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View Full Version : Ralph McQuarrie was the best



JediTricks
03-04-2012, 06:21 PM
I just learned of RMQ's passing this morning, and it hit me a little harder than I expected, just because to me his work and his work ethic and his background all feel so alive and accessible. RMQ's ability to take a simple drawing and give it life and action even from the simplest detail made him unique, through his concept work on Star Wars and other sci-fi products I got to see an artist that really spoke to me through the still drawing. His work was magical without being show-offy, he seemed to know exactly the right amount of detail to put in a frame -- I have never seen his works be overly busy or simple, even the tiny pencil sketches he did for the earliest Star Wars stuff.

But I can't stress enough how much life, how much action and story he conveyed in his works, how his drawings weren't just stills, they were suggesting a greater story even if it was just a guy standing in a field or a plane flying by a building. RMQ's characters at their simplest always were expressive, especially the ones with almost no features where it's just the smallest of steely gazes to suggest readiness, or the droop of a shoulder to express longing.

When I moved into my place last year, one of the things I wanted to do was get ahold of some McQuarrie posters, but I've been reticent to put anything on my walls so far. I think RMQ's passing should light a fire under me to get it done, and it'll be one of the things I look for at Wondercon in 2 weeks. In searching the web, I haven't found much material except from Zazzle, whom I have found in the past to be somewhat overpriced, but they do have a ton of his work, almost every piece I can think of they have. Here's the ones that most resonate with me, and now I have to track down or order:
http://www.zazzle.com/mcquarrie_art_cloud_city_star_wars_poster_prin-228938996816036308
http://www.zazzle.com/mcquarrie_art_tatooine_poster-228501131103994588
http://www.zazzle.com/mcquarrie_art_at_at_poster-228509441409175745
http://www.zazzle.com/mcquarrie_art_luke_vader_star_wars_poster_pr-228933183329003750
http://www.zazzle.com/mcquarrie_art_jabbas_sail_barge_star_wars_pos_post er-228139235390885652
I want to get a poster too of RMQ's Docking Bay 94, but I haven't found any online except for this which isn't quite my sort of expression, but it does have RMQ credibility even though it's pretty small:
http://dreamsandvisionspress.com/celebrationjapanmcquarrieartistexclusiveap-dockingbay94.aspx

I don't even know what my point is really, I guess I just wanted to talk Ralph McQuarrie with my fellow Star Wars buddies.

RMQ's autograph is the only Star Wars autograph I own. I bought it at Celebration IV from the Dreams and Visions Press Art of Ralph McQuarrie booth. It's on a Galoob Action Fleet Flight Controller - RMQ was hired by Galoob to do SW packaging art for their Micro Machines line, it was some great stuff and showed just how amazing the Galoob SW team was to not only think to do that but to make it happen - and is part of a batch of one of the last things he signed before his Parkinsons overwhelmed his physical abilities.

Bel-Cam Jos
03-04-2012, 06:36 PM
I think it's because he didn't actively and shamelessly promote his accomplishments. Mr. McQuarrie was humble but clearly talented. Wasn't he part of the animation of moon landings? That's awesome! I remember being in a panel at some convention where the person helping him in his older days and health issues spoke; that guy was clearly also inspired by RM's work and work ethic (he might've been the webmaster of RM's site).

JediTricks
03-04-2012, 06:58 PM
You are so right about him being humble and not a show-off.

RMQ started doing technical drawings for Boeing, and in the mid '60s he started focusing on work for the entertainment industry. From there, he did still drawings for CBS news which helped explain the Apollo missions to their audience years before the moon landing, CBS took the drawings and turned them into animations. It got him national exposure. He also did concept art and matte work for advertising.

At Celebration IV, Dreams & Visions Press had a panel about McQuarrie where they showed some of his earlier technical works and his CBS works, they were very good and quite recognizable as his style, though it was amusing to see the master's early technical works which weren't allowed to live and breathe the way his entertainment, NASA, and personal stuff did.

One thing I think that stands out for me with RMQ's work is how good he was at capturing how fire looked in action -- from the burning of the sail barge to the thrust of rockets, it all looked realistic and conveyed the proper amount of brightness, smoke, and action.

Unfortunately, The Art of Ralph McQuarrie is a difficult book to get now, and very expensive, so there's not a lot to be seen as reference right now.


I think I'm going to go wash and dry my hands, and look through my various Star Wars art books. Frustratingly, I haven't unpacked them all yet.

