George Lucas drew inspiration for Star Wars from sci-fi standards like the Flash Gordon comic books drawn by Alex Raymond. But works by less-likely artists — such as landscape painter N.C. Wyeth and all-American illustrator Norman Rockwell — also sparked the filmmaker's imagination as he conjured the expansive world inhabited by Luke Skywalker and company.
"Every artist that I’ve admired has contributed, directly or indirectly, to shaping the vision that I expressed in the Star Wars saga," Lucas writes in his introduction to Star Wars Art: Visions, an upcoming book that presents the work of 120 artists who've put their own spin on the films' mythology.
Lucas and executive editor J.W. Rinzler corralled artists steeped in a wide variety of styles, commissioning them to produce the Star Wars–inspired works showcased in the new book.
Rinzler began working on the project five years ago. "The first thing George said to me was, 'Check out Heavy Metal magazine," Rinzler told Wired.com in a phone interview. "He wanted the top illustrators and people from fine arts, he wanted the guys who do Western art, people who do history paintings, aviation paintings, NASCAR Formula One racing cars. I said, 'Yeah, that could take a little bit of time.'"
Some of the most striking pieces in the book reflect Lucas' personal artistic sensibility. "George likes figurative artists in the tradition of Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish and the Italian Renaissance," Rinzler said.
Here's an exclusive sneak peek at Star Wars Art: Visions, which hits stores in November for $40, with comments taken from the book by the artists who contributed each piece. Subjects range from Tusken raiders and a very formal Anakin Padawan to a nearly nude yobana and multiple iterations of Darth Vader.
"I’ve always thought stormtroopers had the coolest costumes of all in the Star Wars galaxy," says book illustrator Scott M. Fischer. "In fact, I even had the plastic Halloween costume back in the ’70s and went trick-or-treating as one. But if I were a stormtrooper, naturally I would need the perfect partner, thus the Fem Trooper idea was born! All the coolness of the stormtrooper armor, wrapped around the sensuality of the female form ... the perfect subject to paint!"
Fischer is currently working for Disney on the Tron franchise.
"Due to his powerful and lasting presence, I was drawn to the idea of painting and framing Darth Maul as an icon in the rich tradition of sacred paintings of the Byzantine Empire," says San Francisco artist Will Wilson. "We recognize Maul’s home planet of Iridonia by its rocky canyons, acid pools and temperate waterfalls. The enfant terrible sits among a cadre of supporters who have been charmed by his hypnotic spell.
"In his left hand he confidently wields a writhing two-headed serpent, which represents his eventual mastery of the deadly two-sided lightsaber. Also hidden in his Buddha-like pose is a subtle foretelling of Darth Maul’s death by bifurcation. In the sky, we witness a total eclipse of the sun, and on closer examination we discover that it is the infamous Death Star that shrouds the light; even the clouds in the sky rebel against this eerie phenomenon.
"The iconic imagery is complete as the young Maul, with right hand raised, signs the universal symbol for love; his index finger connects to a sunbeam and his penetrating gaze connects to ours. In this frozen moment, light and darkness, innocence and knowledge, good and evil become one force.
Wilson studied at the New York Academy of Art.