November 4, 2008

A Night in the Life of John Jude Palencar

The first thing I remember about meeting John Jude Palencar is sitting across the table from him at Applebee's, watching a wicked smile emerge as he told the waitress that he preferred his steak to be "Cypher Pink" (after the very pink steak which the character Cypher from "The Matrix" eats while discussing his Judas act).

You would not believe that a person capable of having such a quiet reverence to his art would also be capable of having so much energy. John's brain is full of ideas, stories, and experiences. During the course of a conversation he talked about anything from exotic Irish landscapes to SNL skits. He even started a light-saber duel of brushes with me.

I went to his studio with the intent of doing a time-lapse film of him re-creating his well-known "Madama Butterfly" painting for a short video that we're putting together. My flight was booked to come in around 9:30 at night—I thought that would be perfect because I could leave straight from Richard's office, be set up by evening, start filming early in the morning, and get everything done before 4:00—just in time to head back to the airport.

But John doesn't operate that way. He makes his own schedule, which means that 9:30 at night might as well be 9:30 in the morning. When I came in that night, he was charged up and ready to go upon arrival. He gave me a tour of his studio which was full of skulls, toy animals, and collection of twisted and gnarled pieces of wood, all for creative inspiration. Then, as he likes to put on horror movies while he works, he gave me the choice of selecting which one we'd watch. I chose "The Thing," a John Carpenter film in which everyone except Kurt Russell gets horrifically turned into aliens over the course of the film. It was clear John had seen this a few times as he was able to point out several hidden gems of storytelling within the film.

John's hands literally flew over the painting. He sat completely relaxed in his chair, leaning back and holding his brush at length as he cruised to finish at about 7:00 a.m. Usually a painting takes him about two weeks, however, this was different because he'd done the painting before. I was asleep—half-way suspended in mid-space—on my chair when John rubbed his hands on the painting and declared "Done!"

After cleaning up, John took me around his house and showed me more of his artwork. He's kept several of his most well-known pieces for the home, including the Eragon cover, which he's had several offers for, but prefers to hold on to.


  1. sweeet!
    Inspiring! I wish I was there as well :]

  2. I'm soooo jealous (in a good way)! Awesome job reporting on what looks to have been an even awesomer experience (sorry about the bad grammar, again...I'm jealous).

  3. Of course there's a cup of coffee in the picture! LOL I love it. Reminds me. I could use some right now.

  4. please give me more art director studio pictures and i want to know about creative art works in painting, and give me the free art books to my future

  5. workshop with art director

  6. John and I have been friends for 23 years and I have spent many nights hanging out in the studio with him over the years .... he's a great artist and good friend, but I'd like to know what you put in his coffee to get him to finish a painting in one night??? LOL keep up the good work.
    All the best, Joe Kovach

  7. Dear John;

    I have enjoyed your work for many years and always seek out your book covers in the bookstores. I have also purchased your book and calendar.

    I have a question-----Would it be too much to ask what is the type of board you paint on?

    I am trying to expand my own technique that's why I ask.

    Wishung you all the best.......Frank

  8. Hi Frank - I work on a variety of painting surfaces. For most of my illustration work I use a plate surface Strathmore Ilustration board, 400 series. This board does not have the cardboard filler that is highly acidic. I also paint on birch panels as well as true gesso panels. I do prefer extremely smooth surfaces so I can easily create my own textures or build up a variety of tactile textures.

    Best regards-