JediTricks
03-05-2012, 02:19 PM
I ended up thumbing through the Illustrated SW Universe, still an amazing book, but then I finally cracked open The Making of ESB, and holy crap there's a treasure trove of RMQ in there! I'm only 50 pages in, but lots of drawings, art, and interviews so far.

Too bad the book is so massive that it can't support its own weight. Dude, seriously, 300+ double-wide pages in this layout in hardcover is too much, I had to remove the dust jacket just to hold it upright.

Luckily, the content itself is worth the effort, and makes for a lovely tribute to McQuarrie even as you read the greater story of it all.

JEDIpartner
03-07-2012, 11:18 AM
I couldn't have said it better, JT.

The one piece I wish I could even find a nice .jpg of is a picture of the command centre of Echo Base. It's got Artoo plugged into one of the control modules and the back of Threepio's head. You can see his hand gesturing to Artoo as if he's telling him to be careful or to not do something foolish. I love that picture.

JediTricks
03-08-2012, 04:02 PM
I couldn't have said it better, JT.

The one piece I wish I could even find a nice .jpg of is a picture of the command centre of Echo Base. It's got Artoo plugged into one of the control modules and the back of Threepio's head. You can see his hand gesturing to Artoo as if he's telling him to be careful or to not do something foolish. I love that picture.What source is that from? It doesn't ring a bell for me, there's a lot of RMQ Echo Base art in The Making of ESB, but I don't remember coming across the one you described (at least, I haven't seen it YET), it sounds pretty good. So funny how "thing" characters R2 and 3PO can be given such emotional statements in a still piece of artwork.

Mr. JabbaJohnL
03-08-2012, 07:36 PM
Just think how many iconic designs he had created or worked on! Even though he hadn't been illustrating for a while, his passing is an enormous loss to the community. His art does exude a sense of magic; I've tried to think about why that is, but in a way I don't want to break it down to a science and ruin it. But I don't think that would even be possible. It's still a treat to see his designs pop up now and again on The Clone Wars, which I hope will continue - in that way, we'll continue to have Ralph's work brought to life, even though he's gone.

Bel-Cam Jos
03-08-2012, 09:12 PM
The one piece I wish I could even find a nice .jpg of is a picture of the command centre of Echo Base. It's got Artoo plugged into one of the control modules and the back of Threepio's head. You can see his hand gesturing to Artoo as if he's telling him to be careful or to not do something foolish. I love that picture.Like this mousepad image, JP?

JediTricks
03-08-2012, 09:51 PM
Wow, even if that's not it, I've never seen that piece before, it's really good. I don't think I've ever seen him do something that claustrophobic before, it conveys that as well.


In Making of ESB, there's a lot of color tests of works and thumbnails of works, but there's also a pre-finished version of a final painting, and he attacks it so methodically, the way an engineer would draft lines, then fills them in with colorful grace. It answered a lot of questions I had about how his lines always looked so good.

Bel-Cam Jos
03-09-2012, 08:40 AM
I know I'd seen this one before, simply because I recalled the :beard:ed goggled guy in the middle; it definitely is a different style of his. I just searched "McQuarrie" (see SSG thread on 4:20/11:38) on eBay to scan through the prints' images.

Bel-Cam Jos
04-14-2012, 04:53 PM
I scored an eBay auction for the Celebration Japan softcover Art of RMQ book for under $30, plus the English translation companion booklet. Looking forward to reading through it. Domo arigato!

JediTricks
04-15-2012, 02:21 PM
AAAAAAH! That's a hell of a nice get, how did you come across it at that price?


RS has an article about an ebay auction for an artist proof of the McQuarrie Vader helmet, pointing out that the auction-seller hasn't sold anything in 2 years. I think it's more interesting that the auction seller has a totally inaccurate description of what the item is, the seller thinking (or intentionally misleading bidders into thinking) that the eFX helmet is actually a Lucasfilm prototype. In any case, nobody should bid on this without knowing the truth of the item first... http://www.ebay.com/itm/Star-Wars-Darth-Vader-Helmet-Donated-by-George-Lucas-COA-/220999633404

Bel-Cam Jos
04-15-2012, 09:39 PM
I've seen some for around $70 online, but those hardcovers are no less than $200. :greedy: But mine was the only bid; keep looking!

JediTricks
04-16-2012, 07:42 PM
I've seen some for around $70 online, but those hardcovers are no less than $200. :greedy: But mine was the only bid; keep looking!I couldn't find a single one to bid on under $100, so I'll keep waiting and hoping.

EDIT: oh, the publisher has them for $40, but with shipping and tax it's $52 which is a little steep for me right now. I swear if I had finished reading Making of ESB already I wouldn't feel so guilty about spending fifty more bucks.


Has anybody gotten posters from Zazzle, especially canvas? I'm getting close to pulling that trigger, but I have read really bad things about their clothing, mugs, and cheap-level paper, so I am not quite sure.

JediTricks
04-16-2012, 10:25 PM
I ended up buying it, its limited nature meant I shouldn't dilly-dally. I already missed their Docking Bay 94 piece by doing just that.

I also decided to pull the trigger on 2 Zazzle canvas posters (2 because FREE SHIPPING!!! :D), so we'll see.

JediTricks
04-26-2012, 02:15 PM
I received the book and posters in the mail pretty quickly. The book is nice, but I'm hoping I'll find more gems when I get a chance to really dig into it because at first blush a lot of it is covered in other stuff I have.

The posters are very nice, and since yesterday and today Zazzle is having a 60% off sale, I pulled the trigger on 6 more posters, including 3 I didn't have on my list - 2 more of the Sail Barge and one of the Cantina (my mom suggested the cantina one). Next up I'll have to get or make custom frames and mattes for them. The only drawback to the McQuarrie art on canvas is that they look so nice and art-y until you get to the stupid Lucasfilm copyright text in the bottom corner, and it's NOT small. But it's a concession to owning something that reminds every day of McQuarrie's great work.

I got custom sizes on all the posters. The Overlooking Mos Eisley one and AT-AT one I got at 11" tall by about 2', the rest I got at 10" x 21" or so because Zazzle said they wouldn't scale up bigger than that without getting pixelated.

JediTricks
04-28-2012, 03:42 PM
Posters arrived this morning, I just unrolled them. The art is beautiful, putting them on canvas really makes them feel like artworks rather than posters.

The AT-AT one is utterly stunning in this size and format, but unfortunately I may have to ask them to replace it as the one I got was poorly cut - their policy is 100% satisfaction guarantee, and if it's their goof they pay the shipping, which is partly why I wasn't more uncomfortable ordering from them on these somewhat expensive items in the first place.

The others look great, there's a ton of detail that you just cannot see in the books; the twin sail barge one has so much to see, I'm glad I got this at its maximum size, there are details in the aliens and even Chewie that really pop out at this size. The cantina has more color and depth than book reproductions have shown in the past, it's still a dark scene but there's lots of detail here that I didn't expect, it's a very '70s sci-fi look, very moody and alien.

Bel-Cam Jos
06-06-2012, 06:05 PM
After the awkwardness of reading two books at once (hold open the translation booklet, to read what the Japanese characters say), The Art of Ralph McQuarrie was still a great read. He commented on how the prequels used some of his production paintings and sketches in the film scenes, plus action figures (the all-white 30th anniv. Fett). I like how he talked about specific details in the paintings, some of which he changed for various reasons (sometimes, both versions were printed to see the actual differences easily).

JediTricks
06-06-2012, 08:11 PM
After the awkwardness of reading two books at once (hold open the translation booklet, to read what the Japanese characters say), The Art of Ralph McQuarrie was still a great read. He commented on how the prequels used some of his production paintings and sketches in the film scenes, plus action figures (the all-white 30th anniv. Fett). I like how he talked about specific details in the paintings, some of which he changed for various reasons (sometimes, both versions were printed to see the actual differences easily).

Sounds really interesting, I can't wait to check it out now that I have it, but I've barely cracked that book open, so much backlog right now in my world, I haven't finished Making of ESB, haven't opened the Blu Ray SW saga, haven't mounted my McQuarrie posters.

Bel-Cam Jos
06-07-2012, 09:21 AM
I get to the EU novels fairly quickly after buying them; but yeah, the Essential Guide to..., Making of..., Art of..., etc. books seem to be shelf material for weeks or months before I get to those. I have the SW: Old Republic, Essential Guide to Warfare, SW Encyclopedia (both the single volume and 3 [or 4?] set), Secret Life of Droids, and maybe one other still un-read right now. I haven't fully watched the Blu-Rays, either; just the deleted scenes.

JediTricks
06-07-2012, 02:06 PM
I haven't even opened the box on the blu rays yet at all. I have a couple books in my Kindle that have been waiting on me finishing Making of ESB, and I was planning on buying Darth Plagueis on Kindle as one of them but the stupid price went UP thanks to the publisher. I watched an hour and a half of TV yesterday and didn't go anywhere, yet I still feel like I have no idea where the rest of that time went. :crazed: I suck at this time management thing. :p