The Art of STAR WARS

Books, Reviews May 26, 2020 By No Response

GERMANUpdate 05.26.2020: THE ART OF STAR WARS – The Rise of Skywalker

If you are interested in the development of STAR WARS, you will inevitably encounter THE ART OF STAR WARS series.
Since 1979, the series has supplied and shown many conceptual drawings. Over time, the series has changed substantially, going from a simple collection, to developing into a kind of “making of” from an artistic point of view.
In 1977, the first STAR WARS film was released and two years later the first book, “The Art of STAR WARS“, followed. It contains many conceptual drawings, and photos of used models and sets. These photos make the series a welcome reference material.

But the first books (one per each of the earliest three films) did not much more than show who did the sketch and provide a brief description of it. The text of the books consisted exclusively of the respective script. You see a lot of conceptual work, but there is no background information.

On the European mainland these books were almost inaccessible. There was no Internet and so these English-language books were found mostly by chance in specialist bookshops. I myself found the books for the first time – in a bookshop specializing on films – in 1995 in their reissued version. Later with eBay I simply bought the books of the first edition if I could get them for a good price – just for fun.

In common between the three books was that the pictures were not discussed and only the text from the script was provided. What was different, though, was that The Art of STAR WARS, the first book, had two more chapters at its end. One was “poster art”, which showed different movie posters that were used around the world. The second chapter was “Spin-off cartoons and fan art”, which documented how STAR WARS became part of pop culture. Both chapters were unfortunately not continued in the books for Episode V and VI (aside from two movie posters you can see at the end of the book for Episode VI).
Separately, the book for Episode V devoted three pages to the biographies of the artists’ responsible, but, again unfortunately, this was not continued for the Episode VI book.

After the original trilogy was finished, there were no more “The Art of STAR WARS” books.
But the demand for more was still there. Where else could you find this material?

Eleven years later (1994), the books came out again in a new edition. While the content remained unchanged, the covers of the three books were provided with a uniform design. In addition, the titles were revised. The first STAR WARS film was no longer just “STAR WARS”. The new name was “Episode IV: A New Hope” and the titles of all three books we changed accordingly.

Two years later, the special edition of the old trilogy came out and STAR WARS fans were happily provided with another version. All three books were extended with further pages in which the extensions and additions of the Special Edition were documented. All those who had not yet had the books got another chance to acquire them. Collectors now had two or even in my case three versions on their shelves.

A special mention is worth having regarding the book The Art of STAR WARS – Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. The books for Episode IV and VI were extended with additional images with minimal text. Episode V, by contrast, was expanded around background knowledge. What happened? Why was there a difference here? What were the special challenges? In addition, Episode V was also supplemented with additional biographies for the Special Edition.
I find it very unfortunate that the books for the other episodes had been supplemented without this information. But the book on Episode V showed with enlargement where the series could go in the future.
In summary, the books are quite nice, but I really would have liked them to provide more information and insight.

When buying the books, check which version you want and what is actually offered. Some retailers e.g. on EBay often do not pay attention to which version they are selling. Sometimes for a non-special edition version of the book, a picture of the cover of the special edition is used and vice versa. This is often not intentional. Most of the time Sellers are unaware that there are differences. So you are always well advised to ask what version it really is before buying.

From the image collection to the “making of”

The books of Episode IV – VI were collections, the exception being the special edition version of Episode V.

This changed with the books for episodes I – III.
One learns what the artists thought.
How George Lucas as a director influenced the design.
Why sketches are modified without a finished screenplay.
Why drafts are changed again when the story is fixed and what happens when the story is rewritten.

I am particularly fascinated by the fact that the conceptual artists begin their work BEFORE there is a first sketch at all of a screenplay or a director. They simply start to collect ideas for items that might be needed later in the film, basically in accordance to the motto, “What is the world of STAR WARS?”. With all the generated designs, you could probably create a series of books for each film.

As a result, the books develop into a “making of”, where one learns how the design was developed. The book for Episode I is still the most technical. Probably because digitally created films were already known, Episode I set new standards because of the dimensions of CGI scenes. Therefore the book includes items on where digital image processing could help with the design and the problems that it faced.

The book for Episode II goes about this in a different way, and the book is largely related to the designs: what was the aim with each design and, of course, where George Lucas had come in. It is only in the Episode II book that the new script was included, on 23 pages at the end of the book.

