Joe Ledbetter is an American artist and art toy designer from Los Angeles. He is considered part of the Pop Surrealism, Lowbrow Art Movement and Art and Designer Toys movement. Joe is also awesomely cool. We spent the afternoon with him at his house with his wife and baby son.
Where work gets done and dreams become reality.
Joe's mild obsession with toys.
All the Garbage Pail Kids.
There are some things in life that you can't live without...oxygen, food, water, internet, you know, the very basic essentials for life. Everyone's list is different as to what they deem as essential, but everyone has a list. Much like Batman's utility belt or a Swiss Army knife, there are a handful of things in this world that we must have with us, to get us in, or out, of a tough jam. So we've asked our friends for a list of items that would make their list. The items that make them who they are. For Joe, these items are...
Aside from being my favorite food, I have many an avocado anecdote. I grew up with a giant avocado tree in my front yard, and ate them constantly. Best avocados I ever had. Avocado trees also make for great climbing trees, and as a kid I spent many an afternoon in the branches playing Star Wars and A-Team with my brother, sisters and neighborhood kids. I once climbed so high I couldn’t get down, and feared for my life - it took about an hour for my dad to slowly coach me down. Sometimes we would sell avocados in front of our house on weekends to make money to go to the movies, or buy Garbage Pail Kids cards and Jolt soda at the liquor store. Our dog loved chewing on rock-solid unripe avocados and grew to an obese 120 lbs. – but he was super happy, and had the most shiny coat. I was also married underneath an avocado tree. To this day I eat them whenever I can.
The Clash “Sandinista!”
My favorite album from my all-time favorite band, The Clash. This album has stuck with me and gone with me everywhere I’ve been since I was first introduced to them in high school. I don’t think it’s their best album, but it’s definitely my favorite. I love the experimentation, mashing up of genres, layers of instruments and sound, dance-ability, political stance, and sheer quantity of content (3 LPs). The openness of ideas and willingness to take risks is what I love most about this band, and this album captures the true spirit of unbridled creativity. They once jokingly said the album was meant for people stationed in the Arctic because there are so many tracks and is so thick with content it will keep you occupied for a long time, perfect if you’re isolated without access to record stores. When I’m painting away for months getting lost in my artwork, I have my moments where I feel I can relate with someone stationed alone in the Arctic.
My wife is from Italy; she and the entire country of Italy think American coffee is terrible. So she got me started drinking espresso. I use this Bialetti coffee maker every day, since I started about 5 years ago I can’t go back to American coffee - tastes like water to me now.
Rangeas by T9G
This is my favorite designer toy: “Rangeas” by Japanese artist T9G. He’s a prolific artist and sculptor who is truly a master in my book. This figure’s iconic character design and level of detail in the sculpt is off the chart. That head is all one piece, and his understanding of what kind of shapes he can cast in a mold (including all the horns and spikes, and teeth) is pretty astounding. I love it when artists sculpt their own toys, and you can feel his fingerprints all over this. It stands about 10” tall, and is made of clear blue Japanese soft vinyl (also called Sofubi). Inside the clear figure is a coat of glow-in-the-dark paint, which will glow through the clear vinyl giving it an awesome blue aura. The great use of color, and spray areas on the face in just the right spots really bring this guy to life. And of course, he tops it all off with his signature creepy doll eyes.
When I paint, I do a ton of line work. I build line work over line work and need the right tools for the job. These are some of those tools, and I use different size brushes depending on the thickness, curvature, and length of a line I am painting.