The Ultimate Guide To Pop Surrealism [2023]

The Ultimate Guide To Pop Surrealism [2023]

Everything you need to know about pop surrealism!  

What Is Pop Surrealism?

Pop surrealism which is referred to as Lowbrow or lowbrow art movement represents an underground visual art movement that emerged in Los Angeles, California, area in the late 1970s.

Lowbrow art or Pop surrealism frequently has a touch of humor in the art. Sometimes the humor is gleeful, sometimes naughty, and sometimes it is a sarcastic remark.

Pop surrealist artists Robert Williams and Gary Panter where the first to create the cartoonist underground art that was later named Pop surrealism.

Modern Pop Surrealist Artists:

  • Anthony Ausgang
  • Glenn Barr
  • Tim Biskup
  • Kalynn Campbell
  • The Clayton Brothers
  • Joe Coleman

Drawing inspiration for pop surrealism comes from the skateboarding culture, comic books, animation, famous surrealist paintings, street art, and psychedelic.

Lowbrow art or pop surrealism today has progressed into its own entity, involving unrestricted imagination.

Pop Surrealism

Pop Surrealism

pop surrealism Inspiration

Pop surrealism art draws inspiration from street art, skateboarding culture, DIY comics, fantasy art, surrealism, cartoons, hot rod culture, punk rock culture, and psychedelic rock scenes. Pop surrealism has evolved into its own unique art culture, unrestrained by any creative rules.

Pop surrealism art at times has a sense of humor and displays a harsh tone of humanity using the social-cultural environment of human beings. Sometimes the humor in the art is joyous and other times naughty. Pop surrealism artworks are usually paintings, however, there are also toys, digital art, and sculptures.


Pop Art

How does pop art differ from pop surrealism?

Pop art is a movement that developed in the mid-20th century in which artists included conventional objects such as comic strips, soup cans, newspapers, and more household items into their artwork.

Pop art was a descendant of Dada. Dada was a rebellious art movement in the 1920s that exposed the seriousness of modern Parisian art and, more broadly, the political and sociological circumstances that had brought the World War I to Europe.

 Dada artists were often satirical and nonsensical in nature. The pop art movement intended to crystallize the notion that art can draw from any reference, and there is no bureaucracy of culture to obstruct it.

Origins Of Pop Surrealism

Who was the founder of pop surrealism? 

Robert Williams is the founder of pop surrealism also known as lowbrow art. Yes, pop surrealism art and lowbrow art are at times interchangeable. Although, there is a debate with some pop surrealists that lowbrow art gets its name due to the region that it originally transpired from which is western California.

Robert Williams was also the founder of Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine, a premier art magazine which is dedicated to displaying pop surrealism art and artists. Williams is still a mass advocator of the lowbrow art movement. 

When did pop surrealism or better known as lowbrow art start?

Pop surrealism started in Los Angeles, California in the underground street art culture in the 1970s.

Lowbrow art was born of underground or "street" culture. Lowbrow draws heavily on icons of popular culture, particularly those referred to as "Retro." The tail-end of the Baby Boomers generation will commonly recognize the "Retro" style right away. 

Pop Surrealism The Rise of Underground Art

Pop surrealism - The Rise of Underground Art


The History Of Pop Surrealism

History Of Pop Surrealism

Who were the first pop surrealists?

The first pop surrealist artists were Robert Williams and Gary Panter.

Gary Panter

Gary's paintings occupy a large portion of the pop surrealism scene of the 1980s, during which he designed various sets of puppets for Pee-wee's Playhouse. 

Furthermore, he illustrated record covers for musical bands like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and created his own comic output through his own mini-comics. He also contributed various designed to Raw magazine. 

The Best Pop Surrealism Galleries

1. The Sparks Gallery

 The Sparks Gallery

The Sparks Gallery is housed within the historic Sterling Hardware Building in San Diego’s vibrant Gaslamp Quarter, located between Island & Market on Sixth Avenue.

