The UC San Diego Arts Library will hold an exhibit featuring the work of San Diego-based writer-illustrator Geoff Relf and his soon to be published book, “Blue Planet Blues by Gordon the Giant Clam with ESP.”
The exhibit, which pays homage to Earth Day (April 22), will be held in the Geisel Library building on the lower level of the West wing from April 4 through May 31.
The exhibit is centered on the fanciful characters and environmental messages of the book, featuring Relf’s colorful illustrations and rhyming and narrative-style text. For those interested in the book publishing process, the exhibit shows how the book is prepared for traditional color printing, as well as for electronic delivery as an e-book for viewing on computers and other electronic devices.
Relf’s experience as a designer-cartoonist-illustrator, his interest in a wide range of writing styles, and his passion for making environmentalism popular and easily understood, result in a fun read with good messages. The book’s narrative is delivered via a main character revealed in the book’s full title, “Blue Planet Blues by Gordon the Giant Clam with ESP.”
As a child, Relf spent summers free diving beneath the waters of Puget Sound (SCUBA gear had not yet been invented by Jacques Cousteau). He became a pre-med, marine biology major at Stanford University, but switched to focus on the subjects he loved: creative writing and art. He ultimately attended a New York City art school and then went on to graduate in advertising and marketing at the University of Washington. He then trained as a naval aviator during the Korean War, and in the Cold War, flew missions across the Pacific and over the Yellow Sea and the Sea of Japan, at times just above the water to avoid radar detection.
As a parent in La Jolla in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, Relf encouraged his four children to be aware of and concerned about the well-being of their ocean, just three blocks down from the Relf’s La Jolla home. In the early 1960s, as the first advertising agency account manager for Sea World, Relf created Gordon the Giant Clam with ESP as his “consultant on oceanic matters” and, for several years, shared his character as a light touch with marketing managers and staff. Gordon was also a favorite Relf family character and appeared in some of Relf’s other advertising work, including a special promotion involving a major San Diego shopping center with an ecological emphasis.
Relf also was the original agency account manager for the development and promotion of the University City community just south of UCSD, and during that time, benefited from a working relationship and friendship with Roger Revelle and several staff members at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
In finally publishing “Blue Planet Blues,” Relf is delivering on a promise he made to his late wife, Connie, on her final day. For many years, she was a loyal fan of Gordon and his crew of characters. A highly talented multimedia painter, ceramic and glass sculptor, her work was exhibited in Europe as well as in the U.S. She was also well-known as a longtime board member and president of the La Jolla Art Association. Relf credits her as his inspiration and “beautiful engine.”