From National Lampoon to National Portrait Gallery, Paying Tribute to Don Ivan Punchatz

Spent the better part of the morning looking at the artwork of Don Ivan Punchatz, the New Jersey-born illustrator and TCU adjunct design professor for 40 years who died last Thursday in an Arlington hospital following cardiac arrest earlier this month. Punchatz's résumé is the stuff of pop-art-world legend: from National Geographic to National Lampoon to the National Portrait Gallery sort of says it all, but leaves out, well, almost everything. Hence, his lengthy obituary this morning in The New York Times, in which Steven Heller writes:

Punchatz was a skilled hyperrealist with a penchant for the fantastic and absurd. His cover art for works like Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" trilogy and Harlan Ellison's "Dangerous Visions" anthology was a striking blend of romantic metaphor and supernatural fantasy -- what one colleague called "elegantly weird." ... He was associated with the illustrative genre of fantasy known as magic realism, but he could also be a playful satirist for magazines like Playboy, Esquire and Rolling Stone.
Punchatz, who turned 73 last month and whose son Greg is best known for his work at Janimation in Dallas, was also the man who made Doom (or, at least, the legendary cover art for id's original offering). And his SketchPad Studio off Cooper Street in Arlington was where the likes of Gary Panter (best known, perhaps, as the head set designer for Pee-Wee's Playhouse) apprenticed on their way to fame.

The Spectrum Fantastic Art Web site features some of his work, and in his obit it's written that "if you didn't know Don Ivan Punchatz's work or who Don was ... you should have. ... Don was a humble and self-effacing man: he was always far more interested in listening to what others were doing than he was in talking about himself. And he never groused about the business or the 'ones that got away.'"

TCU prof Lewis Glaser writes that there will be a memorial forthcoming on the TCU campus, but that "Don wouldn't want a sad, morbid service, so we are hoping to have his friends and acolytes show up ready to tell stories so we can all dust off our warm memories of the time we spent with him, and how he influenced our lives."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky

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