A very belated post. Another pop culture legend and artist has passed. Ralph McQuarrie, American conceptual designer and illustrator who designed the original Star Wars trilogy, the original Battlestar Galactica television series, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Cocoon (for which he won an Academy Award) died at the age of 82 from complications of Parkinson’s disease at his Berkeley, California home on Saturday, March 3rd, 2012.

At the time, I was on a vacation in beautiful Manzanita, Oregon, when he passed, not hearing the news of his death until the latter part of last week. Coincidentally, on the last night of our stay at the grand beach house, we popped in VHS copies of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi and watched the films all of the way through. While we wathched Episode V and VI, someone even mentioned the notion that the production design seemed to still hold up, was somewhat timeless, while everything else came off as slightly dated.

McQuarrie designed many of the Star Wars‘ characters, including Darth VaderChewbaccaR2-D2C-3PO and came up with many concepts for the film’s sets. It was McQuarrie who suggested that Vader wear a breathing apparatus. McQuarrie’s concept paintings, including scenes of R2-D2 and C-3PO arriving on Tatooine, helped convince 20th Century Fox to fund Star Wars,

What can you say about about Ralph McQuarrie? He was a science fiction legend and an influential master concept designer who provided the integral vision for Episodes IV, V, and VI. The Star Wars films that were great, not the tripe known as the prequels. But it’s true, to clarify, Episodes I, II and III are a confused, indulgent, overstuffed, over-designed, digital bukkake, while the films graced by McQuarrie’s golden touch richly resonate with a warmth, artistry, and craftsmanship. The design within McQuarrie’s films were accessible…they had soul. Now, this isn’t some polemic about “analog versus digital” but it’s as clear as day. Witness the application of effects via contrasting mediums and the disparity in affect is crystal. Warmth and vitality (and cold and ominous when it was appropriate) versus hollow and sterile. Sure, film direction, narrative structure and storytelling are key but the production design in these movies are half the battle.

If Mœbius (another hero of mine that passed in the same week) stoked my artistic fire as a young comic book collector and artist/illustrator/painter…then Ralph McQuarrie (along with Syd Mead) cemented by love for science fiction and futurism. Ralph instilled in me a sense of tactility within representation, an impression of movement and perspective within a vision, he inspired the perception and spatial-recognition that is necessary as I design as an architect. This man was cooler than cool. Legendary.

The Art of Ralph McQuarrie:

It is with the deepest sadness that we announce the passing of Ralph McQuarrie.

People say you should never meet your heroes. Ralph was the exception to that rule. We were all fans of his amazing art long before we were blessed with his friendship. But once you got to know Ralph it was impossible not to become a fan of Ralph the man.

Ralph was a very special person for many more reasons than his undeniable brilliance with a brush. He was an especially kind, sensitive, deep, modest, funny and fascinating gentleman. And as fine a role model as any one could have wished for.

His influence on design will be felt forever. There’s no doubt in our hearts that centuries from now amazing spaceships will soar, future cities will rise and someone, somewhere will say…

“that looks like something Ralph McQuarrie painted.”

George Lucas:

I am deeply saddened by the passing of such a visionary artist and such a humble man. 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.’

Beyond the movies, his artwork has inspired at least two generations of younger artists—all of whom learned through Ralph that movies are designed. Like me, they were thrilled by his keen eye and creative imagination, which always brought concepts to their most ideal plateau. In many ways, he was a generous father to a conceptual art revolution that was born of his artwork, and which seized the imaginations of thousands and propelled them into the film industry. In that way, we will all be benefiting from his oeuvre for generations to come. Beyond that, I will always remember him as a kind and patient, and wonderfully talented, friend and collaborator.

The Force will be with you, ALWAYSRalph McQuarrie.

@teemunny

 

 

 

 


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