Discovering a creative identity amongst a family of artists, and learning how to develop a video game with Leo Castañeda
In this episode of How Art Is Born Host R. Alan Brooks is joined by Miami based multimedia artist and video game director, Leo Castañeda. Their conversation delves into Castañeda finding his own path and creative identity amongst a family of artists, teaching himself how to independently create and develop a video game, his video game direction and design process and more.
Links mentioned in this episode
ABOUT LEO CASTAÑEDA
Leo Castañeda (b. 1988, Colombia) is a video game director and multimedia artist exploring interdependent and posthuman interaction design. His artwork primarily takes form in episodic games and immersive installations that meld Latin-American Surrealist painting, virtual reality, augmented reality, wearables, video, and sculptural furniture. Castañeda is a 2023 Knight Arts + Technology Fellow, 2022 Emergent Strategy Ideation Institute Praxis Projects, and a 2022 Harpo Foundation grantee. He is a former resident of the Bronx Museum AIM Program, SOMA Mexico City, Oolite Arts, and Khoj International Artists Association in New Delhi India. He has exhibited at Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel; Espacio ArtNexus Bogotá; Children’s Museum of Manhattan; Digital Museum of Digital Art, Indiegrits; South Florida Cultural Consortium; Locust Projects, Miami; Frost Museum of Science; and Museo de Arte Moderno La Tertulia, Colombia. His work has been featured across Rhizome, ArtNexus, Killscreen, El Pais, El Nuevo Herald, Spike Art Magazine, and Vice. In 2022 Castañeda launched Miami’s first fine-art video game studio, Otro Inventario.
R. Alan Brooks (00:00):
Hey, I'm R. Alan Brooks. I am the host of this podcast,
Dele Johnson (00:03):
And I am Dele Johnson. I am editor and producer,
R. Alan Brooks (00:07):
So he does all the hard grunt work. Uh, so this episode is Leo Castaneda. He's a, a Colombian, uh, video game developer and artist. And, you know, I gotta say for myself with video games, like I've kind of been in and out of them my whole life, but the reason the last one I got addicted to was grant theft Vado. Yeah. The reason that I don't get too deep into them is because when I play a video game, I am consumed by it. Like I have to beat it with every character. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I have to go through every scenario and I spend months on it. And at the end I have nothing to show, but hurt thumbs <laugh>. So I try to keep it to like, uh, Tetris cuz it's finite. Sure,
Dele Johnson (00:45):
Sure. You, you're not playing the, the games that are, you know, so many are online now, and you're playing with other people. You're micd up, you're, yeah. You're talking trash. You're strategizing. You never got deep into that, that level
R. Alan Brooks (00:57):
Of, I would never write anything if, if, if, if I did that <laugh>, you know, that would like really be my whole life. But yeah. But so, like, as somebody who, uh, only occasionally engages with video games, it's really dope to hear how, uh, somebody's journey as a creator mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, how they got into it, how, um, they found their way, how did they even learn, like the technical aspects of it. Like, um, yeah. It's, it was fascinating kind of, you know, just to hear what his journey was in that world and as somebody who's creating his own game.
Dele Johnson (01:25):
Yeah. Yeah. And, you know, I thought there were a lot of parallels between the both of you as creators being independent, being self-taught, um, and pursuing your passions, uh, on your own terms.
R. Alan Brooks (01:37):
Yeah. So, uh, his game is on Steam.
Dele Johnson (01:41):
Yeah. Or it will be releasing on, okay. It'll be rolling out on Steam soon. There might be like a beta version that's, that's playable right now. Uh, it's called Levels and Bosses, um, post apocalyptic sort of world. Uh, some puzzle solving, some, you know, general exploration of, of a landscape that, that he's created.
