Lines and Colors art blog

Don Ivan Punchatz (1936-2009)

Don Ivan Punchatz
Don Ivan Punchatz was one of the outstanding talents in late 20th Century illustration. It’s unlikely that you have not seen his illustrations somewhere, whether on book covers or in magazines like Time, Newsweek, Playboy, Esquire, Rolling Stone, National Geographic or National Lampoon.

Personally, I remember being struck by his cover illustrations for the Avon editions of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.

Punchatz had a versatile range, a solid command of painting technique, and a wild imagination. He particularly excelled at conceptual metaphor, carrying complex ideas through in images that had more than one layer of meaning.

Ray Bradbury said of him: “His ability to touch men with acrylic and melt them into beasts, or touch beasts with oil and ink – and: voila! they are senators or brokers – is endlessly stunning. Metaphor, after all, is the universal language. He could teach at Berlitz!”

In addition to his work as an illustrator, Punchatz was influential on other illustrators in a more direct way. He was one of the few to move away from the New York publishing center, and established a studio in Texas that became the model for several others.

Due to the detailed nature of his style, and the difficulty of creating images on deadline, he hired several assistants, and, according to illustrator and comics artist Gary Panter, who was one of them, ran his studio like a Renaissance workshop. As was also the case with Renaissance workshops, many of his assistants went on to become accomplished artists in their own right.

Punchatz taught illustration and graphic design at Texas Christian University and was a guest instructor at Syracuse University. He was also recognized outside of the illustration field, and his work in in the collections of the Dallas Art Museum and the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery.

Don Ivan Punchatz died of cardiac arrest on October 22nd. Unfortunately, I can’t find a major collection of his work online, but I’ve gathered a few sites below that either have bios or examples of his work.

Many are familiar with Punchatz primarily for his famous cover for the hugely popular game Doom, for which he unfortunately turned down royalties, opting instead for a flat fee. Like many freelance artists, Punchatz was not as strong at business as he might have been.

Also like many freelance illustrators and artists, Punchatz was without medical insurance, and his widow is now facing a mountain of medical bills from his hospitalization. Donations can be made to Sandra Punchatz, c/o Lewis Glaser, TCU School of Art, TCU, Box 298000, Fort Worth TX 76129.

[Suggestion and donation address courtesy of Larry Roibal]

(Any of you Republicans out there want to tell me again why you’re conducting this embarrassingly shameful fight to prevent health care reform in the U.S.?)

Addendum: Despite my comment above, I have suspended comments on this post. I simply don’t have time to admin a continuing political debate, as valuable as lively discussion may be. The original post is about Don Ivan Punchatz, and I have let his son Greg close out the discussion in the comments section. -Charley


13 responses to “Don Ivan Punchatz (1936-2009)”

  1. vanderleun Avatar

    I’m no Republican but I’d suggest that individual tragedies are not to be remedied by creating vast immortal government programs. It’s not my impression that Republicans,nor even most Americans, are opposed to “reform” of health care, but instead have figured out that his particular bit of legislative smoke,mirrors, boondoggle, and hidden consequences just isn’t acceptable.

    There’s nothing shameful about being against bad legislation.

    You should de-colonize your mind and take another look at what is being proposed — if you can figure it out from the online text.

    1. Vanderleun, thanks for your comment.

      Actually, I think I can get a pretty good idea of the way the “debate” is forming by seeing how opposition falls along party lines; and, within the Democratic party, how opposition seems to pretty directly parallel the amount of campaign contributions from the health care industry.

      I’m not a fan of either party, and I tend to be suspicious of the motives of legislators in general, but there are times when the political bickering and overt self interest become so egregious as to beggar description, and this is one of those times.

      Yes, like almost all legislation that makes it through the alimentary canal of our greed, wealth and influence based system, any health care reform is going to be severely flawed. If that alone were a reason to oppose it, no legislation would ever be passed.

      What makes me so pissed off at the Republicans at this point is their obvious disregard for anyone who is not rich enough to be making huge campaign contributions in their knee-jerk opposition to anything labeled “heath care reform”. This particularly applies to the so-called “public option”, which they vehemently oppose because it threatens insurance company profits.

      Meanwhile thousands of Americans suffer or die because they are denied care under our “only if you can afford to pay” system. Others, like Punchatz’s widow, are saddled with untenable debt.

