If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Monday, August 9, 2010

Rick Griffin (1944-1991); Surf, Rock, Christian Artist

My first encounter with the artist Rick Griffin was in the 8th grade (1962-63). His cartoons of Murph the Surf were popular in Southern California, where I grew up. I drew a Murph the Surf-style cartoon on the cover of Foghorn, my 8th grade yearbook (above).

It wouldn't be until I was part of the late 60s Rock and Roll scene that I began to recognize the distinctive artwork of Rick Griffin among the Fillmore Rock posters. His style was easily recognizable with his wild, almost illegible lettering style, bright colors, and precise ink work. His Hendrix flying eyeball (a Von Dutch image) is an icon among psychedelic poster art.

Finally, when I was into Christian Rock I came across an illustrated copy of the Gospel of John from Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, which I still own. I immediately recognized the artwork of Rick Griffin. His style had continued to develop in new and interesting ways. His images were arresting.

Griffin died too soon in a motorcycle accident in 1991. His artwork spans three popular culture movements: surfing, 60s psychedelic rock, and the Jesus movement. Griffin was a unique popular artist and one of my favorites connecting to three periods of my life. The last illustration with Jesus, Lord of the wind and waves, brings his art full circle.

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