Classic Science-Fiction Illustrators (Part 2) – Tim White
Welcome to the second part of our Classic Science-Fiction Illustrators series. Today we present the unmistakable iridescence of British artist Tim White (born 4 April 1952 in Erith, Kent).
Tim’s extensive career follows a trajectory similar to that of Jim Burns (Part 1). Both started out in the mid-1970s and evolved to produce cover art for many Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors. In Tim’s case, these include luminaries such as Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Terry Pratchett and H. P. Lovecraft.
Above: ‘Dark Side of the Sun’ (for Terry Pratchett)
More than most, Tim is an artist that skirts the border between sublime and somewhat garish. Let’s face it, all Sci-Fi art has a certain element of ephemera. I’m not always a fan of the finished article but of those I do admire, I love profusely. A perfect example is the above illustration of an impossibly delicate robotic insect.
Interestingly, this fragile insectoid would gain a second lease on life after gracing the cover of the New English Library’s 1978 printing of Terry Pratchett’s ‘Dark Side of the Sun’. It was recycled as game box art for the legendary British software house Psygnosis. This wasn’t an uncommon occurrence either, several of Tim’s illustrations would be repurposed as box art for late 80s and early 90s 16-bit computer games. Tim was one of many famous Sci-Fi artists to be used by Psygnosis. Sci-Fi-O-Rama favourites such as Roger Dean, John Harris, Peter Andrew Jones would all be heavily featured.
The importance of this re-exposure cannot be underestimated. Impressionable Generation Xer’s like myself and Dan McPharlin were first exposed to this art via the Commodore Amiga. Indeed, Dan talks fondly about Psygnosis in this Sci-Fi-O-Rama Roger Dean feature from 2010.
Above: ‘The Krugg Syndrome’ 1988
Tim’s work is defined most clearly by his frequent use of extreme polychromatic colour palettes. Often ramping the saturation almost to the point of garish, yet he always manages to dial in the balance. This unique talent lends itself to his vibrantly glorious alien vistas. A significant echo of this playful style can be seen in the flawed but stunningly beautiful video game ‘No Mans Sky’ (Hello Games 2016).
A field mouse in a tiny silver extravehicular activity suit. Bizarre genius and absolutely one of my favourite featured images from the early days of Sci-Fi-O-Rama. I posted this beauty back in September 2008 and I’m still not sure what it was designed for. I suspect it’s something to do with an 80s reprint of ‘Nightmares and Geezenstacks’ (1961), a short story collection from Fredric Brown.
Above: ‘Dragon Drone’
This jet-engined aluminium drake symbolises the perfect fusion between Sci-Fi and Fantasy and another superb example of Tim’s adeptness with lavish colour choices.
It’s also another example of Psygnosis game box art, this time for one of their lesser-known releases ‘Aminos’, a multi-directional scrolling shoot-em-up released in 1990.
Above: ‘Assignment in Eternity’ (a Robert A. Heinlein short story collection)
Above: Cover art for ‘The Tar-Aiym Krang’ by Alan Dean Foster (first published 1972)
So there’s your taster of Tim’s fantastical art. Sadly, he doesn’t have an online portfolio site but you can see more work of his work and follow him directly via his Facebook group.
If you’re interested in tracking down some originals you’ll be pleased to know much of his back catalogue has been anthologised into several large-format portfolio publications including; The Science Fiction and Fantasy World of Tim White (1981), Mouches (1983), Chiaroscuro (1988), and Mirror of Dreams (1994).
Finally, if you’re after signed prints artistsuk.co.uk carries a small selection.
Thanks for reading.