Monday, October 18, 2010

Star Wars Visions

A new book is coming out Star Wars Art: Visions. 120 Artists were assembled to present their take on the classic mytho.

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 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.


Spanish painter Arantzazu Martinez first saw Return of the Jedi when she was 7 years old. "It made a lasting impression on me," she says. "Twenty-five years on, adventure, fantasy and philosophy are some of my core interests in life and work."

Martinez is a fellow at the Hudson River Fellowship.

Portrait of Darth Vader

Oil painter Steven J. Levin says: "Vader ... is the most interesting character to me, the central figure to the story, and a tortured one — the golden boy gone terribly wrong. The setting is Mustafar, the planet where Anakin sealed his own fate — where Vader was born. The thing that intrigued me about the Star Wars saga was the idea of the Jedi as protector knights and conversely of Darth Vader as a kind of dark knight.

"The portrait is of him in that role, as a knight might have been painted, with sword in hand and helmet under his arm, but hopefully capturing some of the conflict in his character. The clouds are dark and foreboding, but the light breaking through above is symbolic of his eventual redemption."

Levin studied at Atelier LeSueur, a classically oriented studio-art school in Minneapolis.

Fem Trooper

"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.

Anakin Padawan

Patricia Watwood painted this formal portrait of Anakin Skywalker because, she says, "I find this luminal stage of Anakin’s life very poignant. During his first mission, he tests the mettle of his new training by bringing down a spider droid. He is a boy and a soldier, beautiful and fierce, honorable and angry. He contains at this moment all the potential of innocence, as well as the darkness he will eventually embrace."

Watwood studied painting at The Water Street Atelier and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Princess Leia

American painter Daniel E. Greene says he invested his interpretation of Princess Leia "with elements from the vocabulary of painting in the hope that my renditions could convey some of the inner character of the subjects, as well as their monumental public presence."

Greene belongs to National Academy of Design and to the Pastel Society of America, and wrote The Art of Pastel, a book that has been translated into eight languages.

Incident at Mos Eisley Spaceport

"I wanted to explore the genre of multifigure composition while maintaining a measure of ambiguity," says New York painter Michael Grimaldi of Incident at Mos Eisley Spaceport. "By leaving the roles of protagonist and antagonist deliberately vague, I hope to relay some of the confusion in interpreting the scene."

Grimaldi teaches at the Art Students League of New York and at the Janus Collaborative.


Realist artist Jeremy Lipking produced this portrait. "His canvases pulse with the subtle energy of a living thing," according to Star Wars Art: Visions

A Good Find: Portrait of a Tusken Raider

"The inspiration behind A Good Find: Portrait of a Tusken Raider is in what the sand people of Tatooine must do to survive the harsh and desolate desert climate," says New York painter Tony Curanaj. "Stylistically, I looked toward the 19th-century Orientalist painters for their meticulous and beautifully designed images of life in the desert. I was able to find a great Tusken raider costume and model robot, which enabled me to paint from life as well as from imagination."

Curanaj started out as a graffiti artist and later did design work for Disney. He now teaches at the Grand Central Academy in New York City.

Dawn of Maul

"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.

Backyard Jedi

American artist Stephen Heigh sought to create a "universal image" with Backyard Jedi, he says.

"I started thinking about children playing make-believe, and how George Lucas was probably like every kid in the neighborhood, running around and seeking adventure. In those moments, children are the characters they wish to portray. It’s a simple joy of being a kid and using imagination."

Heigh teaches at Moore College of Art & Design in Philadelphia.

Via Wired

Wired is offering a contest as well, in support of the book.
Win a Copy of Star Wars Art: Visions and Abrams Books are giving away one free copy of Star Wars Art: Visions. For a chance at winning the full-color book, comment on their Posting for this story at their website, on the Star Wars character or scene you’d most like to see brought to life as a piece of fine art. Deadline is 12:01 a.m. Pacific time, Nov. 3, 2010. A randomly selected winner will be notified by e-mail.

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