While the books on Episode I and II are organized in themes, the book on Episode III is organized chronologically.
This gives an impression of how the art of the film worked with the film-making process. Personally, I like the book of Episode III the most. It contains a lot of information and gives more insight into the development process.

The first THE ART OF STAR WARS book outside the main movies

The Art of STAR WARS – The Clone Wars (2009)

The Art of STAR WARS – The Clone Wars – 2009The Art of STAR WARS – The Clone Wars is the first THE ART OF STAR WARS book that looks outside the STAR WARS movies, dealing with the animated series instead. Accordingly, it is designed somewhat differently. The book deals with the film “Attack of the Clones” and the first two seasons of “The Clone Wars”.
It begins with the construction of the team and explains the requirements for this project. Afterwards, it briefly goes into each part of the first two seasons. Sometimes this book makes me see the series in a different light and I find that remarkable.

This book is constantly on the line between storytelling and making of. More than once, the book completely drifts into telling the story, instead of explain the needs of the artists. That bothers me somewhat because I do not need a re-enumeration in a “The Art of STAR WARS” book. It would have interested me more to know what the artists had to say of the individual series.
Nevertheless, it is a good book with a lot of picture material.

The Art of STAR WARS – The Force Awakens (2016): The First Real “Making of Art”

The Art of STAR WARS – EP VII – The Force Awakens – 2016While the film is probably more controversial than the Episodes I-III, the book and its concept will certainly please everyone!
It is a real ‘making of’ from the point of view of the artistic department, which also looks beyond the box. You learn a lot about the thoughts of the artists, how the process behind the art was set, when changes were made, by whom they were requested and why.

I admit, FOR ME Episode VII is a torment from the first second to the end. I don’t like the film – do not shout at me because of this, tastes are different!
But the ART OF STAR WARS book on this film I will take good care of it. It’s the way I imagine that a book from this series should be. I like to read it again or leaf through, even if I wouldn’t look at the result even if you paid me.

Why do I tell you this? Because I want you to understand how much I like this book!

A STAR WARS Story: ROGUE ONE (2016) – The continuation of the “new concept”

The Art of STAR WARS – Rogue One: A STAR WARS Story – 2016The concept of Episode VII has been perfectly adopted with The Art of STAR WARS – Rogue One: A STAR WARS story. Sometimes I feel that the book is a little removed from the artistic aspects, but the course is corrected every time. Making such a book is certainly a difficult task. All aspects are interesting and are absorbed by the fans. Sometimes it can drift off a little as the book always tries to explain the context of the film to the main films. Personally for me, it is sometimes too much but after all I like to read these parts too. (You see, as a reader, I write that it is too much for me, but on the other hand I find it interesting).
It is difficult to find the right balance and I think they have solved the problem very well.

I also hope they stick to the format and design of the last two books. I like the presentation and it looks better in the shelf when books from a series have the same design.

THE ART OF STAR WARS – The Last Jedi (2017)

STAR WARS EP VIIIWhat struck me first about this book: the font is remarkably small and therefore very difficult to read. If you have poor eyesight, you might need to get a magnifying glass to read it!

But if you read it, you will quickly realize that there is a reason behind the small script: the book contains an incredible amount of material, including a lot of concept studies and different designs of the scenes, as you would expect in a THE ART OF STAR WARS book. The book follows the design, content and layout of the new line as it was in “The Force Awakens”.

Despite everything, I am not 100% satisfied with the book. The art – or rather the artists – are pushed a bit too much into the background and the book has become more of a MAKING OF than a THE ART OF book.

Okay, I’m sure I’m interested in how the scriptwriter worked on the movie, and the technical details of the set of a bridge and all the other details in this book from implementation to film are of interest to me.

But in my opinion, they should not be part of this book. J.W. Rinzler would not be sad if he was asked to continue his THE MAKING OF STAR WARS series. And that information would fit much better in there. The artists are not thinking about how armour should best be made for the stuntmen. They are interested in the look and the thoughts of how to get there.

The item that isn’t really covered are the corrections and changes made by the director. Apart from this omission I find the book worth reading, but as I said, I’m not 100% satisfied.


The Art of SoloSome say that this is not a STAR WARS movie. I get that. In a way, I think it’s a kind of “Mission Impossible” in a STAR WARS look. Sort of in a STAR WARS look, but one that has nothing to do with this book.

On the other hand, it has.

