“As a youngster I was fascinated with scary and unknown things. I always wanted to create things that couldn’t be photographed, and drawing was a kind of therapy for dealing with my fear of the unknown.”
His work focuses on fantasy, science fiction, and horror, and he himself has existed between the worlds of commercial illustration and fine art for many years.
John Jude Palencar has created cover art for some of the biggest authors in book publishing – J R.R. Tolkien, Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, Ursula LeGuin, Christopher Paolini, Connie Willis, Octavia Butler, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe, and many others. His illustrations have graced the covers of books in more than thirty countries around the world. His art has appeared in Time Magazine, National Geographic Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, and more. Palencar’s entertainment projects include work for Paramount Pictures, Lucas Arts, and Vivendi Universal.
In addition to his cover art, John Jude also creates personal works. His work has been included in a number of museum exhibitions around the country and overseas. He has been an Artist in Residence in Ireland and a visting artist and lecturer at numerous colleges and universities. “Between Worlds” will feature a small portion of his personal works as well as pieces that were created for various publishers. Recently he has begun to devote more time to his personal painting, examining the duality of faith, mortalty, beauty and the grotesque. His personal iconography is sometimes unsettling and always ecentric. “Between Worlds” visits this quiet twilight landscape, the origin of his work.
“John Jude Palencar is a rarity among modern artists, mixing meticulous technique reminiscent of the old masters with a soaring, darkly surreal imagination.”
Former Director of Spectrum (The Annual of Fantastic Realism).
On view May 3, 2019 – July 21, 2019
Artist and Illustrator, John Jude Palencar spent his early years wandering the near west side streets and old immigrant neighborhoods in the city of Cleveland, Ohio. After many arduous run-ins with the nuns at the local catholic school he attended, his family moved to the suburbs when he was in third grade.
Eventually entering Midpark high school John came under the instruction and mentorship of Frederick C. Graff, his high school art instructor, who was also an established artist. After winning numerous art awards and selling a few paintings in high school, John decided to pursue a career in art. He attended the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) on scholarship receiving a BFA degree in 1980.
During his college years he worked for the American Greetings Card Company and freelanced, establishing an impressive list of regional and national clients in editorial, advertising and corporate art. As a senior at CCAD he won the top cash award at the Society of Illustrators Student Exhibition and was also presented with a scholarship to the Illustrators Workshop held in Paris, France.
For more than twenty-Þve years he has created both beautiful and horrific images and received honors for his contributions to the Þeld of illustration including Gold and Silver Medals from the Society of Illustrators, two Gold Book Awards from Spectrum, additional awards from Communication Arts, Print Regoinal Design Annual, American Illustration and six Chesley Awards from the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists including the award for “Artistic Achievement”. Most recently John was awarded Spectrum’s Grand Master Award.
His work has appeared on hundreds of book covers for just about every major publisher in the U.S., and in over thirty countries around the world. John has created cover art for such renowned authors as H. P. Lovecraft, Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, P.D. James, Charles deLint, R.L.Stine, Octavia Butler, David Brin and Stephen King to name a few. New York Times Best Selling author, Christopher Paolini, a fan of John’s work, named the lead character’s birthplace “Palancar Valley”, after John in his NY TImes Bestseller, Eragon for which John also painted the cover.
Other clients include – Time Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic Magazine, Anheuser Busch, and Nat. Geo. Television, The Opera Company of Philadelphia has employed his illustrative talents for their publications and productions. Palencar has also worked on entertainment projects for Lucas Arts, Electronic Arts, Paramount Pictures and Vivendi Universal.
John has been an “artist-in-residence” at the Cill Rialaig Arts Project in County Kerry, Ireland, where his personal paintings were included in a special exhibit entitled, ÒImages of IrelandÓ held at the National Museum in Dublin. He has also exhibited in numerous group and solo exhibitions and has been the visiting artist at several colleges and universities across the country over the years.
Arnie Fenner of Spectrum states,”John Jude Palencar is a rarity among modern artists, mixing meticulous technique reminiscent of the old masters with a soaring, darkly surreal imagination. There are touches of Bosch and Da Vinci in his visual allegories of netherworld landscapes and doomed characters.”
Yes, he still lives and maintains a studio in the Ohio wilderness with his lovely wife, Lee and two sons Ian and Kit. He is now actively engaged in battling rogue chipmunks instead of nuns.
Origins – The Art of John Jude Palencar, published by Underwood Books is a sumptuous tribute and collection of his book covers and personal works.
John Jude Palencar (born 1957) is an American illustrator and fine artist, who specializes in works of fantasy, science fiction, and horror. In 2010, he was given the Hamilton King Award, which is considered to be one of the most prestigious awards in illustration. His highly detailed work is described as containing a rich language of symbols and archetypes, which are left open to interpretation by the viewer.
Palencar was born in Fairview Park, Ohio. He developed an interest in the subject matter of horror and science fiction early in life; dressing up as an alien with a homemade custom latex masks and exhibiting a fascination in both scaring others and being scared himself. In the third grade, his family would move to Middleburg Heights, Ohio.He would win his first award in art in fifth grade with a three-colour block print for the Cleveland’s Plain Dealer newspaper calendar contest. He went on to attended Midpark High School. It was in high school that the artist came under the art training of Frederick C. Graff, who up until today is a established award winning artist, primarily in watercolor. After winning numerous art awards and selling a few paintings in high school, Palencar decided to pursue a career in art. He attended the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) on scholarship, receiving a BFA degree in 1980. During his college years he worked for the American Greetings Card Company and freelanced, establishing a list of regional and national clients in editorial, advertising and corporate art. As a senior at CCAD he won the top cash award at the Society of Illustrators Student Exhibition and was also presented with a scholarship to the Illustrators Workshop held in Paris, France.
