Painting with Fire
August 15, 2007 4:51 PM   Subscribe

In the world of fantasy art, he is an icon. Some argue Arnold would never have become governor without him. Though his arrogance is second only to his skill, Frank Frazetta suffered for his art: for eight years an undiagnosed problem left him unable to create at all, while a series of strokes in his later years led to the artist having to learn to paint all over again, this time with his left hand. Since I was a girl, only this artist ever came close to inspiring me half so much as Frazetta did.
posted by misha (33 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I used to read the Edgar Rice Burroughs books just for his covers. I had a calendar of his work on my bedroom door. If you haven't seen the video biography (linked in my above post), I highly recommend (at least the first hour of) it.
posted by misha at 4:53 PM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

One historian compares him to Leonardo da Vinci, which made me long to be a ghost in the machines of future art scholars, eavesdropping as they debate that enigmatic expression on Conan's face — is he smiling or isn't he?

and franklin mint will be the ming vases of the future.
posted by sgt.serenity at 5:05 PM on August 15, 2007

That second link doesn't seem to work for me at least.
posted by macadamiaranch at 5:11 PM on August 15, 2007

oh wait I meant 3rd link.
posted by macadamiaranch at 5:11 PM on August 15, 2007

Huh, I never thought of this sort of thing as the sort of art that people actually became fans of. It always struck me as more of a marketing thing - secondary to the literary works they adorned.

I can't say I'm in to it, but I'll look at it differently now.
posted by phrontist at 5:19 PM on August 15, 2007

He inspires me, also; check out one of my (NSFW) favorites.

Magnae clunes mihi placent, nec possum de hac re mentiri.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 5:23 PM on August 15, 2007

That sounds so much better in Latin, CA!

Actually, phrontist, some written works didn't reallly take off until they were redistributed with the Frazetta covers; Conan the Barbarian, for example.
posted by misha at 5:27 PM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Frazetta is a god. I remember being at a comic book convention...a million years ago...and there was a Frazetta portfolio of pen and pencil sketches up for auction, and nobody but me bid on it. I was astounded. I thought everyone knew how amazing he was, and that the bidding would quickly escalate out of my college budget.

I met him at a Kitchen Sink event years later., and told him about it, and he remembered donating the portfolio for the charity auction, and was tickled that it the person who bought it didn't buy it as an investment, but bought it because they wanted the art.

He's a groovy dude. I've didn't find him arrogant at all, but then, I've only spoken to him a handful of times.
posted by dejah420 at 5:32 PM on August 15, 2007

A word of caution:
Frank Frazetta's art
occasionally depicts
the human form
devoid of coverings.

ahem, what about a NSFW tag. no coverings is a bit much methinks.
posted by andywolf at 5:36 PM on August 15, 2007

Dude's no Erol Otus.
posted by The Straightener at 5:37 PM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine (who died 98 due to a life-long fight with Cystic Fibrosis), Dameon Likowski, was so inspired by Frank's work that he contacted him through channels, and they became friends. Dameon and I talked a lot, and I know he and Frank talked as well, as I used to call him on the phone, and we'd have a whole conversation about the talk he had with Frank earlier that day.

I'm not here to brag about my connections; it's just that I can't help, to this day, but think about my friend whenever I see a Frazetta image.
posted by thanotopsis at 5:44 PM on August 15, 2007

Frazetta is truly a modern master. His paintings are so powerful the REPRODUCTIONS just fly off the page. I can only imagine what seeing one of his paintings in real life would be like.

Boris Vallejo on the other hand is all technique and no talent. His work is too posey and too polished and has no life whatsoever. None of his work tells a story. A Frazetta has something to say....everytime.
posted by strontiumdog at 5:44 PM on August 15, 2007

Maybe the admins can help with the NSFW tag, please?
posted by misha at 5:49 PM on August 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

Someone should note that all his women look exactly alike.

Real women have lots of different shapes & sizes. And most of them are more or less wonderful (IMHO).