R. Alan Brooks (02:00):
Yeah. It looks pretty good. So, I mean, you can see like the previews of it and stuff like that. Yeah. So anyway, uh, I think you guys will dig this interview. Uh, remember, please to share, tell people about this podcast. Uh, we work hard on it. We would like more people to listen to it and, uh, you know, subscribe on YouTube or wherever, you know, wherever you get your podcast to. There's the video version, there's the podcast version. Subscribe in all the places, do all the things, write reviews. Thank you. And, uh, enjoy it. Welcome to How Art Is Born, a podcast from the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, about the origins of artists and their creative and artistic practices. I'm your host, art Alan Brooks, artist, writer, and professor. Today I'm joined by a Miami-based video game director and multimedia artists. Mio Castaneda. Say hello.
Leo Castañeda (02:49):
Hello. MCA Denver. Hello Allen. Thank you for having me, <laugh>.
R. Alan Brooks (02:54):
Oh, no problem. I appreciate you being here. So, uh, start off, can you tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do?
Leo Castañeda (03:01):
Um, yeah, so, uh, I was originally born in Columbia, in Calí Columbia, uh, and to a family of artists. Uh, and I grew up around this kinda American surrealism and abstraction, but at the same time, uh, the global media games and anime to certain comics. Uh, but not as much as you definitely like games is more, uh, my thing. Um, but, uh, yeah, basically catalyze like all the work that I, that I've been doing, kinda upbringing where I then my parents like couldn't find work in Columbia and we ended up moving to the States. Eventually I went to like, art school Miami, um, eventually college New York to Cooper Union on the crossroads that I could've ended up at, uh, gonna college more for entertainment design. Like, I was kinda in the crossroads with like, fine art and, and uh, entertainment design to Crawford movies and video games. I ended going,
R. Alan Brooks (04:08):
Well, let me, let me bring you back just a little bit. So you're talking about your, uh, you grew up in a family of artists. Yeah. Uh, you said, so were they all painters? Cuz you mentioned abstract and,
Leo Castañeda (04:19):
R. Alan Brooks (04:20):
Like what kinda of art?
Leo Castañeda (04:21):
Uh, yeah, they were mostly, well, yeah, my grandma would do like abstract paintings
R. Alan Brooks (04:28):
Leo Castañeda (04:30):
My parents met in architecture school, but they, my mom would, would like, she was more like into fashion and character design, so she would do more like illustrations and drawings. And my dad was more into abstract painting with architecture. So yeahinteresting like, it was bit like, I at some point felt like I was not necessarily pushed into it, but like, highly encouraged, constructed extent. But, uh, but, but yeah, I think
R. Alan Brooks (05:12):
That's an interesting, it's an interesting thing. I want to, uh, I guess I want to hear a little more about when you said your identity was constructed. Do you feel like it was like strongly influenced by your family having all that art? Or was it something where you went down a path and had to decide if it was really you?
Leo Castañeda (05:28):
Yeah, yeah. The second one, uh, cause cause at the same time I always enjoyed doing art. Like, since I was little kid, like, I would draw on my dad's lap. Actually, the first memory that I have of art making is being in my dad's lap and tell him bat. And he would draw Batman and I'd be like, Batman again. And he would draw it again and it's like, draw it again. And then, and then I would be like, uh, and then I would try and frustrated that age three, I wasn't like at his level, but <laugh>. Yeah. But, um, yeah, I guess caught.
Okay. Yeah. Yeah. Um, yeah, I think, uh, when I was in college I found myself like everyone going through an artist block in, uh, in the fine arts school. Like kinda being in a situation of almost overthinking art and like, cause the school that I went to in New York, like it was a really good school, but it was a place where definitely was more conceptual, which is, which was good for learn, but sometimes people would like show almost all its conceptual. The day was, um, so art, yeah. That's started concept concepts of idea of like conceptual of concept art and games where you create, uh, characters world, which is very similar. Foundation. Foundation. Uh, so
R. Alan Brooks (07:48):
It's interesting, uh, just to hear about how, um, you had this pure love of art from, you said, uh, age three to age 17. Then when you, uh, sort of pursued the academic portions of it, it carried you a bit away from the things that you enjoyed mm-hmm. <affirmative> and you had to like, find your way back to it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, um, I'm, you know, I I'm certain you're not the only person who, who went through that, so mm-hmm. <affirmative>. I just wonder at that point when you were questioning whether art was your idea, whether something you wanted to do, how you f I guess how you bridged that gap. You know, you said you started to reach into like the conceptual video game stuff that you liked. Um, but how, can you talk a little bit more about what that process was and how you found your way back to that?
