Are there any films in the universe that causes a warmer and more excited feeling in people’s hearts than the original Star Wars trilogy? I don’t think there is, not round my house any way. So when I came across this Star Wars art I was bowled over in oodles.
The name Ralph McQuarrie might not ring many bells in most people’s brains, but the art work he produced certainly will. He was lucky enough to be asked by George Lucas to sketch up what the Star Wars trilogy should look like. In 1975 George Lucas employed the young artist to illustrate scenes from the Star Wars script, he was the first person employed to help realise Lucas’ vision of the film.
Looking through the images he created it’s difficult to imagine that before McQuarrie drew these characters, spacecraft and scenes, no one had ever seen them. They’re all so ingrained in the public psyche that it’s hard to conceive what life must have been like before people knew what Chewbacca, the Millenium Falcon and C3PO looked like.
McQuarrie had no idea how big the film would become of course. In fact he thought the sets would be so expensive and the target audience so small that it would never even get made. He admits that this actually helped his creative process as he felt free from all limitations, after all, if they weren’t going to be able to make it he didn’t have to worry about budget constraints or all of the rest of that boring stuff. He just painted. And gee whizz, he’s not bad at painting.
Some of ideas he drew up differ from the finished product, it was early days. For instance, the lightsabers all glow white and are held by lower beings like Stormtroopers, not just the Jedi dudes. The myth surrounding the saber would come later on. What’s more surprising is the amount of stuff that poured out of McQuarrie’s brain that did make it into the film in pretty much the exact same format.
Interesting Star Wars geek fact: it was McQuarrie’s idea to give Darth Vader his breathing apparatus, what an accolade.
Lucas made no bones about the importance of McQuarrie’s visual input on the creation of the series:
The way that he illustrated them was an influence on those characters, how they acted. When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s illustrations and say “Do it like this”.
There’s no doubt that centuries from now amazing spaceships will soar. Future cities will rise. And someone, somewhere will say That looks like something Ralph McQuarrie painted.
Skip through the following slides and get a pleasant eyeful of skillful nostalgia: