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The Original "Star Wars" Concept Art Is Amazing

Incredible illustrations by artist Ralph McQuarrie. Not a trap.

Star Wars (1977)

Ralph McQuarrie (1929–2012) was an American conceptual designer and illustrator.

In 1975, George Lucas commissioned McQuarrie to illustrate scenes from the script for Star Wars.

McQuarrie designed many of the film's characters, including Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO.

He also drew concepts for many of the film's sets.

"I just did my best to depict how I thought the film should look. I really liked the idea.”

"I didn't think the film would get made. My impression was it was too expensive."

“I thought there wouldn't be enough of an audience. It's too complicated.”

"But George knew a lot of things that I didn't know." –Ralph McQuarrie

Some of McQuarrie's concepts are quite different from the finished film.

Other illustrations are very close to scenes that ended up in the finished film.

“Ralph was the first person I hired to help me envision Star Wars."

"His genial contribution, in the form of unequaled production paintings..."

"...propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy." –George Lucas

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

“It’s really a testament to how important he was..."

"...that there’s such a connection between a lot of those iconic images and the movie scenes."

“The way that he illustrated them was an influence on those characters, how they acted.” –George Lucas

"When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s illustrations and say..."

"...'Do it like this.'" –George Lucas

“It was a special opportunity to start from the ground up."

"Being able to create new characters, vehicles, and worlds…"

"And since when I started it wasn’t clear that the film would be made..."

"I didn’t have to limit myself." –Ralph McQuarrie

It was McQuarrie who suggested that Vader wear a breathing apparatus.

"To survive the vacuum of space, I felt he needed some sort of breathing mask."

“Simple as that.” –Ralph McQuarrie

Return of the Jedi (1983)

“Ralph was a very special person for many more reasons than his undeniable brilliance with a brush.”

“Beyond the movies, his artwork has inspired at least two generations of younger artists..."

"All of whom learned through Ralph that movies are designed."

“Like me, they were thrilled by his keen eye and creative imagination..."

"...which always brought concepts to their most ideal plateau."

“His influence on design will be felt forever."

“There's no doubt that centuries from now amazing spaceships will soar..."

"Future cities will rise..."

"And someone, somewhere will say…"

"...'That looks like something Ralph McQuarrie painted.'" –George Lucas

All images sourced from Star Wars: The Art of Ralph McQuarrie. Artwork reproduced here with permission of Dreams and Vision Press.

Ralph McQuarrie quotes from here and here. George Lucas quotes from here.