Saturday, October 29, 2005

Keith Parkinson remembered

Of all the rotten, lousy news. Word reaches me that Keith Parkinson, an amazingly talented artist and all-around nice guy, died from leukemia on Wednesday. I understand he'd undergone a bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy in the past year, but those treatements were, obviously, unsuccessful.

I got to know Keith back in 1991, when I invited him as Artist Guest of Honor for Aggiecon 22. TSR was riding high at that time with the Dragonlance games and novels, and Keith was one of the artists that was contributing to that revival with some fantastic art. He and his wonderful wife confided in me after they arrived that they were nervous, because Aggiecon was the first convention he'd ever attended as a guest of honor! I found the very concept mind-boggling for an artist of his popularity, but there you have it. On top of that, he graciously provided me with the painting pictured above to serve as the cover art for the program book. He'd done it on commission a couple of years before and been paid, but the magazine that had paid for it went out of business before it ran. Their loss was our gain. We were so enamoured with the snowy scene that we ran it as the cover art with no text of any kind to mar the image. I've since purchased a print of it, which hangs in my office as a memento of that con.

Keith was just about the perfect guest. He mingled and interacted freely with fans, and he and his wife kept busy at their table in the dealers' room selling truckloads of prints all weekend. He brought along some of his paintings for display in the art show, and told great stories about them--how he and Larry Elmore (also a guest at that convention) shared a studio at one time, and when Keith needed a model for a dwarf warrior, he tied a pillow to Larry's belly and made him stomp around the room. He also directed my attention to a ledge on the flying citadel--that famous Dragonlance game module cover with red dragons soaring above while terrified riders on horseback fled below. It's a great fantasy painting any way you look at it, but on the original (which is three feet wide and far more detailed than what shows up in the reduced reproductions) there is a ledge/balcony on the fortress on which three figures can be seen. One is a gangly man wearing a long scarf, another is a blocky robotic dog, and the third is an old-style British police call box. Turns out that Parkinson was a Doctor Who fan, and included the extras to amuse himself.

The last day of the con, I was looking through the various prints they had on the dears' room table. Keith's wife asked me if there was any I liked. I confessed that they were all gorgeous. She then told me to tell her which one I wanted. I felt very awkward at that point, having to explain that I was but a poor college student, and no matter how much I liked the prints, I couldn't afford to get even one. "No, no. You don't understand. We're giving you one," she said. "We've had such a great time here this weekend, it's our way of thanking you for inviting us." With gibbering excitement, I eventually picked out "Northwatch," pictured above. It's somewhat worse for the wear after umpteen moves, and someday I hope to get a replacement that hasn't been damaged by my carelessness, but even so, it still hangs in my office. And it's just as impressive a scene today as it was nearly 15 years ago when the Parkinson's gave it to me.

He was a class act. He will be missed.

Now Playing: Derek & the Dominoes The Layla Sessions: Alternate Masters, Jams and Outtakes

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