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Star Wars creator George Lucas commissions paintings for new book

answered the phone to hear a voice on the line with an unusual offer.
The call was from the office of Star Wars creator George Lucas, who wanted to commission a few Star Wars paintings for a book he was working on.
"I said, 'You must have the wrong number because I do World War II paintings," Bailey recalled with a laugh. "And he said, 'No, no -- he's seen your work and he wants you to do Star Wars.' "
They'd tracked down Bailey through his website, which mainly features his oil-on-canvas works depicting Second World War-era military planes and battles.
He was one of about 100 artists commissioned to contribute art for the just-released book Star Wars Visions, which retails for $48.
Caught off guard by the phone call two years ago but up for the challenge, Bailey, who has been painting since he was five years old, immediately accepted the offer. But he had some brushing up to do, since the last time he had seen a Star Wars film was in 1978.
"I was frank. I said, 'I don't really have any reference material for Star Wars,' " Bailey said. "And they said, 'Don't worry, we'll take care of it.' "
A large box arrived by overnight Fed Ex from the Skywalker Ranch near San Francisco. When Bailey opened the package, he found it stuffed with Star Wars reference material -- everything he would need to complete Lucas's request.
For the next week, Bailey watched the six Star Wars films, and pored over the books to familiarize himself with the science-fiction classics.
"I dropped everything else and I said, 'I'm not doing anything else for 12 months.' "
Bailey soon found himself en route to the Skywalker Ranch to meet with Lucas -- one of only two artists commissioned for the project to do so.
"George said that he wanted people, when they walked away from seeing the paintings, to feel inspired," the 63-year-old artist said.
Upon his return to his Stony Plain home, a friend set him up with a group of local diehard Star Wars fans who create their own replicas of character costumes.
That's how Bailey found himself visited by R2-D2, C-3P0 and yes, even Chewie.
"Chewbacca came to the house -- he was nine feet high in his outfit -- and he posed in my studio."
The result of his year-long effort was four paintings featuring re-imagined characters and landscapes from the popular films.
"George said to me, 'I'd like to see new creatures, new planets, new robots.' "
Lucas purchased the four works for an average of $28,000 each. Three of them made the cut and will appear in the book. One of those -- titled Now My Enemy -- which features Lucas's favourite female character from the films, Ahsoka, will remain in Lucas's personal collection.
Two of the three other paintings Bailey created -- the Chewie and Yoda inspired Red Planet Rebels and Overlord Betrayal, which includes R2-D2 and C-3P0 -- will appear in a limited edition version of the book, which comes in a black velvet case and will sell for a whopping $500.
All of Bailey's creations -- except Now My Enemy -- are to be auctioned in California. Bailey will receive part of the proceeds.
The box of preview books arrived at Bailey's home Wednesday morning. He flipped through the pages at the renderings of the classic characters in diverse styles, looked up and grinned.
"If someone had said to me three years ago 'You'll be working for George Lucas for 12 months,' I'd have said that's just a dream," Bailey said. "It was a huge honour for me and it will probably be the pinnacle of my experience as an artist."


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