What always made Star Wars stand out among other science fiction and fantasy films was the atmosphere and mood. George Lucas had the idea to take the aesthetic of Saturday morning Space Operas and make them into something old and mythic. Ralph McQuarrie, the conceptual artist for the Star Wars trilogy, took that idea and made it visible. His concept paintings capture the feeling, somehow even the themes of the story. There is a reason Anthony Daniels decided to take the part of C3PO after seeing a McQuarrie painting.
Even beyond his contributions to Star Wars, McQuarrie is one of my favorite artists. Period. Full stop. If I had never seen a single Star Wars film, his paintings of Mos Eisley, Bespin, the Millennium Falcon, they would all make me want to know more about the story they were telling and the world they were set in.
I had just shut off my tablet after working on a drawing when I heard the news that McQuarrie had passed, and while I had felt pretty good about what I had done, I was immediately reminded how brilliant narrative art can be, and how far I still have to go. Click through the link and look at the slideshow. Because these paintings deserve better than a dark Google image jpeg. RIP Ralph McQuarrie.
George Lucas remembers Ralph McQuarrie. Gallery of McQuarrie concept art.