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Kirk, Tim

Entry updated 25 March 2024. Tagged: Artist.

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(1947-    ) US artist. While attending California State University, Long Beach, in the 1960s, Kirk became an enthusiastic member of the science fiction community and began contributing artwork to Fanzines, including a number of first-page cartoons that are credited as cover art for numerous issues of Locus. From the start, he displayed a knack for playful renderings of familiar figures from Fantasy, like unicorns and dwarfs, that helped to earn him nine Hugo nominations as Best Fan Artist, and five victories in this category from 1970 to 1976. He also received 1974 and 1975 Locus Awards as fan artist. In the early 1970s, he began doing book covers for Jack Chalker's Mirage Press and soon graduated to professional assignments for Donald A Wollheim's DAW Books – all before earning a master's degree in illustration from Long Beach in 1973. For his master's project, he produced a series of paintings inspired by J R R Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1955-1956) that were purchased by Ballantine Books for use in The 1975 J. R. R. Tolkien Calendar (graph 1974); one of his paintings was also employed as the cover of the 1974 Ballantine edition of Robert Foster's A Guide to Middle Earth (1971).

Despite such indications that he might enjoy a successful career as an sf artist, Kirk's covers generally had a childlike ambience that seemed ill-suited for more serious works: he tried to project maturity in his cover for Kenneth Bulmer's first Dray Prescot novel, Transit to Scorpio (1972) as by Alan Burt Akers, a portrait of a sombre humanoid warrior with a bird's face, but another cover, for Fred Saberhagen's Changeling Earth (1973), looked like something out of a Walt Disney cartoon despite its grim subject matter, a black figure brandishing a sword over a sacrificial victim with a large growling face in the background. Kirk, then, was probably wise to accept an offer to work as an illustrator first for Hallmark Cards, and later for another card company, Current Inc, specializing in drawing what Jane Frank termed "funny animals" for greeting cards, jigsaw puzzles, wrapping paper, and similar products. Moving to another firm associated with funny animals, Kirk next joined the Walt Disney Company to contribute concepts and designs to various attractions in its theme parks, playing an especially important role in the creation of the theme park DisneySea in Japan.

Kirk continued to do occasional covers for fanzines and Small Press publications throughout the 1970s and 1980s, but he had increasingly little time to devote to such diversions, though he did edit one Anthology for younger readers, Ghosts and Goblins (anth 1982). A major project and presumably a major disappointment of the 1970s was his creation of a pen-and-ink drawing for each and every story in Harlan Ellison's never-published «The Last Dangerous Visions»: Ellison's first announcement of this anthology's completion (November 1973 The Alien Critic) mentions "over 75 full-page illustrations done by Tim Kirk", and the eventual total was reportedly more than a hundred.

In the early 2000s, Kirk left Disney to work as an independent designer for various projects, including Seattle's Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, and served on the museum's advisory board. His sf art has not been forgotten, however, as he has been an invited Guest of Honour at two sf conventions and received the 2021 Rotsler Award for life achievement in fanzine art. [GW/DRL]

Tim Kirk

born Long Beach, California: 30 October 1947


works as editor


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