It was my first day at Art Center College of Design and I dumped my armload of art supplies at an empty drawing seat in the middle of the large classroom. This was a Life Drawing class and I had never sketched a nude model before. Plus, I was naturally intimidated by all the superior drawing talent surrounding me. I was just a dumb kid out of high school, while many of my fellow students were a good deal older having recently returned from military service. The shy young man seated next to me was very helpful and encouraging as I tried to navigate my way around art school that first day. Quiet and mild mannered, he was also one hell of an artist. Why was he even in school, I wondered? He was already so damn talented. 

George Lucas invented the Star Wars universe, but illustrator, Ralph McQuarrie visualized the world for the young writer-directer. Of course, McQuarrie did it for the rest of us as well. When I first saw Ralph’s inspired production paintings and color comps back in 1996 I was totally blown away. Like many of my fellow Art Center students, I had followed Ralph McQuarrie’s career after he left school. Initially, Ralph found work doing technical illustration for aircraft companies because he excelled at doing beautiful paintings of air craft and futuristic vehicles. However, McQuarrie had a rich imagination and was capable of doing far more than the usual technical assignments. When his path crossed with writer-director, George Lucas in the early development of “Star Wars,” it was a match made in heaven. Or, at least - in deep space.

Today, the images from the mind of Ralph McQuarrie have become iconic, and what Star Wars geeks hasn’t marveled at his magnificent work. Obi Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, the awesome Star Ships and the Death Star all emanated from Ralph’s brilliant illustrations and were later realized on film by the George Lucas special effects team. However, it all began with Ralph Macquarrie. Sadly, my old pal, Ralph McQuarrie has since left us. I’ll always be grateful I was able to send him a final video greeting before his passing. I was well aware he was battling heath issues and I wished him the best. I also told him how proud I was to be a fellow student and a friend. So much of the Star Wars universe is Ralph McQuarrie's creation. It’s good to know it will continue to be enjoyed by generations of Star Wars fans in the years to come.

Illustrator, Ralph Macquarrie hard at work creating the Star Wars universe.

Illustrator, Ralph Macquarrie hard at work creating the Star Wars universe.

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AuthorFloyd Norman