Berkey Tributes

13 Tributes to John Berkey by other Artists/Writers

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DINOTOPIA artist/author James Gurney saw this Webpage and offered this comment:

Hi, Jim,

John Berkey’s paintings are a kind a visual music, showing the power of abstraction to reach pure lyricism. Somehow that lyrical spirit fit perfectly with our dreams of exploring space. When I met him in 1983, his studio reminded me of a cross between the bridge of a starship and a naturalist’s research station, tuned into the strange sounds of the woods around him.

All the best,
James Gurney / May 2010

ABOVE: James Gurney did the 1983 STARRIGGER cover on the left, and John Berkey did the 1984 sequel cover on the right — so I asked James Gurney if these book illustrations had anything to do with his visit to John’s studio, and he replied:

Hi, Jim,

Yes, it was a trip to have John Berkey, one of my heroes, match my design for the Starrigger cover. He did a sequel at a time that I was booked up.

James Gurney

James Gurney sent me this John Berkey outdoor “plein air” painting sketch, and John signed it to James and his wife…


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Movie poster artist Drew Struzan saw this

webpage and offered these comments:


Your web site is amazing. All the work and research are an honor to you and what a kindness to Mr. Berkey! I am so glad to see you keeping the man’s work alive; he certainly deserves all you have done. Far too many lives of greatness simply pass away as do the lilies of the field. Thank you for not letting John’s gifts fade with time. His gifts can work good, peace and happiness far beyond for all time if protected… I never knew him, only his work and inspiration, and I still marvel at it all. I have accepted his gifts with modesty and appreciation.


Thank you for your efforts… drew / May 2010

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Vincent Di Fate sees this website!


I knew that Vincent Di Fate has been a great admirer of John Berkey’s art and a number of his paintings over the years have been inspired by John (like Vincent’s 2009 painting for a Ben Bova novel, above), so in March 2010 I contacted Vincent and told him about my Berkey website — and here is what Vincent wrote back to me:

Thanks for sending me the link to your Berkey site. What an impressive
assortment of John’s work–I knew John’s SF work very well, and I was familiar
with a fair amount of his advertising art and his work for Brown and
Bigelow, but there are some really neat surprises on your site.

I applaud your efforts. Please let me know if I can help in some way.

Best of luck,
Vincent Di Fate

(And he did help out, he sent me his “Deer Me” prelim!)

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Artist Doug Beekman / November 2010


Hi Jim,

I don’t know how it is that I never came across your website before, but what a nice tribute to John Berkey.

It’s been 35 years since I used to engage in lengthy long distance calls to Excelsior, MN. For a very busy illustrator, John gave generously of his time. The website is a blast. I went into it thinking I’d be able to augment the images from my own collection of Berkey stuff, but you have a lot of the more obscure book and magazine covers already.

There are a handful of artists that simply help define an era. Berkey was one of those. In the 30’s, space art was defined by Chesley Bonestell, and described as it actually existed — cold, remote, isolated, relentless. John Berkey reshaped the very notion of how space could be shown in the 70’s. It was a vision that was far removed from tradition space renderings, and went the very opposite direction — instead of sterile cosmic endlessness, John’s space was vibrant, atmospheric, full of energy and just plain huge.
As a young artist, I was dazzled by the sheer impossible craft John’s movie posters and envious of his ability to describe light and movement. Often the difference between a very good artist and a great one is an innate understanding that representational painting isn’t just one thing — that it’s both descriptive and decorative. John Berkey danced along the thread between those two notions his whole career. The result was space art as poetry, romantic and lush. The man was a pure painter.

Doug Beekman

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Artist Stephen Youll sees this website:

Hi Jim,
This is one of the best retrospective art websites I’ve seen to date. It’s astonishing to see just how diverse an artist John was. To be credited with such a range of subject matter from one end of the spectrum to the other is a testament to his craft as an illustrator. I am familiar with his Sci Fi art and movie and advertising work, but to see the array of natural history subjects was quite a thrill for me.

John had an innate sense of how to create a wow factor that I would have loved to have seen translated on the movie screen. His space ship designs have inspired many a well known illustrator working in the field of science fiction, but how could it not? It was, and still is hard to top. What John created in paint back then seems only something that can be achieved using sophisticated computer software today. He created an energy and magic that used to make me marvel at this technique and vision.

John was one of our true treasures who should have been showered with more awards and honors that have been bestowed on artists with a fraction of his ability.

It’s hard to pick a favorite painting, there are so many great ones. Whether its a quiet tug boat from a new England scene, or a starship sailing the winds of time, John Berkey’s art has secured a place in history.

Thanks Jim for the Great Site – It’s a beauty.

Stephen Youll / May 2010

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Artist John Picacio sees this website!

John Picacio had posted a message on another website regarding John Berkey’s passing back in 2008, so I contacted him and asked if he had ever seen my Berkey website — here was his reply…

Hi, Jim —

Wow, this site’s a motherload. Will definfinitely look forward to taking my time, picture by picture, when I get done with current workload. Berkey was one of the all-time greats, no doubt about it. His work opened the doors for so many science fiction and concept artists who have followed, whether they know him or not. If they don’t, they should! Your site’s a gateway for those who don’t yet know his work, and a treasure chest for the teeming masses of us who revere it. There’s so much stuff here that I haven’t previously seen. Love it. Thanks very much, Jim!

Very best, John Picacio

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Greg Pro visited John Berkey in 1995

Berkey GregPro web
Greg Pro has posted some of his 1990’s footage

of his visit to John Berkey’s studio on Facebook:

See it at:
And here’s the art that John was working on!…

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Has anyone ever seen this Berkey painting?

