.......... .. .. ........... "Once In A While You Get Shown The Light In The Strangest Of Places If You Look At It Right" :Robert Hunter

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Arizona Jones Artwork

If you follow this blog you might know that I was into drawing and doing art of all types. When I was young I was always drawing in my free time. As a high school kid album art like Rodger Dean's Yes covers and Rick Griffin's psychedelic rock posters made a big impression on me. So here is just a small sample of some of the art that I produced and where it took me. Early on music had an impact and this piece is called Octopus Garden it was based on the Beatles song. I was was also interested in underground comics, in fact any comics. And was trying to hone my skills with black and white line drawings. Here are some early examples of these efforts. When I got out of high school I went off to college and was taking art classes and learning more about all types of stuff like sculpture, print making, but also taking basic design, and life drawing. At some point one of my friends was taking a silk screen class at a junior college. And by this time one of my roommates had turned me on to the Grateful Dead. I started showing up at my friend's class with him even though I was not enrolled in the class. And soon my friend and I were using the schools equipment to make my first Grateful Dead T-shirt design. I saw that you could pretty much get away with selling anything you wanted to in the parking lot at Dead shows. I believe it was 1980 and we printed shirts in the class room and then took them to the Pauly Pavilion at UCLA and the San Diego Sports Arena Dead shows and sold them. Here are some of those first designs. These are just the black plate (with silk Screen you have to have a separate drawing for each color). They were two color designs. I used the acoustic shows at the Warfield as the subject for the front. And then I put this skulls with roses and concentric circles on the back. We sold all the shirts we made in no time and had a blast at the shows. From then on I was hooked on the idea of making and selling Grateful Dead shirts. Here is one of the next designs that came about in that first year. This again is just the black plate of a two color design. I could not keep using the school once the class was over and lining up the screens for multiple color designs was difficult if not impossible without the equipment needed. So this motivated me to go in search of a job at a T-shirt company. So I went and interviewed and soon was hired at a company in Huntington Beach to do some free lance work. I then met a guy that worked there doing the printing who was also a Dead Head. He really had no art skills but knew a lot about the printing process. I found out he had his own little set up in his garage at home. It was just what I needed. So this motivated me to design some multiple color designs. This was one of the first, and I continued using it for several years. This is a photo of an actual shirt that was sold in 1985 as a 20th anniversary shirt. As you see I would just tag on a line to the designs that I could alter to suit the need. About this time I decided to do multi color fronts and a single color on the back. And I came up with this electric rose as the back. This became a signature of my shirts that I used for years after. I would often tag under this the name of the venue and the date of the show. Often printing it with a bleed from one color to another. While I was working at the T-shirt company I had to produce some stuff that they could sell. It was usually something for tourists, like this stuff. This first one is a color illustration to show the buyer of the company what the finished shirt might look like. This second one is an actual black plate from a design for a national park. By 1983 the T-shirt company was trying to cash in on the Los Angeles Olympics scheduled for the next year and I did tons of Summer Games designs and was getting burned out. The pay really sucked and my friends who were in sales were getting rich while I was getting paid nothing. One of my friends was getting a dollar per dozen shirts he sold. He made 125,000 dollars in commission that year, on my designs while I made less than 15,000. I was having to wait tables at night and design shirts by day. So I quit the T-shirt company. I could make more just selling in the parking lot at the Dead. Here is a design I came up with in 1984 after hearing the song Throwing Stones. The line from the song "Will we leave this place and empty stone" was used along the bottom. Here is another one color back that I was using during this time period and for the next few years. About this time I started to use Grateful Dead songs as the inspiration for the designs. I used a lyric from Terrapin Station to come up with this one called "Counting Stars By Candle Light". You can see the star and crecent moon from the song, the cricket, and the train, and of course the candles all inspired from the lyrics. This shirt became my best seller. I used the electric rose for the back with the venue and the date, and was able to use it at different events. Here is the back of the shirt I sold at Telluride, CO in 1987. I designed the "Counting Stars" shirt in 1985 and was still using it at some events years latter. About this time I started to mess around with air brushing. And started to do some pieces to try and use to show case my ability to try and get an illustration job of some sort. This Fantasy piece called Droid was part of a whole world I invented in my head. I even was the Droid character for Halloween that year and won every costume contest I entered. This next one is called "Heart Attack" it is kind of a humorus visual pun. Pretty soon I landed an hourly job working for Hearst Syndicated Newspapers, doing black and white line drawings. I kept the waiting job and was still taking time off to see shows and sell shirts. The newspaper job was a grind and just fast production of junk clip art, so it did not last. During this time I came up with this shirt that was based on the line from the song Scarlet Begonias, that said "Everyone Was Playing In The Heart Of Gold Band". About this time I decided to make venue shirts because the Dead kept playing the same venues each year. My first one I made was for the Frost Amphitheater at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. The place is surrounded by trees and there is this prominent tower that can be seen behind the stage. So I just made it about that. It went over really well and I sold all I made in a few hours. So I decided that I would continue this venue approach. One of my favorite annual events was Ventura, So I got to work and produced this one. Ventura was an every summer event held at the fairgrounds right on the beach. So the design had to say California beach, and surf, yet still be a Grateful Dead shirt. Well the shows always were lots of fun, I mean whats not to smile about, with a weekend at the beach camping out with the Dead Heads. So I used the line from He's Gone, "Nothing Left To Do But Smile, Smile, Smile". And put a girl with a big smile, wearing sunglasses reflecting the band on stage at Ventura. For the back I did a Rick Griffin surf art influenced design that said "Weekend At The Beach" and included my signature electric rose. I threw in some eyeball characters like Rick would use, and a skull sun and I was ready for the show. I printed my shirts in my friends garage and was off to Ventura. My friends all wanted them in advance, and I arrived at the parking lot in Ventura in 1986 with my shirts anticipating doing well with sales and having a great time seeing the Dead at the beach. One big problem, Jerry went into a coma and the shows were canceled. One of the event staff for Winterland Productions saw my shirt and decided to by them all from me for the staff to have something to show for their trouble. Boy was I lucky, I got rid of all my Ventura 86 shirts for a show that never happened. Problem was that I was getting used to the added income of T-shirt sales to supplement my waiting tables job. What now? I went home to Long Beach and there was a Reggae concert going on at Long Beach State University. We went and all the Dead Heads showed up. I thought, maybe I could sell reggae shirts. Soon I found out that Jimmy Cliff and Steel Pulse were touring and coming to California, so I made this generic reggae shirt and sold them at the shows. (This is a photo of the design printed on paper as a test run) And I did pretty well too and got to see several good reggae shows. About this time two of my Dead Heads friends were getting married and I decided to give them a painting for their gift. The lyric from Helps On The Way that says "Without Love In The Dream It will Never Come True" was the inspiration. After all they were starting a life together based on love. So here is the result. By the end of the year Jerry was back on his feet and I was back to making shirts. I went to His first show back in Oakland and heard him sing "Tell everybody that you know That The Candyman is back in town" and I knew he was back. That year a new event was put in the schedule, a Lagua Seca Raceway, near Monterey, CA. I decided that I would make an event shirt for this one. It was in May and outdoors, but I could not get a handle on the place, but I knew in May in California it would be sunny. So I got a good idea for a song inspired shirt called Sunshine Daydream, based on Sugar Magnolia. In it is has a girl spinning ("She can spin in a ray of violet") and she is walking on water ("She can wade in a drop of dew") and my idea was born. Note the hint of a steal your face in the water nad the little skull clouds. About this time I also designed a new back with a character of the six band members and my electric rose, I called it the "Classic Six Pack". I put Monterey and the dates of the show under it and I was off to the show. Well the first show opened with Sugar Magnolia and closed with Sunshine Daydream, and all my shirts sold out the first day. Well 1987 was a fun and frantic year for me and the Grateful Dead. I went to twenty three shows that year. I started giving away these sheets of Cassete cover art for free along with selling the shirts. This year the scene had grown huge and gotten less friendly and a new element came into the mix. Ventura got out of hand and the band would never play there again. At Calaveras they stared cracking down on shirt sales and my shirts were taken and I was supenaed to court. I only had five shirts left so no big deal, and they did not press charges, but a new element of big business had come into the parking lot scene (they were using the Dead's own artwork and logos)and the Grateful Dead had to crack down on everyone to catch these ones who were taking it too far. Well this meant that the shirt thing was no longer a sure deal for me, and it marked a slow down in my production of art. I still made a few more designs and still went to shows but I went to less shows and sold less shirts for fear of over extending myself. Here is one of the designs I did in the late 80s. I still continued to do a few drawings but not really for money, and after a while my production came to a stop all together as I took on new interests. And started a new direction in my life. Getting married will do that to you. Here is something I did for fun, latter on. I did a whole series of amimals with some human traits, and gave them away as gifts. Years went by and I had not drawn a thing and then one day while I was involved with a ministry for my church I got an idea to do T-shirts that were God inspired. the first one was for the youth group at my church. This was the front. And this was the back. Still Rick Griffin insired, funny how Rick also went on to doing Christian stuff latter on in his life. (Interesting fact, I went to the same high school as Rick Grifin just 10 years latter) Here is another one I did but really have not done anything with it as of yet, (this is just a test print).

8 comments:

  1. Hey AZ,

    really great artwork and some fine stories around it. Thank u so much for that and all your other work, too!
    Regards
    Ringo from Bavaria

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  2. The artwork you do is BEAUTIFUL.Love that last design(set free).I borrowed the "Atheist" box. Hope that was OK.It was just something my FB friends would like. If not OK,let me know and I'll take it down.Anyway,thanks for the tunes,artwork,and the Word you spread. God bless and may you enjoy this Sunday

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  3. Wow, very cool artwork, thank you very much for sharing.

    Bob W.

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  4. AZ
    Thanks for sharing, The depth and diversity of your artistic skills show through in all you work here on the blog. We are very fortunate that you share with us. Keep on doing it for Jesus' Glory!
    Chuck

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  5. Chuck, you hit the nail on the head. If not for that (Jesus' Glory) it is all for nothing.

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  6. Love the stories from Dead land, thanks for sharing your sweet artwork!

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  7. We love you on facebook Grateful Dead Bears by Liquid Blue

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  8. I was searching for info about the Ventura 1986 Show that never was, when Jerry went into the coma, trying to find the exact date. Stumbled upon your blog. It's grate! Not just because of similar interests and the great artwork you have done, but just for a blog site, you made it very interesting and it is a great example of expression through a blog.

    I went to some of the same shows as you. Ventura, 86, partied in the parking lot all night. Went to the "come back" shows in Oakland 86. Went to Telluride 87,Red Rocks 85-87.

    Those were awesome times..

    Keep up the grate work.. Peace!

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