Rick Griffin– surfer, cartoonist, psychedelic poster artist, legend. Born near Palos Verdes in 1944, Griffin took-up surfing at age 14. During the 50s while he was in high school, Mad magazine heavily influenced his comic stylings– but he soon found his own voice, creating his own surf style that would become iconic. Through his undeniable talent and connections, Griffin was soon working for surf legend, Greg Noll, among others. After leaving high school he joined Surfer Magazine as a staff artist– creating the legendary California surf scene character Murphy, and working his way up to Art Director by the time he was of 20. But by 1964, Griffin decided it was time to move on and see what the world outside of So Cal’s tight-knit surfer scene had for him.
His time at the Chouinard Art Institute would set the course for this next stage of his life. There he met fellow artist and future wife, Ida Pfefferle, and started hanging with the Jook Savages– a group of musicians / artists. In ’66, with the Psychedelic movement tugging at them, Rick & Ida headed to San Francisco, living out of their van for a while, and regrouped with the Jooks— for who Griffin would create his first poster. His work was soon in high demand for its trademark creative blend of Native American, surf & psychedelic influences. Everyone wanted Griffin to do their posters– from Jimi Hendrix, to the band his work is most popularly associated with– The Grateful Dead. Now among the leaders in the poster art industry, Griffin teamed-up with fellow artists Alton Kelley, Stanley “Mouse” Miller, Victor Moscoso, and Wes Wilson to form the Berkeley-Bonaparte distribution agency in ’67– the ultimate poster art producers of that time.
In ’69, Rick Griffin decided it was time to head back home to So Cal– settling with his wife in San Clemente. John Severson, founder of Surfer magazine, was working on his latest project– a surf film called Pacific Vibrations, and approached Griffin about doing the poster. What was supposed to take one month turned into an epic six-month drama.
Legendary poster artist Rick Griffin poses in a window surrounded by his work. San Francisco, 1960s. Images by Ted Streshinsky
Sometime in the 1970s, Rick Griffin became a Christian and his work took a radical turn as he embraced his faith. Gone were the nudes and psychedelia, and in were inspired works of art– the likes of which the Christian scene couldn’t have imagined. Griffin produced an illustrated version of The Gospel of John, and through working with Calvary Chapel in Cost Mesa became Art Director of Marantha! Music and produced original artwork for the newly burgeoning Christian music movement– producing cool Griffin-esque album covers, posters and flyers.
I would’ve liked to have tripped acid with this guy.
The sketch from the cover of The Surfer was used on a T-shirt from the European Levi’s Vintage Clothing collection some years back. I’ve collected LVC (mainly the denim though) since the first collection in 1996 and I recently found the Tee in my stacks.
If you like me to I can do a snapshot for you to post, should it be of interest!?
Best Frederik, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Thanks very much.
I took some snapshots of the Tee. If you want to see them, if only for your own interest, please drop me a mail, so I know where to mail them. I might be a bit slow but I can’t seem to locate your mail anywhere on the site. It’s late here in Denmark now so I try to convince myself that it’s because I’m tired.
Great blog btw.
wow.. amazing! thank you
I love the disparate scenes where Rick Griffin artwork pops up—surf, psychedelia, and Jesus music—and was able to attend the Laguna Art Museum exhibit seen in your embedded video. Among the highlights were Curse of the Chumash, the original Pacific Vibrations, and the intricate Mescalito. Check out the exhibit’s companion book Heart and Torch.
Thank you for this reminder of Rick. Surfin with Jesus.
The 1967 photo of Rick and Kelley are awesome, first time I’ve seen the shot. Would it be ok to put this pic on the ArtistaGang web site? A tribute to Alton and Dave Sheridan. Love this site, god bless and be Happy All Ways!
Ah, I remember Murf the Surf. My mother wrote the short stories that were published in those early issues that Griffin illustrated. You might or might not want to know that the same author was responsible for many Disney comics (she loved writing for Gyro Gearloose most of all) and early Crusader Rabbit TV scripts.
I had an 8 foot Dewey Weber I inherited from my brother (he went on to a Hoby Alter board). Anybody out there from 2nd Street Redondo Beach surf scene?
Just a bit of insight, sort of ‘fanks for the very cool blog. You are in the small fraction described by Sturgeon’s Law.
— Ancient and weathered hippy
Why I was proud of the guy I’m not sure except he was nice to me the one time I met him back about 1963-64. Another nice person, Kathy Thompson, lived on the street behind me and we heard the Murphy guy was seeing her like a boyfriend and we snuck around to say hi.
…and then San Francisco happened….and that’s another story.
Rick Griffin is god!
only the Grateful Dead cover is enough to say that!
amayzing artworks and one of my all time favs.
thanks for the post n nice blog
Always been one of my favorites of the poster era lived in berkerly during this period posters by all the poster artsists were eveywhere i have a mint booklet he put out during this period very rare anyone interested in the artwork.
Used to visit Griffin back in the day. I let his sometimes gruff attitude put me off. Many years later he mellowed and opened the door again a crack. Sadly I didn’t follow up in time to beat his crash.