Badge art has become its own Celebration highlight and tradition, and with good reason — each show has had unique illustrations, with different styles and approaches. Some years, there have been color themes with stylized takes on characters; other times, the focus has been on an animated series or specific movie. For Star Wars Celebration Orlando, coming April 13-16, 2017, at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, the tradition continues into a totally new aesthetic: photorealistic sketches of characters from current Star Wars stories, with a hand-drawn feel. They come courtesy artist Paul Shipper and several are revealed below, exclusively on StarWars.com.
“The main thing for me was pleasing everybody at Lucasfilm,” Shipper tells StarWars.com. “And then in turn, because they would like them, then hopefully the fans will enjoy them, as well. It’s a case of trying to do something that would be very different from anything that’s maybe been done before, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of Star Wars.”
The portraits are beautiful, looking almost like posters for character-centric stand-alone movies. There’s Rey wielding a lightsaber, a steely determination in her eyes; a wise if cautious Luke Skywalker; and a ready-for-battle Jyn Erso. In total, there are 18 badges and the likenesses are near-perfect — those are Mark Hamill’s eyes and no one else’s — yet the way the images fade tell you that these are heroes and villains of an amazing story, set a long time ago.
“I think the Poe Dameron one is one of my favorites,” Shipper says. “I really like how BB-8 came out, and Kylo Ren I was really pleased with.” Each character is centered on a relevant insignia, from the Imperial cog to the Rebellion starbird, creating a visual continuity. It took time to nail down the exact look of the badge series, something complicated by the fact that animated characters would have to fit with realistic movie characters. “The first ones that I got the reference images for was for the Rebels characters, so they’re the ones I first did. Yeah, it was a bit of a challenge. I don’t draw many animated characters, really. Most of them are from film or TV or real people. So it was slightly different, and it was a funny place to start. But that’s what I had to work with to start, so it was like, ‘Okay, let’s go for it.'”
While he’s a trained pencil-and-paper illustrator, Shipper created all the images digitally — “hand-drawn, in the computer,” as he puts it — but made sure to give them a warm look. “The main thing is, really, the traditional aesthetic that I want to keep alive. Despite it being digital, I don’t want it to look like it’s been created on a computer. I want it to have the same feel as a traditional piece of art. So when you zoom in close, it’s rough around the edges, it’s not perfect.” Maybe that’s why the images are so striking — that roughness recalls the lived-in look of the Star Wars universe. And that’s a subtle detail that only a talented artist and fan could deliver.
“I grew up with it, I used to play Star Wars in the playground at school,” Shipper says. “My whole life I’ve been a huge Star Wars fan.” Lucky for those going to Celebration.
Dan Brooks is Lucasfilm’s senior content writer and editor of the StarWars.com blog. He loves Star Wars, ELO, and the New York Rangers, Jets, and Yankees. Follow him on Twitter @dan_brooks where he rants about all these things.