(1936 — 2009)
“[Don Punchatz’] ability to touch men with acrylic and melt them into beasts, or touch beasts with oil and ink—and: voila! They are senators or brokers—is endlessly amazing” — Ray Bradbury
Steven Heller called him a “skilled hyperrealist with a penchant for the absurd.” Don is probably best known for his science fiction illustrations, satirical work for National Lampoon, and a long list of fiction illustration for the likes of Playboy, Esquire, and Rolling Stone, Not to mention his Time magazine covers.
His teaching career began long before he ever entered a classroom as a professor. His business, Sketchpad Studio, was modeled after that of a Renaissance Master. As the boss, main talent, and guru, he took in fledgling illustrators and assigned them a job depending on their level of skill. Thus, in the process of producing an enormous volume of work, Don taught, nurtured and mentored some of the biggest and most well-known talents in the business today.
Not content to simply earn a living, Don commuted once a week to Texas Christian University, nearly every semester, for over 37 years. Here he taught a never-ending stream of standing-room-only classes. As a professor, he went far beyond technique, and challenged his students to truly understand the communication problem they were dealing with, and to solve it in the most effective and creative way possible.
Don would frequently bring his professional projects to class in order to demonstrate method. In a subtle way this also helped to foster a better understanding of what the students could learn from the Maestro—and they became more attentive and harder-working because of it.
Besides his routine teaching at TCU, Don was also a regular visiting Professor for the Masters in Illustration program at Syracuse University.
It is difficult to find a successful illustrator in the Dallas/Austin/Houston markets who was not one of his Sketchpad “elves” or students at some point. Murray Tinkelman has called Don “The Godfather of Dallas Illustration.” Being a humble man, Don was annoyed by this moniker, but never was a title more well-deserved.
Don Punchatz was an amazingly talented Illustrator; a caring teacher; an intellectual giant; a loving husband and father; and a sweet and gentle soul.