Happy New Year! Here I am sober and tapping away at my blog. I will probably be in bed at midnight. Tonight I want to eulogize Alton Kelley. Alton was one of the best known of the psychedelic artists who borrowed from Mucha and a few other 19th century sources. The Grateful Dead skeleton above is his best known piece and I have a big sticker of it on my paint box. It is a great piece of design. There was a 19th century etching by Edwin Sullivan that was its source material.
Alton Kelley died on June 1 2008 on the same day as Bo Didley, a musician for whom he had created posters. Born in Houlton, Maine and after a stint building helicopters in Connecticut, he moved to the Haight. Together with his collaborator, Stanley Mouse, Kelley began designing posters for rock concerts.
The poster below was influenced by the old illustrated labels on fruit boxes that were still common at that time. Robert Hunter incidentally was the lyricist for the Grateful Dead. It seems obvious now that the smoke has cleared at the end of the Rock and Roll era that the Grateful Dead were the greatest American Rock and Roll band. They sold more concerts, did more tours, and sold more music than anyone else. Their fans were the most involved, following them from city to city as they toured. I have been a proud fan of the Dead for many years.
On a long painting trip to the deserts of West Texas I was compelled by a young traveling companion to listen to WAY too much Wagner. At a small town record store I found an excellent "Dicks Picks" reissue of a classic Dead concert. I turned him on to the Dead which he enjoyed somewhat, and I told him their history, particularly about how Jerry Garcia started out playing bluegrass and the effect that had on their music. My friend is a portrait painter and travels the world to do it. He was hired to paint the family of an English lord. That evening he was staying with the family and enjoying an adult beverage, when the lord turned to him and asked, "Do you enjoy the Dead, young man?" Later my portrait painting friend thanked me for setting him up to expound on the bluegrass influence on the Dead's later oeuvre.
Above is a psychedelic poster that borrowed shamelessly from Mucha. Incidentally that typeface is called Armenian. It was a favorite of the psychedelic poster and album cover designers. I first saw it on the cover of the first Quicksilver Messenger Service album, you remember, the one that had Pride of Man on it? Several of the original printed posters on this page are still available from
They are valuable and highly collected now of course.
In closing, tonight was to have been the end of this blog. My blog was a New Years resolution. My intention was to write a post every day of the New Year, and I have . I have done 350 some posts in a row without missing a single day, well I had Lori Woodward guest write one day when I was just too sick to do it. I actually started it a week or so into the New Year as it took that long to get the site designed and learn how to operate it. I do intend to continue, as I have a lot of things I still want to cover. But when I run out of stuff, its over. I am not going to continue to write when I no longer have anything to say. Happy New Year and thanks for being out there reading this.
Also there is a new "Ask Stape" over at Fine Arts Views here is a link to that.