Pedro Bell

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Pedro Bell
Born(1950-06-11)June 11, 1950
DiedAugust 27, 2019(2019-08-27) (aged 69)
Other namesSir Lleb
Captain Draw
Occupation
  • Artist
  • illustrator
  • writer
Years active1973–1995

Pedro Bell (June 11, 1950 – August 27, 2019) was an American artist and illustrator, best known for his elaborate album cover designs and other artwork for numerous Funkadelic and George Clinton solo albums. Bell also wrote many of the liner notes of the records under the name Sir Lleb (his surname spelled backwards).[1]:22[2] The liner notes contributed to P-Funk's literary mythology[3]:238 — a sampling of his contributions include "Thumpasaurus," "Funkapus," "Queen Freakalene," "Bop Gun," and "Zone of Zero Funkativity." Bell's work was preceded and partially inspired by Sun Ra[4] and was a precursor to the modern graphic novel and the Afro-punk movement.[5]

Early life[edit]

Born on June 11, 1950, Bell was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois.[6][7] His family was very religious.[8] Bell had older brothers.[9]

Often sick as a child, Bell would read books and comics, especially Ace Comics.[10]:20 Bell said that he gained his artistic talent from his father, whom he described as frustrated artist; and his mother, who wrote and played the piano.[7]

Bell attended Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois, where he said he was exposed to the Black Power movement and met activist Mark Clark. Bell donated artwork to the Black Panther Party and participated in a protest, which led to his expulsion from school.[11]

Bell also attended Roosevelt University in Chicago, where he took art classes and studied with Don Baum.[10]:20[12]:21

Career[edit]

Funkadelic[edit]

Between late 1969 and early 1970, Bell heard Funkadelic on the underground Chicago radio station WXFM for the first time.[1]:22 He began writing illustrated letters to the band and contacted their manager, Rod Scribner, in order to send him drawings and college-newspaper writing samples. Bell additionally created and mailed what he called "psychedelic envelopes", but since Funkadelic bandleader George Clinton was under investigation at the time by the RCMP for his involvement with the Process Church of the Final Judgment, the envelopes also were investigated.[13]:23

Bell was hired to produce artwork for the band, beginning with local show posters, promotional items, and press kits.[14] He moved on to album artwork, where he built a mythology that included slang, nicknames, and otherworld concepts that eventually became part of the artwork and liner notes of the Funkadelic records.[1]:22 Bell often came up with nicknames, which he called "tags", for people.[15] The album cover artwork was credited under Bell's name, but the liner notes credited his work to Sir Lleb.[14] Bell worked to reflect the band's atmosphere of its music and stage performances in his work,[16] for which he used markers and felt-tipped pens[17] because the fumes of the paint he used were too toxic, and he often traced the markers with acrylic due to issues with color separation from the printing process. The finished works were often 300 times the size of the actual record covers for higher printing quality.[18]:24 Although he went to college, Bell considered himself to be self-taught. Bell said he created the original pieces on three foot square panels, and often would only have the record title, and would not have heard the music before creating the album artwork.[14]

According to his biography via George Clinton’s official website, Bell’s “stream-of-contagion text rewrote the whole game. He single-handedly defined the P-Funk collective as sci-fi superheroes fighting the ills of the heart, society, and the cosmos…As much as Clinton’s lyrics, Pedro Bell’s crazoid words created the mythos of the band and bonded the audience together.”[19] However, Bell was often paid very little for his work, and if it was not through the record label, payment was either delayed or he had to ask for it up front.[17][20]:25 He therefore held regular jobs, including working in a bank and then a post office,[2] but retained his association with the P-Funk family by often wearing day-glo wigs and psychedelic-inspired outfits.[4] Bell additionally collaborated with Clinton on album cover artwork for Clinton's 1980s solo releases,[21] but their relationship became further strained after Clinton began to collaborate with Prince.[22]

Other projects[edit]

Bell had his own studio that he named Splankswork,[23] and in 1988, he created a cartoon for MTV called Larry Lazer.[24] In addition to working on comic books (including a compilation titled Artusi Tribe) and screenwriting, Bell started a band called Tripzilla.[25][26] In 1997, he published a zine titled ZEEP Magazine.[7][27] According to Bell, the word was P-Funk slang for "deeper-than-deep".[1]:22

