Just heard the sad news that legendary concept artist Ralph McQuarrie died today at the age of 82. I just happened to be in the Bay Area this weekend. The place I'm staying overlooks Berkeley, where Ralph lived. I had the honor of meeting with Ralph two times. The first time was at Spengler's, one of his favorite restaurants, where we had dinner with some friends while I was still working on The Phantom Menace. I was on Cloud Nine. This man had been an inspiration to me ( and to thousands of illustrators who do what we do ) sitting right in front of me, quietly chowing down on seafood. His work amazed me as a kid. My brother and I poured over his work in the old "Art of Star Wars" books and the beautiful portfolios of his work for the first three Star Wars films. The books showed a lot of the work up pencil sketches and roughs he would do before working on the finished paintings. I would look at those and kind of thought they might demystify the process of making the beautiful paintings he did. If anything, it made it even more mysterious, as they were so darn perfect in their simplicity yet meticulous in the detail. That night I felt like I had met a god--someone anyone who ever did or wanted to do concept art for a living measured himself against and aspired to be like. The second time I met Ralph, was at his home. I was there with my friend Jim. We were in his studio looking at some art that he had done for a proposed Forbidden Planet remake Irvin Kershner was going to direct. I was floored by the lovely simplicity if these little environmental paintings. He didn't seem to think much of them, but I thought they were great. We asked him to join us for lunch at an Indian restaurant down the road. Ralph at that time had a little bit of a skin problem and had some scabs on his forehead and he was a bit hesitant to be seen in public--not because he was vain
but because he was so embarrassed
. We persuaded him to join us, but it struck me that here is a guy with phenomenal talent who inspired an entire generation of artists, but he was still so humble and shy and unassuming.
That's what I will remember most about Ralph. We saw him as a monumental talent, he saw himself as a simple, ordinary guy.