Boris Vallejo is a Peruvian born fantasy artist and illustrator. Growing up Boris always had an interest in art; however, the interest first manifested in music. After playing the violin for a few years he picked up the paintbrush. At the age of 13, he realized he had a natural talent and passion for painting. At just 16 he received offers to study art abroad, but he focused his energies on local art school and developed his talent. In 1964, at the young age of 23, he packed up and headed to America to chase his dream of becoming a famous artist. He didn't speak English and had mere cents to his name, but still he went out to make it in New York City. He lived in a poor area of the Bronx and eventually got a job as an illustrator for a retail store. His big break came from the sketches of fantasy barbarian warriors like Tarzan and Conan. This gave him the springboard to launch a lucrative freelance career in the fantasy art genre
Childhood & Early Life
Boris Vallejo was born on January 8, 1941 in Lima, Peru. His father was a well-known solicitor.
Vallejo's original interest was in the violin. He took violin lessons for seven years. After playing violin for much of his early years, Vallejo quit and decided to pursue medical studies.
After studying medicine for two years, he dropped out and applied to Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes. He received a scholarship to study art here for five years.
He quickly showed promise as an artist. When he was just 16 he was offered the chance to study art in Fiorentina; however, he turned down the opportunity. Instead, Vallejo put together a portfolio and immigrated to the United States in 1964.
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Vallejo moved to New York City in 1964. He didn't speak English and had no money. All he had was a dream that his art would be more successful here than in Peru.
His first job was as an illustrator for a chain of stores. He excelled in his position and was promoted to the main office after six months. It is here where he met Doris, who would become his first wife.
After eight years as an illustrator he decided it was time for a change. He left his job and started freelancing. It was during this time Vallejo fell in love with fantasy art. He was introduced to the genre by looking at a comic book cover at a comic convention.
His specialty has always been the human body. The discovery of the fantasy art genre provided him an outlet for this talent. He quickly became a rising star in the industry.
His illustrations of fantasy action heroes such as, Conan the Barbarian, Tarzan, and Doc Savage led to a rapidly growing fan base. The movie industry took notice and he began receiving jobs for movie posters.
He also used this following as a springboard to get work in other avenues. He did advertising jobs as well as artwork for the collectibles of Franklin Mint Paraphernalia.
The 1970s was a busy decade for Boris Vallejo. He amassed over 300 credits in book illustrations, movie posters, and advertisement work. This solidified his place as one of the great fantasy artists.
Vallejo spent a good portion of the 1980s doing work on film posters. He did the posters for ‘Knightriders’ (1981), ‘Q’ (1982), ‘Barbarian Queen’ (1985), ‘National Lampoon's Vacation’ (1983), and ‘European Vacation’ (1985).
Presently, he spends most of his time collaborating with his wife, artist and model Julie Bell. The couple publishes an annual book of collaborative works.
As Vallejo is an artist with a massive selection of works, it is difficult to pinpoint the best ones. One of his most significant paintings is ‘The Amazon Princess and Her Pet’. It won him an award as best artist from the British Fantasy Awards.
Another major work was his initial illustrations of Tarzan and Conan the Barbarian. These illustrations were responsible for building the buzz Vallejo used to launch his career.
Awards & Achievements
In 1979, he won a British Fantasy Award for best artist. It was for his painting ‘The Amazon Princess and Her Pet’.
Personal Life & Legacy
His first wife was Doris Vallejo. The couple met while Boris was working in his first illustration job. They had two children together, a son named Dorian and a daughter named Maya. Dorian followed in his father's footsteps as a painter and Maya is a professional photographer.
His second and current wife is Julie Bell. He has two stepsons with her namely, Anthony and David. Both of them are Science Fiction & Fantasy illustrators.
Vallejo survived on very little money when he first moved to the United States. He paid $5 a week in rent and had very little money left to eat