      I also balk at the underhanded and deceptive tactics Republicans have used to create ungrounded fear in the minds of the public to convince them that any threat to corporate profits is “socialized medicine” and somehow akin to the “red menace” of the 1960’s.

      Equally offensive is their characterization of “government sponsored health care” as the worst disaster possible, conveniently overlooking the fact that Medicare (which they of course can’t attack openly) is “government sponsored health care”.

      I don’t assume that the current legislation is golden and problem-free, by any means; nor should it be swept through without debate. Were that the case, the Democrats would, of course, make it a pork-fest (if it’s not already, like most bills).

      What I object to is the Republican resistance to any real debate (i.e. based on facts rather than emotional propaganda), and their “scuttle it at any cost” approach to the entire issue.

  2. Hear Hear!

  3. Charlie,

    I’m not a Republican but I am strongly opposed to the current health care reform proposals. (Alas, I get no kickbacks for having such an opinion.)

    It seems to me that there has been lots of hyperbole on both sides of the debate: “Millions of people will DIE if we don’t pass this NOW!” vs. “The government wants to throw your grandmother IN A DITCH!” That’s all “do it for the children” propaganda and not worth attending to. There is also lots of money on both sides of the issue.

    The starting point, as you rightly point out, is that much of our current healthcare industry is already funded by the government. The question is whether Americans trust the government enough to expand that role drastically. Many of us don’t–not because we think there will be some sort of formal grandma-killing “death panels” but because current government healthcare programs such as Medicare and the Veteran’s Administration are very badly managed (I’m sure either of us could come up with myriad examples with a bit of Googling). We wish that a government that can’t manage to fix the healthcare programs it already has would not propose to create newer and bigger healthcare programs that we all know would be plagued with the same problems.

    Additionally, we understand that health care will be rationed under all realistic scenarios, because there just isn’t enough money to pay for the best possible care for everyone. Right now, government rations health care by cutting Medicare reimbursement rates and driving the most competent practitioners away from participation. Private insurance rations health care through contracts and complicated plans (which they occasionally attempt to cheat on at the risk of being sued and of pulling regulators down on their heads). Many Americans trust insurance companies to ration care (because they can sue the crap out of an insurance company) more than the government (which, if care is cut off, they probably can’t do that much).

    That’s not to say that reform is not called for–just not the kind of reform the Democrats are pushing right now. There are a number of measures that would help people who don’t currently have health coverage. Some of them have been proposed by those nasty, awful, very bad Republicans. They include:

    * Allow insurance companies to compete across state lines. Obama correctly complains that some states effectively have only one available insurance plan. That’s more a matter of over-regulation than anything else (over-regulation is not something Obama is disposed to complain of). Competition would help drive down costs. It might let freelance artists shop for insurance plans that they could afford.

    * Allow inexpensive high deductible “catastrophic” insurance plans. The government doesn’t require car insurance to cover oil changes and other routine maintenance; if it did, it would be much more expensive. Regulations require that health insurance must cover all sorts of things that lots of people would not choose to buy if they could pick what plan they wanted. That might allow freelancing artists to buy an inexpensive plan that would not cover routine expenses but would help the family avoid bankruptcy in the event of a severe illness.

    * Change the tax code so that self-employed individuals no longer pay far more for insurance than people with employer health plans. That would let freelancing artists get health insurance more cheaply.

    There are lots of other ways to improve healthcare. Take a look at the recent WSJ Op-Ed by John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, for example. Most of them involve less government control, not more. That’s something that today’s Democrats don’t seem to be able to contemplate. It’s why I’m just as mad at them as you are at the Republicans.

    1. Thanks for your comments, David.

      I agree that there is much to be critical of on both sides.

      There is certainly much to complain about with the Democrats, I spend a lot of time pissed off at them for being spineless and self serving in refusing to really pursue the stances to which they pay lip service, but in general the major voices for the Republicans have been much more despicable during the course of this issue, particularly in their attempts to defeat any possibility for change or even genuine reasoned discourse with a general dismissal of the entire issue (not that our legislature is a hotbed of reasoned discourse under the best of circumstances).

      While I like some of the options you mention that a few of the more reasoned voices in the Republican party have put forward, their voices are drowned out by the more vociferous and apparently more numerous factions whose approach has been one of obfuscation, scare tactics, deliberate misinformation and just flat-out lies.