Leo Castañeda (08:34):
Um, yeah. Yeah. So paintings abstract painting, but like extent, um, yeah, kinda thinking of like halo games, like the wars and video games. So this, this question each basically. And so I made a painting that looked kinda like, it almost looked like, like almost like mutually destruction style meets, like missile bru meets Dragonball. Like, and when I did that painting I was like, ok, this was fun. It was like, that was like a childhood drawing of, of, I dunno, some kinda scenario characters battling now New York School education, uh, plus yeah, some of the abstraction that I grew around and like, and also the abstract paintings where when you're really using the brush and really moving, like that also felt like a really nice like active experience. So that piece, but then that piece became artistic dead end after that. Like, do I make this a series that is different ways of continuing that?
And then, uh, I also did another piece where I was thinking, ok, maybe let's think about video games as a starting point, but, uh, speakers behind painting and made some, uh, actually I used the, the composition of like sonic hedgehog style games where you have the 2D side score composition and Right. And with the sound you would guide the on the piece. Huh. So that was another experiment, but then I thought like, oh, ok, well this is like, I just do, you know, 1990s, eighties 2D science sounds like, how can I have freedom to like really not feel constricted by a formula, but just be able, well build and yeah, yeah. And ideas of what gaming could be and also what art could be for myself, but not feel the pressure of having to figure it out in the moment. Right. So where it finally catalyzed the work that I'm still doing now. So it's since, so like 14 years.
R. Alan Brooks (11:21):
So you were still in school at that point when you were doing those paintings? Yeah. Is that right? Yeah. Uh, so how did, uh, how did your teachers, how did the program react? Cuz that is a definite change from what you were doing before, right?
Leo Castañeda (11:35):
Yeah, there was skepticism, there was sense. Video games were not really art at the moment, so, but there was some encouragement like I did. Yeah. So when the, when the, when the series actually, it was more using the structure of world building and games. So like the levels and bosses progression of being in one level, and then you have a personified version of that level as a boss and then would lead another level, another that's lead endless creation. Uh, some of the first did in scenario I or why, why am I looking at video games and not other forms of like digital culture? Like what, what about video games is so interesting? If there's, if there, uh, there was a sense that even if there would be, let's say, or different artists out there in the world that had reference games already, that there was a sense that it was a Yeah. Like a lower art form or something. Right. Um,
R. Alan Brooks (12:55):
But well yeah, comic books have had that going on for years.
Leo Castañeda (12:59):
Yeah. Which funny co-opted fine, but, um, yeah. And nowadays, uh, yeah, they zoom through the, through the journey of, uh, insisting and insisting on on that work. Uh, yeah. Nowadays it's become much more accepted, the fine world and, and, uh, and the independent video games of also time.
R. Alan Brooks (13:28):
Hmm. I gotta say it's really interesting because, uh, bringing in video games help you rediscover what you liked about art, which is really cool. Mm-hmm. And to see that you're, you know, that you've made your way to a profession of video games. Um, first of all, that's just, that's cool. I, I'd like to hear like, um, what was that journey from, uh, making that series of paintings to finding your way to working within the video game industry?
