Joe Bergeron grew up in the twin hamlets of Endicott and Endwell in upstate New York. As a boy he taught himself the constellations using a cardboard star wheel, watching in awe as stars he had never before identified rose according to prediction. Later he began a more thorough examination of the heavens using various small telescopes. A devoted hiker, Joe prowled his surroundings at all hours of the day and night, often discovering semi-abandoned sites of human activity which his imagination invested with the mystery of ancient ruins.
Joe was known as a "class artist" in high school, mostly by virtue of superhero drawings done in ballpoint pen. His early efforts at painting were clumsy at best and disastrous at worst, leading him to be intimidated by the brush. Finally, called upon to produce planetarium shows during a summer job, Joe taught himself to paint so he could create visuals for the shows. Soon he was selling paintings and drawings at science fiction art shows, winning a window full of awards in the process. Later he broadened his artistic skills by getting a degree in studio art from Binghamton University. He eventually illustrated various science fiction books and magazines, including titles by Isaac Asimov, Piers Anthony, and James Tiptree, Jr. He also served as director of the local small planetarium.
For three years Joe worked as staff artist at
Morehead Planetarium in North Carolina. Until recently he continued to
shows, though at a distance as a freelancer rather than an employee.
Joe's restlessness eventually led him to make a series of trips to the West, a landscape which has fascinated him since his first visits there as a child. He spent a summer as a volunteer in Zion National Park, where he used his telescope to acquaint park visitors with the glories of the desert skies. Later, while living a semi-hermitlike existence in the Mojave Desert, he was tracked down by Time-Life books, spending the next few years producing illustrations for their ambitious book series Voyage Through the Universe, depicting subjects as diverse as the rings of Saturn and experimental space tethers.
Joe then returned to
the gentle hills of the Endicott area for several eventful years.
But the West continued to call, and after several false starts, Joe
finally girded his loins and migrated to an obscure part of the
southern Sierras of California, where he worked for many
clients, spending his summers among those cool green
hills of upstate New York. After several years of being a Westerner who
a good part of the year in the East, in 2003 Joe returned to pastoral
New York to try life as an Easterner who spends a good part of the year
in the West. At the very least, Joe tries hard to attend the annual
Grand Canyon Star Party, during which he talks to more people than he
does during the entire rest of the year.
Though most of Joe's artwork now takes digital form, he still treasures his ability to push paint around, and usually has a painting in progress on his easel. His other major interest is writing. He's completed his seventh novel, and is working on the eigth. Another recent creation is his Cosmic Cat children's book.
Joe's artwork is richly influenced by his decades as an amateur astronomer. He attends star parties all over the country, though most often he can be found out alone on clear nights, either somewhere in the desert or beside a frog-infested pond. He has been privileged to see the sky painted in bold colors by the aurora borealis, the glory of the solar corona during an eclipse, a golden star flickering behind the rings of Saturn, pepper-black spots deposited on the clouds of Jupiter by a rain of comets, and light streaming like water from Comets Hyakutake and Hale-Bopp. More recently, Joe stood enthralled as meteors poured from the mane of Leo.
At the end of 2001, Joe was elected a Fellow of the International Association of Astronomical Artists.
Joe finds himself in the uncomfortable position of being a cynical romantic. The beauties of the night sky and the natural world are his surest solace. In the past few years he has worked at developing a looser, more spontaneous painting style to complement the tight, precise techniques he uses for his space art and other illustrations. His work is not restricted to space themes, but includes wildlife, landscapes, fantasy, and figures. His artwork, past and future, blends his love of astronomy with interests in nature, mythology, archaeology, and wildlife.
Need more pictures of Joe for some odd reason? Check these out.
Prefer straight information without gobs of superfluous prose? Try Joe's resume.
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Listen to the Podcast
interview made during Balticon 41 in 2007.
Discover the pitfalls of interviewing Joe by listening to this
podcast interview of podcaster Paul