Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, MacKenzie Stewart is a budding, freelance art director, photographer, and graphic designer with a concentration on a minimalistic style when creating her art. Even though the passion to create art has been inside MacKenzie since she was born, her high school art and photography classes helped advance her skills and craft. Once Stewart entered college, she had plans of majoring in Dental Hygiene, but after surrounding herself with fellow musicians and artists, along with her boyfriend, she gained a new perspective on what her future career path would become.

Stay tuned for the highs and lows, background of MacKenzie’s art/photography career, and what we can expect from her in the future.

Q: What is your full name?

A: My full name is MacKenzie Raven Stewart. (@mackenzie.dsgn on Instagram, @mackenzie_dsgn on Twitter)

Q: Where are you from/Where do you currently reside?

A: I was born in and lived in Atlanta for a short time, but I currently reside in Orlando, Florida.

Q: What is your current occupation?

A: I currently have a very part time job working retail but at the moment freelance art director and graphic design is my main and most important job.

Q: How long has art been a part of your life?

A: As cliche as it sounds, I’ve been creating art since I was able to pick up a utensil. Art class was always my favorite growing up, and even in high school I was taking honors art & photography classes that took up the majority of my day.

Q: Why style of art do you typically handle?

A: When it comes to the styles of art I handle, it tends to be a little all over the place since my clients are so different from each other, but maintaining a sense of minimalism is extremely important to me regardless of who the client is and even when it comes to my own personal projects. Sometimes I think that artists feel the need to compensate for the negative space and simplicity that comes with minimalism to satisfy the majority, but to me, small things like simple shapes, line work, and negative space are of utmost importance and can really tie a piece together in a huge way.

Q: When did you decide to infuse your art skills into graphic designing?

A: I decided to take the plunge into making graphic design and art direction as a career after a nice little personal crisis that had me questioning what I wanted to do with my life, which is pretty typical for an 18 year old. For about 2 years prior, I had been telling myself that going to school for something like Dental Hygiene was going to give me the stability and success that I wanted, and that art could be my side job. I started living at a music studio with my boyfriend and saw all the people there making full blown careers out of art and music and it completely floored me for some reason. Art as a career seemed so unrealistic to me, but having people ask for commissioned pieces from me and being around other artists really made me realized that this is what I am, and always will be passionate about, so I changed my major a week into school to Graphic Design, specializing in Print Design.

Q: What was the most challenging part about learning graphic design?

A: The most difficult thing about graphic design for me right now is more about business, becoming successful in a longterm sense, and staying inspired than it is the process or the programs. I’ve been working with Adobe programs for about 5 years now so I pick things up pretty fast when it comes to technical aspects, but I’m still learning the ropes of how to establish a big (returning) client base and how I would like to eventually run my own design agency or how I would direct a team of designers when I’m further into my career. Staying inspired can sometimes be extremely difficult as well. For me, it tends to come in caffeine-fueled waves and when I’m spending a lot of time alone working on a variety of things. When I’m like that, my brain gets into a work mode and doesn’t want to stop. But when I’m uninspired it’s dreadful to the point of being almost painful and I get very frustrated and bored.

Q: What type of graphic design work do you do?

A: Right now the work that I do consists of logos, album covers, soundcloud banners, flyers, photo edits, some layout design meant for publications, ads, etc. I would really like to get into packaging design or work for a magazine at some point too because I love having designs as a physical entity as opposed to only being online.

Q: Have you done any graphic design work for any brands/businesses/musicians/etc.?

A: The vast majority of my work is for producers, singers, and rappers. I’ve done a little bit of work for a music studio as well. I’m currently trying to branch out to more small businesses around Orlando too since it’s a really good way to build a portfolio and a reputation with important people around the city. It would be very great for my career if I were would able to do this, even if I would have to begin thinking about paying taxes for freelancers, either way, it would be a good sign that I made it.

Q: Are you working on any projects?

A: At the moment, I do all of the art direction for my boyfriend, who is a producer and an audio engineer that goes by BAD ONE (@protoolsshawty) and I was just recently hired to be an art director for a singer by the name of Pat Woods (@PatWoodsMusic). These are my most consistent and long term projects right now, but I also have some pretty sporadic client work that consists of single covers and photo editing. I genuinely love working with the people that I work with right now and I love the fact that they value me and my style enough to want full projects from me. These consist of multiple pieces and the process lasts for a few months until they decide they want a new vision and direction, then we move onto a whole different project. I also plan on starting 2 new series as personal projects very soon, so I’m hoping everyone will keep an eye out for those.

Q: How long have you been doing photography?

A: I’ve been doing photography since I was about 14 or 15 and I’m 20 right now. When I first got into it, I had the very immature and unfounded notion that photography wasn’t “real art”, and I took the class because I thought it meant all I had to do was take pictures and show up for class to get credit. Within the first year, my view totally changed. The class transformed my life, and my instructor, Scott Hamsik, very quickly became one of the most important people in my life, and still is to this day. My photography class was one of the only places I felt like I genuinely belonged, and my teacher supported me and inspired me so much that photography became a huge part of my identity for a long time. Everything about it was inspiring to me. From the processing of black and white film, to the ins and outs of a digital camera, to the very many visual effects obtained through various camera settings and processes in Photoshop. There was nothing more satisfying to me at that moment than being in the studio, setting up lights, and getting the perfect picture with my classmates.

Q: What is one of the best shoots you have ever done?

A: It’s hard for me to pin down one of my “best” shoots, but one of the most exhilarating for me was climbing onto the edge of a huge parking garage downtown and getting beautiful backlit shots of my sister with the cityscape in front of her. Looking down from that building struck some serious fear into me, but the images that I got look so much more peaceful than what was going through my head.