A Berkey collector remembers seeing this illustration in a magazine in a dentist’s office back around 1978… (that is his sketch he did from memory)…

“I still clearly recall seeing in a magazine a tiny reproduction of a painting of a Future Farm scene. It had long white metal tracks in the ground, very large, that stretched out from the farm to a distant future city. The parallel tracks created a strong, low perspective. Various lateral bridges scrolled on the tracks watering and fertilizing the crops. There might have been an operator (farmer?) in a glass bubble on one of the tracks. It was a superb concept and marvelously painted in a style between a prelim and a finely finished painting.”

Can anyone help us find this one???

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Artist Brandon Peterson sees this Webpage:

Hi Jim,

I am very familiar with Mr. Berkey’s artwork, he comes from a class of
illustrators that you don’t see much of these days, masters of real
paint with astounding productivity. No 3D, photo paintovers, photoshop
retouching and color adjusting and all our modern tomfoolery; its all
done for real on real canvas. I’ve just spent almost an hour on your
site and I’m completely stunned with how narrow a focus of the man’s
work I was actually familiar with — just the Sci-Fi stuff that’s most
common. I especially liked the nature paintings in the sporting
magazines like “Sports Afield” and such. I really like the shot of the
boy with a rifle behind a tree and the deer in the clearing for “The
Great Morning” from the 1973 “Sports Afield”.

As for a favorite, I got the “John Berkey Painted Space” book while I
was a teenager and I still have it, it’s almost 20 years old by now
and about ready to fall apart, but that cover still is what I think
about when I think about his art.

An astounding amount of work on your site, well researched and
documented, a true find. Very impressive and thorough.


Brandon Peterson / May 2010


I agree with Brandon, the cover painting of Berkey’s PAINTED SPACE book is a spectacular painting!

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Michael Friedlander’s 1st Visit to John Berkey’s Home

ABOVE: Michael Friedlander published the 1991 PAINTED SPACE art book and the two collections of John Berkey Trading Cards — and the above picture was taken in 1990 on Michael’s 1st visit to John Berkey’s house and his art storage room! Michael put together an 13-page Tribute to John Berkey when John died in 2008 — if anyone would like for me to e-mail those pages to you, please contact me and request them.


Here is Michael Friedlander’s comment about this website:

Hi Jim, just wanted to drop you an e-mail to let you know that your John Berkey section is fantastic! There were several images that I had never seen… thank you sincerely for taking the time to post them. I loved the man and his art, and seeing a painting that I had never seen before is always a big thrill.
my best,

Michael Friedlander

Michael also got to paint on the PAINTED SPACE book cover painting:

FYI- John never used photoshop or any electronic software to paint, only his paints. I was watching him paint the cover to the Painted Space book when he insisted that I sit down at his easel and paint “a few strokes.” I did but I can tell you that it was a nerve-racking experience! It was unbelievable to sit in his chair and try to paint looking through his mirror system. It really played with your brain and vision because it truly acted as a way to walk 20 feet away from the painting without ever leaving the easel. Hope that makes sense!



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Berkey’s 1972 STAR 2 cover has always been one of my favorites…


I asked Frederik Pohl to look at this webpage, I received

this reply from his assistant:

Dear Mr. Pinkoski,

You’ve put together an extensive collection indeed of the paintings of John Berkey; thank you! Mr. Pohl has received your note, and if he can respond to it usefully, he will do so.

Sincerely yours,
Richard D. Erlich / May 2010



ABOVE: The 1972 STAR SCIENCE FICTION 4 cover has the spaceship facing downward, but all the subsequent printings of this painting like in SF AGE magazine has the spaceship going “up”… SO WHICH IS RIGHT? This had perplexed me for many years — but I just solved this mystery! If you look closely on the book cover, you can see where they removed Berkey’s signature — so the book printed the painting up-side down! And they had to remove the signature which would have been up-side down! MYSTERY SOLVED!

The 6 Berkey covers for Star SF


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My “Almost” Letter from George Lucas

Since George hired John Berkey to do various illustrations for the 1st STAR WARS movie, I thought he might like to hear about this website — I wrote to him — and I “almost” managed to get a comment to post… here is what George’s secretary wrote:

Dear Mr. Pinkoski,

Thank you for your letter dated September 3 to George Lucas. While he appreciated the sincerity of your request, he regrets that he is unable to provide some comments for the John Berkey art website.

Sincerely, Anne Merrifield
Secretary to George Lucas

DARN! Oh well, I tried — I just hope that someday George sees all this wonderful artwork!

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Comic book artist Michael Wm Kaluta saw this website:

Q: Do you have any favorite BERKEY paintings?
They all astound, but one that impressed the heck out of me was a downshot of a mirror-hulled spaceship at rest on a field of grain with soldiers all about the base, reflected in the hull… It appears as the cover of Deathworld 3, by Harry Harrison, in your Berkey Art Gallery (berkey_368) jeepers! THAT is Science Fiction!!!!
Q: Have you seen any of BERKEY’s nature art before?
Not knowingly…
Q: Have you seen something on my site that you’d never seen before that you really really like?
Q: When did you first take notice BERKEY’s art?
Probably when the first cover art started coming out: I was deep into my SF reading at that time, so I had to see his work from the first day on the stands.

Michael Wm Kaluta / May 2010


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Cartoonist Jerry Ordway

Jim, what an amazing archive you put up there! That man was prolific! Hey, I have ,and love that cover on the Nat Geo “Our Universe” book. Any space scene I do, I bring that book out! As for Berkey, I always loved his spaceships, and space scenes, but seeing the various landscapes and calendar images is an inspiration… I admire the hell out of artists who can create a scene with confident slashes of paint, as it is so hard for me. Anyhow, thanks for pointing me to the site! I will bookmark it for future inspiration. — July 2011


Jerry’s right! That’s a great painting!

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