Sparks Gallery houses contemporary and lowbrow artwork by artists living in San Diego and Southern CA. The Gallery was awarded the 2015 People in Preservation Award for Adaptive Reuse by Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO).

2. Baton Rouge Gallery

 Baton Rouge Gallery

Baton Rouge Gallery is the center for contemporary and pop surrealism art. Baton Rouge Gallery offers new art exhibitions on a monthly basis featuring local and (occasionally) national artists with opening receptions on the first Wednesday of each month. Baton Rouge Gallery also offers a wealth of cultural programming that brings visitors face-to-face with contemporary lowbrow art from different disciplines, such as, film, poetry, dance, music and much more. 

3. Gristle Art Gallery  

Gristle Art Gallery is located in the heart of Brooklyn, NY. The gallery is dedicated to promoting the best in pop-surreal, lowbrow, contemporary, dark and macabre art.

4. AFA Gallery

AFA Gallery

AFA Gallery offers a unique collection of original paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures from established and emerging artists. The collective artworks are characterized by their figurative styles and rooted in the history of illustration and expressionism. 

5. The Hive Gallery and Studios  

The Hive Gallery and Studios was founded in the Spring of 2005 in Los Angles, California. The Hive Gallery and Studios is a truly unique and vibrant gallery/studio experience.

It has a virtual presentation of the 5 featured artists of the month, two full galleries, and 25 working artists. The art featured in the gallery leans toward neo-pop illustrations.

6. La Luz de Jesus Gallery

La Luz de Jesus Gallery is the brainchild of an entrepreneur and art collector Billy Shire, considered primarily responsible for fostering a new school of California art. 

JUXTAPOZ Magazine¬†dubbed¬†Billy Shire ‚Äúthe Peggy Guggenheim of Lowbrow.‚Ä̬†La Luz de Jesus Gallery mainly showcases¬†figurative art, narrative paintings, and unusual sculptures.

The exhibitions are post-pop art with content ranging from folk to religion. The gallery’s objective is to bring underground lowbrow art and counter-culture to the masses.

Past shows have been groundbreaking, and have exhibited artists: Manuel Ocampo, Joe Coleman, and Robert Williams. 

The Best Pop Surrealism Artists

Pop-surrealistic artists who are masters at their crafts. Here are the top pop surrealism artists.

1. Robert Williams 

Robert Williams was a pop surrealist artist who¬†fathered¬†the term ‚Äúlowbrow‚ÄĚ into the fine arts vocabulary, with his groundbreaking book, The Lowbrow Art of Robt. Williams. Williams¬†refers to the current¬†lowbrow¬†art movement as ‚Äúcartoon-tainted abstract surrealism.‚ÄĚ

Williams¬†refers to his own work as ‚ÄúConceptual Realism.‚ÄĚ You can learn more about Robert Williams art and his life In his book The Lowbrow Art of Robert Williams.¬†

Williams is one of the original pop surrealist artists who is still alive. Williams played a huge component in the west coast outlaw culture.

You can learn more about Robert Williams and his career at his website 

2. Marion Peck

Marion Peck received a BFA from Rhode Island School of Design in 1985, at age 18. Subsequently, she studied at two different MFA programs: Syracuse University in New York and Temple University in Rome.

After which she lived in Italy for a few years learning about art. Peck is now famous for her works in Pop surrealism and has exhibited her work in Paris, Rome, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle.

Her work has also been used for album covers, such as Waking the Mystics by Portland art rock group Sophe Lux.

 3. Amy Sol

Amy Sol is an American artist of Korean ancestry, who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sol paints upon treated wooden boards.

Her style combines both narrative and figurative styles. Sol's works are usually portrayed by youthful maidens in dream-like environment or various fantastic beings.

4. Greg Simkins

Greg Simkins artistic dreams began at age three¬†when he started¬†drawing. Simkins was inspired by cartoon books; at the age of 18 he started doing graffiti under the name ‚ÄúCRAOLA‚ÄĚ.

