Star Trek Artist Keith Birdsong Dies at 59

Beloved Star Trek artist Keith Birdsong passed away on June 4th at the age of 59 years old. Birdsong was a self-taught illustrator who painted the covers for more than 30 classic Star Trek novels. Birdsong suffered a severe stroke in August 2018 but made an incredible recovery. Unfortunately, he suffered a second stroke this year that caused a car accident from which he was unable to recover. Birdsong was an organ donor. His kidneys and other organs and tissues have already been put to use to keep others alive.

"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 lived in Oklahoma. His contributions to the Star Trek novel line includes painting the covers for Sarek, All Good Things..., Q-Squared, Time's Enemy and The Final Fury. He also painted the cover for the reference book Star Trek Chronology: The History of the Future. He also painted portrait illustrations of Capt. Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy for the postal services’ Star Trek 25th Anniversary envelope set. He created additional Star Trek artwork that has been sold for years by Lightspeed Fine Art at conventions, including Star Trek Las Vega.

Birdsong was born in Muskogee, Oklahoma. He was a paratrooper and a journalist in the United States Army. He began his artistic career by creating drawings to help flesh out his reporting, which eventually won him the Keith L. Ware Award, considered the highest honor for military journalism.

To create the level of photo-realism that Birdsong’s work is known for, he would spend three to five days on a single piece. "For a long time, art was my hobby,” Birdsong said years ago in an interview with The Official Star Trek: The Next Generation Magazine. “Now, it's my job. So, I have lost my hobby. But it's a fair trade-off."

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In addition to the book covers, posters, and collector plates that Birdsong illustrated for the Star Trek franchise, he was also hired to depict the likenesses of such noteworthy individuals as Elvis Presley for the U.S. Postal service. His depiction of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is currently a part of the Smithsonian Institute’s collection.

Birdsong is survived by both of his parents, his daughter, his two granddaughters, his two sisters, his girlfriend, and his many nieces, nephews and adopted siblings.

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