Q: Who do you hope to shoot one day? What event do you plan to shoot one day?

A: One day, I would really like to shoot for a fashion or food magazine and combine my design work with it as well. Taking the photos, doing all of the editing/designing, and then formatting and printing everything sounds like such a dream to me.

Q: What is some ultimate goals for yourself and your career?

A: My ultimate goal in my career is to become a full time Art Director or to manage my own design agency when I’m way older and more experienced. I love doing freelance photography and design, but something about working for a big company really draws me in right now.

Q: Who are your inspirations?

A: I am usually more inspired by a person’s drive and motivation more so than their artwork. Not because I don’t like their work or anything, I actually love most art regardless of the style, but it’s because it helps me realize that I need to be more consistent and focused. With that said, my main inspirations right now are Scott Hamsik (photographer), an artist from Miami named D’ana (@itscovl), some of my friends in the creative group that I’m apart of (@cdtheteam), my boyfriend, and my city. But most of all it’s my friends and the people that support me. Seeing people enjoy my work and seeing how I can inspire others and bring something enjoyable into their life is what inspires me the most.

Q: Do you have a specific lens you use for your shoots?

A: I don’t really have a specific lens that I use to be honest. I sometimes switch back and forth between my kit lens that came with my camera (NIKKOR 18-55mm) and some of the old used ones that I’ve bought from local camera shops like my NIKKOR 18-77mm. Some of my favorite small gear includes a nice little polarizing filter I bought in high school and a basic lens hood. Having a good polarizing filter, I would say, is an essential bit of kit for anyone working in photography.

Q: How would you define the style of your shoots?

A: When it comes to my style of photography, I think I just try to show things for what they are and I amplify the natural beauty of people and objects with different lighting and a close depth of field. I don’t do a lot of crazy effects in my photos, I try to save that for my designs. I love the raw features of a person like freckles, wrinkles, hair texture, etc. so I really prefer to make those the focus instead of intense edits.

Q: Are you currently working on any projects?

A: At the moment, I don’t have any photography projects lined up because my focus is mostly on design, but I’m always open for scheduled shoots with clients.

Q: Have you done photography for any public figures?

A: I haven’t shot for any big figures, just local people in Orlando. I don’t feel really inclined to shoot for a lot of public figures around Orlando because it seems like some of them don’t appreciate what photographers do, they just see it as something to post on their Instagram. Which is fine, but I prefer to work with people that see value in what I do.

Q: When you edit your photos, what style do you go for?

A: The most common things that I think occur in my photos are people’s features in great detail, objects in great detail, or the nature and settings around me that I find beautiful.

Q: When is comes to the confidence of the models, or the people you shoot for, how do you get them to do exactly what you want? What steps do you take to ensure the photoshoot turns out how you envisioned it?

A: In regards to helping models feel comfortable and getting them to cooperate, I think the most important thing to help them recognize is that you as the photographer are not there to judge them or how they look. We’re just there to take photos and create amazing art, not talk about your bad features or angles or anything negative. I really try to help them loosen up by making them realize that I’m literally just another human being with a camera. Cracking jokes, taking breaks to just talk, and gassing them up with comments like “Oh my gosh, you are absolutely killing it right now” during the shoot really helps them ease up in my experience.

Q: What is your opinion on visual/graphic artists not getting the recognition they deserve, when it comes to creating art for musicians/events?

A: I, of course, do not think artists get enough credit where it’s due, but I believe that’s changing a little bit because people are demanding it and it’s easier to call someone out who tries to pull one over on you like that. Most clients or consumers of art don’t think twice about why crediting someone is so important, and I genuinely think most aren’t aware of how upsetting it is because they aren’t in our shoes. To them, it’s 10 seconds of looking at something, retweeting/reblogging/liking/sharing, and carrying on. For us, it’s hours of work, years of preparation, and our heart and souls poured into what we do, so of course it hurts a bit. At the end of the day, something that has helped me cope with it is knowing that your work can speak for itself, and as long as you are pushing your art and working hard enough, you will still succeed even without that soundcloud rapper’s cosign. It’s important to demand your proper recognition and compensation, but it’s also important to work on making yourself known byyour individual work. Keep in mind that the people you chose to work with play a huge roll in that as well. Another thing I’ve witnessed is that the people that actually intentionally screw over the people that work for them don’t have great careers in their industry anyways. They either get sued, get their content taken down, or get their names dragged through the mud so much that not many people want to work with them, so I try not to get too upset about any of it.

Q: What can we expect from you in 2017?

A: As for what you can expect out of me for 2017? More art. More variety. More growth. More success. I’m currently teaching myself some 3D software, working amongst some amazingly talented people, and I plan on venturing into motion graphics as well. My potential ability to master different programs is consuming a lot of my thoughts right now so I intend to fulfill that as soon as possible and broaden my horizons. It’s already been a good year for me and my art so far, and I only see it expanding positively from here on out.

Q: What would you like the readers to know?

A: Some things that I really want readers to know are that:

1. Your hard work and your ethics will pay off. Do not quit something that you are passionate about when it gets really tough, because you could be a lot closer to your goal than you realize. And don’t forget to diversify your talents.
2. Supporting others can get you further than you think. A lot of artists tend to think that just because you’re sharing someone else’s art, that it’ll hurt your chances of success, and that is simply not true. Shared support between artists of all kinds can create such an unbelievably strong network and collaborative effort can really launch people into success they didn’t even realize was possible.

About The Author

CEO, Editor-In-Chief

awkward. college student. entrepreneur. womanist. radiant. lover of all things. growing, blossoming each moment.

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