Graffiti art overtime provided him with the experience to paint large pop surrealism works. Furthermore, it showed him the 'underground' viewpoint in color theory and considerably strengthened his artistic talents. 

Simkins worked as an illustrator for various clothing firms before going on to the video game business, where he worked on games for Treyarch/Activision such as Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, Spider-Man 2, and Ultimate Spider-Man.

5. Audrey Kawasaki 

Audrey Kawasaki is a Japanese-American artist, born and raised in Los Angeles, California; where she currently lives and works.

Kawasaki grew up reading Japanese manga comics, which inspired her to draw from an early age. Kawasaki’s work contains contrasting themes of innocence and eroticism, conveying the mysterious intrigue of feminine sensuality.

Her sharp imagery is painted with precision onto wooden panels, the natural grain adds warmth to her subject matter.

6. Camille Rose Garcia

Camille Rose Garcia creates lowbrow paintings, prints, and sculpture in a mysterious, "spooky" cartoon style. Garcia layers broken fictional images of fairy tales in her works.

She is inspired by William Burroughs’ cut-up novels and surrealist cinema, as well as Disney and Fleischer animations. Garcia's pop surrealism artwork has been exhibited internationally and highlighted in various magazines including Juxtapoz, Rolling Stone, and Modern Painter.

Her works are incorporated in the collections of the Los Angeles County Museum as well as the San Jose Museum of Art.

7. Gary Baseman 

Gary Baseman is an American pop surrealism artist who works in different creative fields: illustration, fine art, toy design, and animation.

Baseman is the producer of the Emmy-winning ABC/Disney cartoon series, Teacher's Pet, and the artistic creator of Cranium, a popular award-winning board game.

Baseman's aesthetically merges iconic pop art illustrations, pre-and post-war vintage motifs, cross-cultural mythology, and literary stories. He is renowned for his playful and wittily named art creatures, which repeat throughout his collection of works. 

Pop Surrealism FAQ's

So who is the modern-day Vincent Van Gogh of pop surrealism?

It's Camilla d’Errico, she is one of the best contemporary lowbrow artists of her generation. 

Who is Camilla d’Errico?

She is a painter and manga artist whose client list includes Dark Horse Comics, Image Comics, Tokyopop, Hasbro, Disney, Sanrio, and Neil Gaiman.

Camilla d’Errico individual art characters: Tanpopo and Helmetgirls, are global sensations; and her creative compositions have launched her to the top of  the Pop Surrealism scene.

In 2011, she was chosen for both a¬†Joe Shuster Award and the Will Eisner Award‚Äďthe two¬†most prestigious honors in comics.¬†¬†

Pop Surrealism Books 

There are several popular pop surrealism books which give insight into the history of lowbrow.

1. Pop Surrealism: The Rise of Underground Art by Kirsten Anderson 

Pop Surrealism: The Rise of Underground Art by Kirsten Anderson

The book is the first of its kind with a comprehensive survey of the Pop Surrealism/Lowbrow art movement. The book is fantastic, and clearly explains the rise of this art movement.

2. Pop Painting: Inspiration and Techniques from the Pop Surrealism Art Phenomenon by Camilla d'Errico

Pop Painting: Inspiration and Techniques from the Pop Surrealism Art Phenomenon by Camilla d'Errico

If you want to start drawing and painting in pop surrealism I recommend getting this book. Get ready for a behind-the-scenes look at various painting tools, methods, and get inspired by one of the top artists working in the field of Pop Surrealism.

This book is a manifesto on how to draw pop surrealism and make a living. A best-selling author and artist Camilla d’Errico pulls back the curtains to give you an exclusive insights on pop surrealism topics and tools: paints/brushes and how she uses them.

Learn about her ideal studio setup and pop culture icons that fuel the creativity within her and help her create beautiful pop surrealist paintings. This is the perfect book for anyone who wants to learn how to become a pop surrealist. 

