A tribute to the fantasy art of Boris Vallejo & Julie Bell, and a guide to their published artwork.
ArtFantastix is a guide to the life-long artistry of fantasy arts supreme couple. More than two thousand paintings and drawings collated from my collection, create what could be the largest concentration of their art, anywhere on the internet. Featured is every Boris Vallejo calendar starting way back in 1978, continuing up to the present day. The contents from hundreds of Boris and Julie's publications including books, trading cards, posters have been digitally scanned to form the Paintings and Publications Galleries. Please visit frequently, download (personal use only) as much as you desire. Bear in mind that the art within this site is copyright to the artists and publishers.
I am sure that the content here will amaze you! Perhaps even long time Boris/Julie fans can find a few surprises! I make regular checks on the internet for new items. When chancing upon an unknown painting (often a book cover from Boris's budding career) it joins the collection. For the future, my intention is to keep the site growing, adding new content as both artists continue to astound us with beautiful, imaginative fresh works of art.
Many years ago, I stumbled upon Hercules Gunter's website ‘Borisigraphy’. This site introduced me to the artwork of Boris Vallejo. So astounded was I by Boris' fantastic skill and imagination that I began the personal collection presented to you here. 'The Borisography’ is under the new management of Bernard Rogers and is continuously updated. I cannot urge you enough to visit this wonderful website.
Born January 8th, 1941 in Lima, Peru, his father was a lawyer, his mother a school teacher affording him a comfortable childhood. Boris' spent seven years studying the violin, with an aim to becoming a concert violinist. Time passed by, turning his attention towards Medicine, he took a two-years of pre-med training at the University of San Marcos. During this time, his passion for art grew within him. Recognition of his talent won him a five-year scholarship for graphic design at the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes (National School of Fine Arts), winning him a prestigious 'Gold Medal'.
By 1954, aged 13, he had secured his first job as an artist producing illustrations. Three years later, he was offered a scholarship to study art in Florence Italy. He turned it done in favour of emigrating to the United States where he felt the opportunities for a graphic artist would be greater.
With 80 dollars in his pocket, Boris flew to the USA. On September 13th, 1964, at 1 pm, the twenty-three year old Boris completed a fourteen-hour journey, landing at JFK airport. The taxi driver (who had filled his cab brim-full of fellow passengers), speaking broken English Boris' uttered “New York” to the driver who response was to drop him off at 3 am in Times Square. Having made no prior accommodation arrangements, the next three days were spent riding the subway. A chance encounter with some fellow Peruvians led him to a room for rent. Incredulously, a visiting Connecticut couple mentioned their acquaintance to another Peruvian artist working in their home town. He none other than JV, the artist friend Boris was hoping to reunite with. JV's introduction to his cousin provided his first job in the advertising department of a chain of department stores based in Hartford Connecticut. The tedious work required precise diagrams of metal furniture all done to scale.
Six months passed, moving to their New-York office, Boris met his first wife Doris Maier with whom he collaborated on many projects, The Boy Who Saved the Stars, Ladies, Enchantment are examples. Despite the good pay, things seemed similar to his previous situation in Peru. Determined to make a change, after two years he decided to go freelance. Accepting anything that was offered him, whatever the project, fashion, greetings cards, whatever. Boris thrived under the pressure of deadlines willing to adapt styles for his various clients. This flexibility led to a new opportunity. Having acquired a taste for action-adventure comic books since arriving in North America, he had an idea. The idea was to paint a monster picture in the preferred style of the day.This first Monster oil painting was received well, with a quick sale to Marvel Comics. The client list grew steadily, commissions requiring paintings which would adorn covers to comics, magazines, and books.
Successful assignments from the likes of Ace Books cemented Boris growing reputation. Muscled Barbarians to grace book covers were in much demand by art directors. Ballantine Books took the unprecedented step, commissioning twenty-four paintings to appear on a series of Tarzan books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Boris could, however, manage barely twelve of these, by good fortune the exact number required for the 1978 Tarzan Calendar, the first of Boris’ annual calendars.
Every year since 1980 Workman Publishing has continued producing a new Boris Vallejo Calendar. At first, they were made up of paintings done in previous years. Starting in 1987 however, it was decided future calendars would contain exclusive paintings. First of these would follow the theme of Fantasy Olympics, followed by Zodiac and in years to follow, Mythology. The growing body of work could fill whole books solely dedicated to Boris’ art. Thus, works such as Fantastic Art, Mirage and Dreams were published. During this time period, Boris met Julie Bell who modelled for his painting Alpnu. She would become his second wife in 1994, sharing a passion for art. Julies paintings featured with those of Boris' on Calendars from 2001 onward to the present day.
For forty years or more, Boris has remained at the peak of his profession producing imaginative art illustrating his fascination with the human form. Using his knowledge of anatomy, and working from photographs. Models become sensuous Barbarian men and brave Amazonian women in heroic poses battling or befriending mythical creatures to complete a spectacular story. His art is found on everything from album covers, movie posters, advertisements. Following a collaboration with Franklin Mint Boris' images decorate cigarette lighters commemorative knives and figurines. He has published several books; some are art collections and some teaching technique. Also, Boris has published collections of his photographic work, Bodies and Hindsight and The Fantasy of Flowers.
