Keith A. Parkinson was an American fantasy artist and illustrator known for his work for Dungeons & Dragons, EverQuest, and Magic: The Gathering.
Upon graduating from Kendall School of Design in 1980, Keith took a staff artist position at Advertising Posters, a printing company in Chicago, which was the center of the pinball manufacturing world. Advertising Posters handled the art for Gottlieb as well as Gottlieb’s major competitor, Williams. In addition to pinball work, Keith created the art for early arcade cabinets, including Krull and Tron, giving Keith a direct hand in the beginning of the video game industry. It was also at Advertising Posters that a coworker introduced Keith to the role playing game Dungeons & Dragons.
That introduction to D&D not only hooked Keith—he thereafter played weekly—but likely heavily influenced the rest of his career. Departing Advertising Posters, Keith took a job in November 1982 with the publisher of Dungeons & Dragons, TSR, Inc. As Keith tells of his start with the company: "I didn't like a lot of the art I saw on D&D game products, and the company was in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, just over the border, so I drove up one day to see if I could do some freelance work. Elmore, Jeff Easley, and Tim Truman had all just joined the company, and the art they were working on was fantastic. It really blew my mind. Jim Roslof, who was the Art Director, hinted that I could join the staff full-time, but I missed the hint. A few days later, I called him about a job, and he had just hired somebody else the day before, but he'd keep me in mind. The next day, he called back, and had an opening.” During a five-year stint, Keith contributed to a wide variety of projects, including for the core of TSR’s product lines: Dragon magazine, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Star Frontiers, DragonLance, Forgotten Realms, and Gamma World.
Several of the D&D paintings that Keith would do for TSR, Inc. during this period would later be reused as the box art for the D&D games published by Strategic Simulations, Inc. in 1990 and 1991.
After TSR, Keith left and pursued a freelance career for seven years, during which he primarily painted book covers for the New York publishing market. Clients include Random House, Bantam and Penguin Books. Covers for best selling authors include Terry Goodkind, David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey, Orson Scott Card, and Terry Brooks. Keith received many accolades and awards during this period from fans and his peers alike.
In 1999, Keith painted the well-known artwork for the original EverQuest as well as its first three expansion packs: The Ruins of Kunark, The Scars of Velious, and The Shadows of Luclin. In painting the box art, he also created the character Firiona Vie, who has since become nearly synonymous with the series, adorning the box for almost every subsequent EverQuest release.
Prior to his death in 2005, Keith worked on the MMORPG Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Although he passed away before he could create the game’s box art, he did create the game's three 'mascot' characters: Jeric, Eila, and Idara. In line with Keith’s hopes, Donato Giancola would take over box art duties. The left side of Donato's painting would emulate Keith's personal style, as a tribute to him, transitioning to Donato’s style for the painting’s right side. As a further tribute to Keith Parkinson, Donato put a character resembling him into the painting.
OVGA has included below Keith Parkinson's full known box art catalog:
- Xenocide (Micro Revelations, Inc. | Apple IIgs, DOS | 1989)
Champions of Krynn (Strategic Simulations, Inc. | Amiga, Apple II, Commodore 64, DOS, PC-98 | 1990)
first use: cover to Dragons of Desolation module (1984)
DragonStrike (Strategic Simulations, Inc. | Amiga, Commodore 64, DOS, PC-98 | 1990)
first use: cover to Dragons of Hope module (1984)
Death Knights of Krynn (Strategic Simulations, Inc. | Amiga, Commodore 64, DOS, PC-98 | 1991)
first use: Dragonlance Legends calendar interior as "Lord Soth's Charge" (1987)
Pools of Darkness (Strategic Simulations, Inc. | Amiga, DOS, Macintosh, PC-98 | 1991) art
first use: cover to Queen of the Spider adventure module (1986)
- Death Gate (Legend Entertainment Company | DOS | 1994)
- Operation Body Count (Capstone Software | DOS | 1994)
- Slayer (Strategic Simulations, Inc. | 3DO | 1994)
- EverQuest (989 Studios | Macintosh, Windows | 1999)
- EverQuest: The Ruins of Kunark (Sony Online Entertainment Inc. | Windows | 2000)
- EverQuest: The Scars of Velious (Sony Online Entertainment Inc. | Windows | 2000)
- Wizards & Warriors (Activision | Windows | 2000)
- Everquest: Trilogy (Sony Online Entertainment Inc. | Windows | 2001) compilation of prior artwork
- EverQuest: The Shadows of Luclin (Sony Online Entertainment Inc. | Windows | 2001)
- Summoner (THQ Inc. | Windows | 2001)
- EverQuest: The Planes of Power (Sony Online Entertainment Inc. | Windows | 2002)
- EverQuest: Gold Edition (Sony Online Entertainment Inc. | Windows | 2002) Firiona Vie image on front appears to be recycled from The Ruins of Kunark
Keith's art for the computer game Xenocide was also used as the cover art for Jerry Pournelle's 1989 book Prince of Mercenaries, book 2 in the Falkenberg's Legion series. While some sites (Mobygames) list Xenocide's Apple IIgs release year as 1987, other sources (Wikipedia) have the Apple IIgs release as 1989. The latter is more likely, especially as it would allow for the art to have first been commissioned for the book cover and then reused for the game box, a common practice of the era. Similarly, Keith's 1988 book cover painting for The Burning Eye, book 1 in the Warworld series by Jerry Pournelle, was later reused for the 1994 computer game Operation Body Count.