Last week marked the passing of Ralph McQuarrie, the visionary artist behind a huge percentage of the works that established the visual style of Star Wars. Given that I've looked at his work since the 70s, I wanted to share some thoughts.
The Art of Star Wars was probably my first introduction to the world of concept art when I was young. I didn't own a copy for years, but now I own one for each movie, plus similar works for other movies and games. From the concept art to the hardline plan drawings, I've always loved seeing the behind the scenes art that didn't make the cut for some reason. Years ago, I picked up a couple of portfolios of concept painting from Star Wars and Empire. I still need to find a way to properly display the prints, but they cover the classic images at a scale you can't get from a book or computer screen.
When I went to Star Wars Celebration V, they had a McQuarrie exhibit. For me, it was a major highlight of the show. You could get right up on the original sketches and see the process right on the page.
The visual style of Star Wars is defiantly a major draw for me, much like the music styling. Without it, it isn't Star Wars. I first really recognized this fact when some of the steam punk Star Wars images started showing up years ago. If that had been the image of Star Wars from the beginning, I don't think I would have become as big of a fan. Of course, my impression of steam punk is a bit...erratic. I like some of it, but it's hard to predict what.
Anyway, I was blown away when I learned my first Star Wars RPG product, Flashpoint! Brak Sector got a McQuarrie cover. It was rotated and cropped to cleverly disguise that the book didn't include some kind of Death Star. I was fortunate to have a McQuarrie piece used on my other solo WEG work, Hideouts & Strongholds. Here, one of my hideout plans was superimposed over the cover as a kind of schematic floor plan. If I would have known this image was to be used, I would have worked it into the product.
You can find more about McQuarrie at the links below: