Words: Yasi Salek
I don’t know a ton about graffiti, but when I was given the chance to meet the man who created BunnyKitty, the extremely adorable amalgamation of two of my most favorite animals, I hopped at it (get it?). In the process, I learned about the prolific career of the artist know as Persue (aka Dave Ross), from his roots in skateboarding and street wear to his world-wide mark on the street art scene to his latest endeavors, the brand Mercantile and his two Home Mercantile stores. I also learned that BunnyKitty is totally punk.
Were you an artistic kid?
I mean, I didn’t do anything out of the ordinary. I just drew all over my homework as a young student in elementary. I was raised in an artistic family with a lot of artistic people in it, like uncles and stuff. Creativity in our family, but I didn’t really know I was an artist until much later, until I got into graffiti in the late 80s. And from there I developed my skills as an illustrator and a painter and graffiti artist. At the same time I was working in the skateboard industry, and basically honed my skills hands-on through that. I had no prior artistic training.
So you got into graffiti first, and then later into other kinds of illustration and art?
Yeah, I got into graffiti in ’88 and then was discovered through painting a skateboard shop of a fledgling company called 8 Ball, which later became Droors, which later became Dub Outerwear, which later became DC Shoes. So I was there from day one on all those brands, and then later I went on to start Osiris Shoes and Circa Footwear, I did the name and logo for both those brands. There weren’t too many people bridging the gap between street art and fashion at the time, but there were people like myself and Dave Kinsey and Shepard Fairey and Andy Howell, to name a few.
How old were you when you first got into graffiti? How did you originally get involved in it?
I was 17; I kind of had a late start. But it was still relatively early in the scene on the West Coast. The whole introduction of East Coast graffiti to the West Coast was early 80s to mid 80s, and this was ’88, so it was still early on. I was already intrigued by the whole cholo-riding scene; I was just attracted to it. So when graffiti came around, I was like “Oh shoot, I can just kind of concentrate on being an artist, and not necessarily the whole gang thing.” But later on I found out the two run parallel anyway, and kind of go hand-in-hand anyway.
How did you avoid falling into that dark side?
Skateboarding kept me from that. I mean, skateboarding really turned me into an international writer, because I was able to travel in the early 90s with these companies on skate tours, and while everyone went to go skate, I would link up with all the local graffiti writers, and go paint on stuff.
Tell me about the Graffiti Exchange.
Yeah! That was a project I did, the brainchild of this artist by the name of Jersey Joe, of MSK. He started this project, which was basically established writers that would trade outlines with one another, or trade drawings with one another like “Well I drew your name, now go out and paint it in my style.” It’s such a good idea, because you go out there and learn this other artist’s little subtleties. The project started with six artists, and then Revok got me involved with that, then there were twelve artists, then it became a little more international, and it just caught on. It was just good timing. A lot of people were checking out what we were doing. We had a website, a blog, and Rime teamed up with another group of event coordinators, and created a West Coast tour out of that. He got funding from Pabst Blue Ribbon, and they flew all the artists from all around the world and got us all together for the tour. We started off in San Francisco, and every city we went to we would have huge walls to paint, and then the rest of the time we would do an art show, just partying and painting.
What year was this?
2007 I think. Then there was a book released.
Do you have any plans to do any other collaborative projects like that?
Oh yeah, for sure. Whenever I paint it’s a collaboration with other artists, unless it’s just a wall by myself or something. But I really like to collaborate with other artists, whether they’re graffiti artists or street artists or fine artists, whatever.
What’s up with BunnyKitty, and how did you know how to take my two most favorite animals in the world and mash them together?
It was exactly that. I took two of the cutest animals and put them together. I had met a girl I had a crush on, and she asked me to draw her BunnyKitty. And I asked her, “Well what does BunnyKitty look like?” And she said, “It’s a cat in a bunny suit.” So I was like, okay, and that night I drew up the first concept of it. I wasn’t really thinking outside of this one little drawing to impress this girl. So I drew this character and it looked really stony. I don’t know, I had the character, and I looked at and realized I could probably do something with it. So I started developing the character, and doing more drawings, then putting it into the computer, and doing drawings with that. Then I would just kind of stare at it, and think of all these ideas and scenarios, and what I could turn it into. I just kind of took it from there. It took me about a year and a half to develop the character the way I liked it, and from there I created a story and a cast of characters, like the Booger Monsters and the Sluggonauts, that I play with. The Sluggonauts is a band that I collaborate on with my brother, who is a singer and a songwriter. They play once or twice a year, if I’m lucky, as Bunny Kitty’s favorite rock and roll band. So it’s this full on production that I do, with make-up and stage and video and stuff.
So you created a whole BunnyKitty world essentially.
Yup, I created this whole world, and I painted it in the streets, to give it some life.
What’s happening with Bunny Kitty now?
I had a limited edition spray can drop with MTN not too long ago. I am going to do some art shows and more murals around town, and I’m going to finish up the illustrations for the book I’ve written, the BunnyKitty book.
Is it a children’s book?
Yeah, it starts off as a kid’s book but I think it gets a little more mature as the story goes on. It’s post-apocalyptic so…I like apocalypse and zombies and stuff. The Sluggonauts are a zombie band. They’re kind of like the Misfits, but zombies.
What else are you working on right now?
Mercantile, working on my brothers on the brand and the stores. Doing art shows and events with that and building awareness about the brand through the store. Working on a collection of pieces that I can show. I really want to start showing up in Los Angeles and other cities outside of San Diego again soon. Making music, taking care of my kid, painting more graffiti, traveling, just basically continuing to do what I love to do. I don’t really have a choice; it’s just kind of who I am.