Leo Castañeda (14:00):
Um, yes. So, so basically, um, by the time I was in my senior year of college, I, I, I started thinking of like the active viewership potential games art installation. So I did, and I had zero digital skills except for Photoshop and illustrating. So I did, uh, some sculptures where you kinda like, like inspired by arcade machines and I was excited about that. Started doing some also like more performance type works where I would create costumes of the characters that I was creating and have friends do different performances. Uh, nice. And then my best friend in, uh, was actually, uh, a comic book artist. Uh, so he started an in the publishing company and he challenged me to turn the paintings the first level into a narrative. Uh, ok. Yeah. So, so then I got 10 paintings kinda put them together, like, you know, he gave me a Scott McLeod Understanding comics and gave me Right.
And gave me like, some tips on how to do a sequential narrative. And, and, and then I was like, oh, wow, this is like doing the storyboard for, for a story. Is it gonna be a performance one day, like an opera or something? Or maybe it could be a video game one day. But, but then I had zero digital skills, so I, uh, or like digital, like 3D creation skills. So took me a couple of years when I was like, ok, well maybe one day, you know, I could save up to work with a programmer or, or, and then, and then I just thought, ok, lemme just download the software and go on YouTube and start learning a couple years later. Uh, and then, yeah, like I started just learning through the internet through forums. Uh, I started working with Unity First, uh, which was free, but then the Unreal Engine became free and 2013 as well.
And Unreal didn't have the limitation of knowing how to code and the traditional sense with the, the lines, like there was system called blueprints. So I basically started learning, learning how to do, started translating the paintings into 3D environments. Um, started also just learning the tools and creating like virtual reality experiments, uh, um, as part of the world building. And also just as part of the learning process of, of using the Cause VR is done with the same programs, right. And integrating VR headset into sculptures as extension of the kinda arcade machines meet art installations. And then time eventually let's, the comic book was, or like novel, uh, storyboard of the first was 2011. It took me 20 to have the skills to start creating that level digitally. Wow. And, uh, and then, but then by then I was still like, I was like, okay, well, to be able to actually program ability system actual game, I can't do grants locally, moved back to Miami already, but Grants, but then eventually started coming, uh, to work with programmers and asking around ahead now, like over time, uh, just through, through friend references and, and, uh, you know, eventually like a big team right now, three, three core members including myself.
Uh, one programmer, that's my partner, that's producer on the, and, uh, but then it's like maybe seven others, including two sound designers and another programmer. Um, uh, anyways. Cool. Yeah. So I grew over time thanks to Arts Grants and, and I also taught at a, at a university for three years and half my salary for, uh, but, uh, yeah, it's definitely not, not not easy. It's taken a long time to learn, but, but I feel like it's a rewarding experience, uh, overall and yeah.
R. Alan Brooks (18:33):
I love hearing about that, man. You know, I mean, you're talking about the small team I was thinking, I read, uh, for everything everywhere, all at once. The effects team was four people. Well, you know, yeah. Right. And <laugh>. So, you know, I think, um, we're at this interesting place where of course we have, you know, AI knocking at our door for everything we create artistically, but we also have, um, the technology where very small teams can accomplish really big things mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, um, I think it gives an interesting place for some stories that haven't been told to be told. So I, so I'm excited about that aspect of things.
R. Alan Brooks [AD] (19:11):
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Leo Castañeda (19:39):
Yes. The technology was not where it's at now in terms of, of Free Game Engine. I mean, free after and pay after Million wasn't for Unreal Engine, existing free software, 20 years independent game designers would've create their own engine, but Yeah. Yeah. So you would need to invest thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars just to have the structure mm-hmm. <affirmative> that would be able to the wow. The technology. And now they just, you know, it's like much more open source.
R. Alan Brooks (20:17):
Right. It's, well, it's an interesting thing, man, because, you know, uh, even though I'm not a dedicated video gamer, um, the world of comics and, and video games are so parallel mm-hmm. <affirmative> that I, you know, I ended up hearing like, some of the things of how things worked, that crafting of stories and stuff like that. But I think, um, for people who are listening, it would be interesting to talk about the process of making a game. Um, for you like beginning to end, like do you start with story? Do you start with kind of a concept? Like, um, yeah. What's, what's it like?