The Vallejo/Palumbo familes have passed on the 'art gene' to the children from both marriages. Dorian Vallejo, David and Anthony Palumbo are all accomplished professional artists with their own unique genre and style. Currently, Boris and Julie reside in Allentown, Pennsylvania and continue to share the same studio working on their own paintings or collaborating on a single canvas.
Julie Bell was born in Beaumont, Texas on 21st October 1958. The eldest of three daughters to father Milton Bell, and mother Sydney Bell. A significant event happened when at the age of 12 her parents divorced, causing her early years to become unsettled, first moving to Atlanta with her mother and siblings, then uprooting each year eventually attending five different high schools. Despite the constant upheavals Julie able to graduate in her senior year aged 15.
She was now able to continue artistic studies by moving back to Atlanta and enrolling in life drawing studies at the Dekalb County Community College where her various studies including colour theory, this would serve her well in future years.
From here the studying continued attending Lamar University in her hometown of Beaumont. These were productive years, under the tutorship and encouragement of Jerry Newman a wildlife photographer and artist she able to accomplish her “first serious life drawing study”.
During this period at Lamar University that Julie met her first husband Donald E Palumbo an academic author specializing in the literary analysis of science fiction. They married in 1978. Julies studies were once again interrupted when the couple moved to facilitate Donald’s various academic appointments.
Each short stay meant never staying long enough to complete a degree course. During this time in Michigan, Julie gave birth to two sons, Anthony, and David Palumbo, both gifted professional artists themselves. During this period, she continued to paint, but mostly for herself, although she was able to produce some illustrations for two children’s books.
It is now 1983, time for another move, this time to Ohio, and another enrolment, drawing classes at Lorrain County Community College in Elyria near Cleveland. A second interest began to emerge, after some casual weight training evolved into a passion for competitive bodybuilding, eventually good enough to achieve national ranking.
Four years pass and another move onward to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, another art class enrolment at Shippensburg University. Shortly after this final move, the marriage began to unravel, ending in divorce. Julie continued with her bodybuilding competitions, whilst raising her two sons. Concerned that some fellow competitors were using performance-enhancing drugs within the sport she decided to withdraw from the scene attending and winning her final competition.
It was here Julie met Boris Vallejo after the competition’s promoter suggested that Boris should work with Julie using her as a model.
All through the modelling sessions, Julie was able to examine Boris’ technique at first-hand and discuss art, things began to fall into place for her. She began to paint with new vigour, encouraged and mentored by Boris until her confidence grew enough for her to launch her artistic career.
Julies painting Steel Beast appeared on the cover of Heavy Metal magazine January 1992 receiving plaudits for her rendering of Metal Flesh, a highly realistic chrome look that seemed to meld flesh and metal as one. From 1990 and the next six years Julie was a regular contributor to Marvel Comics her illustrations used for a set of trading cards and covers for Conan.
Julie and Boris were becoming constant companions. They married in 1994. Her artistic career flourished. Numerous and diverse projects, such as a Meat Loaf album cover came her way. She created award-winning art for companies such as Nike, Pepsi, Carlsberg, Ford and Toyota. Her paintings have appeared on hundreds of book covers, comic books trading card sets.
A major change in direction came about after accepting an assignment to illustrate the jackets for a series of books by Jane Lindskold one of which was Through the Wolf’s Eye’s. For research, Julie visited a wolf pack at Lakota Wolf Preserve in Columbia, New Jersey, where she was able to observe them deeply painting their intimate interaction onto the canvas. This brought her closer to nature. Inspired by them her attention turned to painting not just wolves but all kinds of wildlife, portraying them behaving naturally in their world.
Today, Julie stands among the worlds, top fantasy artists. Paintings of horses, bison, flamingos, and wolves win her plaudits and awards wherever she exhibits. Over the last few years, she has scooped the awards at several prestigious events in several categories. A prolific artist who delivers an imaginative and enchanting new piece of art with a constant regular rhythm. The realization that commercial work still left space for personal artwork that expresses an idea or an emotion in a realistic visual way.
Boris and Julie use acid-free 100% cotton illustration board. To reduce absorbency each board is primed with 3 layers of gesso to providing a matt surface, before being left to dry.
To prevent warping the gessoed board is bonded to a 1cm thick Styrofoam using artists tape.
To create a clean white border around the finished painting, a frame of 5cm wide masking tape is laid around the edges of the board and burnished down to prevent paint seeping underneath.
It is best to have two each of small medium and large brushes. The first of each size is used to lay down ares of colour, then to blend in with the second brush.
Both artist set up their disposable palette pads with similar colours, Julie adds gold ochre and raw sienna and cobalt blue. The pads are replaced for each new painting.
Over the years the artists have amassed a large collection of props, which are usefull to the models when trying to attain a convincing pose.
Boris and Julie work from photographs. In the early days they were polaroids but now digital cameras are used.
From the previous set of photographs of the posed models, we see how they are represented in the final picture.
For both artists the methods are similar, laying down a sketch and an underpainting, before moving on to the background.
With the background done, more detail is added to the main characters, blocking in areas such as the hair and dark shadows.
More detail is added, paying close attention to the eyes and mouth, carefully cleaning the brush when blending the colours together.
As the final painting emerges, it's time to step back and consider the whole composition, adjusting the light and shadows within the painting. Finally it is done.
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