      The options themselves are good, but pretty weak in the face of the crisis we’re dealing with, and that’s one thing that is not hyperbole, it is a genuine crisis. None of these options will deal with the core issues of making health care, and particularly health insurance, more affordable and available to all.

      The reason freeancers (like myself) pay far more for health insurance isn’t because of the tax code, it’s because the law permits the insurance companies to discriminate against individual policy holders and give breaks to large companies on the basis of pool “statistics”, i.e. profitability.

      Catastrophic insurance plans, as carried out by the current under-regulated insurance industry, would suffer from the same denial of coverage issues that current health plans suffer from. Those who need them the most are most easily denied.

      The idea that “less regulation” of health insurance companies would somehow translate into lower costs and better care for individuals is simply ridiculous. It would only result in bigger bonuses for CEO’s and better returns for stockholders. Didn’t we learn anything when our financial system turned over on its back and revealed its maggot-ridden underside?

      Thinking that current regulations and threats of lawsuits (which the Republicans have made every effort to reduce or eliminate) will keep insurance companies from unfairly denying coverage to those they think will cost them too much money is just naive.

      As much as I appreciate your thoughtful comments, I have to take exception with them, and if I sound strident, it’s because this is a personal as well as civic issue for me, as it is for most of us.

      I’ve read Mackey’s op-ed (yes, I read stuff by the “nasty Republicans” – grin), but it’s really just more of the same “less regulation, lower corporate taxes, the-free-market-will-take-care-of-itself” talking points that always come from the conservative camp, and generally don’t hold up under reasoned scrutiny (though I don’t have the time or energy to go through his whole essay point by point).

      I’m not a fan of big government bureaucracies either, and I recognize the problems inherent in government regulation, but it can sometimes be the only bulwark the general populace has against the enormous pressures of corporate interest.

      I happen to know something about this issue in a personal sense, both because I’m a freelance artist who has had to pay high prices for medical insurance, and because I have some first-hand experience with “government run health care”

      About 17 years ago my kidneys failed and I had to go on dialysis. About two years after that, I was extremely fortunate to be the recipient of a highly successful kidney transplant. Given my very limited financial resources at the time, and the fact the I had become so ill that working was becoming difficult, I could not have afforded either dislysis or the transplant on my own, certainly not the transplant.

      Thanks, apparently, to Lyndon Johnson (otherwise not my favorite political figure) patients with renal failure are treated better than those with most other life-threatening conditions by the U.S. government, and are immediately covered by Medicare.

      If not for “government run health care”, as inefficient as it may be in many circumstances, I would not be here.

      I appreciate your contribution to the discussion.

      Other readers will want to visit David Rourke’s blog, All the Strange Hours, which is devoted to his thoughtful observations on making art, from intention and intellectual approach to specific technique.

  4. I haven’t time for a complete response, so here are a few quick thoughts:

    I am a physician and I have mild form of multiple sclerosis. I deal with the system quite a bit, and I assure you, as someone who works in a non-profit teaching hospital, I am not paid by any big medicine. I’d make a lot more out in private practice. When I was a faculty member at a teaching hospital in Boston, I remember being promised by proponents of the Massachussetts health care bill that the costs would go down; that it wouldn’t break the bank fiscally. The opposite has happened, as some of us feared. Costs are up, not down.

    I’ve been in this game for a while and almost all the proposed healthcare legislation has cost far more than originally ‘gamed out.’ And, almost all of the ‘big ideas’ in medicine out of the white paper policy crowd haven’t worked out as they were meant to, at least in my experience. I’ve seen it again and again, with Masscare, capitation in the 90s, etc. Why should I believe this time will be different? The staffers who wrote this bill likely don’t even know the long term consequences of the various parts of the bill; they just put together a bunch of stuff to satisfy different interest groups. This bill, all 1,990-pages of it, is a pastiche of this and that and no one really knows what the unintended consequences will be. It is an experiment with 1/6th of the economy. And, finally, the federalization of health care with the formation of a Health Choices Commissioner takes the decision making further away from the people. And if the Health Choices Commissioner gets it wrong? What then?

    It’s not about R vs. L. Think carefully about this! This is a huge structural change to our economy and we have no real idea what it will do. This is dangerous territory. Read it, if you can, it’s online and while hard to read, but subsection E isn’t. The Health Choices Commissioner is essentially the Department of Homeland Healthcare, if you’ll pardon the little joke.

