Liz Pavlovic Design | How West Virginian Lore Inspires Graphic Art
Article by Miranda Woody-Martin
It’s a Sunday afternoon and I’m back at it again: sitting in a coffee shop, waiting to call another West Virginia artist and hear their story. West Virginia is a state with no shortage of talented people, and this person in particular has showcased their talent in the form of visual art and graphic design.
The person I’m referencing is none other than Liz Pavlovic, owner and proprietor of Liz Pavlovic Design and Crash Symbols record label (which she operates along with her husband). I give her a ring; we greet one another, and then our conversation about her journey as a home-away-from-home West Virginian and an artist begins.
Liz tells me that she isn’t a native West Virginian, per se, but her parents are. Liz grew up in Alabama and Arizona, splitting time between those two states and taking frequent trips to West Virginia, where her parents are originally from. Liz says, “there’s a lot of state pride surrounding West Virginia. I didn’t grow up here, but I heard all the stories from my parents and their friends over the years about what kind of place it was. So, I’m not native to the area, but I still experienced that state pride.”
When Liz graduated high school her father moved back to West Virginia and she decided to attend West Virginia University to obtain a Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. When I ask Liz what drew her to that particular field she says, “I guess I got into it based on a mix of my love for computers and my mom being an art teacher. I’ve always loved computers, ever since the first time I used one. And my mom, she’s very creative and artistic, so growing up we did a lot of art and drawing. We even made costumes and stuff, it was great.”
After college Liz tells me she did a lot of “illustration and design, like (she does) now” to sustain herself, along with a lot of food jobs. Liz loves to cook and bake as well as illustrate, so many of her jobs aside from graphic design have been rooted in the culinary field. This, in fact, inspired some of Liz’s now most popular creations: the infamous West Virginia Pepperoni Roll and West Virginia Hot Dog collectible pins.
Liz tells me that those are among her most well-known works, now. “I guess I’m the pin-girl these days,” she says with a laugh. “Those pins are something I came up with because I love West Virginia food, and I love little collectible things like that. It’s something I would’ve wanted to buy, and I’m glad other people feel that way too.” Liz also tells me that her WV foodie pins are now available in stores all across West Virginia and parts of Ohio, which shows that a cultural interest in West Virginia is growing beyond state lines.
This brings Liz and I to the topic of West Virginia in popular culture, and we (of course) bring up the recent news of the upcoming Bethesda video game release, Fallout 76. I ask Liz if she thinks interest in West Virginia folklore and pop-culture is growing, and she says she “definitely (thinks) so”. I mention the Mothman being a character in the upcoming video game, and Liz lights up. “Yes,” she says, “that’s so cool! I love cryptid stuff, and West Virginia has so many strange little monster stories and urban legends like that”.
Liz tells me then that she’s been less focused on West Virginia food culture lately in reference to her art, and more focused on West Virginia “monsters” and other urban legends. I bring up one of Liz’s recent creations, a Mothman sticker that paints the notorious monster as an adorable, cartoon-ish character, and she explains her thought process to me: “the Mothman sticker is something I came up with on my own. It wasn’t commissioned or anything. I also did a similar illustration of the Flatwoods Monster and this other thing called the ‘Sheepsquatch’– not as many people have heard of him, though”. She also tells me that she poses these characters in a way that she finds “funny” or “comical”, and is happy that other people appreciate her efforts.
Liz tells me that the “cryptid” topics have become a staple of hers at this point, and that, along with growing interest in the state, there’s a growing interest in this odd, West Virginia-specific folklore. She says, “this state (West Virginia) definitely has its own built-in interest and collective imagination surrounding these kind of stories. I think people’s perception of the area, both in and outside of the state, plays into that. Anything that is really ‘ours’ is really cool and interesting to West Virginians, and I think we like to share that with the rest of the country. The pride we have in our culture, in our food and our folklore, is something we like to share, for sure. With that comes a growing interest in West Virginia’s ‘urban legend’ status. I’ve even seen the Grafton Monster featured on one of those ‘monster hunter’ shows recently. I plan to design that character and a few other monsters in the future, actually. The Grafton Monster and Bat Boy are definitely on my agenda”. She also tells me that she has her sights set on an urban-legend called “Vegetable Man”, which she describes as “exactly like it sounds”. We both laugh at that little quip, and share our mutual affinity for all things creepy.
As we share in our affinity for the occult, Liz tells me that she “loves Halloween”, but that’s not the only place she draws inspiration from. Along with the creepy and the legendary, Liz draws her inspiration from many sources: most notably cartoons and comic strips. Liz tells me that she loves “cartoons and anything graphic novel-esque”, including the recent Cartoon Network hits Adventure Time and Steven Universe. Liz also draws inspiration from classic surrealists like Picasso, which she grew up learning about from her mother. More than anything, though, Liz says that the people of West Virginia inspire her. Now living in Morgantown and being a part of the art-scene therein, Liz tells me that “There are so many local people in the state, even just in the city of Morgantown, doing some really cool art. It’s incredible, and it really inspires me”. As a native West Virginian that has recently been displaced from her home among the hills, I appreciate that comment especially.
As Liz and I begin to wrap up our conversation, we discuss her future design and graphic art plans. She tells me that “Bat Boy” is definitely on her radar for another monster-inspired sticker creation, and that she’s just enjoying the support and interest she’s received lately from so many people. She says, “design is my work and what I do, it’s my occupation, but to get to do and design what I want to design and what I love lately has really been a treat”. As many freelance artists know, you don’t always have the opportunity to choose the subject of your next creation. Liz tells me that her experience as a designer has often been like that– designing what her work dictates– but at the moment she is loving designing more for herself, and for all the other West Virginia food-and-folklore fans out there.
You can browse Liz Pavlovic’s designs on her Facebook page, as well as on her website. Her designs are available in many stores for sale in the form of stickers and pins, also. She even has her own Etsy shop, which you can visit here. Stay tuned for more funky, folklore creations from this West Virginia-based artist and designer.
Miranda Woody-Martin is a Concord University graduate originally from Beckley, West Virginia. She holds a B.A in English with an emphasis in Writing and works in journalism and digital marketing. She is twenty- two years old and currently resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She enjoys writing poetry, rock climbing, listening to The Doors, and traveling internationally. Check out her other work