Sunday, 4 March 2012


Master of dreams made artistic reality: the late Ralph McQuarrie.

There's an old idiom that you can tell what a race of people are like through their art. I believe that's also true for the actual individual talents who create that art, too. And, in the case of the supreme STAR WARS conceptual talent that was Ralph McQuarrie, who sadly left us yesterday at the age of 82, his evocative, beautiful, colourful and nuanced work will live forever, and continue to inspire, uplift and resonate in the hearts and minds of all of his fans, film-buffs and lovers of art.

I never had the pleasure or privilege to meet Ralph, but through his generous and helpful artistic agents (most notably John Scoleri and Paul Bateman) he could never have had more enthusiastic and passionate representatives, and very good friends, to help him preserve and showcase his talents for generations now and to come.

My first proper introduction to Ralph McQuarrie: THE STAR WARS PORTFOLIO.

On a more personal note/tribute regarding Ralph's work, I'll never forget in the summer of 1978 receiving that original STAR WARS ART PORTFOLIO-published in the US by BALLANTINE, and a gift from my brother who had come back from attending a science fiction convention at Brighton Beach. With that stunning cover shot of an overwhelming Darth Vader fighting Deak Starkiller with laser swords, it comprised 22 pages of McQuarrie's stunning conceptual pieces for the first STAR WARS movie from 1975 and 1976 pre-production-the images that had helped creator George Lucas sell his vision for the movie to the suits and executives at 20th CENTURY FOX. I had prior seen some of this marvellous artwork printed in magazines post the films release but they had always appeared in varying crops and printed quality that never truly showcased it as well as it should have. Now, to see this art properly printed and giving us the full canvas of McQuarrie's imagination...well, it took my breath away. It made me want to draw STAR WARS environments, characters, key scenes and action, and beyond. And draw I did (though badly). But, I admiringly thought, if he could do such incredible work, there was a chance that I could do something like that and follow in his footsteps, too. Such dreams were soon impossible for me as an individual, and never to ultimately materialise, but I can at least help celebrate Ralph's indomitable talents with all of you out there. A talent in the case of McQuarrie so rare that it should never be underestimated, and will always be savoured and enjoyed.

A 1975 (?) image of Lucas with the Ralph McQuarrie conceptual art for THE STAR WARS, which helped sell the film to nervous 20th CENTURY FOX execs.
An unused but lovely poster art concept by McQuarrie for STAR WARS.
The now very rare first STAR WARS paperback from late 1976, with powerful art from McQuarrie.  It quickly sold out at the time, and with a cover like this, I'm not surprised.
Ralph at work in 1979/80 at ILM on a matte painting of the Millennium Falcon at Bespin for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

Ralph made the visually impossible possible in his incredible and expressive body of work for film, TV and books, and showed us a rich, exciting and atmospheric future in STAR WARS that we always, primordially in our collective hearts and minds, wanted to see and love with the revolutionary space saga now sprung into being from George Lucas' imaginative gestalt.

At a US 501st event in 2008, Ralph has fun with his visual conception made real, the mighty Darth Vader. Image: STARWARS.COM

On behalf of the millions of fans out there, thank you, Ralph McQuarrie, for all your incredible work and your iconic contributions to the original STAR WARS saga, which also delightfully continue to impact into THE CLONE WARS animated series and beyond. Our condolences go out to his wife Joan and his friends across the world. Ralph, you will be greatly missed...

Tributes: THE ART OF RALPH McQUARRIE Home - News

George Lucas pays tribute: | Ralph McQuarrie Remembered

BBC News: BBC News - Star Wars artist Ralph McQuarrie dies aged 82

Here's AFICIONADO's visual tribute to Mister McQuarrie, presenting some of our favourite pieces of his work related to STAR WARS, plus other rarities...

Early work on Luke Skywalker, aka Luke Starkiller, when he was a boy and a girl!
An early older version of Han Solo with Chewbacca the Wookiee.
An early Darth Vader/Stormtrooper/Dark Lord hybrid.
An insect-like, but no less dangerous, early version of Darth Vader.
A work in progress for Artoo and Threepio, as seen in THE ART OF RALPH McQUARRIE.
The evolving form of the Millennium Falcon starship, as seen in THE ART OF RALPH McQUARRIE.
The evolving X-wing fighter, as seen in THE ART OF RALPH McQUARRIE.
Early poster art and other ideas for STAR WARS.
A wonderful poster art idea later given 30th Anniversary life in 2007 by artist/adaptor Lawrence Noble.

Superb art from Ralph of the Death Star trench run, specially commissioned by the STAR WARS FAN CLUB.
Dark times for Luke and Leia on Mimban in 1978's SPLINTER OF THE MIND'S EYE. The first STAR WARS Expanded Universe book, by Alan Dean Foster, with superb cover art from McQuarrie.
More of McQuarrie's distinctive art- VADER IN FLAMES- for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.
Ralph at London's Elstree Studios, working on various conceptual/production art for EMPIRE in 1978/79.
Early art showing a Rebel scout (or Luke?) on a Tauntaun escaping Imperial Walker fire on Hoth
Luke and Tauntaun buddy on patrol in a world famous piece of art from McQuarrie.
Rebel X-wings depart their base on Hoth in this McQuarrie thumbnail sketch.
Ralph would make a cameo in EMPIRE as General McQuarrie, alongside fellow matte painter Rebels Harrison Ellenshaw (left) and Michael Pangrazio (right).
On the very cool blue ice world of Hoth, a Rebel Ion Cannon weapon blasts upwards at the Imperials.
An angle I wish had been in the actual film, as a Rebel Snowspeeder makes its bold bid to snare an Imperial Walker.
Rare pencil art of Luke's confronting Vader on Bespin.
Our heroes make a break for the Falcon in an exciting 1978 conceptual painting.
Bounty Hunters assemble on Bespin in another wonderful STAR WARS FAN CLUB art commission.
Santa Yoda makes an appearance on one of Ralph's STAR WARS Xmas cards for LUCASFILM.
Not one but two Death Star's would make an appearance in an early version of REVENGE OF THE JEDI.
Through the gates of hell, Artoo and Threepio meet Bib Fortuna in RETURN OF THE JEDI.
One of several lovely conceptual art ideas by Ralph for Jabba the Hutt's palace on Tatooine.
On the brink of death above the Sarlaac Pit, Luke Skywalker soon makes his escape bid.
Han wrestles with an alien warrior, as the rest of his friends continue their skiff fight.

Check out our other Ralph McQuarrie related features here: STAR WARS AFICIONADO MAGAZINE: RALPH McQUARRIE

Recently found poster icon art for THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

Video footage linked to Ralph and STAR WARS: Star Wars: The Art Of Ralph McQuarrie - YouTube
Ralph McQuarrie induction into the 501st Legion - YouTube

Ralph McQuarrie: June 13th, 1929 - March 3rd, 2012.


Jason said...

This is a very good collection of McQuarrie work you put together here and a fitting encapsulation of his professional life with Star Wars.

Anonymous said...

Great selection. I love the elegant disigns of Ralph McQuarrie.