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Knock Me Your Lobes

By Richard Sheaff

The Incomparable Jim Flora

Artist and commercial illustrator Jim Flora (1914-1998) had one of the most wildly imaginative twentieth-century minds. I started collecting his record album covers decades ago when finding these obscure items was a matter of haunting the record bins at every thrift store I could find. Great fun, and what a thrill to find a new one for 50¢! Nowadays, appreciation for Flora is widespread, and any interested reader can readily find a veritable plethora of Flora websites. Available are books, merchandise, limited edition prints, all sorts of things. The album covers are regularly offered on eBay.

Nowadays, there are art gallery shows of his work. Because of Flora’s talent, it is all wonderful.

Jim started his career at record companies in the 1940s, and over time designed album covers in every vinyl format: 78 rpm, 33 1/3 rpm, 45 rpm, singles, EP (extended play), LP (long playing) albums, mono, stereo, 7-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch. He did album design and other commercial projects from the 1940s through the 1970s. Much of his work was jazz-oriented . . . which makes perfect sense given the visual jazz his mind created.

Flora heavily influenced many modern illustrators, notably Michael Bartalos and Tim Biskup.

A number of years ago, Flora enthusiast Irwin Chusid—who had created the first Flora-dedicated website—connected with the Flora family after Jim’s death and began to unearth a treasure trove of previously unknown Flora pieces. Many of these works are now available, as merchandise and prints.

Here, to whet the appetite, are but a few Flora wonders . . .

A self-portrait . . .