Posted by: Tony – May 02, 2010


The physical copies of the new RVA Magazine will be on the streets by Wednesday. Here is a sample of what's inside. If you can't wait, you can check out the web copy here or with the other cover here. Major post tomorrow.

There are two kinds of TV watchers: people who can do something while they watch (eating doesn’t count as doing something), and people who can’t. My Thursday night Hulu-shame-spirals haven’t produced anything but empty Bourbon bottles and drool stains on my couch. Jason and Elizabeth Levesque are another story. At the end of their night on the couch, bad movie playing in the background, they’ve produced fantastic sketches of moon bunnies and women with transparent skin.

Jason’s (aka Stuntkid) sketches are transformed into illustrations for magazine covers, Ipod skins and skateboard decks. Jason recently illustrated the cover of The Many Loves of the Amazing Spider-Man Issue #1, due in stores in early May. He also shows his limited edition fine-art prints in national and international exhibitions.

Elizabeth (aka lizzelizzel) is an artist with a popular Etsy site and a fine-art painting practice.

For the first time, they are exhibiting together. Friendly Ghosts/Pretty Gross will be at j.fergeson gallery in Farmville, VA, from May 4-29, 2010.

ANNA: Elizabeth, what’s friendly about your Friendly Ghosts ?

: My ghosts are friendly because they don’t care that they’re ghosts. I don’t always mean ghost literally, though there is plenty of that in my paintings too. Every painting I’ve completed is part of who I was once, for a month, for a day. They’re all ideas that have come and gone and are now chilling out on a canvas till time takes that too. The idea of something ceasing to exist is frightening, but the idea of something as small and quiet as a rabbit being able to continue its existence in the form of a ghost, still doing rabbit things, uninterrupted, was comforting. I also use the idea to show, in a cutesy way, how animals and their environment are part of a dependent cycle. You can’t have the squirrel without the acorn, or the acorn without the tree, or the tree without the soil, the soil without death, and so on.

ANNA: In Pretty Gross, we see women drawn in vampy poses with transparent skin, making their skeletons visible. Gross references gross anatomy or the grotesque. Why did you decide to reveal what’s actually there—the bone beneath the skin?

STUNTKID: As for the term “Gross” I’m actually an avid reader of medical literature so the double meaning is there. I’m endlessly fascinated with the mechanics of the human body, it’s strengths and flaws, the kludgey way it’s put together and this perceived beauty we attach to the thin wrapper that keeps all our meat from falling out.

ANNA: Elizabeth, one inspiration for your paintings is the desire to feel okay about being a girl because growing up as one is hard. When you were growing up what were the things you thought time would make easier? Are you surprised by any of the things that you have or haven’t figured out?

: When I was younger, I thought, hoped, I’d grow up to look like Kirstie Alley from Cheers. Seriously. I definitely have not figured out all the rituals I’m supposed to do to feel and look traditionally attractive. It’s only recently okay to be a girl because there’s money to be made through it. Most of the campaigns and messages to girls are all sponsored by companies trying to sell them products for them to use to be a girl correctly (pretty). That said, I still play the game.

I have a fear of being *that kind* of feminist artist (which is a traitorous thought to have), but I think I am at the point where I shouldn’t care. That’s another part of being a girl that’s difficult, being categorized without your permission because of your gender.

My paintings about cosmetics and consumerism seem really pathetic when women in this country and others face daily violence and starvation

ANNA: Elizabeth, your “Crimson Wave” illustration is honest and hilarious. A cranky woman surfs a red wave on a maxi-pad. I recently wrote a story about having an epiphany in the maxi-pad aisle at Target. Let’s transform your illustration into giant stickers and recover all the stupid flowery maxi-pad boxes at Targets across the state. (I think some male readers just threw RVA across the room)

LL: Well they shouldn’t throw it across the room! There’s nothing to be afraid of! They’re not the ones who get cramps and stained underwear! But yes, let’s do that!

: Hey, come back—we’re talking about Playboy. Jason, as a boy you practiced drawing by copying photos from Playboy. In the early 80s, the Playmates still had hairy bush and their own boobs. What will happen to young illustrators copying now—when the Playmates are hyper airbrushed, super waxed and silicon plumped?

STUNTKID: I remember my mom telling me “That’s not what real women look like.” I remember thinking “If you’re the bassist for Motley Crue this is EXACTLY what women look like.

I guess the way women are drawn has remained the same with the oversized boobs, the heavy swollen lips and pencil thin eyebrows. What’s odd is that women with enough money can physically become these cartoonish characters. It’s life imitating art.

Technology is definitely changing the way we view beauty, but for the first time nearly everybody is in on the con. Girls AND boys are taking pretty pictures of themselves and Photoshopping themselves to perfection. It’s not necessarily a healthy thing but at least everyone knows how it works.

ANNA: Jason, you are a successful illustrator—with international exhibitions and a steady stream of magazine covers. You dropped out of school in grade 11. Some people think art can’t be taught—that you either have innate talent or you don’t. As someone who was mostly self-taught, what do you think?

STUNTKID: I don’t know if there is “innate talent” It’d be hard to diagnose if there was. I suppose you could be born with a better than average recognition of space and incredible dexterity. I think nurture is a greater advantage for artists, it feeds that drive to self improvement.

My lack of education crippled me in some ways. Being self taught often means slow learning and trial and error experiments where there needn’t be any. A college education will expose a young artist to new tools and methods not readily available to the self-taught. But for all its wonderful experience, college doesn’t make artists. You don’t casually learn “art” as you would a less passionate trade. Art is all about the extra effort, going above and beyond what is expected. Some people are capable of that with or without the guidance of a structured learning environment.

ANNA: You two are recently married. Congratulations! What’s the best thing about being married to an artist?

LL: We can both justify sitting on the couch all night, sketching, with a bad movie in the background, without feeling like we’re neglecting each other.

ANNA: Jason recently illustrated the cover of The Many Loves of The Amazing Spider-Man, Issue #1, debuting in early May. You said you weren’t a comic book fan as a kid, and that you bought your first issue of Spider-Man when you got the cover gig. Would you want to illustrate the cover of any books?

STUNTKID: I’d love to do covers for some of the classics. I’ve actually thought several times about doing a cover for Lord of the Flies just for my own satisfaction.

ANNA: Jason, funky sea imagery is prominent in your work. Does living in Norfolk influence you?

STUNTKID: I’m a pasty redhead and the summer sun devours my flesh. I don’t like sand in my pants, salt in my eyes, or half-naked-but-shouldn’t-be people wandering into my field of vision. I have no love for the beach but I adore the ocean.

I grew up in Florida on a houseboat and earned my sea-legs while simultaneously learning to walk. I used to fall asleep next to a large window on the boat. I’d dream of the deep ocean and of falling in. I’d dream of sinking below the waves and landing on the sandy ocean bottom. Once there, whales, octopi, and dolphins would fade into view with larger than life eyes.

: Elizabeth said if Jason dies before her, she’s going to boil his skull and make a series of drawings titled, “Portrait of the Artist’s Lover’s Skull.” Jason, any special plans for Elizabeth’s skull?

STUNTKID: I’m sure I’ll find an interesting use for it around the house. It has a lovely shape and would prove most inspirational. If for nothing else than a great place to hide a spare set of keys

: I hope he saws it open, plants some mint in my skull, and then harvests it for any vegetarian pets he may have at the time. He can use the rest of the mint to garnish mojitos!

Friendly Ghosts/Pretty Gross, May 4-May 29, 2010. Artist reception, May 8, 2010, 5-8pm.