Conceptual Artist Ralph McQuarrie
July 6, 2006 12:09 PM   Subscribe

Ralph McQuarrie is a fabulous conceptual artist best known for his work on the Star Wars films. His new webpage showcases his art from the past 25+ years. He now has Parkinson's and cannot draw anymore, but it is an amazing site.
posted by bove (21 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
i looked thruogh this site for ages, wondering if it was clever ironic ploy, and my limited grasp of popular culture that had failed me.... but then concluded that, no, Mr. McQuarrie was probably a concept artist, rather than a conceptual artist.
posted by silence at 12:34 PM on July 6, 2006

What do you mean he can't draw any more? Just pass his post-Parkinson's drawings through Photoshop CS2's Smart Sharpen filter to remove the motion blur...
posted by pmbuko at 1:07 PM on July 6, 2006

Yeah, silence, I would have skipped the post altogether, thinking it was some tedious "conceptual artist" -- but the "Star Wars" mention tipped me off that it might in fact be about someone who has actual talent. And so it is!
posted by Faze at 1:15 PM on July 6, 2006

Faze: Why that particular link? Is it intended as a comment on conceptual art generally, Sol Lewitt in particular or something else?
posted by The Bellman at 1:28 PM on July 6, 2006

I didn't think the phrasing "conceptual artist" would throw people off. That is how it is worded in Wikipedia and other places I have seen people like him described. I think it is amazing how much his art actually inspired George Lucas and that so much of what Star Wars looks like is directly attributable to his work.

It is also interesting to note that on his site it mentions that he does not own copyright to much of his work. Instead it is owned by the companies that employed him.
posted by bove at 1:35 PM on July 6, 2006

As a kid, Ralph McQuarrie and Syd Mead were the artists I most wanted to be. I still love looking at their work.
posted by bashos_frog at 1:37 PM on July 6, 2006

Ralph McQuarrie is one of the reasons I have a job. I'm a concept artist. Thanks, Ralph!

I'm really sorry to hear he has Parkinson's. He's an amazing artist.

Hmf... argh. "Early Days" gallery links aren't working in my (admittedly outdated) version of Firefox, or in IE. Maybe that part isn't all up yet.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:41 PM on July 6, 2006

bashos_frog, I *still* want to be Syd Mead! :)

It is also interesting to note that on his site it mentions that he does not own copyright to much of his work. Instead it is owned by the companies that employed him.

That's pretty much standard procedure. Everything I do for my employer is work-for-hire. I usually have the right to reproduce it for my portfolio, but not always. When you're a concept artist, they're not actually paying you for the art, they're paying you for the ideas, which you communicate via the art.
posted by zoogleplex at 1:53 PM on July 6, 2006

Oops, forgot the italics there, sorry...
posted by zoogleplex at 2:04 PM on July 6, 2006

As an aspiring young artist I remember pretty much all the Star Wars stuff from the first two movies on his site. Super freakin' cool!
posted by photoslob at 2:18 PM on July 6, 2006

It's really interesting, looking over the film portfolio, to find out what the directors changed and what they kept exactly the same.

Storm Troopers, Galactica, the Cylon HQ, Jabba's hover ship, the Banther's lair, ATATs, Cloud City, the Hoth drone; all perfectly respected, reproduced, animated for the final film.
C3PO, Yoda, Cylons, Jawas, Chewbacca; all "wrong" in obvious, now glaring ways.

Wonderful retrospective preview art, thanks bove.
posted by NinjaTadpole at 3:00 PM on July 6, 2006

Did Ralph work on the Star Wars prequels?

Ralph was offered an opportunity to work on the Star Wars prequels, and as he saw what Doug Chiang and the art department were doing, he really didn't think he could add to the wonderful work they were doing, and he respectfully declined, allowing the new generation of artists to carry the torch.

posted by Chuckles at 3:08 PM on July 6, 2006

In response to overwhelming demand, Lucasfilm Ltd. and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will release attractively priced individual two-disc releases of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Each release includes the 2004 digitally remastered version of the movie and, as bonus material, the theatrical edition of the film. That means you'll be able to enjoy Star Wars as it first appeared in 1977, Empire in 1980, and Jedi in 1983.
They sure know how to milk the fans, but at least they're going to do it..
posted by Chuckles at 3:15 PM on July 6, 2006

That "new generation" is a bunch of monsters, man. They are all so good. Scott Robertson. Ryan Church. Iain McCaig. Stephan Martiniere. Feng Zhu. Erik Tiemens. Ed Natividad. Neville Page. Nick Pugh. Harald Belker. Mark Goerner. "Sparth."

There are many more, but these guys are the top of the heap right now. We're all playing catchup with these guys, and boy it ain't easy!
posted by zoogleplex at 3:25 PM on July 6, 2006 [3 favorites]

I still remember vividly being five years old, standing next to my brothers as my father had bought a selection of prints from McQuarrie's Star Wars art (this was in the days just prior to the movie's release, when we were all anticipating it like crazy), and each of the three children (myself & my two brothers) taking turns picking a favorite, until all 9 in the pack were divvied up between us. I hung this one, this one & this one on my walls for a couple years.
posted by jonson at 3:49 PM on July 6, 2006

I'm looking through those zoogleplex..

Apparently Ryan Church and Stephan Martiniere both worked on 2 and 3, but not 1. You can definitely see this in the movies as Episode 1 has a different look from the later two. It is obviously beautiful work, but it doesn't look like Star Wars to me.. I guess if the movies had been any good I would have been happier with the differences.

I also wonder if something has been lost now that it is possible to render the concept artist's work in such detail on the screen. Perhaps the constraint of working within a limited medium had value..
posted by Chuckles at 3:50 PM on July 6, 2006

Zoogleplex, that's a great FPP right there.
posted by painquale at 3:57 PM on July 6, 2006

Zoogleplex, that's a great FPP right there.

No kidding -- thanks for those links!
posted by Kloryne at 4:03 PM on July 6, 2006

Wow, I came for the FPP (had The Art of Star Wars as a kid)--but damn, Zoogleplex!
posted by everichon at 5:54 PM on July 6, 2006

Wonderful stuff, a pity it's not all up yet. It did give me pause that he designed for the Star Wars Holiday Special, too...but then he didn't include Art Carney in his drawings, so I won't hold him responsible for the train wreck that resulted.
posted by emjaybee at 6:10 PM on July 6, 2006

Yeah, Doug Chiang (should have been with the other links!) was pretty much the "featured" artist on 1, along with Ed Natividad and a few others (apologies for not knowing them all). I think Nilo Rodis-Jamero (no site, apparently) might have worked on it a bit, too, but I don't have my Ep 1 art book handy.

Doug left the Ranch sometime after Ep 1 - perhaps early in the Ep 2 process? - to go work on his own books and films.

It's nice to have a thread that touches on my biz! :) I got started in the "concept art" state of mind with The Star Wars Sketchbook, which I got for Christmas in 1977, with production design drawings by Joe Johnston. For a whole host of reasons, it took me another 18 years before I was able to get a concept art job.

I've had the pleasure of meeting most of these guys, and I studied under Feng Zhu at the Gnomon School - if you are really into this kind of design and production art, they have some fantastic DVD technique instruction series by all of these guys and more. Syd Mead's is particularly interesting, but they are all really instructive.

Someday maybe I'll be almost as good as these guys... maybe. But all of us are really Syd, Ralph and Joe's "kids," most definitely.

And speaking of which, we're on crunch time, I gotta get back to work!
posted by zoogleplex at 7:36 PM on July 6, 2006

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