Artist Overview: Ralph McQuarrie (Part 2)

This is the second part of my ”journey” through the magnificent book, Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie, Volume I-II. This post is about the second half of the first book Volume I and it consist of McQuarrie’s illustrations done for The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

There’s couple of things I’d like to point out I found interesting. It seems Boba Fett looking character was to be an Imperial commander, who would have had a significant role in the battle of Hoth. McQuarrie’s designs draws heavily from the ancient samurai/shogun style helmet designs and costumes as well. There’s no clear explanation in the book why this character was cut from the final film.

Second interesting thing that was cut out from the final film was the Darth Vader’s castle. It looks like one of the medieval castles found in Transylvania, Romania. It has real traditional castle feel to it and I think it was better to cut out from the final film. It explains too heavy-handedly the origins of the character and makes him appear too much Nosferatu/Count Dracula character. Concept sketches of Vader’s castle offers really fascinating view on the character development and what Lucas had originally visioned Darth Vader to be.

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Artist Overview: Ralph McQuarrie

”Ralph McQuarrie is the most iconic artist in the history of Star Wars. He worked hand-in-hand with George Lucas to help establish the saga’s visual aesthetic, it’s inimitable look and feel.”

Above text is from the dustjacket of Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie, a massive two volume book set, which illustrates Ralph McQuarrie’s design work on the original Star Wars trilogy. Before Star Wars assignment,  McQuarrie worked as an illustrator in the Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle.  McQuarrie’s first proper film industry assignment was  to illustrate a film poster for Charles B. Pierce’s The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972). While moving from Seattle to Los Angeles McQuarrie established new contacts to people working in the film industry. Director Hal Barwood contacted McQuarrie late in 1971 about illustrating concepts for a new film he was developing.

McQuarrie: ”They wanted to make some illustrations to help it get into a production as a feature film. I completed four illustrations, and they had a lot of people interested. But Star Dancing never got into production.”

Hal Barwood: ”George Lucas saw a Star Dancing painting  of this gigantic RV rolling across a grassland with a guy in a space suit and a couple of moons hanging in the background and he just thought it was great.”

McQuarrie: ”George saw the paintings, and he came by my house one evening. He talked about his idea for a galactic war picture – intergalactic war. He said it would involve all the aspects of Flash Gordon, but done in a sort of 2001 manner with real high-fidelity effects.”

VOLUME 1

In this post, I will focus only on the first book, Volume 1. I will do another blog post about Volume 2 as well. The first volume covers McQuarrie’s design work for A New Hope (1977) and half the work done for The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

In Star Wars: A New Hope’s pre-production, McQuarrie’s design work was perhaps the most extensive of all three films in the original trilogy. McQuarrie lend his technical eye to the spaceship designs as well and defined the modelmakers’ designs. Even though McQuarrie was primarily a technical/mechanical illustrator with background in aviation industry, he was able to design memorable characters as well: C-3PO, R2-D2, Han Solo, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Chewbacca, Imperial stormtroopers, Tusken raiders etc. The most iconic of all McQuarrie’s character design for Star Wars is Darth Vader. In McQuarrie’s early drawings Vader’s design draws heavily from old samurai/shogun war helmets creating a robotic, reptilian looking character.

Ralph McQuarrie did also some matte paintings to the original trilogy. In A New Hope he did the Death Star, Luke’s home planet Tatooine, Rebel base planet Yavin matte paintings. McQuarrie approached these matte paintings realistically, in 2001: Space Odyssey way, said Hal Barwood. The book tells the path that McQuarrie took when designing various object into the Star Wars galaxy. It’s easy to follow the steps that he followed and how he ended up with a particular design and look. There’s also very informative text snippets that provide fascinating background into the design process. Sometimes these text snippets are quotations from McQuarrie commenting on George Lucas’ wishes and his preferred design orientation.

 

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Book recommendation: Kinoplakatkunst aus Belgien – Die 50er- und 60er-Jahre

This book offers interesting  overview to film advertising in Belgium during the 1950s and the 1960s. The book covers many film genres including drama, adventure, comedy, western, war and crime. Each poster is accompanied with a little fact sheet containing basic information for the film.The posters on display are very well reproduced and their colors seem very accurate to my eye.

It is a fascinating, unseen, forgotten piece of Belgian/European film advertising. At least for a Finnish reader like myself.

Don’t let the book’s German title fool you. Only the introduction is written in German and the basic information regarding each poster as well. Downside is that all the film titles are in German and you can find the English title only if it’s printed in the poster/artwork. So it makes harder to track any particular film.

Other downside is that the book doesn’t tell the proper names of the artists involved. In fact, there’s only two artists mentioned: WIK and Ray. I did some research online and found that Ray is the pen name of Ray Gilles. Gilles was a Belgian commercial illustrator who was active in the 1960s. Here’s link for more information on Gilles: http://www.ilovebelgium.be/ray-gilles-forgotten-illustrator I could not find any information about the pen name WIK. If you know something about illustrator ”WIK” please write to the comment box below. Thanks!

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Book recommendation: The Art of Hammer

This book displays plenty of Hammer’s film posters around the world. It is written by Marcus Hearn, co-writer of The Hammer Story in 1997.  This is mainly a picture book and it contains short written introduction about Hammer and it’s advertising activities. The posters are in chronological order and sorted by year they were released.

Featured posters are from various countries and represent naturally wildly different styles for same films. For example Polish posters are radically different from their British counterparts. Whereas British posters are traditional the Polish posters are surprisingly modern and features often distorted photographs instead of hand drawn illustrations.

The book has 191 pages and the last featured year is 1979 when Hammer’s fame was already starting to wane. This book is in no means the definite collection of Hammer film poster but offers great overlook to the company’s film advertising. I certainly think this collection is enough for many people interested in all things Hammer. A highly recommended!

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Book recommendation: The Peter Cushing Scrapbook

This is a very special and lovely book for all serious Peter Cushing fans. Wayne Kinsey has made the book in collaboration with Cushing’s private secretary Joyce Broughton with Tom Johnson. The book is filled with wealthy collection of behind-the-scenes photos from film sets, Cushing’s artwork, scripts, posters, advertisements, you name it. Each page has also an insightful information/commentary written by the author. The book begins from Cushing’s childhood and continues chronologically as the career advances highlighting his work in numerous films. There are many little known films in which Cushing appeared and the book is great for discovering Cushing’s many roles.

This book is exhaustive with over 1800 pictures and I mean it in totally positive way. This book was released in 2013 to celebrate Peter Cushing 100th birthday on 26 May, 2013.

The book has 328 pages in landscape format. It is limited printing of 2000 units. You can order the book directly from the author at Peveril Publishing.

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