What do I mean?”
Solo” was a flop.
Many people are saying that there are just too many STAR WARS movies. I don’t believe that. A STAR WARS movie every year is perfectly fine, IF it’s really good.

It takes at least two of the following groups: the rebels, the Empire or the criminals of the STAR WARS universe.

Solo was on its own. It had a lot of new things with no real points of contact with the three groups and that was the big mistake. They would have had a hit if they had devoted at least half of the time to Solo’s time at the Imperial Academy. The other could have used for the rescue of Chewbacca.

That would interest anyone, rather than having the story revolve around some gangster bosses of whom no one has ever heard and about who (frankly) nobody really cares.. For new stories, the main films are there to take off from. The STAR WARS stories should be there to show the familiar from a new perspective.

But why do I discuss this in such detail here?

Because due to the story of the SOLO film, the book also has only a few points of contact with STAR WARS. If you did not see every now and then a Millennium Falcon or a Stormtrooper, you would not even think that it is a STAR WARS book.

In terms of content, the series continues skillfully. The making-of aspect has taken a back seat and it’s a bit more about the design again. Personally, I think it’s a pity that the storyboard is no longer there.

But do not be disappointed when there is little STAR WARS is inside.

It deals with the movie “Solo: A STAR WARS Story” and there was little STAR WARS in the film. But, in this film too, creatives were at work and their work and thoughts can be read in this book.

If you like the movie or you want to continue the series, then you should definitely get this book.

THE ART OF STAR WARS – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

THE ART OF STAR WARS – The Rise of SkywalkerThis book starts with sketches of Episode VIII. When I first leafed through it I was confused and looked again if I had the book for Episode VIII or IX in my hand.

In IX are sketches of VIII because they thought that they didn’t want to spoil the readers because the book and the movie were published on the same day.

Who of us buys such a book and is then surprised by spoilers? Everyone who buys and reads this book knows what is in store for them. By the way, this was also the case in the book for Episode VIII, but there I still thought it was a stupid slip-up.

At first the books were strictly chronological. That’s good, because that way you can follow the story of the movie. With Episode VIII, the book was no longer chronological but related to characters or organizations. That’s not quite as good as chronological (for my taste) but it was still working on one theme, or scene at a time.

This book is divided into the following sections: Costumes, props, creatures, set decoration and post-production. Whatever post-production has to do here. Because post-production takes place AFTER the worlds are developed, even before the film has a script, this is where the “making of” character comes into play.

What bothers me is that a scene is described in several places in the book. From different angles what makes sense, but doesn’t it all go together? So you have to flip back and forth again and again if you want to read the other angle of the same scene.

This book consequently takes another step away from the “THE ART OF” concept. The increasingly strong “making of” element is used more intensively in this book.

I am no longer happy with this book. For me, they have crossed the narrow line between the worlds. It is definitely too little for a “Making of”, but also not a pure “The Art of” anymore – if you read the texts. In this book, I don’t care what was shot on which stage and when they started shooting. But you can partly read about that in this book.

I don’t want to know anything about the film and the design from the point of view of J.J.Abrams. I’d much more prefer to read the reactions of the designers to the wishes of the filmmakers and that recedes more and more into the background. The perspective of the book has been shifted by one bit too much. It’s just not enough to just show the sketches of the artists. The text must also fit in.

At least they have kept the format of the book.

The “illustrated encyclopedias” – the logical complement

The Art of STAR WARS series is very interesting, but what can be made of the concepts?
Basically, THE ART OF STAR WARS is only the first part. If you want to know what the result of the many sketches is, the illustrated encyclopedias are the best.
They are available for every movie and there are also summaries of them. Many figures, tools and vehicles are documented in these books and therefore these books serve as a reference material. Yes, you have to ignore some rather inane lines (a clue to Poe Dameron’s hair: “Hair disheveled from the helmet”.
How do you get the idea to write something like this?) However, such lines are limited, so do not let these books frighten you, for they are the logical continuation!

With the next STAR WARS film and the release of the next encyclopedia I will write an article about these books.

The Art of STAR WARS – Computer games

There are also three The Art of STAR WARS books on the computer games. “Old Republic” and “The Force Unleashed”.
I won’t cover them in this article, because they are about games and thus do not have anything to do with the films, although there are many parallels from the artistic perspective. For the sake of completeness, however, they should be mentioned.

THE ART OF STAR WARS in the collecting database of

The art of STAR WARS on

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I hope you’ve learned something new and maybe I’ve awakened your interest in these books?

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