Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie

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Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie


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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, its inimitable look and feel. Beyond designing Darth Vader, C-3PO, and R2-D2, McQuarrie produced hundreds of pieces of Star Wars artwork, including conceptual paintings, costume designs, storyboards, and matte paintings, as well as posters, book covers, and album covers—even Lucasfilm’s annual holiday cards—all rescanned and rephotographed for this book. In Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie, readers will find the most definitive collection of the artist’s Star Wars work ever assembled, including hundreds of never-before-seen illustrations. Rare unpublished interviews, as well as recollections from McQuarrie’s colleagues and friends, complement and contextualize the art. Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie is a comprehensive tribute to cinema’s most beloved and influential concept artist.

Abrams Books has put out some great coffee table books to serve as companion pieces to the Star Wars franchise.  Their latest release compiling the art from Ralph McQuarrie is no different and is an amazing set filled with neat stuff.  Come inside to check out my full review!

Star Wars books have always been a passion of mine, and remains one of the largest aspects of my collection.  Beyond just the novels some of my favorites have always been the non-fiction books surrounding the films and the vast array of "coffee table" style releases.  More often than not, they're filled with all sorts of interesting information and trivia bits, while offering insight to the story and filmmaking process.  

The newest release in this kind of Star Wars book comes from Abrams, the developers behind the impressive Art of The Force Awakens book last year.  Star Wars Art: Ralph McQuarrie is a beefy two volume set filled to the brim with Star Wars art from the renowned artist, including several pieces that have never been seen before or published.  

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The impact of McQuarrie on the Star Wars saga cannot be understated.  He helped design the iconic looks of the Stormtroopers, Darth Vader, the aliens, and just about every other facet of Star Wars you can imagine.  Even today, McQuarrie's influence is clearly seen in The Force Awakens and Star Wars Rebels.  His initial concept art for Star Wars is what helped enable George Lucas to sell his vision of the film and secure funding to get it made back in the 70s.  

As such, Star Wars fans the world over owe a great debt to the artist, and this set from Abrams Books puts that entirely in the spotlight.  More than just art, however, the book does a great job of breaking down the influence McQuarrie had on the films, and his role in the creation of so many iconic characters/locations.  While many of the facts presented throughout the books are largely known to die-hard fans, there are some unique and interesting tidbits of information the authors dug up on the artist.  

The art, however, is the real star of the book collection, and they are given the treatment they so deserve.  The books are pretty massive and the two volumes combined in the slip-case weigh in at a solid 20 pounds.  Part of the reason for this is the combined 800 pages are really big.  Coming in at nearly 17 inches long, the pages allow the art plenty of room to spread out.  This lets readers soak up all the details in the larger pieces as they’re meant to be. 

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The two volumes feature an impressive amount of artwork from Ralph McQuarrie, bringing forth the most complete collection of his Star Wars work.  The authors dug deep into the archives, and assorted the images based on when he created them.  It’s neat to see it laid out in this way, giving fans a sort of timeline into the filmmaking process, as well as offering insight into how things changed as the films progressed through various stages.  

For me, that’s one of the best things about this book set.  Not only do we get to see the finished pieces in stunning detail, we also get to see each version of the paintings he made along the way, with annotations as to why things were changed from previous designs.  The books include his studies for the paintings, giving us insight to the man’s own inspirations and how he came about certain ideas.  

For Star Wars fans, this is an unprecedented and deep look inside the artistic process that went into creating the characters, vehicles, and locations we all know and love.  For artists, it serves as an excellent look into the creative process for something on this scale and how even minor “rough” sketches can become the basis for some of the most iconic images in pop culture.  Of course, the other big highlights are the fact that some of the art has never been published before, giving readers a glimpse at what might have been in the Star Wars universe, or what still may come along.  

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The glossy pages are thick and durable, making for smooth page turning without having to worry about crimping the pages or any unsightly folds.  The entire set feels very...fancy.  That honestly seems like the best word I can use to describe it without sounding too over-the-top (luxurious just sounds a bit too pretentious).  The slip-case and covers for the individual volumes are covered in felt material, making them FEEL as special as they are.  

The only real issue I had while reading through the set, is that some of the larger art is spread out over two-pages, putting the fold/valley of the book itself right in the middle.  On the whole, however, this feels like a minor annoyance, as the level of detail and the quality of printing on McQuarrie’s work more than make up for it.  

Aside from that minor quibble, I can’t really think of any downside to this set.  I could see the massive of it being an issue for some.  While it’s technicall a “coffee table” book, you’d need a pretty beefy table to hold this bad boy up.  Not to mention the fact that it would take up a majority of the table space you set it on.  You’ll definitely need a dedicated space for it, but super fans and collectors should be more than happy to find a place for this.  

Editor review

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An Impressive Collection Worthy of McQuarrie’s Star Wars Legacy
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The price point may be a little steep for some as well. Coming in at $250 normally, it’s definitely not an impulse buy. If you’re a Star Wars fan, movie lover, or an artist there are a lot of great reasons to love this set from Abrams. It’s filled with great information and artwork that will be easy to come back to year after year with non-stop entertainment.
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