Wayne Woodard was born in Minnesota in 1914, the third of four children born to Irving and Julia Woodard who had married at the age of seventeen. The eldest child died in infancy, the youngest when she was two. Julia had a nervous breakdown; she was thirty years old. [bio]
Young Wayne lived with his father after his parents split up but Irving discouraged his son from drawing and artwork. Wayne left home after high school graduation in 1932 and re-located in Seattle where his mother and surviving brother lived. Wayne began submitting drawings to pulp magazines under the pseudonym Hannes Bok — a play on Johannes Bach.
These were tough times and Bok could not afford art materials. For a time he lived with some other artists near a dump and used whatever he could scavenge as a ground for his work. One surviving painting is done on a piece of metal torn off a wrecked car.
Bok hitchhiked across the country in the mid-30s and met his idol, Maxfield Parrish. Parrish recognized the young man’s talent and gave him oil paints and brushes. Back on the West Coast, Bok was befriended by a teen-aged Ray Bradbury who brought him into science fiction fandom. In 1939, when Bradbury attended the first fan convention in New York, he took along some of Bok’s work to show to publishers.
Frederik Pohl was among several editors who comissioned work from Bok and the artist soon moved to New York. From 1939 to his death in 1964, Bok turned out 150 magazine covers, 600 or so interior illustrations, and a number of book jackets. In 1953 he shared the first Hugo for science fiction art.
Bok’s color techniques were adopted from Maxfield Parrish: layers of transparent glazes separated by thin coats of varnish. It was a time-consuming method but it gave luminosity to his work.
Bok was not an easy man to know and alienated many people over his life. From about 1947 on, he became withdrawn and bitter and increasingly poor. Still, he remained a fixture in science-fiction illustration. As a young fan, Trina Robbins had a life mask made by Bok.
Frederik Pohl recalls a visit with Donald Wollheim to Bok’s apartment. He was put off by Bok’s personality and then horrified to realize that the man had no teeth, not even dentures:
“He’s been living mostly on cornflakes,” Donald told me. “He pours milk, or sometimes water, over them until they’re mush, and then he gums them down.”
“Jesus,” I said. “How long can he go on like that?” Donald just shook his head, but not very long after that I got a definitive answer. That was when we got the word that Hannes had died in his sleep.The death certificate said “heart failure,” but when I talked to Donald he didn’t believe it. He shook his head and said, “Starvation.”