Karen Haber Reviews Don Punchatz: A Retrospective

Don Punchatz: A Retrospective, Don Punchatz (Centipede Press 978-1-61347-196-8, $50.00, 240pp, hc) March 2019. Cover by Don Punchatz.

Don Punchatz: A Retrospective is a long over­due and richly deserved retrospective of this master surrealist’s illustration work. A limited edition hardcover from Centipede Press’s Artist Series, the book punches well above its size and weight class.

Jam packed with art from its cover flaps to its endpapers, it is a loving tribute to a master of illustration and surreal imagery whose work was often informed by a unique comic sensibility.

Although he had a special sympathy for science fiction and fantasy, Punchatz (1936-2009) was also very good at mainstream work, painting cov­ers and illustrations for many popular magazines, among them Time, Newsweek, Playboy, National Geographic, and National Lampoon magazines, video games, and interior illustrations for slicks including Playboy. He did advertising work for Atlantic Records and Exxon, book covers for Berkley, Warner, Dell, and Ace, and created art for the Doom video game.

Punchatz started the SketchPad Studio in his native Texas and came to be known as the “Godfather of Dallas Illustration,” influenc­ing a generation of younger artists who worked for and with him. He received a Grand Master award from Spectrum. His paintings hang in the permanent collections of the Dallas Art Museum and the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery.

His cover work has appeared on books by Isaac Asimov, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Frank Herbert, and many more. I wish there were an index here. There’s very little text, apart from a preface by Punchatz’s son Gregor, and two brief, affectionate tributes by Ray-Mel Cornelius and Kenneth Huey.

The color reproduction – on thick, chewy pa­per – is first-rate, as we expect from Centipede publications, and the images overflow onto not just the book jacket but the cover flaps and end pages as well. This is a very welcome visit to this protean artist’s illustration work.

This review and more like it in the August 2019 issue of Locus.

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2 thoughts on “Karen Haber Reviews Don Punchatz: A Retrospective

  • October 27, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Thanks for a lovely review, Karen, but on behalf of my good friend RAY-MEL Cornelius, might I suggest correcting the spelling of his name? Otherwise, much appreciated.

    • October 29, 2019 at 11:49 am

      Thanks, we’ve corrected this!


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