While still in college at Columbus College of Art and Design, Palencar exhibited work at the Society of Illustrators and the work on display attracted the attention of Byron Preiss. The result would be an early and prominent assignment for the artist in 1982 with the commission to illustrate The Secret, a puzzle book produced by Byron Preiss and published by Bantam Books. The illustrations for the book depict the visual components of 12 puzzles, each of which lead the reader on a treasure hunt. Preiss had hidden ceramic boxes, each redeemable for a jewel, in twelve cities and to date only three of the puzzles have been solved and the jewels recovered.
Palencar’s first introduction to illustrating for fantasy and speculative fiction came shortly after college when working for Time-Life Books on The Enchanted World Series.. The young artist would contribute to many books in the series, including Legends of Valor(1984), Ghosts(1984) and Night Creatures (1985)
His work has since appeared on hundreds of book covers for just about every major publisher in the U.S., and in over thirty countries around the world. The artist has created cover art for such authors as H. P. Lovecraft, Ursula LeGuin, Marion Zimmer Bradley, P.D. James, Charles de Lint, R.L. Stine, Octavia Butler, David Brin and Stephen King. New York Times Best Selling author, Christopher Paolini, a fan of John’s work, named the lead character’s birthplace “Palancar Valley”, after John in his NY Times Bestseller, Eragon for which John also painted the cover, as well as creating the type treatment that would be used for the remaining three books in the series. Stephen King owns three works by the artist from the Dark Tower series.
Palancar has also created editorial illustrations for Time Magazine, Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, and Nat. Geo. Television as well as worked on entertainment projects for Lucas Arts, Paramount Pictures, and Vivendi Universal.
In 2004, Palencar became the Artist in Residence at the Cill Rialaig Arts Centre, in County Kerry Ireland.
In 2007, Underwood Books would publish Origins:The Art of John Jude Palencar, a 128 page tribute to the artists work up until that time with a foreword by Christopher Paolini
In 2008, Palencar was awarded the Spectrum Award for Grand Master, which is an annual award presented to an artist who has worked for at least twenty years at a consistently high level of quality and has left his or her mark on the field of contemporary science fiction, fantasy and horror artwork.
In 2012, Tor Books editor David Hartwell was passing by the Tor art department and noticed a painting by Palancar leaning against the wall, Hartwell asked art director Irene Gallo what the painting was for and was told that the work had no specific commission. Hartwell used the work to initiate The Palencar Project, in which five writers, L.E. Modesitt, Jr, Gene Wolf, Michael Swanwick, Gregory Benford and James Morrow all wrote short stories based on the painting. The same painting would later be used as the cover for The One-Eyed Man by L. E. Modesitt Jr.
The George R.R. Martin 2019 A Song of Fire and Ice wall calendar would be illustrated by Palencar.
Initial ideas are sketched quickly, to provide an art director with a general idea of how a finished work might appear. Once an approval for an idea is in hand, the artist creates a detailed rendering in pencil with subtle shading on a plate finish board. The final Palencar paintings are executed in acrylic, but in a watercolor fashion, in which initial thin layers are laid down as a wash first. Multiple layers and subtle colors are then woven together and then the artists begins to introduce opaque and semi opaque washes. Working in this manner borrows technical approaches from oil, watercolor and egg tempera mediums.
Palencar lives in Medina Township, Ohio with his wife Lee who is an art teacher at Highland High School in Medina. The couple have two boys, Ian and Kit. Kit, also an artist teaches drawing and painting at the University of Akron. Palencar maintains a personal collection of skulls and articulated skeletons that serve as inspiration and reference for many paintings.
Main article: John Jude Palencar bibliography
Palencar has exhibited in numerous group shows in galleries, colleges and universities throughout the United States.
- Between Worlds, Canton Museum of Art, 2019
- Images of Ireland, National Museum, Dublin
- University of the Arts, Richard C. von Hess Gallery, 2008
- La Mars Art Center, Exhibition of the American Watercolor Society, 2020
- Society of Illustrators, Masters of The Fantastic, 2019
- Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination, curated by John Jennings and Reynaldo Anderson, 2015
- Kosart Studios & Gallery, Maleficium: Dark Art Exhibition, 2015
- Butler Institute of American Art, 2013
- Allentown Art Museum, At the Edge: Art of the Fantastic,curated by Patrick and Jeannie Wilshire, 2012
- Nucleus Gallery, At the Mountains of Madness:A Tribute to the Writings of Lovecraft, 2010
- Gold Medal, American Water Color Society, for The Dark Line, 2020
- Gold Medal (Institutional), Spectrum 27, 2020, for The Stranger: The Seventh Faith
- Silver Medal (Institutional), Spectrum 26, 2019, for The Nights Watch
- Hamilton King Award, Society of Illustrators, 2010, for cover of Muse and Reverie by Charles de Lint
- Gold Medal, Society of Illustrators, 2010
- Spectrum Grand Master Award, 2008
- Gold Medal (book), Spectrum Awards 1996, for Blood Debt
- Gold Medal (book), Spectrum Awards 1995, for Becoming Human
- Chesley Awards Winner 2006, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1995