Censorship[edit]

Warner Brothers Music censored Bell's initial artwork for Funkadelic's 1981 album The Electric Spanking of War Babies.[22][28] Deemed as inappropriate due to the cover featuring an overtly phallic spaceship that transported a naked woman, the work was edited, despite the fact that Funkadelic "was following up two consecutive million-selling records," while signed to Warner Bros.[3]:249 Bell revised The Electric Spanking of War Babies so the image was featured with a lime-green sketch of shape covering the majority of the cover art, which says, “Oh Look! The Cover that ‘They’ were TOO-SCARED to print!”[29]

Influences[edit]

Bell said that among his artistic influences were artist Ed Roth, especially how he incorporated cars into his artwork, and the work of cartoonist Robert Williams in advertising that appeared in Hot Rod magazine.[7] He also cited Frank Zappa, Harlan Ellison, Hunter S. Thompson, Iceberg Slim and Tom Wolfe as influences.[14][30]:26

Growing up, Bell read the Bible and was very influenced by the books of Genesis and Revelations. This led to an interest in science fiction, machinery, automotive technology, and then the surrealistic art of Salvador Dalí.[31] Bell read extensively about dinosaurs and Godzilla, and also studied Latin.[9]

Personal life[edit]

In August 1996, Bell was declared legally blind.[7] He struggled with health and poverty issues for much of his later life.[2] In January 2010, the Black Rock Coalition held a fundraiser called "Miracle for a Maggot: Funkraiser for P-Funk Graphic Artist Pedro Bell" to help Bell.[32]

On August 27, 2019, Bell died in Evergreen Park, Illinois at the age of 69.[6][33][34] He had a son.[7]

Selected discography[edit]