    For the first time in my adult life, I am really worried. This is a potential disaster in the making.

    🙂 Take care, and lovely blog!

  5. Also, insurance isn’t allowed to do some of the things that would provide cheaper policies for the likes of you and me.

    Anyway, just because the status quo is bad, doesn’t mean that the proposed bill is the answer.

  6. The Democrat’s health care reforms will most likely cut into the very medicare that helped you, and probably force artists like Don Ivan Punchatz to buy health care or be fined. How’s this gonna help again? Oh well, at least it will get the government ever deeper into every personal aspect of our lives.

  7. Mike Burke Avatar
    Mike Burke

    This morning (11/03) on KMOX radio in St. Louis I heard a listener call in to voice his ‘view’ against health care reform. The gist of what he said made me realize how and why the President is failing (or at least struggling) in this effort.

    The caller said that the preventative health care part of the plan would end up costing us too much money because those people who the plan would be helping would keep getting sick again and again – costing us more money each time we have to save them. As they get older they would get worse each time they get sick. The older they are able to get the sicker they will get and the more money they will cost us. It would be better for all of us if we don’t waste money in trying to treat those people.

    The caller avoided answering some of the host’s questions. Does knowing that someone said something like that make you feel good? After thinking about it for a bit I realized that the President failed in the way that the liberals have been failing over the last twenty five to thirty years. They have let the conservatives distort any issue they oppose into discussions that appeal to the dominant American values – Greed and Hate. “Why should the government waste ‘your’ money on ‘those’ people?” “Why should the government give your hard earned dollars to people who believe something that you know in your heart is against your beliefs?” The real message in these questions is “Why should you use your money to help someone you hate?”

    I have to agree with some of what onparkstreet said about a potential disaster. Only, I see the healthcare problem as being only a part of the impending disaster.

    Our whole system – economic, social and political – has become a top-heavy house-of-cards. As I see it that last big collapse was not the disaster but another symptom of the growing problem.

    The so called experts keep saying what they’ve said again and again. “The problem is that the consumer is not spending enough.” Never mind that most in the ranks of the consumers don’t have enough money to meet all their needs and are already sinking in debit. If they go out and spend more money profits will be up and we can pick up again where we left off. In other words. If people spend more we can add another, more stable, layer to “our country’s great success.” Another layer for an unstable house-of-cards. When the whole thing collapses this past year will seem like it was part of the good times.

    Well. I’ll get off the soapbox now.

  8. I know that in the US you’ve been fed a lot of nonsense about our NHS here in the UK, but imperfect as it is I would much rather have what we have than the system in the US. I don’t know how rich people can live with themselves knowing that there are people who live in the same country who have to face the problems that Don Ivan Punchatz and his wife have had to face.

    It’s bad enough facing a major health problem without having to worry about whether you’ll be able to afford the treatment. Here in the UK, no matter how poor or well off you are you know that if you get cancer, a brain tumour, or any other health problem you can focus on getting better and that you will be given the best treatment our country has to offer for free. I’m glad to pay my taxes to enable everyone in our country to have that reassurance in their time of need.

  9. Greg Punchatz Avatar
    Greg Punchatz

    Thanks for posting this, my dad would proud.

    I know where my dad would stand on this issue. He had stomach cancer in 83 and could never get insurance again. The idea of anyone defending the system we have is simply beyond me.

    Someone mentioned individual tragedies should should not be used to create a “vast immortal government” … I dont think creating a public option does any thing like that. Tragedies are sometimes the only thing that will motivate change.

    The public option would be like the post office…its there because not everyone can afford Fed Ex. Same goes for health care. We need to create a public option, but that does not mean you wont have private options. A public option will help lower the cost of health care for all. Just like having the post office around gives Fed Ex and UPS competition.

    Greg Punchatz

    1. Thanks for your comments, Greg.

      The topic has stirred a lot of opinions, but I really like your comparison of the public option to the post office, a much needed perspective in a debate fraught with hyperbole. If someone as respected and influential as your father can find himself in this position, it could happen to any of us.

      My condolences to you and your family.

      I hope other readers will see past the emotional side-taking in the comments and remember the original topic and situation outlined in the article.

  10. Comments on this post are now closed. I don’t have time to admin a continuing political discourse.