John Conrad Berkey was born in Edgley, North Dakota, and was largely self-taught, although he attended a Minneapolis art school after becoming interested in painting in high school.
John Berkey created some of science fiction's most memorable cover art, including the cover art for C. J. Cherryh’s Hunter of Worlds (1977) and A. Bertram Chandler’s The Way Back (1978), both from DAW Books.
His impressionistic style was trademark Berkey, and his depiction of hardware was excellent. While not as well-known to fans as many other artists in the field, Berkey was widely admired by his fellow artists; Vincent Di Fate called him "one of the most innovative and influential of science fiction artists."
A frequent movie poster artist, Berkey's film work included The Towering Inferno (1974), Orca (1977), King Kong (1976), and the 1978 re-release of both When Worlds Collide and The War of the Worlds. He also did the pre-production designs for Star Wars.