Ralph McQuarrie (right), the concept designer who helped director George Lucas visualize the "Star Wars" movies, died Saturday, March 3, 2012 at the age of 82. McQuarrie's conceptual designs were the basis for some of the iconic characters of the first three movies such as Darth Vader, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO.
George Lucas said, "When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph's fabulous illustrations and say, 'Do it like this.'"
McQuarrie also helped to create concept designs for the original Battlestar Galactica TV show, along with the movies "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." McQuarrie's conceptual work on the 1985 film, "Cocoon," won him the Academy Award for Visual Effects.
Even though, among designers, McQuarrie is an iconic hero, and millions of people love his creations, the public may not know his name and many probably have never seen his original paintings. McQuarrie was a concept designer who's work is produced for the Pre-Production stage of a movie (before the cameras roll) to help others see what the film could look like. While his name features prominently in the credits, most people don't stay in the theater long enough to see who actually made the film they've just seen.
Click on the video below to see concept paintings done by Ralph McQuarrie for Star Wars. Notice the vast number of paintings he produced for the films. One of the reason it is difficult for others to match his talent is that few people do as much work as he did.