Sculpture Chair Lawrence Noble's New Book Details Early Illustration Career
Walking into Lawrence Noble’s Berkeley art studio, you get the feeling that magic happens there. Yoda greets you at the door near a sculpture of a woman growing wings, and a model of a boy dressed like Batman stands beside a pile of clay on the worktable. He’s “Batkid,” the cancer survivor who joined Batman on a rescue mission around the city in 2013. Once finished, the statue will stand outside the new San Francisco Public Safety Building, joining dozens of Noble’s other monumental sculptures on display across the country.
But before he became an award-winning sculptor, Noble was an illustrator, designing posters for movies like Flash Gordon, album covers for artists like Artie Shaw and magazine covers featuring icons like Princess Diana. Some of his drawings join his Star Wars statues and female figures from his Strength of Women sculpture series in the bright, mystical space of his studio. Original relics from Noble’s early career, they testify to his immense talent and fill the pages of his new book, The Film & Entertainment Art of Lawrence Noble (Dreams & Visions Press, 2015).
“It’s a notebook of a journey,” said the Academy of Art University School of Fine Art - Sculpture Chair. A journey, which he explained, has been filled with extraordinary opportunities.
In 1980, Noble was among a group of illustrators commissioned to design a poster for The Empire Strikes Back. Though his design wasn’t chosen as the official poster, it became a special edition for the Star Wars Fan Club and was later released for the movie’s 10th anniversary. But the most fortunate event linked to that commission was an invitation to an advance screening of the film. When Noble saw Yoda on screen he felt the urge to sculpt the Jedi Master.
“Almost robotically, I went out to the art supply, I bought clay, I bought tools, and I started doing a sculpture,” he explained. That first piece became Lucasfilm’s first limited edition collectible. “I don’t know why I went for it,” he said. “I don’t know if I responded to a subliminal message. I don’t know if when I was in the ether before I came down to the planet, that I made this deal that when I see Yoda on screen I’m going to start. But he just changed everything about my life.”
Last year Noble joined George Lucas in New York to accept an award from the National Sculpture Society. Along with the late landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, they were recognized for their collaboration on the fountain outside Lucasfilm headquarters in the Presidio; Noble sculpted the statue of Yoda that rises from its center.
“Sometimes I look back and I have to pinch myself,” he said. “I’ve passed through some pleasant doors.”
Noble will be at the Star Wars convention in Anaheim in April, selling his book and creating a sculpture of Star Wars designer Ralph McQuarrie. In September, his first gallery show opens at Arte Verissima in Oakland.