Joy Clinton Shepherd was born September 11, 1888 in Des Moines, Iowa. At the time of his birth his father, Charles F. Shepherd, was thirty-two, and his mother, Emma Shepherd, was thirty-one. His father was a salesman of men's suits. Joy was the third born of the family's five children. The Shepherd family lived at 930 Twenty-third Street. They later moved a few doors down to their parent's home at 984 Twenty-third Street.
His parents were prosperous enough to send him to college after he graduated high school in 1906. He attended the University of Missouri at Kansas City. In 1909 he withdrew from college and traveled with a younger brother to the Great Northwest. The brothers lived with a tribe of Crow Indians and later claimed to have learned their language and customs.
In 1910 he moved to Chicago and lived at 245 West North Avenue. He studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. After completing his studies in 1914 he worked in Chicago as a freelance artist. In 1915 he married Gail English, who had also been an art student at the Art Institute of Chicago.
In 1916 he joined the Illinois National Reserve and served as the bugler. He registered for the draft on June 5, 1917, at which time he was described as tall, slender, blue eyes, red hair, and "has a defected hear." This curious medical condition may have been a double-edged sword in regards to his competence as a bugler, since it may have added an unwelcome tone of discordance to the solemnity of playing taps in the evening, but on the other hand it probably added an extra rousting quality to his performance of reveille in the morning.
In 1919, after his service in WWI, he moved to New York City to look for work in the magazine industry as a freelance artist. From 1921 to 1930 he worked for slick magazines, such as Colliers, The Saturday Evening Post, and Woman's World. He became increasingly busy and successful throughout the twenties. He signed most of his work "J. C. Shepherd" in emulation of the foremost American illustrator of the time "J. C. Leyendecker." In 1925 Joy and Gail moved to Westport, Connecticut, where they had their first child, a daughter named Joy. Their second child, a son named Charles, was born a few years later.
At this same time the artist also had a significant career as a sculptor of western bronzes, after the style of Frederic Remington.
After 1929 as financial markets collapsed slick magazine publishers began to lose revenues from lack of advertisers, readers, subscribers, and newsstand sales. At this same time the pulp magazine industry began to experience their most lucrative period, since their revenues were primarily derived from newsstand sales of cheap thrilling fiction.
During the 1930s J. Clinton Shepherd began to subsidize his diminishing income by painting cover illustrations for Popular Publications. He painted the covers for Star Western, Ace-High Western, and all four issues of Mavericks, as well as the last re-titled issue, Bull's Eye Western. He also drew several pen and ink story illustrations for Blue Book.
In 1938 he moved to Florida to teach art at Barry College in Miami. He lived and worked at 245 Seminole Avenue, Palm Beach, Florida. During the Second World War he accepted a job as the Director of the Norton Gallery School of Art in Palm Beach, Florida. In 1947 he opened a private art studio in Palm Beach. He was commissioned to paint portraits of many local business and community leaders, as well as several mural commissions.
Joy Clinton Shepherd had a heart attack at the age of 86, while painting at his easel. He died two days later at the Palm Beach Hospital on June 20, 1975.
© David Saunders 2009