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Rick Griffin

Rick Griffin
Born Richard Alden Griffin
(1944-06-18)June 18, 1944[1]
Palos Verdes, California, United States
Died August 18, 1991(1991-08-18) (aged 47)
Petaluma, California
Nationality American
Area(s) Cartoonist
Notable works
Flying Eyeball, Aoxomoxoa, Pow Wow: A Gathering of the Tribes

Richard Alden "Rick" Griffin (June 18, 1944 – August 18, 1991) was an American artist and one of the leading designers of psychedelic posters in the 1960s. As a contributor to the underground comix movement, his work appeared regularly in Zap Comix. Griffin was closely identified with the Grateful Dead, designing some of their best-known posters and album covers such as Aoxomoxoa. His work within the surfing subculture included both film posters and his comic strip, Murphy.[2]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Posters 2.1
    • The Gospel of John 2.2
  • Death and legacy 3
  • Books 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Griffin was born near Palos Verdes amidst the surfing culture of southern California. Griffin biographer Tim Stephenson notes:

His father was an engineer and amateur archaeologist and as a boy Rick accompanied him on digs in the Southwest. It was during this time that Rick was exposed to the Native American and ghost town artifacts that were to influence his later work. Rick was taught to surf by Randy Nauert at the age of 14 at Torrance Beach. The pair had met at Alexander Flemming Jr. High, and were to become lifelong friends, Rick producing much of the artwork for Randy's future band, the Challengers.[2]

While attending Nathaniel Narbonne High School in the Harbor City area of Los Angeles, he produced numerous surfer drawings, which led to his surfing comic strip, "Murphy" for Surfer magazine in 1961, with Griffin's character featured on the front cover the following year. In 1964, he left Surfer and briefly attended Chouinard Art Institute (now CalArts), where he met his future wife, artist Ida Pfefferle. That same year, he hung out with the group of artists and musicians known as the Jook Savages.



He traveled with Ida on a Mexican surfing trip and later planned a move to Human Be-In saw his work and asked him to design a poster for their January 1967 event. Chet Helms was also impressed by Griffin's work and asked him to design posters for the Family Dog dance concerts at the Avalon Ballroom, which led Griffin to create concert posters for the Charlatans. In 1967, Griffin, Kelley, Mouse, Victor Moscoso and Wes Wilson teamed as the founders of Berkeley Bonaparte, a company that created and marketed psychedelic posters. Griffin returned to Southern California in 1969, eventually settling in San Clemente.[2]

The Gospel of John

Griffin became a born again Christian in November 1970,[3] which led to fundamental changes in his lifestyle and in the style and content of his art. His 1973 painting Sail on Sailor for the band Mustard Seed Faith is an example of his fine art painting from this period. His most significant 1970s project was the creation of hundreds of paintings and drawings for The Gospel of John, published by the Christian record label Maranatha! Music. He also produced much album art for Maranatha! during the 1970s and 1980s.[4]

Death and legacy

Rick Griffin died shortly after a motorcycle accident on August 15, 1991, in Petaluma, California. He was thrown from his Harley-Davidson motorcycle when he collided with a van that suddenly turned left as he attempted to pass it. He was not wearing a helmet and sustained major head injuries. He died three days later, on August 18, in nearby Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, at the age of 47.[5][6]

His work has been cited as an inspiration by surrealistic artist Mark Wilkinson, known for his designs for bands such as Marillion, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.[7]


  • McClelland, Gordon. The Art of Rick Griffin. Perigee Paper Tiger, 1980. Reprinted by Last Gasp, 2001.
  • Harvey, Doug, edited by Susan Anderson. Heart and Torch: Rick Griffin's Transcendence. Laguna Art Museum, Gingko Press, 2007.


  1. ^ "United States Social Security Death Index," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 26 Feb 2013), R A Griffin, 15 August 1991; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
  2. ^ a b c d Stephenson, Tim (2007-04-10). "Biography". Myraltis. Retrieved 2007-09-20. 
  3. ^ Rick Griffin : Christian Comics Pioneer
  4. ^ McClelland, Gordon. The Art of Rick Griffin. Perigee Paper Tiger, 1980.
  5. ^ Associated Press news release, August 20, 1991
  6. ^ Chronology by Gordon McClelland in Heart and Torch, Laguna Art Museum, 2007.
  7. ^ Perry, Tom (8 August 2011). "Home of Metal - Part One: The Art of Mark Wilkinson". Drowned in Sound. Retrieved 27 July 2015. 

External links

  • Smithsonian American Art Museum: Rick Griffin
  • Showcase of Rick Griffin art
  • 1992 Surfer Magazine tribute by Steve Barilotti
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