When Jerry Garcia was in his pre-Grateful Dead years he was briefly a student at The California School of Fine Arts (renamed in 1961 as the Art Institute of San Francisco). A restless teenager, he was yearning for self expression. In 1957 he attended summer and weekend sessions under the tutelage of his professor Wally Hedrick. He just learned the basics, but the class managed to light a spark that would eventually become a fire. It laid a foundation for future avenues and artistic endeavors. Other notable attendees of the Institute were Dave Getz from Country Joe and The Fish, Annie Leibovitz (famed photographer for Rolling Stone), and Courtney Love. Best known for being married to Kurt Cobain and latter becoming a lunatic.
The skills he developed there laid the ground work and empowered him to embark on a lifelong love of painting and sketching. One can only assume his early attraction to visual art started with is endless infatuation with comic books
After suffering a diabetic coma in 1986, a good friend began to encourage him to once again put his artistic talents to work. It was a valiant effort to distract him from his less than savory addictions and lifestyle choices, and everyone waited holding their collective breath hoping he would take the bait.
Thankfully, after finding various artistic mediums strategically placed in his surroundings, he voiced a desire to try experimenting with an airbrush. Immediately a set was rushed to him and Garcia got down to business. After he was more comfortable with this new method, a larger air compressor was purchased. What came next was his first (and possibly most well known) work via airbrush: Wetlands I.
Wetlands I is a bold representation of water and sky. Bright sunset pigments combine with an abundance of marshy tones to create the piece. Garcia was not content with the original product, however, he was convinced by others it was complete. He was none too thrilled…every artist knows the battle with knowing when to stop, and he didn't want to. In his effort to improve upon the original he created Wetlands II. There he added the whimsical looking plant that occupies the left hand side of the work. NOW it was done!
After these two initial forays in airbrush, he moved on to create more otherworldly compositions such as Facets I and II and Blue Iceberg. All of these are compositions that possess a slightly alien quality. Jerry was pouring years of visual stimuli onto the paper.
Being the genius he was, Jerry never had trouble learning new skills. Once he had mastered the art of airbrush he was itching to venture into other mediums. He was very vocal that the cleaning of the airbrush guns was decidedly off putting to him (the chemicals needed were strong) and moved on to the world of watercolor.
Tune in tomorrow as we peel another layer off of Jerry and explore his work with watercolors.