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Monthly Design Review - May 2020

This month's PDC newsletter is highlighting VFX and concept art, so we compiled a list of books to add to the conversation.


STAR WARS ART - Ralph McQuarrie (2016)

Ralph McQuarrie is the most iconic artist in the history of "Star Wars". He worked hand-in-hand with George Lucas to help establish the saga’s visual aesthetic, its inimitable look and feel. Beyond designing Darth Vader, C-3PO, and R2-D2, McQuarrie produced hundreds of pieces of "Star Wars" artwork, including conceptual paintings, costume designs, storyboards, and matte paintings, as well as posters, book covers, and album covers—even Lucasfilm’s annual holiday cards—all rescanned and rephotographed for this book.

The book includes hundreds of never-before-seen illustrations, rare unpublished interviews, as well as recollections from McQuarrie’s colleagues and friends. It is a comprehensive tribute to one of cinema’s most beloved and influential concept artist.

Buy the book here.


INDUSTRIAL LIGHT & MAGIC: The Art of innovation (2011)

This book an extensively illustrated oral history of the multiple-Academy-Award-winning visual effects company founded by George Lucas in 1975. Its tale begins with a small team of craftspeople, engineers, and artists who pioneered analog effects that had never before been attempted or realized on the screen for "Star Wars". Industrial Light & Magic continues their story through the effects facility’s mind-bending work, over the following three decades, on more than three hundred films—from optical printing to the digital and computer-generated-effects era.

The book is the latest installment of the ILM history, following "Industrial Light & Magic: The Art of Special Effects" (1987) and "Industrial Light & Magic: Into the Digital Realm" (1996). It is the only book to focus on the company’s work during the last decades, detailing its creative and technological innovations on dozens of blockbuster films such as the "Pirates of the Caribbean" trilogy, "Transformers", "Iron Man", and the "Star Wars Prequel" Trilogy.

Buy the book here.


THE MOVIE ART OF SYD MEAD: Visual Futurist (2017)

Syd Mead, who passed away in December 2019, was one of the most accomplished and widely respected concept artists in the film and design industry. His career boasts an incredible array of projects from designing cars to drafting architectural renderings, but he is most famous for his work on some of the most visually-arresting films in the history of cinema: "Star Trek: The Motion Picture", "Tron" and most famously, "Blade Runner".

The book represents the most extensive collection of Mead’s visionary work, compiling hundreds of images, sketches and concept arts from a career spanning almost 40 years, many of which have never been seen in print before. Each entry provides a unique insight into the processes involved in Mead’s practice as well as illuminating the behind-the-scenes work involved in creating a fully realized, cinematic depiction of the future.

Buy the book here.

See Syd Mead's work on his website.


THE INVISIBLE ART: The Legends of Movie Matte Painting (Chronicle Books 2004)

Through film history, filmmakers have combined matte paintings with live-action footage to enhance and enrich their movies. Matte painting techniques were closely guarded secrets that never left the studio lot. In this retrospective, the authors reveal the history of a visual effect that has defined movies from "Gone with the Wind" and "Citizen Kane" to "Star Wars" and "Titanic".

Lavishly illustrated, the book showcases examples of the now rare matte painting technique, charting the journey from the first pioneering "glass shots" to the dawn of digital technology. In the process, it unveils a century's worth of fascinating stories, legendary personalities, and cunning movie craft.

Buy the book here.


The 2001 FILE: Harry Lange and the Design of the Landmark Science Fiction Film (R.A.P, 2015)

Buy the book here.


ELLENSHAW UNDER GLASS: Going to the Matte for Disney (2003)

Peter Ellenshaw was one of the most influential matte painters in pre-digital Hollywood. This book presents his artwork and recollections spanning the entirety of his 80-plus years, with a special focus on his work for Walt Disney. The book is both a personal memoir and an explanation of the fundamentals of matte painting - from vintage on-set glass paintings to negative composites. The book offers hundreds of pages of matte paintings, concept art and behind-the-scenes photos, seasoned with personal photos and mementos.

Buy the book here.


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