Ralph McQuarrie’s art must look familiar to generations of movie goers, his work featured in Star Wars, Battlestar Gallactica and a slew of sci-fi flicks. He was a conceptual artist, and past away this year in March at the age of 83. He left behind a legacy of fantastic moonscapes, robots, and epic futuristic space stations.
McQuarrie started off drawing teeth and aeroplane parts for a dentistry firm and Boeing respectively, and created posters for the Apollo Space Program. His technical illustration ended up catching the eye of George Lucas, who commissioned him to create conceptual art work for his new film, Starwars.
“McQuarrie designed many of the film’s characters, including Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO and drew many concepts for the film’s sets. It was McQuarrie who suggested that Vader wear breathing apparatus. McQuarrie’s concept paintings, including such scenes as R2-D2 and C-3PO arriving on Tatooine, helped convince 20th Century Fox to fund Star Wars, which became a huge success upon release in 1977.Neil Kendricks of The San Diego Union-Tribune stated McQuarrie “holds a unique position when it comes to defining much of the look of the “Star Wars” universe.”McQuarrie noted, “I thought I had the best job that an artist ever had on a film, and I had never worked on a feature film before. […] I still get fan mail — people wondering if I worked on Episode I or just wanting to have my autograph.” source
His work carved out a particular style within the sci-fi-fantasy genre, creating landscapes and worlds that one could really imagine inhabiting, vast alien vistas receding into the distance, populated with characters that, brought into our lives through cinema, feel like old friends.
“Ralph McQuarrie’s life can be clearly divided into two distinct sections: before Star Wars, he was an industrious, skilled, virtually unknown technical illustrator; after Star Wars, he became the most sought after Production Illustrator ever to work in films.
A primary reason for this change, of course, has to do with the film’s unprecedented success. But, in a very real sense, Star Wars wouldn’t have been the film it was without McQuarrie. His eyes and hands were the first lenses through which Star Wars was focused and captured for Lucas’ inspection and refinement.” source
You can find out more, and see more of his art on his website.