Guy Colwell is an American 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 “Figurative Social Surrealist” 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 Corrections Center, in Washington state. His experiences there and the period after his release were the genesis of his underground comix series Inner City Romance, published by Last Gasp beginning 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. Colwell left the Good Times after the paper ceased publication and concentrated on doing paintings and a few comic books until the mid 1980s. 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.
By 1988 Colwell had relocated to Auburn, California, and 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. His artwork today is internationally recognized for powerful social commentary. The sometimes uncomfortable images he renders with sharp clarity reminiscent of Renaissance master works have received praise from art critics, and have been sought after by collectors.
Colwell is married and lives in Berkeley, California, where he devotes himself to creating personal and political art. [Wikipedia]
All artwork © Guy Colwell.