||This article may require copy editing for grammar, style, cohesion, tone, or spelling. (August 2013)|
October 22, 1958|
West Covina, California, U.S.
|Died||October 26, 2005
San Diego, California, U.S.
Keith A. Parkinson (October 22, 1958 – October 26, 2005) was an American fantasy artist and illustrator known for his book covers and game artwork for games such as EverQuest, Guardians, Magic: The Gathering and Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. After a successful career designing book and magazine covers for TSR and as a freelance artist, Parkinson moved into game design in the 1990s, including award-winning work on Guardians. Parkinson battled leukemia, dying just after his 47th birthday in 2005.
Keith Parkinson was born in West Covina, California, however due to his father's career in the corporate world with GMAC, Keith's childhood was spent all over the United States in cities such as San Diego, CA, New York, Miami, Florida, and Lansing, Michigan. From an early age, Parkinson took an interest in science fiction, and used his artistic abilities to illustrate his interest; "As a kid, I was in love with spaceships. I collected posters and did lots of spaceship drawings." However, by the age of twelve, he became more interested in music than art, "I got involved with a rock & roll band in high school, and played semi-professionally all the way through high school and into college. For several years, my band toured on weekends. We were into heavy metal, and played stuff by Blue Öyster Cult, Rush, Led Zeppelin, and other heavy metal monster groups." At one gig, Parkinson met his future wife, Mary, who later became the Dragon Magazine Advertising Coordinator, and they had a son, Nicholas.
Parkinson was heavily influenced by Frank Frazetta and Roger Dean in his own fantasy work. Parkinson graduated from Kendall College of Art and Design in 1980. His first job was with a company called Advertising Posters, where he worked on the artwork for pinball games and many early arcade games, including Tron and Krull. "One of the guys in the camera room was a D&D player, and got me into the game. The first night I played a ranger in B1, Keep on the Borderlands, and I was hooked. We played every week."
In November 1982, he went to work at TSR, Inc., "I didn’t like a lot of the art I saw on D&D game products, and the company was in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, just over the border, so I drove up one day to see if I could do some freelance work. Elmore, Jeff Easley, and Tim Truman had all just joined the company, and the art they were working on was fantastic. It really blew my mind. Jim Roslof, who was the Art Director, hinted that I could join the staff full-time, but I missed the hint. A few days later, I called him about a job, and he had just hired somebody else the day before, but he'd keep me in mind. The next day, he called back, and had an opening.” Parkinson also worked on projects including book covers, game boxes, magazines and calendars. Among his book covers are such titles as Star Frontiers, Forgotten Realms and Gamma World. He is also known for his Dragonlance art.
After five years working at TSR, Parkinson left and pursued a freelance career for seven years. During this time, most of Parkinson's work was painting covers for the New York publishing market. His clients included Bantam Books, Palladium Books, Penguin Books, and Random House. Some of the authors that he painted covers for include Terry Goodkind, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, and Terry Brooks.
In 1995, Parkinson's first attempt at game design, Guardians, was published by Friedlander Publishing Group (FPG). Many other artists worked with him on the project. FPG also published Keith's first book, titled Knightsbridge: The Art of Keith Parkinson. He published two other books containing his artwork in and around 2004: a sketchbook, Spellbound, and a second full-color artbook titled, King's Gate. Other works from this time include a set of art trading cards and a screensaver produced by Second Nature Software.
In 2000, Parkinson devoted more of his time to writing and shifted his commercial art focus to the game industry. He produced art for THQ's Summoner and painted the well-known artwork for the original EverQuest as well as its first three expansion packs. In painting the box art, he also created the character Firiona Vie, who has adorned the cover of almost every expansion since. During this time, he became a close friend of Brad McQuaid.
Through his reputation with EverQuest, and his friendship with designers Brad McQuaid and Jeff Butler, Parkinson was hired as the art director and a co-founder at Sigil Games Online. He worked there on the MMORPG Vanguard: Saga of Heroes until his death in late 2005.
Death and tributes
After a long battle with acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML), Keith Parkinson died on 26 October 2005. He is survived by his wife, Donna, and sons Nick and Zach. Parkinson was described by his friends and colleagues (and in the eulogy by Brad McQuaid) as having had a true passion for his work, as well as a friendly and positive demeanor until his death. A small graveside funeral was led at Mission San Luis Rey de Francia by Vicar David Smith of Faith Lutheran Church in Vista, California.
Although Parkinson fell ill before he could create the box art for Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, he did paint the game's three 'mascot' characters: Jeric, Eila, and Idara. At the 2006 E3 Expo, the Vanguard: Saga of Heroes box art was revealed. According to Brad McQuaid, when Keith knew he could not finish the box art for Vanguard, he hoped that his friend Donato Giancola, would complete it. The left side of Donato's painting emulated Parkinson's personal style, as a tribute to him (the left was used for the box art, similar to EverQuest). Moving to the right, the painting transitions into Giancola's style. As a further tribute to Keith Parkinson, Giancola put a character resembling him into the painting.
An art expo, called "The Masters of Fantasy Art — A Tribute to Keith Parkinson" went on tour from February–July 2007. Laura Naviaux, Senior Brand Manager for Sony Online Entertainment, explained: "Our goal for 'The Masters of Fantasy Art' tour is to highlight the artistry that is integral to the creation of video games, as well as the influences of classical art on the industry as a whole. By showcasing Keith Parkinson's work on the new Vanguard: Saga of Heroes online videogame and joining up with The Art Institute, we hope to raise the public's awareness of computer and graphical arts as a discipline."
In August and September, 2008, Parkinson's alma mater Kendall College of Art and Design, of Ferris State University, honored him and TSR contemporaries Larry Elmore and Jeff Easley with a gallery exhibit called "Out of the Dungeons". Director of exhibitions Sarah Joseph said, "We wanted to honor Parkinson [...] It seemed fitting to include Elmore and Easley, since all three of them worked together for a number of years."
- "United States Social Security Death Index," index, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/JTXM-2Q7 : accessed 12 Feb 2013), Keith A Parkinson, 26 October 2005; citing U.S. Social Security Administration, Death Master File, database (Alexandria, Virginia: National Technical Information Service, ongoing).
- "TSR Profiles". Dragon (Lake Geneva, Wisconsin: TSR, Inc.) (#113): 60. September 1986.
- Keith Parkinson's biography. Retrieved 8 January 2007
- Artist Keith Parkinson Passes. Damon White, GamingReport.com. 28 October 2005. Retrieved 13 August 2006
- (October 2002). "Newsnotes: Award nominations", Chronicle 24 (10): 6–9.
- Keith Parkinson Eulogy. Brad McQuaid. October, 2005. Retrieved 13 August 2006
- Vanguard Box Art Revealed. 11 May 2006. Retrieved 13 August 2006
- Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Retrieved 13 August 2006
- THE MASTERS OF FANTASY ART - A TRIBUTE TO KEITH PARKINSON
- Fantasy artists are focus of show
- Keith Parkinson at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
- Keith Parkinson :: Pen & Paper RPG Database archive
- Keith Parkinson's official website
- Keith Parkinson at Find a Grave