Sunday, March 04, 2012

Ralph McQuarrie (1929-2012)

The great concept artist Ralph McQuarrie, whose pioneering work created the look of Star Wars, passed away yesterday at the age of 82.  I can't think of any artist who has had bigger impact on pop culture.  The ideas may have come from George Lucas, but what we see on the screen came from the pen of McQuarrie.  Some of my favorite books to thumb through to this day are The Illustrated Star Wars Universe, and the three volumes of The Art of Star Wars, full of the worlds, machines, creatures and characters created by McQuarrie.

Without his designs, Star Wars may not have even been made.  When Lucas was struggling to sell his project to the studios, he used some of McQuarrie's early concept art to convince executives to green-light the film.   It's easy to see why.  His visuals have such scope, detail and imagination you really want to visit those worlds.  He won an Oscar for his design work in 1985, not for Star Wars (amazingly), but for Cocoon. He was also the conceptual artist for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial,  and the Battlestar Galactica TV series.

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