Boris Vallejo was born in 1941 into a family of distinguished lawyer in Lima, Peru. He became interested in art and music at an early age. Aspiring to be a concert violinist, he took violin lessons for seven years. Then, for 2 years, Boris was in pre-medical studying to be a doctor (later, this two years course, especially his study of anatomy, helped him to learn how to draw the human body). After the encouragement of his friends and colleagues, who had noticed how well he drew, he applied to the Peru's Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes' (National School of Fine Arts) graphic arts division, where he received a five year scholarship. He graduated from National School of Fine Arts with the prize given to the best student.
Vallejo quickly gained in confidence as an artist, and in 1964 he put together a portfolio with some of his works and immigrated to the United States. He was hoping for a more rewarding career than he could ever have had in Lima. He arrived in New York with 80 dollars in his pocket and with no knowledge of English. He had no friends, but fortunately he ran into a few other Peruvian immigrants who helped him find a place to stay and who later helped him get a job in the advertising department of a trust company in Hartford. After six month trial period he was transferred from Hartford, Connecticut, to the New York office, where he met Doris, his future wife. After two years of working for the company, he became a free-lance graphic artist.
During the next eight years he has worked on wide variety projects from boot and necktie advertisements to Cristmas cards. He also has worked on illustrations and covers for comic books.
"I had already been working successfully as an illustrator for a few years, when I discovered fantasy art on an American comic magazine cover. It was a heroic woman fighting a prehistoric monster, and suddenly I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I have always had a special love for the perfect structure of the human body, and fantasy art enabled me to depict muscular and sensuous bodies in all variations in my works. And as I love human bodies, I always try to paint them as beautiful and as perfect as possible", Vallejo says.
Since the end of the seventies alone Boris Vallejo has designed more than 300 covers, including "Tarzan", "Conan the Barbarian" and the comic magazine "Heavy Metal". He has worked for virtually every major publishing house with a science fiction/fantasy line.
"In the bookshops there are always lots of books side by side, and it is often the cover which decides whether a book is bought or not. A successful cover has to attract the potential customer like a magnet", artist says.
The vast majority of his work depicts scenes of savage and effective sensuality; however, it was not just his choice of subjects that soon made him one of the most popular illustrators of his time, but also his expertise as a painter. The composition and colors of his impressive works of art bear witness to the fact that they have been influenced several hundred years of painting.
"Vermeer, Rembrandt, Leonardo - during my early years I used to study the works of such masters again and again. The painters I liked best were two Spanish ones, though: Murillo and Velazquez", Vallejo says.
Vallejo's preferred artistic medium is oil paint on board; preparatory works are pencil or ink sketches (which have been displayed in the book Sketchbook). Subjects of his hyper-representational paintings are typically gods, monsters, and well-muscled male and female barbarians engaged in battle. Some of his male figures were modeled by Vallejo himself, and many of his later female characters were modeled by his second wife, painter and model Julie Bell, whom he married in 1994. His latest works still retain heavy fantasy elements, but lean more towards the erotic rather than pure fantasy themes.
Along with Julie Bell, Boris Vallejo presents his artwork in an annual calendar and various books. Since the early eighties, Vallejo has published a lot of books representing his art, such as: Titans, The Fantastic Art of Boris Vallejo (1980), Mirage (1982, reprinted 1996 & 2001), Fantasy Art Techniques (1985), Dreams: The Art of Boris Vallejo (1999), Superheroes, Sketchbook, Twin Visions (2002) and others. He and Julie Bell have worked on collaborative artworks together, in which they sign the artwork with both names.
Today Boris Vallejo is an icon of Fantasy Art. His influence on the development of this field of art is colossal. But even today Vallejo shows great interest in the works of his colleagues. His attitude is anything but complacent and he refuses to rest on his laurels. He keeps watching out for fresh inspiration, continually endeavors to go beyond what he has achieved.
Boris Vallejo and his wife Julie Bell currently resides in Allentown, Pennsylvania.