When I was a kid in the early 1980s, I collected Star Wars cards along with baseball cards like a lot of kids enamored with the films. When The Empire Strikes Back came out, mixed in with the cards were “special cards” that included paintings … I didn’t understand wholly but these were concept artworks of what particular places, things, and scenes would look like before they were shot. I remembered the odd name associated with the paintings: Ralph McQuarrie. While George Lucas invented the story and characters and places of Star Wars, it was Ralph McQuarrie who truly created them and gave them life. The look of Darth Vader and Chewbacca and C-3PO and R2-D2 and Yoda were all described by George Lucas, but the first person to draw them and give them their look was McQuarrie.
Several years later, I had the opportunity to see the real paintings that so many of those cards were based on when the Star Wars: The Magic of Myth exhibit came to the Field Museum.
In addition to Lucas’ original trilogy, he conceptualized the famous mothership in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. He did scene design and designed the spaceship in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. He did art design for Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and Jurassic Park. Even the original design of the Battlestar Galactica was one of his! He did some concept art work for what was supposed to be the second Star Trek series … which was eventually dumped in favor of starting the motion picture series. There was a remake of the classic Forbidden Planet that was never made, and McQuarrie did the design work for that as well.
Not bad for a kid from Gary, Indiana!
I am including a link to his official site which itself has galleries of some remarkable artwork that created some of the great iconic images on film of the last 35 years.