Men--not so much.
posted by hexatron at 5:55 PM on August 15, 2007

Every time I see this style of artwork, I think of the publication Heavy Metal, and every time I think about that, this song comes to mind, because of it's use in this movie.

All of which make me happy.
posted by quin at 5:58 PM on August 15, 2007

I caught a quick interview with Frazetta a few years ago on television. Such an impressive artist. If memory serves, he talked about how he once stayed awake for a day or two painting one of his Conan covers. He did a sketch in paint and then painted the cover. No reference. Very little other preparation.

He just did it.
posted by Kikkoman at 6:05 PM on August 15, 2007

I wish I had the letter Z in my name...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:25 PM on August 15, 2007

Someone should note that all his women look exactly alike."

From the linked interview:

SECONDS: With the subjects in your paintings, you seem to have a set body type. Are those based on your own idealized body types or is that because it’s fantasy work?

FRAZETTA: We all have personal likes and dislikes and I love a certain body type in women and men and in creatures and lizards and dinosaurs. I’d like to think that I break it down to the perfect machine, whatever it may be. There’s a certain physical type, a certain look, in a heroic figure of a guy that just is the ultimate. I have a very personalize woman, as you know. You’ve seen my women, they kind of look alike. I’ve tried to escape from that and I was never happy. I’d make perfectly nice rendering of a female and would just make me unhappy. “I don’t love her.” She’s got to have a certain look, those eyes that I love.

I read somewhere that Frazetta's women tend to bear a strong resemblance to his wife.
posted by Manjusri at 6:42 PM on August 15, 2007

A google cache of the Forbes Frazetta article.
posted by Manjusri at 6:47 PM on August 15, 2007

Thanks for the post. Haven't thought about Frazetta for awhile. I still enjoy the occasional comic and also classic illustration art, but back when I was really into it, particularly the EC Artists and Wrightson, Kaluta, Stout, etc., Frazetta was the one everybody seemed to look up to. He is really is the best at the sort of thing he does.

He also provided, for me, a bridge from comic books to people like Roy Krenkel, J. Allen St. John, Wyeth, Dean Cornwell, Franklin Booth, the list goes on...

A couple samples of his comic book work.

And of course, a lot of other folks were introduced to Frazetta by these two paintings.
posted by marxchivist at 7:51 PM on August 15, 2007

Cool, I'm going to have to take a closer look at these when I have the time--thanks!
posted by hadjiboy at 8:38 PM on August 15, 2007

Frazetta is a god. There's always been something about his work, a spirit or a sensibility that put it head and shoulders above the work of his peers. And I think one of the keys is his exposure to classical art at a very young age -- I can see Titian in his work, Rembrandt's lighting, the ballsy brushstrokes of Hals and Sargent. He created worlds where other illustrators created mere pictures. He got to the Source, kinda like Jack Kirby.

Thanks for the post, Misha, but sorry, Boris Vallejo is pale, pale imitation of Frazetta. Look at the male figures: Frazetta channels a primordial archetype of a warrior, pure male energy & power. What's Vallejo got? Some pretty boy he grabbed from the local Ballys, all lubed up and ready for the camera.

(I remember being so dissapointed in the Conan movies, because they looked nothing like the book covers. Imagine Peter Jackson doing a Conan movie -- would that rock or what!)
posted by Bron at 8:43 PM on August 15, 2007

I was just watching Frazetta: Painting with Fire, last night. Great doc, well worth watching!

I'm astonished at the amazing variety of fields he explored early in his career. Frazzeta did funny animals?! And, they say it was Frazetta who caused the returning of originals to artists.. Very interesting, but seems like something I should have known from my comic book buying days.
posted by Chuckles at 8:46 PM on August 15, 2007

There's always been something about his work, a spirit or a sensibility that put it head and shoulders above the work of his peers.

I think this is the key, for me at least. His art just grabs you, it's so distinctive and... primal for lack of a better word. It really speaks to you, like a lot of other art fails to do.

