Book Review: The Art of Ralph McQuarrie

After a bit of haggling with FedEx, I finally got my copy of The Art of Ralph McQuarrie.

Wow. I never realized how much breadth of talent Ralph McQuarrie has. Sure, he created some of the most iconic images in Star Wars. Sure, he clearly has a great understanding of design. But I just never realized.

This book contains work from his early industrial design days. Tons of book covers (many of which you’ll gasp when you recognize them). Commercials. Movie design. Personal art. (Which is in so many different styles, it’s mind-blowing.) And when you look at them all together, you realize that the man is talented in many different aspects of art, not just entertainment design.

I’m just amazed that a then-unknown filmmaker like George Lucas could score such a coup!

Literally one-third of the book is Star Wars art. Some you have seen many times. Many you have not. The interesting parts are the blown-up thumbnail sketches that show how his concepts evolved. And you can see how many of his unused concepts were dusted off by Doug Chiang (who provides a rather love-struck tribute in the book) for the look of the Prequels.

The book is huge. Very thick paper that’s heavier than most art books. The printing is fantastic as the images come out clear and stunning.

The text is limited. There are tributes from George Lucas, Doug Chaing and Anthony Daniels. There are titles for nearly everything. But, most amusing, are the small bits contributed by Ralph McQuarrie himself. You can just tell he finds much of what goes on with his work to be rather humorous, but a great adventure.

If there is a limitation to this book, it’s the supporting text, or lack thereof. Granted, who really wants to read that much detail when the whole point is the picture? But there were a few series that would have been nice to know some more background. (Like that Japanese commercial concept featuring some fuzzy Star Wars creatures. What?)

Still, if that’s the only complaint I have, it’s a small one. This is well worth the investment to pick up and a wonderful ride.