When Basalt High grad Jeff Stevens moved to Los Angeles in 2001, he aimed to become a successful rock musician. Indeed, he came within a whisker of making it big, playing guitar for more than a decade in a band called Testing Tomorrow. But the members eventually started going their separate directions, and Testing Tomorrow became a thing of the past.
Fortunately, Stevens, the son of former Basalt mayor Rick Stevens, had the wherewithal to establish a fallback career even as he and his bandmates performed at venues like the Roxy, the Viper Room, and House of Blues.
After studying art at Woodbury University in Burbank, he landed contracts to create advertising materials for films, a component of the entertainment industry few people ponder. For every big-screen release, a mountain of ancillary marketing materials gets produced, from posters to billboards.
“I was doing movie poster stuff most of the time I was in the band,” Stevens recalls. “A professor had friends in the industry, and he hooked me up.”
Stevens, who moved back to the Roaring Fork Valley about two years ago, has produced posters for movies including Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Hunger Games, Django Unchained, and Sicario. Most recently, he worked on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and some of the Marvel superhero films.
But it’s not all about blockbusters. Since returning to Colorado, Stevens has been putting considerable effort into fine art, too, working on a series of mixed-media collages (jeffstevensart.com). It’s a welcome counterpart to his commercial work. “The movie posters are so precise, with clients scrutinizing every aspect of the creative process,” says the Carbondale resident. “What I am doing with my fine art is aggressively throwing that out. I don’t have to listen to anybody else.”
While in L.A., Stevens and a few friends started a street art collective, wheat-pasting posters around the city. “That got me going with the fine art stuff,” he says. He uses images from print ads, original photography, paint, stencils—and sometimes even parts of his movie posters—in the collages. “I really like to play with this sort of destruction of nature—materialism and the effect it can have on our natural environment,” says Stevens.
The collages have been displayed at the Skye Gallery in Aspen, the Art Base in Basalt, and the Launchpad’s R2 Gallery, Bonfire Coffee, and the Landmark Cafe in Carbondale. Last year, Stevens participated in a juried show at Aspen’s Red Brick Center for the Arts. This year, he is slated to have a solo show at a gallery a friend is opening in Tokyo.
With L.A. and his rock star ambitions in the rearview mirror, and his advertising work and burgeoning fine art career keeping him fulfilled, Stevens has happily come full circle. His California experience helped him realize this, too: “I don’t have to dip back into the city life, which I’m definitely done with.”