Sunday, March 4, 2012

Farewell to Ralph McQuarrie

Artist and illustrator Ralph McQuarrie died March 3. He was 82.

If his name isn't automatically familiar, then you were never a Star Wars fanatic. But for those who can instantly recall seeing McQuarrie's concept and production art for the first three Star Wars films -- and you know which three we mean -- you'll understand why so many nerds seem more despondent than usual.

We agree strongly with Bleeding Cool writer Brendon Connelly's sentiment regarding McQuarrie's work:

"Some of the designs in the first three Star Wars films are honestly amazing work. The man we have to thank for this is Ralph McQuarrie, the concept artist who really set the tone for the film, much more so than any other individual. And I’m including George Lucas in that ... I’m not being disingenuous when I say that I love these paintings far more than the films they fuelled."

McQuarrie's concept art for Star Wars, before there was any hint of a sequel, let alone a franchise, reach a level of wonder and fantasy that the films could never have matched. His paintings and sketches do exactly what good art and great illustration should: immerse you in someone else's imagination. The lure of the art pulls so strong that you add to it your own tangents and meanings.

His Metropolis-style C-3PO and gear-covered Luke Skywalker reveal much about McQuarrie's understanding of George Lucas' inspiration and references. The hardware looks antiquated, the textures dusty and worn, exactly the type of lived-in universe that makes it seem possible.

Check out the various galleries on the Ralph McQuarrie Website and see the work he did for other films, his book covers, and his personal gallery. Just as Frank Frazetta will forever be linked to Conan the Barbarian, McQuarrie will always be the Star Wars design guy. A fine legacy for sure, but do take a look at what else he achieved.