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

All of the music recordings on this site are recordings of independent origin (ROIOs) Music that has not been officially released. If you are an artist or a legal representative of an artist and you do not want your ROIO shared on my site for free among your fans (and creating new fans), just tell me in the comment area and I will remove them. By the way these recordings exist. They won't go away. All of them can be found at various places on line. Sharing just keeps the fans that support the artists from having to get ripped off by purchasing them on auction sites, and it also introduces music to people who would never have known the artist, creating a stronger fan base.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rick Griffin, Artwork

One of my favorite artists of all time is Rick Griffin. Yea I know, not very cultured, when I could be saying Michelangelo, Rembrant, Piccaso, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Monet, Rubens, Matisse, or even Joseph Turner. Yes these are all great fine artist and I do love looking at their works as well as many others. You see I was an art major in college, and I do understand fine art. But I was also a product of my time and my location. I went to high school and college during the 1970s in California and lived near the beach and had jobs doing commercial and graphic art. And my musical tastes were that of jazz and progressive rock, and the Grateful Dead. Rick Griffin was also a product of the California beach environment in fact he went to the same high school I did (more than 10 years earlier) and he did artwork for some of the musical acts that I loved. In fact he helped create a style of art that was synonyms with the late 60s and early 70s musical scene. He created a lettering style that represented the psychedelic movement of the time and even designed the logo for Rolling Stone magazine.
Early in Rick Griffin's life he fell in love with surfing and in high school he would spend time drawing surf pictures and he created a surfing cartoon character called Murphy. By the time he was out of high school his artwork had been published in surfing publications, and even on the covers of surfing music albums. After graduation from high school he became a staff artist for Surfer Magazine. Surfing art would continue to be a part of what Rick did throughout his career.
At the time he was more interested in music than art and a rock band he was in decided to move to San Francisco in 1965. At one of their first gigs Rick drew a promotional poster and the poster drew more attention than the music and Rick decided to switch to art instead of music. This was at the beginning of the psychedelic scene in San Francisco and there were two main producers of concerts, the Family Dog and Bill Graham.

Both of these promoters used posters to advertise their events and both used Rick Griffin. As the popularity of the music scene grew nation wide so did the audience for Rick's art.
Rick used heavy symbolism and bright colors, stark graphics, a radical lettering style, along with his comic book style, and it caught on quickly.
During this time Rick produced an amazing number of works that are widely recognized even today. The most notable being the "Flying Eye" poster for a Jimi Hendrix concert. Even at this point in his career he was producing images that came out of his questioning and seeking the spiritual. The flying eye image was to represent the all knowing or seeing eye of God just like the image he used from the dollar bill earlier in his career. It was a manifestation of the artist’s inner turmoil as he agonized between love of the spirit and love of the body.
While many of the "hippie" generation were experiencing the same struggle, few used it as the catalyst to produce great art. Rick eventually found the answer to this duality in Jesus latter on. In late 1969 Rick's attention returned to the comic book art that he had started with but this time with more of the underground comix of the time. For a time he was doing both comix and poster art but soon he moved back to Southern California and continued comic book art and returned to contributing to Surfer Magazine. He was also working on artwork for a surf movie called Pacific Vibrations that he was also seen surfing in.
Around this time Rick had a child and you could see in his art more spiritual subjects surfacing in different ways. Here it surfaces in a Murphy the Surfer comix.
During this part of Rick's life you can tell he was involved in an internal struggle and it was showing up in his art and he produced a underground comic called "Man From Utopia" that had radical symbolism directed at the creation, the struggle of good and evil and Jesus.
This first one speaks of evil and it's attack on "eyes" or trying to keep us spiritually blind.
This next one is a symbolic character of death. And the one after depicts eve in the garden and original sin being the silver dagger in the heart. This last one is about a white night that shines light and turns the night into day, Jesus. Shortly after finishing this he gave his life over to Jesus Christ. After this Rick Griffins art focus changed and soon you could see his belief in Christ surfacing in his comic book art. Even his character Murphy the surfer was leading people in prayer and then seeing symbolic visions of God.

Around this time he did a series of travel comix that took us to different places like Maui and Mexico.
The Mexico one had a thinly veiled reference to missing the mark and a way to be perfect in spite of yourself (Jesus).
In a 1974 interview Rick said, "It's weird about Jesus freaks. I wonder why they call them Jesus freaks? Well, actually the word 'Christian' was derogatory at one time too. They called them Christians in derision. The word Christian means the same thing as Jesus freak; someone who's tripped out on Christ, someone who identifies with Christ so much, that that becomes the purpose of their life, to bear witness to Christ. That's what I like to do. I like to talk about Jesus." So Rick continued doing art buy doing album covers for Christian rock bands, but still continued doing secular projects but often inserting Christian subject matter like his "Wake Of The Flood" album cover showing the reaper coming for the harvest.
Apparently Rick drew this in 1973 after reading Revelation 20:13. In 1975 he did an album cover for an English rock band called Man and the image was "The baptism of Alfred E. Newman" the main character from Mad Magazine.
Mad Magazine did not allow the use of the Alfred E. Newman image and the artwork had to be cut and trimmed to just show the fish. Rick worked on an illustrated version of the Gospel Of John for the Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa that had gospel text that was paraphrased by Chuck Smith. This is the picture used for John 1. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. At this time he was now using his graphic style in black and white but painting more and doing less of the offset lithography style of his earlier rock posters. Here are some of the paintings from this time period that were used in the Gospel of John Project.
This one depicts Jesus walking on water as in John 6:20 where Jesus said "It is I, be not afraid.
This one depicts Jesus on a donkey entering Jerusalem as in John 12: 13-15. In the 1980s Rick continued his relationship with the Grateful Dead by doing the Reckoning album cover in 1980 and their 20th anniversary logo in 1985 along with several T-shirt designs.

Ricks last Grateful Dead projects were the Without a Net album cover and the Europe Tour posters art in 1990.
Rick died in a motorcycle accident on 8-15-1991 at 47 years of age.


  1. One of my favorite art books is a softcover collection of an assortment of Rick's works which i paid $3.98 for in a used book shop in the mid-80's. (Published by Perigee Books in 1980.)

    R.I.P. Rick. A *believer* would say his spirit now resides within a conscious, caring universe; while a doubter would say that he died doing a dangerous, risky act--and that is all there is to that.

    About riding motorcycles, this old adage applies: "It's not a question of *if* you will crash--just a matter of *when*."

    Peace, AZ Jones: your blog contains many beautiful images & photos, and great live music as well!!

  2. One of my favorite underground/rock artists

  3. I have been going through your blog page by page and came across this amazing post! You have obviously done your home work here. Griffin was an amazing artist and certainly one of the greatest 'poster children' who came out of the 60's counter-culture environment. I have the AOXOMOXOA style poster shown above on my wall in the office so that anyone who visits me knows they are in the presence of a Dead Head (my poster is for shows held in Honolulu 01-23 & 01-24 1970, not the Avalon Ballroom 1969). The depth of the spirituality shown by this man through his work is incredible. I really wonder how many people looked at Wake Of The Flood when it came out and totally missed the message. Please keep bringing us posts like this - the message is in more than the music.

  4. Very nice did you know that Rick's heart still beats he was an organ donor and his heart was transplanted into a young girl

  5. Rick was a friend but I have learned so much more about him from your study. thanks