I just learned the sad news that John Berkey died on April 29 after a long illness. His semi-abstract casein paintings of space cruisers adorned paperback covers, calendars, and movie posters. His shining example inspired many young artists—me included—to embark into the field of science fiction illustration.
He didn’t travel much, and as a result, not many people got to meet him. When I was just starting out in the early 1980s, I contacted him in the middle of a cross-country drive, and he was gracious enough to let me visit his studio in Minnesota. I was struck with his serene and thoughtful manner and his keen awareness of his surroundings.
He had a state-of-the-art stereo behind his worktable. Microphones strategically positioned around his woodland property brought the sound of any bird or squirrel in a 200-yard radius directly into his work area. With these ordinary environmental sounds piped into his headphones, he traveled to far distant galaxies.
John was a believer in strengthening the imagination by means of plein air painting. His outdoor sketches were fresh revelations. He was self-taught, and completely original in his outlook.
For a biography on Lines and Colors, link.
Tributes on Irene Gallo’s site, link.