Ralph McQuarrie was an Illustrator par excellence and perhaps best known for his concept design work on the Star Wars franchise circa 1970s and early 1980s.
He passed yesterday at the age of 82.
To understand the incredible passion and virility of this man's designs is to truly know that he spawned a industry of entertainment artists that now call themselves CONCEPT ARTISTS. But at the time, there wasn't a proper name for what McQuarrie did for George Lucas on his movies or even subsequently on the original Battlestar Galactica. He is undoubtedly one of the godfathers of concept design for films and entertainment. In his career, many beloved films received the contribution of his vision. 'Raiders of The Lost Ark', 'Star Trek: The Movie', 'Back to the Future', 'Batteries Not Included', 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind', 'Cocoon' and many more felt the extensive skills at McQuarrie's disposal.
Ralph's design sensibilities crept into my psyche as a kid and motivated me to want to become a artist. He created so many iconic visions that felt real and usable in a world a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away...
I remember seeing this image (above) on the front of 'The Art of Star Wars' portfolio when I was a kid and being blown away by its portent. It focused on a scene in my young mind that should have happened in 'A New Hope', but didn't actually occur until 'The Empire Strikes Back' (in which McQuarrie made a cameo appearance by the way). Amazed yet confused, I HAD to have that book.
Now here's where it gets personal: My parents had just split up. And my mother, while well-meaning, simply couldn't afford it at the time. So I scraped together every quarter I could to get it. But by the time I could afford it, it was gone from the shelves. This was obviously pre-Internet mind, so I could never find a copy that I could afford. Coupled with distractions and changes of taste as you get older and its all too easy to lose focus on those things which really matter most.
That said, I will definitely try to find a copy again this year! To say McQuarrie's work has profoundly added to my visual expectation and learning is also belied by the massive amounts of other creatives and dreamers his work has influenced as well. Artists. Directors. Writers. Musicians. Doctors. Presidents. The list can go on and on.
Several years ago, Swain and I wanted to have him on the show. We made contact with individuals that tried to help us in this endeavor. However, by the time we came into our own as a show, McQuarrie was no longer interested or even able to conduct interviews. I've lamented this fact for many years, to the point that he will ALWAYS be the one that got away for me personally.
But as consolation, I discovered that there is a video bio-pic out there to be obtained called Ralph McQuarrie: Illustrator.
Rest In Peace, General.
May the Force be with You Always.