Selected exhibitions[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d West, David (1987). "Pedro Bell (page 22)". SECONDS. pp. 20–26.
  2. ^ a b c Spak, Kara (November 9, 2009). "Artist behind Parliament Funkadelic art struggles to get by". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on November 12, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Vincent, Rickey (1996). Funk: The Music, The People, and The Rhythm of The One. New York: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN 978-0-312-13499-0. OCLC 893908844.
  4. ^ a b Grünhäuser, Amber (January 10, 2018). "Pedro Bell: Funkadelical Vibrations". Lodown magazine.
  5. ^ Gonzales, Michael (April 29, 2019). "Black Utopia: The Funkadelic Art of Pedro Bell". Afropunk.
  6. ^ a b Genzlinger, Neil (August 30, 2019). "Pedro Bell, Whose Wild Album Covers Defined Funkadelic, Dies at 69". The New York Times.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Timble, Steve (Fall 1998). "Pedro Bell "One Nation Under a Dude"". Juxtapoz.
  8. ^ Roberts, Randall (August 28, 2019). "Pedro Bell, artist who created Funkadelic's cosmic album covers, dies at 69". Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ a b Shakur, Abdel (June 30, 2009). "The Natural Way To Dro (Part I)". Misstra Knowitall.
  10. ^ a b West, David (1987). "Pedro Bell (page 20)". SECONDS. pp. 20–26.
  11. ^ Shakur, Abdel (July 5, 2009). "The Natural Way To Dro (Part III)". Misstra Knowitall.
  12. ^ West, David (1987). "Pedro Bell (page 21)". SECONDS. pp. 20–26.
  13. ^ West, David (1987). "Pedro Bell (page 23)". SECONDS. pp. 20–26.
  14. ^ a b c d Michaels, Rob (1989). "Pedro Bell: Drawnamic Maestro of Optical Infotainment (page 3)". Motorbooty.
  15. ^ Michaels, Rob (1989). "Pedro Bell: Drawnamic Maestro of Optical Infotainment (page 4)". Motorbooty.
  16. ^ Clinton, George; Greenman, Ben (2014). Brothas Be, Yo Like George, Ain't That Funkin' Kinda Hard on You?. New York: Atria Books. pp. 116–118, 184. ISBN 978-1-476-75109-2. OCLC 893679213.
  17. ^ a b Michaels, Rob (1989). "Pedro Bell: Drawnamic Maestro of Optical Infotainment (page 5)". Motorbooty.
  18. ^ West, David (1987). "Pedro Bell (page 24)". SECONDS. pp. 20–26.
  19. ^ Hito, Ben. "Pedro Bell". GeorgeClinton.com. Retrieved March 25, 2013.
  20. ^ West, David (1987). "Pedro Bell (page 25)". SECONDS. pp. 20–26.
  21. ^ Palmer, Robert (May 7, 1986). "The Pop Life; Clinton's Satire Has a Bite". The New York Times.
  22. ^ a b c d Michaels, Rob (1989). "Pedro Bell: Drawnamic Maestro of Optical Infotainment (page 1)". Motorbooty.
  23. ^ a b Johnson, Steve (December 5, 2018). "How the look of the 20th century came from Chicago and its African-American designers. Have a 7UP?". Chicago Tribune.
  24. ^ Bell, Pedro (1988). "Pedro Bell cartoon: Larry Lazer".
  25. ^ Michaels, Rob (1989). "Pedro Bell: Drawnamic Maestro of Optical Infotainment (page 6)". Motorbooty.
  26. ^ Austen, Jake; Lancelot, Randy; Porter, James; Bell, Pedro (1994). "P-FUNK (Pedro Bell Interview): Return of the Crazoid: Rocktober Brings Artist Extraordinaire Pedro Bell Back to the Scene of the Crime Where He First Met Funkadelic". Roctober (11). Archived from the original on April 24, 2001.
  27. ^ "Stozo's Land Souvenirs: ZEEP Magazine !?(1997 issue)". Stozo The Clown.
  28. ^ Michaels, Rob (1989). "Pedro Bell: Drawnamic Maestro of Optical Infotainment (page 2)". Motorbooty.
  29. ^ Edwards, Gavin (January 15, 2015). "Banned in the U.S.A.: 20 Wildest Censored Album Covers - Funkadelic, 'The Electric Spanking of War Babies' (1981)". Rolling Stone.
  30. ^ West, David (1987). "Pedro Bell (page 26)". SECONDS. pp. 20–26.
  31. ^ Shakur, Abdel (June 12, 2009). "George Clinton's Funky Drawers: Pedro Bell". Misstra Knowitall.
  32. ^ McClain, Sierra (December 31, 2009). "'Miracle For A Maggot": Fundraiser for Funkadelic graphic artist Pedro Bell". Bold As Love Magazine.
  33. ^ Minsker, Evan (August 28, 2019). "Pedro Bell, Artist of Funkadelic's Iconic Album Covers, Has Died". Pitchfork.
  34. ^ O'Donnell, Maureen (August 28, 2019). "Chicago artist Pedro Bell, designer of trippy album covers for George Clinton, Funkadelic, has died". Chicago Sun-Times.
  35. ^ a b c d e f Stevens, Tym (January 27, 2010). "Beyond Cool: Pedro Bell, Funkadelic's visionary!". ROCK Sex.
  36. ^ Dr. Brookenstein (May 1, 1999). "Opening of the Pedrodelic Art Exhibit, NYC (5/01/99)". Brookenstein.com.
  37. ^ Smith, Roberta (August 26, 2005). "Along the Blurry Line Between Blotto and Buzzed". The New York Times.
  38. ^ Onli, Turtel (October 11, 2007). "Black Age of Comics Convention / Onli Studios: October 2007". Black Age of Comics Convention / Onli Studios.
  39. ^ "Exhibitions: Sympathy for the Devil: Art and Rock and Roll Since 1967". Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. September 29, 2007.
  40. ^ Stipanovich, Alexander (November 23, 2007). "Rock&Art - Pedro Bell". Brain Magazine (in French).
  41. ^ Jacob, Luis (curated by); Wendt, Pan (curated by) (February 12, 2009). "Funkaesthetics". Art Museum at the University of Toronto.
  42. ^ Published By The Confederation Centre Art Gallery (2009). "Funkaesthetics". Confederation Centre Art Gallery.
  43. ^ "African American Designers in Chicago: Art, Commerce, and the Politics of Race". Art Design Chicago. 2018.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]