May The I Have A Bad Feeling About This

It’s May The Fourth, so at some point my Mum will make the joke she’s been making every year since 1978. Of course, to an obsessive bantha hugging nerd such as myself, every day is Star Wars day. Recently the artist Ralph McQuarrie passed away and his contribution to the look of the Star Wars universe can’t be overstated – in fact it’s entirely possible that without his initial paintings, Star Wars wouldn’t have even got made. That story’s been told many times before, and far more eloquently than I ever could, but the best I can do is to say that he is the single biggest artistic influence on me. I probably didn’t realise that for many years. Even as a fairly ignorant kid growing up I knew who he was, as his work was all over various books and magazines (that was our equivalent of the world wide web, back in the 70s), but I certainly didn’t understand any of the principles of filmmaking. I thought his paintings were based on the films, rather than the other way around (It always baffled me that the stuff in the paintings was slightly different).

When I was a kid, I watched my Betamax copy of The Empire Strikes Back every weekend (every day on school holidays). I remember one time I paused the tape on one of my favourite shots (our heroes escaping onto the Cloud City landing platform) and drew my version of the scene. Turns out practically that entire image was Ralph’s. Not only did he do amazing concept art, but he also knocked out a bunch of matte paintings in his spare time. Talented bastard!

Shortly after McQuarrie, another legend of fantasy and science fiction art passed away. Jean Giraud, AKA Moebius. Although his work was probably not as widely seen, he was massively influential and his surreal, organic vistas and unique, off kilter characters are instantly recognisable. And, I was surprised to learn that Ralph McQuarrie’s design for the Imperial Probe Droid in Empire, was based on a Moebius drawing. Let’s all shoot at floating mechanical spider things, in tribute to Jean and Ralph.

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