Star Wars: Visions
by George Lucas and J.W. Rinzler
Published by Abrams
Adrick's Rating: 4 out of 4
When Star Wars debuted in 1977, it revolutionized the visual landscape of mainstream American filmmaking, transporting fans to new galaxies and introducing them to countless now-classic characters, costumes, aliens, planets, and starships, the Star Wars Saga had become a phenomenon impacting cultures across the globe.
From the beginning, the Star Wars aesthetic was influenced by famed comic-book artists, illustrators, and fine artists, such as Chesley Bonestell, John Berkey, Frank Frazetta, and others. Just as George Lucas drew upon the work of N.C. Wyeth and Norman Rockwell for his own visual inspiration, he has now invited more than 100 of the best and up-coming artists to create new work inspired by their favorite characters, themes, landscapes, and moments from the Star Wars galaxy. Star Wars Art: Visions collects these fantastic artworks together for the first time, celebrating more than thirty years of Star Wars with a roster of talent working in every style and genre. Capturing the imagination, beauty , and breadth of the films, Star Wars Art: Visions is both a tribute to and a new way of experiencing a galaxy far, far away….
Every once in a while, a collection of Star Wars artwork comes along that electrifies my view of the Star Wars universe, evoking the beautiful, the exotic, the macabre, and the bizarre. I tend to spend a lot of time with Star Wars, specifically the Expanded Universe novels, so sometimes I tend to forget how fun and fantastic images from the galaxy far, far away can be. Visions, like The Illustrated Star Wars Universe and Visionaries before it, has helped remind me of the kind of diverse and exciting images that can come from Star Wars.
The artwork in Visions contains contributions from a variety of different artists of different ages and backgrounds. One of the most interesting things is seeing the commonalities that emerged when these very different artists were allowed to choose what they wished to create. The prequel films provided a surprising number of older artists with inspiration, and rancors and Sandpeople proved surprisingly popular. Some chose images set outside the Star Wars universe entirely, depicting the nostalgia and wonder of the original films.
Another subject chosen by several artists was the representation of the duality of Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader. I enjoyed every painting in this category, but by far my favorite was Use the Force by Tom Altenburg. This image shows young Anakin, lightsaber in hand, with a sly monster creeping up behind him. The alligator-like beast is both threatening and friendly, creepy yet child-like, the perfect representation of Anakin’s dark side at this young age. This is the kind of thing I would hang on my wall at home, along with the similarly endearing but less evocative Easy Being Green, It’s Not by Peter de Sčve, which features Yoda with fellow muppet and swamp dweller Kermit the Frog on a fishing trip.
It’s also interesting to see Star Wars subjects in styles not likely to be used in your typical tie-in: works like Philippe Druillet’s Hommage á George Lucas, Sho Murase’s Asian-inspired pieces, and John Mattos’s Picasso tribute Pablo’s Cantina.
For those readers (like me) whose main interest in Star Wars books lies in what contributions they might make to the Expanded Universe, this volume has appeal as well. There are, oddly enough, two paintings from David Pentland directly inspired by the video game Rogue Leader…But most works are in the spirit of the EU, suggesting stories that take place outside of the scope of the films. My favorites include the Western-inspired Maverick Bounty Hunter by Nelson Boren, the space scenes of Syd Mead and Randall Wilson, and a number of scenes featuring C-3PO and R2-D2 from Dolfi Stoki, David Tutwiler, and most particularly Roy Grinnell—I love the humor and suggestion of story in his “Wait…The Droid Just Wants to Say Hello!”
Visions is a pretty spectacular book—once you start leafing through these pages of amazing artwork, you won’t be able to stop.
While it is interesting to see where authors have chosen common subjects or themes, some of them are a little too similar…one American Graffiti mash-up might seem original, but two or three is overkill…ditto for the numerous Twi’lek nudes. Also, the painting by Jamie Wyeth seemed out of place to me, and indeed it was commissioned over two decades ago and is unrelated to Star Wars...I suspected it was included only because Wyeth is more mainstream than most of the artists in this book.
Personally, I’m torn between Wil Wilson’s Dawn of Maul and H.R. Giger’s piece…but this is the good kind of ugly!