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