Keith Birdsong has created his last piece of art. Birdsong, the talented, self-taught illustrator and frequent Star Trek novel cover artist, passed away on June 4. He suffered a devastating stroke last August, but had made a remarkable recovery, only to experience another stroke last week that led to a car accident. He lived in Oklahoma, was 59 years old and was a proud organ donor whose kidneys and other organs and tissue are already helping others live. "That's the kind of man he was, so kindhearted and always giving," Birdsong's daughter, Candice, told StarTrek.com. "He's got a legacy that will live on. That was his last gift."
Birdsong created the covers for more than 30 Trek novels, including Sarek, All Good Things..., Q-Squared, Time's Enemy and The Final Fury, as well as for the reference book, Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future. Additionally, he painted portraits of Kirk, Spock and McCoy for the postal envelopes commissioned to celebrate Star Trek's 25th anniversary and, for years, he painted many pieces displayed and sold by Lightspeed Fine Art at Star Trek Las Vegas and elsewhere.
Born in small-town Muskogee, Oklahoma, Birdsong served as a paratrooper and journalist in the U.S. Army. The Muscogee Creek-Cherokee artist started drawing sketches to flesh out his stories, eventually winning a Keith L. Ware Award, the highest-possible honor for a military journalist. Later, he launched his career as an illustrator and gained recognition for his photo-realistic work, with each painting taking roughly three to five days to complete. In the early days of his Trek association, Birdsong's art was sent first to Pocket Books for approval, then to Gene Roddenberry, and also to the actors depicted (at least to those with approval rights stipulated in their contracts).
Decades ago, in an interview with The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine, Birdsong commented, "For a long time, art was my hobby. Now, it's my job. So, I have lost my hobby. But it's a fair trade-off."
Please join StarTrek.com in offering condolences to Birdsong's family, friends and fans.