Leo Castañeda (20:54):
Um, yeah, well, for me, I kinda start with the intention and that intention, well, first was yeah, combining fine art and games and the concepts of fine art and games, uh, concepts and aesthetics. And then if one goes deeper into that, then, you know, there's philosophies, there's like, you know, surrealism, abstraction, there's a whole mixture of things. And then over time that intentional was also at some point I'll grow up to the point that I can say something that's deeper about what interactivity and games could evolve to. But yeah, when I started it at, yeah, 20, 21 years old, I was not at that point. But I think over time, the more games I played and the more I lived and, and the more met people to collaborate with, the more the intention of the game is to, to go. I mean, also, and also the intention of the game was to challenge a level would be like, like hierarchical systems of games and like structure of antagonism of things.
So, huh. So with, uh, with that in mind, uh, it's basically a process of doing drawings with that intention of also worlds where, where, uh, sentience is shared across landscape technology and beings. So like Where're, it's almost like Animistic worlds. Um, so with that in mind, like reimagining the hierarchical and antagonism structure of games and having worlds that are interconnected, the, and having the aesthetics that are merging like surrealism and abstraction and allowing myself to kinda have freedom of creating whatever I want mode, sometimes structures that contain endless exploration of artistic development, but with mind it's basically letting myself draw and paint, catalyze the world building. And that Unreal or Maya Mudbox and doing the 3D models sometimes using the, the textures from those models, sorry, from the paintings and drawings into the 3d. So it's like a very, very much a feedback loop that starts, uh, generating from the digital to analog process.
And yeah. And, uh, and then, um, so yeah, that's that aspect. And now with the, with the team, um, I'll meet with the programmer once a week and we'll talk about the interaction aspects. So it's like, so, so a lot of the drawings are also, uh, mapping out what the interactions would be. I'll talk about it that with the programmer, uh, he'll do the base and he'll leave it with connections for me to do the animations and the visual effects on top. And, and I'll do like, simple programming or simpler programming that connects to his most more complex programming. And anyways, so it's, it's kinda like the, the
R. Alan Brooks (24:12):
Loop. Yeah. So just to, uh, make sure, like, you know, tell me if I get it right, but the programming seems to, uh, so you start with the concepts, you have all the art come to the programmer, they, uh, provide sort of a technological structure for the game to work. Yeah. And then you're adding back in all the aesthetic portions, is that right?
Leo Castañeda (24:34):
Yeah, the aesthetic portions, and then it's almost like you're in your house and there's, the programmer is almost doing the, all the backend electrical work. Ah, but I still have to design what the, what the outlet or the switch looks like, uh, looks like and what the lamp looks like, and, and know how do the electrical aspect to connect to the electricity. So, so, so ok. But yeah, but the, for example, the hardest thing to do in the game that was way outta my league was ability system. Like Unreal Engine has innate ability video games, especially role games where you have a character progression and different items and different
R. Alan Brooks (25:22):
Leo Castañeda (25:23):
Uh, abilities that build up over time. And, and that, that's been something that, that, uh, that yeah, I had thought about for a while. But then once through the diy, just working alone, once I hit system was like, ok, I can't do this. Also, I think it's such place for exploration could, for example, like abilities, abilities, camouflage, um, uh, laser based communication and electromagnetic sensors, um, switching embodiments. So like universe that could be universe or human universe open ended, but they're using light and vibration and adapt harness to, to, in a mutualistic way to be able to kinda, to to, um, yeah, to generate. And that's the concept of the game, like how to create a, a game system that is non-destructive, but that allows for destruction as a, because there's a choice of it, but it makes it way less effective and a mutualistic or, uh, sustainable interaction. So that's, that's been another of the aspects that's been really cool to grow over time. It's, and, and, and with that too, my partner Lauren, who's a writer and cultural organizer, producers really great work with her. Cause she's always thinking of how like, organizing systems work. So it's been, it's been cool. Like, that's cool to like be able to talk to her every day and, uh, anyways, tap her as part of the project as well.
