Ralph McQuarrie (1929-2012)

Artist Ralph McQuarrie, 82, died March 3, 2012 in Berkeley CA of complications from Parkinson’s disease.

McQuarrie was best known as the conceptual designer and illustrator who created the look of the original Star Wars trilogy; he also worked on the first Battlestar Galactica TV show and the films E.T. and Cocoon, winning an Academy Award for best visual effects for the latter.

Ralph Angus McQuarrie was born June 13, 1929 in Gary IN, and grew up on a farm near Billings MT. He served in the Army during the Korean War. In the ’60s he moved to California, where he worked as an illustrator for a dentistry company and for Boeing while he illustrated movie posters on the side.

Director George Lucas liked McQuarrie’s work, and in 1975 commissioned McQuarrie to illustrate numerous scenes from the Star Wars script. McQuarrie designed the look of numerous iconic figures like Darth Vader, Chewbacca, the droids, and many of the film’s locations. He also worked on The Empire Strikes Back (where he acted in a small, uncredited role) and Return of the Jedi. He illustrated numerous Star Wars-related books, including The Illustrated Star Wars Universe, written by Kevin J. Anderson (1995).

McQuarrie is survived by Joan, his wife of 29 years.