Surf Art Pioneer Rick Griffin


Artist Rick Griffin pioneered the surf art genre, creating iconic paintings and illustrations for the magazines and movies that shaped the image of surfing's golden age. 

While learning to surf in Southern California's South Bay Rick's illustrations for "Surfer" magazine and shapers like Greg Noll helped establish the loose and fun surf style of the late 50's and early 60's. His fun loving blonde cartoon surfer "Murphy" graced the pages of Surfer Magazine while Rick was still in High School.  

After a car accident left him blind in one eye, Griffin left Murphy by the roadside and connected with enigmatic young surf photographer Ron Stoner. The Griffin-Stoner adventures began appearing in Surf Magazine, with Griffin providing illustrations and Stoner the photos.



Griffin eventually enrolled in art school, where he met his future wife Ida. Bands like the Rolling Stones and The Birds were rolling through town and the couple loved to see them play. In 1966 the psychedelic drug scene was burgeoning and Rick was on that trip, even attending the famous Watts Acid Test. That summer, after their first child was born, Rick and Ida lived on the beach in Mexico where Griffin surfed, experimented with psychedelic drugs, and sketched the Huichol Indians.

The couple eventually made their way back to San Francisco just in time for the onset of the hippy music explosion. Once there Rick created one of the first psychedelic rock music posters, for the Jook Savages Art Show. Griffin's new art was merging his interest in Native American imagery, with warped, western inspired, slab serif hand lettering. Rick's new style evolved quickly, his posters became more colorful, and his hand lettering more psychedelic, establishing him as one of the "Big 5" in poster psychedelia. Griffin created iconic poster art for musicians like Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, The Doors and more.

With the birth of their second child imminent Rick moved his family south to San Clemente. With Rick back in Southern California John Severson commissioned him to create the poster for his upcoming film, "Pacific Vibrations". Griffin's beautiful exploration took surf art to a new place, setting the cornerstone look of surfing's psychedelic era. Rick's flaming eyeball surfer and 20 page comic book "Tales From The Tube" are enduring images from that time.


Rick lived in San Clemente for the next few years, painting and surfing. During this time he became a Christian and his art reflected that spiritual journey. Rick became involved with Calvary Chapel and illustrated the Gospel of John. 

Griffin continued to make art for bands like the Grateful Dead and The Cult before his untimely death at the age of 47. On a sunny day in Petaluma CA Rick's Harley Heritage Softail collided with the side of a van and this accident he did not survive. Griffin is gone but his art lives on, and his influence on new generations of artists is unmistakable. 

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