Monday, March 5, 2012

The Loss of a SciFi Visionary

I remember as a kid spending hours scouring through art books my aunt had given me featuring scenes from the Star Wars movies by Ralph McQuarrie and tearing out my favorite images to decorate the walls of my bedroom.  These fantastic images transported me to other worlds and helped develop my sense of curiosity, expanded my imagination, and enhanced my interest in comics and science fiction.  As an adult I continue to be a big fan of science fiction and still keep a copy of Ralph McQuarrie's "The Illustrated Star Wars Universe" on my bookshelf.  So I was extremely saddened to hear of McQuarrie passing away on Sunday, March 4, 2012. He was 82 years old.

Ralph McQuarrie was an Oscar-winning concept art designer who created the look of many of the Star Wars movie characters including Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Boba Fett, C-3PO, and R2-D2.  George Lucas released a statement about McQuarrie’s death, saying:

“Ralph McQuarrie was the first person I hired to help me envision Star Wars. His genial contribution, in the form of unequaled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy. When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s fabulous illustrations and say,  ‘Do it like this.’ ”

McQuarrie started his career as a technical illustrator for Boeing and also did freelance work on the side designing movie posters.  This side gig led to an assignment doing artwork to promote CBS' coverage of NASA's Apollo space program.  McQuarrie's NASA artwork caught the attention of George Lucas who recruited him to design some of the characters for the original Star Wars movie.  He went on to provide concept artwork for characters and set designs for all three of the original Star Wars movies: A New Hope, Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi.

In addition to working on the Star Wars franchise, McQuarrie provided artwork on several other notable Hollywood SciFi productions.  He won an Oscar in 1986 for best visual effects in the movie Cocoon.  McQuarrie also drew the bible artwork displayed within the film Indiana Jones & the Lost Ark illustrating the ark of the covenant; designed the spaceship in E.T. with a Dr. Seussical inspiration and also the mother ship in Close Encounters of the Third Kind; and provided concept designs for a never-released Star Trek movie and TV series which this artwork was later used for inspiration in developing Star Trek the Motion Picture and the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series.  CLICK HERE to visit the official Ralph McQuarrie website which features many images of his artwork and stories from his amazing life.  He also has a Facebook fan page:  

McQuarrie also worked on another one of my favorite Science Fiction franchises: Battle Star Galactica.  He provided concept sketches for the design of ships and aliens on Battlestar Galactica in 1978.  He was also asked to paint 24 color images to be used to help sell the first script for the show's pilot "Saga of a Star World" to television network executives.  CLICK HERE  to view a gallery of these exciting images which feature colonial vipers, cylon raiders, and views of a battlestar warship.

Ralph McQuarrie may be gone but will not be forgotten as his artwork lives on for the appreciation of future generations.  Thank you Ralph for being such an inspiration to so many of us geek daddies in the world.  Your vision and talent is appreciated and will continue to be!

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