Remembering Ralph McQuarrie: 1929-2012
I wish I had gotten to meet Ralph McQuarrie to thank him in person.
As a little kid who hungered for all things Star Wars from my first viewing of the movie, learning about McQuarrie and seeing his visions of George Lucas’ universe were a way to see even more of its unexplored corners, and to get a glimpse into its creation and evolution.
McQuarrie’s works took me places – and still do, in ways that I couldn’t have imagined as a kid: While they still provide those windows to a galaxy far, far away, they’re also lightspeed trips back in time, thanks to powerful memory associations.
One of my favorite Star Wars-era McQuarrie paintings is from The Star Wars Portfolio, which my friend Mike had. It was also reproduced on a set of German Star Wars cards:
Two other McQuarrie favorites come from The Empire Strikes Back:
His matte work on the Millennium Falcon at Cloud City landing platform still has the power to touch the part of my brain that holds the 8- or 9-year-old me who was eagerly awaiting the second Star Wars movie.
And at least once or twice every winter, there’s an afternoon where the sun and clouds mix with just the right color notes to make me think of this painting from The Empire Strikes Back Portfolio:
My other favorite McQuarrie piece is one that I only learned was his when I saw it in person at the Ralph McQuarrie exhibit at Star Wars Celebration V:
Oh, man: Totally triggers the goosebumps and a mental playback of John Williams’ slow, mysterious and foreboding Lost Ark theme music. “Lightning. Fire. Power of God or something.” Indeed.
I’d thank McQuarrie for far more than his art’s impact on my own memories, though: Several of my closest friends are blessed with artistic talent, and they’ve often said over the years that seeing McQuarrie’s work as kids was a huge inspiration and motivation. In turn, I have been inspired and awed by their own creativity and passion.
Thanks for your visions, Mr. McQuarrie. I see differently because of them.