When I was growing up, this was one of the pictures on my wall. My father had bought a collection of prints (the Return of the Jedi Portfolio) featuring the concept art of Star Wars by Ralph McQuarrie. In what turned out to be a brilliant idea, he framed these and placed them all over the room I shared with my brother. I demanded that the painting of the A-wing be hung closest to my bed because I was big on the space battles. Over the years, the painting that kept drawing me in was the one with Luke and Darth Vader (pictured above).
I didn't know what concept art was at the time, and I had no idea who Ralph McQuarrie was. But I loved the art, loved the pieces dearly, loved them to pieces! I just had no idea why Luke Skywalker was wearing scuba gear. Or why Darth Vader looked so pointy. Or why the lightsabers looked weird. Only later did I learn that this was the first visual representation of the characters I loved in that most famous of swordfights in Empire Strikes Back. And I had Ralph McQuarrie to thank for that.
Years later, I would find this gem on the Internet: a statue of that scene by Kotobukiya. Somehow it's more pure, more perfect than the movies ever were. It brings me back -- back to being twelve years old with nothing to do for the rest of the afternoon, daydreaming of Star Wars, and staring at Ralph McQuarrie's paintings of a Star Wars that existed before Star Wars was a movie. Those images were fuel for an imagination that would eventually lead me to a joyful career in writing. So Ralph McQuarrie's recent passing made me sad. May the force be with you, dude.