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    Famed surf artist Rick Griffin’s work featured in San Clemente
    • July 7, 2023

    Rick Griffin’s prolific art career started in the classroom and the Palos Verdes High School student’s surf-inspired doodles selling for 50 cents a pop.

    As a kid growing up in Lakewood, Griffin was enthralled with reading, collecting comic books and Disney animation. But in 1958, when his family moved to Palos Verdes, Griffin’s newfound love for surf at age 14 began inspiring his art – decorating schoolmate’s notebook covers and T-shirts.

    Griffin would become one of surf culture’s early-era influencers, bringing a playful comic – and later a color-popping psychedelic – style that was showcased in Surfer Magazine as the growing culture boomed.

    Now, his work is being showcased at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente, which is hosting a retrospective of the artist’s life work with a panel on Saturday, July 8, that will discuss his influence in the surf world and beyond.

    Rick Griffin’s “Murphy” character became a regular feature in Surfer Magazine. (Photo courtesy of SHACC)

    Rick Griffin, who grew up in Palos Verdes, became one of the most prolific surf artists and went on to have a career making vibrant posters for rock stars. (Photo courtesy of SHACC)

    Rick Griffin created the artwork for the surf film Five Summer Stories, a classic made by Laguna Beach filmmaker Greg MacGillivray. (Courtesy of SHACC Collection)

    Rick Griffin’s work is showcased at the Surfing Heritage and Culture Center in San Clemente. A panel discussion on July 8, 2023 will give insight into his work. (Photo courtesy of Barry Haun/SHACC)



    “He definitely is the most foremost surf artist, ever,” said Barry Haun, curator and creative director for SHACC.

    While in the South Bay, Griffin was part of the Haggerty’s Surfing Club, which sponsored surf movies by filmmaker Bud Browne. He was introduced to Greg Noll, a big-wave surfer who also shaped surfboards and had a surf shop in Hermosa Beach. Griffin drew cartoon images on the walls of the shop, according to SHACC.

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    After a showing of “Surf Fever” at his high school, Griffin met John Severson, the producer of the film who was also the publisher and owner of the newly created Surfer Magazine.

    Severson liked Griffin’s cartoon drawings and hired him to illustrate a comic strip in the magazine. The main character was a blond-haired little surfer called “Murphy,” Haun said. Skateboarding was also catching on at the time, and Griffin often added the counter-culture sport into his comic strips.

    “He was just so amazingly talented,” Haun said. “There isn’t a surf artist that hasn’t been influenced by Rick. We all emulated his waves when we would draw. I can’t state enough how amazing and what an influence he was.”

    Griffin enrolled at the Chouinard Art Institute and his psychedelic posters caught on. He also created the original logo for Rolling Stone magazine, according to SHACC.

    He would go on to created rock concert posters for artists such as the Grateful Dead, Jimmy Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt.

    But his passion for the surf world never faded. In 1969, Griffin produced artwork for the film “Pacific Vibrations,” and in 1972  for the “Five Summer Stories” and in 1983 for “Blazing Boards.”

    Griffin moved to San Clemente, where he delved into a newfound passion for Christianity and his artwork often reflected his religious views, according to SHACC.

    In the mid-1970s Griffin began working with Calvary Chapel and its music company, Maranatha Music, to do artwork for the up-and-coming alternative Christian rock bands.

    In 1976, Griffin had his first and only retrospective show while he was alive, drawing thousands of people who wanted to see his work.

    Griffin died in a motorcycle accident in 1991 at age 47.

    Six years later, in 1997, he was inducted posthumously into the Huntington Beach Surfing Walk of Fame.

    The “Griffin Aquatic Ascendance” exhibit currently on display at SHACC has never-before-seen original artwork, as well as the iconic “Virgin of Malibu,” “Pacific Vibrations” and “Pipeline” paintings.

    There’s also a rotation of art that Griffin created for Surfer Magazine, advertisements he made for Noll and seven wall panels he painted while still in high school.

    John Van Hamersveld, also a well-known artist who created the iconic “Endless Summer” poster, will talk during Saturday’s panel about the early years when both men were helping to create art elements for Surfer Magazine.

    Also speaking about the artist’s life will be wife Ida and daughter Flaven, as well as notable Griffin scholars, including Steve Barilotti, Jim Evans, Gordon McClelland, Dave Tourje and Gary Wong.

    The event will take place from 2 to 5 p.m. on Saturday; tickets will be $20 for members and $25 for non-members. More info:

    ​ Orange County Register