Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013

Star Wars Art

By David Luhrssen
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A new coffee table book, Star Wars Art: Concepts (published by Abrams), shows that many familiar images from the franchise took life as pen and magic marker drawings (and later, on digital programs). The wrinkled, long-eared visage of Yoda, looking a bit like something from Tolkien, began as a drawing on paper by Joe Johnston, an artist for Industrial Light & Magic who went on to direct his own movies. And the franchise’s least popular denizen, Jar Jar Binks, was born in acrylic on illustration board, midwifed by artist Doug Chiang. Many will agree that he should have stayed on that board—at least we wouldn’t have heard the bug-eyed Binks speak.

Star Wars Art: Concepts is filled with page after page of often beautiful, even painterly illustrations for characters and scenes from the movies as well as the TV show and videogames derived from the series, including several projects that have not yet come to fruition. The brief text from Johnston and Chiang illuminate George Lucas’ working methods: he mentioned “Rebel Alliance cargo ship” or “Imperial storm trooper” allowed the artists to develop the look.

Johnston recounts how he applied at the nascent Industrial Light & Magic in 1975, responding to a flyer calling for draughtsmen to work on an upcoming “space movie.” He had no idea he was about to undertake work on one of Hollywood’s most influential and lucrative franchises.

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