In Memory Of Ralph McQuarrie, The Artist Who Designed Darth Vader & R2-D2

I run this regular Fine Art feature on Kotaku because it’s an aspect of the creative process that I have a big interest in, and the utmost respect for. Indeed, there was a point in my life where I hit a fairly substantial crossroads, and if I hadn’t gone down the path that led me here, I’d have ended up pursuing a career in production/concept art instead.

The single biggest inspiration for that was the work of Ralph McQuarrie, who sadly passed away over the weekend, aged 82. McQuarrie designed some of the most iconic and important elements in science-fiction movie history, from the alien mothership in Close Encounters of the Third Kind to the original Battlestar Galactica TV series to some work on Jurassic Park.

He is most widely known, however, and will be most fondly remembered, for his contribution to the visual identity of the Star Wars universe.

McQuarrie’s hands are all over the three original Star Wars films, on which he worked as a production illustrator, design consultant and concept artist. He designed Darth Vader. He designed R2-D2 and C-3PO. He designed Chewbacca. Indeed, it was McQuarrie’s vivid concept paintings, all done on the strength of nothing but George Lucas’ script, which helped convince studio executives to green-light Star Wars in the first place.

McQuarrie appears briefly as a Rebel General in The Empire Strikes Back, and later won an academy award for his work on 1985’s Cocoon.

If you love Star Wars, a lot of what you love is down to the work of this man. His contributions to the enduring popularity of the original trilogy simply cannot be understated.

He is survived by his wife Joan.

For perhaps the single best collection of his Star Wars work, many of which you probably haven’t seen, you should really check out this 1997 book. It’s collated like a work of Star Wars fiction, but really, the words are a thin thread tying together an astonishing collection of concept art for the original three films.

Fine Art is a celebration of the work of video game artists. If you’re in the business and have some concept, environment or character art you’d like to share, drop us a line!

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