Star Painter

To Christopher Clark, the landscapes and portraits captured by masters such as Claude Monet aren’t that different from settings and characters in the Star Wars universe. So the oil painter begins each piece of fan art the way he does any other tableau: identifying beautiful locales within the galaxy, then applying his technical skills to bring light and precise detailing to every image. Impressed by Clark’s work, Lucasfilm signed the now 41-year-old Denver resident to make officially licensed fan art, meaning his 18-and-counting Star Wars prints can be sold at Disney theme parks. From $125;

“Dawn at Hoth” by Christopher Clark of Denver. Photo courtesy of Lucasfilm.

Behind The Scenes: George Lucas loves Clark’s portrait of Yoda so much, he bought the original.

Ship Shape

The Death Star. The X-wing. The TIE fighter. These and more iconic Star Wars ships emerged from the mind of one man: Colin Cantwell. After working on graphic design for Close Encounters of the Third Kind and 2001: A Space Odyssey, he showed some of his spacecraft ideas to George Lucas, who hired him on the spot. Although Cantwell sketched concept art and built early models for A New Hope, the franchise’s first film, he declined a full-time position with Lucas’ visual effects company, Industrial Light & Magic. Consequently, his ties to the saga remained under the radar for decades. It wasn’t until 2014—when his partner of 16 years, Sierra Dall, found his original art and models in his Boulder basement and encouraged him to take his rightful spot in the Star Wars origin story—that Cantwell’s contributions gained wider recognition.

Colin Cantwell poses with his Star Wars concept art. Photo courtesy of Sierra Dall.

Behind The Scenes: Cantwell was inspired to design the Rebel Alliance’s X-wing starfighter after watching patrons throw darts in an English pub.

Jedi master

That exhilarating moment when Kylo Ren ignites his lightsaber and you see the red glow reflecting off his robe and hear that vrummmm reverberate through your body? You can thank Jim Shima for the goose bumps. For the first six movies, techs had to add in the saber’s sheen frame by frame after shooting, a time-consuming task. Shima invented a wireless module that generates sounds digitally and a theatrical saber that glows with ambient light; in short, the gleam appears on set, in real time, and creates recordable sound effects. Shima spent 15 years developing the technology, which Disney bought to use in the latest trilogy. Plus, Shima’s Superior home is a fan’s dream: He’s constructed stormtrooper costumes outfitted with voice changers, dozens of replica props, BB-8, and two R2-D2s.

Behind The Scenes: Shima helped restore an X-wing that resides at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum; he even added lights and sounds, so when you sit in the cockpit, it feels (almost) like the real thing.

This article was originally published in 5280 December 2019.
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer
Daliah Singer is an award-winning writer and editor based in Denver. You can find more of her work at