Some authors stick with you no matter what, and one of those for me was Robert Heinlein. His stories were always full of amazing details and immensely thought-provoking. They also had some of my favorite covers, many of which were created by British artist, Tim White.
After graduating from the Medway College of Design in Kent (which also counts famous fashion and textile designer Zandra Rhodes as one of its former pupils), White initially worked in advertising before receiving his first commissions. The first, in 1974, was for Arthur C. Clarke’s The Other Side of the Sky.
Many of his paintings contained highly detailed spaceships, which always grabbed my attention. The fact that they were featured on several Heinlein books cemented my love of his style, and I was drawn to them like a raven to a gold coin. His artwork appeared on covers for some of the biggest names in science fiction, including Clarke, Frank Herbert, Lovecraft, Piers Anthony, Anne McCaffrey, Alan Dean Foster and Bruce Sterling, providing vivid and meticulous illustration to some of the most influential stories in the genre, especially those published by the New English Library (NEL), which produced many of the books I read in my formative years.
The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says, “White has been celebrated as a representative of a new school of super-realists that began shaping British [science fiction] art in the mid-1970s” and was compared to the likes of Chris Foss and Jim Burns.
Along with paintings and drawings for books, White was involved in concept art and graphics for computer games. He also created work in bronze and jewelry pieces to accompany his work.
White was nominated six consecutive times between 1981 and 1986 for the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Artist and won the honor in in 1983. His work declined in the 90s, and he became mostly inactive from 2000 due to health issues.
Assignment in Eternity was a collection of science fiction novellas. The main story “Gulf” was set largely on the moon and introduced the character of “Kettle Belly” Baldwin who later appeared in the novel Friday.
The Past Through Tomorrow is a collection of short stories that make up a timeline of history that Heinlein referred to as his Future History and introduced many of the themes and characters that featured in several of his major novels, including The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and Time Enough for Love.
These books and images still have a favored spot on my bookshelves and in my heart. Even after so many years, seeing them again warms my sensibilities. These are old friends, cherished and loved, and I still reread them from time to time, even though by now I can almost quote them word for word.
Sadly, Tim White died in 2020 at the far too early age of 68 after several years of health issues. He left a deep and lasting impression both on me as a reader and admirer of his covers, but also the science fiction art world as a whole. You can find out more about Tim and his art at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.