Artist Interview: DJ Alejo

Alejo

Today we had the opportunity to sit down with Alex Hinger a.k.a. DJ Alejo and talk to him about his start in the music career and plans for the future:

When did you first start producing? 

“I started playing music and being interested in art ever since I was a young kid. The first instrument I played was a viola in 4th grade which lead to an acoustic guitar in 5th. From there I primarily played stringed instruments including the bass guitar. It wasn’t until fall/winter of 2011 that I started producing electronic music with Alex Thocker (Athockalypse) under the name Kronik Dub Crew. Currently I am producing solo with collaboration from other producers” 

What is your favorite part of producing music?

“Being an artist my entire life, this is the newest outlet for me to express myself. When I played soccer for school I was a striker. This required fancy footwork and always being on top of the situation. I was also in the schools art program where I was excelling above other students. After high school ended, I needed a new outlet to let my artistic side be fully in use. Music production found its way into my life and was able to fill that void and once again bring out the flow of inspiration that art produces.” 

What inspires you?

“Emotions. When I’m in a really good mood, my ability just shines through and I am able to create upbeat tempos and melodies. On the other side, when I am angry or upset this still drives me to create music, however the style will be downbeat and slower in comparison. Every emotion can drive me in a different direction and can create really ‘weird’ music, but I enjoy weird music so that’s what I produce.” 

Where do you want to be?

“This is always a question I don’t like to answer. I don’t like to set restrictions for the future. Some people say you can rise above expectations but everything’s still a learning process at this stage. Everyday is something new so I need to focus on whats happening now where I have control. Tomorrow I could be the biggest success touring the world or I could have no plays and be off the map. Its a gamble so I just keep moving forward and stay strong.”

What to do you need to get there? 

“Right now I need to continue releasing original music and mastering my skill. Practice makes perfect. I also need to keep in mind that the music industry is a business and I need to treat myself as its own business. This includes promotions, marketing, new artwork and always trying to get more shows. If I can keep this running like a well oiled machine then more people will start noticing my talent bringing in fans who will share the music and I can keep moving up. I can’t wait to see where all of this takes me.”

Make sure you check out DJ Alejo’s newest release ‘The Notorious EP’ out for free download now on his Band Camp site! (We also had the pleasure of designing the album artwork for this amazing tribute to a hip-hop icon.)notorious

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Speaking with ArtWorks Director Tamara Harkavy

Tamara Harkavy is the CEO and Artistic Director of Cincinnati based ArtWorks, a job-training and employment program for local teens. She founded the company in 1996 in order to help and educate teens in the community. Over the years, with events like The Big Pig Gig in 2000 and 2012, and the public mural projects decorating the city, ArtWorks has made a large impact on the face of the Queen City.

We took a small group “field trip” to ArtWorks to speak with Tamara in person, and to understand running a non-profit. She gave us her entire story of how the company was founded, and how she has always been there to educate teens, and be a real problem-solver, utilizing art. Talking to her and getting an inside direct account with running, managing, and maintaing a successful business was fascinating, as well as learning some of things ArtWorks did, like traveling to Chicago and Philadelphia, in order to better reach children and solve problems in the community.

The main thing I think I learned and took away from meeting with Tamara Harkavy was that to be an artist, you really need to be able to think on your feet and be able to use your creativity to solve problems and get things done, be it for yourself, a client, or a community of people all relying on you. This is a good piece of advice I think I’ll hang on to.

For more information about this wonderful non-profit or to contact Tamara Harkavy visit the ArtWorks Website here.

Technical Process Explained

A technical process I’ll use often in Photoshop is utilizing the Blending Modes for layers, and layering these blending modes to create an atmosphere and a mode. For instance I’ll show you a simple walkthrough of this process.

First off I’ll need an image, I’ll use one of a praying mantis I took a while ago.

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So first I’ll load the image in Photoshop, then I’ll open up a nice textured image such as a scan of some wrinkled paper, or an image of some rusted metal. I’ll drag and drop into the window, with the paper texture on top of the original layer.

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Now this is the blend modes option for the layers.

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It is located in the layers palette, here:

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From this menu, you can choose from these blend modes playing around with the six sections of the menu. These sections are separated by their functions, the first section, being Normal and Dissolve are normal blend options, then section two is the Darkening modes, or Additive Modes, then the Lightening or Subtractive Modes, then Contrast Modes, followed by Comparative modes, and lastly the Composite modes such as hue, saturation, and luminosity.

These differing modes have subtler effects between the modes, however they all act in one of these methods. For instance, “Multiply” will darken the image, while the “Screen” blend option will lighten the images.

I will play around with a blend option until I find one I like which creates contrast and a nice texture.

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Note the nice texture created in the background of the image. I choose the Overlay blend mode for this initial layer.

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Now I will add the rust photograph to add another layer of depth to the image.

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Here’s the image after applying the “Darken” blend option to the image at 59% opacity.

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And now the final image after a little more manipulation.

You can really see how adding different layers of images with blend options can layer to create an interesting effect.

Visiting Artist: Cedric Michael Cox

Cedric Michael Cox is a 1999 University of DAAP graduate who has been making a living in the art community as a visual artist with a medium of paint, graphite, charcoal and various other drawing utensils. Cedric spoke about becoming an artist and making it in the real world. Throughout College this has been the only formal talk informing me about selling art and becoming successful as a working artist. Cedric spoke in a friendly manor throwing in occasional jokes to keep the audience in his attention. This kept me involved the whole time learning every tip he was able to share.

The biggest thing that stuck out in my mind was when he said, “position yourself around successful people.” For some, this might seem like common sense, however it can be easily overlooked. Creating art and then hanging out with your buddies all day will not sell any art, (unless your buddies are successful working artists, musicians, business owners, etc). Becoming friends with successful people will put you in the right mindset to want to succeed and become the working artist you set out to be. 

Cedric obtained his first gallery showing by simply walking into the building and showing them his art. Walking in that door he had a 50/50 shot at winning them over. It is the fact that he showed up in person with knowledge and interest to show at this gallery that he was able to get his foot in the door. Clients and Gallery owners will not come to you, you have to go out there and jump into the water trying every outlet possible. At worst you can a decline and then you try again next year. Eventually someone will take interest in your art which will get that ‘foot’ leading to other possibilities. 

To find more information about Cedric Michael Cox and to view his personal portfolios you can view his WordPress site or his Facebook page. I encourage everyone to at least take two minutes from their day to view his beautiful paintings and drawings. 

-Kris