R. Alan Brooks (27:31):
Okay. So we go design, then programming, and then the next step is the step you just described, where you are figuring out these problems and, uh, adding all the aesthetics. So then after that, is it done or are, what's the next steps?
Leo Castañeda (27:47):
<laugh>, uh, to play tests, uh, and project art world or through, um, art exhibitions. Art exhibitions have been really good for, uh, so kinda provide deadlines and of people get Yeah. Been process. It's really good to get, to get feedback in that way. And, uh, and then, uh, reiterating like it's, I mean, there's a, I can send you a link later, but there's a, there's a short, that museum in Columbia, it, it's online, but the, the main game levels and bosses is still to be released, uh, next year and on Steam. So, so I've never actually experienced the feeling of just launching something out there to like thousands of people. Uh, is
R. Alan Brooks (28:49):
That short one something that people can go play now?
Leo Castañeda (28:52):
Uh, yeah. It's in Spanish, but, but yeah, it's basically, it's called means ge Spanish. It's basically, uh, it's almost like a, it's in the levels, embosses universe of like these kinda sentient sculptures almost, uh, where you collect water and, and sculpture like by just finding seeds. And then you build up this garden of sculptures and, and at first it feels great, like you're just, uh, uh, yeah, building your garden. But then if you over build, it becomes a lot of management. Cause you end up with like 20 sculptures that are always asking, eventually they're all asking for water for light <laugh> anyways,
R. Alan Brooks (29:52):
So Well, uh, if you, uh, uh, if you send a link to it, uh, I'm sure de will include it in that notes for the episode so people will listening can check it out if they want to.
Leo Castañeda (30:00):
Ok, cool. Yeah, yeah. Do, yeah. Then we just launched, uh, last week, this theme page for Bubble that'll release methodically starting next year. So, nice. That'll be cool to get some feedback on.
R. Alan Brooks (30:15):
Cool. Yeah. Okay. So, uh, what you're working on presently is, is not an extension of that game. Is it? Is something else? Is that right?
Leo Castañeda (30:26):
Uh, no, it's so
R. Alan Brooks (30:30):
Not bosses. Yeah. I
Leo Castañeda (30:31):
Mean, the gardening game is on the same universe. Like it's, oh, I see. It shares aesthetics, uh, uh, but it, in the level, in Boston universe, there's definitely the ability to, to like switch bodies, drones, or sculptures. So it's almost like if you have drone helicopters or something, it looks more like, like, um, in main that's key is ability using touch with intensities. So, okay. And, and touch creates vibrational field around the hand or the hand, the appendage of hand that can be intensified or, or you know, be intensified. Just base version. So there's, in that other game, there's a, the sculpture is almost like just the head and the arm, but, so it's like a little floating head arm drum.
R. Alan Brooks (31:37):
Leo Castañeda (31:38):
R. Alan Brooks (31:39):
Uh, do you feel like, uh, you know, it is interesting cuz you've been talking about combining the sensibilities of fine art with the, the video game stuff. So, um, I don't know, I mean, where you are in the process right now, are you happy with how those things are melding? Is it, is it challenging to keep that kind of, that blend going? What's that like?
Leo Castañeda (32:02):
Um, but has been a situation that, well I had a show last year at a place called Locus Project here in Miami, and it was kinda multimedia experience, wallpapers and tapestries and everything was kinda com combin, the, the aesthetics of a game conference booth and art installation. And I showed concept art anyways, it was all the media, all the media. But the only thing, the main thing that I learned there is that the game itself, ed, different artwork at the, could be even more. And even though I had help, you know, with sound design, like I didn't do, collaborated with others in that aspect, I, to the, to people help me. But, um, but it still felt like the game. So where I'm at now, it's just trying to minimize, uh, exhibitions as much as possible for the or two exhibitions really.