3. Weirdo Deluxe: The Wild World of Pop Surrealism & Lowbrow Art by Matt Dukes Jordan

Weirdo Deluxe: The Wild World of Pop Surrealism & Lowbrow Art by Matt Dukes Jordan

Weirdo Deluxe is one of the first pop surrealism/lowbrow books which blends pop culture, street culture, pop art, and surrealism. It includes interviews with 23 leading pop surrealism/lowbrow artists; and hundreds of artworks.

4. Pop Surrealism What a Wonderfool World by Gianluca Marziani

Pop Surrealism What a Wonderfool World by Gianluca Marziani

"Pop Surrealism What a Wonderfool World" is a 96-page hardcover volume with over 75 full-color images from forty of today's leading artists in the Pop Surrealism movement. Inspired by the art exhibits at the Carandente Museum in Spoleto, Italy.

The images in the book represent the most influential styles in the new contemporary pop surrealism art scene. 

5. Lowbrow Tarot An Artistic Collaborative Effort in Honor of Tarot Hardcover by Aunia Kahn & Russell J. Moon

Lowbrow Tarot An Artistic Collaborative Effort in Honor of Tarot Hardcover by Aunia Kahn & Russell J. Moon

Renowned Tarot artist, Aunia Kahn, showcases 23 Lowbrow artists who have used their creative artistic abilities to produce 314 new works of art in the Lowbrow Art Movement. 

Top Lowbrow Art Magazines

1. Juxtapoz Magazine

Based in San Francisco, California Juxtapoz was founded upon the belief and virtues of Southern California pop culture and the freedom from the conventions of the "established" New York City art world.

Juxtapoz magazine was launched with the mission of connecting modern cultural genres like psychedelic art, hot rod art, graffiti art, street art, and illustration. 

2. Raw Vision Magazine

Raw Vision Magazine was founded by John Maizels in 1989 as a way of telling people about various forms art with small freelance staff and text contributed by scholars.

Each issue features artists from different countries, as well as covering general news on the subject of international art. Raw Vision magazine has been described as "outsider art's Rolling Stone" in 2007, as it's a unique international publication whose exclusive pop surrealism content is outsider art.

Over the years it has featured several hundred self-taught and visionary artists, many of whom were completely unknown in the USA. 

3. Hi-Fructose Magazine

Hi-Fructose Magazine Is a quarterly print art magazine, founded by artists, Attaboy, and Annie Owens in 2005.

Hi-Fructose focuses squarely on art that transcends trends, assuring readers a thorough coverage and content that is informative and original.

Hi-Fructose showcases an amalgamation of new emerging contemporary artists as well distinguished artists; with the main focus on inspiring artists.  

4. Forno Magazine

Forno Magazine is an independent, commercial-free chromo magazine dedicated to the art of sex. Each issue presents a different sex aspect through a variety of original images created especially for Forno.

The magazine introduces challenging works of art that stimulate the mind rather than other organs. Forno invites artists of all media to participate in Forno by creating one image according to the concept of the issue.

5. Beautiful/Decay Magazine

Beautiful Decay Magazine began as a small black and white photocopy business. In 2001, it was resurrected as a full-color art and design publication featuring some of the most cutting edge and exciting work by artists and designers from all over the world.  

Pop Surrealism Paintings 

Lotus Girl by Judah X. Pimentel

Lotus Girl by Judah X. Pimentel 

Touchness by Judah X. Pimentel

Touchness by Judah X. Pimentel 

Awoken Heart by Judah X. Pimentel

Awoken Heart by Judah X. Pimentel

Mischievous by Judah X. Pimentel

Mischievous by Judah X. Pimentel 

The Boy On The Moon

The Boy On The Moon Art 


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1 comment

Great article! Keep up the good work! I live in Phoenix and we have a lot of lowbrow and pop surrealism going on here too, but not enough! It’s my favorite genre. You mentioned 3 of my favorite artists and the magazine that got me into it all- Juxtapoz. Someday I hope to hang with the big dogs.


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