Guy Colwell

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Guy Colwell
Born (1945-03-28) March 28, 1945 (age 70)
Oakland, California
Nationality American
Area(s) Cartoonist, Colourist
Notable works
Inner City Romance
Central Body: The Art of Guy Colwell

Guy Colwell (born March 28, 1945, in Oakland, California) is an American full-time Figurative Social Surrealist painter and occasional underground cartoonist. Although not African-American himself, Colwell's comics often portray blacks in strong roles in stories of life on the streets. His paintings reflect on the human condition, economic inequality, injustice and alienation from the natural world.

Colwell studied art at the California College of Arts and Crafts. After completing two years there, he dropped out to travel and get some life and work experience. When he had worked an almost two-year stint as a sculptor for Mattel and was preparing his return to college, he was arrested for draft refusal and sentenced to two years in Federal Prison at Mcneil Island, Washington state. His experiences there and the period after his release were the genesis of his underground comix series Inner City Romance, begun in 1972. He was financially unable to continue art school as planned but deeply committed to painting as his life work, so was mainly self-taught thereafter. During the turbulent 1970s scene in San Francisco, Colwell worked as an illustrator for the underground paper Good Times and joined the commune that produced this weekly.[1]

Colwell left the Good Times after the paper ceased publication and concentrated on doing paintings and a few comic books until the mid 80's. After this creative period marred by drug abuse, Colwell worked for Rip Off Press as a colorist, also contributing stories, artwork or production to many underground comic book titles and anthologies. He authored a second comic book series under the title "Doll" and completely stopped using drugs and alcohol while working at Rip Off Press.

In 1986, upon hearing of a cross-country peace march (The Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament), Colwell took an 18-month leave of absence from Rip Off Press to join what was touted by original Great Peace March organizer David Mixner as a major event in American history. While on the GPM, Colwell helped draw route maps for the marchers as well as creating art depicting marchers in their everyday lives. His route maps and drawings are part of the Swarthmore College Peace Collection.

On returning to Rip Off Press, by 1988 relocated to Auburn California, Colwell became strongly influenced by the great natural beauty and wildlife of the Sierra Mountains. Nature and animal subject matter would thereafter become much more prominent in his work and inspired a deeper exploration of surrealism. Travels throughout Europe on foot with a backpack and several trips to Africa have deepened this aspect of the pictures he produces. His artwork today is internationally recognized for powerful social commentary. The sometimes uncomfortable images he renders with sharp clarity reminiscent of Renaissance masterworks have received praise from art critics and have been sought after by collectors who are looking for something more than pleasant wall decorations.

Colwell currently is married and lives in Berkeley, California, where he devotes himself to creating personal and political art. His 2004 painting, The Abuse, is his depiction of the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. This being Colwell's most controversial work, Lori Haigh, the owner of the San Francisco gallery where it was exhibited received death threats and was physically attacked. Her gallery also received damage from unknown persons, causing it to close permanently.[2]

Examples of Colwell's original works can be seen at the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, California and the Pritikin Museum in San Francisco which features his magnum opus "Litter Beach". In September 2012, his work was featured in Juxtapoz magazine. New small works and comic page originals can be seen on the Heritage Auctions web site as well as Colwell's own site.


  • Inner City Romance (Rip Off Press, 5-issue series, 1972–1978)
  • Doll (Rip Off Press, 8-issue series, 1989)
  • The Further Adventures of Doll (Kitchen Sink Press, 1989)
  • Central Body: The Art of Guy Colwell (Rip Off Press, 1991) — collection of his art between the years 1964-1991



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