Star Trek Illustrator Keith Birdsong Passes Away at 59

Renowned Star Trek illustrator Keith Birdsong passed away yesterday from complications following an automotive accident. He was 59. wrote a wonderful tribute to the Oklahoma-based artist, highlighting some of his biggest achievements, and some of his life story.

As a child, Birdsong was a self-taught illustrator who never did well in art class. He said, “I didn’t follow directions. I always drew what I wanted. I would kind of start with what they wanted and then end up doing something else, doing my own thing.”

After graduating, he became a paratrooper in the US Army and worked as a journalist at the same time. Over time, he began to pitch stories and illustrations to magazines and built his portfolio. Birdsong made a name for himself in doing illustrations for book covers, and worked as a freelance illustrator in North Carolina before returning to Oklahoma in the late 1980s.

Eventually, he became associated most strongly with Star Trek. Quoting the piece: “Birdsong’s body of work includes hundreds of illustrations linked to the Star Trek franchise, including posters, book covers and collector plates. But he also was hired to provide likenesses of Elvis Presley and others for the U.S. Postal service. Some of his works are in the Smithsonian Institution, including a likeness of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

Keith Birdsong suffered a serious stroke last year, in 2018. He was left with memory loss and impaired vision and was advised not to try drawing anymore as it might lead to depression. But when his vision started to return, he picked it up again, and eventually held an art show at his home earlier this year.

Memorial services for Keith Birdsong are being held at 2pm on Friday, June 14th, at Christian Chapel in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

Alison Pitt