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Bell, Julie

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Artist.

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(1958-    ) US artist, the wife of artist Boris Vallejo and mother of artists Anthony Palumbo and David Palumbo. The first thirty years of her life were unsettled, as a parental separation and a first marriage to aspiring academic and future sf scholar Donald E Palumbo forced her to relocate several times and disrupted her education. But she developed two strong interests that would define her career: art, and body-building, a field in which she competed professionally and one that would later influence her erotic portrayals of human bodies. Her life changed forever when she met Vallejo in 1989 and successively became his model, art student, and wife following her divorce from Palumbo.

Although Bell had earlier illustrated a privately published children's book, David Goldsmith's The Mystery of Kawbawgam's Grave (1979) as by Clifford F Cleveland, she launched her sf career with covers for Heavy Metal magazine (from January 1992) and Videogames before moving on to book covers, beginning with her painting for the 1992 Tor Books edition of Harry Harrison and Leon Stover's Stonehenge: Where Atlantis Died (1972) showing two sword-wielding antagonists in Roman garb battling at an unusual angle. A second cover, for John Maddox Roberts's Conan and the Treasure of Python (1993), reflected her experience in body-building: Robert E Howard's iconic character had always looked strong and muscular, but never before had he posed so provocatively to show off his well-developed, well-oiled biceps. Even though these were her only published book covers at the time, Paper Tiger then published two compilations of her artwork, The Julie Bell Portfolio (graph 1994) and Hard Curves: The Fantasy Art of Julie Bell (graph 1996), presumably influenced by her relationship with the noted Vallejo. Bell strengthened her reputation by means of dynamic depictions of Marvel Comics Superheroes, displayed among other places on the covers of several novels featuring Spider-Man (David Michelinie and Dean Wesley Smith's Carnage in New York [1995], Smith's Goblin's Revenge [1996], and John Vornholt's Valley of the Lizard [1998]) and the X-Men and the Avengers (Greg Cox's Lost and Found [1999], Search and Rescue [1999], and Friend or Foe? [2000]). While she published one more solo portfolio, Soft as Steel: The Fantasy Art of Julie Bell (graph 1999), all of her subsequent compilations featured both her and Vallejo's works, as the couple, while continuing to work separately, increasingly presented themselves as a team. These books, along with other joint projects like annual calendars, have recently seemed most central to her career, although she has continued to paint book covers while also producing collectible art, advertisements, and CD covers – most impressively, an energized portrait of a hero riding a dragon for Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose (2006).

While best known for her sexually charged portraits of undressed men and women, Bell can also handle traditional sf tropes, as seen in her cover for Andre Norton's The Solar Queen (omni 2003), depicting a realistic Spaceship on the moon of a large planet with other moons prominently nearby; in a similar vein, Bell painted an exciting cover image for Douglas Niles's War of the Worlds: New Millennium (2005) showing Martian spacecraft attacking the White House, as well as some impressive duelling aircraft for Orson Scott Card's First Meetings in Ender's Universe (coll 2002 as First Meetings: Three Stories from the Enderverse; exp vt First Meetings in the Enderverse 2003; vt 2004). In 2009 she received a Chesley Award for general artistic achievement.

The US artist should not be confused with the probably British Julie Bell who drew a small number of black-and-white covers for the UK Small Press magazines New Moon (1987) and Peeping Tom (1990-1991). [GW]

Julie Bell

born Beaumont, Texas: 21 October 1958

works (excluding calendars)


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