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Tim White (1952-) is a science fiction and fantasy artist, whose main focus is on commissioned artwork, primarily for book covers, but he has also designed record sleeves and magazine illustrations. Born in Kent, White joined the Medway College of Art in 1968, where his unique detailed style was allowed to develop without commercial pressure, and he completed his course there in 1972. His work was first used commercially on the cover of Arthur C. Clarke's The Other Side of the Sky, and since then, White has produced more than one hundred book covers.

His style is both distinctive and perfectly suited to science fiction, as he fills every piece with meticulous and exhaustive detail. A typical example of this is his IceRigger, in which the paths of every character can be traced by their footprints or ski trails through the snow. This lends all his paintings an immediate beauty and verisimilitude, and also rewards the viewer who studies any work extensively. Such care for realism, even in distinctly surreal pieces, is one feature that makes White so recognisable. White's love for detail apparently stems from a childhood fascination with discovering new details in familiar illustrations.

White does not restrict himself to painting, for he has also turned his hand to sculpture. For example, he constructed a 230mm plasticine model of a "little grey man," and used this is a reference piece for the 1980 painting UFO UK, which appeared on the cover of Peter Paget's book of the same name.

White is unafraid to experiment with mildly erotic pieces, such as his graphic The Space Machine, which features an unignorable selection of exposed female bodies. In these pieces, the naked body is used as a symbol for mortal vulnerability, but one could cynically view it as a simple appeal to the stereotyped science fiction readership. The sexual implication of many women being over-powered by one foreign beast is obvious.

White's work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and anyone with a selection of science fiction works will doubtless have encountered his illustrations.

Credit for this piece

Much factual information: The Science Fiction and Fantasy World of Tim White, Mandarin Publishers 1981. An excellent compilation of his finest works, recommended to anyone who has appreciated Tim's work.
All criticism of his art is my own.

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