I always understood him to be kind of a character, who didn't generally get along well with people. I also intellectually understand the criticism about female body types. I just don't mind that other stuff so much, just because the real power in his art kind of smooths the edges. I would never have picked up Conan if it hadn't been for that iconic cover, and I'm sure I'm not alone in that.
posted by gemmy at 9:31 PM on August 15, 2007

Man, he's pretty defensive in the interview.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:39 PM on August 15, 2007

Bron - I remember being so dissapointed in the Conan movies

I disagree; the original Conan (Barbarian) was a masterpiece of a coming-of-age film. Check out the extended cut; Conan 'emotionally' matures at the end.

The second Conan movie (Destroyer) is a travesty.

because they looked nothing like the book covers.

Ahh, ok. Sorry - I know the feeling.

Imagine Peter Jackson doing a Conan movie -- would that rock or what!

I can not imagine Peter Jackson doing a better job of directing Conan the Barbarian than what John Milius did.

What could Jackson (now?) do that could have improve the movie? Jackson's epics are successful because he managed to leverage enough money to make a big budget picture.

Conan the Barbarian had big-budget Dino DeLaurentis backing. They didn't have CGI, but they made up for that by having loads of extras and really awesome costume designers, and...


Different eras. I would like to see Jackson take on Conan, but I don't think that Jackson could do a better Conan than the DeLaurentis venture.

Yes, I'm very obviously biased.
posted by porpoise at 12:47 AM on August 16, 2007

Marxchivist, I don't even know who Molly Hatchet is, but I was first introduced to Frazetta with one of those images on the cover of Dark Crusade by Karl Edward Wagner.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:50 AM on August 16, 2007

I'm astonished at the amazing variety of fields he explored early in his career. Frazzeta did funny animals?!

This impressed me too, when I caught the documentary a couple weeks ago. I know him because I spent my teenage years flipping through Society of Illustrator annuals at the library, and his pictures were prominent in them, and kind of cool to a kid, even one not that interested in superhero comics or fantasy novels. In his early years, before he started work on the swords and dungeons paintings that made his reputation, Frazetta worked for Al Capp, ghosting Lil' Abner, did the Breck ad parody for Mad magazine, illustrated movie posters like What's New, Pussycat?. There used to be these guys in New York who started off working on the dynamic edges of popular culture while still in high school. Mort Drucker, Mad magazine's most amazing caricaturist, was the same way, getting his start as a talented kid who was allowed to ink comic books. They're sort of like Woody Allen, going to work selling jokes while still a teenager.

I enjoyed learning of that early work, those funny animals. It allowed me to see him as a guy who could just flat out draw, full of natural talent, rather than as strictly a rippling muscles fantasy artist partly responsible for inspiring a decade of airbrushed van art.
posted by TimTypeZed at 2:10 AM on August 16, 2007

SECONDS: I’m sure you know what a great impact you’ve had on Fantasy Art.

FRAZETTA: I’m aware of everything that goes on out there. Everything.

Wow. Dude's got some serious balls saying something like that.

Everything, Frank? Really?
posted by voltairemodern at 7:14 AM on August 16, 2007

ps: The link about Schwarzenegger is broken.
posted by voltairemodern at 7:17 AM on August 16, 2007

In regards to the Peter Jackson/John Milius debate: I've read all the REH Conan books a few thousand times and to me the Conan movies did not capture it at all. The first movie was great in terms of a movie but that was not Howard's Conan up there, not by any means. Some coworkers and I were debating this the other day and we decided a remake should star Eric Bana and be directed by Chris Nolan.
posted by Ber at 7:39 AM on August 16, 2007

Weird; the Arnold link worked for me three times in a row and now it doesn't. It's labelled as "member" link for Forbes, and I'm not one, so that must be why. Don't know why it worked to begin with, though.
posted by misha at 12:47 PM on August 16, 2007 [1 favorite]

Vallejo isn't even worth mentioning. Not only did he imitate Frazetta's style, his signature had the same feeling to it. Boris was like a cheap Frazetta knock-off—the Okidata of barbarian art. I have a sad feeling that he's a millionaire now.

I would say Alex Ross is this generation's Frazetta.
posted by disgruntled at 2:58 PM on August 16, 2007

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