A Totally Subjective Round-Up of Brian Wilson/Beach Boys News, Gossip & Trivia

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Frank Holmes: Original SMiLE Artist

SF GATE "While I was doing my thesis, I got the job," Frank Holmes said. "I thought that was a good way to leave art school. It was a boost. Then it went away. I just forgot about it."

About 10 years ago, a friend called to say he saw someone with a tattoo of Holmes' drawing.

"That stunned me," he said.

Having lost touch with Van Dyke Parks for more than 25 years, Holmes drafted a letter to his old associate and gave it to a mutual friend, singer-songwriter Steve Young, to deliver. "I got a phone call from Van Dyke," said Holmes. " 'Surf's up' he said."

He first met Brian Wilson at the Hollywood apartment Van Dyke and his brother Carson Parks shared. "They were in the thick of Hollywood," said Holmes. "I used to meet all sorts of rock people there -- Frank Zappa, Danny Hutton, Stephen Stills. People were always coming and going. It was a pretty exciting place to visit. One day, there was Brian Wilson."

Holmes joined Wilson on a walk a couple of blocks to Wilson's in-laws' house. They chatted and, when they returned to the Parks' apartment, he pitched Wilson on drawing the cover. When Holmes brought him a preliminary sketch, Wilson gave him the job. "Brian took it to Capitol Records and told them this is what he wanted," Holmes said.

"They printed 500,000 album covers and booklets. They sat in a warehouse. When the project collapsed, they were destroyed. They tell me something like six covers and six booklets still exist."

Holmes finished the cover and booklet art far in advance. He took a job at the Long Beach Museum of Art and went about his professional life.

"I waited and waited," he said. "I couldn't even get my copy from the art director."

When he heard the album was finally out, he went to the record store, only to discover a new album with a new cover.

"Another big disappointment," he said. "I was a little upset. Well, more than a little upset."

"I was trying to find another way to approach art," he said, "like the drawings I did as a child. I was trying to do my work in that fashion -- spontaneous, no retakes, no seconds. I was looking for a fresh, alive quality I wanted in my work."

"So here comes the allegorical artwork via Van Dyke's metaphorical lyrics," said Holmes.

The cover art for the 2004 version was done by another artist, Mark London, but Holmes doesn't mind. "It just seems best to leave it in the past," he said. "It seems to fit in the past. 'Smile' -- now and then -- that's how I look at it."

The exhibition in the restaurant is the first major showing of Holmes' "Smile" drawings. The 12 recent additional drawings have never really been seen before and the other drawings from the original "Smile" album cover and booklet have only been reproduced from copies. The original drawings disappeared from Capitol Records long ago.

"I made up a new original," said Holmes. "I am an artist."