I cannot remember where I first saw Stuntkid's artwork. Most likely, it was on the page of one of his fans in one of MySpace's infinite parallel cultural universes, where the boundary between amoral copyright infringement and boosting the career of your favourite artists is hidden in a fog of mostly good intentions.
But wait, next on Model Mayhem I discovered a photographer with a very strong and unique visual style who also goes by the name of Stuntkid. Could they be the same person? Did I remember the artist's name wrong? The reason for my confusion was simply that Jason Levesque, the man behind the pen-name, is so good in both disciplines.
This is in part because Levesque is among those artists whose chosen creative medium is Photoshop, who are now exploiting the falling cost of high quality digital photography to originate their own photographic reference material. As a result, they are producing fetish (or fetishy) photography that is impressive in its own right. Consequently, their work ends up being equally respected in both areas.
The first such artist I recall is the Italian, Tom Porta. And of course Tsubasa, who was our cover feature subject a couple of months ago, is another classic example. What is particularly gratifying about this trend is how it stands in sharp contrast to the trend of 'appropriation' in art.
At least the pencil, water-colour or gouache renditions of other peoples' iconic photographs (a popular pastime in ‘fetish art’ circles) involve a fair degree of skill, albeit with a total lack of imagination. But some examples of appropriation, especially at the high end of fine art, are breathtakingly plagiaristic, and highly morally questionable. How splendid then, that in order to create their own reference and source material, artists like Stuntkid have ended up developing the talent to double their creative possibilities.
But let’s not embarrass him further with our praise. Let us, instead, allow him to tell us about himself in his own words…
‘I often find myself categorised with pin-up and erotic artists. I think in this category, artists are not expected to create meaning’
I have never looked for meaning in my work. The things I draw have always been, in my mind, simply for aesthetic appeal.
I often find myself categorised with pin-up and erotic artists. I think in this category, artists are not expected to create meaning. I've been told my work evokes different emotions in different viewers. Ultimately I think that is what art is supposed to be. If I create an image and display it, at that point every viewer is an owner. What the image means to them or how they relate to it is up to them. Art can be very personal and I wouldn't want to tell someone what to see in my art.
I feel that artists graduate under enormous pressure to put meaning into their work, to ‘challenge conventional beliefs’. I personally don't buy into that. There have been artists in history who have created successful commentary on the changing world around them. But those ground-breakers aren't unleashed by the hundreds. They are the very, very few. In a graduating class of 300 students, preparing them all to judge their success by how they change the world is ridiculous. Young artists will exhaust themselves in their attempts to fill their work with meaning or rushing to find their definition.
As for the erotic aspect of my work, I find my work pretty softcore as the scene goes. I've been linked up by many a sex blog labeling my art as erotic, so if that is what the internet says, it must be so.
Last year I illustrated a cover for Boston's WeeklyDig, the cover portrayed a girl hogtied in Saran-wrap. The image was playful in nature, but the paper was blasted for ‘condoning violence against women’. In the following month syndicated columnist, Dan Savage defended my work saying that the playful nature of the illustration suggested a consensual act. He went on to say that that the interpretation of such art is often very telling of the viewer. I believe this to be true.
‘I had tried to get into comic books but never found a taste for the over-rendered muscled men and women. Japanese anime influence is still visible in my work today but I see it diminishing over time’
My methods have evolved over time and at this point, I do all my best work in Photoshop. I've been working in Photoshop for about nine years and picked up the techniques in that time that allow me to put create anything I can imagine. A few years ago I picked up a Wacom tablet and spent some time getting used to it. Tablets can be difficult to get used to at first but in time they speed up the process, and using one allows me to ‘sketch’ natural looking lines.
Over time I've also created a couple of dozen ‘custom brushes’ in Photoshop that allow me to bring realistic textures into my work. I scan paper textures and use blending modes to apply them to my finished work. This gives the illustrations a more natural, tangible feel.
I think my first big influence was the Japanese animatiion feature Akira. I saw it for the first time when I was 13 or 14 and fell in love with the style. I had tried to get into comic books but never found a taste for the over-rendered muscled men and women. The Japanese anime influence is still visible in my work today but I see it diminishing over time.
As a pubescent teenager, I acquired a small collection of girlie magazines from which I referenced a lot of drawings at the time. I remember distinctly locking my bedroom door and breaking out the Playboys and blank paper and sketching all through the night. This was likely what birthed the preoccupation with pin-up style work.
I idolised the artists who were published in those magazines. I still hope one day to have work published in Playboy. I guess that will be seeing things come full circle.
‘I remember distinctly locking my bedroom door and breaking out the Playboys and blank paper and sketching all through the night. This was likely what birthed the preoccupation with pin-up style work’