by Art Chantry ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
THERE was this guy who worked at the rocket name of scott griggs. he was an advertising salesman (such at it was at the rocket). sure, he sold ads, but he was one of the gang, actually. he played pickup basketball with several of the staff at lunchtime, stuff like that. that is, until grant alden, our editor who also was our typesetter on the the old blue compugraphic editwriter 750 (he would actually edit and typeset all the articles simultaneously on that machine like it was a giant typewriter. crazy stuff) came back with a sprained index finger on the eve of our deadline and couldn’t do his job. so, the basketball stuff ended. there just comes an age where playing pickup ball just is too dangerous for creaky old men in their 20’s to do any more. they get all brittle and stuff, ya know?
anyway, there was also this great cool cartoonist who had been doing amazing rock posters and record covers for the last few years. he’d been spinning around in the circles i’d been working in – the underground garage rock scene of the late 80’s /early 90’s. he’d been doing a lot of work for long gone john at the label called ‘sympathy for the record industry’ (one of the coolest record label names ever.)
long gone john’s technique was sort time-honored and sneaky: he’d find talent when they were starving and offer them money up front for the next project. that’s how he managed to snag some really amazing bands to his label and keep them from ever recording for others to any extent. bands like the oblivians. amazing band. but they became virtually indentured servants to long gone. that also happened to this amazing illustrator/cartoonist guy. his name was ‘pablo’.
i’d been wanting to hire pablo to do something for the rocket. his work was fully realized and really astonishing savvy drawings that screamed street smart and yet still carried that cachet of retro vintage style appropriation (see this image and think “walter and margaret keane”.) but that was only touching the of the iceberg of what pablo could do. he was one of the greatest hidden talents of the period. while other folks like coop and kozik were mowing down the lawn out there, pablo was holed up somewhere, hard to find, churning out these tiny telephone pole masterpieces. then he vanished. poof!
one day, scott griggs mentioned he was going to have his brother from LA come up to stay for a while with him. he wanted to know if maybe he could do something for the rocket, make a little money. apparently he could draw. so, i naturally said what i always say, “have him bring by a portfolio and i’ll look at it.”
well, scott brought by the portfolio. seems that his brother was extraordinarily shy. he just couldn’t go out and sell himself (a huge part of the job of freelancing). so, scott brought in PABLO’s portfolio! it turned out that his real name id paul o’niell griggs (thus shortened to his tag name of ‘pablo’.) i flipped out, “WHAT?!? YOU’RE BROTHER IS PABLO!!??”
this was sort of one of those moments you live for as an art director. here, you’ve been tossing out feelers for this amazing talent for ages and suddenly he pops up as the brother of a co-worker? too good to be true. it was, too. pablo was soooo incredibly shy that he was one of those guys who literally can’t look you in the eye. he was a classic shoe-gazer. he was also eccentric in appearance (he sported this weird beard at the time that was little more than two conical spikes sticking straight out of chin) and mumbled when he talked. it seems almost crippled by his shyness.
so, the solution was to offer him work through scott and try to build a relationship with him and see if trust could be attained. this illustration i show here is the first project he ever drew for the rocket. it’s for the review column featuring the new sonic youth release called “dirty”. it was exquisite, we could not have been happier or asked for more. he didn’t do many more things for the rocket, he soon moved back to LA. i think the last piece he did was some lettering for what turned out to be my very last cover of the very last issue of the rocket i ever worked on – the “IMIJ” cover. again, the typography he concocted made the entire cover sing. brilliant guy, could do no wrong.
about this time i offered him the use of the equipment in my personal studio for him to use as a work place while he was in town. so, for short time he was literally working in a corner of my studio that i shared (at the time) with hank trotter and jeff kleinsmith. i’d always dreamed of having a studio where visiting artists could use to work when they were in town. during this brief period it almosttrue. but that studio fell apart quickly over the usual sorts of things. ah well…
anyway, pablo did a few local posters as well as some long distance work toiling away at the spare work desk in my studio. it was great to watch him work, he was absolutely masterful with a pen and an exacto knife. he had solid confident control, like the tools were extension of his hands. i’ve always been fascinated by watching the hands of artists at work. some people have hands that become so graceful and beautiful when they create that it’s like watching a charming ballet. all grace and movement and line. elegant. pablo’s hands were like that.
one day he stopped coming in. after a while i chatted with scott and he said pablo had gone back home to LA. after that he was again impossible to find and living like a hermit. that was the last i saw of pablo. sorta sad. one of the great voices of the era having confidence problems so profound that he had to quit? is that what happened to him? i dunno. to this day people ask me, “whatever became of pablo?” i have to say, “i dunno.”
years later i got back in touch with his brother, scott, who had been working for the seattle sonics basketball team (i guess he never really did fully move away from those pickup ball games, eh?) he said pablo was ok, but living at home with his folks. he still works, but not so much. that was that.
i don’t think i ever managed to get pablo to look me in the eye.