Star Wars Art: Concept is the latest in the series of Star Wars Art books from Abrams Books. The previous books in the series include Visions, Comics and Illustration. In this book, the focus is on concept art from a wide variety of artists. It also draws on more than just the films. Included is art from the films, from television and from video games. There are paintings, sketches and digital pieces all depicting various Star Wars concept images. As far as picture books go, this is a pretty nice one to look at.
The book comes in hardcover with two editions. The regular edition runs in at 176 pages with 125 illustrations. The limited edition runs in at 244 pages with 175 illustrations. It also cost ten times more than the regular edition, but it does come with five hand-signed giclee prints by Doug Chiang, Ryan Church, Joe Johnston, Iain McCaig and Erik Tiemens. The signed prints certainly make the limited edition attractive for collectors, however, I personally think the additional illustrations in the limited edition is a sore point for those who opt for the regular edition. Four hundred dollars is a lot of money for those who just want a book with the most concept art they can get.
The artwork includes quite a few artists, some more recognizable than others: Ralph McQuarrie, Joe Johnston, Nilo Rodis-Jamero, Doug Chiang, Ed Natividad, Ian McCaig, Erik Tiemens, Glen McIntosh, Ryan Church, Stian Dahlslett, Alex Jaeger, Sang Jun Lee, T.J. Frame, Warren Fu, Wayne Lo, Jackson Sze, Pat Presley, Kilian Plunkett, Steffen Sommer, Patrick Jensen, Hajime Sorayama, Chin Ko, Amy Beth Christenson, Greg Knight, Chris Voy, Eddie Del Rio, Chun Gee, Nathan Stapley, James Zhang, Richard Lim, Jan Urschel, Fabian Lacey, Kinman Chan, and Jonathan Bach.
Together those artists cover the six Star Wars films, the Droids and Ewoks animated television series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Clone Wars: Republic Heroes, Star Wars: Detours, The Force Unleashed, Star Wars: Bounty Hunter, The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance, Star Wars: Starfighter, Star Wars: First Assault and Star Wars 1313. Star Wars 1313 gets quite a bit of attention with 15 illustrations, most of which are new. I also noticed that there seemed to be more artwork from the Prequel Trilogy than the Original Trilogy. However, there is a good mix overall from all the various projects.
Aside from the artwork, the book includes a nice foreword by Joe Johnston, and two introductions: one by Ryan Church and one by Doug Chiang. Finishing the book off is a short interview with Erik Tiemens conducted by J.W. Rinzler. The book also has a very nice artist biography section in the back giving each artist a little paragraph bio and page listing for all of their featured artwork. Whether they got one piece of artwork in or twenty (high score going to Ryan Church due to his work on Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars 1313), all of the artists received equal length bios which is really nice to see.
Now the book is first and foremost a picture book. With three pages dedicated to the introductions, four pages for the artist bios and one page for the interview, the rest is all pictures. Some illustrations take up part of a page, some take up a full two page spread. The results in some blank space. There isn't a lot of info for each picture. The artist of the illustration is provided, what project it was for, and a very brief description of what the illustration is, and what medium it was created on. The quality of the art featured in the book varies. There are beautiful paintings, highly detailed location shots, cool looking character art and iconic scenes. There are also some rougher concept illustrations, but the vast majority of the artwork is of a high caliber. Due to the large amount of picture content, readers can flip through the entire book in about an hour.
I do have some reservations about the book, though. Primarily, my issue is with the scope of the book. Since it covers the films, the television series and the video games, it doesn't cover any of the subject matter in its entirety. The sheer amount of concept artwork available for all of those projects combined would be impossible to combine altogether into one book, especially one that is only 176 pages long. If you're looking for a comprehensive collection of concept art for any particular project, this isn't the book you'll want to check out. It has a smattering of concept art from each project, but it's more of a teaser than a satisfying array. Of course there are other books that have far more extensive collections of concept art for specific Star Wars projects. The unique thing about this book is that it covers almost all of the Star Wars projects all in one book.
It's a give and take, but I think the book could have benefited in being twice as big and including more artwork. Alternatively, given the wide range of concept art, the book could have benefited from having a much more specific focus. For instance featuring only character concept art, location concept art, or vehicle concept art. On the flip side, they could have focused on concept art by a specific artist. As is, the book's focus is just too broad to feel satisfying given the length of the book. Also, it would have been nice if they inserted more artist interviews throughout the book, thus giving it an added reading value and filling up some of the blank space rather than just placing one interview at the end of the book.
If you're looking for a book that gives readers a buffet of Star Wars concept art from various movies, video games and television series, then Star Wars Art: Concept is worth checking out. However, if you're looking for a comprehensive collection, you'll definitely need to pick up more books than this one. Regarding the content of the book, I'd recommend this one as a gift rather than a straight up purchase. It's fun to look through but limited in its use. I give it a three out of five.