Salutations of "May the fourth be with you" are met by many with a roll of the eyes, but celebrating the huge impact that Star Wars had on both design and popular culture is a great thing, and today fans of Star Wars will be celebrating around the planet (much like the scene at the end of Jedi, but without the hyper Ewoks). Cue some ace Star Wars art!
In this article we've pulled together a selection of Star Wars art from the late and great Ralph McQuarrie. McQuarrie's concept art for the original Star Wars movies set the visual direction for the entire series, and he - more than any other - helped realise the final vision for some of the most iconic characters in cinematic history. (Click the images for larger versions.)
These images first appeared in Imagine FX magazine.
1. Luke and C-3PO look out over Tatooine
In this Star Wars art concept we get a glimpse of Luke Skywalker's home planet of Tatooine. The desert habitat, which plays such an integral part in the saga, is artfully imagined. You can just imagine the planet's indigenous lifeforms - such as the Womp rat and bantha - inhabiting such a desolate scene.
2. The original Darth Vader Star Wars art
Not exactly how Vader finally appeared on the big screen, but - compared to many of McQuarrie's original character illustrations - the final version of Darth Vader was a close facsimile to the concept art. Vader's intimidating demeanour, cape, and iconic helmet are all present.
3. AT-AT on Hoth
This is a fantastic recreation of an AT-AT and a Snowspeeder crossing swords during the Battle of Hoth. So close to the final designs, at a glance this could quite feasibly be mistaken for a still from The Empire Strikes Back.
4. Luke crashes on Hoth
The orange flight suits worn by the Rebel Alliance can be seen in full effect in this Star Wars art concept from Ralph McQuarrie. This illustration shows a downed pilot - presumably Luke - looking on as an AT-AT strides into view. Awesome. In the true sense of the word.
5. Luke and Leia
Looking for the inspiration for the closing scene of The Empire Strikes Back? Well, look no further. There may be some characters missing, but this piece of Star Wars art clearly inspired the closing shot of Lucas' second movie, which left the story balancing on a knife edge and - because of this - was one of the most striking shots from all the movies.
6. A raging rancor of doom!
The Rancor takes centre stage in Return of the Jedi, and is this concept drawing Ralph McQuarrie brings the ghastly creation to life. Taking place at the start of Jedi, this is where we discover Luke's progress as a Jedi, as he dispatches Jabba's pet to the great rancor pit in the sky.
7. Jabba's Sail Barge
We'd rather not think about the unsavoury acts that took place on Jabba's Sail Barge, but this illustration shows it precariously balancing over the Sarlacc Pit, where many of the ships inhabitants come to an unappealing end. Again, the final designs that made it into the movie were almost carbon copies from McQuarrie's concept art.
8. Luke on the Speeder Bike
For some, Endor was the home of the Ewoks, for others it was the setting for one of the most exhilarating chase scenes in the whole Star Wars saga. Ground breaking ast the time, we see Luke trying to evade the clutches of the Empire. McQuarrie captured the speed brilliantly, and - yet again - the Speeder Bike is all but identical to the ones we saw in the final movie.
Hopefully, this Star Wars art has given you an insight into the world of Ralph McQuarrie, and if you'd like to learn more - such as his design background, his work techniques, and how his chance meeting with George Lucas changed his life - check out this Ralph McQuarrie interview at our sister site Imagine FX.