Josh Kirby died on Tuesday 23rd October in bed at his home in Norfolk. Although Josh Kirby had had heart problems over the last couple of years he was very chirpy and full of life the last time I spoke to him only a week before his death and was telling me about his work on a new 'Voyage of the Ayeguy' painting. His death is a very sad sudden shock to all of us. Even those who barely knew Josh Kirby would all say the same thing - he was a very kind, charming, friendly man who was totally dedicated to his vocation and a Master Craftsman in the old traditional sense.
Josh Kirby was the perfect gentleman and one of the most professional people you could ever have the pleasure to deal with. Josh was that rare character whose word was always inviolable. If he told you he would do something you could trust that as much as the sun coming up the next day. With regards to Josh Kirby's work, his fame and the accolades he has received throughout his career speak for themselves. People often forget that Josh Kirby was a well-established professional artist long before the Discworld series with which he became inseparably related.
Josh Kirby defined how the Discworld looked right from the start. As Terry Pratchett once said, there are very few cover artists who have quite so strongly associated themselves with the books they front. Josh Kirby’s professional and painstaking approach to his work is evident from the way he thoroughly read each book, made endless notes and sketches and then worked meticulously to produce the finished painting. Josh kirby also demonstrated a brilliant use of perspective (see ‘Small Gods’ for instance where we are appropriately on our knees as the viewer!) and always had a determination to do something unusual. He would experiment with different techniques and include lots of little details that sometimes go unnoticed.
But Josh Kirby was not just a “working artist”; he was a painter in the old traditional sense. Josh Kirby loved painting. It was his life. Business concerns, whilst necessary, were not of much real interest to him, quite simple because they stopped him from painting. Josh kirby's great love was his own project ‘Voyage of the Ayeguy’ which was a series of paintings depicting the story of a kind of sci-fi evangelism and its consequences. As well as all the reproductions of Josh Kirby's paintings there are two books all about Josh Kirby’s work – ‘Garden of Unearthly Delights’ and ‘Cosmic Cornucopia’ which cover much of his career right from his early days through to the later Discworld paintings. These live on as a testament to the brilliant creativity of Josh Kirby.
It was Josh Kirby’s wish, in his typically generous and openhearted way, that his paintings should be available to be seen by anyone without charge. He could have made a lot of money by selling his originals but this was not his motivation. Josh Kirby was a true artist in every sense of the word and it is our fervent hope that a permanent exhibition of Josh Kirby’s paintings will be made available one day to celebrate the work of this great artist whom we will all miss very much and whose death is a very sad loss for this world as much as it is for the Discworld.
“I am a painter, that’s what I do, I paint” – Josh Kirby.
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