But, but in order for the crossover. So it's not just an art within an art context, which, you know, you have, uh, different situations within art exhibition context where you Yeah. A lot like relational aesthetics, like, like artist like, like cooking or playing tennis artists art as a comic for a gallery, museum or art influenced by comics in a museum, but don't goal is not art gallery. Like I feel like the accessibility of independent video games is something that's, uh, zero to 20 and be, uh Right. Can be afforded by people all over the world is something that, yeah, it encourages me to try to get the game out there that format instead of only the instructure. Yeah,
R. Alan Brooks (34:58):
That's a cool vision, man.
R. Alan Brooks [AD] (35:05):
MCA Denver at the holiday theater is a year-round performance and event space that is an extension of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver. The holiday is home to a spectrum of creative expression, including original productions, live music, film screenings, artist talks, and serial programming like mixed Taste and Cinema Azteca, as well as performances and events presented by other cultural organizations. The theaters also available for private rentals. Visit MCA denver.org/holiday theater to learn more.
R. Alan Brooks (35:36):
Okay. I wanna ask, um, about fear. So in your process when you're creating, what is it like when you feel fear and how do you find your way forward?
Leo Castañeda (35:49):
Um, yeah, I mean the getting the game out there is definitely the, the biggest feared, the biggest. So there I mentioned ago, been many years, sometimes I'll have friends like, Hey, like, when is it gonna be done? Like, if you don't get it done, it's never gonna get done. And I'm like, no. But, you know, takes a while to refine, like better than, and I think the, yeah, probably be, and surviving as an artist are the number ones that I have. I'd say like the, that that one exhibition that I was like basket multimedia,
Right? Like I, yeah, I'd daries and everything just basically put everything is the kind thing that, but after that I was like, oh my gosh. Like if nothing arrives financially, like I'll have to give up on making the game or give up on being an artist move to my house or something. I an artist. Like when it's constantly oscillating between these, uh, this like unstable, um, income, uh, situations. And I think I really learned to, to to kinda be a little smarter about the budgeting of, um, that's key. Yeah. Um, but yeah, so, and unfortunately there was another grant that arrived from the Knight Foundation early in the year that was able to kinda, uh, stabilize me, but but also have to be, was good lesson to kinda, um, yes, yeah, grow the product, but also not forget about my own, uh, help and, and survival. Yeah. So,
R. Alan Brooks (37:57):
All right, well, so when you're facing that fear, like what is, you know, how do you mobilize in it? You know, like how do you make sure that it doesn't stop you?
Leo Castañeda (38:08):
Um, yeah, I guess, uh, meditation and <laugh>. So meditating, breathing thing that is, that gives life purpose and feels good to do not right. That it's not a burden. Uh, I would much rather be doing that and have the fear of how am I gonna pay rent for, you know, like next month or another month after that, or than to have the fear that I'm, that time is passing by and I'm not doing art and like not having that experience and not, and that and the artistic growth, I think cause, cause in the, it's challenging and feels very good and it's rewarding and it's, and it gives a sense of meaning that, that I, yeah. That
R. Alan Brooks (39:06):
I like. When you do art that is, uh, when you do art that's supposed to renew you past fear, is it art that is outside of the project you're working on so you can kind of like get a clean slate? Or is it related to what you're working on?
Leo Castañeda (39:20):
It's, yeah, it's usually 90 of the time related to structure of the levels situation.
