Jason Levesque, also known as the Stuntkid, made his first appearance on EK in January of 2010, since then he’s been busy making awesome art with women and astoundingly diverse array of invertebrates. Multicolored and trippy his art is dope, so is his interview. Read it.
How did you chose the name Stuntkid? How long has it been your alias?
I’ve been living with “Stuntkid” for a long time. I came up with it back in 2001 when I was on the hunt for a url. I had a short list of names I thought would stick in peoples’ minds. I remember I really wanted “Puddleduck” for some reason, maybe just because I liked the sound of it. At the time I was working as a web designer in an office environment, it was boring work designing websites for golf courses. I used to break up the monotony by staging stunts. Once I rode a dirtboard down 2 flights of stairs, out a door and down another flight of stairs. It took me three attempts before I could do it without wiping out. I also tried riding a rolling chair down a rather steep incline in the office parking lot. I broke a lot of company property and ruined a lot of dress shirts but it was the only pleasure to be had in an otherwise mind-numbing job. So the nickname “Stuntkid” was born and the url was available, so it stuck. Stunt, meaning something risky or stupid done for attention applied to a lot of aspects of my life and my work.
How long have you been an artist?
Always. I used to draw comics when I was in middle school, then moved to writing short novels in early high school. I illustrated them, and if you’d asked me then, I’d have told you I was a writer. I don’t remember much about my novels, but there was a lot of ninjas and a lot of plot holes. When I went career shopping I decided to teach myself web design since it seemed like more of a sure bet than fine art. It wasn’t until maybe 2005 that I really began to pursue art. I started getting illustration jobs that year and started showing up in group art shows that year as well.
Where did you get the idea for “Paint Job”? What were you feeling emotionally?
I’m terrible with questions like this. I usually don’t have any deep meaning behind my work. Visually I’ve played with these transparent themes and in a previous piece “Flesh” I finally combined my paint spill theme with my transparent flesh theme. “Paint Job”, I feel, was a natural progression. I’ve read some really good imagined meanings for that piece and should have plagiarized them for this interview.
Of all your work, what was your favorite piece ever? What have you done with it?
That’s tough. My favorite piece changes often. Currently I’d have to say “Meat” is my favorite. It felt like an improvement and the maturing of a theme. I try to push my work forward continually and because of that, work that’s over a year old starts to look dated to me. Often as soon as I’ve posted work it begins to loose its charm. The flaws reveal themselves. The detail I left out becomes suddenly apparent. That’s not to say I’m not happy with my work, but I always tell myself “Next time I’ll do better.”
What response do you aim to illicit by your use of women and water? What about the incorporation of jellyfish?
Really I just love aesthetic of translucence and refraction. The incorporation of liquids in my work allow me to exploit the inherent organic beauty of water, slime or neon pink blood.
As for jellyfish, I’ve always had a fascination with them. I don’t know how they fit into the equation. They are organic, gelatinous and beautiful, in other words, really fun to draw.
Women are incredibly sexualized in our society, how do you think your art plays into that, contradicts or prescribes to that?
Without a doubt my work reflects societies sexualized view of women. I participate. I don’t think my work has ever been derogatory or exploitative. Interpretation isn’t something I can control and interpretations can vary greatly.
I tend to use sexuality in the same way advertisers do. I want to grab the viewer’s attention. An advertiser uses that to sell a product, beer, clothes, cars, whatever. Once I have the viewer’s attention I then present something slightly unsettling. Most of my work balances attractive and repulsive elements to hold onto the viewer’s attention slightly longer than any element would alone. You want to enjoy the attractive subject but you have to do so within the context of something conventionally repulsive. That’s my schtick.
What was your early work like content wise? What do you think you have done over the years that has contributed to your maturation as an artist?
I think my early work was more sexual and themeless. My work was basically a cute girl standing and looking cute. Not to dismiss that, artists have built enormously successful careers off doing just that and doing it extremely well. Slowly I started to veer away from the purely pinup style work and started to explore themes I was interested in and explore more captivating ways of presenting the female form. I started to try to repulse and attract simultaneously which I believe makes for a better experience. I’m still maturing and have a long way to go. I’m curious what I’ll say of my current work in ten years.
If your method has changed since you began, whether in terms of approach, content or the physical act of creating a piece of work, how has it changed? Were those changes consciously made, unintentional or a mixture of both?
I don’t think there has been much change in the way I work over the past few years. I’ve evolved but I’m basically using the same toolbox. My line work has gotten much more fine over time and the amount of time and detail I put into each work has grown significantly. A few years ago a friend asked why I didn’t spend more time detailing out hair, it was a good question, I’ve since spent more time detailing out hair. It’s funny but sometimes that’s how we develop.
What source material do you draw from? Do you use models? How do you find them?
I’ve been working with models since I first started pursuing art seriously. The methods I use require good reference photos and I realized early the importance of referencing your own material. I opened an account on Model Mayhem and quickly found some very talented models that were willing to work with me. I would shoot hundreds of photos and edit a few of them for the girl’s portfolios. The rest I would hang onto for illustration reference. This worked great for years and I was lucky enough to work with some huge names including Apnea, Mosh, Scar, Lauren WK and Raquel Reed. The photo edits I provided the models with proved very popular with the fans and I was became known as a photographer who could also draw. That’s not what I wanted at all, so last year I quit posting photography and focused all my efforts on illustration.
How has your work “Pretty Gross” been received? Was the reaction what you expected?
The book did well; I sold a lot of them initially. Sales have waned over time but I still manage to keep them slowly moving. I’d like to put out another one soon, it’s been a while and I have a lot of new work, some public, some private, that I’d like to get into book format.
What are you working on at the moment? Where do you expect yourself to be in two years?
I’m co-curating a couple shows here in Virginia. One opens July 16th and features 5 of my favorite artists. It’s called “Stuntkid and Friends” and I’m really excited about it. It’s interesting to be working on the gallery side of putting a show together. It really makes me appreciate the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes.
Other than that I’m working on some illustrations for LA Weekly and doing a collaboration with my wife ( lizzelizzel.com) for an art couple themed show at Hive Gallery in LA.
Who are some fellow artists you check out? What have you learned from your peers?
I have a lot of favorites, to many to list but a few of the people I follow closely, Allison Sommers, KozynDan, Glenn Arthur, Jeremiah Ketner, Barbara Canepa, Catherine Brooks and Dave McDowell. I just thought of at least 10 more but seriously, I could fill a page just rambling off names. Though their work stylistically varies greatly they have an incredible work ethic. Good work takes time, a lot of time, and the artists who do well invest in their work every day.
What is the best kind of pie?
EASY! Key lime pie, I had one last year while in the keys for Art Basel. It was amazing. A yearly tradition was born.