Vistas of the imagination

Visual designer Ralph McQuarrie has just passed away, aged 82. I relayed this fact to my roommate when I read it on io9.

"Do I know him?" sez he.

Oh yes. Yes, you know him. You just don't realize it.

There are not a lot of visual designers known to the public. It tends to be a behind-the-scenes job, where if you're lucky some guy might someday ask you a few questions for the DVD release extras, and if you're really lucky they'll even spell your name right on the captions. Ralph McQuarrie was an exception. Even if you don't know the name, you most certainly know his work.

He was responsible for Darth Vader's distinctive armor. His story boards illustrate key scenes from all of the Star Wars films. His matte paintings provide backdrops for many locations in the films, one of the most beautiful being the wide vistas of Cloud City on Bespin.

He worked as a visual consultant on Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. He designed the alien ships in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET. He's provided designs, storyboards and intricate matte paintings for Indiana Jones, *batteries not included, Jurassic Park and so many others.

Even if you've never heard his name, you've seen hours and hours of his work, of painstaking detail and a brilliant eye for color, connotation and composition. Ralph McQuarrie held worlds inside his head, and the world is very lucky that he found a way to let them out.

The film world has become all the brighter for his work, and will be ever so faintly dimmer without him.

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