Psychedelic art can be defined as any art that aims to reflect and depict the inner workings and experiences of the human psyche, and is linked to spiritual and drug experiences, and even dementia in its extreme forms. The movement is also closely related to surrealism and visionary art in its exploration of the subconscious.
Psychedelic art is more specifically the movement of visual creativity that grew in tandem with psychedelic rock music and counterculture in the 1960s, and which continues to be a powerful trend in the arts to the present day. Much of what falls into this genre is the beautiful imagery of record covers, poster designs, and artwork from the pages of comics and magazines. This post collects together 25 examples of astonishing psychedelic art to amaze and inspire.
1. Pathways by Roger Dean
British painter Roger Dean is a towering figure in fantasy and psychedelic art, known widely for his characteristic landscapes full of strange organic structures, exotic floating islands, jungles, oceans and insect-like creatures. His artwork has appeared on many album covers, including this piece that was used by prog rock outfit Yes on their 1973 album Yessongs.
2. Romeo and Juliet by Nicole Claveloux
Nicole Claveloux is a French painter and illustrator whose wonderful artwork often features richly coloured psychedelic imagery. Claveloux made this romantic illustration of Romeo and Juliet for a 1971 poster that a Danish bank offered as a gift to young couples when opening an account.
3. Still Life Paintings by Mati Klarwein
When Mati speaks, in his comments on ‘Annunciation’, of ‘all the early years of adolescent brooding over potatoes and eggs’, he is not talking about his experience of breakfast with a hangover – but of the years spent developing and refining his craft with still life studies. During the fifties Mati produced around a hundred paintings, many of which were still life studies that went unnamed by him at the time, and which his family are in the process of cataloguing.
4. Maitreya by Luke Brown
Luke Brown is a visionary artist working with an intriguing synthesis of painting and digital media. In some Buddhist traditions Maitreya, who we see in this glowing digital painting, is a Buddha figure that will appear on Earth in the future.
5. Landscapes and Mindscapes by Mati Klarwein
Although rarely thought of as a landscape artist, the natural beauty of the world about us, as made manifest in rocks and stones, flowers and trees, has always been an integral part of much of Mati’s work. Were it not for his tendency to integrate ‘other’ elements into his landscapes, interfering with our preconceptions and destroying the calm like a ghetto blaster in a cornfield, he would perhaps be better known as the versatile and creative landscape artist that he was.
6. Blessing by Mati Klarwein
Klarwein was extremely well travelled, and used his experiences around the world as inspiration. His paintings also reflect his deep interest in non-Western deities, symbolism and landscapes, and also his experiences of using LSD.
7. Godseye by Sherri Lynn Wood
Quilt-maker and artist Sherri Lynn Wood makes psychedelic fibre creations that often feature vibrant colour combinations. This handmade piece combines vintage 1970s prints, polyester, velvet, cotton, Afghan material, mirrors, pins, and beads to brilliant effect.
8. The 5000 Spirits or The Layers of the Onion by The Fool Collective
The Fool were a Dutch design collective who had a profound influence on the British psychedelic movement of the 1960s, largely through their work with bands including The Hollies, Procol Harum, Cream and most notably The Beatles. This is the collective’s mind-blowing artwork for The Incredible String Band’s album The 5000 Spirits or The Layers of the Onion, which was released in July 1967.
9. Janus by Ernst Fuchs
Ernst Fuchs is a visionary artist who has worked in a broad range of creative media, a founding member of the Vienna School of Fantastic Realism, and one of the most influential figures in visionary, surrealist and psychedelic art. This is his imagining of the Roman god Janus, with his two faces seeing both into the past and the future.
10. Life and Death by Alex Grey
Alex Grety is an American master of psychedelic art, specialising in a kind of frazzled, multi-coloured, visionary spiritualism. His paintings often feature repetitive patterns and optical illusions, such as the hidden faces in this piece entitle Life and Death.
11. Skeleton and Roses by Stanley Mouse and Alton Kelley
Stanley Mouse and the late Alton Kelley are American artists best known for their work on psychedelic poster and record cover designs. This is one of their famous collaborative artworks, a beautifully drawn and typographical poster design for a Grateful Dead concert.
12. Chelsea National Bank by Peter Max
During the 1960s and 70s psychedelic art pervaded almost every aspect of culture, with even corporations and banks keen to get in on the action. Prolific American psychedelic artist Pater Max created this poster for the Chelsea National Bank in 1971, the design reflecting the era’s garish colours and mystical influences.
13. Urban Rainbow Tunnel by Chris Halderman
The development of digital art has enabled some stunning psychedelic visuals such as this mesmerising multi-coloured vortex created by designer Chris Halderman.
14. Chambers Brothers, Matrix, San Francisco, 1967 by Victor Moscoso
Victor Moscoso, an American artist and illustrator known for his psychedelic artworks, poster illustrations and comic book art, created this super cool poster. The poster advertised a 1967 concert performance of The Chamber Brothers and Matrix in San Francisco.
15. Joint Show by Wes Wilson
Wes Wilson is another leading figure in the field of psychedelic poster art, credited with creating the particular type of swirling drawing style and melting fonts that characterise the genre. This poster for a Joint Show concert features the names of the performers squeezed and flowing through the forms of the girl’s body, typical of Wilson’s graphic style.
16. Organic Vision by Danil Kazakov
Danil Kazakov’s Organic Vision is a modern piece of psychedelic art with many of the genre’s key elements: whimsical portraiture melded with sublime landscape, the picture’s surface broken into a maze of patterns, shapes and fragmentary symbolism.
17. Axis: Bold as Love by Karl Ferris
English psychedelic artist and photographer Karl Ferris helped define the aesthetics of the 1960s including designing all three of Jimi Hendrix’s albums that were released during the musician’s short life. Ferris created this cover design for Axis: Bold as Love, which Hendrix recorded in 1967.
18. Land of Psychedelic Illuminations by Brian Exton
This is an example of digital psychedelic art from Brian Exton, who creates dazzling computer-generated images combining sci-fi landscapes and chaotic fractals.
19. Exploding Hendrix by Martin Sharp
Martin Sharp is an incredibly prolific producer of psychedelic art, often hailed as Australia’s most important pop artist. He is a master of variety of art forms, most notably poster design, comics, magazines and record covers. This classic piece is Sharp’s portrait of an exploding Jimi Hendrix, based on a photograph by Linda McCartney, late wife of Beatle Paul McCartney.
20. Disraeli Gears by Martin Sharp
This is another of Martin Sharp’s masterpieces of the 1960s, his record cover design for Cream’s Disraeli Gears, released in 1967. At the time of the design’s creation Sharp was living in the same building as Cream singer/vocalist Eric Clapton during The Pheasantry artists’ colony in swinging-sixties Chelsea.
21. Dark Days/Light Years by Keiichi Tanaami and Pete Fowler
Finally, this stunning example of modern-day psychedelic art is from Japanese pop artist Keiichi Tanaami and British artist Pete Fowler. This collaborative piece is for The Super Furry Animal’s album Dark Days/Light Years, and proves that eye-popping psychedlica continues to be a vibrant and powerful force in contemporary art and design.
22. The Art of Rock Posters from Presley to Punk
23. Valleys Of Neptune
24. Orange Sunshine: The Brotherhood of Eternal Love and Its Quest to Spread Peace, Love, and Acid to the World
25. The San Francisco Oracle / The Psychedelic Newspaper of the Haight Ashbury (Digital Re-Creation)
James is a blogger and designer who works at an online print cartridge store where he reviews the latest hardware releases and posts on their design blog about advertising, art and tech.