Bob Thomas

This page is in remembrance of Bob, and is a way for those who were not acquainted with this remarkable artist, musician and man to learn a little about him and his work. Bob died in December of 1993 from problems associated with a bad case of the flu. He was in a weakened state from the physiological effects of lifetime tobacco and alcohol use. He was a very talented man and a devoted friend. I miss him.

Among Bob's contributions to the Dead scene are the orignial art for the Logo, the album covers of Live Dead and Bear's Choice (see: Bear Story), a poster for a Mickey Hart Diga show at the Marin Veteran's Auditorium, and the Egyptian Eyes of Horus seen for a time on the drum heads.

He was a bagpiper, made some of his own pipes and could play many tradional folk instruments such as guitar, viol da gamba, and various shawms and flutes. He was a founding member of the Golden Toad, a large SF group which played tradional and ethnic music, and was a regular member of a smaller folk group called Le Camembert. He was a long time performer at the Renaissance Pleasure Faire.

Here is a large painting Bob did as part of a series of paintings based on the Authurian Legend (the ancient name Arthur is a form of "artos"= bear). This particular painting is hanging in Susan Wickersham's office at Alembic. Bob painted the picture over the course of three or four weekends in 1965, and took acid before beginning each session. This was the legend of the Red Dragon and the White Dragon fighting in a subterranean lake. It was the vibrations of the magical struggle which was the cause of difficulties in constructing a tower on the spot. Merlin was called in and determined the cause of the problem.

Merlin's Vision acrylic on canvas

The swirls of color Bob used in the Dragons have this almost sinuous look to them. Bits of color here and there. Swirls of red, blue, black and gold. When you look at it, you think: This is strange, it seems sort of messy... but if you take acid and look at the painting again you see all these highly complex patterns melt into each other. Magnificent shit. He had painted all the visual clues that you needed for that particular pattern set. All these odd looking smears and swirls were all meaningful. It was a composition in itself. All you had to do was take some psychedelics, and when you gazed at the painting, you would always see the same patterns. With any other normal painting you might experience while on acid, the patterns would vary. You would see certain patterns one time, next time you took acid, it wouldn't be the same patterns. But Bob knew how to "fix" the patterns so your mind would create the same visual patterns each and every time, as part of the painting's artistic statement.

The Grateful Dead's music is also like that. There's stuff "painted" into it, in musical notes that create a tapestry. A psychedelic experience. You don't detect it when you're straight, but when you're high it takes you to another level. Does it all the time, it is a psychedelic sound painting. Just as some of Bob Thomas's paintings were.



Two scenes in Central California acrylic on canvas


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