R. Alan Brooks (39:33):
Leo Castañeda (39:34):
<affirmative> could make it so that absolutely every artwork that I make no matter what can go back to so, so could be that, lets say like right now if partner left perfume bottle on the table, so I could be inspired by that perfume bottle and, you know, everyday items of a tiny being the size of an an around a perfume bottle turns into a city or something. So, so, so it could be this situation where, uh, yeah, like going back to a situation of letting go of expectation of this has to be the, this art piece has to be part of the development of the canon. And actually I really wanna try canon narrative, but, but, um, anyways, kind deviation, just having fun with something could end up going back into a main project, but it could also just be, you know, an experiment that just yeah. Doesn't fully work out. But yeah, usually 90% of the time it's just like moving on a future world that I'm not working on digitally just kinda sketching it out or, or yeah. Or just researching on what's going on in the world and, and doodling.
R. Alan Brooks (41:14):
Right on. Okay. Well, so, uh, Leo, we're gonna start to wrap up the two questions that I ask to wrap up, but one of them is, uh, what is your geeky pleasure? What's inspiring you artistically these days? Could be another game. Movies, books, music.
Leo Castañeda (41:32):
Um, the number one thing is, uh, learning about AI and being scared of it and also excited about it. <laugh>. Yeah, I feel like it's like the, the coming of a, the closest tangible thing to our God that we've ever experienced as a civilization besides nature. Um, and yeah, and yeah, and respecting everyone's spirituality, but, uh, yeah, just the, the super intelligence surviving and how we relate to, it's definitely the, the main thing that, that both the AI of YouTube will suggest to me to look at and mm-hmm. <affirmative> that I choose to, to, to look into. And then yeah, then, and I'm always like kinda listening in the background and learning about different games through YouTube and, and yeah. And how games are made. But yeah, but the oscillating fear and optimism and thinking about like how the worlds gonna evolve AI and how it's affecting artists. I also teach at a high school slash college, uh, animation class and just like talking to students confronting AI, I think is yeah. A situation.
R. Alan Brooks (43:05):
No doubt. Yeah. Right. Well, uh, then, uh, my other question is where can people follow you, follow your stuff? Where's the best place for 'em to check out what you do?
Leo Castañeda (43:17):
Um, for, for my fine artwork that does next games, my personal website, uh, and Instagram. And then, um, for my video game project, uh, as I mentioned earlier, uh, we just launched a steam page. Um, so, um, so Steam is the marketplace for games. So if you look up levels on Steam, you'll see the trailer and the description game, and, and you can, and that people can wishlist there, which is basically, uh, when it comes out episodically in about a year. Um, yeah, they'll email.
R. Alan Brooks (43:59):
All right. Uh, do you have anything that, uh, you wanna plug that you're working on? I mean, you've been talking about the game. Is there anything more specific about how people can check it out or support it?
Leo Castañeda (44:08):
Uh, no. Well, we have the, the <inaudible>. Yeah.
R. Alan Brooks (44:14):
Okay. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. Well, Leo, I appreciate you talking to me. Um, yeah, it's been a cool conversation. It's a, it's a world that I'm always near, but not that deeply into, so it's great to hear like, uh, your journey and how, how you approach putting together games and all of that.
Leo Castañeda (44:32):
Thank you. Uh, and thank you and thank you Denver. Happy to share. And there's a lot crossover with lots of other media likes, exhibition design, filmmaking, like architecture, like there's, it's, yeah, it's like putting together a project that has a world of narrative and interactions and, um, right. Yeah. So it's just a continuation of other media and what's been done before, but through a very active participation of the, the viewer.
R. Alan Brooks (45:12):
Special thank you to today's guest, Theo Castaneda. Thank you. To the listeners, if you're not already, please be sure to subscribe to How Art is Born, wherever you get your podcast. For more episodes. If you can leave a review, it helps us out. Check out MCA Denver on YouTube and subscribe to the channel to watch the video version of this podcast and get behind the scenes clips from today's episode. How Art Is Born is produced and edited by De la Johnson, and executive produced by Courtney Law. Additional thanks to Rachel for their work on marketing support for this episode.