you’ve decided to focus in on an idea and see what comes of it. Hopefully something good. But I digress, in the creative sense “good” is relative. And biased. And personal. And… you get the point.

If you’re like me you’ll probably spend a good amount of time coming up with disjointed thoughts trying to figure out how to associate and link more ideas to form a cohesive whole. The screenwriter needs a backstory for his protagonist. The painter needs to form distinct shapes from her broad brush strokes. The rapper/lyricist/MC needs to put together those clever rhymes he’s been jotting down in his notebook and form a verse. Maybe he spits his verse from the head, well then hopefully it makes sense when he tracks* them to the record.

*To ‘track’ is recording speak for “put to tape.” Or hard drive as the case seems to be in this digital age.


That’s right, I just used FedEx as a verb.

Probably the most important stage in the idea workflow. Seth Godin, in his book “LinchPin,” made the point of shipping:

“The only purpose of starting is to finish, and while the projects we do are never really finished, they must ship… Shipping is a collision between your work and the outside world.”


One of my good musician friends told me after nagging her about her first album project that she’s been working on for years that “great work takes time.” I agree with this idiom, but I believe there needs to be a due date somewhere. Especially if what you’re producing is something that’s meant to be shared. If you’re a closet-artist, then shipping doesn’t matter, because it always ships in your heart. That was meant to feel cheesy by the way. But still true as well.

I personally couldn’t see the point of trying to make something perfect because the way I see it, no art is perfect, just relative. (There’s the damn word again.)

As artists, it motivates us even more to know that others appreciate the work we do. Appreciation and notoriety turn into momentum that propels us to produce more. When we produce more we get better at what we do. Can you smell what I’m cookin’ here?

There’s the film maker that takes 25 years to create his ultimate first short film to blow away audiences, make some good money, then floats away in obscurity (most independent directors). Then there’s the film maker that continually makes award-winning films for decades (Ala Steven Spielberg). My direction is toward the latter. You can only get better right?

Leonard Da Vinci said it best.

Art Is Never Finished

Question: What does your idea workflow look like? I’d love to know how you guys operate. Leave a comment below and let’s get into it.

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Why I Gave In to Instagram

Instagramming Domo

C’mon Domo, Smile!

I’ve resisted Instagram ever since it first popped up on my radar, probably about a year ago. Nothing about it enticed me to want to download it to my phone. I considered the whole retro-filtered, lomography -induced images a fad and would tire out in a few months.

The more I watched my friends convert, the more it repulsed me. Probably due to the feelings of being a visual artist, I felt this little application was a slap to the face to all that I do on Photoshop. Now you can just tap “Valencia” or “Hefe” and all of a sudden you’re a fucking photographer.

It’s the equivalent in hip-hop and r&b music where any and everybody who bought or pirated a copy of Pro Tools called themselves a “Producer,” and it made me sick. My long hours meticulously adjusting faders and panpots in the studio suddenly felt medieval compared to its digital counterpart. Click, click, click. “That joint’s hot, Son!”

Alas, I gave in last week. And for this whole week I’ve been addicted. ADDICTED!

Anything that I can snap a picture of on my trusty iPhone, I did. Click, click, click. Done. Post. It became more like a video game as it was pretty damn fun to play with my images no matter how stupid they were. Damn that reptile brain of mine sometimes. (Don’t ask me what that means)

The end-product was instantaneous. No creating layer after layer in Photoshop, or playing with curve adjustments. NONE! Just tap and BAM, instant gratification. From then on I just remembered I’m human. We all love instant gratification.

Now for my two cents…

The basic options are fine when creating your Instagram art in app itself, but if you’re like me, after a few hours of flight time you’ll start to find yourself feeling limited and caged like Caesar before he went ape-shit (get it?). So let me offer a few other applications that I think would enhance your photos. (Much like the Gameshark I bought for my Nintendo years back because The Legend of Zelda pissed me off.)

*NOTE: I use an iPhone so all of these apps are available through the iTunes store. You Android users out there, if you can’t find their doppleganger… sorry


Leon’s iPhone Photo Toolkit

Diptic allows you the option of creating photo collages with various layouts. I use this when I want to create an image with several pictures to help establish a “scene.” Yes, I just used film making terminology here.

Photoshop Express
If you want to edit, Photoshop Express works nicely to crop, adjust contrast, tint, add borders, sharpen, denoise, and more. I only use it for cropping and adjusting colors.

I have a thing about drawing on my photos. Whatever makes it different. Sometimes I want to add a little cliffnote, other times I’m just drawing goatees on everybody. I’m sure you guys can find more useful things to do with it. Girls, you can draw some pretty little hearts on yours. I’ll probably draw a big-ass “X” over your duck faces.

Now obviously there are hundreds of other apps you could use to enhance your photos before sending it off the digital land of Instagram, but these are the apps I feel make a significant difference. I used to use Hipstamatic and Plastic Bullet but these two do pretty much the same thing, those toy camera filters.

So there you go. I am now

a convert. Let’s see how long this lasts.

If you guys want to see what gets captured on my phone feel free to follow me on Instagram @mrleonterra. Fair warning: I seem to be taking a lot of pictures of food.

Question: What other apps do you use before you upload to your Instagram? Leave your comments below.